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Lee’s Elbow Feels Same After Bullpen Session

Cliff LeeCliff Lee’s left elbow did not improve today at Bright House Field, but it also felt no worse.

He threw a bullpen session in the morning, a few days after a MRI exam reconfirmed a tear in his common flexor tendon. Lee entered Spring Training feeling fine after a winter of rehab, but the discomfort in his elbow returned following a start last Thursday.

“I got through it,” Lee said today. “There’s still something there. Same as yesterday.”

Lee, 36, is trying to test the elbow to see if he can pitch through it. If he cannot, season-ending surgery is the next option, although Lee has not said if he would have surgery to continue his career. His five-year, $120 million contract expires at the end of the season, although the deal includes a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million club option for 2016.

Thursday could be an important day for him. He hopes he feels OK.

“If it starts to progress worse than obviously that’s a pretty telling sign,” he said. “If it maintains how it is then I’ll keep going.”

Lee’s Prognosis Is Not Good

Cliff LeeThe prognosis is not good for Cliff Lee.

Multiple doctors, including orthopedist James Andrews, still see the same tear in the common flexor tendon in Lee’s left elbow, which continues to cause him problems. They agree Lee should resume his throwing program to see if he can minimize the discomfort, even though it appears to be a long shot.

If he cannot pitch without pain, surgery is the next option and that could mean the end of his career.

“We’re not terribly optimistic, but there is still the possibility he can come back and throw, and throw with a minimal amount of discomfort,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today at Bright House Field. “It got worse the last time [he tried to pitch through it], so the probability of that happening again is probably pretty high, but we don’t know that, and we probably won’t know it until he starts to throw and goes through his progressions.”

Lee, 36, has attempted to rehab twice from the injury. He tried unsuccessfully last summer and again in the winter.

“It’s not a good sign, obviously,” Lee said. “It’s not good.”

Lee pitched two innings Thursday against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., and said afterward he felt normal. But the following day, he felt a return of the discomfort he initially experienced last season.

Simply put, the discomfort has not gone away with rehab.

Recovery from surgery would take six to eight months, which Lee acknowledged could end his career. Lee is in the final year of his five-year, $120 million contract. He has a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million club option for 2016, but Lee has hinted in the past that he might not pitch beyond this deal.

“I’ve got a family at home and I’ve been away from them for a long time, so that is part of the equation,” Lee said. “If I were to have the surgery am I going to go through all that to try to pitch again, or am I going to shut it down? That’s a decision that I’ll have to make once that time comes, if that times comes.”

It might not take long to see if Lee can minimize the pain.

“It may take a couple of days,” Amaro said. “If he feels discomfort, then he might have to shut it down. He threw today and felt OK. Really didn’t feel anything different. It’s a very, very mild sensation he’s got in there.”

“There’s no timeline,” Lee said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and do it as long as I can. I’m not going to go out there in pain to where something bad can potentially happen. That doesn’t make sense to me. So I’m going to play as long as I comfortably can. When it’s uncomfortable to play and it hurts to play, then it’s not worth it.”

Lee said he is comfortable with his baseball career, if he cannot pitch again.

“It’s not just results,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done everything I could in my career to give myself the best chance. If it happens to be nearing the end, it is what it is. I don’t have any regrets. So that’s the main thing. Just as long as I can look back and comfortably say, `I didn’t cheat this or cheat that. I wish I would have done this or would have done that.’ As long as I don’t do that, I can live with anything.”

The Phillies also announced catcher John Hester, who is a non-roster invitee, had surgery to repair a complex tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee. He will take at least six weeks to recover from the surgery.

Third baseman Maikel Franco also was not at Tuesday’s game because of a root canal.

Lee’s News Is Bad, Offense Could Be Worse

Freddy GalvisThe Phillies would suffer a major blow if Cliff Lee needs surgery to repair his left elbow.

They had hoped he would get healthy, then trade him to a contender to inject young talent into the system. Of course, Lee’s injury also puts more pressure on an already suspect offense. The Phillies ranked 27th in baseball last season with a .665 OPS, then traded Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd. And while wins and losses will not be viewed like seasons past, the Phillies front office has said it does not want the team to embarrass itself in 2015.

Having Cole Hamels and Lee atop the Phillies’ rotation at least provided the Phillies the opportunity to win a few low-scoring games.

But with Lee possibly out, those 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 wins become less likely.

The Phillies’ offense has not been tearing the cover off the ball in the first week of Grapefruit League games. Andres Blanco and Xavier Paul are the only two Phillies to hit home runs. Both are non-roster invitees. The Phillies are one of five teams to hit just two homers this spring. The Rockies have hit just one.

The Phillies also are last in baseball with a .554 OPS.

“I’m not going to sit back and count on a home run,” Ryne Sandberg said after today’s 1-0 victory over the Orioles. “That’ll be a bonus. Doubles, for me, is a power swing and a power number. You can score a guy from first with a double. So hopefully some of these swings will turn into doubles.”

It is just one week of games, and when is the last time the first week of Spring Training accurately forecast a regular season? But the early production is worth mentioning because of last season’s struggles, the fact the front office did not replace Rollins and Byrd with comparable players and the fact Hamels could still be traded and Lee could be shut down.

Another Miss: Greene Won’t Be In Camp

greeneThe Phillies once touted Larry Greene as a big-time power hitter and a “man amongst young men.”

But Monday they confirmed a PhoulBallz.com report that Greene does not want to play baseball anymore and will not be in Spring Training. The Phillies gave Greene a $1 million signing bonus as the 39th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but he never played above Class A Lakewood in four mediocre Minor League seasons.

“I’m more disappointed for him,” Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said. “I’d be disappointed if it was a 20th round pick, but this is a different situation.”

The Phillies never heard from Greene as Spring Training approached. He finally informed them that he had no plans to attend camp. It certainly sounds like his baseball career is finished, but Jordan would not say Greene has officially quit or retired.

Greene, 22, hit a combined .224 with eight home runs, 74 RBIs and a .638 OPS in the Phillies’ system. He missed time because of a left wrist injury in 2014, but also missed time in 2012 and 2013 when he showed up to Spring Training out of shape.

The Phillies have not had a first-round of supplement pick make an impact at the big-league level since Cole Hamels in 2002.

Lee Hopes for Best, Knows Surgery Could End Career

Cliff LeeCliff Lee is trying to remain optimistic about his left elbow, but it must be difficult.

He is feeling discomfort in his elbow again, which is not a good sign after an offseason of rehab. Lee spoke to reporters this morning at Bright House Field, and here is some of what he had to say.

Q: What happened between Thursday’s start in Kissimmee (when he said afterward he felt normal) and the next day, when he felt something in his elbow?
A: The next day I came in and started to do my warmup stuff and felt a little something in the same spot where I felt it last year. Obviously as soon as I felt it I told the trainers and staff. We have an ultrasound machine here. When they did the ultrasound you could still see the injury from last year. As far as I know, that’s normal. They were telling me you’ll always see it in those ultrasounds and MRIs. So they saw that, then they wanted me to get an MRI to make sure it was that. Did that (yesterday). And then, the same thing, they could see the same injury from last year. There’s some mild inflammation around it. That’s really it. I know they were sending the images to (James) Andrews to let him look at it and obviously get a second opinion. He’s arguably the best in the world at stuff like that. (Michael) Ciccotti and him are going to communicate and come up with a plan for what to do. That’s really all I know at this point.

Q: How discouraging is this?
A: Obviously very disappointing with all the stuff I did in the offseason to prevent something like this from happening. It’s frustrating. There’s still a possibility it’s scar tissue and it’s normal but there’s also the possibility it’s coming back and that’s very frustrating. I just know I did everything to prevent it. That’s really all I could do so there’s nothing I look back and say, I should have done this, I should have done that. That’s not the issue. So long as I’m satisfied with how I prepared there’s nothing more I can do.

Q: How daunting would surgery be at this point?
A: Yeah, it’d be six to eight months out. So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done, possibly my career, I guess. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.

Q: Would you be surprised if you went out there today or tomorrow to throw and didn’t feel anything?
A: I would probably anticipate feeling a little something. But you don’t know until you do it. It’s not like it’s a major pain. It’s not like it’s majorly painful right now. It’s just what it felt like at the start of when I started feeling it last year. Knowing what I know now, my body does the same deal, then it’s probably going to come back. But there’s still a chance that it’s scar tissue and it’s normal.

Harang to Miss Wednesday’s Start

Aaron HarangAaron Harang will not make his scheduled Grapefruit League start tomorrow afternoon against the Yankees in Tampa.

Harang, 36, had his lower back wrapped this morning at Bright House Field, but he said the postponement is a “maintenance” issue related to his pitching mechanics and nothing health related. Harang said he woke up the other day and realized he needed to have a chiropractor adjust his back, which, he said, “is normal for me.”

“Right now the main focus is maintenance stuff to make sure I’m ready,” he said.

Harang, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract in the offseason, said he could start Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota. If that holds he would miss just one turn in the rotation.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey will start tomorrow at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Sprained Ankle Keeps Utley Sidelined

Chase UtleyChase Utley did not work out with his teammates today and he is not expected to play in at least the first week of Grapefruit League games because of a sprained right ankle, but he said there is no reason to be alarmed.

Utley rolled the ankle in January. It remains visibly swollen.

“I’m making a little progress,” he said. “Obviously I wish it was a little quicker, but I’m trying to be smart about it. It seems like it’s making some progressions every few days. I’d like to get out there as soon as possible.

“There’s no sense in overdoing it and screwing something else up, especially when we have a month until the season starts.”

Nobody could say when Utley might play in a game. Ryne Sandberg said yesterday they would work Utley into a game “down the road.” Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley would not play “for a little while.”

Utley said he did not participate in today’s workout because a nearly two-hour mandatory domestic violence education program curtailed his daily routine to get his knees and ankle ready for the field. Utley missed most of Spring Training in 2011-12 because of his knees and he works daily to keep those issues at bay.

“There’s a process I go through to get on the field,” he said.

Of course, because of Utley’s health history anytime something happens to him in Spring Training folks wonder if something more might be afoot.

He said no.

“I understand, but my ankle, look at it,” Utley said. “It looks worse than it is. But it’s not like it’s (completely healthy). There’s no point balancing on it or jumping on it. If I start balancing on it and jumping on it, and this isn’t ready, then something else is going to take the brunt of it, and I want to avoid (that). So that’s where we’re at.”

Aumont, Hernandez Out of Options

Phillippe AumontProjecting the Phillies’ Opening Day roster is an annual rite of spring.

For that reason it is worth knowing the players in camp without options. Options play a considerable role in a player’s chances of making the 25-man roster. Players without options must clear waivers before they can be assigned to the Minor Leagues, so there is risk in losing the player altogether if he does not make the team.

In Phillies camp there are six players without options: right-handers Jerome Williams, Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont; left-hander Andy Oliver; and infielders Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez.

It is not a factor for Williams, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract in the offseason. He is expected to be the team’s No. 4 starter behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. It also is not a factor for Oliver, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Phillies must keep Oliver on their 25-man roster the entire season or he must be offered back to the Pirates.

Galvis is expected to be the everyday shortstop, so options should not be an issue. De Fratus is a heavy favorite to make the bullpen. The same holds true for him.

But the performances of Aumont and Hernandez this spring are worth watching because of their situations.

Aumont is 1-5 with a 6.13 ERA in 45 appearances over the past three seasons. He has averaged 6.1 walks per nine innings in that time. The Phillies love his stuff, but he will need to throw strikes and pitch much more consistently to earn a spot in the bullpen which already includes locks like Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles and Jake Diekman with De Fratus a strong favorite for a fourth spot.

Hernandez seems to be a better bet to make the team because he can play a little bit at shortstop and the Phillies do not have a true backup for Galvis. Hernandez has hit .264 with a .624 OPS in 256 plate appearances the past two seasons.

Did Phillies Offer Moncada Deal? Amaro Keeps Quiet

moncadaThe Phillies could have used a talented prospect like Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada in their system.

The Phillies said they had interest, but how much is uncertain.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said today the organization had contact with Moncada’s agent until Monday, when MLB.com reported Moncada agreed to a record-breaking $31.5 million contract with the Red Sox.

Did the Phillies offer him a contract?

“I’m not going to get into it,” Amaro said.

Moncada is under 23 and had not played five years in the Cuban professional league, which put him under different amateur guidelines than Cuban outfielder Yasmany Thomas, who signed a $68.5 million deal in December with Arizona. Under Moncada’s guidelines, the Red Sox must pay a 100 penalty because they surpassed their annual international bonus allotment. In essence, they paid $63 million for the 19-year-old prospect.

The Red Sox also cannot spend more than $300,000 on any international player for the next two signing period (2015-16 and 2016-17). Of course, if Moncada lives up to the hype (many compare him to Robinson Cano) he would be worth it.

Is This Brown’s Last Shot?

Ryan Howard Domonic BrownIf Domonic Brown is concerned about his future in Philadelphia, he kept those thoughts to himself this morning at Bright House Field.

Brown will open the season as the Phillies right fielder, but with plenty to prove following a poor 2014. He made the 2013 National League All-Star team, but hit just .235 with 10 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 144 games last season. His OPS ranked 139th out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball.

“I don’t know what they’ve got planned for me, man,” Brown said. “I think I know myself a little better every single year. I looked at last year as a learning experience as well. Even though I had some struggles, I think I ended the season on a decent note.”

Brown citied a poor May for skewing his overall numbers. He hit .146 with a .503 OPS that month. He hit .250 with a .686 OPS after the All-Star break.

If he had posted a .686 OPS the entire season it would have ranked 122nd in baseball.

But Brown is getting a chance to play because the Phillies need to see if he can be the player they saw in 2013, when he hit .272 with 27 homers, 83 RBIs and an .818 OPS. If he is then they know they have a right fielder for the foreseeable future. If not, then they know they need to look elsewhere.

“I really don’t even put that in my mind,” Brown said about his future in Philadelphia. “We’ll see what happens. That’s part of the business as well. All I can do is prepare myself every day to be a Philadelphia Phillie until I get traded.”

Brown returns to right field after the Phillies traded Marlon Byrd to the Reds.

“I’m not even getting into it,” he said, asked if a position change could make him more comfortable on the field. “Wherever I’m at, I’m going to have fun playing, wherever I am on the baseball field. Is it going to get me more comfortable at the plate? I really don’t know. I have a really different mindset this year and that’s going out and having a lot of fun. I know what my ability (is). I’m going to do what I’m (capable of doing).”

Brown said he and his teammates have not been on the “same page” recently. He would not elaborate, other than to say the “Phillie way is playing hard, running balls out, taking the extra base.” He would not say if those players remain in the clubhouse. He only would say he wants to win.

“That’s my biggest goal,” Brown said. “Whether I’m sitting on the bench or playing every single day, it really doesn’t matter. I’m going out there and I’m making sure that I’m going to give my team a chance to win a ballgame.”

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