Archive for March, 2008

JD Durbin Placed On Waivers; Phils Carrying 10 Pitchers

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 27, 2008 10:56 AM Comments: 5

All the talk about JD Durbin being part of the Phillies early bullpen has quickly gone awry — the right-hander was placed on waivers today.

Durbin was passable for the Phillies in 2007, going 6-5 with a 5.15 ERA in 64.2 innings. This spring, however, was horrible for Durbin, as he gave up runs almost every time out.

Concerns for Durbin have focused on his mentality — he’s a 15-year-old boy in a 26-year-old body. That mentality might be OK for a guy like Brett Myers, who has fantastic stuff, but not for an AAA-quality arm like Durbin.

Durbin’s exit means the Phillies only have 10 pitchers on the Opening Day roster: Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Tom Gordon. With the Phillies shopping Wes Helms for a possible reliever (Steve Kline was the main target, but supposedly a deal fell apart), the Durbin move could be signaling a transaction is near.

Of course, the Phillies may not be that close. It’s possible they could place Helms and OF Chris Snelling on the Opening Day roster, giving the club 15 hitters. Brad Lidge is set to return April 5, and Francisco Rosario would be back around then too. Adding those two would make Snelling and Helms expendable again, balancing the roster out to 13 and 12.

Either way, the pitching situation is a problem. No pitcher was good enough to break camp, and no transaction made during the offseason fixed the bullpen woes. Now the Phillies have a sticky situation on their hands — go outside for an uncertainty or wait out the injured. Both options are potentially rotten.


Myers, Carpenter Shine In Win Over Yankees

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 27, 2008 01:24 AM Comments: 3

Brett Myers is ready for Opening Day.

In his final outing before taking the mound at Citizens Bank Park against the Washington Nationals, Myers mowed down the New York Yankees en route to an easy 4-0 win. Myers pitched five innings, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out three. Moreover, Myers induced nine ground outs to three fly outs. He’s painting corners, hitting spots — he’s a pitcher. Good, good news.

Oh, and then Andrew Carpenter came in and threw four scoreless frames. He made Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez ground out (the MVP grounded into a double play) before striking out Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Wilson Betemit in succession. The 22-year-old surrendered two hits while striking out six Yankees. A very impressive game for the AA-bound right-hander.

All of the Phillies runs came in the second inning, as they tattooed starter Chien-Ming Wang for four runs.  Jimmy Rollins’ two-run single was the big blow in the successful frame that also saw RBI by Jayson Werth and Brett Myers. Pat Burrell had two hits and Geoff Jenkins had three hits to improve his spring average to .254.

Next for the Phillies is the Grapefruit League finale against the Tigers, in Lakeland. Adam Eaton throws for the good guys while Kenny Rogers goes for the Detroit nine. After the game, the players will get their bags together quickly — it’ll be back to Philadelphia from there.


Kline, Stanton Rumored For Helms

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 26, 2008 10:36 AM Comments: 11

Paul Hagen is reporting the Phillies have been in talks with the Giants and Reds about Wes Helms. With the Giants, the target is seemingly LHP Steve Kline. With the Reds, Hagen says it’s LHP Mike Stanton.

In both cases, I ask, “why?”

The Phils already have a grizzled veteran LOOGY in Vic Darensbourg. Clay Condrey (lifetime AVG against lefties) and JC Romero round out the lefty contingent in the bullpen.

Here’s what I wrote about Kline:

Kline will cost $1.85MM this season, which means the Phillies may have to eat $1MM. Not terrible. Kline, 34, is from Sunbury, Pa. (near Bloomsburg University), and carries a career 3.51 ERA. 2007, however, was his worst season since his rookie year. He went 1-2 in 46 innings with a 4.70 ERA and a rough 1.652 WHIP. And lefties hit .318 off him last season — that isn’t promising (career lefty AVG is .238). Kline would probably work in a limited role, like a mirror image of Francisco Rosario. Would Vic Darensbourg be that much worse? I also found this quote from Kline about being booed in Baltimore: “There’s nothing worse than getting booed at home. St. Louis fans are too good for that. They understand the game more than most people.” Sounds like trouble, eh?

For the 40-year-old Stanton, it’s as simple as his 5.93 ERA last year with the Reds. I’m much more comfortable going with Darensbourg, whose spring stats weren’t that bad. Lefties are hitting .243 off him, which could be better, but isn’t bad.

The main argument, however, for me being against these moves is the Phillies really need a right-handed middle reliever. Currently, it’s JD Durbin out there, and I have no faith in him anymore. It’s likely they’d rather wait on Francisco Rosario to get healthy, but is that the smart move? Why not have a seasoned righty to balance a seasoned lefty like a Darensbourg?

With Helms, it’s true we should be happy with what we get, but they’re pointing the dart just a bit off center here.


We Still Have Benson, But Not Zagurski

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 26, 2008 09:21 AM Comments: 0

Kris Benson is still with the Phillies, if you haven’t heard. He could’ve opted out of his contract yesterday if he wasn’t on the 40-man roster. Well, Benson isn’t on the 40-man roster, but he’s still here.

“The winning attitude here, the excitement going into the season, it’s all a win-win situation from my standpoint. From their standpoint, they have another starting pitcher they can count on down the road.”

That was Benson to Todd Zolecki.. Benson’s agent said Kris wants to be a Phillie.

  • Also, Mike Zagurski is seeking a second opinion after being told he would need Tommy John surgery to fix his left elbow.

It’s a huge blow to the 22-year-old who ascended to Philadelphia last season, but it’s not a surprise — Zagurski shot up the ranks quickly right after ending his University of Kansas career. There’s a lot of miles on that 22-year-old elbow.


Lukas: Phils Alternate Uniform ‘Gorgeous’

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 25, 2008 07:32 PM Comments: 2

Nice little tidbit in Paul Lukas’ “Uni Watch” column, which is, for me, the must-read of all Page 2 content. He’s incredibly thorough, knowledgeable and tasteful. And he is the No. 1 resource for uniforms.

Here’s the nugget about the Phillies new alternate uniforms:

Jimmy Rollins New Uniform

It is Uni Watch’s sad duty to announce that the Phillies have scrapped the cool alternate cap they’ve been wearing for interleague games in recent years. On the plus side, they’ve unveiled a new throwback alternate uniform, based on the team’s late-’40s uni, which will be worn for selected home games. It’s flat-out gorgeous, with the exception of one small fly in the ointment: The uni numbers on the original design looked like this, so why is the throwback version going with this?

I agree with Lukas — the uniform is spectacular. I adore that off-cream color (the Giants’ home unis are of the same shade) and the blue trim just makes the whole design pop.

It’s interesting that the Phillies haven’t had too many uniform variations despite their long history. And looking through the history, I would only stack the mid-1920s version against the current alternate style, which was the norm in the 1940s. Yeah, Lukas is right.


JD Durbin And Clay Condrey Are Last Men Standing

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 25, 2008 05:47 PM Comments: 9

Big doings today, as reported by David Murphy and Todd Zolecki :

Travis Blackley was sent to waivers — a failed Rule V experiment. He started strong this spring, but ran out of steam as last cuts approached. His last appearance came with a plunk of Curtis Granderson — sending him to the 15-day DL — and a walk.

Vic Darensbourg and Gary Knotts were reassigned to AAA Lehigh Valley.

That means meet the new boss … same as the old boss: Clay Condrey, last year’s long man, is this year’s sixth inning guy. And JD Durbin, who did everything he could not to win a spot, is the mop-up guy.

How is this possible? Is there that much hope in JD Durbin? Did they really need to hold onto a right-handed pitcher? Durbin threw away his shot at the 25-man roster yesterday, if he didn’t already last week when his ERA inflated. Durbin isn’t necessarily a lost cause, but right now, he’s not the man for the job — not on a World Series contending club.

Maybe Pat Gillick is firing up the old burner to grab a righty for Wes Helms. I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t have a problem with Condrey — he’s settled into a groove this spring and has been relatively effective. But Durbin? Come on. Contenders shouldn’t need mop-up pitchers.

Meanwhile, Blackley is bye-bye, and that’s a shame, as he was still workable, unlike Durbin. Darensbourg will likely get a taste of Philadelphia sooner than later as a left-handed specialist.

As it stands, Condrey and Durbin will make the team, as they can’t go into Opening Day with four or five relievers. An 11-man staff means a 14-man bench, which means Chris Snelling, Wes Helms and Rey Olmedo (lest I forget) are challenging for the final spot. If Helms is dealt, Snelling wins. If Helms isn’t dealt, he’s on the roster. Simple as that.


Durbin Bottoms Out In Loss

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 25, 2008 11:08 AM Comments: 3

Looks like the JD Durbin era is finished in Philadelphia.

“The Real Deal” surrendered six runs in an inning during the Phils 13-4 loss to the Yankees yesterday at Legends Field in Tampa. Before him, Jamie Moyer went four innings and gave up three runs, including a home run to Jason Giambi. Moyer struck out three, throwing 44 strikes out of 77 pitches.

Moyer will get one more start this spring — in the second exhibition tilt against Toronto.

After the trash Durbin posted, Vic Darensbourg hurt his chances at an Opening Day spot with a garish sixth. He gave up three earned runs on five hits while striking out two. Gary Knotts and Tom Gordon pitched hitless innings each, with both collecting two Ks.

Pedro Feliz hit his fourth homer in the game, driving home three total runs. Chris Snelling got time as DH and went 0-4 with two strikeouts. Wes Helms went 0-1. Currently, they’re battling for a possible 14th hitter spot with Lidge starting the year on the DL.

Today, Kyle Kendrick will face the Reds at 1:05 p.m. Ryan Madson, JC Romero and Chad Durbin are also set to throw. Durbin is also slated for an exhibition game Friday against Toronto, meaning he’s on two-days rest, meaning he’s in the bullpen.

Travis Blackley and Clay Condrey will also go tomorrow when Adam Eaton pitches. Both will be pitching for their 25-man roster lives then.

Here’s what my roster looks like:
Hitters: Ruiz, Coste, Howard, Utley, Feliz, Rollins, Dobbs, Bruntlett, Burrell, Victorino, Jenkins, Werth, Taguchi
Pitchers: Myers, Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Eaton, C. Durbin, Madson, Romero, Gordon

With three spots still open, here’s who’s left to battle:
Hitters: Helms, Snelling
Pitchers: Condrey, JD Durbin, Darensbourg, Blackley

My new prediction: Helms is rostered but offered heavily; Condrey and Blackley make the team.


Lidge Goes To DL

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 24, 2008 03:34 PM Comments: 5

Todd Zolecki reports Brad Lidge has been placed on the DL, retroactive to March 21. He could return as early as April 5.

Despite what Lidge says, he’s not quite ready to start Opening Day. That could be true. What could also be true is the Phils don’t know who to cut and who to keep on the Opening Day roster between Travis Blackley, Clay Condrey and Vic Darensbourg. Putting Lidge on the DL keeps a 25-man roster spot open for the first week of the season. Possibly, Condrey and Blackley get another week to prove themselves worthy of hanging on.

Tom Gordon will take over as closer to start 2008, which isn’t the novel idea, but judging by his strong performance in Dunedin yesterday, it’s not a completely lost cause. He just needs to keep the ball down.


Grapefruiting: More on Dunedin

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 24, 2008 11:58 AM Comments: 1

I got back home around midnight and was dead tired (waking up when my roommate called, still in Tampa, to inform me with elation that he just partied with Dontrelle Willis). Anywho, here are some notes from the Sunday game in Dunedin:

* Knology Park is your run-of-the-mill Florida State League venue. It’s sparse, has a few concession stands and has a pretty friendly, family atmosphere. Not a bad place to watch a game. I sat down low; good view.

* Fans at Dunedin were nice. Their big tradition is the seventh-inning stretch, where their “best beer man in the world” leads a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” with a kid on top of his shoulders. Fun times.

* The area surrounding Knology Park is pretty seedy — construction, dirt lots and low-cost housing everywhere. I’m sure Dunedin isn’t too bad a place, but what I saw wasn’t anything to write home about.

* Large baseball cards featuring Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez and George Bell hang from the seating bowl in the concourse. Guys: Time to update that.


Grapefruiting: Bats Alive In 15-7 Romp

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, March 23, 2008 05:43 PM Comments: 7

It was a hot day at Knology Park in Dunedin; whether it was the blazing sun above or the Phillies bats that made it so hot … well that’s the question.

The Phils won 15-7 over the Blue Jays, doing a fine job offensively while receiving some surprising contributions from Minor Leaguer Jason Donald. The 2B/SS, who was reassigned to Minor League camp earlier this spring, got a chance to play with the boys and delivered with two three-run home runs, both well-struck balls that were no doubters. Donald received a standing ovation after his second tater, which brought home Ray Olmedo and So Taguchi.

Early contributions came from Chase Utley, who knocked a first inning home run; Geoff Jenkins, who pulled a double down the right field line (I was hoping with the runner being held on first, Jenkins would hit one through the hole; he decided to go line dancing, and what a call); and Wes Helms, who provided two RBI later on.

Cole Hamels pitched 5.1 innings, unraveling in the sixth for five earned. He gave up a triple to Vernon Wells in the fourth, but held him there after a fantastic strikeout to Frank Thomas (killing Hurt with a changeup and an awesome fastball). Marco Scutaro homered off him in the fifth, and in the sixth, Wells burned him for a double before the wheels came off. For the most part, however, Hamels looked pretty good — though some of the Jays’ hits were real nice shots.

Clay Condrey stumbled in the seventh after letting in another of Hamels’ runs in the sixth. He struck out two, but gave up four hits and a walk. Time to let Clay go.

Tom Gordon was the welcome sight, striking out the side in the eighth after a scary moment where he seemed to show injury. Gordon’s curve was on point and the fastball remained low. Good sign.

Of course, Jason Donald was the story, and his big day was a welcome sight for the young man poised to start 2008 in AA Reading. Seeing him strike some balls Friday opened my eyes to the kid; clearly he’s the real deal. With Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins both blocking his path, I hope he can learn to play third base or left field. Both seem like a feasable option, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he was starting in left — ready to take over third — by May 2009.

What we got out of this game:

  1. Jason Donald is a damn good prospect, kids.
  2. Cole Hamels will be ready for Opening Day, no doubt.
  3. Tom Gordon was on, and when he is, he’s good.

We also learned sunblock was necessary at Knology Field. I sat very close to the plate, getting a good burn all day long. No block = lobster skin. My flight leaves soon; I’ll blog later about the final day of my trip, but until then, here’s to aloe.

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