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Spring is sprung
March 30 2006

The Phillies played their final official spring training game this afternoon, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays for the second straight day.  Today's score was 2-0.

The Phillies had just six hits on the day.  Aaron Rowand was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Burrell was 1-for-2 with a double.  Chris Roberson was 1-for-3 with a walk and his sixth stolen base of the spring.  Chris Coste caught and went 1-for-3 with a walk.  Coste ends spring training with a .463 batting average.  Joe Thurston had the other Phillies hit.

Howard was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.  Alex Gonzalez went 0-for-4 and left four men on base.  Tomas Perez played both short and left field, going 0-for-2.

Brett Myers got the start and went five innings, giving up one run on a home run to Frank Catalanotto.  He allowed three hits and three walks, lowering his spring ERA to 3.57.

Aaron Fultz threw a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and a walk.

Julio Santana pitched an inning, allowing a run on a hit and a walk.

Clay Condrey and Geoff Geary each pitched a perfect inning.  Geary leaves spring training with a 1.20 ERA.

The Phillies finish spring training at 17-11.  They play games against the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday before opening the season on Monday against the Cardinals.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world
March 30 2006

If you don't like the Phillies starting rotation try waiting a couple of hours.  Here's the latest:

The Phillies reassigned Robinson Tejeda and Eude Brito to Triple-A.  It now seems a sure thing that Gavin Floyd will be the fifth starter and that Ryan Madson, or, more likely, Ryan Franklin, will move to the pen to start the season.

Nothing is for certain, but I think the Phillies are still planning to start Burrell in left and Chase Utley should see a lot of time at second base.

If Franklin does go to the pen, it may be enough to turn his goatee gray a little early.  To recap:  Franklin came into spring training pencilled in as the fourth starter, with Madson and Floyd battling for the fifth job and Robinson Tejeda and Ricardo Rodriguez having an outside shot.  Franklin had a nice spring, posting a 3.57 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, but may still lose his spot in the rotation, not just the job as the fourth starter, but also the job as the fifth starter, to a guy with one career start and another guy who had a 6.16 ERA at Triple-A last year.

In one day, the Phillies may have gone from a guy who had a 5.10 ERA last season in their rotation to a guy that had a 10.04 ERA last season in their rotation.  No truth at all to the rumor the Phillies are set to acquire Yorman Bazardo and his 21.60 ERA (he pitched 1 2/3 innings for the Marlins last year) today and put him in the rotation to keep the streak alive.

From a fan's perspective, I honestly don't care that much who's in the rotation and who goes to the pen.  Hopefully all three pitch well, giving the Phillies the depth they're going to need.  I'm pretty sure Madson, Franklin and Floyd care a lot, though.

For Floyd and Madson there's not much to look at when you compare their numbers as a starter or a reliever.  Madson has appeared in 131 games at the major league level, starting just one and making all other appearances as a reliever.  His one start came on June 8, 2004, against the White Sox in Chicago.  He got bombed, giving up six earned runs, including three home runs, in 2/3 of an inning.

Floyd has appeared in 13 big league games, eight of which he started, pitching 11 innings in relief and 42 as a starter.

Franklin does have significant experience as a reliever.  For his career, he's appeared in 181 games, 106 as a starter.  In Seattle, he was used only as a reliever in 2001, throwing 78 1/3 innings with a 3.56 ERA.  In 2002 he appeared in 41 games, starting just 12.  Over the past three years he has worked almost exclusively as a starter, appearing in 94 games (just two in relief) and posting a 23-44 record.

One thing important to remember is that Franklin is a player the Gillick knows a lot about from his time as the Seattle GM.  Franklin has a career ERA of 4.34 -- here's a look at his numbers as a starter and a reliever:

Ryan Franklin as reliever
G IP W-L ERA H BB SO Ratio
75 143 8-1 3.84 134 42 97 1.23
               
as starter
G IP W-L ERA H BB SO Ratio
106 668 27-49 4.45 704 196 330 1.35

In other news, shortstop Danny Sandoval has been reassigned to the minor league camp.  Pitcher Chris Booker will start the season on the DL with the injury to his right knee.  Booker's '05 ERA was 31.50 (in two innings) -- he may be next in line for a rotation spot if the Yorman Bazardo thing doesn't work out and Booker can just get healthy.

Ricardo released -- somebody's got some 'splaining to do
March 29 2006

The Phillies released Ricardo Rodriguez today, which will definitely be a blow to his chances to win the final job in the pen.

The move means the spoils of the Vincente Padilla trade turn out to be nothing.  You have to admire the Phillies and Gillick for the move -- better to do it now and say it was a bad trade then give Rodriguez a spot he didn't earn.  Hopefully they wind up with a stronger team because of it.

It's not clear what happens next.  It looks like either the Phillies make a deal or give the last pitching spot to Floyd (or, seemingly less likely, to Tejeda or Brito).  I wouldn't think they would push Madson into the pen and put Floyd in the rotation based on three spring training starts after his struggles last year, but they've surprised me twice in two days -- first with the Lopez trade and now the move with Rodriguez.

Whatever they do, it should make for an interesting end to spring training.  The Phillies play their first game game that matters on Monday and they still have three roster spots up in the air.

Belly up
March 29 2006

I confess to having trouble working up hatred for the Toronto Blue Jays, '93 World Series or not.  First of all, they're from Canada.  Second, their mascot isn't a Python, a Raptor or Flesh-Eating Zombie, but a fuzzy blue bird whose greatest crime is being a bully at the bird feeder.  Hate or no, the Phillies and Toronto squared off this afternoon, and the birdies at the feeder weren't the only one who'd have enough of the Blue Jays by the end of the day.  Jon Lieber got bombed and the Phillies lost 6-2.

David Bell appeared, live and in person.  He played third base and went 0-for-3.

Chris Coste continues to make a strong case to make the team, he was 2-for-4 with a double.  Ryan Howard was 2-for-4.  Utley was 2-for-4 with a double.  Lieberthal was 1-for-2 with a double and two walks.

Tomas Perez played shortstop and went 2-for-4.

Lieber gave up six earned runs on ten hits, pushing his spring ERA to 7.07.  He will start on opening day for the Phillies.

Eude Brito went two scoreless innings.

Cormier and Rhodes each threw a scoreless frame.  Both are pitching well -- Cormier had some rough outings early but has been good of late, his ERA is 3.12 for the spring.  Rhodes has been good all spring, allowing six hits in 8 2/3 innings with an ERA of 1.04.

Last night the Phillies beat the Yankees 3-0.

Sal Fasano was 2-for-3 with a home run, his third of the spring.

Shane Victorino hit his fourth home run of the season.  He was 1-for-2.

Utley also hit his fourth home run of the season and was 1-for-4 on the day.  His four came in about half the at-bats of Victorino -- Utley took 41 at-bats and Victorino 80.

Aaron Rowand was hit by pitch for the fourth time this spring, which leads the Phillies.  We all might as well get used to that as Rowand gets hit a lot.  Last year he was plunked 21 times, only Shea Hillenbrand was hit more in all of baseball (22).

Nunez 0-for-4.  Abreu 0-for-4.  Rollins 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Ryan Madson was excellent again, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless to lower his spring ERA to 1.89.  He allowed four hits and a walk.

Rhodes went 2/3 of an inning without allowing a hit or walk.  He was followed by Gordon and Tejeda who each pitched a perfect inning.

Phillies play the Blue Jays again tomorrow.

Aquilino we hardly knew you
March 29 2006

The Phillies have pulled the trigger on a deal that sends reliever Aquilino Lopez to the San Diego Padres for minor leaguers Matt Thayer and Trey Johnston.  I'm a little surprised the Phillies didn't see Lopez as contributor in their pen in '06, but here's who they got:

Matt Thayer:  a 24-year old outfielder drafted by the Padres out of UCLA in the 31st round of the amateur draft.  He has 388 at-bats in the low minors leagues posting a 314/406/420 line.  He has hit six home runs and 21 doubles.

Trey Johnston:  C/3B, won't be 21 until July.  He has 263 at-bats in the lower minors, posting a 243/338/338 line.  He is coming off of a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League in which he .302 with two home runs and five doubles in 53 at-bats (302/464/509).  He was originally selected by the Cubs in the 18th round of the 2003 amateur draft.

The Phillies lose Aquilino Lopez.  The Lopez saga began last year when he faced the Phillies, then with the Colorado Rockies, on July 29.  He went four innings that day, striking out six Phillies and allowing one earned run.  The Phillies claimed him off of waivers on August 2 and sent him to Triple-A.  He pitched nine innings at Scranton Wilkes-Barre, striking out 11 and allowing just one earned run before being recalled by the Phillies on August 20.

After being called up, Lopez made five appearances from August 26 through September 3, pitching 5 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.  The horrific series with the Astros came September 5 - September 7 and Lopez didn't pitch in any of those games.  Only Madson, Urbina and Wagner were used out of the pen.  He got hit hard when he came back on September 9 against the Marlins, then had three more scoreless outings before allowing two runs to the Reds on September 23, his last appearance with the Phils. 

He pitched just 12 2/3 innings with the Phillies, appearing in ten games and posting a 2.13 ERA and striking out 16.

Lopez may flourish in cavernous Petco Park if given an opportunity.  He's thrown slightly more fly outs than ground outs over his major league career (121/110) and has struck out 99 hitters in 111 1/3 innings.

The plot thickens
March 28 2006

According to an article in today's Daily News, which you can read here, Tomas Perez has cleared waivers.  This is significant as the Phillies try to set their opening day roster with at least one and maybe two spots available on their bench.  If Perez cleared waivers the Phillies could send him down to the minor leagues -- Perez would either accept the assignment or ask for his release.

In my mind Perez has been penciled in for the final bench spot for a while now, but the waivers story is significant.  It also looks more and more like Bell will not be ready to start the season with the team, meaning a slot would be available even if Tomas is on the team.

Speculation stills runs rampant on mystery candidates for a bench spot, a veteran, left-handed hitting fifth outfielder.  David Dellucci's name was thrown into the mix recently, other names being bandied about have included BJ Surhoff and Dustan Mohr (who's not left handed).  One of these things is very much not like the other -- I would be truly stunned if David Dellucci were added to the Phillies.  He would probably be pretty surprised himself, coming over to the National League to serve as fifith outfielder behind Shane Victorino and his 90 career at-bats off a year in which he hit 29 home runs and walked 76 times. 

Dustan Mohr is not an ideal candidate for the left-handed veteran outfielder job because he's not left-handed.  He is a veteran, though, with 1,300 major league at-bats.  He'll be 30 this year and, unlike Dellucci, he is a fifth outfielder.  He hit .214 in Colorado last year, which doesn't bode especially well.  He did have a nice year with the Giants in '04, getting 263 at-bats and posting a 279/394/437 line in the best year of his career to date.   He dropped significantly on the Red Sox depth chart after the recent deal that sent monster slugger Wily Mo Pena to Boston for Bronson Arroyo.  The Red Sox claimed Hee Seop Choi off of waivers on Friday as well, so roster spots may be getting even more precious.

It's not clear to me why, or even to what degree, the Phillies are set on a lefty given the loss of the right-handed Jason Michaels' bat from '05.  Free agent BJ Surhoff will be 42 in August and I would also be surprised if the Phillies decided to go that route.  Of the three, Mohr seems the most likely if the Phillies were to add someone prior to the season.

In house, in addition to Perez, it looks like Chris Coste and Chris Roberson are the guys with the best shots at this point.  Gavin Floyd has been pitching lights out, but may be ticketed for Triple-A to start the season no matter what he does the rest of spring training.  It would be a very good thing if he continues to put up numbers that would make the Phillies comfortable to give him starts in '06 given that 40% of their rotation has either one career start or is coming off of a season where their ERA was 5.10.

Farmed and dangerous
March 27 2006

The Phillies optioned Yoel Hernandez and Aquilino Lopez to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre today.

Lopez pitched very well in limited for the Phillies last year after being claimed off of waivers.  This spring he has allowed 15 hits in 9 1/3 innings with a 5.79 ERA.  He struck out 11.  He has significant experience in the majors leagues, including a stint as the closer for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I expect he would be one of the first names considered if the Phillies needed to call up a late-inning reliever after the start of the season.

Yoel Hernandez has a 6.75 ERA this spring, allowing six runs in eight innings.

Cleveland rocked
March 27 2006

The Phillies faced Cleveland today in spring training action, winning 5-1 to improve their spring training record to meaningless-and-meaningless (16-9).

Shane Victorino, in a mini-funk that saw his spring average dip into the .230's, went 3-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI.  The Phillies are counting on him as their fourth outfielder coming off a big year at Triple-A where he hit .310 with 18 HR.  Victorino got 73 at-bats with the Padres in '03, hitting just .151 before being returned to the Dodgers and later picked up by the Phillies in the 2004 rule V draft.  Victorino twice has stolen more than 40 bases in a minor league season but had just 17 last year.

Victorino leads all MLB players in spring training at-bats with 78.  He's posted a 256/326/474 line and hit three home runs.

Utley was 1-for-3 with a single and 2 RBI.  Abreu was 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI.  Lieberthal went 1-for-2 and Tomas Perez was 1-for-1 with a walk.

Former trombone player and Josh Beckett agitator Ryan Howard went 0-for-4.  Burrell was 0-for-3.

Cleveland starter and former Philly Paul Byrd, who led the NL in hit batsman in 1999 with 17, hit two Phillies batters today, Lieberthal and Gonzalez.  Byrd has flourished since leaving the Phillies, going 37-29 in the past three years and posting an ERA under four each year.

Gavin Floyd started the game and had another outstanding outing.  He went six innings, allowing just four hits and no walks.  He improved his spring mark to 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA.  Aaron Boone hit a solo shot off of him in the fourth for Cleveland's only run of the game. 

Floyd was followed up by Julio Santana, Geoff Geary and Tom Gordon, who each pitched a scoreless inning.

The Phillies play the Yankees tomorrow night.

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son. (Animal House)
March 27 2006

If you're a college age Philadelphian, the organization has something in store for you this season, and the ballplayers aren't the only ones playing hardball.  The plan:  entice you with a Jimmy Rollins knit beanie.

According to an article in Friday's Philadelphia Business Journal, which you can read
here, almost twenty percent of individual game tickets are sold to people 18-24.  Apparently some feeling abounds that this number is soft, given colleges in the Philadelphia area are easier to find than CSI reruns on the Spike channel.

And on the off chance you have all the Jimmy Rollins knit beanies you need, or it seems to you, for whatever reason, to be worthless crap, there's more:  X-box and mechanical bull rides.  The plan revolves around a concept dubbed Rooftop Thursdays, under which about 350 tickets for a section of the roof in Ashburn Alley will go on sale a few hours before game time on days of Thursday home games.  The tickets will cost $12.   According to the article in Philadelphia Business Journal, Rooftop Thursdays will feature events targeting a college crowd, like, "mechanical bull rides, surf machine rides, food and drink specials, giveaways including collectors' pint glasses and a Jimmy Rollins knit beanie, and even visits by the Phillies Ball Girls."  There's also a plan to install several X-boxes loaded with the latest MLB-approved baseball offering, apparently in an effort to appeal the inherent need of college-aged people to play video games, watch baseball and objectify women all in the same venue.

The Phillies are also planning to increase the number college nights, where students with college ID can get a $4 discount, from two last season to five this season.  According to an article you can read
here the dates for the college nights are April 19, 20, 26, 27 and May 4.

No word yet on the roller coaster or guess-your-weight-and-win-a-hat booth.  Further bulletins as events warrant. 

Pat the back
March 26 2006

Pat Burrell returned to spring training action with the big league club today as the Phillies faced the Red Sox.  Boston won the game 3-2.

Burrell, coming off of an injury to his left calf,  went 2-for-4 with two singles.   Burrell is also coming off surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his right foot.  He batted sixth, behind Ron Howard today -- it would be a surprise if that were to happen regularly once the season gets underway.  Burrell seems like he is hitting the ball well, he stroked a home run in a minor league game on Thursday in which he had three hits in six at-bats.  No thoughts on how the injuries might trouble him defensively but I can't remember anyone hitting a single to left against the Phillies since around 2002, so he may not have that much range to lose.

Unable to get him time in left field, the Phillies played Alex Gonzalez some at first base today, which should give us all reason to pause.  Some kind of intervention may be in order.  We're all friends here.

The Phillies had just six hits.  Utley was 1-for-3 with a double.  Rowand 1-for-3.  Rollins 1-for-2 and Coste had a double in three at-bats.

Ryan Howard was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.  Nunez 0-for-4.  Tomas Perez and Gonzalez were both 0-for-1 -- Perez at least played short.

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies in what has been a good spring for him.  He got hit today, giving up seven hits and three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings to raise his spring ERA to 4.60.  He struck out five.

Cormier threw a scoreless inning and has his spring ERA down to 3.72 after a rough start.

Eude Brito threw two perfect innings coming off of a rough outing on Friday.

Chris Booker threw a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Booker is finally getting to pitch coming off of surgery on his left knee.  His first appearance, on Thursday, did not go well as he allowed four runs in an inning against the Tigers.  It seems very unlikely that Booker will make the opening day 25-man roster and will have to be offered back to the Washington Nationals.

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