March 17, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - On March 7, the Phillies rode a bus 55 miles from here to Sarasota for a spring-training game against the Baltimore Orioles. They did not so much play baseball that day as they committed it. They struck out eight times. They were charged with two fielding errors and probably should have been charged with more. Their pitchers allowed 16 hits and walked six batters. They lost, 15-4. A circus calliope would have provided an appropriate soundtrack. A team often chalks up such messy performances to the easygoing nature of spring training, especially a team with as many experienced players as the Phillies have.
March 15, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - So Ryne Sandberg, in his first spring training as the Phillies' manager, has homed in on Jimmy Rollins as his first target to send a message. Sandberg held Rollins out of the starting lineup Thursday for the Phillies' 6-2 victory over the Yankees, the third consecutive game he had the shortstop watching from the dugout. The manager spent 10 minutes after the game denying that there was anything punitive about his benching Rollins, that he wanted to give a player with just 15 at-bats this spring "a break," but it sure was hard to interpret it as anything else.
February 25, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryan Howard calls him "Happy. " It's a perfect nickname, because Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere seems to have a perpetual smile. Only two things wiped it away last year. The first was his horrific start to the season, and the second was a premature end to the season caused by a fractured right ankle that required major surgery just before the all-star break. Revere's injury isn't typically high on the long list of reasons why the 2013 Phillies season spiraled into a monstrous free fall that dropped them to fourth in the National League East, but when you look at the facts, it probably should be. Hoping he would fill the hole left by the departure of centerfielder Shane Victorino at the 2012 trade deadline, Revere instead became the hole at the top of the batting order through the first month of the season.
February 24, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Matt Stairs' majestic, go-ahead home run flirted with the palm trees beyond the ballpark at Chavez Ravine before finding a resting place deep in the upper rightfield bleachers at Dodger Stadium. Three batters earlier, Lou Marson winced as another home run - of the line-drive variety - nearly grazed his helmet. Before Stairs' famous shot off Jonathan Broxton, Shane Victorino tied Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series with his own, two-run home run off Cory Wade.
February 22, 2014 |
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - One of them was celebrated upon departure. The other one just left. They had a day at the diner for Charlie Manuel shortly after the Phillies fired him in August. The first 10 callers to WIP-FM got to worship Uncle Charlie. So did the next 10, and the 10 after that. Rich Dubee, on the other hand, stayed to the miserable end of the Phillies' 2013 season and was told almost immediately afterward that the team would replace him as the pitching coach. Manuel, of course, was the Phillies' avuncular manager for nearly nine years, and once he survived his fruitless first two seasons and led the team to a World Series victory and a half-decade of divisional dominance, it was pretty clear how he'd be remembered in Philadelphia.
February 21, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Cole Hamels has been in Clearwater for a few weeks, but he has yet to throw off the mound after experiencing some arm soreness early this offseason. Hamels is healthy; he's just behind the majority of the pitchers in camp. But that's not to say he hasn't been working at perfecting his craft at the Carpenter Complex during the first 2 weeks of workouts. Hamels walked through a pickoff drill with a conga line-like group of fellow Phillies pitchers this week.
February 19, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Phillies wanted to trade Jonathan Papelbon, a reality the $50 million reliever said he avoided this winter by watching Dora the Explorer with his children. There were no takers for the eccentric pitcher. His manager, Ryne Sandberg, wondered if Papelbon is ever totally sure of what comes from his mouth. For 20 minutes Monday, Papelbon spoke in bromides. He ignored the trade talk. "I didn't even know about it, to be totally honest, man," Papelbon said.
February 17, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The first four words from Ryan Howard on Saturday were fatalistic. Optimism flowed from a cafeteria table at Bright House Field over the next 18 minutes - Howard wants to play 162 games; he believes he can hit 58 home runs again; two healthy knees will push him to conquer lefthanded pitching. But, in the beginning, Howard faced a dozen reporters and sighed. "Same stuff," he said, "another year. " The questions for Howard, the Phillies' $125 million first baseman, are identical this spring because 2013 was another lost season, like 2012.
February 16, 2014 |
SOCHI - Katie Uhlaender had just been rocketing down a mountain of ice on a tiny piece of steel and fiberglass at more than 70 miles an hour. But the agonizingly slow descent that followed, one rung of the standings at a time, was far more frightening. With just three competitors to go in the fourth and final heat of Friday night's Olympic skeleton event, Uhlaender was in the lead. If only one of that trio failed to top her combined time of 3:54.34, the daughter of Charlie Manuel's late baseball roommate would earn a bronze medal in her third Olympic try. Watching her pursuers in front of the cameras at Sanki Sliding Center's kiss-and-cry area, Uhlaender was briefly buoyed when she saw one sled veer slightly off course.
February 14, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The record shows 42 games of major league experience for Ryne Sandberg, Mgr., but the real beginning arrived yesterday. Yesterday, the coaches and the players were his, along with an authority over the future that he lacked during the interim between Charlie Manuel's firing on Aug. 16 and the end of the Phillies' dreadful 73-89 season. Around 9:30 a.m., the pitchers and catchers walked out into a brisk, chilly wind and began the process of turning the page. "I think for the most part I feel prepared for it," Sandberg said as he sat in front of a gaggle of media members at Bright House Field.