Paul Hagen | We'll soon see just how ready Phils are

Posted: March 30, 2007

AFTER THE last out was made and the game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton was declared a tie, they trouped onto the waiting buses that would transport them to the airport. Another Florida spring training has come to an end for the Phillies.

As spring trainings go, this one was about average. Some have been better. Some have been worse. It was, as always, difficult to determine how much emphasis should be placed on results and stats during a schedule in which starters often get only a couple of at-bats or don't play at all while players destined for the minors fill out the innings.

Dallas Green has seen 51 spring trainings and doesn't pretend to have it figured out. But as he gazed down at the field one day earlier this week, he was generally upbeat about the team's chances, with the disclaimer that he didn't see enough depth to keep the team afloat in case of a string of injuries.

There was one thought that nagged at the only man who has ever managed the Phillies to a world championship, though.

"The only thing that worries me is that I've never been a switch-turner," he said. "Today's players, a lot of them, seem to want to just go about their business and they think they can just turn on the switch when the regular season starts."

A few hours later, after he finished pitching, veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer snapped to attention when asked about getting his work in. He didn't approach spring training that way, he said. "I'm one who believes you can't just flip the switch when the season starts," he added.

It's an old debate that seems particularly relevant for a Phillies team that has stressed getting off to a quick start this year, especially since the unforgiving schedule calls for them to play 22 of their first 28 games against National League East opponents.

In the last few days, manager Charlie Manuel says he has sensed the team starting to come together. Have they, in fact, flipped the switch?

The answer will begin to be revealed Monday when the season opens at Citizens Bank Park against the Braves.

Hot stuff

* Steve Swindal, who is married to George Steinbrenner's daughter Jennifer, appeared poised to take control of the Yankees after the Boss steps aside. But Swindal was arrested for DUI on Valentine's Day. His wife has now filed for divorce. And, according to published reports, Steinbrenner is looking for a way to buy out Swindal's interest in the team.

* , who is married to daughter , appeared poised to take control of the Yankees after the Boss steps aside. But Swindal was arrested for DUI on Valentine's Day. His wife has now filed for divorce. And, according to published reports, Steinbrenner is looking for a way to buy out Swindal's interest in the team.

* Mariners minor leaguer Chris Minaker did an 86-page master's thesis at Stanford on the social pressure athletes facing to use performance-enhancing substances. His conclusion: "If the need for steroids is broken down by sport, it becomes clear that baseball has the biggest problem."

* Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman has been a bust in the first two seasons of his 4-year, $16.8 million contract. But hitting coach Mitchell Page says he's had the best at-bats of any player on the team. "If he carries it over into the season, he's going to hit .290 and be an All-Star," he predicted. Responded Guzman: "I know everybody's talking. So I have to so something."

* Giants lefthander Barry Zito is on a nutrition program formulated by a former NASA consultant, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Every other day in spring training, Zito received shipments of vacuum-sealed packets of blackberry custard, spinach flour pasta and mandarin toast that had been formulated specifically for his body chemistry.

Around the bases

* Grady Sizemore led the

* led the

Indians in hits last season. He's batting .117 this spring. Travis Hafner led the Tribe in homers. He hasn't hit any in Grapefruit League play.

* The Twins sent Matt Garza

(1.50 ERA) to the minors and kept Carlos Silva (11.02) in their rotation. "Sometimes spring training is very deceiving. And, hopefully, that's the case here," said manager Ron Gardenhire.

* Marcus Giles will lead off for

the Padres. His brother, Brian, will bat second.

* Here's one reason the

Rockies think they'll be improved this year. On Opening Day a year ago, centerfielder Cory Sullivan was the leadoff hitter and shortstop Clint Barmes batted second. This year both will start the season at Triple A Colorado Springs.

Quote-unquote

* Giants outfielder Randy

Winn, on being moved to eighth in the batting order: "I don't think you change anything. You swing at strikes and take balls."

* Giants outfielder , on being moved to eighth in the batting order: "I don't think you change anything. You swing at strikes and take balls."

* Padres outfielder Mike Cameron, on the chance that he might have to start the season on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring: "The only way I don't make it to Opening Day is if I miss the bus."

* Reds catcher Chad Moeller,

on hearing that manager Jerry Narron had asked centerfielder Ryan Freel to play cautiously to avoid an injury in spring training: "Asking Ryan Freel to take it easy is like asking a kid not to play with his new wagon on Christmas morning."

By the numbers

* 62: Exhibition at-bats for Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols before he hit his first home run this spring.

* Exhibition at-bats for Cardinals slugger before he hit his first home run this spring.

* 7,000: Drop in season tickets sold, from 22,000 to 15,000, for the Washington Nationals since their inaugural season of 2005.

Finally

This could only happen in spring training.

This could only happen in spring training.

Phillies minor league righthander William Savage, who split last season between Batavia and Lakewood, came to camp this spring with a goal. He wanted to get through the entire spring without walking a batter.

He was on his way to accomplishing that, too, until one day recently when he went 3-1 to the batter. Taking a moment to gather himself, he backed off the mound, picked up the resin bag and took a deep breath. As he did, he noticed pitcher Jon Lieber's monster truck parked behind the Carpenter Complex fence.

Sure enough. Just as Savage was about to release the ball, Lieber leaned on the horn.

"And that horn sounds like a railroad train," said bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer with a laugh. "The ball hit the backstop."

Savage had a sense of humor about it, though. He sent Lieber a letter, saying the veteran at least owed him a glove. *

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|