July 20, 2011 |
CHICAGO - The ball floated in the thick air toward the Phillies bullpen tucked in the small foul territory that is Wrigley Field. Brian Schneider was crouching there Tuesday night, catching Ryan Madson, and had the best view of it. The backup catcher looked up, waved his right arm to will the ball fair in the ninth inning. When Michael Martinez's game-winning hit plopped on the outfield grass, Schneider's hand turned into a fist pump. "Right away," Schneider said, "I knew.
July 22, 2011 |
Charlie Manuel is rich. He's a baseball manager with two closers, plus another one who is about to join the active roster. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that's an advantage. Or maybe that's like Flyers coach Peter Laviolette having three goalies during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Manuel said the other day in Chicago that he felt confident putting Antonio Bastardo or Ryan Madson into the game "in any situation. " Like, say, the ninth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series?
August 22, 2011
WASHINGTON - The thing about bullpens, see, is that even the best ones tend to be a work in progress. Managers and pitching coaches have a plan. Then some guys get overworked. Other guys couldn't get into the game if they bought a ticket. Throw in some rain and pretty soon that neat, little chart looks a lot like the lineup card at the end of a 16-inning game, all tattered and dog-eared and messy with names written in here and crossed out there. Just look at how much has changed since the Phillies arrived at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater for the first time this spring.
July 18, 2011
NEW YORK - So there you were yesterday afternoon, seven-run lead, Juan Perez handed the ball to start the eighth inning. Juan Perez, author of the nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning against the Braves 10 days ago, the latest unexpected bullpen gift for Charlie Manuel's Phillies, in a position so advantageous you almost felt empathy for your former rivals and their fans. Pass the remote, check out the women's soccer match, watch the British Open recap. This one was so, so over.
July 23, 2011 |
Antonio Bastardo looked lost. This wasn't the ninth inning. This wasn't the mound where he had left his 0.99 ERA, pinpoint fastball and filthy slider. He was wearing the No. 58, but this wasn't the same Antonio Bastardo who was basically automatic - saving five games, allowing one run in 91/3 innings, giving up zero hits in eight of nine appearances, and striking out 11 while Ryan Madson was on the disabled list. That Bastardo had convinced everyone there was going to be a closer controversy when Madson returned to claim his ninth inning.
February 27, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - There is this perception, a conclusion really, that Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo wore out last season. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee believes it, so does manager Charlie Manuel. The grind of a big-league pennant race got to the two young relievers, or so it goes, which may be one reason the Phillies have a slew of bullpen arms around this spring with major league resumès. Jose Contreras is throwing again and Dontrelle Willis looks pretty good, too. Chad Qualls, a veteran, durable, seventh-inning guy, is new, and journeymen lefties like Jeremy Horst and Pat Misch are here as well.
January 8, 2012
This time a year ago, the names Vance Worley and Michael Stutes were barely on the Phillies' radar. Even by the end of spring training, Worley had long been ticketed for triple-A Lehigh Valley while Stutes was teased with a trip north to Citizens Bank Park merely for two exhibition games before he, too, was an IronPig. Then they combined for 1932/3 major-league innings in 2011, quickly gaining the trust of manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. Vance became Vanimal and Michael became Mike.
May 12, 2012 |
Even the off days are difficult ones for the Phillies right now. Instead of rest and relaxation, the Phillies had to do some roster juggling Thursday as they prepared for the start of Friday's three-game series against the San Diego Padres. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team is "probably going to make some changes over the next few days," but he refused to comment on the Twitter revelation from recently demoted reliever Michael Schwimer that the team has promoted infielder Hector Luna and pitchers Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes from triple-A Lehigh Valley.
August 29, 2012 |
When your team is either well on its way to a division title or at least still fighting for a playoff spot, the September call-ups from the minor leagues have a far different meaning. In that scenario, you call up the players who give you the best chance to win on a nightly basis even if they're not considered top prospects. A year ago, for example, outfielder Brandon Moss was among the September call-ups for the Phillies because he had the ability to provide left-handed power off the bench.
August 1, 2012 |
SOMEONE ASKED during an online chat on Monday whether Pat Gillick was still involved in the Phillies' decision making process. And I thought, "Oh yeah, whatever happened to that guy?" Gillick is still listed as a Phillies advisor, but the days of Ruben Amaro Jr. referencing him at major press conferences — like the one announcing the 6-year, $144 million contract extension for Cole Hamels — has passed. During extended question-and-answer sessions after the formal one from the podium that day, not once did any of the principals involved reference the former Phillies general manager.