Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Castillo released, Phils lineup set?

The Phillies released Luis Castillo. It's a bit surprising because it seemed Ruben Amaro Jr. had been happy with his play thus far. Castillo is out of the mix and the Phillies owe him nothing.

Today is Philly's final tuneup before their opener on Friday against Houston. Cole Hamels takes the mound for the second of two in the On-Deck series against Pittsburgh. Today's lineup is very likely going to be Charlie Manuel's Opening Day lineup on Friday:

1. Shane Victorino, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Raul Ibanez, LF
6. Ben Francisco, RF
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Wilson Valdez, 2B

Monday, March 28, 2011

Phils set to come home

Today's bout against the Houston Astros wraps up Grapefruit League play for the Phils, who will host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizen's Bank Park for two in the On-Deck series starting tomorrow. The next time they face Houston, Roy Halladay will be the mound opposing Brett Myers on Opening Day.

With camp set to break, a few questions still remain about the roster. Here's what we know:

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider

Infield: Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez

Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Ben Francisco, Ross Gload

Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero, Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick.

That's 20 of 25. The Phillies have seven bullpen pitchers in camp right now, and they are all likely to make the team. That would add Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon to the club.

Now the team has to pick three final hitters, unless they search for another arm; but that's unlikely. I think John Mayberry makes the team. He's having a great spring, and they've used him at first base. I could see him filling in for Howard or Ibanez against a tough lefty, getting some time in right or coming off the bench late in games as a power and speed threat.

That would round out the outfield with two spots remaining for the infield. Luis Castillo hasn't played very well so far this spring, but it's a small sample size. On the bright side, he is running very well. Charlie Manuel might like having a veteran in there rather than some of his competitors. I think it remains up in the air as to whether Castillo makes the club or not. If he does, the Phils can always call up a Pete Orr or a Josh Barfield later in the season.

I also see Michael Martinez making the club. He's a Rule 5 draft pick, meaning the Phils would have to offer him back to the Nationals if he's not selected. Martinez is having a good spring, and Manuel loves his versatility and defensive prowess. If Martinez makes the team, that leaves one spot for either Castillo, Orr, Barfield or Delwyn Young. If I had to guess, I'd say they select Castillo for his experience. If he struggles and they cut him during the season, they'd only owe him about $414,000. Orr would also be an interesting choice. He has terrific speed, already hitting four triples this spring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oswalt ok after being struck by line drive, Castillo debuts

Today was a rather negative day for the Phillies. The only good news: Roy Oswalt appears to be OK.

Oswalt was hit behind his right ear with a scorched line drive off the bat of Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the fourth inning. Oswalt fell the ground immediately but eventually got up and walked off the field under his own power. X-rays were negative and he didn't suffer any dizziness.

Luis Castillo made his spring debut, going 0-for-4 with two ground-outs, a pop up and a line out. He only made one defensive play, throwing out Ben Zobrist leading off the top of the first.

Tampa Bay won the game 4-1 behind a strong outing from James Shields who pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and one walk with four strikeouts.

Oswalt dropped to 0-2, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out four. His spring ERA is 4.61.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Castillo not in camp, scratched from lineup

Luis Castillo was penciled in to bat second and play second base this afternoon against Toronto. The Phillies had a doctor ready and waiting to give Castillo a physical. The only problem: he never showed up.

Ruben Amaro Jr. called it a communication breakdown between he and Castillo's agent. Whatever the case, Castillo had a very short amount of time to impress the organization enough to win a spot on the roster. Now he has even less.

Charlie Manuel said he wasn't angry that Castillo didn't show up, but if it'd been him, he'd have been there already.

Sure, things happen, but this is a bad first impression for a man rumored as being a cancer in the New York Mets' organization. If he wanted to be in camp and play in today's game badly enough, he'd have found a way. Clearwater is less than a five hour drive from Miami and with the signing becoming official yesterday morning, Castillo had plenty of time.

He's expected to be in the lineup tomorrow when the Phillies take on Tampa Bay in a game that can be seen on MLB.TV.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Halladay, Phils beat Lester, Sox 4-1

Today's hyped pitching match-up was as advertised, as the Phillies beat the Red Sox 4-1 in front of a record crowd at Brighthouse Field.

Roy Halladay pitched 7.2 innings to pick improve to 3-0 on the spring. He allowed his first run, on five hits, three walks and six strikeouts.

Jon Lester suffered his first loss of the spring, tossing 5.1 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, four walks and six strikeouts.

The Phillies got on the board first with an unearned run in the third without recording a hit. Boston tied the score in the top of the fifth. Halladay broke up Lester's no hitter in the bottom of the fifth by slicing a single into right-center field.

Lester pitched very well but things unraveled for him quickly in the sixth. Jimmy Rollins worked a four pitch walk with one out. Lester then fell behind Ryan Howard 3-0 before Howard laced a single to right-center. With Raul Ibanez at the plate, Rollins stole third before Ibanez singled through the hole into right, scoring Rollins. After a Ben Francisco walk loaded the bases, Josh Barfield's single drove in Howard and Ibanez, making the score 4-1. Brian Schneider followed with a single, ending Lester's day.

Scary moment for the Phillies in the fifth when Shane Victorino collided with Raul Ibanez trying to catch a fly ball and went to the ground in a hurry. After laying on the ground for a few minutes with blood visibly dripping from his face, Victorino rose before laughing and trotting off the field with a cut above his eye. It's being called a bruised left eye and sore jaw and fortunately is not serious.

Marquee match-up of Lester vs. Doc

Clearwater is sure to be buzzing this afternoon as the Phillies host the Boston Red Sox in what many consider a possible World Series match-up. If that's so, today's game will feature the Game One probables.

Roy Halladay takes the mound, opposing Boston ace, Jon Lester. This tremendous pitching match-up features arguably two of the top five pitchers in baseball. Halladay's spring ERA is flawless at 0.00, while Lester is posting an impressive 2.53.

Both pitchers are very different in stature and style, but produce similar results. Halladay, a tall right-handed pitcher with excellent command and poise and a great sinker. Lester, a southpaw with average height has filthy stuff and is one of the game's best strikeout pitchers. There's likely to be plenty of zeros popping up at Brighthouse Field today.

Here are the lineups trying to break out against the dominant arms on the mound:

1. Shane Victorino (.340) - CF
2. Michael Martinez (.292) - 2B
3. Jimmy Rollins (.259) - SS
4. Ryan Howard (.289) - 1B
5. Raul Ibanez (.267) - LF
6. Ben Francisco (.333) - RF
7. Josh Barfield (.344) - 3B
8. Brian Schneider (.286) - C
9. Halladay (.000) - P

1. Jacoby Ellsbury (.421) - CF
2. Dustin Pedroia (.308) - 2B
3. David Ortiz (.263) - DH
4. Jarod Saltalamacchia (.238) - C
5. Mike Cameron (.313) - RF
6. Jed Lowrie (.200) - SS
7. Darnell McDonald (.250) - LF
8. Drew Sutton (.341) - 1B
9. Nate Spears (.295) - 3B

Castillo agrees to Minor League deal

Veteran Luis Castillo agreed to a Minor League contract with the Phillies, although nothing is official. Castillo was released by the Mets on Friday after some unfavorable seasons in Queens. The Phils showed interest immediately, and Castillo agreed to the deal nearly instantly after clearing wavers.

Castillo will compete with Wilson Valdez, Josh Barfield, Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and Delwyn Young for the second base job. Many of his competitors are having tremendous springs, so it's not an easy road ahead for Castillo.

If Castillo makes the club at any time, the Phillies will owe him just $414,000 of his $6 million salary. They'll owe him even less if he never suits up for the Fightins.

It's a classic low-risk, high-reward situation for the Phillies. Castillo's had plenty of success in this league, and a change of scenery might be just what he needed.

Castillo is an NL East man. After breaking into the league in 1996 with Florida, Castillo played for the Marlins through 2005. After a brief stint with Minnesota in 2006 and part of 2007, he was traded back to the East when the Mets acquired him. Now Castillo, a career .290 hitter with 370 stolen bases and 1,889 hits will look to continue his Major League career with the Phillies in a division that's been kind to him throughout his career.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lee struggles again as Phils fall 7-6

Cliff Lee's spring struggles continued against Toronto yesterday, as the Phillies fell to the Blue Jays 7-6. Lee pitched four innings, allowing seven hits, five runs (three earned), two home runs, one walk and four strikeouts. He drops to 1-2 while his ERA rises to 5.54.

The Phils got off to a fast start in the bottom of the first when Shane Victorino ripped a two-run homer after Jimmy Rollins singled, putting the Phils ahead 2-0.

Lee took the mound in the fourth having only allowed two hits with the lead intact. Jose Bautista reached to lead-off the inning on a Josh Barfield throwing error. Adam Lind followed with a double before a Juan Rivera home run, and the lead was gone.

After striking out Travis Snider, Edwin Encarnacion followed with a solo shot. Then came a single, a double and a sac fly to cap the scoring against Lee. It was another disappointing outing for one of the prized free agents this off-season.

It's only spring training, and we don't want to read too far into anything, but is there reason for concern? It's not like there's a switch and when the regular season starts, Lee will flip it and return to his dominant form. Pitchers try to work on certain pitches during the spring; but they're also trying to get outs, especially when they get into jams. Lee was not able to work out of any jams yesterday.

Antonio Bastardo and Make Zagurski each threw a scoreless inning. Zagurski struck out the side in the ninth. Kyle Kendrick was average in his three innings of work, allowing seven hits, two runs (one earned), no walks and one strikeout.

Michael Martinez, competing for a spot as a back-up infielder, went 2-for-4 with his second home run of the spring. He's hitting .325.

The Phillies certainly seem to be grooming John Mayberry to be a versatile addition to the club. While naturally an outfielder, and the Phillies need outfield help, Mayberry is also seeing a lot of time at first base after Ryan Howard exists games. Mayberry has a real shot at making the team as a back-up left and right-fielder, first baseman and right-handed bat off the bench.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

After day off, Phils back to work vs. Blue Jays

The Phillies return to Grapefruit League action today after enjoying their only off day of the spring yesterday. Their next day off: March 31, Opening Day around Major League Baseball.

Through the unofficial first half, the Phillies are 13-7. Only Atlanta has a better Grapefruit League winning percentage.

Cliff Lee gets the start against Toronto today, because Roy Halladay threw in a minor league game yesterday to stay on schedule. Lee looks to bounce back from a tough outing against Baltimore his last time out. This is the lineup that will be hitting for Lee:

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. Raul Ibanez, LF
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Ben Francisco, RF
6. Carlos Ruiz, C
7. Josh Barfield, 3B
8. Michael Martinez, 2B
9. Lee, P

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hamels struggles in 7-6 victory

Cole Hamels hit his first bump in the spring road this afternoon, struggling in his outing against the Houston Astros.

Hamels entered the outing with a 1.80 ERA after three outstanding outings this spring. But in just 3.2 innings today, he surrendered five runs on seven hits, one walk, three home runs and four strikeouts. His spring ERA jumped to 4.61.

The Phillies rallied at the plate though, grinding out a 7-6 victory. Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Josh Barfield all had RBI, while Victorino, Howard and John Mayberry doubled.

The winning run came in the top of the ninth when Michael Martinez scored on Fernando Rodriguez wild pitch.

Lidge has tendinitis, Phils vs. 'Stros

Brad Lidge missed the bus taking the Phillies to visit the Astros for this afternoon's game. No, he wasn't late. He's just the latest Phillie to get bit by the injury bug.

Lidge has tendinitis in his right bicep. Rich Dubee doesn't seem concerned though, saying that he usually goes through this in the spring and is on track for opening day.

Many of the regulars made the trip to face former Phillie Nelson Figueora. Here's the lineup:

1. Jimmy Rollins- SS
2. Shane Victorino- CF
3. Raul Ibanez- LF
4. Ryan Howard- 1B
5. Placido Polanco- 3B
6. John Mayberry- RF
7. Carlos Ruiz- C
8. Josh Barfield- 2B
9. Cole Hamels- P

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bats explode in win over O's

While Cliff Lee looked average on the mound again, the Phillies' bats came alive against Baltimore's pitching staff in a 13-6 shellacking.

The Phils immediately jumped on the board with three runs in the top of the first and never looked back. Raul Ibanez and Ross Gload each hit their first spring home runs, while Ryan Howard and John Mayberry hit their fourth. Gload and Ibanez also doubled.

Shane Victorino continued his strong spring, going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and three runs scored, raising his average to .367.

Ibanez's 3-for-3 day rose his average from .240 to .321. He's continued to raise his average after a very sluggish start.

Jimmy Rollins continues to struggle, going 0-for-3 and dropping his average to .206.

While Ben Francisco is likely to be in right field on opening day, Mayberry is going to make it difficult on the Phillies' brass to send him down to Triple-A. He's batting .300 and is tied with Howard for the team lead in home runs. He even played at first base in a game, and it appears the Phillies are grooming him to be a back-up for Ibanez and Howard, while giving him a look in right as well.

While the bats were cracking, Lee was off point again. In three innings, he allowed three runs on five hits, one home run and two strikeouts. His spring ERA is up to 5.00.

Phils roll past Yanks 7-0 behind Doc, Lee to face O's

Roy Halladay, Ben Francisco and John Mayberry continued their strong spring as the Phillies beat the Yankees easily yesterday, 7-0.

It was a marquee match-up of Doc vs. CC Sabathia, and the two horses didn't disapoint. While Halladay pitched six shut-out innings to pick up the victory and improve to 2-0; Sabathia gave the Phillies' lumber fits, tossing five scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out two. Halladay surrendered four hits and also fanned two.

As soon as Sabathia left the game, the Phillies pounced on David Robertson and Robert Fish for four runs in the sixth inning. They also lit up Mark Prior, who is looking to make a come-back to the big leagues, for three runs in the eighth.

Francisco collected two more hits, one of which was a double, another RBI and run scored in the game. Mayberry hit his third homer of the spring and knocked in two.

With the victory, the Phils improved to 8-6 in Grapefruit league action. The Baltimore Orioles will host the Phillies today with Cliff Lee taking the mound. Also scheduled to pitch: Eddie Bonine, Antonio Bastardo, Andrew Carpenter, Danys Baez, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge.

UPDATE: A few regulars made the trip for today's game against Baltimore. Here are the lineups:

1. Jimmy Rollins- SS (.226)
2. Shane Victorino- CF (.321)
3. Raul Ibanez- LF (.240)
4. Ryan Howard- 1B (.269)
5. Ross Gload- RF (.273)
6. Delwyn Young- DH (.290)
7. Jeff Larish- 3B (.200)
8. Brian Schneider- C (.294)
9. Pete Orr- 2B (.200)
P- Cliff Lee (3.00 ERA)

For Baltimore:

1. J.J. Hardy- SS (.333)
2. Nick Markakis- RF (.313)
3. Adam Jones- CF (.375)
4. Vlad Guerreo- DH (.333)
5. Mark Reynolds- 3B (.167)
6. Luke Scott- 1B (.067)
7. Randy Winn- LF (.105)
8. Matt Wieters- C (.278)
9. Cezar Izturis- 2B (.250)
P- Jeremy Guthrie (3.60 ERA)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Manuel signs for 2 years, Early Stats

Charlie Manuel officially signed a two-year contract extension, thought to be worth $7-8 million.

The Phils have the best record in the National League (544-428) since Manuel took the reigns in 2005. He's fourth on the Phillies' all time managerial wins list and should pass Gene Mauch (646) who is 102 wins above Charlie for the lead.

The team's regulars have played in ten to eleven games of Grapefruit league action thus far. Here are some notable players' stats entering Thursday's game:

Ben Francisco- .345, .387 OBP, .724 SLUG, two home runs, seven RBI, seven runs, three doubles, one triple, two walks, four strikeouts and two stolen bases.

Ryan Howard- .269, .345 OBP, .654 SLUG, three home runs, five RBI, three runs, one double, three walks and six strikeouts.

Jimmy Rollins- .226, .273 OBP, .258 SLUG, one RBI, three runs, one double, two walks, four strikeouts and one stolen base.

John Mayberry- .286, .333 OBP, .679 SLUG, three home runs, four RBI, five runs, two doubles, two walks, three strikeouts and two stolen bases.

Shane Victorino- .321, .375 OBP, .429 SLUG, two RBI, one runs, three doubles, three walks, four strikeouts and one steal.

Brian Schneider- .294, .400 OBP, .647 SLUG, two homers, four RBI, two runs, three walks and two strikeouts.

Raul Ibanez- .240, .269 OBP, .280 SLUG, one RBI, four runs, one double, one walk and four strikeouts.

Joe Blanton- 1-0, 3.09 ERA, 11.2 IP, nine hits, four runs, four walks and six strikeouts.

Roy Halladay- 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 11 IP, seven hits, no runs, three walks and seven strikeouts.

Cole Hamels- 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 10 IP, three hits, two earned runs, four walks and seven strikeouts.

Cliff Lee- 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, three hits, two runs, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Roy Oswalt- 0-1 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, six hits, four earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Is Brown's injury a positive?

Domonic Brown is out approximately four to six weeks with a fracture in his right hand. For the most part, this ends the open spring competition for right field, all but confirming Ben Francisco will be out there on opening day.

There's certainly a silver lining in the bad news though. Brown, after struggling in Winter ball, really struggled to start his spring. He finished 1-for-16, after starting 0-for-15. Brown is only 23 years old and has tremendous potential, but it appears some time in Triple-A would do him some good. While he may not be far off, Brown does not appear Major League ready quite yet. Heading down to the minors for some additional seasoning is a good thing for Brown to progress as a player.

Francisco has MLB experience, he's having a fantastic spring and he's a right handed batter, which the lineup lacks. Francisco will give the club more immediate help, while Brown is the future in the Phillies' outfield.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Right Field Competition Taking Shape

Charlie Manuel wants to give each of the contenders an equal opportunity to win the starting right field job. Early on this spring, it's the biggest thing he's kept an eye on. Entering Friday's game against the Pirates, the team leaders in at bats are Ben Francisco (16), Domonic Brown (15) and John Mayberry Jr. (15). That's no coincidence.

While Brown is struggling mightily, Francisco and Mayberry are stepping up to the challenge. Francisco has to be considered the favorite at this point; he's more experienced at the big league level than both players and is playing extremely well this spring. Mayberry has the potential to be a big, right handed power hitter, similar to what Jayson Werth was for the Phillies.

Francisco is hitting .375 with one home run, five RBI, one double, one triple, four runs scored, two walks, two strikeouts, one stolen base, a .444 OBP and a .750 slugging percentage.

Mayberry is hitting .333 with one homer, one RBI, one double, three runs scored, one walk, two strikeouts, two stolen bases, a .375 OBP and a .600 slugging percentage.

Brown is hitless in his 15 at bats with nine strikeouts.

Ross Gload is also in the running to see some time in right, and is batting .300 this spring. Manuel seems to have his eye more on the first three though, giving them the most at bats on the team. Whoever wins the spot is going to have to earn it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hamels, Phils blank BoSox 2-0

The Phillies traveled to Fort Meyes today and shut-out the Boston Red Sox, 2-0. It was a match-up that many are predicting to compete for the 2011 World Series.

Cole Hamels continued his strong start, tossing four shut-out innings, surrendering one hit and one walk while fanning three. Hamels has now faced New York and Boston this spring, on the road, without allowing a run.

Jeff Larish knocked in the game's only runs in the second inning, doubling home Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr.

Fransico's strong spring continued as he went 2-for-3 and is now batting .375.

Domonic Brown, Francisco's competitor for right field, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and walk. He's now 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts. As more games pass, it appears more and more likely that Brown will begin the season in Triple-A.

Joe Blanton will start tomorrow in Bradenton against Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lee debuts today, Phils beat Toronto 6-3

It's finally here. This is the day everyone has been waiting for. Well, not exactly. Cliff Lee will make his unofficial second debut as a Phillie. Has a nice ring to it.

Sure, it's only spring, but Phillies' fans should attend in bunches to see Lee on the mound for the Phillies for the first time since game five of the 2009 World Series.

Roy Halladay made his spring debut against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, in a 6-3 victory yesterday. It was a strong outing for Halladay, who pitched two innings, allowed no runs on two hits, one walk and one strike out.

Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each got their first hits of the spring, while Ben Francisco, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz continued to produce at the plate. Domonic Brown struggled once again, and remains hit-less. Here's a look at some notable stats, just a few games into spring:

Francisco- .571 average, .667 OBP, 1.429 slugging percentage, one home run, one double, one triple, four RBI, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks and one strikeout.

Brown- 0-for-9, .182 OBP, two walks, six strikeouts, no stolen bases, one run scored.

Polanco- .400 average, two RBI, one walk, one run scored.

Ross Gload- .333 average, one RBI.

Lee's debut against Detroit is set to air live on MLB.TV. It will re-air on the MLB Network tonight at 8pm.