Friday, March 31, 2006

Madson and Floyd In; Franklin to the Pen

It has been more or less confirmed. Okay, it has been confirmed by the manager himself, but I know more than a few Phillies fans that still don't believe the news and won't until they see Ryan Franklin physically trot out of the bullpen for the first time. In any case, the decision to begin the season with Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd in the starting rotation and Ryan Franklin in a relief role is the best move the Phillies new management team has made since they pulled off the Jim Thome trade with the White Sox.

Madson staying in the rotation is a no-brainer; it was the next logical step in his progression as a big league pitcher. Gavin Floyd making the team is complicated (to me anyway)...Phillies fans have followed his career closely since the time he was drafted, yet I don't think anybody can honestly say they know what to expect out of him this year. Making decisions based on spring stats can be a risky way of doing business - I hope the Phillies know what they are doing with Floyd. If he flops yet again...I'm not sure what the ramifications of that would be on his professional development. It is has well publicized that many of Floyd's struggles last season could be traced back to the lack of self-confidence that set in after he got beat down in the majors early on in the season (his own admission by the way). It is undeniably risky for Floyd to be on this team from a developmental standpoint, but it is a risk the Phillies were smart to take.

Another plus that has come out of this shuffling of pitchers has been my own personal increased likability of Ryan Franklin. I was skeptical of the signing from the start (who wasn't?) from not just a baseball perspective, but also a personality perspective (the whole steroid issue turned me off). Franklin's willingness to pitch out of the bullpen and positive attitude about the whole thing is a welcome change of pace from the typically me-first mantra of the modern athlete.

Though not an ideal situation, Franklin embraced the role of "seventh-inning closer."

"I was disappointed, but I'm more of a team guy," Franklin said. "I believe in myself that I can do well in any role. My arm has felt great the last three years. I really don't know how it's going to affect me. I just have to get back to how I prepare in the bullpen."

Franklin has four pitches he can throw for strikes, and doesn't plan to reduce his inventory for bullpen work. He concedes that he might throw harder since he can give his maximum effort each time out.

I'd say this whole thing worked out fairly well for everyone. Me especially.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Could it be true?

Gavin Floyd has made the team as the Phillies fifth starter. This means one of the two Ryans (Madson or Franklin) will head to the bullpen. From

Conventional wisdom suggested that Madson hit the 'pen, but two team sources indicated that Franklin is the choice because the team believes he can play a vital role in relief, much as Madson did.

If this is true, Phillies fans everywhere can get just about more optimistic about this team's chances in 2006. More on this to come...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Regrettable Reliever Ricardo Rodriguez Released

Another day, another shake up of the Phillies pitching staff. Yesterday, the Phillies dealt Aquilino Lopez to the Padres for two lower level minor leaguers; today, the Phillies have given pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez his walking papers. The Ricardo Rodriguez era was an unmitigated disaster and his release just tops it all off. I hate this move (not necessarily the release, but more so the entire sequence of events involving Rodriguez and the Phils) for two reasons: 1) The Phillies gave away SP Vicente Padilla for nothing - to be fair, the team did get out from under his salary by dealing him, but it was ultimately not a good value trade. 2) The Phillies are now in a position to do something stupid. More on that later. First, some Pat Gillick quotes from the Associated Press story - first one is on why he made the move to let go off Rodriguez, second one is on the original Padilla/Rodriguez swap:

"He doesn't figure into the rotation and inconsistency with his control makes it tough to put him in the bullpen," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "Maybe he needs a fresh start."


"Turned out it wasn't a good trade," Gillick said.

The implications of this move are huge. The trade of Lopez did not impact the 25-man roster in any way (he was slated to begin the year in AAA no matter what), but Rodriguez' departure opens the door for a player to grab that last bullpen spot, a spot that was previously thought to have been Ricardo's to lose.

My worst fear could be coming true as it has now been widely reported that the Phillies are seriously considering moving pitcher Ryan Madson back to the bullpen to fill the void left by Rodriguez' ouster. If it all goes down like that, Gavin Floyd will be Madson's replacement in the starting rotation. This idea makes little sense to me. Ryan Madson is a starting pitcher. Ryan Madson could potentially be a very good starting pitcher. This team still needs starting pitching...I understand the argument that it needs help in the bullpen as well, but the need for starting pitching (in general terms) is always greater, in my mind.

What would I do if I was in charge? Well, it comes down to one of two options to me. The Phillies could keep Madson in the rotation, stick Ryan Franklin in the bullpen, and give Gavin Floyd a starting spot. The odds of this scenario unfolding like this is incredibly small. A more realistic approach (and one the Phillies may very well consider) involves keeping the starting rotation as it is right now and simply replacing Rodriguez with another pitcher from the system in the bullpen. It was believed that if Rodriguez was going to make the team, it would have been as a long reliever; with Rodriguez a goner, perhaps the ballclub will consider Robinson Tejeda, a guy capable of pitching long relief, for the same role.

It is also entirely possible that the Phillies have some sort of wacky plan up their sleeve and more moves will be made. Nobody should hold their breath waiting for a trade, but it doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility. These last few days of spring training should be very interesting.

Phillies @ Yankees 3/28

The Phillies beat the Yankees 3-0 last night at Legends Field in Tampa, Florida. What did I think of the game? I'm so glad you asked...

*** I think I only saw that Subway commercial with Joe Torre and Willie Randolph pitching the new Caribbean lime chicken sandwich four times during the game tonight. I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed, I was hoping for a double digit showing. I really should mention that Caribbean lime chicken sandwich commercial for Subway starring Joe Torre and Willie Randolph of the Yankees and Mets respectively as often as I can - you wouldn't believe how many hits I get from people searching for "Caribbean lime chicken sandwich," "Subway commercial with Joe Torre and Willie Randolph," "Yankees and Mets Subway commercials," etc. So, to repeat, I saw that Subway commercial with Joe Torre and Willie Randolph pitching the new Caribbean lime chicken sandwich four times during the game tonight. (The post gets better after this, I swear...but please keep in mind that "better" is a very relative term - you've been warned)

*** Interesting lineup tonight: 2B Chase Utley bat cleanup, RF Bobby Abreu hit third – wonder if that is a sign of things to come? Fasano did the catching (and hit ninth for unexplained reasons), Lieberthal was the DH, and Alex Gonzalez played first with Ryan Howard in Philadelphia for the day at his scheduled appearance with Mayor John Street. Why is Ryan Howard appearing with the major of Philadelphia you might ask? Good question. Better question – why am I talking to myself? The answer to the first question is obvious – yesterday (3/28) was Ryan Howard Day, of course! Didn't you have it marked off on your calendars? The answer to the second question…I don't know...and I don't have any think remotely witty to add...hate when that happens.

*** Spring baseball in the daytime is great, but it really is fun to see night baseball again. It’s weird that I missed seeing the game played under the lights so much…I guess it feels more like regular season baseball this way…

*** In the first…Aaron Rowand got drilled by a Scott Proctor fastball tailing in on him…the ball had so much spin on it that Rowand just froze up – he didn’t even make a move to get out of the way. Very, scary injury – it didn’t look good at all, very reminiscent of any one of the two dozen times or so that Dave Hollins had his hand/wrist broken by an inside fastball. Rowand shook off the injury and trotted down to first, but eventually came out of the game…I don’t know anything beyond what the YES broadcasters told me and what I saw with my own two eyes, but I fear the worse with this one. I’m sure I’m overreacting; it is all part of being a Philly sports fan anyway…

*** Abreu and Utley both ran really hard on their groundball outs in the first. This should of course be expected by all major leaguers, but it is nice to see nonetheless. I’m not trying to make any kind of point by lumping in Abreu, he of the lazy rep, with Utley, the gritty team player who hustles on every play. Or maybe I am…

*** According to the YES crew, SS Jimmy Rollins had the most games with three or more hits last season (he did it 21 times). I either never heard this before, or, more likely than not, heard it but forgot it after the long, cold winter. Johnny Damon was second on the list…that’s why they brought it up in the first place.

*** Tonight’s Phillies starter – Ryan Madson. It was another brilliant performance by the young righthander. The Gavin Floyd to the rotation/Ryan Madson back to the bullpen rumors have been gotten louder and louder over the past 48 hours, but I dearly hope that this game helps convince the Phillies to keep Madson in the rotation and just end any and all talk of him ever pitching in the pen again.

*** This was Madson’s second start against the Yankees that I’ve caught on TV this spring. Each game has featured a great Madson changeup moment…and each moment featured Yankees OF Gary Sheffield at the plate. Tonight, Madson threw a 2-1 changeup to Sheffield that made the big slugger look downright silly. It’s a corny phrase, but I like it nonetheless: “he [Sheffield] was looking for the express, but got the local.” Well done, Ken Singleton (the YES broadcaster who said it). I don’t want to get too sappy twice in one post (first with night baseball, and now this…), but talking about the “express” and the “local” really makes me look forward to my first subway right of the summer to South Philly for a ballgame. That Fern Rock stop has been good to me.

*** Pat Burrell…his name was tricky at first – you could go a lot of different directions with his the pronunciation of his last name (okay, maybe just two…). But if your job is to talk about baseball during baseball games, you really need to make sure you know how to properly say the names of the baseball players you are talking about! Right? You need to be able to pronounce Burrell correctly…I don’t care if you call the game for an AL team that rarely sees the guy. Ask somebody before you go live on the air and butcher the poor fella’s name! (Ever write something you intended to be a tiny, little comment and then look back at it with absolutely no idea that you had written so much? I sure have…)

*** Back to back bullet points knocking YES…I feel bad about it, but they brought it amongst themselves. Did you know new Yankees third base coach Larry Bowa was a 5-time All-Star with the Phillies…AND he was once the former manager of the team! It’s true! Thanks, YES! I’m so glad to know that baseball outside of the Bronx actually does exist! Too many exclamation points!!! I need to stop watching YES!!!, No?

*** Fasano showed off his power in the fifth inning with a homerun to left on a Scott Proctor hanging slider. I was totally against the Sal Fasano signing way back when, but much like the Ryan Franklin signing, I’d like nothing more to be proven wrong. So far, the results for each guy have been better than I expected. Then again, we are still in March.

*** Back to Rowand’s apparent hand/wrist injury – Shane Victorino is batting for him here in the fifth…is there anything to do this wrist injury or were they planning on giving Victorino some time in center no matter what? Inquiring minds want to know.

*** The Phillies haven’t lost on a Tuesday all about that? They are also assured their first winning spring since 1998…I think they have been for a game or two (maybe three), but I’d figure I’d still include that little nugget for you, just to be thorough.

*** Yanks brought in SP Carl Pavano to pitch the sixth. The guy hasn’t pitched because of injury since last August. So what happens on his first at bat of live action since then? Bobby Abreu hits a slow roller down the first base line…Pavano fields it, stumbles, and decides his only chance to beat Abreu to the bag is by diving for it. You’d better believe that is exactly what he did too. Pavano beat Abreu (who was hustling once again, thank you very much) to the base for the out as the Yankee coaching staff and management team held their collective breath at the sight of their million dollar pitching investment giving up his body for a spring training out. Pavano was fine by the way…

*** Well, Pavano was fine up until Chase Utley hit a high, hanging breaking ball way high up in the air…and out of the ballpark. The homer gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead at that point. There have been recent grumblings that Utley hasn’t looked particularly good this spring, maybe this homer will quiet that up a bit. I don’t worry about him a bit.

*** Madson was lifted with one out in the seventh and only 68 pitches on the night. LHP Arthur Rhodes replaces him. It was believed that Madson’s allotted pitch count tonight was in the 80-90 range, but I guess he was too efficient for his own good. Heck of a night for him…I’ll repeat my sentiment that he absolutely should have a rotation spot locked up right now.

*** The lefty Rhodes came into the game only to be greeted by a lefthanded batter (Jason Giambi). Giambi hit a ball on a 3-2 count a long way that would have been a homerun…if it hadn’t had been foul by about ten feet. Rhodes sat Giambi down with an 83 MPH slider on the next pitch.

*** 3B Abraham Nunez had a pretty impressive night in the field. He showed great range on a ball that was a good ten feet (is ten feet my standard measurement for all my estimates?) to his left to make a play on a Jorge Posada grounder. David Bell is a better fielder than the average fan gives him credit for, but his range is somewhat limited. I don’t know much about Nunez’ defense, but his plus range was notable on this one play. By the way, if anybody thinks David Bell is starting the season on the 25 roster, they are nuts – this back injury is not going away anytime soon.

*** Shane Victorino, in for Aaron Rowand, hit a ball waaaay out to rightfield for the Phillies third homerun of the game. It was a line drive shot that got out of the ballpark in a hurry. Then, as so often has it, in the bottom of the inning he made a solid diving grab on a looping liner off the bat of Miguel Cairo. By the way (again), Tom Gordon pitched the eight inning and made quick work of his old Yankees teammates in a 1-2-3 inning.

*** Robinson Tejeda worked the ninth for the Phillies…his 1-2-3 save included a strike out of Legends Field fan favorite Bernie Williams on a check swing he could not hold back.

*** Apparently, Chris Roberson caught the final out of the ballgame in left…I would have believed the YES guys on this one, except I know for a fact that Chris Roberson did not become a white dude overnight. No Michael Jackson jokes either (too easy)…and yes, I’ve seen White Chicks so I know it is possible (well at least kind of possible). Anyway, it was actually Ryan Fleming who caught the last out – he came in for the ninth and Roberson switched over to right.

*** For the record, I have never actually seen White Chicks. I swear. Not that I’m sure it isn’t an excellent film or anything, I just wanted to clarify that one up for my own piece of mind.

*** 5 hits for the Phillies tonight, 3 were homers…some people would see that as a negative (all they do is hit homers! They are going to have to learn to manufacture some runs someday!), but I think it is a lovely trend. I mean, if 60% of all their hits are homers these year…think about that. They’d be unstoppable. Maybe even (dare I say it…) a 162-0 season? Don’t laugh, it could happen…and it will happen!

*** Do yourself a favor and ignore the majority of that last bullet point…watching the YES network for the second time this spring killed whatever functioning brain cells I had left after the first Yankees-Phils game. In this regard, watching YES does shed some light on why Yankees fans are the way they are…I couldn’t imagine listening to that stuff 162 times a year.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Aquilino Lopez Traded

The Phillies have traded 31-year old relief pitcher Aquilino Lopez to the San Diego Padres; in return, the Phils receive two minor league players - OF Matt Thayer and 3B/C Trey Johnston.

Matt Thayer was a 31st round pick of the Padres in 2004 who is coming off a season that included stops in rookie ball, low-A, and high-A. He has hit .314/.406/.420 in 388 professional at bats, but because he was a college draft pick (he went to UCLA) that was 22-years old when selected, he has consistently been older than his competition. In other words, his numbers aren't as impressive as they appear and he'll have some catching up to do if he ever wants to reach "prospect" status. The Phils will probably start him at Clearwater, but he should advance to AA Reading quickly with a good start. He is 24-years old already and his future is probably as an organizational player that will need a string of good breaks to ever see the big leagues.

Trey Johnston appears to be the key to the deal from the Phillies perspective - not so much for anything he has done, but because of his youth and intriguing positionally combination. I've done my best to dig up a little something on Johnston outside of his Baseball Cube stat line, but I've come up relatively empty. He is an Independence Day baby (born July 4, 1985), played third base (primarily) for his high school team in Schaumburg, Illinois, and was originally an 18th round draft pick (523rd overall) of the Chicago Cubs. Johnston is listed by the Cube as a third baseman, but I've also seen websites listing him as a catcher - I can only assume he has played both in his career thus far. He won't turn 21 until July, so he definitely has youth on his side...the Phillies will more than likely begin him at Lakewood.

The loss of Aquilino Lopez is more complicated than it may appear at first glance…but that just may be because of my obsessive nature when it comes to the Phils (I mean how complicated could Aquilino Lopez be?). There haven't been too many veteran players to come through Philadelphia that perplexed me as much as Lopez did - this is especially strange when you consider the fact that Lopez only pitched 12.2 innings wearing the red pinstripes. Lopez always tantalized with great stuff and high strikeout rates, but for as much promise as he has shown, he has never delivered. Facts are facts - Lopez is now a 31-year old relief pitcher who only has 111.1 big league innings under his belt. The Padres will be Lopez’ sixth team as a pro…for whatever reason he has never been able to stick in any one place.

I think Lopez can still find a niche somewhere and contribute to a major league bullpen; as much as I wanted to see it happen for him in Philly, I can’t say that I’m too broken up about him leaving. With the way the roster is currently constituted, Lopez was set to pitch in Scranton while waiting for a chance at the big league roster. He would have made excellent insurance in case one of the older relievers (Tom Gordon, Arthur Rhodes, Rheal Cormier) were to get injured and is one of the only players in the organization that has “closer stuff” – important since there is no real backup plan in case Gordon goes down. Even still, getting two young players (love the approach of accumulating quantity in the lower minors by the way) for a player who may or may not help this season and definitely didn’t appear to fit into the organization’s long term vision is a damn good return. I’ll always wonder in the back of my mind what could have been with Lopez and the Phillies, but he isn’t the kind of player that will haunt you down the road.

Parade of Links Vol. II

Some quick business before getting on to a whole bunch of links. The Daily News confirms the Phillies interest in Texas Rangers OF David Dellucci, Tomas Perez has cleared waivers and can now only sit and await his fate, and RPs Yoel Hernandez and Aquilino Lopez have both been sent down to the minor league camp thereby being eliminated in the battle for that last bullpen spot.

(1) It seems that Phillies fans are increasingly willing to say goodbye to play-by-play man Harry Kalas after his contract runs out. The reasons for this (mainly pro-HK reasons - letting a Phillies icon go out with class) are solid, but I ultimately disagree. My opinion on this issue could change by the day, but as of right now, March 28th 2006, I think Harry Kalas should be in the Phillies broadcast booth for as long as he feels he can do the job. Happy belated birthday, Harry.

(2) This rumor is now two days old, but it serves as a decent follow up to the Rheal Cormier to Detroit rumors talked about last week:

The Nationals and Tigers were in trade discussions, with Washington almost trading left-hander Joey Eischen to Detroit on Saturday afternoon, according to two baseball sources...According to published reports, the Nationals were interested in outfielder Nook Logan, who has a lot of speed, but doesn't have much patience at the plate. If he came to Washington, Logan would be a reserve.

Nats GM is a big fan of fast, toolsy players that can't hit enough to make all their talents worth a damn. Logan seems to fit that mold, though he really isn't that bad a player and should make a fine fourth outfielder for a good long time. Eischen is a better pitcher than Cormier and would also cost less (he is working on a 1-year deal worth $1.3 million), so the Tigers should jump at the chance to add him if they are as hellbent on acquiring a lefty reliever as it seems.

(3) Something I didn't realize...

Although there are no formal records, the last Spring Training no-hitter was March 27, 2003, when Tampa Bay's Victor Zambrano, Brandon Backe and Jorge Sosa no-hit the Phillies in an 8-0 win in Clearwater, Fla.

The Cubs just no-hit the A's through nine innings in a spring game (the A's got their one and only hit in the 10th)...figured I'd provide some context for the otherwise random note above. I don't really have much of a recollection of that game, but it is interesting to note that all three pitchers for the Rays that day have turned out to be useful major leaguers. Zambrano, by far the biggest name of the three at the time, is now coming off arguably the least successful season of the three...though I'd argue the order goes Sosa, Zambrano, Backe personally.

(4) Interesting article from the Philadelphia Business Journal that was picked up by

In recent years the Philadelphia Phillies have sought to expand their fan base among women, Asian-Americans and the region's Latino community. This year, the baseball team has a new target: college students. "With something like 57 colleges to cater to in this area, we figured why not take advantage of that," said Robb L. Kazenski, a Phillies sales representative and one of a group of under-30 front-office staffers leading the initiative. "College kids are always looking for something to do. It seemed like a logical fit."


"We think Citizens Bank Park is a hip place to be," said John Brazer, the Phillies director of fun and games. "We also have a group of young players, like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, our younger fans are excited about."

I'll admit that I am biased about this idea from the start (I approve), but I think the Phillies need to be careful and keep the balance of college kids, families, and crotchety old baseball fans (that'll be me someday) in mind when making decisions. Gearing the experience towards college kids should work in the short-term, but you never know what kind of long-term ramifications something like this could have (if any).

(5) Jimmy Rollins has been getting plenty of attention over the past couple days and deservedly so - his 36 game hit streak makes for a great story heading into the 2006 season. Unfortunately, as Rollins finds himself in more and more featured stories, he also finds himself in front of a lot more microphones and tape recorders. This isn't necessarily an unfortunate situation for all players and, quite honestly, didn't figure to be one for a player as well liked by teammates and well spoken to the press as Rollins. He may still be well liked and well spoken, but he sure as heck ain't the brightest ballplayer to ever live...

Rollins never has walked more than 57 times in a season, and his on-base percentage was only .325 before last season, when it was still a modest .338.

"They love to make a big deal out of that," Rollins said. "That's fine. They've got to have something to criticize. Better to be talked about than to be forgotten about.

"I had my best two seasons the last two years. They talk about I'm not on base enough. Well, I'm still in the top three in runs scored, you know what I mean?

Looking at the important categories, looking at the numbers that really count, I'm doing my job as a leadoff hitter. You can get on base, but does it help your team win? But if you don't score runs, if your score doesn't move, your record probably doesn't get better."

That's the thing I don't get about baseball - how can somebody who is paid very well to do a job, have such a horrible misunderstanding of some of the very basic ideas of said job. I realize it is pointless to compare the world of sports to the real world, but this kind of attitude would not be acceptable in any other profession. I wonder if Rollins thinks he would still score as many runs if Jason Michaels/Kenny Lofton, Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell weren't hitting behind him. Think they had something to do with Rollins piling up the runs? Maybe if the guy can get on base even more than he has, he'd have more opportunities to do the one thing that "really count[s]."

(6) The Boston papers covered the whole Josh Beckett-Ryan Howard spat very well. The Globe story was solid all around, but two lines from the Herald jumped out at me as I was reading it yesterday morning while eating my Raisin Bran...

“I’m kind of about respecting the game,” said winning pitcher Beckett, who allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, while striking out six batters. “Even if it is a home run, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve never been the type of guy to not saying anything, so that’s where it kind of started, when he was jogging in after it was a pop-up.


Howard, who has the reputation of being a thoughtful and gentle young man, was perplexed by the reaction.

"I'm kind of about respecting the game"...what does that even mean? Maybe I'm just jumping over his use of "kind of," but he sounds like a dope. The description of Howard is great. Come to think of it, he is a "thoughtful and gentle young man"...just seems like a funny (though true) description of big Ryan Howard.

By the way, I really don't care about who is to blame in the incident. It doesn't matter to me. I would like to rip the Red Sox though...just for fun. I can't stand the Red Sox. I detest Terry Francona. And it doesn't surprise me at all to see this went down in yesterday's game.

(7) If you made it this long, fear not, your faith in me has been rewarded. There is plenty of good stuff in the two links below if you are willing to do a tiny bit of reading:

Good news for the Phillies if you believe the statistical simulators


Five Questions answered about the Phillies by the Beerleaguer himself

Parade of Links Vol. I

Aren't the alpacas darling?

(1) Tons of stuff to go to today, but we’ll start with another all-important spring training game recap. Phils beat Paul Byrd, Jason Michaels, and the Cleveland Indians in Clearwater yesterday afternoon by a score of 5-1. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of “Gavin Floyd is Back!” articles over the next few days…you know they are inevitable. Floyd was excellent today (6 IP 4H 1 ER 0 BB) and he has performed well all spring long. His control has been excellent lately (something like 2 walks over his last 15 innings or so), so maybe he has indeed turned the corner. There will be more than a few Phils fans giddy enough about his spring to start proclaiming him in the running for a job on the 25-man roster to start the season. Bad idea. I think the Phillies should not deviate from their earlier plan for this situation – send Floyd to Scranton and let him know that if he keeps pitching like he has been, he’ll be the first starter called up if the big club needs him.

By the way, the bullpen after Floyd (Julio Santana, Geoff Geary, and Tom Gordon) was excellent as well today and Shane Victorino had a big day at the plate. Phils spring record is now 16-9-1 ( must have listened to me when I complained about that damn tie yesterday and decided to pretend it never happened…I won’t fall for their dirty trick, the tie stands).

(2) From

Not wanting to take unnecessary chances with left-hander Cole Hamels, the Phillies announced Thursday that their top pitching prospect will start the season at Class A Clearwater…"It has nothing to do with ability," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general manager of scouting and player development. "Because of weather and bus rides, we thought it made sense to start him in warm weather and where there are very limited bus rides. We don't anticipate him being there a long time." Assuming Hamels stays healthy and effective, Arbuckle said he could wind up at Reading or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as early as May.

Makes sense to me. Arbuckle’s reasons are legit, so there is really no need for concern here. Quite frankly, I don’t care where Hamels pitches this season so long as he is happy, healthy, and actually pitching. I would like to catch a couple of his starts at Reading though, so for my own selfish reasons I hope they don’t advance him straight to Scranton – something Arbuckle seemed to insinuate was a possibility.

(3) From

That's right: Billy Wagner joined the Mets in part because pitching in front of Phillies fans was as much fun as a sore arm.
There also was Wagner's concern about the Phillies' commitment to winning a championship, which was not eased when the club traded Jim Thome. But make no mistake -- fans notorious for their nastiness played a part in Wagner's decision to leave Philadelphia after two seasons.

"Definitely," he says. "It's a no-win situation. You're out there busting your tail, and when you're having a good season, you don't want to deal with fans who aren't knowledgeable and are constantly riding you." "I'm not saying playing in New York is going to be easier," Wagner says... "But playing in Philadelphia opens your eyes. Considering how harsh it was, whether you're doing well or bad, if you can pitch there, you can play anywhere." And, to hear Wagner talk, have more fun.

This may be the last time I get into any of Billy Wagner’s off the field nonsense. I just don’t think I can take much more of what he has to say. For him to question the Phillies commitment to winning is not necessarily an unfair shot, but for him to go ahead and base this skepticism on the fact the team traded Jim Thome is insanity. It is as if he hasn’t been paying any attention to the happenings of professional baseball outside of his own career whatsoever. The comments about describing Phillies fans as fans that “aren’t knowledgeable” and are that were too “harsh” are just plain…whatever, Billy. I don’t have the will to argue against his asinine remarks. There is no need to get into or any other stupid comment that Wagner will inevitably say between now and the first Mets-Phils game. This will be settled between the lines soon enough. By the way, I now hate the Mets more than ever.

(4) Phillies may have some interest in Texas Rangers outfielder David Dellucci. You need a registration to access the story, but you can believe me, it’s all there. The Boston Globe yesterday reported (yet again) that the Phils have interest in Red Sox OF Dustan Mohr. If there is any news to report on either the Dellucci or Mohr front in the coming days, we’ll have it covered.

(5) Last, but certainly not least, Tom G. of Balls, Sticks, & Stuff has compiled an extremely helpful list of some of the prominent Phillies blogs (also known as phlogs) on the web. If you are a big baseball fan who just so happens to love the Phils, but are also a bit on the lazy side (that’s me alright) then you really need to bookmark this link right now. It comes highly, highly recommended; I promise you won't regret it. If you like what you see (and I’m sure you will), make sure to head on over to BS&S to give Tom G. his proper due.

As the title of this post noted (something I'm sure everyone noticed since it has been proven Phillies fans are a very observant bunch), this is just the first half of a two-part post - think of it as a housecleaning kind of thing where I'm trying to unload as many as the links I've accumulated over the past few days all at once. If that makes it sound kind of crappy, kind of is. Hope you enjoyed it though because the second half is coming later today...suckaaaaas.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Weekend

Phillies go 1-2 on the weekend after splitting back to back games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and losing to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. The Phillies spring training record now stands at 15-9-1 (damn that tie!). Now, for a closer look at the weekend that was...

Chris Coste stole the show yet again (feels like I’m either talking about him or Ryan Howard every single day) with a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning to knock in the eventual game winning run of a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The RBI double for Coste came in his only at bat of the night. Mike Lieberthal contributed to the winning cause with two hits and Aaron Rowand did him one better by coming through with a 3-3 ballgame (including a double and a homer). Chris Coste wasn’t the only man vying for a bench job who saw time on Friday - Tomas Perez went 0-2 with a strikeout and an error in the field while Chris Roberson walked and scored a run in his only plate appearance. Phillies infield prospect Tim Moss struck out in his only at bat.

Eude Brito struggled in his first start of the spring giving up 3 earned runs on 5 hits in just 2 innings of work. The bullpen did the job the rest of the way however – Ricardo Rodriguez, the player I believe the Phillies wanted to win that last bullpen spot from the very beginning, probably gave the Phils the outing they wanted to see so that they could make their dreams of seeing Rodriguez pitching for the big club in April a reality. Now they don’t have to spin Rodriguez’ inclusion on the 25-man roster quite as much as they would have had he struggled. Good for them…I guess. I remain skeptical to say the least. Geoff Geary and Arthur Rhodes both delivered strong performances typical of their many previous outings this spring. Tom Gordon got his first save as a Phillie with a perfect ninth inning (2 strikeouts to boot). All in all, a good win and better effort by the home team.

Two big stories (big is relative I guess, but they are big to me) from the Phillies 8-3 loss to the Pirates on Saturday. First off, Brett Myers was excellent. Even though he took the loss, he still managed to get six strong innings of work in with a whopping nine strikeouts and no walks allowed. Robinson Tejeda, the pitcher who followed Myers, was not as sharp – he gave up three earned runs in just 1.2 innings pitched while walking 3 batters. Anyway, Tejeda was not story number two…Tomas Perez, unfortunately for any Tomas fans out there, was. Perez started at third and went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. His spring batting average is now down to .160. Spring stats may not tell the whole story, but you gotta believe management is watching all of the candidates for that remaining bench spot very, very closely.

And finally, the last game of the weekend wrap up…Phillies go down to Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox by a score of 3-2. I watched this game the closest of the three (didn’t catch the Friday night game and saw only the first few innings of the Saturday game), so I actually have some notes I took while watching the game live:

  • Jimmy Rollins made an excellent play in the fifth inning on a ball hit to the hole in short. He ranged to his right to make a backhanded play on a shorthop…unfortunately, the ball sailed a bit high and wide on his throw to Ryan Howard and the big guy was pulled just about a foot or so off the bag. Great stop by Rollins nonetheless.
  • Speaking of Rollins, his first three at bats really piqued my interest; they were, in a roundabout way, sort of a microcosm of what he is all about. There was the bad JRoll in his first at bat – he swung at a pitch early in the count and wound up popping out. There was the good JRoll in his second at bat – he saw a pitch he could handle and went after it, lacing an RBI single through the infield. Finally, there was the perfect world, why can’t our leadoff hitter learn to work a count and understand the importance of seeing good pitches every time up and at least try to go to the plate with a plan of attack and…well you get the point. But that's the JRoll that I want to see...we got a glimpse of that in this one at bat. Rollins got into an 0-2 hole against Beckett (who was cruising at this point), but battled back by taking a couple of very close pitches and eventually draw a walk. The Sox announcers on NESN went on and on about Rollins leaving the box before an 0-2 pitch and completely screwing with Beckett’s rhythm – he was clearly flustered on the mound for the rest of the at bat. Great work by the NESN crew to point all of this out by the way. Then, on a first ball curveball to Aaron Rowand, Rollins took off for second and stole the bag with ease. It was a thing of beauty.
  • Aaron Fultz did a very nice job today. He came into the game with men on first and third in the fifth and proceeded to make very quick work of Kevin Youkilis to get a strikeout to end the inning.
  • Chris Coste had a double and run scored in three at bats...Beckett struck him out on a 1-2 breaking ball - looked like a nice, sharp curveball that tied up Coste
  • Phillies 3B prospect Mike Costanzo got a little playing time today with a pinch hit appearing in the fifth. He struck out looking at a wonderful two-seam fastball by Beckett that beautifully tailed right back over the inside part of the plate. Don’t think Costanzo saw pitching quite like that at Coastal Carolina, eh Mikey?
  • Good gun by Dustan Mohr to nail Rollins at plate in 5th…he comes to the plate the very next inning and looks very bad striking out against Rheal Cormier…I thought he was supposed to kill lefties? His open tryout for the Phils went pretty well on the whole…I’d rather see Coste or Roberson win a job, but if the Phillies made a move for Mohr, I can't say I would be all that upset…
  • Cormier had a very nice day with a 1-2-3 inning in his only frame…
  • 3-0 greenlight for Burrell with 2 outs and Utley on third in 6th – laced an RBI single…I love 3-0 greenlights and almost always advocate taking the chance
  • Nunez follows the Burrell at bat by helping out a tiring Beckett by swinging at the first ball and popping up to end the inning. I expect more from a “proven veteran…”
The following are my AIM comments (to a friend that wasn't watching) describing the Ryan Howard/Josh Beckett shouting match prior to the start of the seventh inning...

rfo21 (3:05:01 PM): Howard hit what would have been a homerun, but the wind knocked it down (not just saying that as the Phillies homer that I am, the NESN announcers said the same thing repeatedly)
rfo21 (3:05:24 PM): i think Beckett just didn't like the way Howard got out of the box so he started yelling at him
rfo21 (3:05:53 PM): but then things cooled off until in between innings as Howard went out to his position at first
rfo21 (3:06:18 PM): and then it was just him and Beckett (in the dugout at this point) just yelling back and forth
rfo21 (3:06:33 PM): Phillies bench came out, umpires stood in the way of Howard and Beckett from going at it

There is much debate over this whole thing. The ESPN game story detailing it is here. If you have MLB.TV and want to see the incident for yourself, I suggest getting it queued up to 2:25:55. That ought to give you a chance to determine whether Howard was merely looking for the ball or posing. I don’t care much either way – whether it makes me a dumb Philly fan or not, I just like seeing big Ryan Howard getting pissed off and showing a little fire.

  • Chris Booker in for the Phils, trying to rebound from his shaky first performance I’m sure…he gives up a double to Adam Stern…other than that though, he looked pretty impressive. The bullpen has had a very nice weekend.
  • Tomas Perez lets his fans down yet again in the seventh…he chases ball 4 for strike 2, then swings at a fastball at his eyes to strike out…its like he just can’t be happy and enjoy the benefits of a 3-1 count that other hitters seem to…
  • Great speed by Victorino and great popup slide on a baserunning play late in the game…his speed is definitely an underrated part of his game, the guy is quick…
  • How do you repeatedly call him "Chris Robinson" when they flash a "Chris Roberson" graphic right on the screen? All you have to do is read right off of your monitor!
  • Eude Brito – 2 very quick popups, but a battle with lefty mashing Wily Mo Pena looms ahead…this should be a good test for Eude – swing and miss (low and away) for strike one, ball one, another swing and miss for strike two, ball two up and in, broken bat pop up to short right…getting two swings and misses for Brito against Pena is impressive, although Pena does have a bit of a contact problem…Brito gets knocked for having less than spectacular stuff, but you need something decent to do what he just did (small sample size, I know I know…)
  • The NESN guys, who have done such a lovely job today (honest), keep botching names. That is my only beef with them, but it is slowly driving me insane. It’s the play by play doing the majority of the fumbling, not the usual culprit, the color man. Come on NESN…Sam Fasano??? Do your homework!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rheal Rumors

The Phillies played 20 innings in two days, but come out of the whole experience without a win. After a 4-4 tie with the Braves on Wednesday, the Phils lost to the Detroit Tigers in 10 innings on Thursday by a score of 8-7. Ryan Howard was the story of the day for the Phils after hitting his 10th homerun of the spring, an official Phillies record. Chris Coste continued to clobber the ball with a perfect 2 for 2 day with an RBI. Chris Roberson cooled off considerably with an 0 for 5 afternoon with five men left on base. The pitching was downright comical to me - the players I've been pushing for spots on the team got rocked, and the players I've doubted performed very well. Chris Booker, Aquilino Lopez, and Ryan Cameron were all beaten up; Aaron Fultz, Rheal Cormier (more on him later...), and Julio Santana were all excellent. Go figure.

The Tigers are the team that has been linked to Rheal Cormier most often over the past few days. Various media outlets have reported some variation on the basic story that the Tigers are one of the few teams out there with interest in Cormier if the Phils were looking to deal. It goes without saying that the Phillies will not be getting Justin Verlander or Joel Zumaya in return for their overpaid, aging lefty reliever, but the Tigers do have some under the radar minor league talent that could make a deal work. I'm convinced that MLB teams often don't employ people with great long-term strategies and desperation, in this case that inexplicable obsession with acquiring a lefty for the pen the Tigers seem to exhibit, can make general managers do some pretty wacky things.

The value of the player the Phillies get in return for Cormier is relative to the amount of cash they are willing to cover to pay Cormier's remaining salary. Think of it as a small scale Jim Thome situation - the more salary the team covers, the better value they get back; the less salary, the lesser the quality of the prospect would be. All of this is surely self explanatory and I apologize if anybody feels their intelligence has been put into question, but it never hurts to go over details every so often, right?

So, what would be fair value for Cormier anyway? And do the Tigers have the right young player to make a deal work? Outside of the aforementioned Verlander and Zumaya, the Tigers farm system is thin. The bulk of the talent after those two pitchers are in the form of June 2005 draftees - Cameron Maybin, Jeff Larish, Kevin Whelan are all '05 draftees that appear on many a Tigers top ten prospect list.

Whelan, a college reliever with closer potential, looks to be a fast riser through the system and, based on the way teams seem to overvalue veteran relievers and undervalue minor league relievers, seems to me like guy worth asking around about as a possible pickup. He would have to be included as a PTBNL (player to be named later) because teams can not officially trade draft picks until a year goes by after the signing of their pro contracts. Whelan may be setting the bar a bit too high (maybe even way too high), but still could be a good name to get the ball rolling in discussions.

The Tigers also have a good bit of third base depth in their system. None of the guys listed below profile as sure fire major league starters; in fact, the majority of the guys are even beyond the age where they can even be called prospects at all and now can only hope to catch on as backups somewhere.

Jack Hannahan is a 26-year old third baseman with a glove at third that both scouts and stats believe is special. There is a minor problem with Hannahan's game however - he can't hit. A guy like him (older, clearly flawed but extraordinarily skilled in one area) just feels like the type of player Rheal Cormier could acquire.

Don Kelly is another player that profiles similarly to Hannahan - Kelly is a 26-year old third baseman/infielder looking for a shot to stick in the majors in some role, somewhere. He is a solid fielder at third and can also play a serviceable shortstop as well as a decent first base. His versatility in the field and slow to develop power makes it likely that his quickest route to the majors is by impressing a team enough to give him a job as a utility guy. Kelly hit very well in AA last season (.340/.402/.508), but he was an overaged prospect who later struggled big time after getting a promotion to AAA (.250/.306/.319). The Phillies may be overstocked with utility guy types this spring, but he'd make decent insurance at the AAA level.

Kody Kirkland is yet another good defensive third base prospect who has some questions about his bat. He'll turn 23 in June of this year and is expecting to get his first taste of AA to start the season off. Kirkland hit .266/.342/.470 last year in Lakeland (high A) with 16 homeruns, 24 doubles, 9 triples, and 12 steals in 15 tries. He is a big kid (6-4, 200 pounds) and his strong 2005 may have priced him out of the Phillies range in terms of a potential acquisition. It never hurts to ask about a guy though.

Ryan Raburn is the last infield prospect on my list that could possibly intrigue the Phillies. Raburn hit .253/.323/.437 with 19 homers and 22 doubles last season in AAA Toledo. He is primarily a second baseman these days, but has some experience at third and is believed to be capable of playing any of the infield spots in a pinch. He is going to have to hit better than he has in the past if he wants to stick in the major leagues, but this 25-year old still has a shot to get back to the majors (Raburn hit .138/.194/.172 in a brief 29 at bat stint in the bigs in '04).

Nook Logan and Marcus Thames are two outfielders off the Tigers major league roster that have been rumored to be available. It seems the Tigers have finally come to their senses and realized that Logan's ceiling as a major leaguer is as a fourth outfielder and pinch-runner. He is very, very fast and was called a "legitimately great center fielder" by Baseball Prospectus. Players who can run and play high caliber defense in center often find themselves in the majors for a long time. Logan has consistently hit around .260 wherever he has been as a pro, but he has absolutely no power (.335 slugging last year) and very little plate discipline. He'd have to get his batting average way up to have any kind of value as a hitter and the odds of that happening at this point (Logan is now 26 with a track record of just not hitting) appear to diminish by the second. He could still be a useful part on a major league club though.

Thames is a player currently in no-man's land. He has completely figured out AAA pitching by now (he hit an eye popping .340/.427/.679 in 314 at bats in '05 and an even better .329/.410/.735 in 273 at bats in '04), but consistently struggles when given shots in the bigs. Thames is now 29 years old, but I think the guy is a good enough hitter that he could help a team out in a backup outfielder role.

Or, the Phillies could demand a certain infielder with an unusually shaped peanut-esque noggin who just so happens to be perfectly suited to playing a good third base and hitting in the 2-hole...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phillies @ Braves 3/22/06

Phillies tie the Braves 4-4 at the Disney/ABC/ESPN Corporate Synergy Ballpark in Orlando, Florida. And you always thought there was no tying in baseball...

I jotted some notes down as I watch the archived Phils-Braves game on MLB.TV from earlier today (actually, it'll technically be earlier yesterday by the time I post this monster of an entry). These notes are all still pretty much a big mess and I don’t feel like organizing them in any kind of coherent fashion, so good luck trying to sort through what I wrote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for this post, but…read it anyway, it’s good for you. My advice: try to ignore the weird stuff I do with tenses (switching all the time and for no apparent reason) throughout this thing. If you try to figure out why I use what tense (my answer: I’m a mediocre writer), you’re head will probably explode and it’ll make a big mess. Enjoy!

First Inning

Chris Roberson – infield single, good speed, sporting the shades today and what looks like a freshly shaved head…does he really use a new helmet for baserunning or did something happen to his batting helmet that we missed? I’ve never seen a player request a new helmet upon reaching first before. Weird.

Roberson just got thrown out as he tried to steal second– great throw by Braves catcher Brian McCann, the play was not even close…Roberson is seen talking to Charlie in dugout afterwards.

Bobby Abreu – strikes out looking at a breaking ball at the shins. Looks like it will be a fun day of umpiring (this isn’t me bitching about a spring training strike call, it is more of a general comment/prediction of the quality of umpiring I expect for today’s game) …

BIG test for Phillies starting pitcher Ryan Franklin today – looks like he’ll be matching up against the “real” Braves lineup – quite possibly the same way they’ll use on Opening Day

“kid has always had a great arm” – ESPN announcer (who I’m sure will be quoted often) Jeff Brantley talking about Ryan Franklin

Play-by-play guy on ESPN (never heard of him before though the voice is somewhat recognizable) talked for a good bit about the Phillies’ new plan of actively seeking sinker balers who induce loads of groundballs…just like Ryan Franklin, right? I hope that’s a joke. A quick check of my new handy Baseball Prospectus 2006 reveals that Franklin’s groundball percentages (percentage of all batted balls that were hit on the ground with the ML average being 45% in 2005) over the past three seasons have been 37%, 38%, and 42%. He is an extreme flyball pitcher – you can use stats to back this up (obviously the best way to tackle something as easily provable as this) or, if you hate stats and want no part of them, just watch a game or two – the man gives up flyballs like no tomorrow. He may have good movement on his sinking pitches, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a groundball pitcher.

Marcus Giles strikes out swinging…later in the inning, Andruw Jones strikes out looking…not bad so far, Franklin

“monster year” expected out of Renteria by the former Phillie Brantley…later, he said he’d have a “blockbuster” year…what does that even mean? I think he is a very reasonable candidate for a bounce back year, but “blockbuster”? What does a “blockbuster” year entail?

Second Inning

Chase Utley hits one back to the mound – Davies fields it out of self-defense and gets the out…Brantley calls Chase a “gametime player” – it is clear now why he gets paid the big bucks for his color work…

Ryan Howard is hitting after Alex Gonzalez today…someone please tell me why?

Third Inning

Brantley talks about the “horrible mechanics” Franklin exhibits on his bunt attempts – eventually, Franklin bunts a ball right back up the middle that should have been a double play ball…terrible bunt by him, something the AL guy will have to work on. Heck, something the whole damn staff should really work on after their pitiful showing when sacrificing last year. I have no evidence to back this claim up come to think of it…no stats anyway, just my anecdotal evidence I gathered while watching the team every night during the season. I wonder if there are any stats that keep tabs of failed sacrifice opportunities – times when the pitcher strikes out with a fouled off bunt on strike three, hits into a force out somewhere and doesn’t advance a runner, or even when they show like they are bunting (and it is an obvious bunting situation) but eventually give up due to their ineptitude. Somebody get on that…

John Schuerholz in the booth in the bottom of the third – talking baseball and plugging his new book (which I’m extremely intrigued by for the record)…some nuggets from the Schuerholz conversation:

  • One of the most interesting things to be leaked out of the book so far is the story about a potential Barry Bonds to Atlanta deal back in 1992. I had read about this old story a while ago, but I didn’t remember the part about Jim Leyland being the one who specifically pulled the plug on the trade.
  • Very telling that as Schuerholz is rambling on about his book, a 53rd round pick like Marcus Giles comes to the plate for the Braves. I hate the Braves, but they are good at what they do.
  • Schuerholz repeats his manta about what constitutes a truly good trade – both teams must think they’ve won the deal long after the trade has been made; good trades must benefit both teams. If you go around ripping people off all the time, after a while nobody will want to deal with you.
  • He says the book should have been titled the Schuerholz-Cox Code (play on The Da Vinci Code) …cute.
  • He brought up the Andy Marte deal to get Renteria…it’s been a few months now and I still don’t get that move. How has Marte been moved twice this offseason? It boggles my mind…
  • They spent a good long time talking about Tom Glavine being pissed off about certain details in the book…I don’t know enough about the situation to place blame, but…I’ll do it anyway (it’s more fun that way). Glavine has a reputation for being very thinned skin, so I think we can chalk this up to an overreaction on his part. Just my uneducated guess.

Brantley informs the viewing public that Kyle Davies needs to “kick it up a notch” – I say all these things like I hate Jeff Brantley and I feel bad it comes across that way. I really don’t dislike the guy at all. In fact, I think he is actually a halfway decent commentator and is one of the better ex-jocks ESPN has hired in the past decade. He isn’t great by any means and I am glad he doesn’t do all 162 of my favorite teams games, but when stacked up against the rest of the color commentating world, he isn’t all that bad. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest, now I can go back to making fun of him.

Giles appears to have struck out on a 2-2 pitch except Franklin didn’t get the call. Giles later walked, but was picked off at first by 5 feet. I have no idea what he was thinking there. Guess that’s why he fell to the 53rd round…kidding, of course.

Ryan Franklin…I really want to be wrong about you, so please be kind and keep this solid game up. Giving up all of these flyballs will come back to get him later on though, mark my words. A groundball is more likely to be an out than a flyball – that’s a fact kids, I have a 550 page book on my desk to prove it (also a joke – the book being the be-all, tell-all part that “proves” my points for me anyway. Not the page amount of Prospectus or the fact about which batted balls are mostly likely to be out. That’s all true). The increased strikeout Franklin has shown is very encouraging though.

Fourth Inning

Chris Roberson physical resembles Endy Chavez. Agree? Disagree? One thing I do know is that, much like our old friend Endy, Roberson can really run. He is fun to watch once he makes contact.

Great play by Francoeur on a ball hit by Utley – diving grab of a low, sinking liner in rightfield. I’m confident Abreu would have got to that ball as well…he is a Gold Glove winner after all…okay, fine, he would have no shot getting to that ball, but I still love the guy.

Too many flyballs for Franklin…so far this inning there have been 2 flyball outs to Roberson in left…and now a homerun by Andruw Jones…the inning ends with another flyball out to left. I’m not happy.

Fifth Inning

Ryan Howard killed a ball that gets behind Jones in centerfield. He took a really, really wide turn and looked intent on heading to third for the triple before he wised up and headed back to the bag at second. He is no Chris Roberson on the bathpaths, but he can really scoot for a big fella. (EDIT: great quote by Charlie Manuel after the game about this play - "I want him to think that [he can stretch doubles into triples], but I don't want him to go."

The idea of Pete Incaviglia (I mean Sal Fasano) as Jon Lieber’s personal catcher is really starting to grow on me. More time for the backup catcher just makes Mike Lieberthal more effective on the days he does play. Fasano needs to do at least a competent job to make this plan work – so far this spring, he has done just that.

Jeff Francoeur is a very, very strong young man – he muscled a homer in the bottom of the inning off of an awkward swing. He may be a bit overrated by the baseball traditionalists (and conversely somewhat underrated by those who are statistically oriented), but the kid is still a player.

Brian McCann, another quality youngster, follows with a single – looks similar to… (EDIT: looking back at my notes, I realized I never finished this thought. Now, of course, I’ve forgotten to whom I was going to compare young McCann’s looks. I see a little Drew Henson, but I don’t think that is what I was thinking earlier. This will drive me crazy until I remember)

Matt Diaz – is it really prounced “Die-azz” with the emphasis on the “Die”? Funky. Anyway, Tomas Perez just bobbled a Die-azz grounder, but still kept his cool and threw him out in time. Why is this notable? Perez knew he had time to get Diaz because of the confidence he has in his arm. The one plus, plus tool our old buddy Tomas possesses is a great arm. It really is one of the better infield arms I can think of around the bigs. Again, somewhat strange, but true (true to me anyway).

Sixth Inning

Beautiful push bunt by Roberson – 3 at bats, 3 opportunities to show off his plus speed (infield hit, groundout when he nearly beat the throw, and now the bunt single)

Todd Pratt sighting number one this season – I hate seeing him in a Braves uniform, it just upsets me. Not for any kind of Pratt-love (some days I loved him, others I hated him – his public personality that is), but just seeing any player you once rooted for in the rivals ugly colors is upsetting.

Alex Gonzalez with an RBI single to get the Phils on the board

Ryan Howard 3-run homer – he killed this ball, well worth a replay or 20 if you want to look up the highlights online

Long at bat for Tomas Perez – ends in foul pop to catcher. Good battle for Tomas, but it gets him nowhere. Except maybe a one-way ticket to Florida that is.

Sal Fasano strikes out on 3 pitches. Just like Inky used to do…

Jake Blalock is now out in left – hey did you know he is Hank’s little bro? Thanks ESPN – factoids like that prove that you truly are the “world wide leader in sports!”

Nice play by Geary on a low liner right back to him – good start for him in the inning.

Andruw Jones really has been around forever and he is only 29 for this upcoming season (birthday in April). That’s crazy. He also has 301 homeruns too…not bad. Great job by Geary setting Jones up today though. Very nice piece of pitching by Geoffy boy.

Ruben Amaro Jr joins the fellas in the booth – he comes across as being very well spoken. No surprise coming from the Stanford graduate. When he enters the booth, he greets Brantley by calling him by his old nickname “Cowboy.” Touching moment. Here is what I gathered from Amaro's interview:

  • Roberson is complimented by Amaro – Ruben goes on to mention that the debate on Roberson comes down to the age old debate as to whether it is more beneficial for a younger player to play everyday in AAA or to get big league experience even if it is in a bench role
  • Amaro repeats the mantra of Schuerholz – the whole point behind a trade is for both teams to benefit.
  • He also mentions that the Phils have moved the outfield fences both back and up – he says that the organization has been told that this change could knock down 15 to 20 homers per season. Old news, but still worth a mention.
  • He talked about losing Billy Wagner to the Mets – called it a “double whammy”
  • “Cowboy” asked Amaro a question about the Phils outfield but first talked about the quality defense of the team’s outfielders. He actually mentioned the outfield range as a strength of the team. Rowand has range…does Pat Burrell or Gold Glover Bobby Abreu? I’m far less sure. Amaro says that Abreu plays a “quality rightfield” and that Burrell is “one of the best throwers” in the league. Very accurate statement about Burrell – he isn’t a good fielder, but the man can throw. Nice way of sidestepping the question by Amaro. Clearly he is putting that degree of his to good use.
  • “I’ll take the line he had today” – Amaro quote about Ryan Franklin’s day. His line wasn’t bad, but the flyball/groundball ratio was. Keep an eye on this.
  • Amaro says that he believes the Phillies do try to model themselves in some ways after the Atlanta Braves. Also mentions the player developmental side of the game and the influence the Pope Paul Owens had on the franchise. Any mention of the Pope is okay by me.
  • I love the importance of spring games…Ryan Howard’s 3-run homer off of Jorge Sosa is merely an afterthought as Ruben Amaro barely takes a breath to mention that a homerun was hit. Amaro just kept on answering a question asked by the announcers and they didn’t bother to interrupt him. Spring training is so intense.
  • Howard and Utley both stepping up down the stretch last year – Amaro mentons these two players specifically. High praise and very true.
  • The play-by-play guy asked Amaro something along the lines of “how do you stop the Braves”? Amaro’s answer was a good one: “Realignment.” Well done, Rube.
  • Amaro kind of makes the old David Ortiz comparison to Ryan Howard. I’ll take it.

Seventh Inning

I (and anybody watching on the tube/computer) missed Blalock’s first at bat of the game– understandable because it is spring training and all, but I don’t have to like it. He wound up driving the ball to deep center for a long flyball out.

Yoel Hernandez throwing to number 67 Chris Coste (wearing the Todd Pratt model hockey mask – the mask actually came in handy when Tony Pena knocked him in the coconut on his backswing). The first batter of the inning is Todd Pratt. Pratt walked.

Test for Hernandez upcoming – 2 on, no out…and he uncorks a wild pitch. Brantley calls Coste a “young catcher” – news to me. Brantley places the blame on the wild pitch squarely on Coste. I agree with “Cowboy” on this one – Coste tried to scoop the ball with his mitt (not quite a backhanded stab, but his glove was turned awkwardly to grab it) when he really should have thrown his full body in front of the ball to knock it down. I think the ball actually wound up hitting his cleat and that is what sent it flying off away from him.

The announcers both agree that they’ve heard that the Phillies really like Coste’s bat, but are at a loss as to where they can play him. They need to find a place for Coste to play? Oh you wacky national announcers – it must be hard pretending to be experts about everything.

Two Sosas at the ballpark today – Jorge is pitching for the Braves and Juan is in the dugout for the Phils. When I was looking up Juan the other day I noticed something I thought was odd – there have only been 5 Sosas in big league history. Jorge, Juan, Sammy, Elias, and Jose. I would have thought there has been a ton. Well, two were at the park on Wednesday making it a rare and special occasion indeed.

Braves tie it up…Hernandez just can not walk the pitcher under any circumstance, not even if he is a former outfielder like Jorge Sosa is.

Bobby Abreu interview – he said although he loved the event, he would consider changing the timing of the World Baseball Classic. He said players weren’t ready to play and that the event should be either in mid-season (it may be more feasible than you think) or shortly after the conclusion of the World Series.

Trade rumors – Abreu was “alright” when he read about the rumors and said that “no matter what, he just plays the game”. He said it and I really, really believed him.

Abreu on the Braves - “14 years and they still dominate”

Eight Inning

Roger McDowell – call it a hunch, but I really think McDowell will work out great as a big league pitching coach. I think he has the knowledge and temperament for the position and I think he should get bonus points around the league for being a guy the Braves actively sought out to fill the position. Knowing the Braves wanted him tells me a lot.

Tom Gordon – I’m nervous about him. His injury history, his peripherals taking a hit last year, his velocity being down…all the nervousness that came with his initial signing just hit me as I saw him on the mound again.

John Sickels did a prospect retrospective about Gordon – very cool stuff here

Gordon struck out James Jurries on a check swing with a cartoon curve

Notice that Brantley, who I have nothing against, honestly, laughs at more of his own jokes than anybody I’ve ever heard.

Gordon jammed Pete Orr on a dribbler right back to him

Pratt hits a slow roller to Sandoval at second – 1-2-3 inning. Good outing for Gordon.

Ninth Inning

Ryan Howard versus a lefthander - O’Connor is the pitcher

  • 1st pitch: breaking ball called strike 78 MPH
  • 2nd pitch: swing at a miss on a fastball
  • 3rd pitch: fastball low and in
  • 4th pitch: big slow breaking ball fouled off
  • 5th pitch: breaking ball inside fouled off to the left – good catch by a "lady with a glove" who apparently dove over her friend to get to the ball
  • 6th pitch: fastball missing low and away
  • 7th pitch: breaking ball in the dirt
  • 8th pitch: Howard jams his bat on a fastball up and in…seemed like a good pitch to hit…groundout to second base

Tomas Perez - I forgot all about him playing in the WBC – I’m not knocking him by saying this, but I honestly did not notice he was gone. He grounds out to short for the second out…

Danny Sandoval – robbed of a hit on a nice play by Tony Perez Jr. at shortstop

Matt Squires now pitching for the Phillies against David Kelton – Kelton flies out to centerfield. Squires is an organizational player - 27 years old, strictly a reliever, I have no idea what his splits are, but it seems like his only hope of ever reaching the bigs would be as a LOOGY. Kelton intrigues me for some reason and he honestly always has. He was at one time a highly touted prospect in the Cubs organization (played in the 2003 Futures Game at the All-Star break) as a third base prospect, but never matured into the hitter many thought he could be. He was moved off of third in order to jumpstart his bat, but didn't respond and now finds himself in baseball's no-man's land. He is still just 26 and is capable of playing 1B, the corner outfield spots, and even third in a desperate situation. Plus he is coming off a decent year in AAA with the Cubbies - .283/.329/.420. That's nothing to get excited about at all, but his versatility, relative youth, and the fact he was once highly thought of by scouts all lead me to believe that there are teams around the league that could do a lot worse than David Kelton as the last guy off their bench. Think of him as a younger Chris Coste who can't catch if you must.

Ryan Howard interview – he says the biggest plus of having the first base job all to himself this spring is not having to answer questions about the first base job competition. The word “relax’ or some variation thereof was used more than once by Howard in the short interview.

They just replayed Howard’s homer – I think it is now official: Howard’s at bats are events. I would stop doing whatever it is I was busy with to watch this guy hit. Big things are expected whenever he steps to the plate. It is a very similar feeling to Jim Thome cerca 2003/2004. I’d also argue it is similar to some of the stretches Scott Rolen had as a Phillie – he’d come to the plate and you knew something exciting would happen. Those may be the only three Phillies over the past ten years who have had that kind of impact on a game from a fan’s perspective that I can think of.

Braves top hitting prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch hitting – flies out to take this game to extra innings

Tenth Inning

Brantley is being awfully hard on Victorino – says he’ll never make it if he keeps being so pull happy and that he absolutely needs to utilize his speed by hitting the other way more (when hitting lefty that is)

Chris Roberson with a three hit day after he goes the other way with a single to left – he shows off that speed yet again with a stolen base. He got a really great jump.

Chris Coste with a chance to be a hero…just noticed he goes without batting gloves at the plate, I love that…he won’t be the hero today though…oh well, I still love the batting gloveless approach

Braves are held off the board in the 10th…this game ends in a tie – better than a loss, right?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Figuring Out This Bullpen

Yesterday's Inquirer had three blurbs all worth a mention:
  1. "The Phillies reassigned the following players to their minor-league camp: outfielders Peter Bergeron and Shawn Garrett, infielders Bobby Scales and Joe Thurston, and righthanders Clay Condrey, Ryan Cameron, Travis Minix and Brian Sanches."

    No real surprises there...Bergeron, Garrett, and Thurston should all provide good depth in the upper level minors this season and it wouldn't be a shock to see one of the bunch reappear on the Phils bench some point this season. I still believe that one of the three relievers (Cameron, Minix, or Sanches) will pitch for the Phils this year...I think I predicted that 2 would pitch for the big club at some point a while back, so I'll even go as far as to stick with that prediction for now.

    I just dug up my old prediction from 1/11/06: "Any one of these guys could, in theory, wind up as real life Phillies in 2006. I think at least one of the 4 relief pitchers mentioned (Cameron, Sanches, Minix, and Lopez) will come north to Philly to start the season and at least 2 will pitch for the Phils over the course of the year. Just a hunch though."

    My prediction is looking real bad in the short-term and more than a little iffy in the long-term - though I'll stubbornly stick by it. Bottom line: when I'm doing the predicting, it's probably best to just let me be and tune me out.

  2. "The Phillies will have a 12-man pitching staff, with five bullpen jobs seemingly locked up by Tom Gordon, Arthur Rhodes, Rheal Cormier, Aaron Fultz and Julio Santana. Geoff Geary seems a strong bet to win a job, and Tejeda and Ricardo Rodriguez could be competing for a long reliever's role. Chris Booker, Aquilino Lopez, Yoel Hernandez and Brito also are in camp.

    The Phillies acquired Rodriguez, who is out of options, in the Vicente Padilla trade, but he has lacked control and indicated that he does not have much interest in being in the bullpen."

    I don't see why Santana has a job locked up, but that's the Phillies for you. In my mind, Geary is a lock (not just my preference, but what I think the Phils are thinking as well) and has been for some time. That leaves Tejeda, Rodriguez, Booker, Lopez, Hernandez, and Brito fighting for the last spot. Brito and Hernandez haven't really been given fair shots, so we can rule them out. Booker is expected to pitch on Thursday for the first time this spring...while it is highly, highly unlikely that he pitches so darn well the team must keep him, it is at least somewhat possible. Realistically though, he's out. Hopefully the Nationals don't want the Rule Fiver back though and the Phils can stash him away in the Red Barons bullpen. The battle is down to Tejeda, Rodriguez, and Lopez. Tejeda and Rodriguez both fit the mold of potential long relievers/spot starter types so they definitely have the edge over my personal favorite, Aquilino Lopez.

    I still say it'll be Rodriguez with Lopez in the Scranton bullpen and Tejeda as the Red Barons number two starter. I'd prefer Lopez on the big club and Rodriguez far away from Philly (with still Tejeda starting in AAA), but the Phillies won't return my calls.

  3. "There is talk among scouts that the Phillies are shopping Cormier. Detroit could be interested."

    If this is true, it is time for the Phillies to say goodbye to Rheal. He has been a good soldier during his tenure here and I genuinely like him as a ballplayer, but he no longer brings any positive contributions out on to the field. Pay off some of that salary and send him packing to Motown - Aquilino Lopez or Yoel Hernandez would be welcomed additions to fill his old job in the pen if called upon.
One thing I failed to mention in yesterday's recap of the Pirates-Phils game - Chase Utley's homerun was off of Pirates starter Zach Duke, a lefthander. This comes a day after the Phillies hammered the best lefthander in all of baseball, Minnesota Twins starter Johan Santana. It's just spring, but it's nice.

Phils-Braves...1:05 this afternoon on ESPN or MLB.TV...Ryan Franklin vs. Kyle Davies with Geary, Cormier, and Tom Gordon all expected to get some innings in as well. Watch it.

Oh yeah...doesn't that Cory Lidle picture from the previous post sort of look like Jim Thome right after a swing? Or am I crazy?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Phils Improve to 14-6 in Grapefruit Leage Play

Phillies win two more today – 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater and a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. Time to dissect some spring training games for little to no reason whatsoever…

Aaron Rowand led off against the Tigers today and went 0-4 with a strikeout…he is hitting .174 on the season…I’m honestly not basing this off of spring stats and I am still very excited about seeing Rowand’s much hyped defense everyday in Philly, but I just hope Phillies fans remember how damn effective the Jason Michaels (.304/.399/.415 in 289 at bats) and Kenny Lofton (.334/.392/.420 in 367 at bats) platoon really was offensively. It can be argued that Rowand has the considerable offensive upside of the three players though - a point that I happen to agree with and not just to calm my nerves when I think about his .174 spring...

The Phillies big three in Clearwater today batted 3-4-5 in the lineup – RF Bobby Abreu, LF Pat Burrell, and 1B Ryan Howard. Abreu had a double to keep up his hot spring (I should clarify: his spring has been hot so long as he has been wearing a Phils uniform), Burrell hit a 2-run homer in the second, and Ryan Howard collected his 15th spring RBI.

Chris Coste just keeps on hitting…I don’t know how heavily the Phils will weigh spring stats when making a decision, but his awesome numbers (he is hitting .480 as of today) and versatility (yet another game with Coste playing some catcher, I love it) will make it hard for the Phillies to justify sending him down at this point.

Due to today’s games being split squad affairs, some interesting career minor leaguers and up and coming prospects were given a chance to take the field alongside some of the established big league Phils (the aforementioned Abreu, Burrell, and Howard trio come to mind). Ryan Fleming and Ryan Barthelemy both saw time playing the field (only Fleming got an at bat; he went 0-1 with a K) – Fleming is a 30-year old career minor leaguer and Barhelemy is a soon to be 26-year old infielder coming off a miserable year in AA Reading. On the more optimistic side of things, Mike Costanzo, Tim Moss, and Jake Blalock all got some playing time today – Costanzo played third and went 0-2, Tim Moss started at second and went 0-3 with a walk, and Jake Blalock came in to play leftfield when Pat Burrell had enough and proceeded to go 0-1. Costanzo is highly thought of in the organization, Tim Moss often gets mixed reports these days (power is developing nicely, but he struck out 129 times in 123 games as a 23-year old in the FSL), and Blalock needs to rediscover his pre-2005 power if he wants to fulfill his big league ambitions.

With all of that said, Gavin Floyd was, once again, the player who stole the show this afternoon. Floyd went 5 innings giving up only 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 5. Floyd is a slam dunk to open the season in AAA Scranton (along with Eude Brito and Robinson Tejeda) and, if he plays all his cards right down on the farm, could be the first starter called upon if (when) Ryan Franklin implodes.

For the Tigers…no real news to report outside of three guys with some kind of Philadelphia connection. Former Phillies farmhand Reggie Taylor went 2-4 and is hitting .389 on the spring. The outfield is crowded in Detroit, so it would take some shuffling for Taylor to make the Opening Day roster. Another former Phillie, RP Hector Mercado, pitched an effective eight inning while striking out 2 Phils in the process. His spring ERA stands at 5.14 at the moment. The last player with a Philly connection is Tigers 1B Carlos Pena. Pena, the pride of Northeastern University, has been mentioned as a possible trade pickup for the Phillies – if you believe the Phils are serious about adding some outside help to that bench (I don’t). Pena hit a 2-run homer in the 8th inning off of Eude Brito, but is still only batting .178 this spring.

The 5-2 win over the Pirates provided its share of good news as well…

Shane Victorino had a big day as he unloaded on Pirates pitching for 3 hits including 2 triples. On days he is in the lineup, having Victorino in the 2-hole looks pretty good to me.

A whole collection of fringe, minor league lifers took the field for the Phils in this one. Juan Sosa (30-years old with 10 major league at bats) played a little bit of shortstop, Bryan Hansen played some first (1-1 day, plus 1 RBI), Joey Hammond pinch ran and played second (walked and scored), Marc Tugwell pinch hit for Julio Santana in the 9th, and Jeff Inglin went 1-3 starting in leftfield. Important fact to remember – all of these guys are infinitely better at baseball than I am.

Chris Roberson is doing what he can to keep up with Chris Coste these days. Roberson had a rough day at the plate (0-3, 2 K’s, 3 men left on), but still managed to reach base twice on walks.

The hot youngster to watch in this game was Phillies LF Greg Golson. Golson managed to get two at bats (1-2, run scored) and was to said to have impressed – i.e. looked like he belonged a little bit (this little bit of info is from my secondary scouting reports, so take it for what its worth).

Cory Lidle had a successful outing that was eerily similar to the successful outing Gavin Floyd enjoyed down the road (maybe up the road, I don’t know my Florida geography) in Florida. Lidle also went five innings, allowed 4 baserunners (3 hits, 1 walk), and also struck out 5. Rocky outing for Julio Santana – he gave up 3 hits in the 8th and allowed the Pirates second run to score.

Phillies will actually be on television tomorrow (ESPN and MLB.TV) for their 1:05 contest against the Atlanta Braves. Ryan Franklin will be the starter for the Phils. The regular season opener is in roughly 11 days, 20 hours, and 45 minutes…but who’s counting?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Phils Improve to 12-6...and Other Stuff

We're all over the map today with Phillies/generic baseball news, so here it goes:

*** Phillies beat the Minnesota Twins today 8-5 to run their record to 12-6 for the spring. Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley continued to get back in to the groove at big league camp with successful afternoons at the plate, Abe Nunez struggled yet again, both Alex Gonzalez and Tomas Perez saw time in leftfield, and Geoff Geary impressed with 2 innings of 1 hit, 1 strikeout ball to pick up his 3rd save of the spring and lower that all important spring ERA to 1.80. Good day all around.

*** John Sickels at Minor League Ball is running a series of young pitcher profiles with today’s entry being about today’s Phillies starter Brett Myers (Myers went 5 solid innings and was said to have made locating his changeup his primary focus of the day). Some of Sickels' more familiar historical comps for Myers include Joey Hamilton and Alex Fernandez. The active comps are slightly more encouraging - Jeff Weaver (makes sense in that both have been extremely durable), Chris Carpenter, Wade Miller, and, my favorite one, Brad Penny. Something about Penny and Myers always seemed similiar to me, I can't quite put my finger on it - body type, pitching style, funny facial hair - I'm really not quite sure what it is, but I do see a connection between them somehow. I'm a huge Myers fan who happens to think he'll be very solid for a long time with a nice stretch of great peak seasons (think maybe a year or three of sub 3.00 ERAs). The possibility of injury exists, however, and Mr. Sickels mentions the possibility of Myers flaming out shortly after turning 30.

Sickels' Young Pitcher Symposium series has been fascinating so far and is definitely well worth a look if you are so inclined. This ain't no plug, either - I'm merely a fan of his work.

*** had some useful information yesterday that deserves a mention - even if it is just some minor league notes about the Phils:

Lefty Cole Hamels made his second start at the Minor League complex, allowing one run on three hits in three innings against the Blue Jays' Triple-A Syracuse club. He walked none and struck out two.

Every time that Hamels pitches and comes out of the game feeling okay is a darn good day for him at this point of the season in my book.

Minors news: The Phils' patience with Kiel Fisher ran out on Sunday, when the team released the injury-riddled former prospect.

A third-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Fisher had limited success in the low Minor Leagues, batting a combined .332 in 193 total at-bats in the Gulf Coast League and Class A Batavia in 2003.

He missed the 2004 season because of a back injury and barely hit or played at Class A Lakewood in 2005.

In other Minor League news, the Phillies acquired outfielder Jonathan Johnson for the Cubs for no compensation. With Class A Daytona last year, Johnson batted .261 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs.

The Kiel Fisher era is over; long live the Jonathan Johnson era. There were high hopes back when the Phils drafted Fisher and, unfortunately, it looks like he'll never get the chance to live up to them. Fisher’s chronic injuries, questionable dedication to rehabbing said injuries, commitment to the game itself, and other undisclosed off the field issues all seem to have played a part in his release. Just goes to show you how cyclical these minor league matters can be – Fisher, Terry Jones, and Juan Richardson were all pegged as third basemen of the future types at one point during their respective times with the organization. Welison Baez and Mike Costanzo now represent the future at third. Will they follow the paths of Fisher and Richardson (the jury is still out on Jones to a degree)? Or will they be Phils minor league success stories like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard? Only time will tell…

And, yes, I do realize the irony of the Phillies releasing a former “third basemen of the future” the day after going off about the very bright future crop of third basemen in the majors and high minors. At least Baez and Costanzo give us hope at third…can’t ask for much more than that really.

For the record, Jonathan Jermaine Johnson (he goes by J.J.) is a 24-year old A ball player – he looks like an organizational guy added to fill a roster spot somewhere in the system. Fun name though.

*** I take credit for being somewhat prophetic when it comes to today’s news coming out about the Cincinnati Reds dealing OF Wily Mo Pena (who I somehow forget to mention put on the best show in batting practice out of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Dunn that day at RFK) to the Boston Red Sox for SP Bronson Arroyo. I said this yesterday,

Aaron Harang was impressive for Cincy today...he really isn't all that bad a pitcher (coming off a successful 2005, plus a Baseball Reference sim score very close to Jon Lieber through their respective Age-27 seasons), but it must be a little disheartening for Reds fans to know that Harang will be their Opening Day starter.

I haven't bothered to read up on this at all, but I'll just go ahead and assume for now that Harang will remain the Reds Opening Day starter. So, I guess my point really hasn't changed though adding Arroyo does make the rotation better. Arroyo has a career ERA+ of 100 - the guy has been just about as average a big league starter can be. Average big league starters (especially those at a cheap, fixed rate) are damn useful though - not sure I think they are as useful as 24-year old power hitting outfielders (especially when the pitcher in question is a flyball pitcher going to a tiny ballpark with subpar defensive outfielders), but useful nonetheless. Funny that, on the same day, the Mariners and White Sox completed a similiar, though far less excting (for good reason as far less talent was exchanged) trade with a toolsy outfielder (Joe Borchard) going from Chicago to Seattle in return for a pitcher with plenty of questions (Matt Thornton). In both cases, I side with the teams getting the outfielder - the Red Sox picked up a talented bat while trading from strength and the Mariners added an outfielder that has yet to put it all together for basically nothing (my apologies go out to the whole Thornton family for calling him "nothing," but it's true).

*** Two useful things from today’s Inquirer:

1) The Phils continue to monitor the trade market in search of a bat. They have recently scouted Dustan Mohr, a non-roster outfielder in Boston's camp.

2) Sal Fasano will serve in the old Todd Pratt role of personal catcher for soon to be announced Opening Day (Charlie keep playing games about this, but you know it’ll happen) starter Jon Lieber.

No real surprise about only seemed like a matter of time before this was made official. The Dustan Mohr rumor is sure to pick up some steam after the Red Sox added two outfielders in two days (Pena today, Juan Gonzalez yesterday), but we'll wait and see what becomes of him before going into more detail.