Leslie’s Lowdown

Inside Phillies baseball

Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Howard’

Staking out the Howard hearings

Posted by jrfinger on February 20, 2008

Ryan HowardCLEARWATER, Fla. – You could hear a pin drop around spring training on Wednesday, it was so quiet. That’s because almost every member of the media, except our crew and a couple of other reporters, were at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg staking out the Ryan Howard arbitration hearing. I didn’t realize how loud the media really is, but I digress.

Our other crew, which included John Boruk, was at the site of the arbitration hearing. The hearing got underway at 10 a.m., and I saw the Phillies brass stroll in here (the Clearwater training complex) a little after 3 p.m.. They did not talk, and it’s my understanding that Ryan said just a few words to the media when he finally left the hotel, only to be cut off by his agent, who put an end to the interview.

A decision is expected by Thursday.

Copycat
Jimmy Rollins spoke with Comcast SportsNet on Tuesday and met with the entire media Wednesday. The highlight Wednesday came when he was asked about Carlos Beltran’s declaration – Tell Jimmy we’re the team to beat this year – Rollins said, “There are two things about that. First there are four teams that are going to work to prevent that from happening. Second, hasn’t he ever heard of plagiarism? Rollins, of course, called the Phillies the team to beat going into the 2007 season.

With most of the Philadelphia media at the site of the arbitration hearing, much of the media talking to Jimmy was from the New York area.

Good news
After flying to Los Angeles on Monday to see renowned orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yokum, pitcher Scott Mathieson got word that he won’t need surgery again on his elbow. Matheison felt some pain in his elbow while throwing a bullpen session recently.

Mathieson has a mild strain of the lunar collateral ligament, the same ligament that was repaired in 2006. He will long toss on Thursday and should be able to throw off the mound by mid March.

Burrell the base stealer?
The team hit the field early Wednesday for base running drills, and it’s worth mentioning that left fielder Pat Burrell, while not looking fast, looked faster. I know, I can hear the jokes, “My Grandmother can run faster. … He probably still looks like he’s carrying a piano on his back,” but seriously, he did look more fleet of foot.

Even Burrell joked about his speed the other day. When asked if he was any faster now that his foot is 100 percent he said “Oh yeah, I’m flying around the base paths.”

That’s it for now, folks and that’s it for me from Clearwater. Hope you enjoyed the reports.

John Boruk takes the reigns Thursday – if he’s not still outside the Vinoy Hotel.

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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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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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