Leslie’s Lowdown

Inside Phillies baseball

Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Kendrick’

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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T.J. Bohn?

Posted by jrfinger on February 17, 2008

KendrickCLEARWATER, Fla. – Let the pranks continue.

Chris Wheeler went out to get in his car a little after noon on Sunday – and it wasn’t there. He knew right away someone was playing a trick on him. He immediately called media manager Greg Casterioto, knowing he had to have had something to do with it. He was right.

Casterioto had snaked the keys to Wheels’ BMW sometime during the morning workout. Traveling secretary Frank Coppenbarger and assistant equipment manager Danny O’Rourke helped execute the move. The car wasn’t taken far, just to the lot across the complex, just far enough to irritate Wheels. After rounding up his vehicle, Wheels said “Vuk (the late John Vukovich) had a hand in this, that’s the type of thing he used to do to me”.

Kendrick continued
Kyle Kendrick was happy to be back in the Phillies’ clubhouse instead of on a plane to Tokyo, one day after being told we was traded to Japan. His phony itinerary had him leaving Tampa at 7:03 a.m. Sunday. Kendrick has a bit of a prank hangover but said as he thought about it last night he realized how truly funny it was and how it would have been even funnier to him if he wasn’t the subject of the prank.

Kendrick holds no ill feelings and even praises the effort that went in to pulling it off. When I told him I’d make him a copy of the raw video he said with a smile, “I don’t know if I want to see it”.

Here’s the prank in its entirety.

Under the weather
Charlie Manuel has been feeling under the weather the last couple of days, and on Sunday he went home earlier than usual with flu-like symptoms. The skipper came close to feeling even worse. When leaving the practice field a ball came flying over the left-field wall of Bright House Networks Field and landed right in front of Manuel. Needless to say it startled him.

The ball had been hit by Outfielder T.J. Bohn over the tiki bar and Frenchy’s sign. While at first it looked like it went that far on the fly (which would have been extremely impressive) it turns out it did bounce before nearly striking the skipper.

T.J. who?
Who is Bohn? Bohn is an outfielder who looks like a mix between a surfer and a power forward. He’s 6-foot-5, has shaggy hair and weighs around 200 pounds. Bohn was picked up by the Phillies after the Braves designated him for assignment last September. He’s currently on the 40-man roster.

Bohn originally was drafted by the Mariners in 2002, which was when Pat Gillick was the GM in Seattle. Bohn made his major-league debut as a pinch hitter in 2006 but hasn’t been able to stick anywhere. Think of him as a Chris Roberson kind of guy, someone who could get called up if they need another outfielder and someone we’ll probably see in September.

Batter up
The second annual media batting challenge was held Sunday afternoon. We each got 10 pitches per round and went two rounds. There was a one pitch playoff between two guys, with Inquirer columnist Jim Salisbury taking home the title for the second year in a row.

I had a poor showing. After taking an hour of batting tips from hitting coach Milt Thompson on Saturday, I was sore and over-thinking everything. I had about three good hits in the first round, none in the second round, and I actually got in a third round with Shane Victorino throwing that session. I was terrible then, too. This is no excuse but the Phils’ center fielder gave me almost nothing to hit.

I’m not looking forward to how sore I’ll be on Monday.

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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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