Leslie’s Lowdown

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Punk’d!

Posted by jrfinger on February 16, 2008

KendrickCLEARWATER, Fla – It was a hard day to be Kyle Kendrick. For a short but agonizing time on Saturday, Kendrick was traded to Japan.

Two days ago when I approached Brett Myers with the idea of pulling a prank on someone, he eagerly chose Kyle Kendrick. It’s important to understand that Myers is pretty hard on Kendrick, always verbally abusing the poor kid. It’s good-natured ribbing and Kendrick is a good sport; he takes it well. But this plan would take the torment to a whole new level.

As Myers and I tried to come up with an idea, in steps Larry Andersen. He suggested that we revive an oldie but goodie. In the mid ’90s when Andersen was a coach at Reading, Wayne Gomes was a future big leaguer. Andersen executed a plot in which they told Gomes he was traded to Japan. Gomes cried and everyone else was left laughing.

Fast forward to Saturday. Assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr was a huge help. He pulled Kendrick out of the weight room and took him to Charlie Manuel’s office. Charlie was wearing a microphone. Kendrick never really noticed our photographer, Tom Kretchmer. Charlie proceeded to tell Kendrick he’d been traded to Japan for a pitcher named Kobyashi Iwamura. Ruben explained the details to a visibly stunned Kendrick.

Enter Frank Coppenbarger, the team’s traveling secretary, who gave Kendrick his itinerary. He’d be flying out early Sunday morning and arrive in Tokyo by 3 p.m. the next day. Ruben had Kendrick sign documents that legitimized the trade and explained how Iwamura would be making $1.5 million.

Kendrick walked out of Charlie’s office, through the clubhouse and outside to call his agent … whom Ruben had already called to let in on the joke. Even the agent went along with it.

The banter between the players was priceless, all of them knowing about the prank, everyone playing along. The icing on the cake was when Kendrick came back into the clubhouse, and the media (who also knew what was happening) was called to Kendrick’s locker. Ruben stepped in and announced the details of the trade, and Kendrick fielded questions, clearly not hearing what anyone was saying, stunned by what transpired. “What do you think about the trade? … How mad are you? … Do you have a passport? … Your shots?” The hits kept coming.

Myers put Kendrick out of his misery by stepping behind him and yelling, “You’ve been punk’d!

Kendrick took a deep breath, let out a big sigh and just smiled a huge smile.

“I’ve never been so happy. Seriously,” Kendrick said.

It was a moment to remember and one that you know Kyle Kendrick will never forget.

On the field
As for the business of baseball (that’s why we’re here, right?), Kris Benson arrived on Saturday. He worked out with the team and then did who knows what for the next three hours.

The media waited to talk to Benson. We waited and waited and waited. We waited so long that I went out and took hitting instruction from hitting coach Milt Thompson for an hour (I’ll explain later), and when I was done my photographer was still waiting with everyone for the right-hander to come out. Something isn’t right about a hoard of media waiting all that time to talk to a non-roster invitee with a minor league deal who might not even make the team.

Anyway, Benson finally got to his locker at 2:30 p.m. and talked about how great he feels, how he’s certain he can come back and how recovery from rotator cuff surgery is even harder than coming back from Tommy John, which Benson had in 2001.

He’s a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but stranger things have happened. I say we make him wait.

New team to beat?
Carlos Beltran has told the New York media that he’s impressed with the Mets getting Johan Santana. He said look how well they did last year without him, then said “tell Jimmy Rollins we’re the team to beat this year.”

Shane Victorino and Chris Coste both commented by saying we’ll see who the team to beat is when the games are played. You can bet Rollins will have something to say when he arrives.

Rolling in?
Speaking of that, I heard there was a Rollins sighting at the facility Saturday, but I didn’t see him. Jimmy doesn’t have to report until the 19th and you can bet that will be his first day of workouts (unless he surprises us all). Rollins never gets here before he has to.

So why would he be here? Often guys come in a day or two early to deal with any paperwork and medical issues. Rollins will probably come in Sunday to get his physical.

B.P.
As for why I was hitting with Milt Thompson, he graciously offered to give me some tips because on Sunday they are throwing to the media. A little friendly competition. I missed it by a day last year, I’m glad I’m here for it this year.

Thompson showed me some great stuff. He got me stepping forward with my left foot and throwing my hands at the ball, not my body. Despite tearing up my hand (Milt thankfully sent Shane Victorino to get me gloves when I broke the skin on my thumb), I was feeling pretty good by the end of our session. I’m just worried I’m going to be sore on Sunday – the classes I take at the gym don’t cover hitting with a wood bat.

I don’t want to make a fool of myself, and I think, thanks to Milt, I should be able to hold my own. Sunday should be a good day. I figure it this way, any day is better than the one Kyle Kendrick had Saturday.

Signed
Lastly, the Phils have signed pitchers Lincoln Holdzkom, John Ennis and Clay Condrey.

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