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5 Biggest Winners and Losers of Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training

Spring training is nearly over for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Before they open the 2014 regular season against the formidable Texas Rangers in Arlington, the Phillies will fly back from Clearwater to play the annual On-Deck Series. “As has been a tradition since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004,” says the Phillies website.

As for the Phillies’ spring training performances, they were a mixed bag. Read on for the most notable winners and losers from these exhibition games as we get ready for the important games to begin.

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5 Philadelphia Phillies Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

The pessimism around the Philadelphia Phillies, particularly among the team’s fans, has probably gone too far.

Sports talk radio in town cannot get anyone interested in talking about the Phillies because there just does not seem to be that much to talk about. The Phillies are an old team that got older in free agency.

The Phillies are also stuck in the National League East with two teams (Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals) that look to be demonstrably better than they are.

Still, the negativity feels incorrectly unchecked. The Phillies won only 73 games in 2013. They should be better in 2014, though that may not be saying all that much.

But isn’t getting better the whole point?

Here are five Phillies doing their part early in spring training to get people in Philadelphia talking about the baseball team again.

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Philadelphia Phillies Injury Report: Latest Updates Heading into Spring Training

The Philadelphia Phillies are noticeably and understandably excited about the start of spring training in Clearwater, Fla.:

Given the painfully dull and disappointing offseason, it is no wonder the Phillies want to talk about something else. 

With pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 13, baseball is set to make its annual re-emergence as the days steadily lengthen and spring gets ever nearer.

The Phillies are an old team who, more than most, will need to run very lucky with health to compete for a playoff berth in 2014. That starts with their overall condition going into spring training.

You will recall that a number of prominent Phillies ended the 2013 season on the shelf.

Ryan Howard is the biggest name of the sometimes walking wounded. The Phillies have $85 million more left to pay Howard on his abominable contract extension. They would love to see him do something to earn that money in 2014.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is optimistic that Howard can bounce back. “Ryan Howard is at one hundred percent, finally. It’s the first time he’s actually felt normal. He’s down there at Clearwater hitting and working out,” Amaro Jr. recently told Angelo Cataldi on the WIP-FM 94 morning show (h/t

In that same interview, Amaro Jr. indicated that setup man Mike Adams is “throwing well” and that he had received “very good news” about the right-hander from Phillies coaches who watched Adams work.

Center fielder Ben Revere did not play again in 2013 after breaking his his right foot on July 13. The best news on Revere’s injury is no news—there has been no recent indication from any news outlets that Revere will not be ready for spring training or anything less than 100 percent when the season starts.

Likewise, right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick ended the season on the disabled list. But the Phillies just gave him a one-year contract for almost $7.7 million to avoid an arbitration hearing, so presumably he is fit to pitch.

Finally, fellow right-hander Jonathan Pettibone is coming back from a shoulder strain that ended his 2013 season in late July. Pettibone recently told Jim Salisbury of that “I feel good now. Going into a season, it’s the best I’ve felt in a while. I’m ready to go.”

Without a medical degree, it is nearly impossible to know just how healthy any of these players really are. The good news is that, as of right now, none of them are disabled and none of them are complaining of pain.

The Phillies need those good feelings to last all summer long.


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Roy Halladay’s Good Overwhelmed His Bad and Ugly as a Philadelphia Phillie

As ESPN reported on December 9, Roy Halladay retired as a Toronto Blue Jay, but for most Phillies fans and many baseball fans, the truly indelible masterpieces he created came in Phillies’ colors.

Of course, so did some of his most disappointing moments in professional baseball.

On balance, though, Halladay’s highest highs will be treasured long after the ugly images of his lowest Phillies lows are airbrushed out of memory.

Some Phillies fans will point to Halladay’s May 29, 2010, perfect game against the Florida Marlins as the apex of his Phillies career. After all, how can you do better than 27 up, 27 down?

That the perfect game came during Halladay’s Cy Young 2010 season only adds to its luster.

But perfect games, rare as they are, happen far more often than what Halladay did in the 2010 postseason.

On October 6, 2010, Halladay threw a no-hitter in Game One of the Phillies’ National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, the second playoff no-hitter in baseball history.

As recounted by Todd Zolecki in his game story for, the no-no dented the record books on numerous levels:

Halladay is just the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same season, but the first to throw one in his first postseason start. Halladay is also the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same season.

The moment Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz threw Brandon Phillips out to complete the feat, Phillies fans surely thought it could never get better.

They were right.

As set forth by Michael Baumann of Grantland, “That moment was the high point. Halladay split a pair of decisions with Tim Lincecum in the NLCS the next week, then a year later, allowed the first batter he faced to score in the deciding game of the NLDS against St. Louis.”

Baumann‘s coda on that paragraph—”We didn’t know it at the time, but Halladay would never be Halladay again”—stings the Phillies fan in both its accuracy and finality.

After all the good, Phillies fans probably had to expect and accept some bad and even some ugly, which is more or less all Halladay had to give in 2013.

It was bad when Halladay threw a pitch behind reserve Washington Nationals outfielder Tyler Moore in an early 2013 spring training game.

It was ugly when Halladay gave up nine earned runs after getting only seven outs against an offensively challenged Miami Marlins lineup.

And little could be uglier than the realization that the Phillies paid Halladay $20 million in 2013 to go 4-5 with an earned run average just under seven in 13 starts.

Then again, maybe Halladay’s inability to deliver value on the last year of his contract was a really well-disguised blessing because, ultimately, Roy Halladay did something harder than throwing a perfect game or a postseason no-hitter: He walked away before he was told to go home.

As a result, Phillies fans (and Blue Jays fans too) will be spared the sort of disappointment that denial-afflicted greats like Steve Carlton inflicted on their legacies by hanging on too long.

“To go out there and know it’s not going to feel good and I wasn’t going to do it the way I wanted was frustrating,” Halladay said at his retirement press conference. “I tried to give everything I can but something was holding me back. I felt I couldn’t give them what I wanted to.”

Even in admitting the end, then, Halladay approached the perfection for which he was known.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Best Fallback Pitching Options Following Recent Signings

Barring something unforeseen, the Philadelphia Phillies have settled on their everyday eight in the field for 2014.

Third baseman Cody Asche will join the veteran trio of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the infield. Carlos Ruiz and his three-year contract extension will be behind the plate.

Free-agent signing Marlon Byrd will set up shop in the Phillies outfield along with Ben Revere and Domonic Brown.

If you are holding out hope that the Phillies have a blockbuster trade in them, don’t. “We may look to try to improve our lineup somehow or tweak our lineup somehow,” said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in the wake of the Ruiz signing.

That does not sound like a man sitting on a bombshell. What you see on the roster is pretty much what you will get, as far as hitters and fielders are concerned.

So the likely adds to the Phillies roster, if any are forthcoming, will be made to the pitching staff. beat writer Todd Zolecki’s recent conversation with Amaro Jr. suggested as much, with Amaro Jr. saying this: 

If we can still improve the rotation and our bullpen, we will try to do that. We had a lot of six-year free agents pitching in the rotation, so we’re going to try and create some depth on the pitching side.

Which pitchers make sense for the Phillies?

Ryan Lawrence’s recent Philadelphia Daily News article named all of the usual suspects. They fall into two categories.

Veteran pitchers who would command short-term, short-money contracts (and come with lower expectations, naturally) include Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett and Ryan Vogelsong.

Phillies fans would probably far prefer a younger, more expensive option who could realistically win 15 games in 2014 if everything breaks right. Names who fit that description are Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana.

In a lot of ways, Jimenez, Garza and Santana are very similar. All three are power arms who have had extended periods of dominance pockmarked by significant stretches where they were injured and/or could not get anyone out.

Given Amaro Jr.’s commitment to winning in 2014—misguided as it may becheaping out on pitching help now would be penny wise and pound foolish.

David Schoenfeld of posted recently to his SweetSpot blog why the Washington Nationals should sign Jimenez over Garza or Santana:

Jimenez is the one who can provide the most upside and probably comes in a little less expensive. Plus he has a rubber arm, having made more than 30 starts six seasons in a row, one of just 13 starters to have done that. Garza has battled some injuries, and Santana has been inconsistent and homer-prone despite playing in pitcher-friendly parks.

Accepting that logic on its face, it is as applicable to the Phillies as it is to the Nationals. Perhaps more so.

The Phillies resisted long-term contracts for pitchers for years due to fear of injury, making Garza an unattractive gamble. And Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox, which suggests that Santana might struggle there.

So Jimenez may well be the right choice. Whether the Phillies can afford him is up to Amaro Jr.

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Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Terrifies Fans in Effort to Calm Them

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently spent half an hour talking to Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic. The presumptive goal of Amaro Jr.’s participation in the interview was to placate Phillies fans.

Unfortunately, nothing Amaro Jr. said much advanced his cause. If anything, Amaro Jr. came off as a man stuck in the vast gulf between desperation and deep denial.

Addressing the recent signing of Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million deal, Amaro Jr. said, “Did we have to step up and do an extra year to bring him here? Yes. Did I want to do a third year on him? No. Do I want the player? Yes.”

Credit Amaro Jr. for admitting that even he recognized the difficulty inherent in guaranteeing Ruiz a third year when he will be 37 years old. But debit him for not holding the line on two years.

Having Ruiz at catcher in 2014, as opposed to a cheaper or younger alternative, will not put the Phillies in the playoffs by itself.

As to the aging nature of the roster, Amaro Jr. had this exchange:

Q: Isn’t it kind of a pipe dream to think that these older players can continue to play better?

A: Well, we analyze this stuff as you can imagine as well. It’s not necessarily that they need to play better but we need to just keep them on the field because if they’re on the field and they’re playing, they’ll play effectively.

Missanelli followed up by saying that it is similarly unrealistic to think that the old core players (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and others) can stay healthy. Amaro Jr.’s answer? “We have people to basically step in and be able to help.”

Then Amaro Jr. named Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis as the people who could help.

In other words, the plan for 2014 is the exact same plan as 2013, which was to hope the aging, expensive players could stay on the field long enough to limp into contention.

That plan worked to the tune of 73 wins in 2013.

Asked whether he ever considered a rebuilding phase, Amaro Jr. was truthful. And the truth hurts:

A: Well I don’t know that in this marketplace that we can look the fanbase in the eye and say ‘okay, we are going to completely blow up this team’ based on where we are as far as our commitments and what we think is our talent base and expect to just turn things around…I don’t think that’s fair to the fanbase, I don’t think that’s fair to the people who have been so loyal to us.

This was a soft-peddle way of saying that the Phillies, having committed over $140 million to 10 players in 2014, cannot afford the thousands of repetitively empty blue seats at Citizens Bank Park that a rebuild would bring.

Amaro Jr. underscored the extent to which he is chained to players like Utley and Rollins by speaking of them in terms normally reserved for all-stars in their primes and up-and-coming studs, rather than the declining players they are.

Amaro referring to Utley as “the backbone of our club, he’s a guy that I believe that will…propel this club and help us continue to make the transition” should produce shivers in the spines of Phillies fans. In 2011-12, Utley played little more than one season’s worth of games.

On the basis of a bounce-back 2013, Utley is now “the backbone of our club”? Oh boy.

As for Rollins, Amaro Jr. said this:

A: Jimmy’s our shortstop. I fully expect him to be there Opening Day and to play out the rest of his career with us. Again, Jimmy and Chase in my mind are lifers here with the Phillies and hopefully we can bring another championship to the city with those guys in the middle.

Well, there you have it. Utley and Rollins will be in the middle of the Phillies infield until they do not want to play baseball any more.

Reviews of Amaro Jr.’s performance were, um, not encouraging:

Once upon a time, the great writer David Foster Wallace once referred to applause at a lopsided tennis match as being “so small and sad and tattered-sounding that it’d almost be better if people didn’t clap at all.”

Ruben Amaro Jr. should read some David Foster Wallace the next time he considers going on the air to address the ruins his Phillies have become.

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5 Ways Philadelphia Phillies Should Spend the Coming TV Contract Windfall

The fast-approaching end to the Philadelphia Phillies‘ television rights contract with Comcast is the team’s best hope for a quick reversal of fortune.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports analyzed the unique position the Phillies can exploit given Comcast‘s desire to keep them and Fox Sports 1’s perceived need to add another East Coast team since the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox are out of play.

Then just recently, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News put round numbers to the heretofore rank speculation of just what this deal might mean to the Phillies.

According to data from, the Phillies’ current deal yielded them an average annual rights fee from Comcast of $35 million. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a new deal could be six times as large.

And it’s highly probable that a deal would be in the neighborhood north of $150 million annually.

In the immortal words of Phil Rizzuto, “Holy cow.”

That sort of money could buy the Phillies out of a lot of problems. Here is how they should spend at least some of it.

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Philadelphia Phillies: State of the Franchise at the 2013 Season’s 100-Game Mark

The Philadelphia Phillies are not managed by Bill Parcells, but they are the living embodiment of one of the former National Football League coach’s most famous truisms.

“You are what your record says you are” is a phrase tough guy wannabes and other unpleasant people like to throw around with great self-satisfaction to point up the shortcomings of everyone but them.

I really dislike people who break this old chestnut out every time somebody else makes a mistake or three. Which, I guess, makes it all the more galling that I am applying it to the 2013 Phillies.

It really fits, though.

Until Matt Harvey abused the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, the Phillies were an even 49-49 on the season.

In 2012, the Phillies went 81-81.

You do not need to be a mathematics major to see that the Phillies played 260 games in a bit more than a season and a half and won exactly half of them.

The Phillies’ record, then, says they are a .500 franchise. And you know what?

So does their roster.

The Phillies have about half of an outfield.

Domonic Brown is set to be a fixture in left field. Ben Revere has shown flashes of exciting promise, but his .324 lifetime on-base percentage does not suggest he will ever be more than an adequate leadoff man.

Delmon Young has hit decently and fielded pretty poorly, i.e., he is exactly what he was advertised to be.

The Phillies have about half of an infield.

Jimmy Rollins is having a pretty nondescript campaign by his standards. Chase Utley has been resurgent when he has played. And there ends the good news in the infield.

Ryan Howard is featured in every “worst contract in baseball history” piece the blogosphere can pump out. Michael Young is at the top of every “first Phillie likely to be traded” list (H/T Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).

The Phillies have about half of a starting rotation.

Cliff Lee is an All-Star and shows no signs of slowing down. Cole Hamels has been a hot mess for most of 2013, but it is probably too soon to say he cannot regain ace form in 2014 and beyond.

As an aside, though, the Parcells quote absolutely applies to Hamels this season. His earned run average is over four and he is 4-12. His WHIP this season is a full tenth higher than his career average in that statistical category. He is what he is right now.

After Lee and Hamels, the Phillies have a whole lot of “meh” at the back end of the rotation. Kyle Kendrick is trying as hard as he can, but he will never be confused with an ace.

Jonathan Pettibone, John Lannan and the others pitching on days four and five are only placeholders until better options come along.

The only places you cannot say the Phillies have half a roster are in the bullpen and on the bench.

Because in those areas, the Phillies have much, much less than glass-half-full situations.

The Mike Adams signing can fairly be called a loss. As such, the Phillies are back to handing the ball to the likes of Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo in the late innings, hoping none of them burst into flames trying to get the game to the suddenly iffy Jonathan Papelbon.

And you can’t make me talk about the Phillies’ bench options (beyond Kevin Frandsen, who has been really good) so I won’t.

Besides, if you want to watch the Phillies’ bench, based on the team’s injury problems you can just watch the game from the first inning on—John Mayberry, Jr. and Darin Ruf would be, at best, bench players for most contending teams.

Despite all of the foregoing, the Phillies continue to cling desperately to their .500 record and their dwindling hopes of stealing a playoff spot in an underwhelming National League.

As last year showed, though, .500 becomes less of an accomplishment and more of a burden with each game that falls off the schedule.

The primary bit of good news for the Phillies going forward is what promises to be a wild shedding of salary soon after the season ends on September 29 in Atlanta.

Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz will all fall off the books, freeing up about $46 million ($10 million of Young’s salary in 2013 is being eaten by the Texas Rangers.)

If the Phillies decide to sell Papelbon before the trade deadline, that would be another $13 million saved next season.

So in truth, the future for the Phillies looks quite a bit brighter than the present. For one thing, the National League East is not exactly populated with dominant teams in the way of the 1927 New York Yankees or the Big Red Machine. 

Brown, Revere, Lee and Hamels are a reasonably solid core to build around, prospects like Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle are in the pipeline and the team should have a lot of money to spend next winter.

Getting to that promised time, though, might feel interminable as the 2013 team trudges toward another Even Steven season likely to end without a playoff run.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels Responsible for Phils’ Coming Roster Purge

Cole Hamels is getting a pass from Philadelphia Phillies fans—and the city’s media—for his horrible pitching this season.

That stops now.

The Phillies are exactly halfway through their season after a 16-1 thrashing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They won 39 of their first 81 games are 6.5 games out of a wild-card playoff spot.

For his part, Cole Hamels is 2-11 with an earned run average over 4.50 and a 1.30 WHIP.

Those numbers actually flatter Hamels if you take into consideration what the Phillies are paying him to throw the ball every five days, not to mention how the 2013 team’s fate was placed to a large degree on his left arm.

Think about the team’s outlook back in spring training.

Everyone knew Roy Halladay was, at best, a big question mark and at worst damaged goods. We know now how that turned out. Regardless, counting on Halladay to win double-digit games after the spotty 2012 season he posted was never going to work.

Other than losing Halladay, though, the “back of the baseball card” premise has largely borne out for the Phillies—with the glaring exception of Hamels. That is, most of the Phillies have done more or less what could have been expected of them.

Ben Revere, after a pretty wretched start, is now hitting .280 with 20 stolen bases. Michael Young is hitting .289 after pulling himself out of a terrible slump.

Ryan Howard has hit 10 home runs and driven in 41 while fighting through nagging injuries. Chase Utley missed almost a month, but in his 52 games played, he has hit .281 with an .844 OPS and nine home runs.

And those are just the dossiers of the Phillies who have performed about as expected. 

Some Phils have overachieved wildly.

So the Phillies are no longer the offensive juggernaut that terrorized the National League from 2007-2011. They are below average, ninth out of 15 teams in the National League. 

You know who’s in 10th place in offense in the National League? The 49-30 Pittsburgh Pirates, that’s who.

While the Pirates are patching a capable pitching staff together with the likes of Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Jeff Locke, the Phillies are paying Hamels almost $20 million to go 3-14 in games he starts.

On a few occasions, the Phillies’ bats let Hamels down, but that happens to every starting pitcher.

The position players have had little to do with Hamels’ nondescript June, when he went 1-2 against a punchless slate that included the New York Mets, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins—all below-average offenses in their own rights.

And if you reach back to May 31, you can drag in Hamels’ stink bomb against the Milwaukee Brewers, when Hamels gave up 12 hits and six earned runs in five innings to fall to 1-9.

The saddest part of all of this is that many of Hamels’ teammates are exceedingly likely to pay for his sins.

CBS Sports’ Peter Gammons and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal are just two of the prominent pundits suggesting that the likes of Utley, Young, Jonathan Papelbon and even ace Cliff Lee may go at or before the trade deadline as the Phillies fall further out of contention.

Hamels, of course, is going nowhere. It is hard to get a great return on a 2-11 pitcher with five years and $112.5 million left on his contract.

Think of it this way: Had Hamels just been around .500 in the first half, say, 6-7 instead of 2-11, the Phillies would be 43-38 and in serious contention for a wild-card spot.

Instead, the team appears headed for a fire sale.

Maybe it is harsh to put all the blame on Hamels for the train wreck that has been the Phillies’ 2013 season.

But he’s a really good place to start. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Most Intense Moments in the Phillies-Dodgers Rivalry

The Phillies are in San Francisco as this article posts, and as you may have heard the Giants are the defending world champions.

Little did anyone know at the time, but it was the Giants’ first of their two World Series runs of the last four seasons that started the Phillies’ downward spiral to relative irrelevance.

Cody Ross hitting two home runs off Roy Halladay, and all that followed, was the canary in the coal mine.

While it is easy to envy and dislike the Giants, you would be hard-pressed to call the Giants a rival of the Phillies. The teams play in different divisions three time zones apart.

Of course, that is true for the Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers, too. But the Phillies and Dodgers have been rivals for a long time.

And in a week where Roy Halladay was placed on the disabled list, a week where Phillies fans are once again coming to grips with the likelihood that this recent golden era of Phillies baseball is over, it serves to revisit some happier memories.

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