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Posts Tagged ‘Chase Utley’

Notes from the opener at Shea

Posted by jrfinger on April 9, 2008

The final opening day at Shea Stadium was a great day… for the Phillies. The Phillies offense looked much like it is supposed to look. They manufactured runs late in the game after trailing during the early going 2-0. The Phils hit the Mets where they’re most vulnerable – in the bullpen. That’s going to be the death of the Mets this year. Oliver Perez pitched a really good game, but as soon as they went to the ‘pen, it was over.

Jimmy Rollins hurt his ankle. While avoiding the pick-off in the eighth inning, Rollins said he felt a “pop”. That’s usually never a good thing. Rollins wasn’t walking with any kind or a limp and down-played the injury saying he’s, “day-to-day” and it’s possible he could play Wednesday night. I think he’d like to play to keep his streak alive. He started all 162 games last season. Rollins was pulled from the game after he scored. He said it was better to have a healthy Eric Bruntlett out there, who is 100 percent than have him out there at 50 percent.

Manager Charlie Manuel called it a high ankle sprain, which is usually never good. Ankle sprains are one thing, HIGH ankle sprains are another. But again, Rollins was showing no signs of a tender ankle after the game.

Poor Chase Utley. He had four hits on Tuesday. Three that hit him while he was standing in the batters’ box and one that nailed him in the back when he was running from first to second on a Ryan Howard grounder. Carlos Delgado was tagged with an error on the play. Utley also had a couple of hard dives. Of course in true Chase Utley fashion, he brushed it off afterwards and deflected every question about himself to the subject of his teammates.

Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth collided hard in right-center on a deep fly ball from Carlos Beltran. Shane said afterwards there was no winning that battle, Werth is MUCH taller than him. Both players came down hard on the play, but both got up and stayed in the game.

The game didn’t have that feel like it did when these two teams last played. Of course much more was at stake when they last met. While the players said there was an intensity to the game, they chalked it up to their desire to get to .500 and the desire to win every game they can.

Worth mentioning: the bullpen was great today. Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon pitched three scoreless innings. Now that Gordon has gotten past that bad opening day appearance, he’s showing why he’s so valuable to this bullpen. Brad Lidge pitched the last two days. It’s a good day to give him some rest since he’s just coming back from surgery. With Gordon in the bullpen, Charlie Manuel has that luxury.

This Phillies team is starting to gel. The new players are finding their way with their new team, those that have been here are settling into the season. It’s a confident team right now.


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Eaton still searching for answers

Posted by jrfinger on March 10, 2008

Leslie talks baseball on 610-WIP

Adam EatonCLEARWATER, Fla. – Adam Eaton thinks he’s going to be the team’s fifth starter. I don’t see it. It’s only because the Phillies are on the hook for $7.6 million dollars that he’s even in that position in the first place.

After limping through September last season, Eaton was left off the postseason roster. A move even he understood. After an off-season full of rehab and workouts focusing on his core, Eaton came into camp proclaiming he was fit and ready to perform the way a starting pitcher making that much money should perform.

We’ve yet to see it.

Eaton is 0-2 with a 15.75 ERA this spring. He’s shown little to get excited about and in fact, didn’t look much different than the hobbled veteran he was at the end of last year. Suddenly his back hurt. An injury Eaton never mentioned to the team during the off season. Yes, he did receive treatment for his back last year, but the pain always went away.

An MRI done Saturday revealed a slight disc herniation. Eaton threw 41 pitches during a bullpen session on Monday morning in which he felt no discomfort. He’ll throw again Wednesday and thinks he’ll be ready to pitch again on Saturday.

The clock is ticking and while nobody has made much of a case to take over that fifth spot, Eaton hasn’t made a case for why he should keep it. While Eaton may be pain free, Phillies fans won’t be if he doesn’t turn things around in a hurry.

When the Phillies signed Kris Benson it looked like a good idea, but maybe not one that would pan out with Eaton seemingly ready to reclaim his spot in the rotation. Now that Eaton is struggling and Benson is creeping ever so close to game shape, it’s starting to look like a really nice option for the Phillies. Benson may not be ready until late April or early May, but when he is I think he’ll become an integral part of the Phillies’ rotation. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone else will emerge out of nowhere.

Chad Durbin may work his way into the rotation, but Durbin makes more sense in the bullpen to me. What may happen is that Durbin starts the year in the rotation and when Benson is ready Durbin can move back to the bullpen, where he’ll be a long-relief guy along with Ryan Madson. Durbin saw time in both roles last year with the Tigers and had success in both places. His flexibility is a valuable asset.

The other Durbin
Speaking of Durbins, J.D. Durbin started Monday against the Pirates in Bradenton. J.D. is also in the running for that fifth spot, but won’t be soon if he keeps pitching like he did Monday. Durbin gave up 5 runs on 8 hits over 3⅓ innings of work. That means that over the last seven games, every starter not named Myers has struggled to get outs. They say competition is healthy, but the only thing healthy right now seems to be the ERAs of the starting pitcher candidates. OK, maybe bloated is a better word.

Myers update
While so many starters are stuggling, Brett Myers has been on cruise control. Granted he’s been taking on a lot of minor leaguers as the Phillies’ brass watches the others duke it out against big league hitters, but as Myers pointed out, the minor leaguers like to feed on fastballs, and he relies pretty heavily on his fastball.

Myers threw a minor league game at the Carpenter Complex on Monday. He threw 75 pitches over 5⅔ innings. He gave a up a 2-run homer to Jake Blalock in the first inning but after that he settled in. Myers retired the last 12 batters he faced.

He said afterwards that he felt good but is feeling a little sore as he stretches out for the season. Myers hasn’t pitched this many consecutive innings since last April. The kind of soreness he’s feeling is to be expected.

Now if they could just get that many innings out of their other starters.

Lidge update
Brad Lidge threw off the mound on Monday for the first time since knee surgery. He threw 25 pitches and looked good. In a perfect world he could be back by March 31 (Opening Day) and so far, all is perfect. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said he sees that return date as a very real possibility.

If the Phillies need to get by for a few games without Lidge, they’re not worried, nor should they be. Tom Gordon has made a living out of the back end of the bullpen. They’ll be fine. More than just getting Lidge back on the mound, people want to see him get there and stay there without further injury. Can he be the closer he once was? That’s the $6.4 million question.

Too strong
Everyone should stop worrying about Kyle Kendrick … for now. And no, his “trade to Japan” is not, in any way, having an effect on how he pitches when he takes the mound.

As Dubee explained on Sunday, Kendrick is a sinker-ball pitcher and right now his ball isn’t sinking because Kendrick is “too strong right now.” Yes, too strong. If you throw a sinker ball too hard it’s not going to sink. The Phillies got Kyle from Double-A Reading last year after he had 70 or so innings under his belt. Kendrick, like Cole Hamels, isn’t likely to tear it up in spring training because of the way he pitchers.

Kendrick said there’s no reason to be concerned and if you hear him say it, you believe him. He said if it’s still like this in June, then he’ll be concerned. While he’s, to some extent, kidding, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes him a good month into the season before he really settles down.

The Phillies get their first and only day off of the Spring on Tuesday. A much needed day of rest. The teams have been going at it pretty hard since mid-February. Chase Utley actually gets two consecutive days of downtime. Utley was the only regular to not make the trip to Bradenton on Monday. Instead Chase stayed behind and worked out at Bright House Field.

We sat down with Utley and talked about a number of things, some on the field stuff, some on the field. When he allows himself, Utley can be very funny. We saw him crack a smile a few times. We’ll bring you that interview Tuesday on SportsNite.

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Waiting for Ryan

Posted by jrfinger on February 15, 2008

Ryan HowardCLEARWATER, Fla. – E.F. Hutton had nothin’ on Ryan Howard Friday. When Howard talked, everyone was listening … intently. At one point in the day, though, we (the media) didn’t know if Howard would talk.

To eliminate numerous individual interview requests, the Phillies and Howard opted to hold one big “media availability.” Call it what you want, but when there’s a table, a Phillies backdrop, a microphone and speaker system set up, I call it a press conference. That’s where the problem stemmed from. Without a contract, with the possibility of an arbitration hearing looming and Comcast SportsNet set to take the “media availability” live, someone saw a media firestorm brewing … and I’m guessing that someone was Howard’s agent, Casey Close.

Just a couple of hours before the scheduled gathering the Phillies announced the “media availability” had been called off and that Ryan wouldn’t be talking Friday. It was a “mutual decision,” according to the Phillies.

So, how were they going to pull this off? With the high likelihood that the two sides are headed to the arbitration table, Ryan was going to somehow speed seven days workout out under the watchful eyes of reporters – without talking?

Though Ryan fortunately decided that the press conference-style spotlight was too bright for his liking, he was comfortable with his locker as the backdrop for a more informal meeting with 10 or so of his closest reporter buddies. There, he spoke for eight minutes and was funny, engaging and especially elusive when it came to questions about his contract. But never did he brush off anyone’s question without making a joke about it.

There, it’s over. Now was that really so painful?

One more thing on Ryan Howard: Although he’s here early, it’s nothing new for him. He has arrived early in the past and noted that he’s been working out at a gym near Tampa since the middle of January.

On Friday he was the last position player to finish his workout. He spent nearly an hour on the field with third-base coach Steve Smith, taking grounders and working on his footwork. He said he really wants to improve on his defense this year.

Isn’t it amazing that just a few short years ago barely anyone knew who Ryan Howard was?

Who is that guy?
Pat Burrell saw his shirt today for the first time. After being gone for two days, Burrell returned to the clubhouse only to find a teammate wearing a T-shirt with his mug on it. His first thought was, “what the [heck]?” Then he looked around the room and noticed that the shirts were in every locker. What really got him was the fact that his manager was even wearing one.

Burrell knows Chase Utley made them, and smiling, he said, “Chase doesn’t want to get in a T-shirt war with me because I’ll win.”

I can’t wait to see that shirt.

Meanwhile, I’ve had numerous requests/inquires about how to buy this shirt. Sorry. So far they are only made for members of the team. However, after passing on some of the e-mails I received to the Phillies, the idea was brought up of maybe making the shirts to sell and giving the money to Burrell’s favorite charity. It was only an idea mentioned in passing, but personally I think that’s a great idea.

Signed and sealed
Lost in all the Ryan Howard chasing is the fact that the Phillies have negotiated deals with several players. Headed into camp, the Phillies had 21 players (not named Howard) unsigned. But after Friday that is eight players down, 13 to go. Among those who have settled are, backup catcher Chris Coste, who will make $415,000 next season, and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who will make $425,000.

All of the unsigned players have less than three years major-league service time so they’re not eligible for arbitration.

March 2 is the first day the team can automatically renew contracts, but the Phillies typically negotiate deals before then. If they get to the point of renewal it means they couldn’t come to an agreement with the player. That rarely happens, but that’s what happened last year with Ryan Howard.

The notable names on the yet-to-be-signed list are: Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Kyle Kendrick and Gregg Dobbs. Hamels stands to make some good money, likely in the $500,000 range.

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