I 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.
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.