Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Crybaby Marlins

This week we learned that former Marlins manager Joe Girardi offered some helpful words to Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber. Girardi placed the call to Lieber after the Marlins had knocked him out a game, scoring 9 runs in 4.2 innings. Lieber who was teammates with Girardi when they were both Cubs credits the advice with turning around his season. "He just mentioned that the hitters said everything that was coming in was just very flat," Lieber told the Daily News last week. "I wasn't on top of the ball like I should have been."

Marlins GM Larry Beinfest hasn’t commented officially but according to the AP a team official commented that the front office was angry. The AP honored the official’s request for anonymity because Beinfest wouldn't comment.

Honestly, I don’t really feel for the Marlins. I prefer not to stoop to name-calling but I’ll make a exception for Beinfest and Marlins owner Jeffery Loria. These guys are so idiotic that they fired the NL manager of the year. Girardi did a fantastic job with the Marlins last season taking a rag tag squad of rookies and turning them into a respectable baseball team.

Girardi’s relationship with the Marlins took a turn for the worst when Girardi asked Loria to stop yelling at umpires during games. For Girardi’s prudence he was rewarded with a pink slip. Now the Marlins are upset because Girardi told Lieber that his stuff was flat and helped a buddy get his mind straight. Where’s the harm in that? The only thing that the Marlins get to be angry about was that they were so stupid to fire such a talented manager.

Marlins unhappy Lieber got help

Girardi downplays reported rift with Marlins owner
By ESPN News Services

Picture of Girardi from ESPN Deportes

Monday, February 26, 2007

Breaking down the NL East: Atlanta Braves

This will be the first in a series of articles reviewing the off seasons of the Phillies National League East rivals. The first team up is the Atlanta Braves. This off-season Bravos GM John Schuerholz had another active winter in an effort to start another streak of division titles.

Position Players:
Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones will anchor the left side of the Braves infield and bat second and third respectively. Behind the backstop, Brian McCann will call the balls and strikes. First and second base are a bit of a question mark. After the departure of Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche the Braves are left with prospects Martin Prado and Scott Thorman. In the outfield Andruw Jones will patrol center centerfield with Jeff Francoeur playing in right. The Braves will platoon Ryan Langerhans and Craig Wilson in left field. The Braves should have a good defense between Renteria, Francoeur, and the Jones’s. Andruw Jones who is in a contract year looks poised to have another monster season. It also seems unlikely that Jeff Francoeur can have another good season if he keeps striking out at such a high rate. The strength of the Braves offense will depend on the success of rookies Prado and Thorman.

Starting Rotation:
After the always-dependable John Smoltz, the Braves have a few question marks in their rotation. Mike Hampton will look to bounce back from injury plagued last season. Tim Hudson will also look to rebound from pitching really poorly. The Braves will also look for Chuck James to continue his development and hope Kyle Davies can live up to his potential. The starting rotation is the weak link in the Braves chain.

The Braves bullpen was pathetic last season. This year it should be much improved. Veteran Bob Wickman will close out games. Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez who both arrived in trades this off-season, will serve in late inning roles for the Bravos.

In 2007 Atlanta will go as their starting pitchers and young players go. If Hampton, Hudson, and James pitch well and their youngsters play okay, then the Braves will be in competition for another NL East title. The Phans Blog official prediction is that the Atlanta Braves will finish second in the NL East with 86 wins.

Picture of Andruw Jones from

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Barajas adjusting to life as a Phillie

Rod Barajas is one of many new Phillies that Pat Gillick added this off-season. However, Barajas who is in competition to be the starting catcher has the most difficult job of any of the new additions. Not only does he need to work on his hitting and fielding this off-season, Rod will have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the Phillies pitchers.

Each Phillies pitcher is a different story. The battle-tested veteran Jamie Moyer chooses what pitches he throws. Barajas is already familiar with Adam Eaton because they were teammates while playing with the Texas Rangers. Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, and Freddy Garcia like to work more with their catchers so Barajas will have to study the skills and habits of these pitchers.

Barajas takes a sensible approach to the pitcher catcher relationship. "These guys are different pitchers," Barajas said. "I'm definitely going to have to learn each guy's strengths and weaknesses. What might work for Cole might not work for Jamie. It's a learning process, and that's where I'm going to rely on my teammates and coaches and try to speed up that process. It's about building relationships." Barajas a veteran catcher has made the transition before when switching teams and is looking forward to opening day.

Barajas getting crash course
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Rod Barajas from

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Phils need for speed

Last season the Phillies stole 92 bases placing them in the middle of the Major League pack. This season the Phillies want to improve on that number. It’s not a question of talent or raw velocity. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino both have blazing quickness. Despite having a nice set of wheels neither Rollins nor Victorino are living up to their base stealing potential.

Pat Gillick recognizing the Phillies need for speed hired first base coach Davey Lopes in the off-season to help out the Phillies. Lopes knows what he is preaching because of the 557 stolen bases he swiped in his 16 year Major League career. Lopes is focusing on the mental aspects of stealing, trying to build up the confidence of the Phils base stealers. Speaking about his base pilfering philosophy Lopes commented, “You can't have fear. You have fear, you're dead."

Shane Victorino who twice stole forty bases in a season during his time in the minors thinks he’s lost his base-stealing strut. Victorino who may be the fastest Phillie on the 25 man roster theorized, “It's confidence, I think, that I've lost," Victorino said. "Getting me back to that swagger where I say, 'I'm going. Right here.' There are a lot of big expectations for me this year. I'm going to get it back, right here, in spring training." With Lopes’ help the top of the Phillies lineup will be ready set fire to the base pads in the 2007.

Phillies Lopes’ lead on how to steal bases
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Shane Victorino from

Friday, February 23, 2007

The problem with mainstream media

I love Sports Center as much as the next guy but I have a big problem with the way that big media covers the Phillies. Stories have been popping up left and right describing Jimmy Rollins premonitions about how well the Phillies will do this season and the Mets response to his comments. Don’t get me wrong I agree with everything Jimmy has said. I just don’t think that his words merit coverage.

I am glad that after the departure of Bobby Abreu and Mike Liberthal that Rollins has stepped into a leadership role. I think it’s great that he is trying to kick the Phillies buts into gear. But, doesn’t he see his teammates on a regular basis? Couldn’t he motivate them even better in person. There are so many interesting story lines that the major media has not given enough coverage. The Geoff Geary signing received one AP story. That’s it. Geary is one of the best relievers in the NL and will play a huge role in the Phillies success next season and he gets one story.

But I guess everyone wants to know what Tom Glavine thinks about Jimmy Rollins comments. Surprise! He thinks the Mets are the team to beat. What a compelling story.

Notes: Rivalry heats up
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jimmy Rollins from

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Will Flash lose his flare?

Last season after a wild series in Cincinnati, Phillies closer Tom Gordon went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. After that Charlie Manuel was able to patch together a few games, but in the end the extra work broke the bullpen. It wasn’t until Gordon came back that the bullpen returned to its previous success. Last season's bullpen collapse explicates why having a dependable closer is crucial to any team's success. This year Tom Gordon is one year older and the fear is that he will visit the disabled list again at some point this season.

Gordon’s statistics were very good last season. He stuck out 68 in 59.1 innings with a 3.34 ERA while holding his opponents to a .233 average. His numbers look even better if you leave out the first part of August when he posted an awful 9.64 ERA.

This season Manuel will use Gordon carefully in an effort to help keep him off the DL. Manuel spoke about Gordon commenting, "I want to keep him strong so he can go all year. I think he can go three days [in a row]. Sometimes, even with two days out, depending on the number of pitches he threw in those two outings, maybe [I might] let someone else throw that third day. With a four-run lead, we might let someone else start the inning."

Manuel’s comments reflect a reasonable degree of prudence. However, Charlie will have to balance overworking Gordon with letting him pitch enough to stay in a rhythm. Gordon himself says that his arm feels great; not that he would say anything if his arm was about to fall off. So will 2007 be the season Flash loses his flare? Only time will tell.

Gordon enter '07 feeling great
By Ken Mandel /

Gordon is key to Philadelphia's success

Picture of Tom Gordon from

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nunez wants to stay in the hot corner

Way back in November the Phillies started their off-season by signing third baseman Wes Helms. At the time it was expected that Helms would be the Phillies third baseman on opening day. There’s only one problem. Abraham Nunez isn’t ready to give up his job quite yet.

Nunez played poorly last season and that’s putting it nicely. Nunez hit a pathetic .211 with a .303 on base percentage. After struggling early in the season as a pinch hitter and bench player. He then saw increased playing time after David Bell was traded to the Brewers. Nunez played better with regular at bats hitting .242.

Nunez isn’t going to go without a fight. Nunez pledged, "It's not going down like last year. You're going to see a difference. You'll see. You'll see."

Nunez did play well this off-season in his native Dominican Republic. Playing for the Leones del Escogido he hit .268 with a .391 on base percentage. If he wants to keep his job he will have to play well in spring training. One advantage for Nunez is his far superior defense. Despite that it isn’t likely that Nunez will remain the Phillies everyday third baseman.

One big problem for Nunez is that he has no power. The Phillies need the right handed thump in their lineup that Helms can provide. If Nunez can elevate his game hitting around .290 with an OBP around .400 with solid defense than he could do a lot to help the Phillies cause and stay in the hot corner.

Nunez determined to keep starting third-base job
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Abraham Nunez from

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The road to the Majors

The path to the Major Leagues is long and winding. Just ask Chris Coste. He spent the first eleven years of his professional baseball career with Minor League baseball clubs all across the country. After clawing his way up to the AAA level he earned an invitation to spring training last season. In Clearwater, Chris caught fire batting .463 with 3 home runs and 11 RBIs in 41 at bats. It appeared that Coste’s dreams would soon be realized. Then disaster, the Phillies traded for David Dellucci who took the Phillies final roster spot. Serendipitously two months later utility infielder Alex Gonzalez retired opening up the road to the Majors for Coste.

Coste will still have to work for his roster spot. In the off-season the Phillies signed catcher Rod Barajas to start in front of Carlos Ruiz. Then the Phillies claimed Gregg Dobbs from the Seattle Mariners, leaving Coste once again in a fight for a roster spot.

Coste understands what is at stake. He commented to Todd Zolecki, "It's more exciting being here this year, but at the same time there are more nerves because there is so much more to lose. Every year I'd come here at ground zero. I could only go up. Now I can really only go down.”

I’m a bit biased when it comes to Coste. If I were GM, Coste would form half of a catching platoon with Ruiz and Rod Barajas wouldn’t be a Phillie. Coste is a professional hitter and to borrow a phrase from MLB statistics guru Cory Schwartz, “hitters hit”. It’s no coincidence that the Phillies lineup got hot when Coste got called up last season. His bat at the end of the line up turned the Phils offense from potent to lethal. Pat Gillick’s goal should be to assemble the roster with the greatest amount of talent. If he wants to achieve that goal he needs to give Coste a shot.

Coste counting on another super spring
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Chris Coste from

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Phillies emphasizing hitting to starters

Last season the Phillies had the National League's best offense knocking in 865 runs. This season the Phillies hope to improve on that number. Charlie Manuel isn't worried about Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or any of the position players; he knows those guys can rake. The concern is how poorly Phillies pitchers hit last season.

Last season the Phillies pitchers had the worst batting average in baseball hitting an impressively awful .092. They finished second to last in sacrifices laying down only 29 successful bunts.

You might now be asking the question, “Who cares?” It’s true that a bunt has never caused Citizen’s Bank Park to erupt with applause, but pitcher hitting is very important. Consider that every time Brett Myers sacrifices Rod Barajas over to second, it gives Jimmy Rollins a chance to knock another run for the Phillies. Over a season that can add up. In addition, if the Phillies pitchers could improve from terrible to mediocre, then Charlie Manuel could keep his pitchers deeper into games instead of having to pinch hit.

Manuel recognizes that pitcher bunting has been a weakness, lamenting, "The whole object of the guys pitching is to move the guy over into scoring position. He can stay longer in the game and it gives you a chance of winning, too. I think that we have lagged in that department, because the workload has been very big and we didn't push it a lot. I think the more we can concentrate on it, the better off we'll be."

The job of turning the Phils hurlers into a group of offensive juggernauts has fallen to new Philllies bench coach Jimy Williams. Williams is a veteran’s veteran who brings to the Phillies a veritable encyclopedia of baseball knowledge. If the Phills hurlers are smart they will listen to Williams and bring the offense to a new level.

Williams put to early test
By Michael Radano / Courier-Post

Notes: Hurlers working on bunting skills
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jimy Williams from

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Switching up the batting order

It’s hard to criticize the offense, which led the NL in runs in 2006. But, if a weakness does exists it lies at the feet of the Phillies lead off hitter Jimmy Rollins. Fans opinions of Rollins vacillate up and down with his performance. When Rollins is chasing DiMaggio he’s a great player and when he starts flying out like there’s a bonus for not putting the ball on the ground angry Philadelphians pick him apart. As usual the truth is somewhere in the middle. Rollins is a great player but not a great lead off hitter.

There are only two things a team needs from there first hitter. They need him to get on base at a proficient rate and enough speed to steal a base. The swift Rollins stole 36 bases but had a lack luster .334 on base percentage. Supporters of Rollins often bring up that the most important statistic for a lead off hitter is runs. I couldn’t disagree more. The Phillies could have a very mediocre lead off hitter score 100 runs because he’s batting in front of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell.

Bill Conlin had a creative idea writing recently that Rollins should bat in the fifth spot protecting Ryan Howard. He argues that Rollins has enough power to serve as a power bat in the middle of the order. Rollins did hit an impressive 79 extra base hits, which was tied for ninth best in the Major Leagues last season. Despite the power, I think Rollins could best help the Phillies hitting out of the two spot. Rollins 2006 power numbers would decline if he moved to the number five spot. The leadoff hitter accumulates about 150 more at bats than the hitter in the fifth spot over the course of a season. If Rollins hit later in the line up he would have less opportunities to get hits. In the two spot his power and speed would serve the Phillies offense very well.

If Rollins moved to another spot in the order, Shane “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino is the obvious choice for the job. Victorino has spent most of his professional baseball career as a leadoff hitter and knows what it takes. Last season the Flyin’ Hawaiian’s speed, which he showed throughout his minor league career disappeared. However, Victorino has commented that working with former speedster and now Phillies coach Davey Lopes will help break him out of his slump.

Every once in a while to prevent an offense from going stale it’s often a good idea to shuffle the lineup. Flipping Rollins and Victorino could help the Phillies keep the spice in their offense.

Calling the Phils line up to order
By Bill Conlin / Philadelphia Daily News

First picture of Jimmy Rollins from, and second picture of Shane Victorino from

Geary avoids arbitration

Phillies reliever Geoff Geary avoided arbitration agreeing to one-year $837,500 contract. Geary was a workhorse-pitcher out of the bullpen for the Phillies last season. Geoff will figure prominently into the Phillies bullpen in 2007. If the Phillies don’t trade for a set-up man then Geary is one potential candidate for the job. If not he will pitch in critical late inning situations.
I’m a huge Geoff Geary fan. Every season he spends in the majors, he gets better. Geary had a tough start to the season but after that pitched great. He took it to a whole different level in the second half of the season. Geary who has a high career opponents batting average .279, began to mow down opposing batters lowering their average in the second half to .239. The improvement between the first and second half is astounding. Geary’s K/BB ratio went from 2.30 up to 4.70, WHIP dropped from 1.62 to 1.03, and average pitches per inning dropped from 17.10 to 14.90.

Geary amazingly pitched in half of the Phillies 162 games last season throwing 91.1 innings. Geary pitched so much last season that towards the end of the 2006 campaign he commented, “It feels like my arm is going to fall off. But when the [bullpen] phone rings, I don’t feel anything.” He deserves every dollar the Phillies pay him and should have a great 2007 season.

Geary agrees to 1-year deal with Phillies
By AP from

Notes Geary pitching through pain
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Geoff Geary from

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pressure on Manuel and Phillies to win

Last season after a June swoon when the Phillies went 9-18, the rumors that Charlie Manuel was about to get a pink slip picked up steam. At the time Pat Gillick put an end to those rumors repeating many times that Manuel would be the Phillies manager for the remainder of the 2006 season. With the arrival of 2007 comes a new season filled with a new set up expectations for the Phillies and Manuel.

I have mixed feelings about Manuel. I don’t think he was hired for the right reasons. Before he was the Phillies manager Manuel was a special assistant to then GM Ed Wade. I can’t say for sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if Wade had chosen Manuel to be the Phillies manager the moment Manuel he became a special assistant. The other reason, which Wade told the public was that Manuel’s player friendly approach was exactly what the Phillies needed in the wake of the Larry Bowa’s harsh managing style. However, the problem with Bowa wasn’t the way he managed, it was that he couldn’t motivate the Phillies to win.

The switch to Manuel raised the Phillies spirits, but not their win total. Despite that Manuel has had a big impact on this team. It’s hard to imagine the Phillies making the late run they did last season without Manuel keeping the Phillies heads in the game.

Manuel's contract is up after this season and Gillick probably has him on a short leash. Gillick sent Manuel a message this off-season when he brought in bench coach Jimy Williams and first base coach Davey Lopes. Both coaches have Major League managing experience and could be potential replacements. If the Phillies play poorly in April don’t be surprised if Manuel is looking for a new job.

Eager to show his Phillies are good
By Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

Reports: Manuel to manage Phils
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Charlie Manuel from Flickr

Monday, February 12, 2007

The rumor mill keeps on turning

On the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater, the hot stove is still cooking in Philly. Both Aaron Rowand and Jon Lieber have continued to be mentioned in trade talks throughout the season. The Freddy Garcia trade gave the Phillies an extra starting pitcher, placing Jon Lieber squarely on trade block. The Phillies biggest need is in the bullpen and it was widely speculated that the Phillies would flip Lieber for a setup-man. Lieber is still a Phillie and Pat Gillick has commented in the past he won’t trade Lieber unless he thinks he’s getting value in return.

It still looks like a trade will happen. There are many teams looking to trade for starting pitching. However, there aren’t many teams who have enough depth in the bullpen to trade the quality of reliever the Phillies need. One possible solution to the Phillies relieving woes is Aaron Rowand. Rowand is a valuable player because of his golden glove, steady bat, and experience as a leader. Todd Zolecki brought up in his interview with the Phans blog that Gillick is an extremely creative GM and could orchestrate two trades. The first trade would send Rowand for a reliever and the second would move Lieber for a corner outfielder. Shane Victorino would then move from right to center field.

Ironically, every day that Lieber stays a Phillie the more likely it becomes the Phillies will trade him. Todd Zolecki also mentioned that other teams will lose starting pitchers and will feel pressure to make a trade for a starter. The injury parade started today when it was announced the Orioles Kris Benson has a torn rotator cuff and will miss the entire season recovering from the surgery. The Orioles signed a number of quality relievers this off-season including Danys Baez, Jamie Walker, and Chad Bradford. Perhaps Gillick could pry one of these relievers away for either Lieber or Rowand. If not, every day that passes ratchets up the pressure for GMs to improve their teams and make a move.

Ben Palmer's Sports Rumors and Notes

First picture of Aaron Rowand form

Friday, February 09, 2007

Interview with Todd Zolecki

Below is the paraphrased transcript of The Phans Blog interview with Todd Zolecki. Todd Zolecki has been with the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1999 and has covered the team for the past five seasons. I would like to thank him again for taking the time to do the interview.

The Phans Blog (TPB): Do you think Jon Lieber will be a Phillie on opening day?

Todd Zolecki (TZ): I would be very, very surprised if he would still be on the team. Pat Gillick has commented that there is a chance they take six starting pitchers into the season but I don’t think it will happen. As spring training goes on another team will probably lose a starting pitcher to injury or find that their fourth or fifth starter isn’t working out. Lieber would probably stay with the Phillies if one of their starters were injured in spring training. Pat Gillick is very creative and could find a two-team trade involving Aaron Rowand that would net the set-up man the Phillies need, but that’s just a guess.

TPB: What kind of stats do you think Pat Burrell puts up next season?

TZ: Burrell’s numbers have gone up and down, but he could have a good year. Last season he hit almost a hundred RBI’s with one hundred fewer plate appearances than the season before when he was second in the NL in that category. If healthy there is no reason he can’t hit 30 home runs with 100 plus RBI’s.

TPB: Do you think the foot is an issue?

TZ: No. It’s hard to tell because when they tried to trade him last season they told teams the foot was fine but when he struggled the foot was listed as a reason.

TPB: Who do you think has an inside track at the final outfielders spot?

TZ: Karim Garcia is probably the guy because he’s the left-handed bat the Phillies need off the bench. The Phillies believe Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn need more time to develop as hitters in the minors.

TPB: Do you think Dobbs has the advantage over Coste for the final spot because he is also a left-handed bat?

TZ: Gillick likes Dobbs and Dobbs has a very real chance to make the team. But Coste has a good chance, too. I know Manuel really likes him. The final two bench jobs should be a battle between Garcia, Dobbs and Coste.

TPB: How many wins do the Phillies get in 07?

TZ: If the rotation stays healthy and Gillick gets a set-up man they should win at least 90 games. The offense will be fine. I don’t think Pat Burrell should be an issue. The rotation is one of the best in the league so the team should win at least 90 games and make the playoffs.

Picture of Todd Zolecki from

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Phillies look to start off hot

There’s an old saying in baseball you can’t win a pennant in April but you can lose one. The Phillies are proof of that old adage. The Phils have been in contention until the final days of the season for the past two years. Both this season and last season the Phils have tripped out of the gate with back to back 10-14 April’s. This season the Phillies hope to get the season started off right.

One of the reasons the Phillies have stumbled in the early going is Jimmy Rollins. Rollins is the engine that makes the Phillies offense go. When he stalls the Phillies offenses slows to a snails pace. Over the past two seasons in March and April, Rollins has hit .262. Rollins who doesn’t walk, needs to have a high batting average to get on base. This off-season Jimmy spoke out saying that he thinks the Phillies are a contender in the NL East. I hope he’s serious because next season Rollins performance at the start of the season could have big time implications for the Phillies overall success in 2007.

Another factor in the Phillies poor starts has been terrible starting pitching. In 2005 Cory Lidle, Randy Wolf, and Vincente Padilla threw up a 6.50 ERA in March and April. In 2006 Gavin Floyd, Ryan Madson, Cory Lidle, and Jon Lieber combined to pitch a 6.34 ERA in March and April. This season the Phillies starting rotation is much stronger than in past seasons and appear poised to start off the season strong.

"We know we have to start better," said manager Charlie Manuel, "We know how to focus and come out strong, but we still have to execute and do it."

History tells us that baseball in March and April matters. That will be especially true this season because the Phillies start off their season with 20 of their first 26 games against divisional opponents. If this season is going to be the year when the Phillies make the playoffs they have to reverse the slow start trend and play well from the beginning.

Phils look to start hot
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jimmy Rollins from

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So fresh and so clean

A clean looking Brett Myers showed up at the press conference to officially announce his $25.75 million contract extension. Myers slimmed down over the off-season due to a new diet and conditioning program. Myers who at the end of last season weighed 250 says that he has lost 32 pounds in the off-season. Myers commented that, “[he] surpassed what [he] was shooting for" in terms of weight lose. The lack of baggage will aid Myers in his attempt to step into the role of Phillies ace. His commitment to the workout plan also shows that he has become a more mature player with renewed dedication to baseball.

Myers also seemed to have turned a corner when discussing the incident with his wife. After hitting his wife in Boston, Brett was arrested for assault and then took time off from the team. Speaking about the incident a sober Myers commented, "I felt terrible for the organization and my family that it had to come about. It was one of those things where everybody makes mistakes and we learn from them. These mistakes can never happen again."

Myers lead the team last season in strikeouts (189), innings (198), and ERA (3.91). Now Phillies fans expect Myers to fulfill his potential as a starting pitcher. Now his new fresh and clean look shows that he maybe be ready to make the jump.

Myers gets in better shape after signing big contract
Associated Press

A more mature Myers meets media
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Brett Myers from

Monday, February 05, 2007

Year of the Mad Dog

Ryan “Mad Dog” Madson’s 2006 baseball season started out with great promise. Mad Dog arrived at spring training in Clear Water and pitched so well the Phillies gave him a spot in the starting rotation. At spring training Madson started 5 games throwing 24 innings with a slim 1.50 ERA and 18 Ks to only 5 BBs. The regular season was nothing like Clearwater. Madson stunk up the 17 games he started, throwing up an awful 6.28 ERA. Madson started to overthrow his pitches in his zeal to dazzle fans. He lost his control and started to give up more hits and walk to batters than in past seasons.

Before 2006 Madson had shown great potential in previous campaigns. Over the course of his first two seasons several important pitching indicators trended in a positive direction for Madson. His K/B ratio and K/9 both improved. Another positive sign was the dip of pitches per innings in Madson’s performance as a reliever this past season.

I predict 2007 will be the year of the Mad Dog. Madson has the benefit of knowing he his role on the team as one of the Phillies primary relievers. That will allow him to focus his attention on preparing as a reliever and not worry about pitching as a starter. Madson is also reportedly adding a “slurve” or sweeping curve to his pitching repertoire. 2007 will be the year Mad Dog shakes off his slump and lives up to his potential as an ace reliever.

Phillies Team Report
By Ken Mandel / Sporting News

Picture of Ryan Madson from

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The state of the pen

Question marks cover the Phillies bullpen going into spring training. Pat Gillick has assembled a number of puzzle pieces but the general picture is still unclear. The Phillies reliever corps is the biggest weakness of an otherwise very strong team. Relief pitchers always want to know what role they have on the team. Unfortunately for the Phillies relievers, many of them don’t have clearly defined jobs.

Here’s what we know. Tom Gordon, Geoff Geary, Ryan Madson, and Matt Smith have spots on the Phillies roster. Tom Gordon will finish games as the closer and Matt Smith will face lefties as the Phillies southpaw specialist. After that things get cloudy.

One factor contributing to the Phils relieving quandary is the health of Antonio Alfonseca. Alfonseca will pitch; the question is in what situations. A former closer Alfonseca could be the ace reliever the Phillies need to pitch in the eighth inning. Alfonseca has also been plagued by injuries the past two seasons and could potentially not even make the Phillies roster out of spring training.

There are also a number of potential trades that could mix up the Phillies roster. Aaron Rowand and Jon Lieber have both been mentioned in trade talks for relief pitchers. Lieber will probably be traded eventually even if he remains a Phillie on opening day. If a trade does go through the Phillies would presumably receive a blue chip reliever in return who would serve as the setup man. If he weren’t traded then Lieber would start and push Adam Eaton from the Phillies rotation to the bullpen.

Assuming Eaton starts the season in the pen then the Phillies will have one bullpen spot remaining. Fabio Castro, Eude Brito, Anderson Garcia, Jim Ed Warden, Alfredo Simon, and Joseph Bisenius are all in competition for that final roster slot. Another possibility is free agent reliever Dustin Hermanson. The former White Sox closer will work out for a number of teams this week including the Phillies. Hermanson has had injury issues missing most of last season. The Phillies could benefit from taking a flyer on Hermanson if healthy.

Going into spring training with a smoky picture of their bullpen could end up benefiting the Phillies in the long run. The open competition will force the Phils pitchers to give their all during spring training. That would give Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel a clearer picture of which pitchers they can count on during the season.

Waiting for that other game, here are XLI tidbits
By Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

First picture of Tom Gordon form, and second picture of Dustin Hermanson from

Friday, February 02, 2007

Myers Signs Extension

The Phillies signed arbitration eligible pitcher Brett Myers to a 3-year extension yesterday. The deal is worth 25.75 million dollars. Myers will make $5 million this season, $8.5 million in 2008, and $25 million in 2009.

Myers had a great season last year. The one spot on his season was an incident in Boston where he allegedly hit his wife. The issue was resolved out of court after Brett and his wife started to work out their problems. I am Brett Myers fan but I hope the Phillies were confident that Myers has dealt with his anger issues before they offered this contract. There's no room on the Phillies for players of questionable moral character.

On a happier note, Myers has been the Phillies best starting pitcher for the past two seasons. Over the past two seasons Myers pitched 413.1 innings with a 3.81 ERA and 397 strikeouts. This season Myers will lead a strong rotation himself, Freddy Garcia, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Jamie Moyer.

Myers given three-year extension
By Ken Mandel /

Phils, Myers agree to $25.75M, three-year deal
Associated Press on

Picture of Brett Myers from

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rowand trade falls apart

The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that a trade involving Aaron Rowand and Scott Linebrink won’t go through for now. The fact that trade negotiations took place hadn’t actually been confirmed until Padres GM Kevin Towers announced the trade had been tabled.

The deal isn’t dead yet. Towers commented that, “It might be something we discuss again later this spring. But right now I want to see what we have in spring training. I want to see how (outfielder) Terrmel Sledge plays and how our bullpen shapes up.”

If the deal went through Linebrink would be the missing piece in the Phillies bullpen. Over his career Linebrink has compiled some impressive statistics pitching in 313 games with a 3.12 ERA. 2006 was a sub par for Linebrink who saw his opponents batting average jump about .030 from his career average. However, his other numbers including K/BB and K/9 stayed solid. The Phillies might be able to benefit in a trade from the perception that Linebrink is in decline. Linebrink a battle-tested reliever would serve as a fine set up man to Tom Gordon and could pitch in save situations if necessary. His presence would solidify what would be a very good bullpen.

This potential future deal presents some interesting scenarios for the Phillies. If Rowand left Philadelphia, Victorino would move from right to center and the Phillies would be a man down in the outfield. The Phillies like what current bench player Jayson Werth has to offer but don’t consider him a starter and the free agent market by this point of the off-season no longer has valuable players.

The Phillies still have trade chip Jon Lieber. There are several teams with poor starting pitching depth and available corner outfielders. One possible option is Kevin Mench who has been mentioned in trade talks with the Phillies in the past. Another possible trade could involve the Pirates and Xavier Nady. Both aren’t great options and would require the Phillies hypothetical trade partner to sweeten the pot with a prospect to get the deal done.

A Rowand for Linebrink swap could benefit the Phillies, but hopefully Pat Gillick will make sure they have a Lieber trade finished before they made their move. A Rowand trade by itself doesn’t really help the Phillies. It just moves the Phillies hole in their bullpen to their outfield.

Linebrink-Rowand deal off for now
From San Diego Union-Tribune

Picture of Scott Linebrink from