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Florida postcard

As mentioned a few days ago, I got down to Florida last weekend and saw the Phils face the Houston Astros in Kissimmee on Saturday, March 11 and the Cincinnati Reds at Clearwater's state-of-the-art Bright House Networks Field on Sunday, March 12. The Phils won both games; it's probably a safe bet that they've done a lot better against the Astros in Florida over the last three years than in either Houston or Philadelphia. It was a Ryan-a-riffic weekend: rising slugger Ryan Howard hit two home runs on Saturday and continued to hit screamers on Sunday, Ryan Franklin started the first game we saw, and Ryan Madson the second.

Ryan Howard before hitting his first of two home runs,
March 11 vs. Houston

Below, notes I made--but for some reason didn't post--last Sunday night while waiting for The Sopranos to come on in my hotel room.
  • Ryan Howard is a monster. At least for these two days, he's got that Piazza-in-his-prime thing going, where the ball just seems to explode off his bat and even the outs are impressive. Yesterday he was pretty much it for the Phils' offense.

  • Franklin somehow struck out five guys in his 3 2/3 yesterday, against a pretty good Astros lineup. Floyd came in later in the game and didn't look very sharp: he was pretty clearly nibbling, and the one time he clearly challenged a Houston hitter, he got taken out of the yard.

  • Rollins looked lost at the plate yesterday, pretty sharp today.

  • Burrell was back in action today and had a handful of good at-bats. He was thrown out trying to score on a fly out in the first inning, but that probably would have happened even if his foot was 100 percent...

  • Pat Burrell, shortly before getting
    thrown out at home vs. the Reds, 3/12

  • Madson shrugged off the leadoff homer to Wise and was very sharp for the rest of the game. Seemed to be throwing a lot of curveballs, which is probably the most important thing for him this spring. As with Franklin the day before, he left the game with two outs in the fourth; I'm guessing this was just coincidence as both of them hit their pitch counts.

  • Ryan Madson works out of first-
    inning trouble vs. the Reds, 3/12

  • Michael Bourn [since reassigned to minor-league camp] had a nice at-bat yesterday afternoon, falling behind 0-2 and then hitting a deep sac fly to provide what turned out to be the winning run.

  • Lefty relievers Rhodes, Cormier and Fultz all looked pretty sharp today, though the Reds' lineup was quite weak, particularly by then.

  • Highlight of the weekend: getting Harry Kalas to sign my cap yesterday!