Every morning, no matter if the Phillies are home on the road, there’s batting practice at Bright House Field.
Ruf and Rupp each hit two home runs Wednesday as the Phillies won two games, vs. Baltimore in Clearwater and vs. Minnesota in Ft. Myers. Wonder if that has ever happened, two different players hitting two home runs in a split squad day.
Cameron Rupp posted a clever tweet: “4 homers on the day for Cameron Ruf.”
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Losing Altherr is a big blow. He’s an athletic, an outstanding defensive outfielder with a good arm and power potential. Plus he’s a right-handed bat something we need. Goeddel is an intriguing young prospect. He, too, is very athletic. As a hitter, very aggressive. As a Rule 5 pick, he was going to get playing time. Now, even more.
What a great arm Velasquez has. He lights it up in the middle of the 90s consistently. Can see why we wanted him in the Giles deal. He likes to pitch and is working on his off-speed stuff.
Howard, who’s been sick, got to take live BP Wednesday. Standing behind the cage were Luzinski and Schmidt. Thought hit me, those three hit a ton of Phillies home runs. Our greatest eras were represented. Now, we’re trying to build another core for another championship run.
As we get to the middle of March, more and more Phillies fans are coming down here. In talking with them, they are enjoying seeing the outstanding young players and they understand the direction the organization is taking. They really know a lot about our young prospects, are very interested in judging their talent and following their careers.
I continue to be amazed with the atmosphere at Bright House Field. There’s no better ballpark in Florida. Fans just continue to enjoy being here. It’s been like that from day one 12 years ago.
Birthdays today: OF Cedric Hunter (28) and broadcaster Ben Davis (39) . . . Hispanic Phillies minor leaguers will have English speaking lessons starting Friday morning at the Complex . . . While this is the Phillies 70th spring training in Clearwater, it’s also the 50th anniversary of Carpenter Complex. Learn about the history of the Complex visit http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
Spring Training Memories
Ben Davis, Phillies broadcaster
“I guess you could say my first spring training was in February 1996, in Peoria, AZ. I was out there the previous year for a week in extended spring after I got drafted by the Padres. But that first, full spring training was in 1996. My roommate was a pitcher and fellow Pennsylvanian named Todd Erdos. I can’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed in, nor do I want to. It was a cockroach-infested hole. One memory I can recall is thinking to myself, ‘How many more bullpens are there to catch?’
“The things I liked most was getting in the hot weather, hitting on an actual field (as opposed to a cage in some cold warehouse back home), being back with my teammates, NCAA March Madness brackets, and preparing myself every day for the long season coming up.
“I didn’t like getting up early every day. I didn’t like the minor league chow line. I didn’t like the endless bullpens to catch. I didn’t like my farmer’s tan! I didn’t like that it was 6 weeks long…we, as players, thought we were ready to go a lot sooner than that.”
I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, March 18, at Bright House Field. First opportunity to buy the book.
Today 64-year-old Pete Mackanin is in his first full year as the Phillies manager. Three times, he’s been an interim manager in the majors, including last season with the Phils. He spent 13 seasons managing in the minors and six in winter ball.
Yesteryear, Pete played in two seasons with the Phillies during his nine-year major league career as an infielder. He was claimed off waivers from Montreal in September of 1978. He also was on the 1979 club and traded to Minnesota after that season. His Phillies career amounted to 18 games, 17 at-bats, a .176 average and one home run, 9/26/79, off St. Louis LHP Bob Skyes at Veterans Stadium. As an enemy player, he took Tommy Underwood and Larry Christenson deep at the Vet.
He’s one eight to manage, play and coach for the Phillies.
Pete’s Spring Training Memories
“First spring training was with the Washington Senators minor league teams in 1970. Stayed at the Holiday Inn in Plant City, which is across the state from Pompano Beach where the big league team trained.
“I signed out of high school in 1969, so it’s all new on my first day. I had played the year before at (Rookie League) Wytheville, Virginia. But, spring training is a whole different entity in itself. So I was just doing what they told me, trying to see how everything worked.
“My first Phillies spring training as a player was 1979. Jim Wright broke his arm that spring. He threw a pitch and his arm just snapped and dangled. He was a top prospect but he was never the same.
“Being around guys like Schmidt and Luzinski and Bowa. Lonborg and Carlton and all these real good players. I was trying to make the team as a utility infielder. I just kept my mouth shut. You go about your business differently when you’re in that situation. You just try to blend in.”
“My least favorite part is watching pitchers throw on the side. Because you see what you think is really good stuff and you get excited. And then, not all of them, but some of them get in the game and get killed.
“My favorite part is the camaraderie in the clubhouse. It keeps me young. We have a lot of fun in the clubhouse, trading jokes and telling stories. If you kept a recording of the stories that pop up on a daily basis, even from back in the day, it would be a real money maker. We laugh. We hear the same stories 10 times and we still laugh.”
With the minor leaguers having started their camp at Carpenter Field, extra bodies are available for the major league club. Every morning an e-mail is sent by Joe Cynar, Assistant Director, Minor League Operations/Florida, to Pete Mackanin and his staff listing the minor leaguers being assigned to the big club for that day’s game.
Tomorrow the Phillies have their second and last split squad, home with the Orioles and at the Twins. Look for multiple extra bodies. Bus for the Twins game in Ft. Myers leaves at 7:45 a.m.
Phillies minor league teams begin exhibition games a week from today (March 15). Two games are at Carpenter Field every afternoon, either AAA and AA or two class A teams. Those games provide an opportunity for players from the big league camp to get some at-bats or innings.
Photo day for all Phillies minor leaguers was held yesterday at 6:30 a.m. . . . Sports Illustrated is doing a cover story for its April issue featuring Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola. Photo shoot is today . . . WIP’s Mike & Ike Show finished two straight days of live broadcasts from Bright House Field today . . . Station’s morning show will be live Thursday and Friday . . . Happy 74th birthday today to Dick Allen . . . Greg Luzinski is in camp as a guest instructor.
The Phillies lost the first game they ever played in Clearwater, 13-1, to the Detroit Tigers on March 11, 1947, at Athletic Field. Their first win came 17 days later, 8-7, over St. Louis on an 11th-inning, walk-off home run by OF Johnny Wyrostek.
Who’s 1st at 2nd?
OK, who has played the most games at second base in Phillies history? Answer is easy. Only one of the top five is relatively unknown. Check out the story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, March 18, at Bright House Field. First opportunity to buy the book
Everybody needs spring training including Phillie Phanatic. He’s at every Bright House Field game. His hot dog shooter was even sent down on the equipment truck last month.
Wonder what he does when there are no games….fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, sun- bathing on Clearwater Beach, reading in the Clearwater library, bonding with friends at the Tampa Zoo or face time with the Galapogos Gang back in Philly? We’ll probably never know.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Mentioned last week how things were being done differently in camp. Over the past week observed that the coaches and instructors were doing a lot more instructing and teaching and the players were paying attention. It is another example of having a camp of young players. Often in the past, veteran players sort of had their own programs. Not this year. It has created a totally different atmosphere.
Got to say something about Chooch (Carlos Ruiz). He’s so valuable in the clubhouse. He not only talks to the young catchers every day and young pitchers but everyone. His English is great, he can be serious and he can make people laugh. (Andres) Blanco is very similar. They are really important players on this team.
Another observation, the camp is filled with big athletes. Most pitchers are tall. (Jorge) Alfaro is a big, good-looking athlete. A power bat and power arm. The only guy I can look in the eye is (Roman) Quinn. He’s my height.
J.P. (Crawford) is another impressive athlete. Just watching him in drills, he is fluid, good arm, good hands. He’s rangy and will fill out. Like everyone else, it’s going to be interesting watching him develop into a big leaguer.
Ernie Whitt’s team won the golf tournament. Our team and his tied. The tie breaker was determined by matching scorecards from the lowest handicapped hole back. It took four holes to determine the winner. With a lot of new, young players I thought we might have trouble finding golfers. We wound up with 68 participants, more than a year ago.
Most interesting story was (Vince) Velasquez. Usually I pick the older players for captains and the draft. Learned that he has a 7 handicap which means he can play. So I picked him as one of the captains. Sunday morning Phil Sheridan called me from the clubhouse and said Velasquez wanted to talk to me. I figured he’s bailing. Instead, he was pumped. He wanted to know all about the draft, how it worked, how many players were on each team. “I can’t wait and we’re not out to lose. I’m going to buy my team matching golf shirts,” he said. He did and his team finished third. The Belleair Country Club does such a great job helping us put on the tournament which is followed by a dinner and presentation of awards. Did lose one captain because he wasn’t feeling well, Schmitty. He’s a good golfer and we missed him.
The tournament is a great thing and is always held the day before the games begin. It is nice break from the daily drills and the games that will last until October. One other point, I was glad we beat the University of Tampa. It may sound strange but there was a lot of negativity when we lost to them last spring. Chris Wheeler.
Somewhere around 150 players will be in the Phillies minor league camp at Carpenter Field on Friday. First day includes introductions in the large Training Facility. The number of players will increase when some of the young prospects are assigned there from the big league camp. Daily workouts are open to the fans free of charge. More later about the game schedule there.
Today’s one of those split squad dates. One squad will be at Bright House Field to face the Astros while another will bus (9:15 a.m.) to nearby Tampa to take on the Yankees. With an army of pitchers in camp, the two games gives the staff a chance to see more arms.
Spring Training Memories
Tommy Hutton (1B, 1972-77)
“My 1st Spring Training was with the Dodgers at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Simply put, Vero Beach was quite a change for this Southern California kid! My roommate was Jim Lefebvre. With minor leaguers and major leaguers all together in Dodgertown, it was a thrill to see guys like Koufax, Drysdale, etc. hanging out in the same places you did.
“My first Phillies spring training was 1972 and was different than Dodgertown. The Carpenter Complex was a few miles from the main ballpark and made for some adjustments. The best thing that ever happened to me in Clearwater was meeting my wife Debby in 1974. I’m happy to report 41 years later and still going strong.
“The part of spring training I enjoyed was just getting back in the routine of playing baseball and the camaraderie of my teammates. What I didn’t like was the pitchers were always finished with their work hours before the position players!! My wife could never understand why my Brother-in-Law, Dick Ruthven was always home way before I was!!!”
March 4, 2004: Phillies defeated New York Yankees, 5-1, in first game played at Bright House Network Field. SS Jimmy Rollins hit the first home run. Seems so long ago.
Voting Ends Monday
Yep, at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 7, fan voting ends for the 2016 inductee into the Toyota Phillies Wall of Fame: http://www.phillies.com/wof.
In my experience, spring training comes in three phases, let’s get started, let’s play games and let’s get out of here. Phase two starts today with the first Grapefruit League game and the Phillies in their red spring training jerseys. While the game won’t be a sellout, there’s nothing more beautiful than a packed Bright House Field.
With games underway in Florida and Arizona, Mike Ondo, Director of Professional Scouting, has his staff covering both states. Florida includes Jon Mercurio,
Howie Freiling, Jesse Levis, Dave Hollins, Ed Wade and Roy Tanner. Covering Arizona are Dan Wright, Craig Colbert, Jeff Harris, Del Unser, Gordon Lakey and Steve Jongewaard.
A year ago at this time, Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Justin DeFratus and Jake Diekman were in the Phillies bullpen. All have departed.
Plenty of arms competing for a bullpen spot starting today.
Included are four left-handers, Daniel Stumpf, Elvis Araujo, James Russell and Bobby
LaFromboise. Stumpf is a rule 5 draftee, Araujo was great last year but struggled with command in Venezuela this winter, Russell has the most big league experience but he’s attempting to bounce back from a tough 2015 and LaFromboise is a non-roster invitee who’s bounced around on waiver claims.
Third annual Alumni Day is scheduled for Sunday, March 20. More on that later . . . Don’t forget to vote for the 2016 Wall of Fame inductee: http://www.phillies.com/wof . . . Chris Wheeler will have another Clearwater report on Thursday . . . Carlos Ruiz will miss several games in a couple of weeks to play for his native country, Panama, in the World Baseball Classic.
Spring Training Memories
Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95)
“The first year was 1986. Location, Days Inn in West Palm Beach, FL. My first day there I remember walking to my room on the second floor, over-looking the balcony rail and seeing about 12 girls. One of them, Wendy Darling, eventually became my wife. She was on spring break sunning by the pool. Baseball definitely blessed my Life!!!
“I remember the cast of characters we had there in 1991, my first camp with the Phillies, the foundation of the 1993 team. Also, meeting and getting to know my new pitching coach Johnny Padres. What a great and funny guy. Also, I remember Roger McDowell throwing a pack of fire crackers in the bathroom early in the morning scaring everyone to death. You had to always know where he was at back then.
“I liked seeing the guys again and also the smell and sounds of the ballpark. I liked working to get ready to compete as a team. I loved the challenge. I disliked the standing around in the wind shagging BP after we had gotten all our work in for the day. The standing and cooling down made you so stiff.”
The very first spring training game in Clearwater was held March 15, 1923. The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) defeated the Boston Braves, 12-7, at Clearwater Athletic Field, located near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street. Original capacity was 3,000 seats in a wooden grandstand.
Perhaps a sign of what was to come a year ago happened at Bright House Field when the Phillies lost to the University of Tampa on March 1. Yes, a college team. Well, the Phillies can get revenge on Sunday afternoon again at Bright House Field. Jeremy Hellickson will start and will be backed by a lot of the young prospects in camp.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Camp has been very interesting. Pitchers are playing pepper something I hadn’t seen in all my time in spring training. Pete (Mackanin) explained he wanted the pitchers to handle balls more often than the same old PFP (pitchers fielding practice). He also thought it was a good way for the pitchers to get to know each other. There are so many new faces. Plus, it gives pitchers a chance to handle a bat.
Pete added to that by having pitchers field ground balls at shortstop and second base, straight on, to their left and right. Can’t believe Lefty (Steve Carlton) would have done this drill. Again, I had never seen pitchers taking grounders. I saw LA (Larry Andersen) watching and had to laugh. He hated PFP.
One morning, Bowa was on the half-field working with J.P. (Crawford). They worked on fielding ground balls and flashing across the bag on double plays. Bowa was showing him how to catch the ball, set his feet, turn and throw. He also spent a long time just talking with J.P. There’s no better person to teach playing that position than Bowa.
Before the first full workout every year a meeting is held in the clubhouse and everyone gets introduced from the coaches, instructors, trainers, clubhouse and all the front office staff. Different people speak. The room was always so full that many of the non-uniform staff were hidden in the corners during the intros. On Tuesday, the meeting took place in the large Training Facility at the complex that houses a weight room and six indoor batting cages and pitching mounds. The players were seated and all of us who got introduced stood in the front. This way everybody saw everybody. This was another first for me.
My role in that meeting is to remind everyone of the annual team golf tournament at nearby Belleair Country Club that will take place next Monday. Somehow, I was put in charge years ago. We’ll have a draft on Sunday. For the first time I didn’t get any flack from the players. However, stand by. Or, maybe it’s just another example of all the new players.
On The Air
The Phillies Grapefruit League schedule starts next Tuesday, 1:05 vs. Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Two teams will meet seven times in Florida.
Game will be on radio, 94.1 WIP, the first of 15 on that station. Six more will be broadcast on MLB.com. Comcast Sportsnet will televise it, the first of six. TCN (The Comcast Network) will televise 13 other games. Complete spring training broadcasting schedule can be found at http://www.phillies.com/schedule.
Lowest uniform number in camp is 2, rookie outfielder Tyler Goeddel, a Rule 5 draft from Tampa Bay . . . Highest number, 94 reliever Dalier Hinojosa . . . Non-roster catcher Logan Moore is #84. His dad, Brad, relieved in 8 games with the Phillies in 1988 and 1990, 0-0, 1.08 ERA. Dad wore #37 (1988) and #46 and #48 (1990) . . . Annual Major League Photo day begins at 6:30 Friday morning . . . After the workout, the players will begin signing baseballs, bats and caps for the team’s Community Outreach department. An authenticator will be on hand for the weekend.
What Is It?
Gene Schall was an outstanding baseball player at Villanova, drafted by the Phillies and played briefly in the majors. He has a key role with the Phillies now. What is it?
Check his story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni..
The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) were the first major league team to hold spring training in Clearwater, 1923-1932 and again 1936-41.
“Now batting, #65 Ryan Howard.”
Yep, that happened in spring training of 2004, Ryan’s first year in the major league camp. That means he has the longest tenure in this year’s camp. The following spring he wore #12. When the 2005 season started, he switched to six.
He and all the rest of the infielders and the outfielders officially work out today for the first time. Ryan will have a media session after the workout ends.
Last week we covered the competition that’s going on with the pitching staff. Well, the other eight positions will have competition, too, but not as vibrant.
Pretty well set with Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz. Eyes in spring training will be on Jorge Alfaro, Gabriel Lino and Andrew Knapp, the team’s future.
Who’s on first? A lot of eyes will be on Howard and Ruf. Ryan has struggled against lefties in recent years while Ruf feasts on them. Against right-handers, it is the opposite. Will it be a platoon? A lot of fans are down on Ryan which is a shame. He’s had an outstanding career and will go down as the franchise’s greatest first baseman. He just hasn’t been the same since Achilles and knee injuries.
Cesar Hernandez will be back at second, Freddy Galvis at shortstop and Maikel Franco at third. Cody Asche and Andres Blanco will be the reserves. As reported, Asche is going to work out at first base to increase his versatility.
All eyes will be on shortstop J.P. Crawford, the Phillies number #1 prospect. Many predict his arrival in the big leagues will come later in the season. Management has indicated the young prospects will be brought up when they are ready to stay.
Well, here’s where there will be competition as to who will open the season in centerfield. Odubel Herrera is the incumbent, newcomer Peter Bourjos excels defensively at that position and Aaron Altherr is a gifted athlete who can play all three.
Tyler Goeddel, the Rule 5 draftee and free agent David Lough can also play anywhere. Asche is more of a left fielder. Two highly-prized rookies, Roman Quinn and Nick Williams, will be watched closely. Both can play center but need more seasoning. Of the two, Williams is the most likely to end up in left or right at AAA.
Of the eight outfielders in camp, only Altherr and Goeddel bat from the right side. There seems to be a shortage of right-handed hitting outfielders in the game, not just with the Phillies.
Regardless of where Herrera, Bourjos and Altherr play, the Phillies will have an excellent defensive outfield this season which will certainly help the pitching staff.
Jimmy Rollins (White Sox) and Jeff Francoeur (Braves) have signed minor league contracts. Phillies play White Sox four times, two at home in September . . . Guest instructors Larry Andersen and Charlie Manuel began last week. Matt Stairs and Dave Hollins joined camp yesterday . . . The Communications Department each spring provides a one-page sheet of head shots of the players in camp. It is more valuable this spring than ever before . . . Wall of Fame voting starts today at http://www.phillies.com/wof.
The Phillies very first spring training practice in Clearwater came on February 24, 1947, at Athletic Field. Only the Detroit Tigers have a longer tenure, having been in Lakeland, FL, consecutively since 1946.
Spring Training Memories
Andy Seminick, Phillies catcher in 1947, “It (clubhouse) was more like a wooden shack and looked like it might fall down any minute. It was so cold the city finally agreed to install a pot-belly stove. The shower area was small and the water was mostly cold.”
Curt Simmons’ first spring training was 1948. “I remember the clubhouse was a dinky wooden structure. Very close quarters, nails to hang your clothing. I was a year out of high school and just thrilled to be there.”
As a rookie in 1950, pitcher Bob Miller went to spring training at Athletic Field. “Small clubhouse. We were always bumping into each other. It didn’t matter to me. I was so proud to wear a Phillies uniform every time I stepped onto that field. The clubhouse guys washed the uniforms every day and hung them to dry on a couple of long lines outside the clubhouse. Can still see that.”
Alone but focused. Pat Gillick, senior advisor to the president & general manager, intently watches a group of pitchers throwing from the mounds at Carpenter Field. This spring is his 59th in professional baseball. Phillies photographer Miles Kennedy.
Miles Kennedy is the Phillies photographer. He’s in Clearwater providing lens gems for phillies.com, the team’s publications and photo archives. As part of the blog this spring, we’ll feature a lens gem from Miles.
Each day the players begin with calisthenics and then long toss. It’s been a spring training ritual that started again this morning at Carpenter Complex with pitchers and catchers.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
This is my 45th straight year of being in spring training with the Phillies. Every year brings change and excitement.
This year is really filled with change. For the first time in my time with the Phillies the president’s office isn’t occupied by Ruly Carpenter, Bill Giles or David Montgomery. Last spring Pat Gillick sat at that desk as an interim president. Andy MacPhail is there now.
Got know Andy a little bit after he assumed that role last season. I really enjoyed talking with him and hearing his perspective on baseball and our ball club. He is very thoughtful and has a plan. I believe the organization is in very good hands.
Pete Mackanin moved from the coaches’ room to the manager’s office at Bright House Field. I’ve known him since 1978. He ran the daily drills the last two springs for Ryne Sandberg but he’s in charge now. Eager to see what changes he’s going to make.
The GM, Matt Klentak, is new. Looking forward to getting to know him this spring. Hard to believe I’m twice as old as he. Yikes.
There have been massive changes with the roster too. There will be 36 pitchers in camp. Of that total, eight were in the big league camp with us at this time a year ago. That’s the biggest change I’ve ever seen. I’m looking forward to seeing the young arms. Chris Wheeler
Phillies radio broadcasts in the Philly are will now be aired on WIP 94.1 FM. Team had been on WCAU AM since 2005.
Same announcers, Scott Franzke, Larry Andersen and Jim Jackson, who will again handle the pre- and post-game shows in addition to some play-by-play during home games. 15 spring training games will be aired on 94.1.
All games of all teams can be heard on mlb.com through an audio package.
Baseball America, in its annual rating of minor league organizations, ranked the Phillies 8th, up from 22nd a year ago . . . Nine players in Phillies history have had one at-bat in one game. Who was the latest? Where is he now? Check out the story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni . . . Fan voting for the Wall of Fame begins next Tuesday on this website. 12 Alumni are on the ballot. Five years of service time has been changed to four years by the team’s Wall of Fame Committee that annually selects the players on the ballot . . . How big a turnover has there been in the Phillies pitching department? Well, Luis Garcia has the longest tenure, three seasons.
Carlos Ruiz’ first spring training camp was 2005. He wore #78. Chooch was never a non-roster player even though extra catchers are brought in from the minors.
The lockers in the empty clubhouse at Bright House Field are no longer empty. Yep, the equipment truck made the 1,058-mile journey from Citizens Bank Park to Clearwater and was unloaded on Sunday. Happy Valentine’s Day.
With 66 players coming to camp (so far), Frank Coppenbarger, Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, had portable, additional lockers built and placed in the middle of the south end of the clubhouse.
According to the Merriman-Webster dictionary, competition is the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win.
They’ll be plenty of competition in Clearwater leading up to Cincinnati. LH Matt Harrison, recovering from a bad back, and Mario Hollands had Tommy John surgery last season and they will be on a rehab program. That makes 35 pitchers in competition. By the April 4 season opener in Cincinnati that number will be down to 11-12.
A year ago, 14 different pitchers started for the Phillies. Their ERA was 5.23, second highest in the NL and the team’s worst since 6.15 in 1930. Their 38 wins were the majors’ lowest.
Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, two impressive young arms from last season, are expected to keep their spots in the rotation. Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, a pair of new veterans, will be two other starters.
After that, it’s open, wide open. RH Alex Asher, RH David Buchanan, RH Severino Gonzalez, RH Chris Leroux, LH Adam Morgan, LH Brett Oberholtzer and RH Vincent Valesquez have all pitched in the majors. Looking to make impressions are RH Mark Appel, RH Zach Eflin and RH Jake Thompson, three young guns.
Gentlemen, as they say in NASCAR, start your engines.
Once upon a long time ago, if you wound up in the bullpen, you weren’t very good. The game as evolved to include closers, set-up guys, situational arms, one-inning pitchers and a deep bullpens. Witness the World Series trophy in Kansas City.
Last month ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote an in-depth article, “What is fueling baseball’s Bullpen Mania?” A very insightful article by Jayson, one baseball’s best writers.
Some numbers he pointed out: 2,003 times starting pitchers failed to make it through the sixth inning last season, the most in the history of baseball. (Geez, the Phillies may have been the ring-leader). And, 15,095 pitching changes. That’s a lot of TV commercials.
If you count Jeff Francoeur, 16 relievers pitched for the Phillies last season. Three recorded saves, Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles and Luis Garcia.
So, who will the closer this year?
Plenty of competition. Andrew Bailey, Ernesto Frieri, Garcia, David Hernandez, Frank Herrmann, Yoervis Medina, Edward Mujica and James Russell have all recorded saves in the bigs. Bailey, Frieri, Hernandez and Mujica have the most experience at the back end of the pen.
Garcia, Jeanmar Gomez and Hernandez will occupy three of the seats in the bullpen. The others will be wide open. Will there be two lefties in the pen? Or, one? Or, none?
Getting game exposure for all these arms in spring training may be challenging. Somehow it will all be sorted out. A lot of eyes will be focused on the pitchers. It all starts when pitchers step on the seven warm-up mounds at Carpenter Complex on Thursday morning.
Speaking of pitching numbers. 40 years ago, the Phillies won their first division title. They used 11 pitchers all season long. That’s right, 11. Randy Lerch was the 11th and he pitched in one game, three innings of relief in game #157 on September 27. Times have changed.
When the Phillies take the field next week, it will mark the 70th consecutive year of spring training in Clearwater. They replaced the Cleveland Indians in Clearwater in 1947. Clearwater population then was around 15,000.
The very first team to hold spring training in Clearwater were the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). While training in Winter Haven, FL, in 1936, the Phillies played Brooklyn in Clearwater that year. Thanks to Bob Warrington, there’s a photo from that game at Clearwater Athletic Field:
Phillies manager in 1947 was Ben Chapman. He provided a classic quote after a 13-1 licking by the Tigers in their first game on March 11. “I don’t intend to take any more 13-1 lickings. We’re playing every game as if it counted in the standings. This is not a try-out camp and it’s not a resting place for worn out ball players. I’ve already separated the sheep from the goats and the goats are on the way out.”
When did Brooklyn train in Clearwater? What was the name of the field? Where was it located? Answers to these questions and much more can be found at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
Scouting Season Underway
Johnny Almaraz, Director, Amateur Scouting, and his staff recently met to begin preparing for the June draft when the Phillies have the very first selection. Each area scout presented his top 15 prospects. That list will shrink over time.
Phillies had several scouts at the Compton Urban Youth Academy showcase in Los Angeles the other weekend. College programs have begun practices and scrimmages. Their seasons begin February 19.
Manned with game schedules, radar guns, lap tops and GPSs, the amateur scouts will be busy between now and the draft.
According to several reports, the draft is strong in college pitching this year.
For the group of pro scouts, their seasons are also beginning as the Phillies will cover every camp in Florida and Arizona.
Spring Training Memories
Chris Wheeler (PR, 1972-82; broadcaster 1983-2013; club ambassador, 2014-)
“My first trip to Clearwater was in February, 1972, first spring training and staying at the Ft. Harrison Hotel. Everyone lived there including the players. It was a tremendous bonding experience with the media present every afternoon in the ‘cheese room.’
“The first looks at the Complex and Jack Russell Stadium were almost a spiritual experience to a baseball nut who had only heard about those shrines through newspapers, photos and occasional black and white video.
“My most memorable experience was sitting with Larry Shenk in the hotel coffee shop for breakfast when he told me we were trading Rick Wise for Steve Carlton. We both knew it was going to be an unpopular move. It was. The rest is Phillies and baseball history. My first exhibition game also was memorable. Shortly before the game Larry said the PA announcer didn’t show up and asked me, ‘Have you ever done the PA and if I would do it today?’ I had never done any such work but I instantly replied yes. Except for two years when I was part of the TV team, I’ve been the PA announcer for every Clearwater home game since then.
“What do I like about spring training? Everything. Even back in the days when you worked long hours in PR. Now I have a chance to be around baseball, play golf and enjoy one of the prettiest locations in the country. What do I dislike about spring training? Easy. The day we leave town. It always goes too fast.”
On Friday, the Phillies equipment truck will be loaded at Citizens Bank Park. Two days later it will be unloaded at Bright House Field in Clearwater. Among the trunks and boxes are dozens of hats the Phillies will wear this spring. Pretty cool.
Who’s First at First?
The Phillies were established in 1883 so guess who has played the most games at first base? Pretty easy guess. Now, who’s third on the list? Shockingly surprising. Check out the story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
Paul Swydan, Fangraphs.com: “It’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be a good team in 2016. But they have a solid mix of players who should make for an entertaining brand of baseball, and the franchise has done a great deal to turn things around in the last year. They have very few old and fading veterans, a healthy dose of players who are not only exciting, but as Corinne Landrey recently pointed out, are excited for each other. They even have an interesting reclamation project in Peter Bourjos. It won’t all be wine and roses — let’s not speak of the bullpen — but it is the type of team that you can dream on, and that’s exciting.”
Jim Callis has written a story about the best tools among the top 100 MLBPipeline prospects. Strongest arm goes to catcher Jorge Alfaro:
“Some evaluators rate Alfaro’s pure arm strength as an 80, though it doesn’t always play to that level because he’s not a clean receiver and his footwork can get sloppy. He threw out just 29 percent of base stealers last year and has erased just 27 percent as a pro, but no catcher can record sub-1.8-second pop times (mitt to glove at second base) as easily.”
Here It Is!
The book provides insight into a potpourri of faces, places, events, and personalities in Phillies history. One of the many historic performance features is about Jimmy Rollins passing Mike Schmidt as the franchise’s all-time hits leader.