April 2009

Rivalry Weekend

Tomorrow is the start of a new month (brilliant deduction, I realize).

Tomorrow also is significant for a few reasons:

**Cole is going to test his sprained left ankle in a pre-game bullpen session.

**Brad is doing the same for his ailing right knee.  A lot of eyes will be focused on the bullpen.  

**The Phillies-Mets rivalry for this season gets underway at Citizens Bank Park.  It may not match the Red Sox-Yankees but it is darn close.  National media makes such a big deal about the Red Sox-Yankees and national TV is there for every one of their games.  At least is seems that way.

“Let’s Go Mets” will be met this weekend with the best “boo” Philadelphians can muster.  It should be a fun weekend because these are two very good ball clubs with two passionate fan bases. 

April Exits

Tonight’s our final game of April.  For J-Roll, Brad, Cole and Cooch, the month of May will be welcome because the first month of the season hasn’t been kind to this quartet.

J-Roll struggled at the plate most of the month.  He was quoted a couple of days ago that he’ll hit .400 next month.  Don’t doubt him.

Brad saw his consecutive save streak end, which was inevitable. It was a matter of time.  But, his right knee is bothering him and that’s a concern.  Todd Zolecki will keep everyone informed of the daily status.

Cole got a late spring start because of a tender elbow, left a game last Thursday when he took a batted ball off his left shoulder and left last night’s game with a sprained left ankle, his push-off ankle.  He said he won’t miss his next start, Monday in St. Louis.

Cooch, also known as Carlos Ruiz, is on the DL with a muscle strain in his right side.  He felt discomfort a couple of nights ago on his rehab assignment at Lehigh Valley.  He’s scheduled to play for Reading tonight.

Injuries are part of any sport.  Good teams ride through them.  The season is a long marathon and any time out of action for Brad, Cole or Cooch now is better than later in the season.  Remember, Brad started last season on the DL.  We all know what happened the rest of the season and postseason.

Grand Slam Note
Howard’s grand slam two nights ago was career #6.  He’s tied with four others on the Phillies all-time list and trails the leader Mike Schmidt by one.

Ryan is doing remarkable things in a remarkable short period of time.  2009 is his sixth in the big leagues.

Other Phillies with 6 career slams include Cy Williams, who played 13 years with us; Chuck Klein (15 years), Willie Jones (13) and Bobby Abreu (8-plus).  Schmidt spent all of his 18 years in Philadelphia.

Prospect Blog
Reading centerfielder Quintin Berry has his own blog, an inside view of being a minor league player.


Minor League Review, April 26


Weekly Minor League Review
April 20-26

Players of the Week
 **Pitcher:  RHP Michael Stutes, Reading.  1-0 for 1 start, 6 innings on Friday, 2 ground ball hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, 0 3-ball counts.  For the season, he’s 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA for 3 starts.  Selected in the 11th round a year ago out of Oregon State University, the 21-year-old is 10-2 in 16 pro starts, winning 10 of last 11 decisions.
 **Player:  SS Freddy Galvis, Clearwater.  Hit .417 in 6 games and led the organization with 10 hits, all singles.  Hit safely in last 5 games, including a 4-hit game on Sunday.  Average raised from .208 to .292 in the 5 games.  For the season, hitting .290, 12 runs, 4 steals.  The 19-year-old was signed as an amateur free agent in 2006 out of Venezuela.

Tuesday Punch Outs: Three right-handed pitchers had double-digit strikeout games: Lakewood’s Jason Knapp, 14 (7 innings), Lehigh Valley’s Carlos Carrasco, 10 (7 IP) and Clearwater’s Kyle Drabek, 10 (6.2 IP) . . . Kapp’s performance tied the Lakewood record set in 2001 by RHP Robinson Tejeda . . . Knapp was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week by MiLB.com.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs
2-4; 5th place, International League North Division . . . OF John Mayberry, .389, 1 homer, 5 RBI . . . INF Pablo Ozuna, .389 . . . RHP Justin Lehr was the IL Pitcher of the Week (Apr. 13-19) after 2-0 start; he won his third straight on Friday . . . Carrasco was 0-2 in 2 starts, 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings and his first 3 walks of the season.  After 2 positive starts, he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning in Sunday’s defeat . . . Three right-handers are anchoring the bullpen: Gary Majewski, Mike Koplove and Tyler Walker; combined (for the season) they’ve allowed 2 earned runs in 25.2 innings, while striking out 18 with 3 holds and 2 saves.

Reading Phillies
4-2; 2nd place, Eastern League Southern Division . . . OF Michael Taylor had a 4-hit game in 11 innings on Thursday, boosting his average from .229 to .293; half of the hits were homers, including the game-winner . . . SS Ozzie Chavez and OF Mike Spidale also had 4-hit games . . . LHP Antonio Bastardo picked up his second save on Tuesday and started his first game on Saturday, 5 hitless innings with 3 strikeouts . . . LHP Sergio Escalona picked up back-to-back saves, #4-5 . . . LH reliever Matt German had 2 scoreless outings; hasn’t allowed a run in 9.2 innings during the season, 4 hits and 16 strikeouts . . . OF Gus Milner was placed on the DL (left oblique muscle strain) . . . LHP Mike Zagurski was promoted from Clearwater.

Ouch: Reading Phillies photographer Ralph Trout was hit on the head by a flying bat on Friday night, was treated at the hospital and returned to action the next night.  As Tony Zonca humorously reported on readingphillies.com: “Yes, you could say Ralph took his own head shot.” 

Clearwater Threshers
4-2; 2nd place, Florida State League North Division . . . C Tim Kennelly played third base one game; for the week he hit .437 in 5 games . . . LF Derrick Mitchell had a 2-homer game on Saturday; went 5-8 in last 2 games, 5 runs, 4 RBI . . . OF Dominic Brown, .304 week on 7 hits . . . RHP Kyle Drabek (3-0) allowed 2 earned runs in first 3 starts before giving up 4 in 5.2 innings during a no decision on Sunday . . . LHP Yohan Flande, 1-0 for 1 start, 6 innings, 2 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts; he’s allowed 1 unearned run in 18 total innings during the season with 17 strikeouts . . .  RHP Chance Chapman, 2 relief outings, 1-0, 5.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 earned runs, 5 strikeouts . . . RH closer Jared Simon recorded 4th save . . . League Leader: Drabek, 24.1 innings, 30 strikeouts.

Lakewood BlueClaws
4-1; .018 out of first place in South Atlantic League Northern Division . . . 2B Harold Garcia, .400 with 2 triples among 6 hits . . . INF Jesus Villegas was 5-7 in last 2 games to boost average to .467; he lacks enough at-bats to qualify for the SAL lead . . . C Travis D’Arnaud, 6 RBI on 5 hits, including 3 doubles . . . RHP Jon Velasquez made his first start and improved to 4-0 . . . LHP Justin DeFratus, converted to a reliever, pitched twice, 4 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts . . . RHP Jesus Sanchez, converted from catcher to pitcher last fall, picked up first win as a starter on Thursday, 5 shutouts innings, 9 strikeouts, including the first 5 batters . . . RHP Tim Cloyd, fanned 9 in 7-shutout innings on Saturday but had a no-decision . . . League Leaders:  Valesquez, tied with 4 wins . . . Knapp, 30 strikeouts . . . 3B Travis Mattair, 18 walks . . . CF Anthony Gose, 11 stolen bases . . . Cloyd, tied, 24.1 innings . . . Garcia, tied, 3 triples.


Strange Game

Three weeks are in the books.  Not a normal three-week span by any stretch of the imagination.

Baseball can be a strange game:

**We were nearly no-hit by Dave Bush last Thursday at home.  The offensive funk began the day before against Braden Looper (1 run) and lasted until the 9th inning on Friday when out of nowhere we scored 7 times.

**That late-win was matched by another 9th-inning rally and 10th-inning win the next night.  It marked the first time since September 20-21, 1957, at Brooklyn that the Phillies won consecutive road games in which they trailed entering the ninth.  Both games against the Dodgers finished 3-2.  For all you youngsters out there, yes, the Dodgers once played in Brooklyn, NY.

**Yesterday was a romp, the first time this season the Phillies led from the start.  Simple math means the other eight wins were comebackers.

**Yesterday also ended a dubious Major League record: 16 consecutive games (34 homers) to start a season in which our starting pitcher yielded one or more home runs.  Gotta love Jamie’s comment: “Woo- hoo.  Now I’ll sleep tonight.”

**J-Roll hasn’t started each of the last two Sundays.  Once he gets his stroke going, look out.   Think of all the fun he will have and all the runs we will score. 

**Phillies lead the majors with 49 runs scored from the seventh inning on.

**Phillies also lead the majors with drawing bases-loaded walks, 9 times.  In addition to the 9 walks, we have 10 hits in 18 at-bats, a .556 clip with the sacks full.

So, our key is to be trailing after 6 innings and have the bases loaded.  Somehow that approach might give Charlie ulcers.

Last Concert?

The 2009 Yearbook arrived last week.  Not many teams have Yearbooks anymore. We’ve had one since 1950. 

The publication is filled with photos, stats, a review of 2008 and the ever-popular family photos. 

Fans can purchase the Yearbook at the ballpark on game days, or in the Majestic Clubhouse store when the team is out of town. The most convenient way is online.

Last Concert Attended is one of the “Getting to Know…..” questions posed to the players:

Charlie Manuel: Willie Nelson
Joe Blanton: Kenny Chesney
Miguel Cairo: Elton John
Clay Condrey: Big state festival in Texas last year
Chris Coste: Tim McGraw
Greg Dobbs: Tim Brantley in Atlanta.  He’s a good friend, his CD is awesome.

Chad Durbin: Toby Keith
Scott Eyre: AC/DC
Cole Hamels: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
J.A. Happ: Rob Thomas
Ryan Howard: T.I./Busta Rhymes
Raul Ibanez: Pearl Jam, a great band

Brad Lidge: Drowning Pool and Jack Johnson
Ryan Madson: Goo Goo Dolls
Lou Marson: Wyclel Jean
Jamie Moyer: Led Zeppelin in London
Brett Myers: Nonpoint and Mudvayne
Jimmy Rollins: John Legend

J. C. Romero: 112
Matt Stairs: Rascal Flatts
Jack Taschner: John Mellencamp
Chase Utley: Coldplay
Shane Victorino: Jack Johnson
Jayson Werth: Staind

Geez, anyone ever hear of the Ink Spots, Kingston Trio, Four Aces, Andy Williams?

Have a great weekend!


Pivotal Game

While it is early in the season, today’s game is pivotal.  The formula for a championship team is to win a series.  The Brewers and Phillies are 1-1.

It is also pivotal in that Cole is on the mound again.  Needless to say, he’s the ace and we need to get him in a groove.

It is also pivotal in that today is day 1 of playing three straight games without some sort of interruption.  Hard to get into a rhythm with the schedule and events we’ve had.

Team leaves after the game for Miami and a three-game series against the Marlins who just got swept in three games by the Pirates.  Back home Monday for three with the Nationals.

**There were five shutout games in the majors yesterday, unusual. A total of 16 pitchers were used.

**Five more home runs were hit in the new Yankee Stadium.

**Phillies starting pitchers have allowed a home run in each of the 13 games.

**Raul has an 8-game hitting streak.

**Phillies pitchers have allowed the fewest walks in the NL and the most home runs in the majors.

Trivia Answer
How many cheese steaks did Larry Andersen put away during Tuesday night’s rain-delayed game?

“Only two,” laughed LA.

Band Box?

Sitting through a rain delay is not the most exciting thing at a ballpark.  As an employee, it was time do so something, mostly finding something to eat.  Not the healthiest situation, munching on fatty food late at night.

When you team is leading, such as last night, rain delays aren’t as painful.  Especially, last night’s big lead.  Unless the bottom really fell out when play was resumed, April 21 was going in the “W” column.

Rain delays also mean the radio broadcasters have to work, answering phone calls.  With Jim Jackson across the street with the Flyers last night, Scott Franzke resumed being host of “Rainout Theater.”  Scott did the bulk of being the host with help from LA and Sarge.  Callers came from all around the country because of the internet and XM radio.

Do you realize we haven’t played three straight games without something happening: ceremonies, rain, a death, tributes and a rain delay? Tonight’s weather might bring some more wet stuff.  After tomorrow, we have a weekend series in Miami.  Does it rain there?

LA mentioned that on the radio broadcast.  He also let the radio audience across the planet know he was hungry for a cheese steak after the game had resumed.  Planet Hoagie, located in Ashburn Alley, came through. 

With the passing of Harry Kalas, LA and Scott now do all 9 innings on radio.  TV features a combination of Tom McCarthy, Wheels and Sarge.

**Media labeled Citizens Bank Park a band box in 2004 because of the number of home runs that were being hit in the first season at our new playpen.  Let the record show, the first four games of the new ballpark produced 11 homers.  Yankee Stadium’s first four games, 20.  Since Babe Ruth didn’t build the new Yankee house, I guess we can’t call it Babe’s Band Box.

**Chase Utley has reached base 32 consecutive games.  It is noted in the Zo Zone blog.  Chase has also scored a run in 8 straight games.

**All Phillies 6 wins are come-from-behind.

**How many cheese steaks did LA consume last night?  He won’t say.  Why then is he wearing a girdle today?

Minor League Review

Minor League Review
April 9-19

Players of the Week
 **Pitcher: LHP Yohan Flande, Clearwater.  In 2 starts, 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 innings, 10 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts.  Pitched 5 shutout innings in April 13 start and 7 six days later.  The 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic was signed as an amateur free agent in 2004.  A year ago, he was 4-1 in the Gulf Coast League.
 **Player:  1B Jim Murphy, Lakewood.  Led Phillies minor leaguers with a .424 average.  He collected 14 hits and 4 RBI in 9 games.  During a 6-game hitting streak (April 10-17), he had 5 multiple-hit games.  The 23-year-old was drafted in the 17th round a year ago out of Washington State University.  He hit a combined .281 while playing for the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Threshers and Crosscutters after signing a professional contract.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs
4-6, 5th place, International League North Division; won 4 of last 6  . . . 4th win a year ago came in 28th game . . . CF Rich Thompson hit .326, 14 hits, 6 RBI, 3 steals . . . OF Jeremy Slayden returned from the DL (back spasms) and hit .385 in 4 games, 3 of his 5 hits were extra-base hits . .. RJP Justin Lehr, 2-0, 1.59 for his first 2 starts . . . RHP Kyle Kendrick, 1-0, 1.64, 2 starts . . . RHP Carlos Carrasco, 0-0, 1.50, 2 starts.  Two earned runs on Thursday ended a string of 35.1 scoreless innings for Carlos at Coca-Cola Park, dating back to last season

Reading Phillies
6-3, 2nd place, Eastern League Southern Division . . . Ended with 3 straight wins . . . 1B Kevin Mahar, .385, 3 doubles, 5 RBI, 7 runs scored . . . C Kevin Nelson, .556, in 4 games . . . OF Mike Spidale, .500 in 10 at-bats . . . 2B Brad Harman fell a home run short of a cycle on Saturday . . . RHP Michael Stutes won his AA debut on Monday, throwing 5 no-hit innings before giving up 2 hits in the 6th; in 2 starts, 2-0, 2.45 ERA . . . LHP Joe Savery also won his AA debut with 8 strikeouts in 6-plus innings on April 10 . . . RHP Vance Worley won his first AA game in his second outing on Friday and hit a 2-run homer; no decision in April 11 debut, struck out the side in the third inning on 9 pitches . . . LHP Antonio Bastardo has been converted from a starter to a reliever, giving Reading 4 lefties in the pen; he joins Matt German, Sergio Escalona and Joshua Shortslef.  Combined they are 1-0 for 16 appearances, 28 strikeouts in 24 innings, 4 saves and 5 holds . . . Escalona recorded a 15-pitch, 1.1-inning save and a 44-pitch, 2-inning save . . . German struck out 13 in 7.1 innings (5 outings)  5 of his strikeouts came in a perfect 3-inning outing on Sunday.

Clearwater Threshers
6-4, tie 1st place, Florida State League North Division . . . OF Arlon Quiroz, .409 with 3 stolen bases . . . 3B Yonderman Rodriguez (.379) carried an 8-game hitting streak into this week . . . Fidel Hernandez, making a switch from shortstop to second base, hit in all 10 games and led the club with 13 hits while batting .361 . . . C Tim Kinnelly hit safely in 7 of his 8 stars and led the club with 5 doubles . . . 1B Matt Rizzotti got off to a hot start, 9-for-15, with 4 doubles in 6 RBI in four games . . . RHP Kyle Drabek was 2-0, 1.50 ERA, tossing 7 shutout innings in wining his second game on Wednesday . . . RHP Carlos Monasterio pitched a 3-hit, 7-inning shutout on Thursday . . . LHP Mike Zagurski, on the Phillies DL, made his debut with 1 scoreless inning on Friday.

Lakewood BlueClaws
6-5, tie 4th place, South Atlantic League Northern Division . . . CF Anthony Gose led organization with 9 stolen bases in 10 tries, including four in his last 2 games; he scored 9 runs in 10 games . . . 3B Travis Mattair  hit 303 and led all minor league players with 16 walks in 11 games; 10 of those walks came in 15 plate appearances over a 3-game span . . . Jason Knapp has 16 strikeouts in 11.1 innings but is 0-2 for 2 starts . . . RHP Jon Velasquez is 3-0 in 4 relief appearances.

Week 3

Today starts week 3. 

The first two weeks were filled with ups and downs and a lot of other things.  Just think, the players went through three different opening days, the World Series ring ceremony, the shocking death of Harry Kalas, one rain out and two Kalas tributes, pre-game Friday and Saturday’s Memorial Tribute. 

San Diego came to town.  The Padres were hot and posted two late-inning wins as the bullpen had a meltdown and Brad finally blew a save. 

Yesterday looked bleak until Raul delivered his game-winning homer.  We are 5-6 the same as a year ago.

The entire pitching staff is experiencing a location problem.  Too many fat pitches which have resulted into too many home runs, the most allowed in the majors.  Fast balls, sliders, curves, change-ups….whatever the pitch…need to be in certain locations.  Right now the pitchers are struggling with pitch location.  Pitchers go through slumps as do hitters.

Baseball isn’t a two-week season, but a six-month marathon.  Yesterday’s win replaced Saturday’s gut-wrenching loss and tonight’s Dollar Dog night is the focus.

Weather isn’t the best but this is the only time the Padres play in Philadelphia.  Rescheduling west coast teams for east coast rain outs isn’t easy. 

No crying in baseball?

It was a picture perfect day for a ball game.  Clear blue sky, a bright yellow sun shining on a beautiful green grass playing field.  A breeze put all pennants and flags at Citizens Bank Park on full display.

But, baseball games don’t begin as the sun rises in the east.  The most telling sign was an empty field, except for a white coffin stationed on the grass behind home plate. 

This was the day nearly 9,000 fans paid their respects during an emotional memorial tribute to Harry Kalas.  Ever since 1971, this man was the voice of our pre- and post-game tributes.  This time, he was the subject.  Hard to believe.

It was only ten days ago that Harry threw out the first ball prior to the World Series ring ceremony.  He was on the mound then. Hard to believe.

We announced that the Third Base Gate would open at 8 in the morning.  Because of the large crowd that lined Citizens Bank Way, we started 30 minutes earlier.  David Montgomery and Bill Giles greeted each fan for nearly four hours. 

Fans entered the field from the third base side and exited through the first base side. Some left the park. Most stayed and spent hours waiting for the program to begin at 1 in the afternoon.

Mark Such, 45, from Bucks County, spent the night at the Third Base Gate.  He camped out at 9:30 Friday night.  Second in line was another 45-year-old fan, Michael Aldridge of Blackwood, NJ.  He befriended Mark at midnight.

Both assisted our operations crew set up police barricades for fan control as daylight began to replace darkness.  Our Mike DiMuzio thanked each.  Mark and Michael each replied, “No, no. Thank you, for honoring Harry.”

Michael carried a sign, “No crying in baseball until now.”  Yes, there was crying in baseball today.  Tears were the norm rather than the exception.  We should have had Kleenex sponsor the day.

At the entrance and exit, fans were welcomed to sign registers.  One 6-year-old boy wrote, “We love you Harry, from State Street in Media.”  Harry resided in that Delaware County town.

As each fan passed the coffin, he or she touched the casket, including our Alumni. The last group to pay its respect was the 2009 team.  One-by-one, they entered the field from their dugout wearing their game uniforms and touched Harry one last time, a very emotional scene that drew one of many standing ovations during the two-hour ceremonies.

Alumni included Dick Allen, Ruben Amaro Jr., Ricky Bottalico, Marty Bystrom, Steve Carlton, Larry Christenson, Darren Daulton, Dallas Green, Tommy Greene, Terry Harmon, John Kruk, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Jerry Martin, Dickie Noles, Robin Roberts, Mike Rogodzinski, Mike Schmidt, Kent Tekulve, David West, Mitch Williams and Bobby Wine.  Notice, the list spanned decades, as did Harry.

Eight speakers addressed the crowd, the last being 19-year-old Kane Kalas, Harry’s youngest son who delighted the Friday night crowd with a stirring performance of the National Anthem. He was equally impressive today, speaking without a written or typed note.

Other speakers included Richard Ashburn, Joe O’Loughlin, representing the fans; Montgomery, Governor Rendell, Mayor Nutter, NFL Films President Steve Sabol, Jamie Moyer and Schmidt.

Ironically, one of Harry’s greatest calls was Schmidt’s 500th home.  That took place 22 years ago on this date. 

Led by Giles, who brought Harry to Philadelphia in 1971, current and past players, current and past broadcasters and those of us who traveled with him through the years, formed two lines.  His coffin was passed through the two lines and then placed in a hearse.  It was our last chance to touch the man who touched so many.

He left the park for the last time through the exit in the right field corner.  All the while, Simon & Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” played on the PA system.  Sons Todd and Brad introduced the song in a taped video, “Dad wanted this song to be played as he went to his final reward.”  I lost it. 

A lot has been said and written about Harry since his death on Monday.  Doug Glanville, a guest columnist in the New York Times ended his brilliant article on Wednesday, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a word from Harry Kalas painted a thousand pictures,”

It sure did.