If you're like me, you've had your fill of the Jimmy Rollins vs. Ryne Sandberg tete-a-tete that suffocated us so gloriously last week. There's pretty much nothing left to be said about it, so this week's Spring Training Round-up will take a look at something we haven't talked about a whole lot in the last week.
How the baseball players are playing baseball.
Last week, the Phils went 3-4, bringing their NL-worst Grapefruit League record to 5-12-2. They were outscored 36-23 and continue to hit a MLB worst .211 as a team so far this spring. Their on-base percentage also is dead last at .294, as is their slugging percentage at .320.
And while most players are still having tough springs (Utley .400 OPS, Rollins .487 OPS, Brown .554 OPS, Asche .596 OPS, Howard .678 OPS), there are a few players playing well.
Ben Revere is hitting .343 so far this spring, John Mayberry continues to produce, with an OPS of .973, Carlos Ruiz is doing well with an .899 OPS, and Tony Gwynn Jr. (who we will talk more about in just a bit) is hitting .273 with an OPS of .812.
Pitching-wise, Cliff Lee is having an outstanding spring, with a 2.63 ERA, holding opponents to a .216 batting average. Brad Lincoln has shown good stuff out of the bullpen so far, twirling 7.2 innings of scoreless baseball. And Antonio Bastardo has a 2.57 ERA in just seven innings of work, but more importantly, has walked no one in those seven innings.
Now... onto the big stories from last week.
LATEST COLE HAMELS NEWS:
The concern over the health of Cole Hamels is real. Every time his name appears in the media, everyone cringes and hesitates to see what the story is about. Everyone is worried the next Cole Hamels story will read something like...
"Cole Hamels throws bullpen... left arm detaches from the shoulder socket... Hamels put down behind the equipment shed."
Happily, Hamels appears to be on the mend... once again.
Hamels threw 30 pitches off a mound before Sunday's loss to the Pirates and said it didn't feel like he was crushed by a falling cement mixer. That's an improvement. Hamels really felt good after his 'pen session Sunday (quote per Daily News' Ryan Lawrence).
"I was really thoroughly impressed with the way I've been feeling all week," Hamels said. "The past couple days with recovering and still being able to maintain the exercises and the strength program without any hiccups or even having to take it back a notch. I've really been able to bounce back really well."
He's just now at the point where he would have been at the very start of spring training, so it's fair to say he'll miss the whole month of April while he gets back up to speed. Hopefully, he will avoid any more setbacks.
PHILS MAKE SOME CUTS:
The Phillies sent a few players down to their minor league complex this week, including hard-throwing Ken Giles (who Sandberg said could definitely be back with the team at some point this year), Cesar Jimenez, Andres Blanco, Jeremy Horst, Tommy Joseph, Tyson Gillies and Zach Collier. The Phils also released catcher Lou Marson, who signed a minor league contract with the team that originally drafted him back in November.
We'll miss you all.
SCOUTS THINK THE PHILLIES ARE PRETTY TERRIBLE:
As the Phils were mired in the Rollins-Sandberg bru-ha-ha this week came this little nugget from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal...
The scouts' early reviews on the Phillies are in. And to put it kindly, they are less than glowing.
"They're awful," said one.
"Painful to watch," said another.
"Their window didn't close slowly -- it shut," said a third.
Keep in mind, it's only spring. In fact, it's relatively early in spring. But the Phillies needed victories the past two days to improve their record to 4-10. They're batting .210 with a .623 OPS, averaging just 3.6 runs per game. And while all of this ultimately might mean nothing, the entire vibe around the Phils is rather ominous.
So yeah, that's just what you want to see.
Here's the thing though. The Phils HAVE been awful. We've been talking about the offense for weeks now. It's been bad. The pitching hasn't been too hot either, although not the hot mess the offense has been. And the defense is definitely a concern. But do you really need to be a Major League scout to make these observations?
Really, what is surprising about these comments? Sure, sometimes scouts see things we don't see. But there hasn't been a whole lot to see from these Phils so far other than that they've played like crap.
Now, let's also consider these comments came after the first two weeks of spring training, when players are still working on things and, let's face it, not really trying. I don't think a whole lot can be predicted about the Phils in 2014 based on two weeks of spring training.
Still, the opinions of scouts around the game do matter. Hopefully, they'll be proven wrong.
I WISH THE PIRATES WERE STILL IN THE NL EAST:
You know, back in the "old days," (i.e., before 1994), the Pirates and Phillies used to play in the same division. And that Pennsylvania rivalry was a big one.
After Sunday's game against Pittsburgh (which the Pirates won 5-0), it seemed like old times.
Phillies were hit w/ pitches 5 times in first two spring games v. PIT. Now, Papelbon hits Marte, buzzes McCutchen. M. Morris drills Asche— David Murphy (@ByDavidMurphy) March 16, 2014
No one charged the mound and no one was ejected. All the players seemed to understand what was going on and no one tried to be a faux tough guy.
Still, it would have been a lot of fun to see this friction play itself out further during any of the 19 games they would have played against each other if they were in the same division. The Phils play the Pirates just seven times this year, three in Pittsburgh on July 4, 5 and 6 and then at home for four games September 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Oh, and as for that old rivalry, here's my favorite Phils-Pirates game of all time. It's only slightly higher than the Schmidt 500 home run game. (You may want to jump to the 2:21:31 mark on this one, guys).
MIKE ADAMS "CLOSE TO GAME-READY":
Frankly, I don't think anyone is counting on Mike Adams to give the Phils anything of value this year, despite his $7 million salary. That said, he sure would be a nice bonus to a bullpen that is relying on a lot of young arms to come of age this season.
Adams threw to live hitters for the first time on Saturday, the first time he's done that since shoulder surgery over the winter. And everyone who watched said things went extremely well (quotes per CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury).
"It went great," Adams said. "That was probably the best I’ve thrown to this day. It was a huge confidence-booster, not only for how I felt but for the way everything was coming out of my hand and the way I was locating. My next one can’t come fast enough."
"He looked very good," Sandberg said. "I was very impressed. I liked his stuff and his velocity, and his location and command was very, very good. He looked close to game-ready."
You'll recall Adams sounded less than confident a couple weeks ago after his first bullpen session when he said...
It's good that we're now past the point of Mike Adams worrying about dying while throwing a baseball. Adams is slated to pitch in a game as soon as Wednesday.
#5 STARTER COMPETITION:
It appears that two men are competing for that #5 spot in the rotation that will be needed while Cole Hamels mends... Jeff Manship and Sean O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan started Sunday against Pittsburgh, going four innings while giving up two runs on four hits with no walks or strikeouts. Manship also made a start against the Pirates this week, allowing two earned runs and six hits over four innings in the Phils' 6-5 loss on Friday.
So far this spring, Manship has pitched 11 innings with a 2.45 ERA with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. O'Sullivan has pitched 11.2 innings with a 6.17 ERA with six strikeouts and one walk.
Manship would appear to be the lead candidate, but there are still a few more starts due each pitcher. And, Jonathan Pettibone could get in on the action soon, too. He could see game action next week and should be ready to go by mid-April if everything goes well up until then.
It's not looking good for Bobby Abreu to make this team, guys.
The Phillies want to have a left-handed hitting outfielder on the bench. When the Phils decided to bring the 40-year-old Abreu for a tryout, the hope was that he had enough left in his bat to provide some balance off the bench. They also hoped he'd play a passable enough defense in order to make keeping him possible.
But so far this spring, the play of Tony Gwynn Jr. has made keeping Abreu over him a difficult proposition. Gwynn is a far better defender, plays center field adequately, and after a single, double and stolen base against the Pirates on Sunday is hitting .273 this spring.
He's not a great player, but if the Phils are looking for a lefty outfield bat off the bench who can play some defense and back up Ben Revere in center, they may have found their guy.
Meanwhile, it would appear John Mayberry and Darin Ruf are battling it out for one last spot. Mayberry is having the better spring, has no more options left and is a more versatile defender. But no one really believes in Mayberry's bat, and the manager seems to like what Ruf has given them this spring.
If I had to guess right now, I'd say Gwynn and Ruf make the team, while the Phils either trade or release Mayberry and bid adieu to Abreu.
MIKE SCHMIDT HAD CANCER:
TGP's Liz Roscher discussed this on Sunday, but it's worth mentioning here as well.
Schmidt apparently discovered he had skin cancer after noticing a discolored portion of skin on his hand last August and went to the dermatologist. Further tests revealed a cancerous mole on Schmidt's back.
Schmidt told the media on Sunday he is now cancer-free and ready to join the Phils' broadcast team for Sunday home games in 2014.
"The older you get, the more you realize that as you're getting old, you're thankful you're a healthy man, but you still carry some sort of invincibility," he said. "If you have been through athletically what I and these guys here have, you really do feel a bit invincible. It's the best word I can use. I don't [feel invincible] anymore."
But perhaps even more interesting were his comments regarding the one year he spent as a color commentator for PRISM, in 1990. Schmidt was a terrific color analyst, but said Sunday calling games every day just wasn't a fit for him.
"I just couldn't get excited about a ground-ball single up the middle," he said. "I mean, I could say it was good hitting, two strikes, he made contact, hit a ball up the middle, but guys wanted me to be more excited about little things. 'I spoke to so-and-so before the game. I was in the clubhouse. I was around the batting cage. We had a nice chat with the manager.' I was uncomfortable doing that. I had just retired. I didn't want to now start coming in my coat and tie and stand around and wait for somebody to talk to me.
"The Sunday broadcasts are not going to be filled with information and stats. It's going to be more of an entertainment day. Who knows what's going to come up, but it's going to be a lot lighter."
I LOVE Mike Schmidt. I love him so much, I'm going to link to my post from back in January, when the Phils first told the press he was battling an "illness" and would not assume his normal instructor duties in camp. The reason you'll want to see it is because of all the awesome Mike Schmidt video-ness that can be found there.
But in case you don't want to do that, I'll leave you with this. Enjoy.