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Tag:Chase Utley
Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 2:49 pm
 

Rollins back to Phillies on three-year deal

Jimmy Rollins, the heart of the Phillies for the past several seasons, will continue to provide the pulse: He is returning to Philadelphia on a three-year, $33 million deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

The contract includes a vesting option for a fourth year that is described by one source as easily obtainable that likely will make the entire package worth $44 million.

The Rollins-Phillies deal has been a foregone conclusion in the industry for much of the winter, though the Brewers did inquire and show some interest in prying him away from Philadelphia early. However, once they signed Alex Gonzalez, and with St. Louis re-signing Rafael Furcal last week, there were few teams left looking for shortstops.

Which works well for both the Phillies and Rollins, because given perhaps the best run in Philadelphia baseball history over these past five seasons, the shortstop is back where he belongs.

Though the Phillies have seen some decline since Rollins' sensational 2007 NL MVP season, they also watched him produce a solid bounce-back season in 2011 after he played in only 88 games in 2010 during a season in which a nagging calf injury limited his production.

In 142 games last season, Rollins batted .268/.338/.399 with 16 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

That's a far better fit for a Philadelphia team primed for another run at the World Series behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and the gang than, say, Freddy Galvis or Wilson Valdez would have been.

At 33 and still in terrific shape, Rollins should be able to play shortstop adequately through the duration of this contract. And despite Chase Utley's injury-checkered past couple of seasons, Rollins and Utley still give the Phillies a very solid -- and often potent -- middle infield.

With Rollins done, Philadelphia's biggest issue heading into 2012 will be at first base, and Ryan Howard's continuing recovery from the torn left Achilles tendon he suffered on the final play in the Phillies' final game last October against the Cardinals.

Howard is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season, given his original diagnosis of a five- to six-month recovery process. The Phillies this winter have traded for Ty Wigginton and signed free agent Jim Thome, and each is expected to help patch the void at first until Howard returns.

It will be a new-look Phillies team in a couple of areas, with free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon and with Wigginton or John Mayberry in left in place of Raul Ibanez. But with Utley, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco and, now, Rollins in place, the Phillies mostly will look very similar -- and just as potent -- to what we've seen from Charlie Manuel's crew during the past several seasons.

Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:47 pm
 

"Little pieces" add up to big things for Phillies

LOS ANGELES -- All credit to the all-world Phillies rotation. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is pitching for a place in history.

And we've all seen the damage wreaked by a highly decorated lineup led by Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

But you don't compile baseball's best record based behind just eight or nine players. And as such, the Phillies are getting plenty of help from these easily overlooked parts in their machine:

-- Reliever Antonio Bastardo: With closer Brad Lidge on the shelf for most of the season, Bastardo has played a key, late-innings role and currently is holding opponents to a .128 batting average -- second lowest among NL relievers. His 1.49 ERA is fifth-lowest among NL relievers.

-- Starter Vance Worley: With Joe Blanton done for the year, Worley is 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA and currently has won six consecutive decisions. He's fanned 66 hitters against only 28 walks in 84 1/3 innings.

-- Infielder Michael Martinez: With third baseman Placido Polanco hurt again, it is Martinez, plucked from the Nationals as a Rule V pick last winter, who is providing steady relief. Martinez's 15 RBI during the month of July ranked third among all NL rookies, behind Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (18) and the Padres' Jesus Guzman (18).

-- Outfielder John Mayberry Jr.: Acquired from Texas in a trade in November, 2008, Mayberry, 27, continues to develop into a serviceable backup outfielder with an intriguing future. Of his past 23 hits, 17 have gone for extra bases (and overall, 52.5 percent of his major league hits, 31 of 59, have been for extra bases).

-- Infielder Wilson Valdez: He's plugged in at second base, third base and shortstop at various times this season and, in an extra-innings pinch against the Reds on May 25, became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to start a game in the field and then become the winning pitcher. Though light-hitting overall, Valdez is batting .390 with runners in scoring position this season.

Shane Victorino, twice a Rule V pick himself (the Phillies took him from the Padres in 2004 after the Padres took him from the Dodgers in 2002), raves about Martinez and the "energy" he brings.

"Little pieces," Victorino says. "It always takes 25 guys. Somebody gets hurt, somebody else steps in."

Recalling when the Phillies signed pitcher Pedro Martinez for the stretch run in '09, Victorino said he was extremely wary of Martinez because of the reputation the pitcher brought as a fiery headhunter. But Martinez went 5-1 for Philadelphia in nine starts, pitched the Phillies into position to beat the Dodgers in a key NLCS game and Victorino now calls Martinez "the greatest teammate I've ever had."

"Here, it's all about winning, and winning right now," Victorino says. "If you don't care about winning, don't show up.

"We have so many superstars in here -- MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers. But Martinez is no different from me because it's all about winning."

That's the way it is throughout the Phillies' clubhouse right now, an impressive culture that is steamrolling everything in its path.

Likes: With the trade deadline having passed and at least a little more free time in August, looking forward to a big date night with my wife to see Crazy, Stupid Love sometime soon. ... Lots of TV to catch up on as well: Last couple episodes of Treme, last five episodes of Friday Night Lights (that's only with trepidation, though, because it's the last season and while I can't wait to see the last few FNLs, I don't want to get through them because then one of my favorite shows in recent memory will be done, sniff, sniff) and the first few episodes of Entourage. ... Haven't gotten all the way through it yet, but I'm liking Sky Full of Holes, the new Fountains of Wayne disc.

Dislikes: I realize there are plenty of parents out there who disagree with me, but man I hate to see summer dwindle down to its last few weeks before school starts again. Summer is never, ever long enough.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Then she wakes me with coffee
"And kisses my head
"And she starts to explain
"About something she's read
"I say, 'Darlin', you haven't heard a word that I've said'
"And I love that girl."

-- John Hiatt, I Love That Girl
Posted on: May 23, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:25 pm
 

Rays' Shields keeping ball in the park

One key reason why Tampa Bay's James Shields currently leads the AL in both complete games (three) and shutouts (two), ranks second in innings pitched (76 2/3) and fourth in ERA (2.00)?

He's doing exactly what he set out to do this spring: Keep the gopher balls away.

Last year, his 34 home runs allowed were the most in the American League.

This year, his seven surrendered do not even rank in the top 10.

Shields told me this spring that he thought there were a couple of easily explainable reasons why he was so disappointing in 2010 at 13-15 with a career-high 5.18 ERA.

"Bad baseball luck," he said during an early-March conversation in Port Charlotte, Fla. "Take away two or three bad games, and my ERA's 3.60 and nobody's talking about it."

Shields, who dominated the Marlins with 13 strikeouts in Sunday's complete-game win, figured that if he could minimize home runs in 2011, his ERA would drop. And if those two things happened, he'd be well on his way to a rebound year.

Those seven homers allowed in 2011 translate to one surrendered per 42 batters faced.

In 2010, he yielded one homer per 26.4 batters faced.

Not even close.

"I wasn't as good as I wanted to be last year," Shields said. "But there were a lot of positives: 200 innings [203 1/3, to be exact], 180-odd strikeouts [187]."

He keeps going at his current pace in 2011, there will be far more positives this season.

For both Shields and the Rays.

Likes: Texas' Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and Philadelphia's Chase Utley all coming back this week. ... Knuckleballers. Boston's Tim Wakefield and the Mets' R.A. Dickey just keep on truckin'. ... Lars Anderson's Sports Illustrated cover story this week on the tornado devastation in Alabama. Beautifully done and heartbreaking. ... Music from the old Detroit band The Rockets on iTunes. Loved them back in the day (late '70s, early '80s) and had much of their stuff on vinyl, but it was never released on CD. Hadn't heard the songs in many years, but they stand up very well to the test of time. A shame they never hit it big nationally, because they could rock. ... Minka Kelly on the new Charlie's Angels in the fall. Hello girls, this is Charlie. ...

Dislikes: Red Sox-Cubs 1918 throwback uniforms.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Really love your peaches
"Wanna shake your tree."

-- Steve Miller Band, The Joker


Posted on: October 24, 2010 2:40 am
 

Sanchez chased but spark lit

PHILADELPHIA -- No, Jonathan Sanchez was not trying to drill Chase Utley.

Truth is, Sanchez had no more idea of where his fastball was going than he did of what a gallon of gas will cost next Thursday. But there is no question that the San Francisco Giants were a different team following the benches-clearing incident in their 3-2 Game 6 NL Championship Series clincher here on Saturday night.

After Sanchez hit Utley, the second baseman reflexively picked up the baseball and tossed it in Sanchez's direction en route to first base. The lefty did not appreciate the gesture, and Sanchez hollered as much at Utley. Which is when the benches cleared. (The umpires, by the way, did an excellent job of keeping things under control without issuing any ejections).

As the champagne sprayed in the Giants' clubhouse after, Sanchez refused to say what he hollered at Utley.

"I'm not going to say nothing about that," Sanchez said.

As for Utley tossing the baseball toward him, Sanchez had plenty to say about that.

"You can't do that," Sanchez said. "Take your base. He tossed the ball back to me. If you're a professional, you don't do that."

It was the third time Utley was hit by a Sanchez pitch in 20 plate appearances during his career. The two have had one previous set-to. During a game in July, 2009, Sanchez threw a fastball near Utley's head, after which the second baseman took a step toward the mound and glared at the pitcher. Later in the same at-bat, Utley called for time late, stepping out of the batter's box just before Sanchez delivered a pitch. On the next pitch, Utley smashed a homer.

Still, Sanchez said, none of that has anything to do with what happened Saturday night.

"I was trying to throw strikes with my fastball and I couldn't get anything over the plate," he sdaid.

While pitching coach Dave Righetti said Sanchez had some of his best stuff of the year during pre-game warm-ups, it disappeared by the time the first inning started. Sanchez was removed two batters into the third, after a walk and then hitting Utley in the upper back with a pitch.

His line: Two innings plus, three hits and two earned runs. He had as many wild pitches and hit batters each as strikeouts (one). He walked two.

"I didn't have it," he said. "I didn't have my best stuff."

It's not as if he didn't contribute, though. Closer Brian Wilson agreed with third-base coach Tim Flannery's assessment that the benches-clearing incident sparked the Giants.

"I'll tell you what," Wilson said. "It certainly lit a fire. I'm glad it happened. You realize what was at stake.

"At that point we were losing [actually tied 2-2] and you're looking for any reason to wake up."

Posted on: October 17, 2010 4:40 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 5:31 pm
 

Manuel tweaks slumping Phils' lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- If Sunday night's Game 2 of the NL Championship Series is not a must-win for Philadelphia, it's the next-closest thing.

More worrisome for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel than losing Game 1 is the trend toward silence from the Philadelphia bats.

Which is why he's shaking up the top of the lineup for Game 2, flip-flopping Chase Utley and Placido Polanco in the Nos. 2 and 3 spots. Against Giants lefty starter Jonathan Sanchez, Utley will bat second (out of his usual third spot) and Polanco will hit third (down from No. 2 in Game 1).

"Same reason I always do it," Manuel said Sunday when quizzed about his reasoning. "I want have right-handed hitter in between [the two lefties, Utley and Ryan Howard]. Polanco's hitting third."

Clearly, Manuel also is reacting to the presence of Javier Lopez, the Giants' situational lefty, on the other side. Lopez got two huge outs in the eighth inning of Game 1 when he was summoned to face Utley and Howard. He dispatched Utley with a ground ball, struck out Howard, and his evening was finished.

So far in four games this postseason, the Phillies as a team are hitting just .212. They've scored a total of only 16 runs, and their on-base percentage is just .300.

They went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position against the Giants in Game 1 and, against Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco bullpen, did not advance a runner into scoring position after the third inning.

There was some speculation that Manuel might return shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the leadoff slot for Game 2, a thought fueled in part by Manuel saying late Saturday night that he would think about it.

After sleeping on the notion, though, Manuel discarded the idea and left Rollins in the sixth slot for Game 2, same spot in which he batted Saturday.

"Because when I looked, I like him right where he's at," Manuel said. "I look at how he's been doing and how we lined up against Sanchez. Victorino's got some hits against Sanchez [6-for-15 lifetime], and Jimmy is 1-for-16 against him. Utley's got a few hits [3-for-11].

"I looked at the way we lined up, and I like Jimmy where he's at right now."

It isn't only Sanchez against whom Rollins is scuffling. In four postseason games this fall, Rollins is hitting .067 [1-for-15].

Which makes it easy to understand Manuel's reluctance to move him back atop the lineup, because that's no small part of the reason the Phillies' offense has been sluggish.

So far in the playoffs, the top two slots in the Philadelphia order are hitting .161 [5-for-31].

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, meanwhile, elected to keep his lineup the same for Game 2 as it was in Game 1 -- including leaving Mike Fontenot at third base instead of Pablo Sandoval.

Posted on: August 12, 2010 5:47 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 8:21 pm
 

The Jones-Cox Show comes to premature end

It is one of the great modern manager-player runs going, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, together in Atlanta, 17 seasons strong.

Now, with news that Jones has blown out his left knee and is finished for the season, the Braves' last gasp under the retiring Cox is guaranteed to have a bittersweet ending no matter how it finishes.

Jones' wrecked knee wrecks Atlanta's playoff hopes? Awww.

Braves overcome Jones injury to make the playoffs while Jones forced to watch? Awww.

Braves win World Series to send Cox out with another ring while Jones helpless to help? Awww.

Sentimental as some stories become, the game has a way of stripping sentiment in favor of cold reality, and that's what the Braves are dealing with now. Fighting for their lives to fend off two-time NL champion Philadelphia -- dealing with a significant injury of its own with Chase Utley sidelined -- life now becomes much more difficult for the Braves.

Jones, 38, was hitting .265 with 10 homers and 46 RBI in 95 games with the Braves this season, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Struggling so badly earlier this year that he spoke of retiring at season's end, Jones over his past 11 games was hitting .368 with three homers, five RBI and eight runs scored.

Short-term, Jones' loss vastly increases the degree of difficulty for the Braves, who now will plug Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad into third base in place of Jones while searching the waiver wires for a spare-part match.

Long-term, this injury means we very well might have seen the last of Jones. If he does decide to retire -- a very real possibility, given the normal six-month recovery from this type of injury and his advanced age -- the next time Jones' name comes up in earnest in baseball circles very well might be in Hall of Fame discussions.

He's not a slam-dunk first-ballot guy, but his 436 career homers (37th all-time), 1,491 RBI (52nd all-time) and .941 OPS (30th all-time) certainly put the six-time All-Star -- and 1999 NL MVP -- onto the front porch of Cooperstown.

It's just a shame that if the Braves do make the playoffs this fall, Jones won't be at Cox's side as a couple of Atlanta icons swinging for one more shot at glory.

Likes: Tell you what, glad there were no serious injuries in the Cardinals-Reds brawl, and this might not be the most mature or politically correct reaction, but I love the emotions that were injected into that rivalry this week. Baseball, in the free agent era, has gone corporate and too many players are way too friendly with each other. The result is, it takes the edge off of too many rivalries. No worry about that down the stretch in St. Louis and Cincinnati now. ... The Kids Are All Right. Great cast, great acting. Next up: The Other Guys. Gotta see Derek Jeter's acting debut. And I hear WIll Ferrell is actually funny again. ... Finally catching up with Pat Conroy's Beach Music, a long ago best seller, and man Conroy can write. Enjoying the book, but the plot goes a little too far in the back half of the book in some areas. ... Wrote off Mad Men a couple of years ago, decided to give it another chance this year and I'm glad I did. Finally, belatedly, enjoying it. ... Hard to go wrong with any Apple products in my book. My iTouch went bad after just a year-and-a-half, turned out the battery malfunctioned and they replaced the entire unit with a new one. ... Look, the former drummer for the Greg Kihn Band now ... cleans carpet? It's true. But don't ask him about pet hair in the carpet.

Dislikes: The fact that Manny Ramirez is earning $20 million and can't be bothered to rehab his calf strain, or whatever he's calling it, with the Dodgers is a joke. Of course, nobody's surprised, are they, that Manny's off on his own? And the Dodgers were the suckers who gambled with him.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You could lie on a riverbank
"Or paint your name on a water tank
"Miscount all the beers you drank
"Back where I come from
"Back where I come from
"Where I'll be when it's said and done
"Well I'm proud as anyone
"That's where I come from
"We learned in a Sunday school
"Who made the sun shine through.
"I know who made the moonshine, too
"Back where I come from.
"Blue eyes on a Saturday night
"Ttan legs in the broad daylight
"TV’s, they were black and white
"Back where I come from"

-- Mac McAnally, Back Where I Come From

Posted on: November 2, 2009 11:27 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2009 1:11 am
 

Phillies send World Series back to New York

PHILADELPHIA -- You might say, for A.J. Burnett, Game 5 of the World Series was sort of like being on the business end of a whipped cream pie to the face.

The staple that Burnett started and fans quickly embraced during the summer, Burnett sneaking up from behind and crushing a pie into the face of a heroic teammate during a television interview -- Look! The Yankees like to have fun just like regular human beings! -- seemed so distant.

The Game 2 virtuoso performance, the pinnacle of Burnett's career so far, seemed so yesterday.

Game 5 was quick and ugly for Burnett, down and dirty for the Phillies. They sent this World Series back to New York with an 8-6 thrashing by jumping Burnett early and often.

The $82.5 million pitcher who was so sharp in Game 2 was incredibly not sharp pitching on three days' rest for the first time all season Monday. He was clocked for three runs in his first eight pitches. The Phillies scored six runs before Burnett had obtained one out in the third inning.

At one point with Burnett on the mound, the count stood at six outs and nine Phillies baserunners.

What knocked him so badly off balance?

Don't tell me it was pitching on short rest. While Burnett hadn't done it this year, he had done it three times in his career and was 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA on those occasions.

No, the difference was a complete reversal of the Phillies approach.

Where their strategy at the plate against Burnett in Game 2 was to take pitches, wait for him to start losing control of his curveball and then make their move, their approach in Game 5 essentially was: To hell with that. Arrive at the plate hacking.

Four days earlier, Burnett threw first-pitch strikes to each of the first 11 Phillies to face him in Yankee Stadium. Of those 11, eight Phillies took the first-pitch strike without swinging.

Facing elimination Monday, three of the first four Phillies swung hard at the first pitch they saw from Burnett. And the only reason it wasn't four-for-four is because Shane Victorino took a first-pitch fastball off of his right knuckles.

Jimmy Rollins swung and missed, then took ball one and then fouled off three consecutive pitches before cracking a hard single. The next two pitches were each first pitches: Victorino was drilled and then Chase Utley crushed a three-run homer. Next up, Ryan Howard walked and Burnett was reeling.

It was the most consecutive batters to reach base safely at the start of a World Series game since Game 2 in 2002 when the Angels' David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson collected four consecutive hits.

Then, this was choice: Second time around the order, the Phillies backed off. Utley and Ryan Howard drew walks, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez followed with base hits and bing, bam, boom, three more runs crossed the plate.

It was the smartest game the Phillies have played so far. It almost made up for them leaving third base uncovered while Johnny Damon ran wild in the ninth inning of Game 4.

While Burnett wound up throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 hitters he faced in Game 2, he lasted just 15 hitters Monday before Joe Girardi had to open the doors to a Yankees bullpen that has the tendency to take on water quickly (see Coke, Phil, who threw as many home run balls in the seventh inning as the number of outs he obtained: Two).

For Burnett, it was the shortest outing in the World Series by a starter since Roger Clemens, then of Houston, worked just two innings against the White Sox in Game 1 in 2005.

Posted on: October 29, 2009 2:18 am
 

Sabathia battles but comes up short

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia certainly pitched respectably and kept his team in the game until manager Joe Giradi's bullpen sent Philadelphia on its way -- a New York problem that threatens to undermine the Yanks in this World Series -- but Cliff Lee stole the show.

Yes, they've seen it all before in Cleveland, when Sabathia and Lee were pitching for the Indians. And in the much-anticipated mound matchup, Sabathia watched his old buddy throw a gem.

"He's been pitching great all year," Sabathia said.

As for the Yankees' Big Man, Sabathia came out of the gate unusually wild, walking two Phillies in the first inning.

That led to a two-out, bases-loaded situation which he escaped, but it was taxing.

So, too, was Chase Utley's third-inning at-bat that resulted in a full-count home run. Utley worked Sabathia over for nine pitches during the duel, fouling off five of them.

Sabathia needed 58 pitches to navigate through the first three innings.

"I was just trying to keep the ball down and I was yanking balls over the plate," Sabathia said. "My two-seamer was down, but it was way down."

He went seven innings, leaving the Yankees in a 2-0 hole when he departed. Utley homered in the third and then drilled another against Sabathia in the sixth on a misplaced 0 and 2 fastball that was supposed to be up-and-in. Instead, he caught too much of the plate.

The first home run pitch was supposed to be a fastball down-and-away that wound up over the middle of the plate.

During his seven innings, Sabathia walked three, fanned six and allowed four hits.

"Three walks," he said. "I was behind everybody. I wish I could stand here and say it was just two pitches.

"I was able to battle back and make pitches when I had to, but that's not how I've been pitching this postseason."

Sabatahia came into the game with a 3-0 postseason record and 1.19 ERA. Girardi has not announced his starting pitchers beyond Game 3 Saturday in Philadelphia, but Sabathia is expected to start Games 1, 4 and 7 for the Yankees. He threw 113 pitches in Game 1, 70 for strikes.

 
 
 
 
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