Then they scored just one run and picked up just six hits in today’s 8-1 loss.
“It’s March 10,” Ryne Sandberg said afterward. “It’s also a Spring Training atmosphere. Some guys are two at-bats, three at-bats and out. Sprinkled with days off in there, kind of a choppy schedule for guys. We’re still seeing everybody, giving everybody ample at-bats. Maybe it’s hard for guys to get into a groove and get into a rhythm. Guys are seeing the ball, getting their eyes adjusted. That could come into play. But when I look at the potential of the lineup and the potential bats we have together, I see an offense that has potential of doing some things. I put a lot on it being March 10.”
Cole Hamels suffered a setback in his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder, which makes his chances of pitching in April seem remote. He said he feels no pain in his shoulder, but his arm is “fatigued out.” He said no MRI or cortisone injections are scheduled, and he hopes to throw off a mound again sometime within the next week.
“I know nothing has gone wrong,” Hamels said this morning about his shoulder. “Trying to get in the best possible shape that I can in sort of a rushed, competitive atmosphere, something’s going to not want to push it a little more so it prevents the injury. Ultimately my body is telling me, ‘Hey, slow it down a little bit and start over in a certain way so that you can prevent injury but build up for the long haul.’”
That is the hope in Phillies camp: Hamels simply pushed himself too hard, too fast.
“I think any time you use and abuse your arm you’re going to get inflammation,” Hamels said. “But no, I wouldn’t say it’s painful. I think ultimately when people think about the shoulder and not being able to throw a baseball, they think injuries, tears, the pain indication. It’s not that. It’s really tired and it was kind of more difficult to go through the throwing motion, let alone try to throw something very competitive.”
But players almost always offer rosy outlooks about their health – in recent seasons Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge all publicly stated they were healthy in Spring Training only to struggle with their health during the season – so the fact Hamels seemed to be progressing quite nicely and suddenly has to stop throwing is a concern.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate today and the Phillies stepped to the right side of the infield.
They employed a defensive shift against Freeman, which has been a rarity for the Phillies in the past. According to Baseball Info Solutions, the Phillies shifted just 45 times last season, which ranked 29th in baseball. More and more teams recognize the value of a defensive shift, which is why Ryne Sandberg said the Phillies will shift more in 2014.
“We’re going to play with it a little bit,” he said after today’s 2-2 tie with the Braves at Bright House Field. “Once we get our charts and everything, make a decision; sometimes it may be dependent on the game.”
Sandberg said the Phillies discussed using the shift more during the offseason. The Phillies will use video and spray charts on hitters, which show where they hit the ball against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. They also have charts on their own pitchers, which will tell them where hitters seem to hit the ball when they are on the mound.
“The option will also be provided to the starting pitcher, that type of a situation, according to how they’re going to pitch,” Sandberg said. “So it will be coordinated. … We’ll be smart with it and do what makes sense. It’s something that’s grown and the information is there. Teams have had some success doing that, so that’s something to think about and apply.”
Do the early losses bother Ryne Sandberg? It is just one week of Spring Training, after all.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t like losses. You like to win games. It seems like in some of these games it’s been a one-inning type of thing. A crooked number in one inning. But our offense hasn’t come alive to overcome a crooked number by the other team. Six hits tonight, the two-run homer by (Marlon) Byrd and then we’re quiet after the third inning. So a lot of zeroes up there on the offensive side.”
The Phillies finished the night hitting just .194, which is the worst mark in baseball this spring.
But it is just one week of games. Countless players have had poor springs and played well during the regular season, so not much can be read into it.
“It seems to me like we get the bases loaded every game and don’t get anything out of it,” Sandberg said. “We get two guys on and we don’t get anything out of it. It’s about getting a big hit in an early Spring Training game like this. It seems like we haven’t had too much offense later in the games. It’s something we have to work on. With more at-bats usually the guys start swinging the bat better.”
Maikel Franco has impressed the Phillies early in camp.
Erik Kratz talks about going on the Phillies cruise after the Phillies traded him, and Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke go Western with bolo ties.
They believe if they are healthy they will win.
They suffered a scare this afternoon at Bright House Field, when Pirates pitcher Yao-Hsun Yang hit Phillies third baseman Cody Asche on the right hand with a pitch in the fifth inning. Asche left the game, but the Phillies said afterward it is a bruise and a preliminary ultrasound exam came back negative. He could have more tests Monday, if needed.
It sounded much worse than a bruise when the pitch first struck him. It could be heard throughout the ballpark.
“It scared me,” said Asche, who is the favorite to be the Opening Day third baseman. “It feels like it should feel if you got hit by a pitch, but it doesn’t feel like it’s something serious. That’s good. They don’t seem concerned about a break.”
He allowed two hits, one run, walked four and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings yesterday in his Phillies and Grapefruit League debuts against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. His fastball hit 93 or 94 mph once, depending on the radar gun, but otherwise sat in the 89-91 mph range. He showed some quality offspeed pitches, particularly his breaking ball, but couldn’t command his fastball.
It was his first time pitching in a game in two years.
“He was rusty and he wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this morning at Bright House Field. “But I think stuff-wise it was encouraging. He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he’s been in camp. It’s a process. We’ve got to let him develop from there. But I was encouraged by his poise. I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way.”
Scouting reports before Gonzalez signed said he threw in the mid-90s.
So where is the heat?
“I think he’s still building it, just like all these other guys,” Amaro said. “It just takes time for guys to build arm strength. I’m not as concerned about the velocity as I am the command and making sure his stuff is consistent. It’ll build.”
Amaro said Gonzalez had some tightness in his arm earlier in the spring, but said Saturday it was not an issue.
“There have been no issues with him thus far,” Amaro said.
It is not a serious concern yet, but with Cole Hamels and Jonathan Pettibone behind schedule because of shoulder issues and Ethan Martin getting his right shoulder examined today by doctors it could become one. At least the Phillies believe Hamels might miss just a start or two and Pettibone took a step forward today with his first bullpen session following a cortisone injection in into his right shoulder Feb. 17.
“Arm felt good,” Pettibone said afterward. “I think we’re back on track. That was like the first stepping stone and cleared that. Now it’s, ‘Game on.’”
Pettibone said his shoulder has felt fine since the injection.
“Once I got the cortisone, I was feeling smoother and kind of fresh,” he said. “In the week leading up, everything felt fine. So I’m staying positive.”
It is unlikely Pettibone could be ready to pitch by the beginning of the season, but he said he is hopeful he could be ready the first week of April.
He has had his share of injuries and surgeries the past couple years. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October 2012, right shoulder surgery in July 2013 and sports hernia surgery in October 2013. He has been rehabbing from those surgeries, and this morning at Bright House Field he threw his first bullpen session of the spring.
It was an important step in his recovery.
“It went good,” he said. “Real good. It was probably an 85-percent bullpen or so. Especially being the first one I wasn’t trying to let loose right off the bat. I wanted to make sure I got a good feel for throwing off the slope again and finding my arm slot. It felt good.”
But Adams said his arm felt “iffy” when he threw off flat ground Monday.
“Just uncomfortable,” he said. “It was the first time. That was the first time in this whole process that I’ve had any type of discomfort. Today felt back to normal. … When you’ve been through what I’ve been through as far as injuries and shoulder stuff and any kind of discomfort, it gets in the back of your head. I talked to (head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan) the other day and he’s like, ‘Hey, you’ve got every right to panic a little bit. What you’ve been through, it’s normal. It’s OK. You’re fine.’
“That’s probably going to be the biggest struggle for me. Before I came out here, I was nervous. I was worried. Everything’s an unknown. I don’t know how it’s going to go. It seems like every time I’m going out there, I’m hoping for the best. Just trying to stay positive. Every pitch could be the last pitch. Right now, I’m just kind of counting my blessings and going day by day. Every time I get through something, it’s just another checkpoint that I’ve hit.”
Adams, who makes $7 million this season, will throw his next bullpen session Sunday. He believes he could be pitch in a Grapefruit League sometime mid-March. He has said he could back in the Phillies bullpen sometime in April. But there are no guarantees following shoulder surgery.
“I don’t know velocity-wise where I’m going to be,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be 84-85 or 89-90. That’s going to be the most important thing that I do, command the ball and keep the ball down and change speeds. I think it’s going to be very important this year that I use my changeup just to keep them off balance a little bit.
“The more velocity I have, the better. But I’m not going into this thinking, ‘You’re going to have no velocity.’ Whatever happens as far as that goes, it’s going to be a bonus.”
Multiple sources confirmed a Philadelphia Daily News report that Mike Schmidt will be in the booth for Sunday games at Citizens Bank Park. Comcast fired Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews as parts of its 25-year contract with the Phillies. Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs took their place.
Moyer will broadcast 109 games this season, including Spring Training. Stairs will broadcast 108. Their first broadcast is Wednesday in the Grapefruit League opener against the Blue Jays.
Schmidt has been in Spring Training as a guest instructor since 2002, but has not been here this year because of an undisclosed illness.
“Mike is treating a health issue that requires him to remain near his doctors, and he will be unable to attend Spring Training as a field instructor this year,” a Phillies spokesman said in a statement in January. “Mike plans to visit camp in the middle of March as part of his marketing relationship with the Phillies and continue his normal visits to Philadelphia throughout the summer.”
All is well.
He threw his first bullpen session of the spring at Bright House Field. He will throw his second Saturday. Hamels, who is behind schedule after feeling discomfort in his left shoulder in November, could open the season on the disabled list, but everyone in camp seems to believe if he misses any time it will be only a start or two.
“It was good,” Hamels said. “Better than expected, which is huge. It didn’t feel as foreign, getting off the mound after such a long time. But everything felt good. Physically, I’ve been feeling great. It just carried over. Now it’s just getting the reps in, working on location, working on pitches. But I still have a really good feel for what I’m doing out there. Ultimately, I feel like my strength has really picked up. It’s just a matter of time of getting through the throwing program, the bullpens, the live BP and into the games. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hamels said earlier this month he typically is ready to pitch after just four Spring Training starts. He made five last year.
Does he have enough time to make four before the end of Spring Training?
“Ultimately, I hope so,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to have any setbacks. I feel really good where I am physically. I feel like they’re going to slot me in there and I’ll be able to get that in. I feel like I’ll recover like I normally do. I’m not worried at all about being ready for the season.
“I know when I first talked to you guys, an injury is always the biggest concern and I think the biggest worry. I didn’t have an injury. It was just a matter of building up. There’s nothing to really worry about in any sort of injury-related throwing. I’ve been there. I’ve done it before. I feel really confident that I can get everything done and I can be in the best shape I can for the season.”