As the Phils get ready for their first spring training game, tomorrow, against Florida State, they have made several announcements after the arrival of all of their players to camp:
1) Charlie Manuel announced that the team was going to do some more small ball this season, which was quickly emphasised by him talking to the team’s lead-off man, and one of the leaders of the team, Jimmy Rollins last Thursday. This was followed by announcements that he was going to allow possible Hall of Famer Jim Thome to help some of the hitters improve on their hitting approach, and that he was going to have them bunt more (for base hits). Mike Schmidt, who is now in camp as a special coach, will also be helping the batters’ with their hitting approach, along with fellow Hall of Famer, and Iron Pigs coach Ryne Sandburg, while staying in camp a bit longer. While this is good news, since using small ball, as well as stealing more bases, should give the opposing defenses something to think about, I will not be convinced until the Phils leave Florida in late March with Juan Pierre as one of their players coming off the bench, since he would be a good option to use late in games because of both his speed and bat control.
2) Jose Contreras had another bullpen session, and is continuing to pitch fine with no elbow trouble, according to pitching coach Rich Dubee. This is good news, as it should give the team several good eighth innings options between him, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls, if all three players make the team out of spring training.
3) And speaking of pitchers, starter Cliff Lee missed a bullpen session last week because of abdominal problems, and was told to skip the session. Lee said that he is feeling fine now and should be able to pitch in a bullpen session today. Hopefully, it was only a temporary problem.
4) Speaking of players’ health, Ryan Howard is right now in Baltimore, having a check-up with foot and ankle specialist Mark Myerson, to check on his achilles tendon, to make sure that there’s no problem with it, since it was mentioned during the weekend that Howard was having a delayed reaction to the sutures. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. later announced that they doubt that it was a major problem. Anyway, it should help the Phils decide how they should continue their approach on Howard’s rehab, although they don’t really expect him back until about late May at the earliest. My opinion is that they should take as much time as they can to get Howard back healthy, as they already have a few options to play first base.
and 5), Chase Utley has announced that he should be able to come back from his leg troubles last year, while it is expected that he will be given the occasional rest, to help his legs, while Placido Polanco has announced that he is ready to go.
Yesterday, in Clearwater, Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel have told reporters that he plans to use John Mayberry, Jr. more often in left field than at first base. He also said that while the presumption is that he would probably be using a platoon in left field of Mayberry and Laynce Nix, with Nix to face right handers and Mayberry to face lefties, he plans to have Mayberry also face some right handers. That sounds like a good move, as it will give Mayberry a chance to see if he can hit right handed pitching or not.
This means that while Ryan Howard continues to recover from his injury (of which he had told reporters he felt that he was 40% ready), first base would be mainly covered by Nix and Ty Wigginton, with Jim Thome starting one or two games per week. Hopefully that’ll be enough before Howard’s return at some point in May.
Other news: Rich Dubee announced that Jose Contreras threw a bullpen session off of the mound on Tuesday, and appear to have shown no signs of trouble with his right elbow, doing very well. If this is the case, and he continues showing no sign of trouble after his surgery, he should be the front runner for the role of the team’s eighth inning specialist. Let keep our fingers cross on that.
This past Friday, Jim Thome announced that he was doing what he could do, physically, to get himself ready to occasionally play first base (expected to be at least once a week) both before and after Ryan Howard returns, although during the season the Phils will be using him mainly as a late-innings pinch-hitting threat, like they did with Matt Stairs in late 2008 and 2009. Although the Phils will most likely be using Ty Wigginton as their everyday first baseman with John Mayberry playing the position against certain lefties during the regular season, until Howard’s expected return in late May, it is nice to know that Thome is getting himself ready for when he is called upon to play the position.
On Monday, it was announced that former Phils announcer Andy Musser died on Sunday at the age of 74 at his home in Wynnewood, PA. Musser was a member of the Phils’ broadcasting crew from 1976-2001, working with Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and Ford C. Frick Award winners Harry Kalas and Tim McCarver, as well as present Phil broadcaster Chris Wheeler. Rest in Peace, Chris, and late condolences to your family.
The Phils have announced that they had just concluded a trade with the Colorado Rockies, getting Ty Wigginton for either a player to be named later or cash. Wigginton, who has played first base, third base, left and right field in his career, will most likely be the team’s main right-handed bat off of the bench, to compliment Jim Thome, whom the Phils had recently resigned.
Wigginton, who played for the Rockies in 2011, had also played for the Mets, the Pirates, the Rays, the Astros and the Orioles since 2002, appeared in 130 games, batting .242 in 401 at-bats, getting 97 hits, including 21 doubles, 2 triples and 15 home runs. He had also knocked in 47 runs while scoring 52.
It is more than likely that during Ryan Howard’s absense, as he recovers from his injuries, that Wigginton might be sharing first base duties with John Mayberry, Jr. and Jim Thome, and might also play a bit of third base to give Placido Polanco some useful time off both before and after Howard’s return to the line-up.
This might be a good move for the Phils over-all, since Wigginton can cover several bases during the upcoming season.
Jim Thome, who had played first base for the Phils from 2003-2005, before being traded to the White Sox after the 2005 season, allowing Ryan Howard to become the everyday first baseman, will return to the Phils as he signed a one-year contract worth $1.25 million dollars, to become mainly the left-handed bat off the bench, although expected to play a few games at first base early in the 2012 season as Howard recovers from his Achilles tendon injury, pending a physical.
During his three seasons with the Phils, ‘Gentleman Jim’ Thome help to make the Phils a contender as he had 333 hits, including 96 home runs, 65 doubles and 4 triples, while knocking in 266 runs while scoring 234. He also walked 260 times. Last season, as he played for both the Twins and the Indians, he hit a combined .256 batting average, with 71 hits, including 15 home runs and 16 doubles, as he knocked in 50 runs, while scoring 32 runs. Breaking into the majors with the Indians in 1991, Thome has a career total of 2287 hits, which includes 604 home runs, 444 doubles and 26 triples, knocking in1674 RBIs, for a career batting average of .277.
Welcome back, Jim. Hopefully you’re the left-handed bench bat that the team presently need once Howard comes back from his injury.
A six-run breakthrough in the fifth leads the Phils to a 6-3 win over the Twins.
After four scoreless innings, the Phils took the lead in the fifth as, with runners on the corners and with nobody out, Josh Barfield hits an RBI double, knocking in Michael Martinez, who had earlier doubled and had moved up to third on Freddy Galvis’ bunt single, while sending Glavis, who had earlier got on base on a bunt single, over to third base, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. The Phils then made it a 3-0 lead as Wilson Valdez hits a two-run double, knocking in both Galvis and Barfield. The Phils then took a 6-0 lead as, with two men on, and with one man out, Delwyn Young hits a three-run home run, his first home run of the spring, knocking in Valdez, who had moved up to third on a Ben Francisco ground out, 5-3, and John Mayberry, Jr., who had just walked, and then stole second base. The Twins tried to come back in their half of the seventh, as, with runners on second and third, and with nobody out, Yangervis Solarte, who was pinch running for Delmon Young, who had earlier doubled, and then moved up to third on a Matt Anderson wild pitch, scored on a second Anderson wild pitch, making it a 6-1 Phils’ lead, while sending Mike Hollimon, who had earlier singled, had moved up to first second base and then to third on the two wild pitches. The Twins then made it a 6-2 Phils’ lead as Jim Thome reached base on a fielding error by first baseman Mayberry, scoring Hollimon from third. Five batters later, with the bases loaded, via Chase Lambin being hit by the pitch, moving pinch runner Daniel Rohlfing up to second base, and a walk to Steve Holms, which moved both runners up a base, and with two men out, Rohlfing would score on a wild pitch, the third of the inning, while Lambin would moved up to third and Holms would go to second base, making it a 6-3 Phils’ lead. That would be the final score, as Chris Kissock recorded his first save of the spring.
Michael Stutes received a no-decision as he pitched three scoreless innngs, as he only walked a batter, while striking out one. Danys Baez (1-0, 0.00) received the win as he pitched a scoreless inning. Jason Grilli pitched two scoreless innings, giving up a walk, while striking out three. Matt Anderson pitched a third of an innings, giving up three runs, only two of which were earned, on two hits, a walk and two wild pitches. Ryan Edell recorded his first hold of the year as he pitched one and two-thirds innings, giving up a hit, while striking out three. Chris Kissock recorded his first save of the spring as he pitched an inning, giving up a hit and a walk. Francisco Liriano also received a no-decision as he pitched three innings, giving up just four hits and two walks, while striking out two. Jose Mijares pitched a scoreless innings, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter. Joe Nathan (0-1, 12.46) took the lost as he pitched a third of an inning, giving up six runs on five hits and a walk. Kyle Gbson pitched one and two-thirds innings, striking out a batter. Eric Hacker and Yorman Bazardo combined for three scoreless innings, giving up a hit (Hacker), while striking out three batters (Hacker (2), Bazardo (1)).
The Phils had eleven hits in the game, with Josh Barfield, Wilson Valdez, Delwyn Young and Michael Martinez each leading the team with two hits each, with Barfield, Valdez and Martinez’s each hitting a single and a double, with Barfield knocking in a run, and Valdez bringing in two, while Young’s hits were a single and a three-run home run. Erik Kratz, Tuffy Gosewisch and Freddy Galvis had the other three Phils’ hits, all singles.
The Phils’ Grapefruit League record is now 11-7.
The Phils’ offense and Cole Hamels did everything right to win before the back end of the bullpen had a massive failure in the ninth which help led to an extra inning lost as the Phils lose a shoot out with the Twins, 13-10.
The Twins took a quick 2-0 lead as, with two men on and with one man out, Justin Morneau hits a two-run single, scoring Denard Span, who had earlier walked, went to second base on Orlando Hudson’s single, and then moved up to third on Brian Schneider’s pass ball, and Hudson, who had earlier singled and then moved up to second on Schneider’s pass ball. The Twins would make it a 3-0 lead two batters later as, with runners on the corners, thanks to Phils’ starter Cole Hamels’ throwing error to second on Michael Cuddyer ‘s grounder back to the mound, when he had the time to make a good throw to Chase Utley to start a possible double play, which sent Morneau to third, while Cuddyer was safe at first on the force attempt, as Delmon Young hits an RBI double, scoring Morneau, while sending Cuddyer to third. The Phils then came back in their half of the first. With two men on and with nobody out, Utley hits a two-run triple, knocking in Shane Victorino, who had earlier singled, and had moved up to second on Placido Polanco’s walk, and Polanco, who had just walked, cutting the Twins’ lead to 3-2. The Phils then tied the game up at three-all as, with a runner on third, and now with one man out, Utley scored on Jayson Werth’s sacrifice fly pop foul to right, 4-unassisted, beating Hudson’s throw to the plate, as it got cut off before being sent towards the plate. The Phils took the lead in the second as Wilson Valdez hits a lead-off home run to left, his first home run of the year, giving the Phils a 4-3 lead. Four batters later, with runners on second and third, and with one man out, Utley hits a sacrifice fly, scoring Hamel, who had earlier doubled, and had gone to third on Polanco’s double, making it a 5-3 Phils’ lead. Ryan Howard then made it a 7-3 Phils’ lead as he hit a two-run shot to center, his fourteenth home run of the season, knocking in Polanco. The Phils then made it 8-3 in the third as Raul Ibanez hits a lead-off home run to center, his fifth home run of the season. As the Phils’ bat were showing that they were back, Cole Hamels took control of the game from the second inning until he was taken out after the seventh inning, giving up only two more hits after getting out of a based loaded jam in the first, a lead-off home run to Morneau in the sixth, his fourteenth home run of the year, making it an 8-4 Phils’ lead, and a lead-off single to Nick Punto in the seventh, striking out seven, before being relieved. In the bottom of the seventh, the Phils’ made it 9-4 as Werth hits a solo home run, his twelfth home run of the season. The Phils then went into the top of the ninth with what looked like a commanding five runs lead, when the bullpen imploded. With one man on, and with nobody out, pinch hitter Jim Thome hits a pinch hit two-run bomb to center field, scoring Young, who had earlier singled, to make it a 9-5 Phils’ lead. Three batters later, with a runner on third and with one man out, Span hits an RBI single, scoring Punto, who had earlier walked, moved up to second on defensive indifference, and then went to third on Brad Lidge’s wild pitch, making it a 9-7 Phils’ lead. Three more batters later, with a runner on second, and now with two men out, the Twins tied the game up at nine-all as Joe Mauer hits a two-run home run, knocking in Span, who had earlier singled and then stole second. The Twins then took the lead in the tenth as pinch hitter Drew Butera hits a lead-off pinch hit home run, the first home run of his career, to make it a 10-9 Twins’ lead. The Phils tied it up at ten-all in their half of the tenth as, with two men out, pinch hitter Ross Gload hits a pinch hit home run. The Twins then took an 11-10 lead in the eleventh as, with runners on second and third and with two men out, Young, who the Phils did not intentionally walk to load the bases, hits an infield single, scoring Mauer, who had earlier walked, went to second when Morneau was intentionally walked, and then went to third on Joe Rauch’s sacrifice bunt, 3-unassistant, while Morneau, who was intentionally walked, and went to second on Rauch’s sac bunt, went to third. One batter later, the Twins took a 13-10 lead as, with two men on and still with two men out, Matt Tolbert hits an RBI double, scoring both Morneau and Young, before Tolbert is thrown out at third, 7-4-3. That would end up being the final score as, with a runner on second, Utley via a double, and with two men out, Rauch ended the game by striking out Howard swinging.
Cole Hamel receives a no-decision as he went seven innings, giving up four runs, three of which were earned, on five hits and two walks, while striking out seven. J.C. Romero went two-thirds of an inning, getting out both men that he would face. Jose Contreras went a third of an inning, plus three batters, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk, striking out a batter. Brad Lidge receives his first blown save of the year as he pitches an inning, giving up two runs on two hits, as he strikes out one batter. Chad Durbin pitches an inning, as he gives up a run on four hits. Danys Baez took the lost as he gives up three runs on two hits and two walks, as he strikes out a batter. His record is now 2-3 with a 5.14 ERA. Kevin Slowey also receives a no-decision as he pitches only an inning and two-thirds, giving up seven runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out two. Jeff Manship pitches four and one-thirds innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, while striking out two. Brian Duensing pitches an inning, giving up a run on one hit. Matt Guerrier pitches two scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, while striking out four. Jon Rauch receives his third blown save of the year before picking up the win, as he pitches two innings, giving up a run on two hits, while striking out one. His record is now 2-1 with an ERA of 2.57.
The Phils had fourteen hits, with Chase Utley leading the team with three hits, a single, a double and a triple, a home run short of the cycle, knocking in three runs, one on a sac fly. He was followed by Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez, who both had two hits apiece, with Polanco’s hits being a single and a double, while Ibanez’s hits were also a single and a double, knocking in a run. Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Brian Schneider, Wilson Valdez, Cole Hamels and pinch hitter Ross Gload had the other seven Phils’ hits, with Victorino, Schneider and Hamels’ hits being singles, while Howard, Werth, Valdez and pinch hitter Gload’s hits were home runs, with Howard’s being a two-run home run, while Werth, Valdez and Gload’s were solo shots, while Werth knocked in two runs, with the other one coming via a sac fly. The offense’s power surge was sadly wasted by the bullpen’s late inning implosion.
The Phils (35-31, 3rd NL East) finish their three-games series with the Twins (39-29, 1st AL Central) with an afternoon game, already in progress, with the Phils trailing 4-1.