Roy Halladay threw 45 pitches today before a rain delay sent him to the showers for the day in the Blue Jays 8-5 win over the Phillies. Hector Luna played second base and continued his tear, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. John Mayberry finally hit his first home run of the spring.
As you know, Halladay will start the regular season in Pittsburgh on Thursday. This was his final warmup before the real games begin.
Carlos Ruiz went 2-for-4, as well, upping his ridiculous spring average to .512. He’s clearly in midseason form and that rest to start spring training looks to be paying dividends.
-Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes seem destined to start the year on the DL, although from reports, it doesn’t seem like a long stay for either. Contreras is still building arm strength after getting a late start this spring. Stutes has suffered from shoulder soreness. If neither can be on the roster for opening day, look for David Herndon, Joe Savery, or Raul Valdez to take up those two spots.
-The Phillies signed Andres Blanco for some infield depth. He played last year with the Washington Nationals, but will begin the season at Triple-A.
As the regular season winds its way down to the finish line, one thing should be of great encouragement to the Philadelphia Flyers -- there is no shootout in the postseason.
After falling behind by a 3-0 count after the first period Saturday afternoon to the Ottawa Senators, the Flyers mounted a furious second period comeback to head into the third tied at 3-3. But in the end, it was the outcome of the skills competition that got the best of them in a 4-3 shootout defeat.
It has been well-documented as to Philadelphia's horrible record in afternoon games this season -- 5-10-2 in games that begin before 7 p.m., and 3-8-2 in contests that start before 3 p.m. -- and the Flyers early-game problems continued, as they yielded the first goal for the sixth time in their last eight contests, and 17th time in the last 24.After a Pavel Kubina giveaway led to sustained Ottawa pressure, Bobrovsky may have left the short-side post just a bit early and Jason Spezza made him pay, taking a beauty of a feed from Daniel Alfredsson and tucking it into the vacated side just over six minutes into the game.
Bob didn't look on his game in the first, struggling with some very ordinary shots. After Daniel Alfredsson had made it a 2-0 game on a long-range slap shot that may have deflected off a Flyer in the slot before finding the corner of the net, the goaltender allowed one of the real soft variety when Chris Neil's wrister from the half wall trickled through Bobrovsky's pads and into the net.
It was 3-0 Senators after 14:27, and nearly became 4-0 when another Alfredsson offering slid through the five-hole and came to rest just short of the goal line. Matt Carle alertly got to the puck and cleared it out of harm's way before the Sens could poke it into the open net.
The Flyers had good quality chances, but Anderson was standing on his head, robbing Claude Giroux on a shorthanded breakaway, and stopping several other high-quality, point blank shots.
A 3-0 deficit after the first against a team that desperately needed the two points -- Ottawa (88) entered the game leading both the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres (86 each) by just two points in a situation where it's like musical chairs, two seats left for three teams -- and it was a tall measure for the Flyers, indeed. And the Senators have been very good when leading after one, sporting a 15-3-4 mark when holding a lead heading into the second stanza.
But this season's version of the Flyers has been a resilient bunch, with four victories when trailing by 3-0 deficits this year, and it seems sometimes there is no lead they cannot overcome.
The second period saw the ice tilted in the same direction, and Philly took full advantage. After a nice criss-cross pattern by Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn left Schenn in the slot, Wayne Simmonds had Schenn's shot deflect off the bridge of his nose and into the goal as he was being drilled by the defender in front to make it a 3-1 Senators' lead just under three minutes into the period.
Simmonds was sporting a nasty gash between the eyes after the game.
The Flyers kept pressing and it paid off later in the middle frame, as Sean Couturier was rewarded for some hard work with his 13th of the season. Even that didn't come easy, either, as Filip Kuba lifted the net off the moorings and it was ruled no goal on the ice. After a lengthy video review from the War Room in Toronto, it was ruled a good goal, and the rookie's eight-game goalless drought was a thing of the past.
With the crowd still abuzz, the Orange-and-Black knotted the score less than three minutes later.
Danny Briere led a rush and hit a breaking Brayden Coburn in front of the crease, and the defenseman's deflection beat Anderson to tie the game at 3-3 with just 2:43 remaining in the second period.
Bobrovsky looked much sharper in the middle session, and he had to come up with a huge stop on a Kyle Turrisbreakaway shortly thereafter to keep the momentum with the home team.
The amount of scoring chances were far less in the third period, as both club's realized their situations in the standings warranted a certain amount of caution. After no goals were scored, the contest went to overtime.
Briere has recovered from what has been a disappointing year and has been far more involved in the Flyers' offense in recent weeks. He's still having troubles scoring goals, but he's been racking up the points. After scoring two goals last Saturday against the Canadiens, he's recorded seven assists in the subsequent three outings. The evidence of his still being snake-bitten was proven again as he came out from behind the net, wheeled, and fired a shot that beat Anderson to the glove side, but hit the inside of the post and stayed out.
The forward wasn't completely through, as his individual dash to split the defense in the last minute of overtime ended with an Anderson save and an Ottawa penalty. The Flyers couldn't capitalize, and the game went to what has been the Flyers' official kiss of death since its inception, the shootout.
The Dreaded Shootout
Read started it off by beating Anderson cleanly, as did Milan Michalek on Bobrovsky.
Giroux attempted some kind of move that looked like he took it directly from the All-Star Skills weekend -- but that may have been appropriate, given it was a skills competition that was deciding the game's ultimate outcome. His "turn-the-back-on-the-goalie" backhander sailed over the net.
After Spezza beat Bob, Briere -- after trying some other moves this season in shootouts -- reverted back to the one that has been so successful in shootouts in the past, the forehand-backhand-forehand where he attempts to tuck the puck between the netminder's outstretched pad and the left post. But Anderson stayed with him the entire way, and the Senators grabbed the extra point in the process.
It was a deflating way to end what had been a fantastic comeback, but then again, the shootout has not been friendly to the Flyers.
For the Flyers, it was another loss in an afternoon game. Maybe they can request all of the postseason games are played at night time? Just a thought...
The single point gained leaves the Flyers three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins going into Sunday's showdown in Steel Town in the battle for fourth place in the Eastern Conference -- and home-ice advantage in round one -- as we head into the last week of the regular season.
Flyers' 'March' to the Playoffs
Philly finished the month of March with an 11-3-2 record, the team's best month of March since going 13-3-0 in March of the 1984-85 season.
Questions to Answer
- The Leafs were awful. The Senators aren't great, but they are a team fighting for their playoff lives. How do the Flyers look -- Bobrovsky in particular -- against a team that's actually trying to win? Bob looked very good -- after the awful first period.
- Afternoon game. Slow start? The Flyers looked very good -- after the awful first period. Yup, another SLOW start.
- How does Kimmo Timonen look after taking a game off vs. Toronto? Kimmo played pretty well in the 20:10 of TOI he saw.
- Claude Giroux was one of the few players that didn't look good on Thursday. How's he look today? Not bad -- created many scoring chances, but another game scoreboard-free. G has no points in the last three, and just a goal and an assist in the last six.
Comment of the Day
Today's post of the game comes from 'Prometheus74'...
THIRD PERIOD THREAD - 3-3 Game, Third Period, It's 3:03 right now. That's all I know about this game. Fill me in!
Time: 1:05 pm, Bright House Field – Clearwater, FL
Weather: 30% Chance of Rain, 77
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The Phils play their last Spring home game of 2012 at Bright House Field as Doc matches up against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The biggest surprise of today’s line-up is the inclusion of Hector Luna at second. Luna last played second base in 2010 with the Marlins, spending just 3 innings of one game there. He’s got 708.1 career innings there, or about 78 games worth, but none in between those three innings in 2010 and his time as a regular with the 2006 Cardinals. The most interesting story of this Spring may not be Luna’s surprising play but rather Charlie Manuel’s unbelievable recollection of his career statistics as detailed by David Hale.
Two of the remaining lefties will throw today out of the ‘pen in addition to David Herndon. Meanwhile, the line-up seems to give some clues as to what the Phillies will use during the regular season.
1. Shane Victorino, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Jimmy Rollins, DH
4. Hunter Pence, RF
5. Ty Wigginton, 1B
6. John Mayberry Jr., LF
7. Hector Luna, 2B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
9. Freddy Galvis, SS
RHP Roy Halladay
RHP David Herndon
LHP Antonio Bastardo
LHP Raul Valdes
Ottawa Senators (39-28-10, 88 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (45-24-8, 98 pts)
1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia
Catch the action on CSN Philly, NHL Network, CBC, RDS 2 and 94 WIP
Questions to Answer
- The Leafs were awful. The Senators aren't great, but they are a team fighting for their playoff lives. How do the Flyers look -- Bobrovsky in particular -- against a team that's actually trying to win?
- Afternoon game. Slow start?
- How does Kimmo Timonen look after taking a game off vs. Toronto?
- Claude Giroux was one of the few players that didn't look good on Thursday. How's he look today?
As spring training approaches its end, I have had the opportunity recently to speak with a few Phillies prospects to talk about their status and how the exhibition season has been going. A trio of hurlers took time to speak on various subject and those pitchers are Mario Hollands, Tyler Knigge and Nick Hernandez.
Leading off is last year’s opening day starter for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Mario Hollands. The left-hander, was selected in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. Last season, with the BlueClaws, Hollands posted a 6-6 record with a 4.24 ERA in 28 games. Hollands improved his efforts after a switch to the bullpen. Read ahead to learn what Mario told PhilliesNation writer Jay Floyd about the dreaded spring training “walk of death” and plenty more.
JF: How would you assess spring training to date? What have you taken from these past few weeks?
MH: I’m really happy it’s almost over. It’s a long road for everyone. But besides that, with all the changes in personnel, I’m happy to come out with a job.
And I’ve been able to work on different pitches and just being able to improve them. Fine tuning some pitches before the season starts….just the little things that I’m able to work on each day has really helped out.
JF: You mentioned being happy to still have your job. With guys who seemed to have a firm lock on their spot, like Eric Pettis, getting cut, it really seems like almost anyone could go at any time. I spoke with Brian Gump, a player that was released last week by the Phillies, and he described entering the facilities each day as “a walk of death”, as guys are unsure if they’ll be requested to go talk with the brass and receive bad news. How stressful is it for players to walk into that on a daily basis?
MH: That “walk of death”, as Gump called it, is easily the scariest thing I’ve ever faced, or anything I’ve come across. It’s so intimidating and the walk is so far and you can see (the coaches) ahead of you and for 45 second (as you walk), you don’t know if they’re going to ask you to come off to the side or if you’re going to get to just keep walking by them. It’s absolutely terrifying. I’d have to say that applies for everyone. From first rounders to recently drafted kids, it’s the worst thing. It just makes for a horrible morning. It actually just turns into horrible days because (when guys are cut), you have to say your goodbyes to all these guys that you might not see again maybe, ever, or for a long time. It’s just a horrible time of the year and I think…there’s still one more cut and everyone’s just dreading that morning.
JF: What are your expectations for yourself early this season and then later in the year?
MH: Early on I just really want to establish myself in the bullpen. Of course, I just want to get off to a really good start and hopefully that just translates to more success throughout the season.
Everyone really wants to end (the season) at a level higher than where they started (the season). I think that’s everyone’s main goal, but I just want to continue to pitch well and get better as a reliever because I haven’t been doing it that long.
JF: In relation to that, I know last year you began the season as Lakewood’s opening day starting pitcher and you moved to the bullpen just before mid-season. How would you describe your transition over the last 12 months?
MH: I think relieving and starting are just really different and actually, well, I’ve had time to focus on relieving, but prior to that I had always been a starter. It’s just a much easier transition, coming from college- starting in Williamsport, starting in Lakewood, including opening day, it’s been a different transition for me. You don’t have to worry as much. There’s a lot of- I can’t say stress- but you don’t have that same pressure.
Next up, I spoke with righty reliever Tyler Knigge. The 12th round pick from 2010 had a solid season out of the Lakewood bullpen last year, posting a 4-3 record with 4 saves and a 3.32 ERA in 43 outings. Expect Knigge and his mid-90′s fastball to pitch with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2012.
JF: You showed up to spring training considerably early. Can you describe the advantages in doing that?
TK: Being from Idaho and being in the cold weather and everything…it’s a lot different being able to go down early. My first spring training, I didn’t have the opportunity to go down early, but this year I had the opportunity to come down about 18 days early and work out and get into the warm weather and really become acclimated, which really helped me to loosen my arm up and I was able to get into the- we have a new conditioning coach, and I was able to get into the conditioning program and that has really helped me out preparing for the spring training aspect.
JF: What do you think is the most appealing thing about Clearwater?
TK: The weather is definitely one of the better aspects of playing in Florida. It’s definitely better to pitch in the heat. Being a pitcher, I would say, especially me, I like being able to feel loose, and get comfortable on the mound. My first year in professional ball, I played with the rookie ball team, here in Clearwater and, so, I’m used to the weather. It’s something that I enjoy pitching in.
JF: I’ve spoken with guys before that say they’ve struggled at times with the humidity down there during the hotter months. Have you run into any great troubles in regards to that and dealing with grip issues?
TK: The first year I was here, in the GCL, I did have some trouble finding grip on the ball, but baseball gods were so kind as to bless us with this little invention called rosin. And I had never used it before, being from Idaho, where any heat that you get is dry, and I never had a need for it until I got to Florida. About two appearances into my professional career, I decided, “Well, throwing a 94 mile an hour fastball halfway up the screen behind home plate isn’t gonna get me real far.” With issues holding onto the ball, after a while I decided to use some rosin and I haven’t had any problems, since I started using that.
And lastly, Hernandez, a 12th round draft pick from 2009, has been recovering from shoulder surgery last year. In his time as a pro, aside from his four rehab outings with the GCL Phillies in 2010, in which he struggled, Hernandez has posted tremendous numbers with an 11-2 record and a 2.25 ERA in 23 starts. When I spoke with Nick, who expects to join a roster in June, he addressed his progress and more.
JF: Where would you rate your health right now and what are you working on until you can throw from a mound?
NH: Health wise, I feel I’m about 80-85 percent right now. I still have some arm strength and stamina to build up in my shoulder but that will come within the next month or so.
JF: Since you’re not game-ready yet, what is your routine typically like right now?
NH: I come to the field, do my shoulder exercises and then go out and throw with the guys when they go out. After throwing, I usually have some manual therapy on my shoulder/scapula area and then do some kind of a workout, whether it be upper body or lower body.
JF: Is there anybody within the organization that was extra supportive or that served as a motivator during your down time?
NH: Definitely. Some of the guys have definitely been extremely helpful. The training staff has been incredible during the entire process, and then players within the organization have pushed me to find different things to get me better. Two guys especially have really been helpful and that’s Mike Nesseth & Jonathan Pettibone. They’ve pushed me during spring training especially and have always told me that I’ll be on a mound again, even when I’ve had days that I’ve thought there was no way I’d ever pitch again. And I’m very thankful for them and everyone who has helped me.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more content from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.
(This post was written by Phillies Nation contributor Nick McIlwain, of 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia. He’s part of the Preston and Steve show. Check them out Monday through Friday from 5:30-10 am.)
I’m flying back from Clearwater, leaving the 80 degree sunny weather and for some inexplicable reason, returning to Philly in March. As I sit in 21A, looking out the left side of the plane, I can see the complex at Bright House, empty today after 3 games in the 3 days.
I saw a tie on Sunday, 3-3 against the Orioles, then a bad loss to the Red Sox on Monday, and a win in walk-off fashion yesterday, with newcomer Scott Podsednik crushing a ball to right to give the Phils a 5-4 win over the Pirates. The Pirates rallied for 4 runs in the 8th to spoil a gem by Cliff Lee, but after Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes struggled in the 8th, Jonathan Papelbon looked commanding in the 9th and Podsednik won it in the bottom frame.
A couple highlights worth noting: Jim Thome looked like, well, Jim Thome. I missed seeing that sweet left-handed swing in a Phillies uniform. Who knows what kind of production we’ll get out of him this season, but he’s certainly a fan favorite, having received a number of ovations. With injuries leading to the obvious holes on the right side of the infield, he’ll probably get more playing time than originally expected. So is 15 to 20 HR with 50 to 60 RBI too much to ask? Or hope for? Perhaps he’ll end his career making Uncle Charlie proud all over again.
Red Sox Nation is just as strong as Phillies Nation. Even at Spring Training, there were tons of Sox fans in attendance. It was easily the most crowded game of the three I attended, due in no small part to their passion. The Sox’ season ended terribly last year and with Bobby Valentine in the dugout and less alcohol in the clubhouse, I’m sure it will be a 3-team dogfight once again in the AL East.
I never remember how much I miss baseball until I go see it live and in person. It’s been five-plus months since the most disheartening and disappointing ending to a season since 1993, and despite the 102 wins in 2011, it’s a season that can’t be considered a success. We’ve gotten used to winning, of course, and shouldn’t take any of it for granted. With Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Lee at the top of the rotation, there’s no reason to be worried. So of course, I’m worried.
Can Ryan Howard ever be Ryan Howard again? When a big man hurts his knee or ankle or foot or Achilles or baby toe, it just takes longer to recover. Ask any doctor. And even if he does come back in June, does that mean he won’t get his timing back until July or August? Where have you gone, Chase Utley? Are your knees ok?
Regardless of the concerns, I’m incredibly excited that the season is almost here. There’s always the start-and-stop schedule of the beginning of the season, with 6 games spread out over 9 days in Pittsburgh and south Philly. And so it begins.
On the heels of a string of cuts this week, the Phillies released three more players from minor league camp on Friday, including outfielders Bill Rice (pictured) and Brent Clevlen as well as catcher Jeff Lanning.
Rice, a native of Sewell, NJ, was signed by the Phillies following a tryout at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park in June, 2010. Always a standout at every amateur level he has played, Rice’s lifelong dream of competing as a professional was achieved when the team he grew up cheering for offered him a contract.
Last year, in 46 combined games with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 5-foot-11-inch 185-pounder sported a .296 batting average with 1 HR, 13 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
After watching several teammates receive similar news in recent weeks, the lefty hitting speedster was stunned to learn he was being released early Friday.
Speaking exclusively with PhilliesNation.com’s Jay Floyd, Rice expressed his greatest appreciation for the Philadelphia organization.
“The Phillies helped me out in so many ways, in the game of baseball and life as well,” Rice said. “I’ve learned so much these past couple years and have all of my coaches and people in the organization to thank for that, along with the chance to do what I love and getting a shot at professional baseball.”
With no plans on giving up on continuing to live his dream, the 23-year-old Rice feels his pro career is nowhere near finished.
“I feel they made a mistake in releasing me but it is a business and I can’t hold that against them. I wish all the guys in the organization much success, but I do plan to take this opportunity to prove them wrong,” Rice stated.
With a clear emotional investment that predates his contractual ties with the organization that gave him a shot, Rice also expressed an undying attachment to the club that had just parted ways with him.
“It’s hard to get released, especially from the team you rooted for your entire life, but I have always been a Phillies fan and as short as my time was with them, I will forever be a Phillie at heart,” Rice confessed.
Clevlen was signed by the Phillies after being released by the Braves and the Reds organizations at separate points last season. The 28-year-old was a 2nd round draft choice of Detroit back in 2002 and has played in 59 combined big league games with the Tigers and Braves.
Lanning was signed in 2010 after being released by the Twins organization. The 24-year-old was an 8th round draft selection of Minnesota in 2008. In 43 games last year with Class A Lakewood, Lanning posted a .260 average with 8 doubles, 5 HR and 12 RBI.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.
Time: 7:05 pm, Legends Field – Tampa, FL
Weather: 20% Chance of Thunder Storms, 75
TV: ?MLB Network
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The Phils are down to 29 healthy players in camp as they enter the final full week of Spring Training. Juan Pierre leads off in left field while Freddy Galvis returns to the line-up. Mike Stutes was supposed to throw today but instead will sit-out with shoulder stiffness. Antonio Bastardo will start today’s game and is also scheduled to throw tomorrow. If there are any lingering concerns about Bastardo, they will be answered by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Hunter Pence, RF
6. Placido Polanco, 3B
7. Ty Wigginton, 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
9. Freddy Galvis, 2B
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP Jonathan Papelbon
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Kyle Kendrick