March 19, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryne Sandberg gave the obvious answer when asked about his rotation for the Phillies' season-opening series in Texas (Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, if you really need the help). Here are three more puzzling questions that need to be answered as the Phillies enter their last week of Grapefruit League play: 1) Is Chase Utley's performance a reason for concern, or just a small sample size? While a lot of attention has been paid to things that went wrong for the Phillies last season, second base is one position that exceeded most reasonable expectations.
March 12, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The game was nearly over as Domonic Brown found the chair in front of his locker stall, sat down and chucked his cleats aside. He was likely en route to joining Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the indoor cages. Even though they were subbed out of the lineup, the two longest-tenured Phillies players were not finished for the day. Instead, they were working up a new sweat, taking swings in the batting cage that sits under the infamous Tiki Bar at Bright House Field.
March 10, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Spring training is to the regular baseball season what Johnny & the Doo-Dads are to the Rolling Stones. It is a warm-up act, a space filler, a revving of engines before the green flag, a teaser for what is to come. Nothing is won in spring training and nothing is lost, at least from a team standpoint. Players can win or lose spots, but only on the margins of the roster. The regulars get their work in, pack up after a handful of innings, and get out of there before the traffic.
March 7, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Freddie Freeman walked to home plate Wednesday with two outs in the third inning. Reid Brignac, the Phillies third baseman, jogged to the opposite side of the field. He positioned himself between second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who occupied the center of the diamond. The Phillies employed a defensive shift, and Freeman responded by slapping a pitch to left field for a single. This was not a momentous occasion, although manager Ryne Sandberg later revealed that his team would adopt a practice common elsewhere in baseball.
March 6, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Nights like last night can make a man think about getting a little skin in the game. Most online sports books are offering 60-to-1 odds on the Phillies winning the 2014 World Series, and when you watch Cliff Lee walk to the clubhouse with a 3-1 lead against Toronto's R.A. Dickey, you can't help but think. You know . . . There are plenty of good reasons why you can get these kinds of odds. They are the same reasons why the Phillies regular-season over/under is currently 76.5 wins at Bovada.com.
February 28, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Baseball's season of change started Wednesday for a Phillies team trying to recapture its past with a core of mid-30-somethings. This is the year of expanding replay, a 20th-century technology that baseball finally has fully embraced in a long-overdue effort to get as many calls as possible right. It also was going to be the year that home-plate collisions were outlawed, but that idea recently was reviewed and replaced by a rule that allows certain home-plate collisions but not others.
February 20, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - If familiarity is viewed as a strength for the players in Phillies camp competing for jobs, John Mayberry Jr., Kevin Frandsen and Darin Ruf should feel somewhat comfortable. Mayberry and Frandsen each played in at least 100 games last season. Ruf, meanwhile, started 62 of the 66 games the Phillies played after the All-Star break. But there seems to be a very good chance that one of those three players will not be on the Phillies' roster when the season begins.
February 13, 2014 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Just 3 short years ago, the Phillies' rise to top dog on the Philadelphia sports landscape reached its peak when newly signed Cliff Lee found a seat on the dais for a near-celebratory press conference following the team's first workout of the spring. Lee completed a rotation of aces. He sat alongside two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and postseason MVPs Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Joe Blanton was there, too. Back then, the most pressing question was probably who would sit next to who at that press conference.
February 10, 2014 |
February is a terrible month for hope, and even by February's depressing standards, the one we are enduring is particularly bleak. It is usually uplifting for sports fans to focus on the annual migration of baseball players to Florida and Arizona for the warming rites of spring training, even as the first month of it is played out while winter still grips the calendar. The Phillies begin the formal part of their preparations for the coming season when pitchers and catchers are required to report on Wednesday to Clearwater.
February 6, 2014 |
EVERY GOOD team has a Cody Asche. The Phillies have been a pretty good team for a pretty long time. No team in history has more losses, but the current Phillies epoch has only two losing seasons in its last 13. That was last season, and it was the result of $40 million of the payroll - Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard - idling on the disabled list. Why the long run of relevance? Talent, to be sure, along with two fine managers and some brilliant front-office decisions. Perhaps just as important, since 2001 the Phillies have had a homegrown sheriff in the clubhouse, a template of professionalism and performance; a Derek Jeter, or a Chipper Jones.