February 2014

So Long February

First seven spring games alternate between Clearwater and the road. Today at home, tomorrow in Tampa, Sunday back home, at Port Charlotte on Monday and home again on Tuesday, which, by the way, is a 6:35 p.m. game. Today, we say good-bye to an 0-2 February.

Phillies TV trio will work today and Sunday. Jamie always worked on a four-day rotation.

Useless Information
The Yankees’ Tanaka, the rather expensive pitcher from Japan, makes his American debut against the Phillies tomorrow. Well, seven years ago, the Phillies were the first American team Matsuzaka, another high-priced Japanese pitcher, faced. That was the Red Sox at Bright House Field. Something like 65 Japanese media covered that game.

Comment Corner
Karl posted a couple of comments yesterday, pointing out a mathematical error when I wrote Jack Russell Stadium opened in 1955 with a win and closed 59 years later with a loss to the Yankees. JRS’s last spring training game was 2003, which is 48 years later. Bad calculator or bad fingers or both.

His other comment was about Chuck Klein once wearing #32. The Hall of Famer wore six other numbers while with the Phillies, 1, 3, 8, 26, 29 and 36. So Chuck was part of three retired uniform numbers.

Opening Day Countdown
31 more days and the Phillies season begins, this year in Arlington, TX, against the Rangers.

Garry Maddox holds the record for the most years wearing this number, 12. Gary Wagner is next, five seasons. Among others are Danny Litwhiler (1942) Ken Brett (1973) and Randy Ready (1994-95). Most recent, Erik Kratz (2011-12-13). Currently, Brad Lincoln.

Spring Training Fun Fact
According to broadandpattison.com, the Phillies opened spring training in Southern Pines, NC, on this date in 1913. Is there a Northern Pines, NC?

Short Trip

Bulletin board in the clubhouse is full of information for the players.

There’s a roster of all players in camp. Those whose names are circled mean they are on today’s trip to Dunedin, a three-mile journey. That’s the shortest trip in spring training anywhere.

Also posted: 8:30 a.m. reporting time today, infield practice at 10, batting practice at 10:15 and two busses leave at 11:30. Those not on the travel roster have the afternoon off.

Game will be on the Major League Baseball Network and mlb.com.

Old Home Week
Yesterday’s Grapefruit League opener at Bright House Field was filled with ex-Phillies.

Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu were both in the line-up that faced J. A. Happ. Chris Coste threw out the first ball and Scott Rolen journeyed north from Bradenton for BP. Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs were in the booth for their first telecast. Former coach Billy DeMars was also a morning visitor.

With the Phillies opening the season in Texas and facing a right-hander, Abreu could well be the DH as he was yesterday. Last time he started a game was July 25, 2012, while with the Dodgers. He has a clause in his contract if he isn’t on a major league roster on March 26, he can become a free agent.

Tall Tug
New “Peek at the Past” photo on http://www.phillies.com/alumni features Lefty, Tug and Jerry Koosman 30 years ago in spring training. Tug must have stood on a box or something because he’s taller than the other two even though he was 6-foot even. Check it out.

Opening Day Countdown
32 days till Phillies season opener in Texas against the Rangers.

There’s only one #32 of significance in Phillies history, Hall of Famer Steve Carlton who wore it for 15 Phillies seasons. Number was retired in 1989. Last to wear it before Lefty, Darrell Brandon (1971). Among interesting names who have worn it include
Chuck Klein (1936), Curt Simmons (1947) and Richie Allen (1963; spring training 1964).

Spring Training Fun Fact
The Phillies won the first game at Jack Russell Stadium in 1955 over the Tigers and lost the last game there to the Yankees 59 years later. They also won the first game at Bright House Field in 2004, beating he Yankees.

1st Game

Marlon Byrd talks with teammates during workouts Friday in Clearwater.Ten years ago Bright House Networks Field opened, a new era in Phillies spring training baseball.

Wearing #29, Marlon Byrd (above) led off for the Phillies that day and played centerfield. He got the first hit in the new yard and scored the first run. The previous spring he hit the last triple in Jack Russell Memorial Stadium.

Now 10 years later, he’s back in a Phillies uniform, playing right field and batting fifth, wearing #2.

New Broadcasting Era
For the first time since 1962, Richie Ashburn, Harry Kalas or Chris Wheeler are not part ay

Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs, the new voices, make their debut today, the start of a new era in Phillies broadcasting. Every Clearwater game will be televised, giving the new faces a chance to have broadcasting spring training.

“Wheels” continues to be the PA announcer at Bright House Field. He’s been doing that in Clearwater since 1972. He’s also doing video features on phillies.com, The Wheelhouse. His piece last week with Larry Bowa was a classic.

Opening Day Countdown
33 days until the Phillies opener at the Rangers.

Cliff Lee is wearing that number now. Others who have worn it include Bo Belinsky, Wayne Twitchell, Ruben Amaro Jr., Aaron Rowand, Granny Hamner (1948) and Pat Burrell (2000). Plus an oddity, two right-handed pitchers, one named Mike Jackson and other, Michael Jackson.

WPHT’s Dom Giordano is broadcasting live from the Tiki Bar tomorrow and Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon . . . 170 minor leaguers report to Carpenter Complex tomorrow. First workout is Saturday. Nearly 50 kids have been working out on their own for weeks at the complex . . . Four of that 50 are pitchers who were assigned to the bullpen today, Brody Colvin, Justin Friend, Jay Johnson and Mike Nesseth . . . Scouting of amateur players is underway. Some members of the player development staff have been spending time following Phillies scouts. Charlie Manuel will do some scouting in Florida this month. Pat Gillick has spent times going to high school and college games. Pat is a super scout. Dallas Green, Dick Allen and I, along with our wives, had dinner last night at the Beachcomber restaurant. Pat knew what each ordered. When asked how he knew that, he just laughed.

Spring Training Fun Facts
Larry Bowa has been a minor league player, major league player, coach, manager and coach again during Phillies spring training camps. His first big league camp was 1967. He wore #53.

Play Ball!

Kevin Frandsen dives for a ball Friday in Clearwater.

Yet, another photographic gem from Phillies photographer, Miles Kennedy. Kevin Fransden, a hard-nosed back-up infielder, goes all out in practice. Don’t see that very often.

Camp Notes
Squad game at Bright House Field at 12 noon today . . . Jimmy Rollins is taping a Mizuno commercial on the half-field . . . All the Phillies broadcasters are in camp and will meet with Ryno following the game, a chance for the broadcasters to get briefed on the players and the manager’s philosophy . . . First Grapefruit League game is tomorrow afternoon, visiting Blue Jays at 1 (radio, television, mlb.com). 70% chance of rain is forecast . . . Chris Coste, the new baseball coach at Concordia (MN) College, will throw out the first ball, along with Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos . . . Annual meeting with the Major League Baseball Players Association will be held in the clubhouse beginning 8:30 in the morning.

Opening Day Countdown
34 more says until the Phillies open the season in Texas, against the Rangers.

So, who are the most notable Phillies to wear that number? Paul Byrd, Barry Lersch, Tom Underwood, Gary Matthews, Kevin Millwood, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Best of the group? Easy, Doc, author of two no-hitters, first pitcher in Phillies history to have a pair. Just think, three no-hitters were tossed by a Phillie wearing this number: Doc’s two and Millwood’s, the last no-hitter in Veterans Stadium. A.J. Burnett is currently wearing #34.

Spring Training Fun Fact
Chase Utley wore #80 in his first spring training camp at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in 2000.


Pitchers work on fielding drills during workouts Sunday in Clearwater.
Another terrific photo from Phillies photographer, Miles Kennedy…..pitchers working out at Carpenter Field. Cool Stuff isn’t a caption for the image. It’s a mobile unit from which fans can purchase Phillies souvenirs at the minor league camp.

3 Phases
Spring training has three phases from my experience: can’t wait to start, can’t wait to start playing games and can’t wait to start the season.

Well, phase II is coming up.

Today is a short workout day as the annual team golf tournament takes place in the afternoon. Rumor has it that the Golf Channel and Comedy Channel have both declined to televise the event.

Tomorrow, a squad game starting at 12 noon. Bright House Field gates open at 11 a.m. Parking and admission is free. Following the game, the annual Clearwater Chamber of Commerce VIP Reception will take place at the ballpark . Invitation only.

Camp Notes
Two more Alumni arrived today….Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs, the new broadcasters who will team with Tom McCarthy on television. Debut is Wednesday when the Grapefruit League season begins with Blue Jays visiting from Dunedin. Gates open at 10:35 p.m. . . . Guess who arrived on Saturday…….big and green. Yep Phillie Phanatic is here for the entire spring, a first.

Birthday Week
Today: RHP J. D. Durbin (32).

Tuesday: INF Danny Cater (74)

Wednesday: RHP Ron Negray (84)

Thursday: RHP Scott Mathieson (30), RHP Cliff Politte (40), OF Matt Stairs (46), C-1B John Wockenfuss (65)

Saturday: LHP Omar Daal (42)

Sunday: OF Ron Gant (49), SS Chico Fernandez (82)

Spring Training Fun Fact
Greatest trade the Phillies ever made in spring training took place tomorrow, 1972, obtaining Steve Carlton from the Cardinals for Rick Wise.

Great moments in Phillies history can be found daily on http://www.phillies.com/alumni.

Also on this webpage is a feature “Phillies alumni fondly remember Jim Fregosi.”

LA Tutoring Hurlers

Andersen1801Broadcaster Larry Andersen, serving time as a guest instructor for Ryno’s first spring training camp, always has a quick answer.

When asked the last time he was in uniform, “Last month in Phantasy Camp.” Well, it is true but what about real baseball? “1997 right here in the minor league camp.” That season he was the pitching coach for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. That ended his career in a uniform as he joined the team’s broadcasting team in 1998.

LA can be seen hanging out by the seven pitching mounds at Carpenter Complex, observing and giving tips to the hurlers. A great reliever, he’s paying special attention to the bullpen guys, particularly Aumont.

Pretty soon he’ll trade in his glove for a microphone and join his partner, Scott Franzke, on radio broadcasts. This is their seventh year of being together.

Camp Notes
Players began eye screen tests in the morning and will continue again tomorrow morning . . . A pet calendar, with proceeds benefitting charity, is on the docket for this season. First photo sessions took place today at Bright House Field . . . Pitchers continue to build up arm strength, hitters continue to take BP, fielders continue fielding drills……all in a day’s work today . . . Daily workouts at Carpenter Complex continue this weekend, great opportunity for fans to attend. Free admission and free parking.

Big Bucks
Came across the following on broadandpattison.com: “1917: The Phillies sign Grover Cleveland Alexander to a 2-year contract said to be the highest ever paid to a pitcher — local press estimated it to be around $12,500 per year.”

From the Phillies archives: Following the 1972 season in which Steve Carlton went 27-10, the Phillies signed him to a one-year, $165,000 contract, the most ever for a pitcher.

How times have changed.

Spring Training Fun Fact
Every player and coach has two red new batting practice jerseys and two pair of pants, one gray and one pinstriped. A total of 250 batting practice jerseys were brought to camp.

Guest Visitor

Possum6150There’s a possum in the park. Well, I guess if you are sitting on top of the outfield fence at Carpenter Complex, you are in the park. It happened yesterday. A guest at Carpenter Complex.

Wonder if the possum saw his shadow. Is he more accurate at predicting the weather than a groundhog?

Opie Cheek, the award-winning field supervisor of the Complex and Bright House Field, wasn’t surprised. “One time we found a family of possums living in the Tiki Bar. We’ve had raccoons, coyotes, all kinds of snakes. During the tropical story Debbie, the place was flooded after a day of 13 inches of rain. We found an alligator on the half-field. We’re like the Discovery channel.”

Anyway, the possum triggered some great tweets.

Ryan Lawrence, Philly Daily News: “When asked about the Phillies chances of competing in the NL East, the possum was on the fence.”

Jayson Stark, ESPN.com: “Where would getting bit by a rabid possum rank on the all-time list of spring training injuries?”

Phillie Phanatic is on his way to Florida. If he had been here yesterday, we would have had a possum and a Phanatic in the park at the same time. Guess that would have been historic…..or, hysteric.

Camp Notes
Today started with Majestic Sporting Goods measuring each player for uniforms for the season. They were set up at 6:30 a.m . . . Early workouts for some players at 8:45 and then everyone on the field again at 10 . . . There’s a familiar face wearing #53. Yep, Bobby Abreu. He’ll turn 40 next month . . . Highest uniform number belongs to RHP David Buchanan; lowest, #2, Ben Revere.

Spring Training Fun Fact
Ryne Sandberg’s first spring training in Clearwater was 1979 when he was in the minor league camp as a 19-year-old shortstop. He wore #8.

Instilling His Work Ethic

There was a newness to the first full squad workout yesterday. It’s all because Ryne is running his first spring training camp, a fresh new approach. Oh, there’s still BP, fundamentals, stretching, long toss, PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice), base running, etc.

Base running, for example, got more notice yesterday. It is all part of Ryno’s philosophy of being prepared to play the game right. And, it will continue into the season.

In a feature story about him in today’s Tampa Bay News, he once again referred to his first spring training camp with the Phillies 35 years ago and the impression Rose, Schmidt and Bowa made on him. “They didn’t want anyone to work harder than them and I never forgot that.” That work ethic carried Ryno to the Hall of Fame.

Yet, he remembers how hard it is to play the game. Even though he has a plaque in Cooperstown, he went to the low minors to learn how to manage. That work ethic and attention to detail carried him back to Carpenter Complex as a big league manager. Now, his goal is to get his team on the same page.

Today, more BP for the four groups of hitters. Fundamentals are broken down into two groups of position players. Group 1 is headed by the regulars. You guessed it, Group 2 is composed of the others.

Bullpen coach Rod Nichols and Aumont were on the mound next to the half field. Not unusual, except it was 8:30, way before the day’s scheduled began. Aumont has a ton of talent and nasty stuff. Just needs to harness it. During one of the meetings last week, Ruben said it doesn’t matter who, “but we need to get Aumont straightened out, It could be Mac (McClure) or LA or Doc or anyone. This kid has lights out stuff and we need to get the most out of him.”

Doc is doing one-on-one sessions with some of the pitchers. He has so much to offer. It is good to see him in a Phillies uniform again. He’s more relaxed now that he doesn’t go through a rigorous regiment and not trying to battle through injuries.

With Clearwater Chamber of Commerce type weather, the fan turnout has turned up. Perhaps they’ve escaped the snow-bound north and are excited to experience warm and sunny weather.

Top 10
Balloting is now underway on this website to choose the top 10 moments in the first 10 years of Citizens Bank Park.

Vote here>> Phillies.com/TopMoments

Spring Training Fun Fact
Head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and his staff arrive at Bright House Field at 6 a.m. daily. First item of business is to review the previous day and status of players. Players needing treatment are scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m.

HittersTake BP 1st Day

Blue skies, yellow sunshine, green grass, red Phillies uniforms, a virtual rainbow. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. Baseball is back, so I’m giddy.

Player meeting began at 9:15 with introductions of the coaching/instructional staff, athletic trainers, clubhouse personnel and front office types. Ryne then delivered his first state-of-the Phillies message, a new message.

Live batting practice began at 11:45, the hitters were divided into four groups on the four fields, Roberts, Ashburn, Schmidt and Carlton. Player conditioning at 1:25 p.m. was the last item on the Day 6 agenda.

Remember daily workouts are open to the public free of charge and parking is free. So is the sunshine expected to be here all week. Workouts (10 a.m.) are held on the four-diamond Carpenter Complex.

Tomorrow, the annual photo day in which the various licensees, wire services and TV networks will be taking photos of every player in camp. First flash bulb goes off at 7 a.m.

Spring Training Fun Fact
For the first time, Phillie Phanatic will entertain fans at all Bright House Field games this spring.

And, here’s another first in Phillies history….that big green mascot will be driving to Florida in its decorated van. Just think, folks along I-95 first saw a big trailer truck decked out with a Phillies banner earlier this month, taking the equipment from Philly to Clearwater. Now, these same folks will be seeing the green Phanatic plastered on the side of a van. That’s marketing, folks.

Phanatic leaves tomorrow and will make the first stop in Richmond on Thursday, home of the Flying Squirrels of the Eastern League. Next stop, Charleston, SC, to visit with the River Cats, another minor league team. Last stop (Feb. 21) is St. Augustine, FL, to visit an alligator farm. Let’s hope alligators are frightened by this big green monster.

That bright van is scheduled to pull into Clearwater on Saturday, hopefully without any alligators.

John Brazer, the fun and games guy of the front office, will be riding shot gun. More importantly, he’ll be documenting the trip on social media.

The Phanatic driving to Florida and being tracked by social media. What has baseball come to?

Thanks to Steve, I really blew it yesterday with a note that Burnett is the eighth person to wear a Phillies uniform and use initials. Check Steve’s comment. Thanks, Steve.

Day 5

Pete Mackanin’s Day 5 schedule, which is today, was posted early this morning in the clubhouse. As is the case every morning, Ryne’s staff met at 8 and then he held a brief team meeting at 9:45.

Today wraps up physicals for infielders and outfielders. Those here, which includes almost everybody, will take BP at Bright House Field while pitchers and catchers continue to do their thing at Carpenter Complex. Full squad is on the field for the first time tomorrow. Clubhouse meeting set for 9:15, which will be one of the longer ones. Ryne gets to make his initial speech to the team.

Subject of today’s post-workout meeting involving Ryne, his staff and Ruben’s, is outfield play.

Burnett becomes the eighth player to wear a Phillies uniform that goes by initials: J.D. Durbin, P.J. Forbes, J.A. Happ, A.J. Hinch, J.R. Phillips, J.C .Romero and R.J. Swindle.

Knowing this I’m sure you will sleep better tonight.

If I left anyone out, fire off a comment.

Birthday Week
Tuesday—LHP Kyle Abbott (46), RHP Rocky Childress (52), RHP Tyler Green (44), C Cal Neeman (85).

Friday—OF Ted Savage (74).

Saturday—OF Joe Lefebvre (58), OF Mike Rogodzinski (66).

Sunday—OF John Morris (53).

Did You Know?
The late Jim Fregosi’s last game as a player came at Veterans Stadium against the Phillies, May 31, 1978, playing third base for the Pirates. Released the next day so he would take over as manager of the Angels.

Last week, I wrote that the Yankees only come to Bright House Field once this spring. They are actually here back-to-back Thursdays, March 6 and 13. Hopefully, Jeter will make one of the trips.

Spring Training Fun Fact
Every position player gets two dozen bats. Starting pitchers, one dozen. Relievers have to beg, borrow or steal.