The Phils kicked off Spring Training 2011 today with a news conference to show off their much-ballyhooed-before-they’ve-even-thrown-a-pitch-together rotation. I’m not sure what the whole point was, really, as no new ground was covered. The questions were predictable, as were the responses.
All five starters were present.
Yes, five. Of course, the way the media have been hyping the “Four Aces”, one could be forgiven for forgetting that there is, in fact, a fifth starter. You know, the Other Guy, Joe Blanton.
At one point, one of the media members led off a question to Cole Hamels by stating that he was the “only one with a ring”. Uh, hellooo? Joe Blanton was on the ’08 staff too. Said reporter quickly corrected himself. I guess he’s been listening to all that hype a bit too much.
The pitchers themselves seem to be trying to downplay the whole “Four Aces” thing. When asked which of the nicknames for the rotation they liked best, Cliff Lee asked what they were. Someone out of range of the microphone rattled off a few. Kudos to Cliff for pointing out that all he heard in those nicknames were references to four guys, but there were five guys up on the podium.
Even after the conference had ended, Comcast’s Michael Barkann referred to the “Mount Rushmore” of rotations in his wrap-up.
Hmm, not a bad image. But look! There’s a bit of space there to squeeze in a fifth head.
OK, so it’s a wee bit smaller than the others. Let’s just hope that the starting five can live up to the “monumental” expectations already being thrown their way.
Before I get into my coverage of our final two games, you may recall me mentioning in my last entry that I thought Ed Smith Stadium looks like a motel. Well, I dug through my old photo albums, and found a photo from our visit in March 2000. At the time, it was the spring home of the Reds. Since then, the Reds have relocated to Arizona for Spring Training, and Ed Smith is now home to the Orioles. Here it is:
Unless it’s been refurbished in the past 10 years, this is what the exterior of the part behind home plate looks like. All those railings and doors look just like a motel to me.
March 16 – Day 6
After yet another mouth-watering breakfast at the Inn at the Bay, we made our way to Bright House Field for today’s Phillies-Tigers game. If I haven’t already mentioned it, the Inn at the Bay serves the most awesome breakfasts. We’ve stayed there five times, and we’ve almost never had the same breakfast twice. They are so filling, most days we don’t even need lunch!
Once again, we arrived when the gates opened. New Tiger Johnny Damon signed some autographs (for Phillies fans!) during batting practice. I’m still not too happy with Johnny over that stolen-base-thing last October:
Cole Hamels was on the mound for the Phillies, going five innings with 2 hits, 1 run, and 4 stikeouts. He was looking pretty good this day:
Detroit’s Justin Verlander didn’t have such a great day, giving up home runs to Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard. Overall, he went 3 1/3 innings, with 4 runs on 3 hits:
Speaking of Howard’s homer (his first of the spring), it came on the swing immediately following this shot:
During a pitching change, Johnny Damon, Adam Everett, and Brandon Inge discuss the fly ball that got lost in the sun and just dropped into the Bermuda Triangle of turf between all three of them for a hit. They all appear to have sunglasses – guys, weren’t you using them?
Phil Coke came on in relief of Verlander, and proceeded to give up Domonic Brown’s second homer of the day, a two-run shot. Phil’s pants look like they have enough extra fabric at the bottom for a whole ‘nuther pair:
Domonic Brown had a great day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two homers and an RBI single. As thanks, he got reassigned to the minor league camp after the game:
New Phillie Danys Baez came on to pitch a scoreless inning in relief:
Greg Dobbs, playing third in place of the injured Placido Polanco, makes contact. Dobbs went 1-for-3 and scored a run:
Jimmy Rollins stops to sign some autographs on his way to the clubhouse. This may have been a mistake, as he was stuck there for the next 10 minutes while fans continued to flock down the aisle. Jimmy is actually one of the most fan-friendly Phillies, so he didn’t seem to mind:
Something I hadn’t seen before was a post-game batting practice. After the final out, the cage was wheeled back on the field, and Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Shane Victorino took additional BP. Shane seemed to be working on his bunting. Afterwards, Raul Ibanez and his son walk to the clubhouse with Charlie Manuel:
On the way out, we stopped for a photo of me in front of the entrance to the ballpark. Since I’m always the one taking the pictures, we need visual proof I was actually on this vacation:
March 17 – Day 7
St. Patrick’s Day dawned rather gray and dreary. On our way to the ballpark, it even rained a little bit. This had me concerned, because our “seats” for today were on the berm, the grassy area beyond the outfield fence. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting on soggy sod.
Not to fear though. By gametime, the skies had cleared and it turned into a sunny, pleasant afternoon for our final day in Florida.
During Phillies BP, Charlie Manuel had a chance to check out the mini-sized Charlie Manuel bat that will be given out to kids on July 6:
Randy Winn and Brian Schneider are loitering behind the batting cage. Something has made Winn grin, though Schneider looks like he just ate a bug:
This trio of trouble is yukking it up at the expense of their fellow fielder, who just muffed a grounder during pre-game warmups:
Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez wait their turns in the batting cage. Just what is that huge wad hiding in A-Rod’s cheek? Gum? Sunflower seeds? Some chew? His ego?
Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler was on hand to sign copies of his book, “View From The Booth.” Yes, I bought one. There are some who don’t really like Wheels as a broadcaster, but I’ll be interested to read his take on things:
Just before the game started, I met up with Confession of a She-Fan‘s Jane Heller and got interviewed by her on the She-Fan Cam. Click here to read Jane’s coverage of the game, and see the video clip.
In between BP and game time, the Phillies changed from their usual red and white uniforms to their bright green St. Patty’s day jerseys. Joe Blanton took to the mound for the Phillies. Blanton had a Blanton-like outing, going 5 innings, scattering 7 hits and giving up 2 runs:
The last time my husband and I came to Spring Training, in 2007, we saw the Phillies host the Yankees on St. Patrick’s Day, and Andy Pettitte started for the Yankees. Three years later, we are seeing the Phillies host the Yankees on St. Patrick’s Day, and Andy Pettitte is starting for the Yankees. Deja vu!
Randy Winn scores for the Yankees, as the throw to Carlos Ruiz is late:
Ryan Howard tosses the ball to first to get the out:
The Flyin’ Hawaiian can’t fly quite far enough, as this ball got past Shane Victorino for an extra-base hit:
The Phillie O’Phanatic get a bit, um, friendly with the third-base umpire. The mind shudders to imagine the offspring that would result from such an unholy union:
The luck of the Irish was with Jayson Werth as he lauched a three-run homer, which sealed the outcome of the game in favor of the Phillies:
Final score: Phillies 6, Yankees 2
Later that evening, we met up for dinner with Jane and her husband Michael, as it turned out that they were staying just three blocks away from us in St. Petersburg. We all enjoyed a delicious meal, and great conversation. The time flew by, and since we all had flights home the next day, finally had to bid each other good night.
Our flight home was much better than the first – no turbulence, and my husband and I actually got to sit next to each other this time.
(all photos by me, except the one of me, which was taken by my husband)
I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and sort through the many (and I mean MANY) photos that I took during last week’s Florida trip. To make writing about it a less daunting task, I think I will break it apart into at least two, maybe even three, entries.
March 11 – Day 1
Since I’d neglected to go online and print out our boarding passes until very late the previous night, my husband and I were near the back of the line for boarding our Southwest flight from Philadelphia to Tampa. While waiting to board our plane, we realized that the Philadelphia Union soccer team was on our flight with us. Whereas MLB teams have their own charter flights, MLS teams (at least this one) fly on Southwest.
By the time hubby and I got on board, there were no seats left next to each other. So I ended up two rows ahead of him, in the middle seat between two of said soccer players. While soccer players are not exactly behemoths, they are by no means small people. The two I was sandwiched between were both over six feet tall.
OK, so this was going to be a bit cozy.
As there was a very large storm system apparently covering the entire eastern seaboard, we had the bumpiest flight I’ve ever experienced. I am not a fan of flying, especially during turbulence, and most especially when my husband is not next to me so I can squeeze the bejeesus out of his knee. Our approach to Tampa was particularly rough, and since I decided it would be inappropriate to grab the knees of total strangers, I made do with clutching the back of the seat in front of me. After we’d landed, we found out there had actually been tornado warnings in the Tampa Bay area just prior to our arrival. Yikes!
We picked up our rental car and proceeded without incident to our lodging for the week, the Inn at the Bay Bed & Breakfast in St. Petersburg. If you’re ever staying in the Tampa/St. Pete area, I highly recommend it. After checking in, we went for a walk around downtown St. Pete, checking out the empty Al Lang Field, former spring home of the Tampa Bay Rays. It must still be used for something, as the field was nice and green and obviously still being maintained. We made it back to the Inn just in time, as it then started to rain. Later on, we enjoyed an ice cream dinner at Cold Stone Creamery (we’d had a really late lunch and weren’t very hungry).
March 12 – Day 2
The Phillies had split squad games today, one in Lakeland against the Tigers and one in Port Charlotte against the Rays. We toyed with the idea of driving to Port Charlotte, but the weather forecast was not very promising. Eventually, we decided not to risk driving an hour and a half, paying for parking and tickets, and getting rained out.
Good thing, too, as both games did end up getting rained out. In fact, it rained just about the entire day.
We opted instead to drive to Bright House Field to do our shopping in the team store on a non-game day, to avoid waiting in the long line that usually forms at games. We also stopped for lunch at the renowned Lenny’s, and left very full.
March 13 – Day 3
Our first game action! Yay! The Phillies were hosting the Twins today at Bright House Field. We arrived nice and early to be there when the gates opened. Here are some of the better pictures from the day.
Former Phillie Clay Condrey stops by to say “hi” during batting practice:
J.C. Romero peeks out of the clubhouse to check things out during the Twins’ BP. Looks like he’s still eating his dessert:
After March, Bright House Field is home to the Phillies single-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers. Thresher mascot Phinley was on hand pre-game:
Catching the ceremonial first pitch from former Phillie, and current announcer, Larry Andersen, was another former Phil, Desi Relaford. It was bubble-blowing time:
Prior to the game, Shane Victorino tips his cap to the crowd:
J.A. Happ was on the mound for the Phillies. He pitched four shutout innings, allowing only one hit, and needed just 49 pitches to do so:
The Twins countered with Carl Pavano, who threw three shutout innings without allowing a hit:
There’s just a wee bit of a height difference between Jimmy Rollins and Justin Morneau:
The Phils’ resident caveman, oops, I mean Jayson Werth, makes contact:
Jose Contreras pitched a shutout inning in relief. How does he stretch his fingers apart like that?
Gotta keep this ball away from me! Twins reliever Pat Neshek has one of the oddest looking pitching motions around:
Final score: Phillies 5, Twins 4
And finally, what better way to cap off a Phils win on a beautiful day at the ballpark, than with a beautiful sunset
That’s it for tonight – Part 2 coming soon!
(all photos by me except for Inn at the Bay)
When last I blogged, I was going semi-insane from trying to get everything ready and organized for our trip to Florida for Spring Training. Well, now I’m back. We had a great time, but sadly, our trip had to come to an end, and we had to return home. Though it was sunny most days, it was definitely not as warm as I would have liked! Florida has been having some unusually cool weather so far this spring, and coupled with the steady wind, made sitting in the shade a bit nippy!
Or nipply, as Chevy Chase might say.
But, I have some Actual Work already that I need to do this afternoon, which of course will help to pay for some of the trip expenditures. So once I get a chunk of time, I will be back to compose an entry (or two) with coverage of all our Spring Training fun!
Only three days to go until the hubby and I are headed to sunny Florida! I’ve been looking forward to this for the past, oh, two months or so, and now…
OMG, only three days to go!… and I have once again procrastinated for the past month, telling myself I had plenty of time to get things organized and ready for my trip. And once again, the trip has snuck up on me, leaving me feeling totally stressed at the realization of everything I still need to do before Thursday morning.
When will I ever learn?
Thankfully, those of you reading this don’t have to deal with me in person the next few days, because I’m liable to be cranky and unpleasant. But once we’ve checked into our room, and I have my first refreshing adult beverage in hand, all worries will be forgotten (or at least pushed into the dark recesses of my mind for a few days).
Tickets are in hand for three Phillies games at Bright House Field – Phils vs Twins (3/13), Phils vs Tigers (3/16), and Phils vs Yankees (3/17). We also have tickets to see the Phillies play the Pirates in Bradenton on 3/15.
I’m really looking forward to the chance to use my new “toy”, which I just got last week:
The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L lens with Image Stabilization. I had a chance to try this amazing lens last year at a photo workshop held at a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game. Let me tell you, the difference between photos taken with my old lens and with this one was obvious – even my husband, who has no camera sense, could tell the difference.
I’m also looking forward to the chance to meet Jane Heller of Confessions of a She-Fan fame. Jane will also be at the 3/17 Phillies vs Yankees game. She’ll probably have her She-Fan Cam with her, so I hope I’m having a good hair day that day!
Or I may go insane.
As of 3 pm today, this was the view behind my house:
The snow is still falling fast and furious, and is expected to continue into tonight.
I am not a snow person. For a few delusional years in my early twenties, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t so bad. But I came to my senses, and realized that life is better with palm trees.
I am trying to console myself with the fact that in a mere 29 days, hubby and I will be on our way to sunny Clearwater, Florida for a week of Spring Training.
I just have to survive these white flakes of pure evil first.
***UPDATE: The Morning After***
Well, this is what it looks like this morning. Here is my patio:
and this is my deck:
At least it is nice and sunny today so some of it will melt off the roof and driveway.
The Phillies’ equipment truck was scheduled to leave today for Florida. I haven’t seen if it actually got on the road or not. Wish I could stow away inside.
Only 28 days now. *sigh*
As I mentioned in my last post, the hubby and I are headed to Clearwater in March for some Spring Training! I had anxiously been counting the days until today, when single-game tickets went on sale this morning at 9 am. Since one of the games on our agenda is the March 17th Phillies vs. Yankees game, I needed to be ready to order the moment the tickets went on sale.
The games against the Yankees are always tough to get, because, well, it’s the Yankees. And of course, they are the current World Champs (as if I could forget that). And the 17th is
St. Patrick’s Day, when the Phillies look like this:
Kind of like a team of Christmas elves.
Therefore, of the three games I wanted to purchase, this one was the priority, the one to order first. So I made sure I was all caffeined up, at my computer, credit card in hand, well ahead of 9:00. I decided to at least go as far in the purchasing process as possible ahead of time, so I clicked on the ticket icon and a new window opened up, telling me that only a certain number of customers are allowed access at one time, to make for a more “pleasant” purchasing experience. Hmph. In the meantine, a timer kept counting down until the next time it would refresh. I decided to let it keep going, and a few minutes before 9, I had access!
I entered the quantity, selected the seating location, and got taken to the next screen – the frustrating one with the jumble of letters and numbers you’re supposed to enter before being allowed to actually buy the tickets. After agonizing over whether or not the “W” was capital or lowercase, I had my finger poised to click the moment the clock hit 9:00.
Nine o’clock came, I clicked, and was immediately told that there were no seats available in the level I’d chosen, BUT there were berm tickets available. What!?!? How could the berm be all that was left ALREADY?? Beggars can’t be choosers, so I accepted that option and continued on to the other two games.
The whole time I’m going through this process, the little clock at the top of the page kept ticking away the miniscule amount of time they allow for completing the purchase, or else the tickets are “released”. After all three games were ready to be purchased, I continued to the next step, where I could log in if I was a returning customer, or create a new account. Aack!! What to do?
I’d purchased Spring Training tickets before, but that was three years ago. I didn’t think my account would still be active, and even if it was, what password might I have used? So I chose “create new account”. After entering all the required information and submitting, it told me my email address was already in use! Try again!
By now I only had about 45 seconds left. I tried to go through the process again, using my other email address, but as I was cursing and hyperventilating, time ran out. “Sorry”, the browser told me. A string of profanity that would fry your ears issued forth.
I quickly went back through the whole process, cryptic letter combinations and all, and decided to try what my husband had suggested – my “usual” password. It worked! Hallelujah! I was finally able to exhale, my morning’s work completed.
Only 56 days and counting…
The holidays are over, it’s cold outside, I overate so much I wish I could hibernate, and I’ve been MIA around the blogosphere lately. This is due mostly to:
1. Lots of Actual Work to do (which is good, I get paid for that and not this).
2. Not much exciting going on in Phillies-land.
Not that nothing’s been going on, the Phillies did sign Danys Baez to a two-year deal. Hmm. After missing the 2008 season following Tommy John surgery, Baez went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA for Baltimore last season. Reports on the signing like to point out that Baez has closing experience, which could come in handy if Brad Lidge is not ready to start the season following his own elbow surgery. But wait, his last successful season as a closer was back in 2005 with the Rays! In 2006, while splitting time between L.A. and Atlanta, he blew 8 of 17 save opportunities.
<begin sarcasm> Gee, I can’t wait to watch Baez pitch for the Phillies! <end sarcasm>
OK, enough ranting.
A number of weeks ago, Ben of Ben’s Biz Blog asked his readers to send any minor league mascot photos his way. Since mascots are one of my favorite photo subjects at the ballpark, I sent Ben a supply of photos. Apparently, yesterday was a slow day for him, so he decided to use many of them in his post, which you can view here in it’s full glory.
So now the countdown begins. In a mere 63 days I will be winging my way to sunny Florida!
I don’t know which is worse – the anticipation of Christmas as a child, or the anticipation of Spring Training as an adult! Patience, unfortunately, has never been one of my virtues.
Following in the footsteps (gurney tracks?) of Raul Ibanez and Scott Eyre, Brad Lidge became the third Phillie to have surgery this week. In addition to repairing his flexor pronator tendon, he also had a loose body removed from his right (pitching) elbow.
Oh, wait, wrong kind of body. Apparently “loose bodies” look a bit more like this:
A little piece of bone which has broken off and is now floating around inside the elbow joint, wreaking havoc and causing pain.
Given all this carnage that was going on inside his elbow, is it any wonder that Lidge’s season was a total suck-fest? Of course, many pitchers continue to pitch through injuries, so it’s hard to say with certainty that this was the sole cause of his problems this year.
According to phillies.com, he should be ready to begin throwing in about eight weeks. Though he may be a bit behind in Spring Training, the Phillies are optimistic that he will be ready to pitch by Opening Day. Let’s just hope that he returns to 2008 form, and does not have a repeat of 2009.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Speaking of Spring Training…
I don’t know about the rest of you, but ever since I discovered the Phillies had posted their tentative Spring Training schedule online, I have found myself sitting and staring at it several times a day. Just…staring…at…it.
(Well, I’m sure those of you who are fans of other teams are staring at your own team’s schedule, not the Phillies’)
Will 2010 bring a return trip to Clearwater for me and the hubby? Hold on while I go plant a crop of money trees in my backyard :-).
Yeah, today dawned rather gray and dreary looking, but barring unforeseen circumstances, the Phillies equipment truck should be making its way towards Clearwater even as I write. I would so love to be a stowaway on that truck!
Sunshine, palm trees, beaches – what’s not to love about Spring Training? Where else but Spring Training can you arrive at the ballpark when the gates open, and it looks like this:
but by gametime it looks like this? (Florida weather in March can be pretty fickle!)
Where else but Spring Training can you see synchronized fielding during the pre-game warmups?
Where else but Spring Training can you see Chase Utley and the rest of the Phillies looking more like Christmas Elves than baseball players on St. Patrick’s Day?
Where else but Spring Training can you stand next to Jon Lieber’s monstrously huge truck?
I wonder if he’s still driving that behemoth, considering he’s currently unsigned.
And where else but Spring Training can you sit on top of the dugout after the game is over, and not get shooed away by security?
Yes, my friend does actually have a face, but I didn’t know if she wanted her picture posted on the internet, therefore the homemade smiley.
We have been fortunate enough to take a trip to Clearwater to catch some Spring Training games four times, in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007. As much as I would love to make it number five in 2009, the prospects of that happening are currently not looking too good. Our finances resemble the country’s economy (pretty stinky). And now that both our children are school-age, it’s much harder to schedule, what with the kids’ activities and trying to convince the grandparents to stay at our house for an extended period to make sure the kids get to school on time, homework done, etc. So unless I win the lottery, or suddenly find a money tree growing in my backyard, I’ll just continue to dream about it.
Hopefully for some of you this spring your dreams will come true!