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Coste hot, Phillies not
March 19 2006

The Phillies lost to the Reds today, 5-4.

Shane Victorino had his second spring home run.  He was 1-for-4 and has cooled off after a hot start -- his spring average sits at .232.

Chris Coste continues to pound the ball.  He had a double in his lone at-bat to raise his spring average to .478, coming off of two home runs yesterday against the Pirates.  Coste's chance to win the last spot on the Phillies bench gets a boost if Bell is unable to go to start the season, provided the Phils don't rush out and sign a veteran lefty outfielder like BJ Surhoff per their oft repeated threat.  Bell took place in conditioning exercises, but no baseball related activities today.

Chase Utley hit his first home run of the spring.

Howard and Fasano were both 0-for-3 and both struck out twice.

Jon Lieber got the start and gave up two runs in four innings while striking out five. He gave up four hits and a walk.

Santana gave up two runs in an inning on a hit, a walk and a hit batsman.

The best news of the day was that Flash Gordon pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just a walk. Gordon threw both fastballs and curveballs and said his elbow felt fine.

Yesterday, the Phillies fell to the Pirates 9-8 in ten innings.

Chris Coste homered twice, including a two-run shot to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Bobby Abreu went 3-for-3 with a double. Jimmy Rollins also went 3-for-3 with a double.

Shawn Garrett had a tough day, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.  Peter Bergeron was 0-for-1 and seems to have little chance to make the team despite hitting .409 this spring.

Ryan Madson got the start and went four innings. He struck out six and allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks. His spring ERA sits at 2.84 and he looks like a sure thing to be part of the rotation.

Ricardo Rodriguez is battling for a job and he had a tough day Saturday. He went one inning and allowed three earned runs as his ERA ballooned to 6.00 for the spring. He allowed three hits and two walks and threw two wild pitches.

Aaron Fultz, Yoel Hernandez and Aquilino Lopez all threw a scoreless inning.  Lopez stuck out two more hitters.  Hernandez and Lopez both have pitched well this spring and Lopez may have a shot to make the team, especially if Rodriguez continues to struggle.  Fultz is likely to make the team but has been hit this spring.  His ERA dropped to 7.71 after today's outing.

Travis Minix gave up a solo home run to Gookie Dawkins in the tenth inning, which proved to be the game winner.  Minix has also pitched well this spring, posting a 2.86 ERA.

Phillies face the Twins and Johan Santana tomorrow.

At least he wasn't injured in the World Baseball Classic
March 18 2006

It turns out only penciling in Kaz Matsui as the opening day starter for the Mets was a good idea.  The second baseman injured his right knee on Thursday in the Mets 6-5 win over the Braves and is expected to miss at least three weeks.

This means the Mets have an opening at second base to start the season -- competing for the job are Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger.  Utility man Chris Woodward or Jose Valentin could also see time there.

Both Hernandez and Keppinger hit over .300 at Triple-A last year without much power.  Hernandez is younger at 23 (Keppinger is 25) and faster, while Keppinger is the better defensively.

In spring training Keppinger is 8-for-30 (.267) with five doubles and six RBI.  Anderson Hernandez is 8-for-27 (.291) with eight singles and one RBI.  Chris Woodward is coming off of a year where he played every position except pitcher and catcher, posting a 283/337/393 line in 173 at-bats.  Valentin seems like a long shot -- he will be 36 this year and is coming off a season where he hit just .170 in 147 at-bats with the Dodgers.

Ryan Franklin on you we're banking
March 17 2006

Back-to-back nice starts for Ryan Franklin, who's looking good after setting the bar kind of low for the past two years.  Coming off of his best spring training appearance of the season, 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Astros, Franklin mowed down the Devil Dogs today as the Phillies improved to 11-4 this spring with a win over Tampa Bay.  The Phillies won the game 5-2.

Franklin pitched five innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer to Travis Lee.  He struck out four and allowed three hits and a walk.  The home run is the first of the spring allowed by Franklin.  Two things to remember about Franklin that are oft overlooked:  One is that it isn't that long since he was not just usable but very good.  In 2003 he posted a 3.57 ERA in 212 innings.  The other is that in that year he still gave up a ton of home runs, the most of his career with 34 (he allowed 33 in '04 and 28 last year).  Everybody just needs to get used to the notion that Franklin is going to be getting the ball every five or so days.  Maybe put together some "Ryan Franklin-on-you-we're-banking" signs -- there are about 2.6 million reasons we'll be seeing a lot of him this year.

Bobby Abreu and Tomas Perez were back from the wars, more on their shields than with them after Venezuela was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Both played today, Abreu went 1-for-3 with a double and Perez was 1-for-4.

Sal Fasano hit his second home run of spring training.  Burrell was 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI.

Ryan Howard failed to homer for the second straight day, this time in a game started by Tampa Bay lefty Casey Fossum, which will no doubt lead to speculation about a Howard/Cory Lidle platoon at first base.  Howard was 0-for-2 with a walk. 

Arthur Rhodes threw a perfect inning.  Cormier gave up three hits and a run in his inning of work, raising his spring ERA to 4.91.

Santana pitched well and seems on track to win a spot in the pen.  He went one inning and allowed one hit while striking out two. 

Geary got the save, his second of the spring.  He pitched the ninth while allowing just one walk.  Geary has had some success closing in the minor leagues before joining the big league team in '04.  He split time between Triple-A and the majors in '04 -- at Triple-A he pitched just 23 1/3 innings but earned ten saves while striking out 23 and posting a 2.31 ERA.  He doesn't have a save in with the Phillies but may be a candidate to help if Gordon were to go down with an injury.  Arthur Rhodes would be another guy in the mix to pitch the end of games if Gordon went down, he has 26 career saves.

The Phillies also played a game last night against the Toronto Blue Jays, which they won 7-1.

Mike Lieberthal, left for dead, hit his first home run of spring training and went 1-for-3.

Jimmy Rollins was 2-for-4 with two doubles.  Burrell was 0-for-3.  Aaron Rowand seems to be coming out of his early slump, he was 2-for-3.

Abraham Nunez was 2-for-4 with two singles and stole a base, his first of the spring.  Nunez has 35 steals in his nine year career and has been caught 16 times.  If Bell can't go, or worse, can go but continues with the
Joe Schlabotnik impersonation, Nunez will be a nice guy to have around.  There's a lot of reasons not to count on Nunez to drive the bus, though, including, but not limited to:  He has 16 home runs in over 1,900 career at-bats.  His career on-base percentage is .314.  His career slugging percentage is .326.

Gavin Floyd was sharp.  He went four innings and allowed just one run on five hits.  He struck out five and didn't allow a walk.

Fultz and Sanches both pitched a perfect inning.  Aquilino Lopez struck out three in two scoreless innings but allowed three hits.  Yoel Hernandez gave up a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning.

The Phillies play the Pirates on Saturday.

You don't gotta go home but you can't stay here -- Utley uninjured as US is eliminated from WBC
March 17 2006

You would think it would be harder to beat the US team in the World Baseball Classic -- especially if you can't score on a sacrifice fly or a home run.  No so, as the Mexican team demonstrated last night, eliminating the US team from the WBC by beating them 2-1.

The game again featured umpiring from bizaroo-world that benefited the US team.  In the third inning, Mexico's Mario Valenzuela hit a ball that replays showed bounced off the pole well over the wall, but which was called a double.  Valenzuela did come around to score later in the inning on a Jorge Cantu single. 

The US team ends the tournament 3-3 overall, winning games against South Africa and Japan while losing to Korea and Canada and going 1-1 against the Mexican team.

Ken Griffey lead team USA, hitting .524 with three home runs and ten RBI.  Derrek Lee was also a monster bat for the US, hitting .357 with three home runs and eight RBI, but was slowed late in the tournament with a shoulder injury.  Mark Teixeira stepped in at first but couldn't get going, he ended the tournament 0-for-15.  Chipper Jones hit .353 but drove in just two runs on two solo homers.  Alex Rodriguez had seven hits in 21 at-bats but struck out seven times with just one extra-base hit, a double. 

Philly Chase Utley shared time at second base with Michael Young.  Utley ended the WBC 5-for-13 (.385) with five singles.

Team USA's next game is in 2009.  If ever.  One good thing about the timing of the Classic this year, though:  usually when a team is eliminated completely, it means baseball is just about over.  This year it means it is just getting started.

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