July 2009

Cliff's and Ben's Favorites

As everyone knows, Cliff and Ben are in their Phillies uniforms on the west coast.  Ben Francisco played his first game in San Francisco last night.  Cliff takes to the mound tonight.

Every MLB’s Media Guide is filled with stats and notes on players.  Cleveland goes a step further and includes player favorites.  Wanted to share them.

Cliff’s Favorites
Movie: Braveheart
Group/Artist: Led Zeppelin
Athlete Growing Up: Michael Jordan
Sports Team: Arkansas Razorbacks
Road City: Kansas City
Road Stadium: Anaheim
Thing To Do Away From Baseball: hunt and fish

Ben’s Favorites
Movie: Shawshank Redemption
Group/Artist: Tupac
Athlete Growing Up: Kobe Bryant
Sports Team: LA Lakers
Road City: Toronto
Road Stadium: Seattle
Thing To Do Away From Baseball: watch movies

Minor League Notes
LHP Joe Savery (12-4) has been moved from AA Reading to AAA Lehigh Valley . . . On Thursday, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and Jason Donald showed up at the LV clubhouse for an 11 a.m. game in Coca-Cola Park only to find out they were traded to Cleveland, who assigned them to Columbus.  Oddly, their first game with Columbus was last night at Coca-Cola Park . . . 18-year-old Lakewood CF Anthony Gose stole his 57th base last night, tops in the South Atlantic League . . . 24-year-old Reading CF Quinton Berry leads the Eastern League with 38 steals.

A win tonight would give the Phillies 20 this month (19-7 which includes July 1-2 losses to start the month).  Last time they reached 20 wins this month was 1963 (21-10).  Club record for most July wins is 22, 1950 and 1952.  Then there’s the fewest, 3-17 in 1883, our first year.

TV Notes
Sunday’s game will be televised nationally by TBS but blacked out in Philadelphia market . . . Sunday, August 16, game in Atlanta has been moved to 8:05 for a Sunday night ESPN national telecast.  ESPN also has the right to move the Braves-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park on August 30 to a night game.  Decision will come in mid-August.

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter as barsons63.


Big Time Deal

A year ago during the summer draft, the Phillies went for a 6-5 high school pitcher out of Annandale, NJ, in the second round.  Power arm was the scouting report, 95-98 mph.

Little did anyone know that 13 months later, this 18-year-old pitcher at Class A Lakewood would be the key player in a six-player trade that brought a Cy Young Award winner and a right-handed bat to the Phillies.

Jason Knapp has a high ceiling and that’s what appealed to the Indians.  Ruben Amaro Jr., rebuffed in Toronto, didn’t waste any time and moved on to Cleveland.  When the dust had cleared, the Phillies had acquired LHP Cliff Lee and right-handed hitting OF Ben Francisco.  You know the specifics of the deal.

Amaro’s been shopping for both and found them in one-stop shopping.

Amaro may get the credit for pulling the trigger but he quickly pointed out that credit belongs to scouting director Marti Wolever and his band of scouts.  Scouts are the unsung heroes in a successful baseball organization.  They are constantly looking for gems by scouting thousands of players.  Long hours, lonely trips.

Because of the scouting staff, the Phillies minor league system is as deep and strong as it has been in many years.  It resembles the farm system from the 1970-80 era, the most successful era in franchise history.  Right now we are living in an era that will surpass that one.

Parting with a young pitcher with such a power arm isn’t easy.  The late Hugh Alexander, who scouted in baseball for some 50 years, once said, “Never hold up a deal because you don’t want to part with a player in Class A ball.”

The trade was huge in many ways:
 –The core of super prospects (RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Dominic Brown and OF Michael Taylor) remains in the organization.
 –Lee improves the rotation big time, a top of the rotation winner.  With Pedro Martinez soon to join that rotation, two current starters will move into the bullpen, which is thin right now because J. C. Romero, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey are all on the DL.
 –Lee is signed through 2010, so he’s just not a two-month rental arm.
 –Francisco gives the Phillies a right-handed bat and adds depth to the outfield.  He can play all three positions. Should an injury happen to Raul, Shane or Jayson, Francisco is an experienced replacement.  And, at age 27, he’s got his career ahead of him.
 –John Mayberry, who has a high ceiling, can return to playing every day at AAA.  It is best he plays rather than sit on the bench in the bigs.
 –Lee is financially less costly.  That enables the Phillies to have some financial flexibility going forward.

So, on paper, the Phillies have improved themselves.  Baseball is played on the field and not paper.  No better example than last night, Petit was 0-5 with a high ERA, and he shut out the Phillies.

Winning another championship is the goal.  Adding Lee and Francisco improves those chances.

Billy Replaces Shane

Relax, Shane isn’t really being replaced in centerfield.  Billy Joel is having a concert at Citizens Bank Park tomorrow night and again on Saturday night and a huge stage is in the final construction stages in centerfield.

On Monday, a large crane anchored itself on the warning track in front of the Phillies bullpen.  For two days, large steel beams were lofted into place to build the stage and sound system.  It is almost as tall as the left field scoreboard.

The concert crew has taken over the visiting clubhouse, umpire’s room, part of the Media Room and the two auxiliary locker rooms.  It is a big production and lots of people are milling around.

12,000 chairs are being set up on the playing field.  First, special flooring has to be placed on top of the grass playing field.  Once the concert ends on Saturday night, the process of removing everything begins.

There’s a baseball game to be played here next Tuesday night.

Who’s Hot?
Weekly reviews of the Phillies minor league system appear on phillies.com.  Updates are usually posted Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

There’s a lot of good news coming from the minor leagues.  One is RHP Scott Mathieson.  At one time, he was projected as a bullpen piece but he wound up with two, not one, Tommy John surgeries.  He’s back on the mound again and today was promoted to Reading.  Great kid and we wish him well.

Weather Change
Phillies leave smoldering Phoenix after tonight’s game.  Temperature today in the Arizona city is supposed to reach 108.  In San Francisco tomorrow, high is listed at 66.


Phillies Insider is also on twitter as barons63

The Pedro Experience

(Michael Schwimer is a right-handed reliever with the Clearwater Threshers, drafted in the 14th round a year ago out of the University of Virginia.  He writes a weekly blog on the phuturephillies.com site.  Today, he provided Phillies Insider with an inside look at Pedro Martinez.  Pedro’s start yesterday in Clearwater was cut short by rain (1.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 hit batter, 1 strikeout).

As a 23-year-old pitcher with 1 year of professional baseball experience under my belt I had no idea what to expect when one of the greatest living pitchers came to pitch for us.  I got to the field early in hopes to meet him and hopefully sign a ball for me.  When I got to the clubhouse, 3 hours before game time, he was sitting by himself with heat on his back.  His locker was set aside from all of ours so there would be ample room for the media.  After 10 minutes of motivating myself I finally mustered up enough courage to talk to him.  I introduced myself, shook his hand, and started the conversation by asking him what a coincidence it was for his first outing as a Phillie to come against the New York Mets high A affiliate.  His response was, “It is not a coincidence my friend, it is destiny.”  After some more small talk I decided that I should give him some space to get mentally focused.  I left the conversation thinking about how down to earth, easy going, and friendly Pedro was.  

The start time of the game was delayed from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. because of the weather.  Pedro went to start warming up shortly after 4.  As I walked out to the field I saw a swarm of media and fans.  We normally get about a thousand fans per game, but today we had much more than that.  I stood 5 feet from him as he warmed up and was very impressed with how he used his legs and was able to get great extension for such a small pitcher.  It was also good to see how he was able to ignore the screaming fans, as he remained focused on the task at hand.  Hundreds of people were asking him for autographs, or proclaiming their love for him in some fashion or another.  But the funniest comment came from a Met fan in the stands who yelled, “Pedro, you should still be a Met! I love you! Minaya is an idiot!”

Mechanically speaking, he looks the same as I remembered him until after his release point.  I was used to the huge torque and leg swing finish, but today Pedro seemed much more in control and finished his motion in a good fielding position.  I do not know if this is something he has been working on or not, I just know it looked different from what I had remembered.

He only pitched 1.1 innings, but anyone that was there could tell he had good command of all of his pitches, and his change-up is still one of the best in the game.  The radar gun reports had him from 87-91, but it is important to note that it was raining, which might cause a slight drop in velocity.  He was able to keep hitters off balance with his mix of pitches as no one made solid contact.

After the game was canceled he went into the cage to throw the rest of his 80 pitches.  I did not see those pitches because I was too busy eating the great post-game spread he had purchased for us.  After he was done in the cages he stuck around to sign autographs for anyone that asked.  Pedro is truly a stand up guy, and I know I speak for the whole team when I say it was an honor to be able to share the field with him.


Phillies Insider is also on twitter. 


Milestone Victory

Unnoticed in yesterday’s come-from-behind FOX TV win is the fact it was the 9,000th victory in the history of the Phillies.  We’re the ninth club to reach that number, joining the Braves, Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Yankees, Pirates, Giants and Cardinals. 

For franchises that have remained in the same city since birth, we’re the sixth team to do so.  Braves (Boston), Dodgers (Brooklyn) and Giants (New York) began in other cities.

Media didn’t write anything or air anything about the milestone win.  They sure didn’t miss our 10,000th loss a couple of years ago.  They were all over that story. 

For more history on this topic, check out baseballreference.com.

Offense Explodes
For a while there, yesterday looked like a second straight St. Louis victory.  Three great catches in the outfield kept the Phillies from getting five early-game runs.  The Cardinals came from behind to take a lead but our offense exploded.

J-Roll’s grand slam was our eighth, tying the club’s single-season record (1993 and 2005).

Shane had his fifth four-hit game of the season, tops in the majors.

Heading West
Team leaves on a Delta charter flight after today’s game for a seven-game trip: three in Phoenix and four in San Francisco.

With the trading deadline coming up at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Friday, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is on the trip. He’s joined by assistants Scott Proefrock, Benny Looper, Chuck LaMar and Mike Ondo.

Don’t know what will happen but I have a gut feeling we will make a move or two.

Phillies Insider can be found on twitter.




Final Bullpen Show

Last segment of “The Bullpen” will be aired on the MLB Network Sunday night at 8 o’clock.

Since the start of the season, MLB Productions has been doing behind-the-scenes stuff of our bullpen.  It is a great series, really humanizing the players. 

But, now the cameras and microphones have been removed from our bullpen in Citizens Bank Park. The final episode is done.  No more peeking or hearing what is going on out there.  Perhaps that is good. 

Speaking of TV, Sunday’s game will be televised on TBS, blacked out in Philly market. 

More Alumni News
Toyota Alumni Night and the Garry Maddox Barbecue Challenge will take place two weeks from today.  Maddox’s annual charity event will be held in the afternoon on Citizens Bank Way. Some Alumni will participate in the event.

Wall Fame and local Alumni plus Jim Eisenreich, Jim Kaat, Mickey Morandini, Mike Lieberthal, Dave Hollins, Darren Daulton and Tommy Hutton, will be introduced on the field starting at 6:30 p.m.

Roly de Armas will receive the John Vukovich Award pre-game.


Phillies Insider is also on twitter


Closed Door Meetings

With the trading deadline a week away, there are closed door meetings going on today in the baseball administration department.  GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who was in Clearwater earlier in the week checking out Pedro Martinez, is back in Philly.

It sure will be an interesting week coming up.  Stay tuned to phillies.com and beat writer Todd Zolecki’s updates.

Home Cooking
After struggling at Citizens Bank Park the first half of the season, the Phillies have turned it around, winning 12 of their last 14 home games.  Back to good old home cooking.

During the 14 games, the team batting average is .290; team ERA, 2.91.

Triple Crown
Albert Pujols
is bidding to become the National League’s first triple crown (average, home runs, RBI) winner in 72 years.  Joe Medwick of the Cardinals did it in 1937. 

The slugging first baseman has put up some heavy numbers at Citizens Bank Park: .367 average (22-60), 9 homers and 19 RBI.

How do you get him out?  Let’s try rolling the ball to home plate.

Pedro’s Pitch
As noted, Pedro Martinez makes his first start for the Clearwater Threshers in a 4 p.m. game on Sunday at Bright House Field. The opponent?  Ironically, the St. Lucie Mets.

Here’s a commercial for that game: Sunday is the Threshers first Wet N’ Wacky day so remember to bring your squirt gun and bathing suit.  Plus, it’s a Bright House Networks Family Day where for only $25 you get 4 Premium Box tickets, 4 Hot dogs and 4 sodas (2 pack for $15).

Completing the commercial: to order tickets go online at www.ThreshersBaseball.com.

Wall of Fame
Two weeks from tonight is Toyota Wall of Fame Night.  Legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas is being inducted posthumously during ceremonies that begin at 7 p.m.

Since the Phillies started the Wall of Fame in 1978, Harry was the voice of every induction ceremony.  This time he is the inductee.

Wall of Famers who will be here for the ceremonies: Robin Roberts (1978), Senator Jim Bunning (1984), Steve Carlton (1989), Mike Schmidt (1990), Dick Allen (1994), Greg Luzinski (1998), Garry Maddox (2001), Tony Taylor (2002), Bob Boone (2005), Dallas Green (2006) and Juan Samuel (2008).

Phillies Insider is also on twitter.



Broken Streaks

Streaks that ended last night:

**Phillies 10-game win streak, including last seven at Citizens Bank Park.

**12 scoreless innings by the bullpen.

**Jamie’s five-game winning streak.

Scott Franzke had a note on the broadcast that was interesting, last night was the first time the Phillies trailed in a game since July 11.  They were behind in Florida on Saturday but the game was rained out.

One thing about this team, yesterday is yesterday.  Today’s another game.  They play the season game-by-game which is an old cliché.

Padres in town
Because of April 20’s rain out, the Padres returned to Citizens Bank Park for tonight’s game.  Originally, they had a night game at home last night.  They moved it to an afternoon game and then flew to Washington, where they open a weekend series tomorrow.

They bused to Philly this afternoon and will bus back to DC after the game.

New pinch runner
Lunch is served in the Press Dining Room during the week for fellow employees.  At 12:30 this afternoon, Mike Boeckholder, head groundskeeper, sat down with a sandwich platter.  “Oh, no” he said with panic in his voice. 

A sudden shower was deposting on the ballpark.  Boeckholder bolted for the press elevator and a trip to field level.  His crew was already in action by the time he got there.  He returned 28 minutes later for the second bite of his sandwich.

John Brazer, he of the fun and games department, quipped when he saw Mike bolt: “Geez, Charlie has a new pinch runner.  Did you see him run?”

TV Note
Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. game against the Cardinals is a FOX telecast.


Phillies Insider is also on twitter.



Walk-off Thriller

When I arrived at the park at 8:50 this morning, fans were lined up at the First Base Gate ticket windows to buy standing room tickets.  Channel 29 had a reporter here.  Town is certainly buzzing about the red-hot Phillies.

WOW! (Win on Werth)

That’s the best way to describe last night’s dramatic, extra-inning win.  Jayson certainly picked a perfect time for his first walk-off home run.  When you are going good, good things happen.  That’s baseball.

Shane, Chase, Utley, Ryan, Raul were a combined 1-20 last night and we won, thanks to the long balls from J-Roll and Jayson. 

That’s the best way to describe last night’s pitching.  1 run in 7 innings off Joe and then six hitless, walkless, scoreless innings from the bullpen.

During the struggling days of June, twice our batters hit balls that ricocheted off the pitcher to an infielder for an out.  Twice, the opposing batters did the same and the balls found a hole in the infield for hits.  When you are going bad, bad things happen.  That’s baseball.

Last night, a batted ball hit off Lidge and went right to J-Roll who stepped on second base and threw to first for a double play in the top of the 9th. 

Weekly Conference Call
Every Wednesday morning Ruben Amaro Jr. conducts a conference call with his staff and pro scouts.  Ruben’s in Clearwater observing Pedro Martinez so he anchored the call from Bright House Field.

Today’s call was not about scheduling vacations.  Trust me.


Phillies Insider is also on twitter.



Trade Deadline 10 Days Away

Ten days remain.

Yep, there are 10 more days before the July 31 trading deadline ends.  The curtain will come down at 4 p.m. (EDT) that day (Friday).  Phillies are in San Francisco that night, the second of a four-game series.  Ruben Amaro Jr. will be making that road trip.

Teams have scouts everywhere, big leagues and minor leagues, trying to get a handle on players that could be involved in trades.  That said, there were only a half-dozen at Citizens Bank Park last night.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill will continue churning daily.  Major dot.com writers such as Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, Jerry Crasnick and Ken Rosenthal will be trying to get the scoops.  There are other websites that will also be competing to break the story.

Then, toss in the fan bloggers and the circus gets bigger. 

The NBA, NFL and NHL all have trade deadlines, too.  But, nothing compares to the media coverage in baseball.  Nothing.  We blow away the other sports.

Just another example of why baseball is the national pastime.

Stolen Base Leaders
Center fielder Anthony Gose of the Lakewood BlueClaws stole three more bases last night.  He’s the overall leader in all of the minor leagues.

Phillies top five stolen base leaders in the minors:
Gose, Lakewood (53)
CF Quintin Berry, Reading (34)
2B Harold Garcia, Lakewood (30)
CF Javis Diaz, Clearwater (20)
CF Rich Thompson, Lehigh Valley (18)

Thanks largely to Gose and Garcia, Lakewood leads the South Atlantic League with 131 steals.

Garcia, by the way, was the Phillies minor league player of the week for lasts week.  Reading RHP Michael Stutes won the pitching award.

Phillies Insider appears on twitter as barons63.