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Posts Tagged ‘Brad Lidge’

Notes from Opening Day

Posted by jrfinger on April 1, 2008

Brad LidgeIt wasn’t exactly ideal weather for opening day, but for die hard baseball fans (among which I include myself) it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been snowing as long as they played the game. For much of the pre-game, Mother Nature dropped this annoying mist on the field. The baseball gods stepped in shortly before game time and dried the place out for awhile.

The game itself had its moments of excitement. Jimmy Rollins getting a hit in his first at-bat followed by a big home run in the 7th. Pedro Feliz with a diving grab in the fourth to rob Ron Belliard of a hit, and Ryan Howard, with the shift on, sending a line drive to left-center in the 4th.

Also exciting was when Chase Utley went from first to third on the play and Pat Burrell drove in the run.

Then there were the not so exciting moments: A tough 5th inning for Brett Myers, his last of the game, and Tom Gordon’s very disappointing ninth inning. Gordon gave up five runs in just a third of an inning.

Myers said afterwards that he felt great when he was in the bullpen, but never quite got that feeling when he took the mound. He was pretty angry with himself afterwards. Myers gets a pass in this one, but they really need him to come out strong in his next outing.

Gordon is a different story. I think there is real reason for concern with him. I’m really afraid that in a few weeks he’s going to say he’s been hurt. Maybe it’s because that’s what happened last year. Gordon said afterwards that he had trouble locating his fastball. With Brad Lidge just five days away from joining the team there didn’t appear to be any reason for concern, but now there does. The Phillies only have 11 pitchers on the roster, and only a couple that can pitch that late in the game.

Charlie & Leslie My favorite part of opening day is the time leading up to the game. The three hours prior to the first pitch is filled with festivities, including our own broadcasts. We did a one-hour live SportsDay and in that show I interviewed manager Charlie Manuel and closer Brad Lidge. Charlie said that as good as last years lineup was, this one has the chance of being even better.

Lidge said he could hardly sleep last night, even though he’s not even eligible to play until April 5 when he comes off the disabled list.

I also interviewed Pat Gillick in our pre-game show. When asked what he thought the teams weakest link is this year he said the pitching — not a big shocker. He also said they’re still looking for more pitching, even with the season underway. One has to assume that means they’re looking for someone in exchange for Wes Helms. When asked if they’d prefer to go with 12 pitchers rather than the 11 they have now, he said they’ll likely go back and forth between 11 and 12.

Rollins intros During player introductions the crowd was clear about who they like, love and aren’t exactly fond of. Of course the usuals got a big applause, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, etc. The one that surprised me a little was Chris Coste, only because back-up catchers aren’t usually among the fans favorites, but fans have clearly developed a real fondness for Coste, who had to feel good about his reception.

Then there’s Adam Eaton. He was booed heartily. Eaton took it well, tipping his hat to the crowd, almost asking for more. Wes Helms heard some boos as well.

I stood in the dugout about a half an hour before game time talking to some of the coaches. Catching Instructor Mick Billmeyer came out while I was talking to pitching coach Rich Dubee, Mick proclaimed his love for opening day. I asked the others if they felt the same. Bullpen coach Ramon Henderson agreed with Mick, but hitting coach Milt Thompson and Dubee both agreed that they just want to get that first game in the books and move forward.

It feels like I was just at the ballpark yesterday, hanging on every pitch. I need to reel that in a bit. It’s opening day, not late September. There are 161 games left. I just hope that when it is late September this season, we have a reason to hang on every pitch again.


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Spring training – Day 1

Posted by jrfinger on February 14, 2008

pitchersCLEARWATER, Fla. – The first “injury” of the spring goes to pitcher Adam Eaton, who suffered a shin contusion (that’s my official diagnosis) when Phillies manager of media relations Greg Casterioto casually swung his foot behind him while talking to someone in the clubhouse, only to trip Eaton, who was walking behind him.

The athletic Eaton managed to keep himself from tumbling to the ground, but barely. After getting over the shock of the incident, Eaton sarcastically accused Casterioto of inflicting serious injury to his shin.

Fortunately Eaton did go unharmed in the incident, especially since Eaton has finally recovered from the shoulder trouble he suffered at the end of last season. Eaton proclaims himself ready to hold on to his spot in the rotation, a spot that’s pretty much his to lose.

When talking about last season with Eaton (10-10, 6.29 ERA), he said nobody was more upset than him that he failed the team so terribly. He said people would ask him if he was surprised he was removed from the rotation down the stretch and left off the postseason roster. He told them, “The right decision was made. They’d be stupid to put me on the playoff roster”.

Eaton said he is looking forward to “atoning for last season” and expects to be in the starting rotation when they break camp in the end of March.

Day 1, sort of
Sometime not so long ago, the first day of spring training turned into the first official day of spring training. The players don’t milk their off-season in today’s highly competitive world of baseball. In fact some of them arrive in Clearwater well in advance of the “first day”.

Cole Hamels got to town in the beginning of February. And while Thursday is the day pitchers and catchers are supposed to report, several position players have jumped into the fray. The most notable among that group is Ryan Howard, who arrived Thursday morning. New third-baseman Pedro Feliz was here Wednesday, as was Chase Utley. New acquisition Geoff Jenkins was finding his way around by mid-afternoon, and Pat Burrell lives here (although he hasn’t been here the last two days).

More than meets the eye
Charlie Manuel held his first post-practice media gathering on Thursday. As is the arrangement, the print media gets him first, then the electronic media can step in and conduct their interviews (this whole split interview session with the manager, by the way, was brought on by the print media some time ago because the writers didn’t like TV “stealing” their stuff, but that’s a whole other topic).

Anyway, Manuel can be quite entertaining, and I wish everyone could see the side of him that we in the media see. The perception of him by the general public is very different from the reality. He’s funny… and while he may be a self-proclaimed “redneck from West Virginia”, he’s smarter than people give him credit for.

Manuel can also be self-deprecating, as evidenced in Thursday’s gathering with the print media. When talking about getting off to a bad start the last three years, he pointed out that all three years they’ve had pitching issues at the beginning of the season. Manuel said, with a smirk on his face, maybe getting off to bad starts is partially his fault.

That opened the door for Daily News columnist Paul Hagen to sarcastically ask, “Why did you bring Fultz in to face Walker?” Chuck chuckled and quickly shot back, “that’s one of them … did you ever call someone and want to take it back?”

Hagen was referring to his call to the bullpen in a game against the Cardinals – opening week of the 2005 season. It was Manuel’s first year at the helm. The new skipper brought reliever Aaron Fultz in to face Larry Walker. Fultz walked Walker on four straight pitches, bringing in the tying run. He then walked in Albert Pujols. The Cards won 6-5.

Walker said afterwards, “It turned out to be a pretty smart move, pitching around me to get to Albert. Just kidding.”

Good sign
On new closer Brad Lidge, Manuel said he really liked what he saw in Thursday’s practice. He said the ball is bouncing all over the place once it leaves Lidge’s hand. When asked if he’ll use him for more than an inning at any point, Manuel said no, but he also noted, “I told you guys I wasn’t going to pitch [Billy Wagner] four outs and I did.

Lidge can reach 100 mph on the radar gun, and Manuel thinks that it’s important that Lidge uses both sides of the plate to be successful. He also said that if he gets Lidge in the game and he’s throwing like he can but they lose, “so be it.”

Manuel loves the back end of his bullpen – actually, the whole bullpen. If it plays out like it’s supposed to, new acquisition Chad Durbin and Ryan Madsen are your middle relievers; both eat up innings if necessary. J.C. Romero gives you that dominant lefty out of the pen, while Tom Gordon pitches the eighth and Lidge closes it out.

Speaking of Gordon. Flash came to camp in great shape. Manuel says he won’t hesitate bringing him in to close an occasional game.

Gordon is noticeably bigger. He said he feels like he did last year coming out of the All-Star break. He felt incredibly strong then and that’s how he feels now.

Almost every pitcher that’s being counted on this year dealt with some sort of injury or setback last year. They’re all healthy now, so if the Phillies PR staff can keep from taking anyone else down in the clubhouse, they should be in great shape going into the season.

Leslie on the WIP Morning Show
Leslie on the WIP Morning Show, #2

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