Leslie’s Lowdown

Inside Phillies baseball

Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Rollins’

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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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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The MVP is here!

Posted by jrfinger on February 19, 2008

Leslie Gudel talks baseball on 610-WIP – Part 1

Leslie Gudel talks baseball on 610-WIP – Part 2

Jimmy & RyanCLEARWATER, Fla. — The Man has arrived.

Reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins rolled into Spring Training on Tuesday not a minute too early. Rollins doesn’t typically show up until the last possible moment and this year was no exception. In fact, Rollins was the only player that didn’t show his face until Tuesday.

Rollins made the rounds around the clubhouse, shaking hands with teammates and sharing some laughs. Rollins is always laughing at something, or making someone else laugh.

His presence made me realize the many unique personalities sprinkled through the clubhouse. Between Rollins and teammate Ryan Howard, they have two of the biggest, most infectious smiles you’ve ever seen. When engaged Jimmy gives you his undivided attention. He has his “rules” and he captains his own ship, but if you’re with the media and you understand that about him, the structure is tolerable.

I talked with Rollins for a while after practice. Jimmy said he did a good job this off-season staying focused on his workouts. He watched his buddy Ryan work the banquet circuit last year after he won the MVP in 2006 and said he learned a lot from him on how to handle the demands that go along with the honor. Last year, Ryan claimed that he gained 15 pounds from eating his way through all the awards ceremonies. Fifteen pounds on Ryan’s 6-foot-4 frame is a whole lot different than putting that weight on the 5-foot-8 shortstop.

Jimmy also talked about the rivalry with the Mets and says he paid little attention to Carlos Beltran’s comments from last weekend.

The Mets’ outfielder uncharacteristically sent some choices words Rollins way. Beltran said: “Tell Jimmy (Rollins) we’re the team to beat in the NL East this year.”

Jimmy’s proclamation that the Phillies were the team to beat last season resonated throughout the Mets clubhouse all year – and ended up being true. Rollins said he thinks the whole thing is funny now and that the verbal sparring only intensifies the rivalry between division foes.

Time to get to work
Rollins said he had hoped to have a jersey made up that said Kobayashi on the back – an effort to further poke fun at Kyle Kendrick, who was told he was traded to Japan in a prank over the weekend. Kendrick was told he was traded for “Kobayashi,” who is a champion hot-dog eater.

That idea is strong but may have to wait. When manager Charlie Manuel addressed the team for the first time on Tuesday, he told it that it was time to focus on the work at hand. He reminded the team that they have a lot to do to get back to the playoffs.

Of course, if one player could get away with a joke in the wake of Charlie’s speech, it’s Jimmy Rollins.

Moving on
The aftermath of the prank looks to have peaked. The video that made the rounds on the Internet is no longer riding the top spot on YouTube, though it was the most-viewed video on Yahoo on Monday.

Kyle Kendrick and Brett Myers, the two main participants in the joke, appeared on the “Today” show Tuesday. They were interviewed by hosts Matt Lauer and Meridith Viera until outfielder Shane Victorino capped off the interview with a pie in the face of Myers. While Phillies fans have seen the Victorino stunt a thousand times, it was a big hit on the national broadcast.

Better yet, to watch the original “Traded to Japan” prank pulled off by then Reading coach Larry Andersen on minor league pitcher Wayne Gomes, back in the mid-90s, go to the Reading Phillies web site. It’s darn funny, too.

Talkin’ baseball…
I guess I should talk some actual baseball.

Wes Helms took grounders at only first base on Tuesday. The extra work there makes it possible for the third baseman to be more versatile. The only problem with that is first baseman Ryan Howard (105 home runs the last two seasons) won’t be spending much time on the bench.

It seems very unlikely that Helms will be with the Phillies when the team breaks camp in late March. There just doesn’t seem to be any room for him. Nevertheless, Helms is signed with the team for some good money for the 2008 season, but there are a number of players under contract and the team can’t keep more than 25 come Opening Day.

Here’s how the bench looks:

IF – Eric Bruntlett
C – Chris Coste
IF – Greg Dobbs
IF – Helms
OF – Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth
OF – So Taguchi

Assuming the Phillies carry 12 pitchers when the season begins – which is what they typically do – one of these players will have to go and Helms looks like the odd man out.

The Phillies bench breaks down like this:

• Taguchi will see significant time in the outfield, backing up in left and center field.
• Bruntlett is the only player on the roster that can play shortstop. Jimmy Rollins doesn’t miss much playing time (he set a major league record with 716 at bats last season, playing in all 162 games), but if something was to happen to him there’s nobody to back him up except Bruntlett.
• Chris Coste is the only backup catcher.
• Greg Dobbs was instrumental to the teams’ success last year off the bench. Dobbs plays both corners of the infield and the outfield. He can also play some second base if absolutely necessary.
• Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins will platoon in right field (although Jenkins will likely get more time) so they’re not going anywhere either.

That leaves Helms as the odd man out.

But if the Phillies carry 11 pitchers, they could make room for another bench player. Manuel said it’s not out of the question. Here’s how the bullpen sets up right now:

RHP – Chad Durbin
RHP – Tom Gordon
RHP – Brad Lidge
RHP – Ryan Madson
LHP – J.C. Romero

• Madson and Durbin (unless he makes the starting rotation, which would take him out of the mix. He handled both roles while with the Detroit Tigers last year) can pitch two innings.
• Romero is your lefty out of the ‘pen.
• Gordon will pitch the eighth inning to set up for Lidge, though he will occasionally close.

Manuel says that the Phillies will add a couple of relievers to pitch two innings along with Madson and Durbin.

It used to be that teams carried 12 out of camp and backed it down to 11 during the season, but the Phillies carried 12 most of last year and Charlie likes having the options.

Coming up…
Wednesday morning is a big day for Ryan Howard. That’s when the slugger goes to the arbitration table to plead his case for the $10 million. The panel of three arbitrators will either decide in favor of Howard or the Phillies, who offered $7 million. There is no in between. A decision shouldn’t be expected until Thursday or Friday.

Either way, Howard is about to enter into a whole new tax bracket.

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