Editor's Note: It's hot in Clearwater both as regards the weather and the reportage that follows. The following recap of the Saturday afternoon Grapefruit League game between the Phillies and Blue Jays may be too hot for some to handle. Prospective readers are encouraged to heed the age-old advice of, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
It started out harmlessly enough with Cole Hamels walking out to the mound on a sunny Clearwater afternoon. He looked absolutely strapping, a model of the lanky-athletic physique that has eluded the present author for over 25 years of his mortal existence. A beautiful afternoon with a beautiful man. What could go wrong?
Well, to start with, Hamels had to throw the damn ball. The first time he attempted that feat to a real-life, breathing batsman, Jose Reyes deposited his loser offering in the left field bar seating. Following that homerun, rumors are that Red Sox GM Ben Cherington called Ruben Amaro, Jr. with a proposition: Cole Hamels to the Red Sox in exchanged for a condom that Cherington described as "gently-used, like-new." Amaro demanded a new one; Cherington refused; the call ended.
Two batters later, after Jose Bautista took Hamels out to center, Amaro called back Cherington:
RUBEN: Ben, remember that gently-used, like-new condom you offered for Cole a couple minutes back?
CHERINGTON: Yeah, sure. What of it?
RUBEN: You've got a deal if you throw in some lube.
CHERINGTON: Sure, Ruben, I can make that work.
RUBEN: Well, that's a wrap then!
RUBEN: Get it? Condom...a wrap...it's one of them puns.
CHERINGTON: Whatever, Rube. I'll have it overnighted this evening.
And so ended the Cole Hamels era, or so we thought. As it turned out, Hamels would stay in and pitch better. In the remaining 2.2 innings he pitched, Hamels gave up 3 hits and struck out 4, which he paired with zero walks. But that's not what's important! What's important is that Hamels is clearly a traitor, pitching like garbage to drive down his trade value then suddenly pitching well once we trade him. Ruben definitely got the better end of what will surely go down in history as the Hamels-Condom Affair of 2015. History is told by the victors and Ruben shall tell the tale of this trade.
It's clear that Hamels came unprepared to pitch. After the game, Hamels said that before he left the game in the 4th, he was "just talking" to manager Ryne Sandberg on the mound. That's just disrespectful to the game. This is Spring Training, key word training. Your team doesn't fly you all the way down to warm, sunny Florida so you can lollygag and talk on the mound. You pitch on the mound, you talk on the phone.
Furthermore, Hamels didn't even know how many pitches he had thrown. "When Ryno came out I was shocked because I didn't realize I was at 72 pitches." Counting your pitches is like counting cards at the casino: if you're not doing it, you might as well not even sit down at the table.
Didn't know how many pitches you threw? Get your head in the game, man! (There's a traded for a condom and lube joke here, but this take is too hot to slow down to make it. Insert your own, if you must, but this recap is so hot it has moved on in its incendiary romp.) There's no need to wonder why Hamels' trade stock has plummeted so precipitously this spring, it was all on display in this singular instance.
Speaking of guys whose heads weren't in the game, Odubel Herrera got picked off first base for the second time this spring. Odubel can hit all he wants--he went 2-for-3 with an RBI today--but we can't count on him to play every day if he's just going to get picked off. Moreover, he left the game in the 7th inning, a clear sign that he lacks the mental fortitude necessary to survive the grueling spiritual demands of a 162 game season. Send not to know/ For Odubel tolls,/ It tolls for thee.
Phillippe Aumont also displayed his lack of focus. While facing his first batter after relieving Cole Hamels in the middle of the 4th, Aumont balked, allowing Danny Valencia to advance to second. Aumont was so out of it that he didn't even know it was a balk and air-mailed a potential pickoff throw into center. Even when he's not throwing to the plate, Aumont clearly has no idea where his throws are going. I saw him signing balls for fans in the bullpen and he routinely returned the balls to fans 10 feet over from the owner of the ball. Aumont may have had no walks this time around, but that's obviously just a small sample thing.
The Phillies, who dropped to .500 (9-9) after today's loss to the Blue Jays, need to get it together soon if they want to rebuild this season. You can't rebuild without the veterans producing and the young guys coming up and showing what they have to offer.
--Ben Revere started in left field today for the first time this spring. After the game, Sandberg said that Revere in left is, "something I want to look at. Herrera's arm plays in CF, and LF allows Ben's arm to play better. I think overall the defense I think we show pretty solid in those two positions with that combination."
In his time with the Twins, Revere graded out positively for his defense in the corners according to UZR. His bat obviously isn't what you want out of the corner, but the Phillies don't really have that bat on the roster. If swapping Revere and Herrera makes the defense better, it's a smart move.
--That defense showed twice today. In the 6th inning nice relay on a Devon Travis double to left-center from Herrera to Galvis to Ruiz that nailed Danny Valencia at the plate. I'm not sure Revere's arm would have gotten the ball to Galvis quickly enough to make a play at the plate.
In the 8th inning, Ben Revere caught Justin Smoak trying to score from second on a single. The throw actually looked pretty good, reaching home plate and requiring no more than one bounce to get there. Given years of data showing that Revere's arm is weaker than an under-pumped Super Soaker, forgive me if I don't rush to declare his arm "plus" from left field.
--Chase Utley took the field for the first time this spring. Although nothing was hit his way, he did look good running the bases as he was able to score from second on Carlos Ruiz single in the fourth inning. Hopefully the ankle is better and he can get some defensive reps in over the next two weeks.
--Odubel Herrera left the game in the 7th because of tweak in his knee. Ryne Sandberg described it as precautionary. He hasn't yet been ruled out for tomorrow afternoon's game against the Red Sox. Sandberg will check in with him tomorrow morning before making a decision.