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Archive for March, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Starts Monday

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, March 23, 2008 10:52 AM Comments: 1

Opening Day for Phillies Nation Fantasy Baseball is Monday, so make sure you’re ready. The drafts will be held tomorrow around 8pm (check your league for the exact time) on account of the Red Sox-Athletics series in Japan this week. If you are already signed up, don’t forget to show up to your draft or pre-select your players beforehand.

If you have not yet accepted your invitation, please do so today. Last week you should have received an email from “espnfantasy” with a link to sign up. If you registered on Phillies Nation, but have yet to receive that email, please contact us .

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Grapefruiting: Touring BrightHouse Field

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 22, 2008 10:40 PM Comments: 1

It’s been a slow day from Clearwater, but hey, that won’t stop me.

Today, I got my first real glimpse at BrightHouse Field — named after BrightHouse Networks, which is a communications corporation here in Florida — and hey, it’s a damn nice place to catch a game.

In short, BrightHouse Field is modeled after Citizens Bank Park in a way. From first base to third base, a concourse under a balcony features everything you need — a clothing/pro shop, food, drink. It’s here you older fans can grab one of 50 beers at Beers of the World. There I had Shock Top, the Budweiser answer to Blue Moon (a Coors beer) in the Belgian white ale genre. I also grabbed myself a Lager, but was sort of disappointed by the exchange in ordering:

Tim: Can I have a lager?
Server: What kind?
Tim: (mutters “ugh”) Yuengling.
Server: Sure.
Tim: (being an asshole) In Philly, if you just ask for a ‘lager’, they know you’re asking for a Yuengling.
Server: Oh, well we have a lot of lagers here.

The server was nice though, and hopefully she didn’t think I was being an asshole, but hey, it happens. At that point, however, I was tipsy enough not to know if I was being an asshole or not. Bottom line: They serve Yuengling!

The outfield features the giant tiki bar (Frenchy’s), then a long walkway straddling the lawn (divided by the centerfield catcher’s eye). Families take to the lawn. I met a couple families there, most of them not really Phillies fans, but catching the game for the heck of it. In fact, one father had his 9-year-old son with him, and it was the kid’s first game. Both the father and kid were cool, but come on, 9 years old and his first game?! That’s a travesty.

Phillies fans were great. I talked to a bunch of them, and most of them were optimistic about the team this year. As well we should be. We can argue about the fifth starter and middle relief situations, and we can worry about the thin hitting this spring, but hey — we’re healthy, we’re talented and we’re defending a division crown. To me, this is at least an 85-win team, and — no, I’m not drinking the Kool Aid — we can top out at 100 wins. So, as an early predicition (with a full one coming in a week and change), we’re a 92-win team.

BrightHouse Field is gorgeous. It’s the perfect venue for Florida baseball, and I recommend it for both Phillies fans and for regular Floridians. Hopefully, we’ll all come back to BrightHouse next year wearing our World Champion T-shirts. I have a small feeling — yes, it’s there — that we will.

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Grapefruiting: Rosario Lost To DL

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 22, 2008 06:19 PM Comments: 2

One of the better stories of the spring has landed on the DL. Francisco Rosario, according to Todd Zolecki, is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder. He pitched well — for the most part — and was a finalist for one of the final bullpen spots.

After Chad Durbin seemingly won a spot today, two spots remained open. Despite Pat Gillick’s admission that the final spots were coming from the outside, Rosario seemed primed to possibly gain one of the spots. Now it’s down to Travis Blackley, Clay Condrey, Vic Darensbourg and JD Durbin. Blackley struggled today; Condrey may sneak in; Darensbourg was an outside shot but looks better each day; Durbin is weak.

With this latest happening, it seems a few things could happen:

  • Durbin would grab one of the two spots because of his right-handed status.
  • Condrey and Darensbourg would get the final spots.
  • Darensbourg would get one spot, with another coming from outside the organization.

It’s hard to tell what will happen; I’m content with Condrey and Darensbourg as a short-term solution (both have been good enough this spring). But once June rolls around, this bullpen had better look completely different; as it stands, middle relief remains the Phillies major weakness.

Mike Zagurski and Scott Mathieson joined Rosario on the DL, retroactive to March 21 (the last time Rosario pitched). Zagurski and Mathieson aren’t surprise additions — both could be ready for action by late-May.

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Grapefruiting: Phillies No-Hit Tigers … Sort Of

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 22, 2008 03:40 PM Comments: 0

Sadly, my initiation into BrightHouse Field was short-lived. The Phillies/Tigers game today was called due to rain after 3 innings.

It sucks, obviously, as I paid a boatload (more like a battleship-load) for this weekend trip; however, I’m taking it as it comes, and it was great being in BrightHouse Field (which is a great high-A venue) and talking to a bunch of fans.

What I did see was a fantastic three innings by Chad Durbin. It was a perfect three innings. He punched out Magglio Ordonez on three pitches — the last being a beautiful curveball that rested in Chris Coste’s glove on the outside corner for a picture-perfect backwards-K. After this outing, it’s safe to say Durbin has won a spot on the 25-man roster, and will be the long-relief man in the bullpen. He’ll be the first guy in the rotation after the inevitable Adam Eaton screw-up.

At this point, the only holes the Phillies really need to fill are the two middle relief bullpen positions. One should go to Francisco Rosario, who has done enough to earn a right-handed sixth inning job. The other is still a toss-up. Travis Blackley did nothing to secure his position, nailing Curtis Granderson in the head and walking another batter before being called back to the dugout during the rainstorm. If I had to put money on it, I’d say Blackley lost a job today, and Vic Darensbourg is on the 25-man roster with Rosario. But Pat Gillick did say the final two spots aren’t even on the roster yet. While that quote seems obscure, I still think you’ll see Rosario and Darensbourg join Durbin and Eaton on the 25-man.

Get used to it, fans:

Myers/Hamels/Moyer/Kendrick/Eaton

Durbin/Rosario/Darensbourg/Madson/Romero/Gordon/Lidge

Unless Gillick stuns us all and is able to move Helms, this is our 12-man pitching staff on March 31. (Which isn’t bad, it’s just not World Championship-caliber.)

The Phillies manufactured just one run in the three innings, with Pat Burrell and Pedro Feliz knocking hits before Geoff Jenkins walked off Kenny Rogers. Coste sac-flied Burrell home; Durbin and Rollins couldn’t get clutch runs home. I’m a tad worried about Rollins (and Chase Utley, who was 0-2 in this game), but they’re proven enough that it’s merely slow start.

That’s the “game-wrap.” Tomorrow I’ll catch the Phils-Blue Jays game in Dunedin, weather permitting. I’ll have more updates as the day progresses.

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Eaton Solid In Phils Win

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 22, 2008 10:14 AM Comments: 2

Yesterday, Adam Eaton took another big step to securing the fifth starter role for good, giving up one run on four hits in 5.1 innings. He struck our four and walked none.

The Phillies beat the Twins 3-2 on Carlos Ruiz’s ninth inning sacrifice fly. Vic Darensbourg recorded the save.

Eaton looks to have wrapped up the fifth starter spot, despite struggling mightily to open the spring … and all of 2007. Just a reminder, however: Eaton has pitched well … but just against the Twins. Let’s see how he does against other teams — teams we’ll actually play in 2008.

The offense didn’t do much, again, but Shane Victorino hit an RBI triple. Also pitching, JC Romero gave up a run in over an inning, and Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth.

What we got out of this game:

  1. Adam Eaton is damn close to cleaning up his mess.
  2. Vic Darensbourg might very well snap up a roster spot.
  3. That offense needs more pick-me-up.

Today it’s the Tigers in town for a 1:05 p.m. game. Chad Durbin is on the mound, and I’m on the lawn! I’ll give you a full recap after the game!

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Grapefruiting: Prospect Notes

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 22, 2008 02:42 AM Comments: 2

More tidbits from today’s Minor League workouts and games:

* I found Pete LaForest’s biggest fan. She’s a Minor League baseball card photographer (actual job title). She works practically everyday, mainly shooting the players in the Appalachian League. During the spring, however, she comes to Florida to shoot. Today was one of three days off this month for her, so obviously, she watched a baseball game.

The photographer wouldn’t stop talking about LaForest, the AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs backup catcher. She first met him when he was 16 as a Braves prospect. Back then, he knew “not a word of English.” She said LaForest was a kind man who loved children — one of the few men who are good “both on the field and outside the lines.” Once she yelled for LaForest’s attention, he responded with a smile and a “what are you doing here?”

* It’s amazing how up close you get to the players at Spring Training. At least during Minor League morning workouts, you’re walking past top prospects. Carlos Carrasco breezed by me, then embraced an older man with a bear hug. Adrian Cardenas chatted with some fans just feet from me. One of the big attractions was Joe Savery, and he stopped and signed for fans.  I walked past JA Happ, who greeted a friend of his. Scott Palmer rushed by me to do some PR work.

* Of course, some fans like being very close. Some autograph seekers are incredibly dedicated, maybe to the point where it’s scary — grown men and women over 40 sneaking up to men at around 20 just for their signatures. I was a big autograph guy — but as a child.

* Dominic Brown is a towering, athletic man. He’s an outfielder ranked high in the Phillies prospect sheets, and he should make a huge impact once called to the show. He’ll likely start the year in A-ball, but his nice, fluid swing looks pretty enough to put him in AA right now.

* I was impressed with Jeremy Slayden, who rocked a couple balls deep into the outfield abyss. Jason Donald and Brad Harman hit with him and also impressed — their shots were either sliced up the gut or lined down the line.

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Grapefruiting: The Jayson Werth Slump

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, March 21, 2008 09:10 PM Comments: 0

7/40: Jayson Werth isn’t having a sterling spring.

To his defense, 2007 Spring Training wasn’t a grand ol’ time for Werth either: He went 11/40. Not great, but not bad. Hitting .175 is bad.

Last season, however, he started slow and stayed in neutral for a good while. It wasn’t until a 5-for-5 game against the Padres Aug. 26 — yes, Aug. 26 — that Werth started really knocking the ball. After that game, something struck, and the next night against the Mets, he went 4-for-4. Those two nights lifted his average from .270 to .312. For the most part, Werth was about a .260 hitter last season — only the final month of the year made him a standout player (looking back, Werth was a huge reason the team rallied to win the division).

One big difference between the Werth who hit .260 and the Werth who was on a tear in September is playing time. In September, Werth started almost every game in right field, as Shane Victorino still ailed. The answer, then, might be to play Werth everyday.

Or the answer is how you play Werth. Against lefties last season, Werth went .375 with 5 HR and 22 RBI. In almost twice as many plate appearances, against righties Werth hit .257 with 3 HR and 27 RBI. But in 2005, Werth hit .239 against lefties. Then again, in 2004, it was .290. How inconsistent can you get?

Today in Clearwater, Werth played with the AAA squad against Toronto, and while he swung well, he wasn’t hitting anything too fair. Interestingly, after an at bat with the AAA squad, Werth would walk over to the A field and park himself in the on deck circle, then come to the plate in that game. One fan said this was just him “getting his work in.” I say he’s trying to find something.

Obviously Werth seems to hit lefties better, which is why the Geoff Jenkins deal made sense. And obviously Werth isn’t an everyday player — yet there’s evidence when he plays everyday, he’s very good. But the not-so-obvious thing is what’s going through Werth’s mind. He could actually lose his job with the Phillies; he probably won’t, but it’s a possibility. Is he forcing it? Is he blowing his own mind?

From what I saw today, there’s reason to be concerned.

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Grapefruiting: Myers’ Hot Start Reveals Possible Rebirth

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, March 21, 2008 05:08 PM Comments: 3

While Adam Eaton was continuing to prove us doubters wrong with a strong outing in a 3-2 win, I got to see our Opening Day starter — Brett Myers — take the mound against the AAA-level Toronto Blue Jays in a Minor League game. Myers and Jayson Werth paired with AAA Lehigh Valley. (I’ll have more on a slumping Werth later.)

Myers was brilliant through six innings, using his curveball well and painting his fastball. Toronto didn’t score as Myers gave up (about) three hits and a walk. Then, in the seventh, he unraveled, giving up three runs while becoming more and more unfocused and frustrated. It’s no big deal — it seems Myers just wanted to get his day finished without any damage, and a few clean hits and long at bats rattled him. Let me say this — for what I saw, Myers looks ready to be the man this year.

Clearly his spring stats show outstanding play (11 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K), but there’s something to be said about his makeup. Before we knew Myers as the wife-beater and the bully; this year he’s turned into somewhat of a leader. I keep going back to the Kyle Kendrick prank as a turning point — the man who bitched out a reporter last season was now working with the media to pie-face a teammate. Sure it’s small potatoes, but you can’t help but admire Myers’ efforts toward responsibility. If it factors into gameplay is another thing; for now, you have to be happy with how Myers has performed both as a starter and as a teammate.

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Grapefruiting: Quick Hits On Clearwater

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, March 21, 2008 03:53 PM Comments: 0

Welcome to Phillies Nation at Clearwater, Part II! I’m finally settled in my hotel room after a long day (actually, a long two days — I haven’t slept since Wednesday night). Let me say this — Clearwater is fantastic. If you haven’t done it, do it now.

I’ll have more posts throughout the day and weekend; for now, here are first thoughts on Clearwater:

* Tampa International Airport is a breeze. From exiting my plane to actually exiting the airport via my rental car, about 18 minutes passed.

* When you drive into Clearwater from Tampa, you take a causeway — a very long strip of road that flies you right into town. Want to feel awesome? Roll down the windows and blast some tunes while going 70 on the causeway on a beautiful, sunny day. You’ll feel amazing in no time. (By the way, the high today was 78 with no clouds.)

* It didn’t quite hit me that I was in Clearwater until about three hours into my time in Clearwater.

* The Carpenter Complex is a fantastic venue. You’ve heard of the fields (Schmidt, Roberts, Carlton and Ashburn), but the truth is the four fields are practically touching, with just the awkward-shaped facility/clubhouse in the middle. You can jet from one game to another to another to another within 30 seconds.

* Staff and fans are wonderful. Forget what pundits and analysts say about Philadelphia fans; we’re dedicated and spirited folk.

* I bought a Phillies hat at Brighthouse Networks Field (a gorgeous park) and standing in front of me in line — Joe Savery’s mother and sister.

* Didn’t explore quite yet; I’ll hit Clearwater beach next before going out for the night with some friends. But I’ll be sure to hit all the big local bars and restaurants.

This is a great place, and I implore every Phillies fan to come down at some point in their lives.

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Spring Training

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 21, 2008 12:15 PM Comments: 0

No matter if a team is doing well or not in March, one can always ask, “Is Spring Training really that important?” In the Phillies particular case this pre-season, the question is, “Should we be concerned by their 9-13 record?” I always tend to think we should because of how it helped the 1993 team start the season and hold onto first place throughout the year. Certainly though a good Spring does not equate to a playoff season; here is how the Phillies have fared the past 5 years:Clearwater

10-17 – 2003 – 86-76
10-21 – 2004 – 86-76
11-18 – 2005 – 88-74
19-11 – 2006 – 85-77
11-18 – 2007 – 89-73
9-13 – 2008 – ??-??

Only once in that period did the Phillies leave Florida with a winning record but that was the same year they had the least amount of wins in the regular season.

Based on the short trip we made to Clearwater earlier in the week, I would say the Phillies record does not accurately reflect their progress in Spring Training. Unlike last year, Ryan Howard was swinging the bat well and Chase and Jimmy were circling the bases constantly. Even Adam Eaton had a solid outing on Saturday against the Twins. They did lose six straight games and gave up a lot of runs two weeks ago, but the pitching staff seems to have settled down since then. So this year, I’m not as worried as I normally am. At this point, I’m just excited for the season to start.

Spring Training is important because it is fun. Check out our photos from the trip, including the St. Patrick’s Day win over the Indians. Also, below are a few videos of the sights we saw and people we met along the way (click “Browse Video List” to see the full set).

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