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Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

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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Myers returns with a new look

Posted by jrfinger on March 28, 2008

Brett MyersI heard it more than once Friday night: “We’re sure not in Florida anymore!”

It was a frigid night that marked the Phillies’ return to Citizens Bank Park. As cold as it was, the players didn’t appear to be bothered by much. That loose attitude they carried through spring training is still evident. Of course, they don’t really get down to business until opening day on Monday.

In a pregame interview I did with Brett Myers, the Phils’ starter showed off his new mohawk. He’s very proud of his new look. I figured it was some sort of superstition thing with the season about to start. Not the case. Brett said he was just bored and the haircut was the result of his boredom. I hope I never get that bored!

During the interview Ryan Howard popped up behind us. He spoke glowingly about the confidence he has in Brett being on the mound on Opening Day. His tuned changed when asked about Brett’s Mohawk. Let’s just say I don’t think we’ll see the Phils’ first baseman sporting that look anytime soon.

Roster cuts
The Phillies are close to finalizing their roster. They have to have it down to 25 by 3 p.m. Sunday. It’s there now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make another move before the deadline.

One of those 25 is a new face to the team. Tim Lahey is a right-handed pitcher the Phillies claimed off waivers from the Cubs. He was a rule 5 draft pick by the Cubs, who got him from the Twins. That means as a Rule 5 guy he has to be kept on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back.

While not much is expected from a Rule 5 guy claimed off waivers, general manager Pat Gillick quickly pointed out that had it not been for a few players they obtained by unconventional methods last season, the Phils wouldn’t have reached the playoffs. Greg Dobbs (claimed off waivers), J.C. Romero (signed a minor league contract with the Phillies mid-season after being released by the Red Sox) and Kyle Kendrick (called up from double-A Reading) all made significant contributions.

Gillick said Lahey will fill a roll in the back end of the bullpen and bluntly pointed out that Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton are only six-to-seven-inning guys, so they need players in the bullpen that can eat up innings. That’s where Lahey comes in.

Asked how he liked the back end of the starting rotation, Gillick said the Phils are comfortable with their three, four and five. He said some clubs have better fives than others and that most teams aren’t comfortable with their fours and fives … and half jokingly added that some would even like to upgrade their one and two.

By getting themselves more help in the bullpen, the Phillies were able to outright J.D. Durbin to triple-A Lehigh Valley. Durbin’s terrible outing against the Yankees earlier this week pretty much sealed his fate.

The Phils also shipped infielder Rey Olmedo and outfielder Chris Snelling out. Olmedo refused the assignment to triple-A, so he becomes a free agent. Hope you didn’t buy your Olmedo jersey already.

In another deal they also signed Chris Woodward to a minor league deal.

Helms still here
The Phillies have 11 pitchers on their 25-man roster and that’s likely what they’ll start the season with. It’s not ideal – they’d probably rather go with 12 – but with Wes Helms still in a Phillies uniform, they’re somewhat forced to carry an extra man on the bench.

The Phils have been trying to trade him and are obviously still hopeful they can. Helms is set to make $2.15 plus buyout money this season. In total he’s owed $2.9 million, and with the Phillies reaching the point of desperate, his value isn’t real high. You have to figure they have about a week left with Helms. Once Brad Lidge comes off the DL, which is expected to be April 5, Helms will likely be gone … unless the Phils decide to stay with 11 pitchers.

Personally I hate to see Helms go. He’s a class act and the type of guy you wish there were more of. Helms drove in the one and only Phillies run on Friday night. Hopefully a team with a spare relief pitcher and in need of an infielder who can play first and third base was watching.

By the way, for anyone wondering if the Phillies had their eye on starting pitcher Claudio Vargas (released by the Brewers on March 25 and currently a free agent), Gillick said they have “no interest.”

As I mentioned, the Phillies scored just one run Friday night. Don’t get used to it. If there’s one certainty with this team it’s that it will hit.

Two days until Opening Day. It’s another moment for Myers to shine – this time as a starter again. I wonder what other pitcher in the history of the game has pitched the first and last pitch of the regular season, followed up by the first pitch the next season. The stupid things I think about. I love this game.

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