Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking down the NL East: New York Mets

Position Players:
On paper the Mets have the best offense in the National League. The Mets added more firepower to a team that scored 834 runs last season by signing veteran bat Moises Alou in right field. Jose Reyes and David Wright are young super stars that will only get better with age. Carlos Delgado and Beltran will knock in 100 runs each. Complimenting that solid core are productive veterans Jose Valentin, Shawn Green, and Paul Lo Duca. The Mets should have a first class offense and will be tough to out slug.

Starting Rotation:

The Mets rotation is made of youngsters and old men. Well-aged Tom Glavine and the ancient Orlando Hernandez are the Mets only proven starters. Glavine is a future Hall of Famer and will most likely turn in another quality season. El Duque on the other hand is an average pitcher in addition to being a huge injury risk. The last three rotation spots will be filled either by past their prime vets like Chan Ho Park and Aaron Sele or unproven talents like Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine. Pedro Martinez will come to the rescue in July. But that will probably be too late to save the Mets.


The Mets bullpen recently suffered a big blow when it was announced that Duaner Sanchez will miss 3-4 months after he gets a surgery needed to repair a hairline fracture near his right shoulder. To compound the Mets bullpen woes Guillermo Mota will have to serve a 50 game suspension for violating the MLBs steroid policy. Besides those problems the Mets have a strong pen anchored by closer and former Phillie Billy Wagner. Aaron Heilman will serve as the setup man and Pedro Feliciano, Dave Williams, Scott Schoenweiss, and Ambiorix Burgos will pitch in the middle innings. Even after you count the losses of Sanchez and Mota the Mets still have a very strong bullpen.

Winning teams have good starting rotations. The Mets starting will falter and the extra pressure on the bullpen will cause it to break down. The Mets will win games by putting up a lot of runs. However, that won’t be enough to win the division for a second consecutive year. The Mets will finish third in the division with 81 wins.

Picture of Jose Reyes from

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Phillies make surprise cut

The Phillies placed utility outfielder Karim Garcia on waivers opening up a spot on the bench. Garcia has been expected to make the team as a fifth outfielder that would provide Charlie Manuel with a left handed pinch hitter.

This move caught me off guard. Usually teams don’t cut players they recently signed who are having good spring trainings. Garcia had been hitting .305 with 1 homer, 7 RBIs in 59 at bats. Spring training numbers have no correlation with regulation season performance but those stats are nothing to scoff at.

Overall I think this move benefits the Phillies. Greg Dobbs will most likely take Garcia’s place on the bench. Dobbs can play at first, third, and the corner outfield positions providing the Phillies with additional position flexibility. Dumping the veteran Garcia’s salary also saves the Phils a few hundred thousand dollars.

Assuming Dobbs makes the team the Phillies will still have one more spot on their bench. Phan’s Blog favorite Chris Coste could eventually fill that spot but will start the season on the 15 day DL. There’s no clear favorite as to who will occupy that spot during Coste’s period of convalescence. However, assuming that Pat Gillick hasn’t gone insane and forgotten that Coste is still injured he probably has some plan of action.

Phillies release Garcia
By Rob Maaddi / AP Sports

Picture of Karim Garcia from

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Where are all the south paws?

Last season the Phillies bullpen had three reliable left-handers in Aaron Fultz, Rheal Cormier, and Arthur Rhodes. The dearth of southpaws gave Charlie Manuel a lot of options when he needed to get a left-handed batter out late in a game. Today the Phillies sent both Eude Brito and Fabio Castro to the minors leaving Matt Smith as the lone lefty in the Phillies bullpen.

Many analysts point to the lack of a trustworthy set up man as the main flaw of the Phillies bullpen. However, that’s not the case. The biggest problem is that Matt Smith isn’t a great option as a left-handed specialist. There are a number of talented hitters in the NL East who hit from the left side of the plate including Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. Matt Smith just isn’t going to get the job done. Smith had good numbers last year throwing 8.2 innings with a 2.08 ERA. However, he pitched poorly when the game was on the line.

Pat Gillick could do a lot to help the bullpen by acquiring a left-handed reliever. Another reliever who could hold lefty hitters to a low average would really improve the Phillies bullpen.

Picture of Matt Smith from

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Deep Breaths

The blood pressure of Phillies phan nation spiked yesterday after the news that Freddy Garcia left a game pitching against Toronto Blue Jays with tenderness near his right bicep. Suddenly the Phillies rotation the greatest strength of the 2007 team had melted away. Auspiciously the good news came out today that Garcia is ok and will be ready to pitch by opening day.

Going through this whole situation has made me reconsider my position on trading Jon Lieber. If Garcia’s injury had been more serious and Pat Gillick had already traded Lieber then the Phillies would have been caught pissing in the wind. Upon closer examination the Phightens have an injury risk plagued rotation. Adam Eaton missed much of last season after he needed surgery on his middle finger. Cole Hamels has back problems that he will deal with for his whole career. On top of that the Phils now have to worry about Garcia’s elbow.

The Phillies pitching surplus is a blessing not a curse. If any of the starters go down than the Phillies will need Lieber to stay competitive.

Picture of Freddy Garcia from:
Injuries to Garcia, and Ruiz not serious
By Ken Mandel /

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lieber heading to the pen

Charlie decided today that it would be Lieber not Eaton who would pitch out of the pen in lieu of a trade. No explanation for the decision was given except Charlie Manuel’s comments that, “It was a real tough decision”.

I think the Phillies brain trust made the wrong decision. The reason that Charlie Manuel had to make a “real tough decision” is that Pat Gillick couldn’t trade Lieber. Lieber pitching in the bullpen decreases his value as a trade commodity. Relievers have less value than starters.

The Phillies may have decided to take the less controversial path. Jon Lieber’s contract runs out at the end of the season and Eaton will be a Phillie for at least the next three seasons. Whoever Manuel demoted to the bullpen would undoubtedly be disappointed. It may have simply been easier for the Phillies to upset the pitcher whose feelings they won’t have to consider for much longer.

Lieber moved to bullpen
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jon Lieber from

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Breaking down the NL East: Florida Marlins

This is the second in a series of posts reviewing the off seasons of the Phillies NL East rivals. This post examines the Florida Marlins chances for success in 2007.

Position Player:
The Marlins have the same excellent infield as last season. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best young players in the game and Hanley Ramirez should be a first rate shortstop. Dan Uggla over preformed last season. His minor league numbers suggest that he should hit 20 dingers but with a lower average. Catcher Miguel Olivo should provide a pedestrian average and chip in a dozen or so homers. The Marlins outfield is peppered with inexperienced and injured players. Jeremy Hermida has the pedigree but has yet to prove himself. Alex Sanchez has never played a full season. Josh Willingham should throw in twenty bombs and 90 RBIs. Last season the Florida Marlins scored 758 runs ranking them eighth in the National League. They only scored that many runs because everything went right. Probability demands that the same thing won’t happen again.

Starting Rotation:
Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis anchors the starting rotation. The rest of the Marlins rotation is green. Young pitchers will struggle. It’s baseball law. Scott Olsen, Annibal Sanchez, and Josh Johnson all have great stuff. However, they will take their lumps like everyone else. Due to their inexperience the Marlins rotation is a huge liability.

The worst part of this team is the bullpen. There is no clear closer, set up man, or even a quality middle reliever. I don’t like to repeat myself but I can’t say it enough. The Marlins young pitchers will struggle. Who would have thought the Fish would miss Joe Borowski?

The Marlins overachieved as a team last season and made no significant moves to improve their roster. On top of all that the Marlins management thought that it would be a good idea to fire 2006 NL manager of the year Joe Girardi. The Marlins could easily lose 100 games in 2007. It’s a tribute to how terrible the Nationals will be that the Florida should finish fourth in the division.

Picture of Dontrelle Willis from the

Five is a rotation; six is a problem

Everyone knows the situation. Six starting pitchers is one too many. If Pat Gillick can’t find a trade partner than one of the six will move to the bullpen. The question is who.

Jamie Moyer doesn’t throw hard enough to throw in relief. Cole Hamels has way too much talent. Freddy Garcia’s greatest value is as a starter because of his ability to throw 200 innings with ease. Brett Myers has offered to close but likely wouldn’t be satisfied with throwing in middle relief.

That leaves Jon Lieber and Adam Eaton. Eaton has also commented that while he would pitch as a reliever he'd rather not. Only Lieber has spent any significant time as a reliever. In 1996 he pitched 36 games for Pittsburgh Pirates in relief with a solid 4.14 ERA. However, that was a long time ago. Two months ago Gillick commented that Lieber couldn’t pitch in relief because his defense was a liability in late inning situations.

Neither pitcher is a good option. However, I think the least bad option is Lieber. If the Phillies let Lieber start and he pitches well, then his trade value will increase. That would allow the Phils to trade Lieber and solve the underlying problem. Eaton can serve as the long man in the bullpen throwing three innings every few days if one of the Phillies starters gets shelled. Five is a rotation and six is a problem that can only be fixed with a trade.

Notes: Which starter will relieve?
By Ken Mandel /

Pictures of Adam Eaton from

Monday, March 19, 2007

Phils say goodbye to Germano

The San Diego Padres claimed Justin Germano after the Phillies placed him on waivers today. Germano came over in the Rheal Cormier trade. Usually it’s difficult to determine the benefits of a trade until years after it’s completion. That’s not the case with the Cormier trade, which can safely be called an unmitigated disaster.

It’s not that Pat Gillick should have held on to Rheal Cormier. The timing of the trade makes Gillick look like a genius. With the Phils Cormier had a sparkling 1.59 ERA and pitching for the Reds he had a mediocre 4.50 ERA. The issue with this trade is what the Phightens received in return.

Justin Germano is a fine prospect but at the time of the trade he had only one option left on his contract, which the Phillies used up last season. So this season the Phillies couldn’t send him down to the minors without having him clear waivers first. This forced the Phillies to put Germano on waivers and in the end receive nothing for Cormier.

The Cormier trade is part of a disturbing trend. The Phillies received seven prospects in return for Rheal Cormier, Ryan Franklin, Cory Lidle, and Bobby Abreu in three different trades. Matt Smith is the only player in that group who will play with the Phillies any time soon and none of the others project to be productive major leaguers. The Phillies farm system is baron of prospects because of Gillick. I think Pat had done a great job putting together a competitive Phillies team in 2007. I just hope that the success of the 2007 Phillies doesn’t end up burning the Phillies squads of the future.

Germano, Simon among Phillies cuts
By Rob Maaddi / AP

Picture of Justin Germano from

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Phillies Drop Simon

The Phillies offered back Alfredo Simon to the Texas Rangers. Simon was one of three Rule 5 draft picks trying to make the Phillies roster. The Baltimore Orioles originally drafted Simon and then traded him to the Phillies during the winter meetings. The Phils paid $50,000 dollars for the rights to Simon and the Rangers will give half of that sum back.

Alfredo was a prototypical flamethrower with control issues. Speaking about Simon Charlie Manuel commented, "He wasn't going to make our big-league team. He has a good arm and a good breaking ball, but he has control problems."

Simon was in contention for making the Phillies major league roster. He will now spend more time developing his control at Triple-A Tucson for the Texas Rangers.

Notes: Moyer gives back
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Alfredo Simon from

Time to get creative

Despite all of the tough talk of the Phillies taking six starters into the season, Pat Gillick knows he needs to work a trade before the season begins. There should be plenty of demand for what the Phillies have to offer. Almost every team in baseball could use another legit starter on their roster. Still teams don’t want to buy what the Phillies are selling. It’s time for Pat Gillick to sweeten the pot.

The Houston Astros are counting on Roger Clemens to come back and save their rotation. I’m not crazy enough to presume to know if Clemens will play baseball and if he does for what team. Nevertheless if Clemens stays in Houston than the Astros will still have an unproven rookie as their fifth starter. The Astros could really use Jon Lieber to bolster their cause in a division with the World Series Champion Cardinals and a much-improved Chicago Cubs squad.

The Phillies need to make the offer that the Astros can’t refuse by pairing catcher Carlos Ruiz with Jon Lieber. The current Astros catcher Brad Ausms doesn’t have much value if he hits .230 like he did last season. Houston has no good catching prospects and could really use a young backstop with potential upside. Carlos Ruiz has some very solid numbers. In his past two seasons at the AAA level he hit over .300 with both power and speed.

In return the Phillies should ask for much maligned closer Brad Lidge. Two seasons ago Brad Lidge was the best closer in baseball. Last season the Astros yanked him back and forth between the closer and setup roles. Lidge could benefit from the stability of staying in the same role for the whole season. He could also be the hard throwing reliever the Phillies need to get to the next level.

Picture of Brad Lidge from

Friday, March 16, 2007

Helms excelling during spring training

Wes Helms had many options as a free agent this off-season. The New York Yankees were offering more years and dollars to Helms if he would don the pin stripes. The Phillies could offer the thing that the Yankees couldn’t promise, playing time. Wes Helms will get plenty of at bats with the Phillies as their starting third baseman.

Helms owns a paltry .268 career batting average but had a career year last season hitting .329. Helms attributes his success to a change in his approach at the plate. Helms spoke about those change commenting, "I'd be out there trying to crush the ball, pull the ball. I wouldn't think of the situation. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. Now I'm more of a situational hitter. If there's a guy on second, I'm going to get him over.”

So far this spring Helms has excelled batting .394 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in 33 at bats. Helms will bat out of the sixth spot but if Helms starts out 2007 hot and Pat Burrell struggles than he could find himself protecting Ryan Howard in the fifth spot.

Fortunately for Helms the bar has been set very low. Former Phils tri baggers David Bell and Abraham Nunez represented one giant gaping hole in the Phillies offense. Assuming Helms can not stink as much as those two double plays waiting to happen the Phillies offense should improve.

Helms getting hits in, relearning third
By Ken Mandel /

Helms confident that a big year is in the offing
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Wes Helms from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Rowand Trade Rumors

Another day and another Aaron Rowand trade rumor. Once again the gossip mill turns with news of a trade negotiations between the Phillies and White Sox. This most recent iteration of trade talks has Aaron Rowand going to the White Sox for Boone Logan. That leads Phillies Phans everywhere to ask the question, “Who the heck is Boone Logan?” That’s a very reasonable question given that Boone Logan has logged only 17.3 innings in the Majors and a 5.08 ERA in his minor league career.

On a radio show Tuesday when asked about a trade to the White Sox Rowand responded, “I don't know if I should disclose any of that information.” That’s quite an ominous comment for a player on the trading block.

This deal could happen if the White Sox were willing to part with a different reliever. White Sox setup man Mike MacDougal would fit nicely into the Phillies bullpen. Before the White Sox traded for MacDougal, he served as the Kansas City closer. MacDougal is a former all-star and the owner of a 3.62 ERA in 199 major league innings.

Assuming the Phils get a reliever in exchange for Rowand then a trade will only move the hole in their roster from the bullpen to the outfield. If Gillick can’t get a proven commodity like MacDougal than he shouldn’t move Rowand. A trade for any thing less than a stud would be a move of desperation.

Rowand responds to Sox rumor
From Yahoo Sports

Rowand talk resurfacing
By Joe Cowley / Chicago Sun-Times

Picture of Aaron Rowand from

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gordon has Doc check on stiff elbow

Tom Gordon traveled today from Clearwater to Philadelphia to visit Phillies team doctor Michael Ciccotti. Gordon has been feeling some stiffness in his elbow that the Phillies wanted to check out. The Phils closer was going to pitch today but there was no game scheduled.

The Phillies spin control team is twisting the doctor’s appointment to be completely normal. "It just made sense for him to go up there," commented assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "We want to check him out. There's nothing alarming about this." Pitching coach Rich Dubee shrugged the news off saying, “We are talking about a guy who's 38, 39 years old…It's been pretty much the same thing; the same kind of stiffness," Dubee said. "His shoulder is fine."

Dubee’s right, stiffness is normal for a pitcher of his age. That’s the problem. Gordon is a great but aging relief pitcher. There doesn’t appear to be a problem yet just reason to be very nervous.

This story underscores why the Phillies need to trade Lieber for a reliever. If one of the Phils starters went on the disabled list everyone would praise Gillick for holding on to Lieber. However, if the Phillies did hold onto Lieber and Gordon injured his elbow than the Phillies would be in a lot of trouble without a closer to stabilize the bullpen.

Gordon for Philadelphia for routine exam
By Ken Mandel /

Phillies downplay Gordon’s visit to doc
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Tom Gordon from

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why $900K

The questions that all of Phillies nation has been asking since the Phillies renewed Ryan Howard’s contract is, Why $900K? The most recent Phillies Phan to join in the chorus of decent is author Mark Bowden. Bowden expressed his opinion in this Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial entitled Pay Up, Phillies. To synopsize the article Bowden believes that the Phillies should have paid Ryan Howard more because he is a great player. He believes the Phillies haven’t shelled out the big buck because of the collective bargaining agreement that governs contracts and poor decisions by the Phillies front office.

I have a few issues with Bowden’s article. The first is the contention that Howard has missed out on years of service time because of Jim Thome. Howard advanced steadily through the minors. In his early professional baseball career he spent one season at Batavia, Lakewood, and Clearwater. In those three seasons he played well but not great. That’s because he was developing, learning, and becoming a better ball player. MVPs don’t grow on trees they take time to grow. After that Howard had one superb season at Reading and Scranton and earned a cup of coffee in the Majors. At this point Howard was ready and he did have to wait behind Jim Thome. Fortunately for the Phillies and for Howard, Thome only played in 59 games for the Phillies that season. In retrospect the 61 games Howard played for Scranton that year wasn’t that long a wait after all.

Second the Phillies did pay Ryan Howard a boatload of money; a boatload of money for a player with two years service time. That $900,000 is the most for any player with one year-plus Major League service time. That $900,000 ties him for the highest salary of a non-arbitration eligible baseball player with Albert Pujols. On top of that even if Howard has a sub par 2007 season he will make a lot of money in arbitration.

Now if I may on behalf of the Phillies organization answer the request in the title of Mark Bowden’s. We did pay him Mark, stick to writing books.

Pay Up, Phillies
By Mark Bowden / Philadelphia Inquirer

The $900,000 Man
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Madson developing third pitch

Last year the Phillies experimented letting Ryan Madson pitch in the starting rotation. That didn’t work out so well. This season Madson will return to the pitching in the bullpen, where he excelled in his first two seasons.

In preparation for the upcoming season Mad Dog has been developing his pitching repertoire. Ryan has a solid mid nineties fast ball and a plus change up. Last season Madson mixed in a curveball that he couldn’t consistently through for strikes. So Madson is dropping the curve and looking to add a third out pitch. Earlier in the off-season Madson was rumored to be working on a slurve or sliding curve. Now he’s let go of slurve and is working on a slider.

"It's a brand-new pitch.” Madson said, “The big thing is trusting it. My fastball and changeup have been good, so I'm working a lot on my slider. If I can get it, it will give me something between my fastball and changeup." Mad Dog’s comments aren’t exactly the whole truth. He used to throw a slider when he was in the minors but replaced it with the curve when he got to the majors.

Personally I don’t think he needs the third pitch. Pitching as a reliever is very different from pitching as a starter. A starter may face the same batter two or three times in one game. Starters need to pitch strategically mixing up their pitches to show the batter different looks. Relievers need to get a batter out only once; they don’t need to worry about the next time. For this reason relief pitchers don’t need to throw a wide array of pitches. A good example of this is one of the best relievers the future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Rivera throws cutters, cutters, and some times a cutter. He doesn’t need to throw anything else because he can get the job done with one pitch.

Madson dropped the slider the first time because it wasn’t a good pitch. There’s no reason to expect that the slider will be any better the second time. I would suggest that he perfects his fastball and changeup. He doesn’t need a third pitch. In the end two great pitches is better than two great pitches and one bad one.

Garcia’s fastball lags as Madson slings slider
By Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Ryan Madson from

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Burrell complains about contacts

Last season Pat Burrell struck out a whopping 131 times. What’s more shocking is the number of times he went down on called third strikes. That led to rampant rumors that Burrell wasn’t seeing the ball. This season after a sub par mandatory spring training vision exam a team doctor suggested that contact lenses could help Burrell.

Pat disagrees. "They don't help me," he whined. "They weren't doing anything. I could understand if I went to the trainer and said I'm not seeing stuff, but they don't help."

Observing from afar it seems that Pat’s biggest problem doesn’t involve eyesight but an over sized ego. Its hard to believe that the contacts don’t allow Burrell to see better. If I were a professional athlete I would want to get every legal advantage that I could get. Pat doesn’t see the contact situation or the baseball the same way.

Burrell struggles with contacts
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Notes: Burrell wearing contacts
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Pat Burrell from Reading Eagle

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Update: Vukovich has passed away

John Vukovich has passed away after losing his fight with cancer. In 2001 Vuke's doctors found a benign brain tumor, which they removed and treated with radiation therapy. Since then the cancer has lingered and now has returned with a vengeance. According to the Associated Press, “Late last year, Vukovich experienced persistent headaches and other symptoms. He was hospitalized in mid-January, although his family and close friends kept his condition guarded, per his request.”

Vuke started his career with the Phillies in 1966 when they selected him tenth overall. John played for ten seasons with the Phillies, Brewers, and Reds. He was also part of the Phillies 1980 World Championship Team. Vukovich has spent the last 18 years as a manager, coach, and front office executive.

Everyone reading this post send out your positive thoughts and prayers to a fellow Phillie and his loved ones.

Brain Tumor has Vuckovich, 59, in grave condition
By the Associated Press

John Vuckovich, 59, longtime Phillies coach, is dead
By the Associated Press

Picture of John Vukovich from the

Monday, March 05, 2007

Phillies will have $95M payroll in ‘07

Since the Phillies started playing in Citizen Bank Park they have consistently had a payroll around $95M. This season that trend will most likely continue with an opening day payroll of about $95,265,200 (Estimate from Todd Zolecki). That number will go up by the end of the season when the Phils bring up minor leaguers and pay out incentives.

One potential move that could save the Phillies a lot of money would be a Jon Lieber trade. Lieber will make $7.5 million dollars in 2007 and depending on the salary of the player that the Phillies receive in a hypothetical trade they could save a bundle.

Below is a breakdown of the Phillies 2007 payroll from Todd Zolecki. The payroll includes the second of four installments that the Phillies owe to the White Sox to help pay for a portion of Jim Thome’s salary.

Pitchers (12 pitchers worth $48.43 million). Freddy Garcia ($10 million), Adam Eaton ($7.875 million), Jon Lieber ($7.5 million), Tom Gordon ($7 million), Jamie Moyer ($7 million), Brett Myers ($5.25 million), Ryan Madson ($1.1 million), Geoff Geary ($837,500), Antonio Alfonseca ($700,000), Cole Hamels ($400,000), Fabio Castro ($383,000), and Matt Smith ($380,000).

Catchers (two catchers worth $2.88 million). Rod Barajas ($2.5 million) and Carlos Ruiz ($380,000).

Infielders (six infielders worth $20.44 million). Jimmy Rollins ($8 million), Chase Utley ($5.5 million, plus perhaps $1 million of a $2 million signing bonus), Wes Helms ($2.55 million), Abraham Nunez ($2.1 million), Ryan Howard ($900,000), and Chris Coste ($385,000) or Greg Dobbs ($385,000).

Outfielders (five outfielders worth $19.31 million). Pat Burrell ($13 million), Aaron Rowand ($4.35 million), Jayson Werth ($850,000), Karim Garcia ($700,000), and Shane Victorino ($410,000).

Other Jim Thome ($5.5 million).

Phillies flirting with $100 million dollar payroll
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Phil’s payroll still in $95M range after big additions and subtractions
By Paul Hagen / Philadelphia Daily News

Picture of Jon Lieber from

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Burrell starting the spring off right

One of the hottest topics of debate for the Phillies this off-season has been Pat Burrell. Can he provide protection for Ryan Howard? Can he cut down on the strikeouts? It's still early in spring training but so far there is reason to be optimistic.

Pat the Bat carried a red-hot stick with him to Clearwater. In his past four games (including the exhibition opener against Florida St.) Burrell has gone 5/8 with 2 double and 2 walks. Experienced Phillies Phans recognize that for Pat, 5/8 hot streaks are par for the course.

Despite that history, Burrell looks like a new man so far this spring training. Last season when he would take a pitch Pat would tense up anticipating the Umpire calling the third strike. In Clearwater this spring, Burrell has taken ball four with a confidence that suggests he is ready to fulfill his potential as a player.

Another reason for optimism is Burrell's performance on the base pads. Last season a gimpy Pat Burrell could muster only a swift trot. In Florida, it appears that Burrell's foot injury has finally healed and that he has recovered some of his quickness. In his most recent game against the Yankees Pat went from first to third on a single with ease and stretched a single in to a double.

Burrell will never steal fifty bases in a season but his improved health could potentially help both his confidence and his batting average. They say that the devil is in the details. After a close examination of Pat Burrell it seems his demons have been exorcised.

Picture of Pat Burrell from

Friday, March 02, 2007

Phils beat tribe

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cleveland Indians, outscoring them 6 to 4. Ryan Howard led the offense knocking a Fausto Carmona offering out of the park and past the Bright House Networks Field fence. The ball eventually landed 15 feet shy of a pond well beyond the park. Pat Burrell contributed with a hit, RBI, run, and walk in three plate appearances. Other notable performances include Abraham Nunez who had 2 RBIs and Shane Victorino who had 2 hits and stolen base.

Brett Myers started and earned the win for the Phillies, throwing 3 innings while giving up four hits and striking out four. The only two runs he gave up came on solo homers by Casey Blake and Kelly Soppach. Justin Germano and JA Happ followed Myers with three perfect innings of work. Madson then pitched the seventh giving up two runs on a home run. Jim Crowell followed Madson holding the game in place and Antonio Alfonseca notched the save securing the Phils victory.

The Phillies will play the Boston Red Sox tomorrow at City of Palms Park. Adam Eaton will start the game for the Phillies.

Box Score from

Howard had a blast with first homer
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Brett Myers form

Phils reach deal with Howard

The Phillies have decided to pay Ryan Howard $900,000 in 2007. That’s a nice $545,000 raise from the $355,000 he made in ‘06. Howard won’t be a free agent until after the 2011 season, but that hasn’t stopped the negotiations for a phat Chase Utley like extension for Howard.

Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke about the contract discussions commenting, "We discussed a variety of things. It is our goal to keep our star players in pinstripes and we're going to work to that end. We didn't get to the finish line on this, but we'll have continued talks on this one."

While Howard’s 2007 salary may seem like an insult, the Phillies actually put him in exceptional company. Howard $900,000 pay check is more than any other player has made with only two years of service time, except for Albert Pujols who also made $900K in 2003.

Howard had a monster season last year. We all know about 58 and 149, but even more impressive are the 108 walks, the .425 OBP, and the 1.084 OPS. Howard hasn't showed any signs of slowing down. Today he hit his first home run of the spring in his second plate Grape Fruit League appearance.

Howard has a blast with first homer
By Ken Mandel /

Phillies renew Howard’s contract
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Phils fall in first Grapefruit League game

The Phillies dropped their first non-exhibition game of the spring scoring only 7 runs to the Detroit Tigers 9. Greg Dobbs had a big game going 3 for 4, including a two-run dinger off of Tiger’s pitcher Dennis Tankersly. Potential bench players Randall Simon and Karim Garcia also contributed with RBI singles.

Jamie Moyer pitched well through two innings but was knocked out in the third after a Gary Sheffield bomb. Fabio Castro relieved Moyer, throwing 3 scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts and no walks. Anderson Garcia, Brian Sanches, and Clay Condrey each threw one inning.

The Phillies were done in by three fielding errors. Wes Helms, Brent Abernathy, and Danny each had a defensive slip showing the rust of spring.

Dobbs goes deep but Phillies fall
By Jason Beck /