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Papelbon Ready for His Return to Philly

Jonathan PapelbonOh, boy. Jonathan Papelbon should have a good time in his return to Citizens Bank Park.

He pitched tonight for the first time since Major League Baseball suspended him seven games for grabbing his crotch in a perceived gesture toward Phillies fans. He maintained his innocence after the 2-1 victory over Miami, saying if he really wanted to let booing Phillies fans know he was upset with them he really could have let them know.

“It’s been rough, it’s been bad,” Papelbon said about the suspension. “I’ve just had to really try – I don’t know how to say this but – I’ve just had to try to put (umpire) Joe West in the back of my mind and carry on even though I feel like I got the raw end of the deal.”

West ejected Papelbon from a Sept. 14 game against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Papelbon had just blown a save when he rather aggressively adjusted himself before he entered the Phillies dugout. West ejected him at that point. The two argued and made contact with one another on the field with West grabbing Papelbon by his jersey and pushing him away.

MLB suspended West one game without pay for his actions.

The Phillies finish their series against the Marlins at Marlins Park on Thursday before returning to Philadelphia for the final series of the season beginning Friday against Atlanta. Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg said Papelbon is their closer, inferring he will pitch in a save situation this weekend if it presents itself.

“Do I wonder about that?” Papelbon said about the fan reaction. “Do you think I wonder or do you think I know exactly what it’s going to be like?”

He knows exactly, doesn’t he?

“That’s right,” he said.

Is he looking forward to it?

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I wouldn’t say bathing in the boos. I’m looking forward to getting back there and pitching there. I enjoy pitching there, I really do. I don’t let the boos get to me. They don’t bother me. Like I said, I don’t hear them. For me, I like pitching in that kind of environment. Whether the fans are booing or cheering, that don’t make no difference to me.”

Of course, the league and the Phillies thought Papelbon let the boos get to him, which was why he grabbed himself and why he got suspended. The Phillies said they fully supported the suspension and apologized to fans.

“I did it because I needed a readjustment,” Papelbon said. “I truly feel like if the fans really got to me and they wanted something I would have given them a little bit more than that. Everyone has their right to an opinion and what they think. I said what I said and it’s the truth and I’m not going to waver from that. Like I said earlier, if I really, really wanted to do something back it would have been more than just a little ‘umph’ with the pants, you know what I mean? People are going to take it for what they want, you know what I mean?”

Papelbon said he did not appeal the suspension because it would have lingered into next season.

Rollins Talks Season, Phillies’ Future

Jimmy Rollins, Mike SchmidtJimmy Rollins has been recovering from a strained left hamstring for more than two weeks, and there is no reason to rush him back at this point.

Not with five games remaining in the 2014 season.

“Would it be wise?” Rollins said Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park. “It would not be wise.”

But if Rollins is finished for the season he can pack up his things Sunday knowing he rebounded from arguably the worst season of his career. He had a career-low .667 OPS in 2013, but bumped up that number to .717. He also hit .243 with 22 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs, 55 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a career-high 64 walks in 609 plate appearances.

He ranked ninth among 25 qualifying shortstops with a .716 OPS, which made him one of the more productive shortstops in baseball.

“I don’t know what the overall grade would be, but you’re never doing enough if you’re not winning,” Rollins said. “Ultimately, that’s how we grade ourselves as athletes. Yeah, I did great, but I didn’t really help us win too many games. That’s how you feel. Even if you did everything you could. Nobody is going to be perfect. Leaving that runner on third those five times, that could have been five wins because we lost by one or something. Things like that. I always look to improve. So you’re never satisfied.”

Rollins will become the dean of everyday shortstops following Derek Jeter’s retirement. Jeter is 40. Rollins turns 36 in November. The next oldest qualifying shortstop is White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who just turned 33.

Rollins will make $11 million in the final year of his contract with the Phillies. It could be his final season in Philadelphia, but as much as he would like the Phillies to be competitive next season he said he does not know if that is possible.

“It could be next year,” he said. “It could be two, three years. That’s what’s so great about being a ballplayer. We get to write that story. Always have. You put it on paper. You make it official. But we get to write it.”

Rollins said his feelings have not changed about his desire to remain in the Philadelphia. It is possible the Phillies will try to trade him in the offseason, but Rollins has complete no-trade rights and will have the final say.

“I’m still here,” he said. “I’ll be here next year.”

But the Phillies could say, “Jimmy, we’d like to trade you to a contender.”

“And they could say, ‘Guess who we’re signing? We want you to be a part of this,’” Rollins replied.

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas could be that type of player. He could fetch $100 million or more on the open market. He is projected as a middle-of-the-order bat.

“We have enough money to (compete),” Rollins said. “So you can’t say we don’t we have the money to make improvements in the places that need to be improved, or where they can make them, whichever is the priority. We’re in a big market, so. A big market payroll. So you have to go out there and make it happen.”

Phillies Work Out Tomas

tomasThe Phillies got a much closer look today at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

A source confirmed reports they privately worked out Tomas in the Dominican Republic. He held a large workout for every team in baseball yesterday.

The Phillies have liked Tomas, 23, for some time, and for a team in need of a big bat he could be the answer. Scouts described Tomas as a “monster” to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. They said Tomas, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, has athleticism for a big man with big power and quick hands. He also can run.

Teams seemed to be impressed.

Of course, the Phillies are not the only team interested in Tomas and bidding for the impending free agent is expected to be fierce. Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo recently signed a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox. The Phillies worked out Castillo, but were lukewarm.

Sources said the Phillies have always like Tomas more.

But there is talk Tomas could fetch at least $100 million, but if he can hit like other Cuban sluggers like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler it would be worth the risk.

Is Revere Part of Phillies’ Plans?

Ben RevereThe Phillies need to get creative this offseason to improve an offense that badly needs help.

They will look for improvement in the outfield.

Marlon Byrd could be traded. The organization also might move on from Domonic Brown. But what about Ben Revere? He entered Thursday’s series finale against the Padres at Petco Park hitting .306 with 13 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 25 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and a .690 OPS.

Despite a second-half surge, Revere’s .689 OPS as a center fielder ranks 19th out of 26 qualifying center fielders.

“I can say that he’s made very good strides in different parts of his game,” said Ryne Sandberg, who stopped short when he was asked if he views Revere as an everyday center fielder for a National League team. “I think he’s really improved his stolen base capability, a little bit more aggressive. His bat has come alive like we saw at times last year for a long stretch and I think that he’s improved on his outfield play with some added work and a change of the routine. I think overall he’s made improvement which goes a long way with him being an everyday center fielder.”

The Phillies certainly could use more power from Revere, and Sandberg said he thinks Revere has it.

“I actually think that he has the ability to hit 30 to 35 to 40 doubles with the way that he makes contact,” he said. “He’s strong. I think that should be the next thing for him is to hit 35 to 40 doubles in the season, hit in the gaps. We see it all season long in batting practice, there is no reason that shouldn’t translate into games and certain situations with certain pitches.

“It might be a little bit of a mindset change. He tries to hit it on the ground and he really tries to work it up the middle, which I think is the approach that he has probably been told for a number of years. But I think he has the ability to turn on the ball and hit the ball the other way to left center, to right center, down both lines.”

Ryno Wants Pitching, Needs Bats Too

Ryne SandbergRyne Sandberg said late last season the Phillies needed to upgrade their rotation heading into 2014.

He again made it a priority today at Petco Park.

“Solidify the starting rotation,” he said, referring to a rotation that ranked 11th in the National League with a 3.90 ERA and 13th with a 1.32 WHIP.

But this team needs much more than starting pitching. They need some big bats in the middle of the lineup. Internally, Phillies officials acknowledge Chase Utley (.660 OPS since May 28) and Ryan Howard (.685 OPS this season) would be better suited hitting somewhere other than third and fourth in the lineup.

Of course, No. 3 and 4 hitters are terribly difficult to find.

“Everyone needs the same thing,” Sandberg said.

Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas could be an option. He is working out Sunday for big-league teams, and the Phillies are interested. But Tomas could command a huge price, based on the fact fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo recently signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox.

Sandberg said the team could use “more consistent production” from the middle of the lineup. He said he would like to see fewer strikeouts, too.

“I’d like to see that come down,” he said.

Howard entered Wednesday second in baseball with 177 strikeouts. Marlon Byrd ranked third with 173. But the Phillies could handle the strikeouts if they came with more power. Howard has just 21 home runs. Byrd leads the team with 25.

The Phillies are fourth in the league with 1,223 strikeouts, but are 13th with a .364 slugging percentage.

“Just an approach of overall contact, making things happen, putting the ball in play,” Sandberg said.

Papelbon Suspended 7 Games, Fined

Jonathan Papelbon insisted he only had to adjust himself Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, but Major League Baseball didn’t buy it.

It suspended the typically loquacious closer seven games and fined him an undisclosed amount for his actions in the top of the ninth inning Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, where umpire Joe West ejected him after he made an obscene gesture toward the crowd. Papelbon, who also made contact with West, will not appeal the suspension and will begin serving it immediately.

The Phillies issued a statement saying they completely supported the suspension.

“We apologize to our fans for the actions of our player yesterday,” the team said.

Papelbon has been a handful since he joined the Phillies before the 2012 season, criticizing the organization’s operations from the top down in July 2013 and saying this July how he hoped to be traded because he no longer cared to play for a losing team. But asked before Monday’s game against at PETCO Park about Sunday’s incident, he said nothing.

“I would love to say something, but I can’t,” Papelbon said. “Once I figure it out I’ll talk to you, right? You know I would, but I can’t.”

Papelbon’s agents later issued a statement from the closer, which read, “I am accepting my suspension and regret making any contact with the umpires. While I completely understand how the fans would perceive my gesture while being booed, it was not my intent whatsoever to insult the fans of Philadelphia. If it was perceived in that manner, I sincerely apologize. … I look forward to returning this season and closing it out strong. For those reasons, I will not delay this process with an appeal.”

Papelbon blew a three-run lead in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Marlins. Fans booed him as he left the mound. Just before he reached the dugout he grabbed his crotch in an exaggerated manner. West noticed it and ejected him. Papelbon and West then got into a heated confrontation. Papelbon made contact with West, who grabbed Papelbon’s jersey.

There is no word if West will be disciplined for the altercation.

The Phillies made it clear Monday they had no jurisdiction in the matter. They said in their statement they “have no authority to make official judgments about activity which occurs on the field or to determine the appropriate penalty for misconduct.”

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg held an 18-minute meeting with Papelbon in his office Monday afternoon. He said it was the first time he had spoken to Papelbon about the incident. He said Papelbon stuck to his story that he wasn’t disrespecting fans.

“That’s not my job or position to believe him,” Sandberg said. “As we are right now, he’s our closer. … All I can base it on is what he told me and he had no intentions of that being toward the fans. It’s not my position or my spot to make any judgment on that, but just to listen to him.”

Does he at least understand why fans are upset?

“Well, I could understand the perception and he indicated to me that he understood the perception also and he thought that was unfortunate,” Sandberg said. “But yes, I do understand the perception. From him it was poor timing. He’d have much rather waited to get in the dugout. He indicated that to me. That was basically our conversation.”

Is he at least satisfied with his explanation?

“I just listen,” Sandberg repeated. “There was nothing for me to judge. It’s not for me to judge. I just listened to hear what he had to say.”

Sandberg also declined to say if West overacted.

“That’s not my area, either,” he said.

The seven-game suspension is one of the longer non-PED suspensions for a player in recent memory. MLB suspended John Rocker 28 games (reduced to 14) in 2000 for his controversial comments in a Sports Illustrated story. Ian Kennedy was suspended 10 games last season for his role in a brawl between the D-Backs and Dodgers. Sammy Sosa was suspended eight games (reduced to seven) for using a corked bat in 2003. Carlos Carrasco was suspended eight games (reduced to seven) last season for hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch after he had just finished a six-game suspension (reduced to five) for a similar incident in 2011.

“He’s been great this year,” Sandberg said about Papelbon. “He’s been a leader with the young pitchers. He’s been on a tremendous roll all year for us. He’s been a big part of the team, which he still is. He’s been outstanding. He’s been one of the leaders. The last three or four weeks with the team playing well, he’s been a part of that, doing his part.”

Ken Giles is likely to close in Papelbon’s absence, although Sandberg said that is to be determined.

Your Final 2014 Music Update

The season is winding down, so here’s one last look at the Phillies’ at-bat and warm-up music:

AT BAT

  • Cody Asche: Dat New New – Kid Cudi
  • Domonic Brown: The Boss – James Brown and In Da Wind – Trick Daddy
  • A.J. Burnett: Heaven Knows – Pretty Reckless and The Show – Doug E. Fresh
  • Marlon Byrd: Get Like Me – David Banner and Work – DJ Smoke f/Gangstarr
  • Maikel Franco: Me Da 3 Pito – El Alfa
  • Freddy Galvis: Poquito – Tego Calderon
  • Ryan Howard: 0 to 100 / The Catch Up – Drake, TKO – Justin Timberlake and Trumpets – Jason Derulo
  • Kyle Kendrick: The Outsiders – Eric Church
  • Wil Nieves: No Soy Yo – Tony Vega
  • Ben Revere: H.A.M. – Kanye West & Jay-Z
  • Jimmy Rollins: Good Kisser – Usher and No Flex Zone – Rae Sremmurd
  • Darin Ruf: Awake and Alive – Skillet
  • Cameron Rupp: Party Up – Chase Rice
  • Carlos Ruiz: Bailando – Enrique Iglesias
  • Grady Sizemore: m.A.A.d. City – Kendrick Lamar
  • Chase Utley: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

WARM UP

  • Mike Adams: Intro – DMX
  • David Buchanan: Agnus Dei / Worthy – Third Day
  • A.J. Burnett: The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Cole Hamels: Thunderstruck – AC/DC
  • Kyle Kendrick: Your Love – The Outfield
  • Cliff Lee: Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Bout That Life – Meek Mill
  • Jerome Williams: Le Hana I Ka Makani – Kealii Reichel

Giles’ Awkward, Hilarious Address


Before tonight’s game the Phillies honored Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon for last week’s combined no-hitter against the Braves.

They were supposed to stand there and tip their caps to the crowd. That’s it. But Papelbon had other ideas. He led the group behind home plate, where they met Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker. The four stood there for a moment before Papelbon grabbed the mike, beginning the most awkward and awesome 60 seconds of the season.

“I want to thank everybody. Thank the fans,” Papelbon said. “And we have someone here, on behalf of all four of us, that’s going to speak for us.”

Papelbon handed the mike to Giles, who immediately recoiled.

“Really?” Giles said.

Hamels and Diekman started cracking up.

“Well, someone put me on the spot,” Giles said. “That’s all right. Well, thank you everybody for coming and celebrating this great day for us. And, um, I don’t know, what’s, um, I feel really awkward right now. I don’t know what to say. Let’s just out there and, um … let’s play some ball right now!”

Gillick Will Be Both Caretaker and Agent for Change

Gillick Elected to Hall of FameThe Phillies named Pat Gillick interim president last Thursday while David Montgomery takes a leave of absence to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. He joined the team today in Atlanta, and said he plans to follow the team through the rest of the season.

Gillick spoke with reporters this afternoon, when he offered thoughts and opinions on numerous topics. Basically, he said he will be focused on the baseball operations side of the Phillies. Senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles will be in charge of the business side.

Here are a few highlights:

Q: Do you have full power on baseball operations?
A: Right now I guess that, you know, Ruben (Amaro Jr.) and I … let me put it this way, Ruben and I mutually agree on most decisions that we make. Ruben is very inclusive on any decisions that we make for the ballclub. But right now if there’s something I might have a different opinion, I’ll certainly voice that opinion and we’ll talk it through and try to make what we think is the correct decision.

Q: But you have final say?
A: I would say if it comes down to the end, I have part of the final say. At this moment, I think ownership has a part of the say, too.

Q: Are you a caretaker or someone who can come here and affect change?
A: A little bit of both. As I’ve said over and over, we want David back as soon as possible. So that point, I’m an interim care taker. But at the same time, if there are decisions that have to be made from a baseball standpoint, we’re going to make those decisions.

Q: Amaro said emphatically last Friday in New York that he is the GM and that is not going to change. He also said Ryne Sandberg is the manager and that is not going to change. Can you definitely say Ruben will be the GM and Ryne will be the manager?
A: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Q: Why? Fans are incredibly frustrated right now with the GM position.
A: Well, let me say this, one of the more difficult thing to do in professional aports, and not only baseball but all sports, is to be patient. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult for the fans to be patient. It’s difficult for the media to be patient. It’s difficult for ownership to be patient. But sometimes when you get challenges, and the challenges are we haven’t played well in the last two, three years. These are basically the same people that made the decisions when we won five division championships from 2007 through 2011. These are the same people making the decisions. So, all of a sudden, Ryne wasn’t here, but Ruben was here. All of a sudden he didn’t get dumb overnight. It’s just right now, we’re in a situation where we know where we’re headed and it’s going to take some time to get us where we want to go.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

Amaro: Expect Significant Changes to Roster

Ruben Amaro Jr.Change is coming.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said today there will be more adjustments to the Phillies’ roster in the future, following yesterday’s trade that sent John Mayberry Jr. to Toronto for Minor League third baseman Gustavo Pierre.

“Not that it’s a huge change, but we’re going to have to start churning the roster in a way that it’s going to have to be improved,” Amaro said in the press box at Turner Field.

Does he believe those changes could be significant?

“I do,” he said. “I think we need it. I think we need it because what we have on our roster right now is not working. How much we’ll do will depend on what makes sense for us. We’re still kind of assessing what we have. But I think it would behoove us to make some change because we need to be better.”

Amaro declined to say if those changes could extend to staff and management positions, although he said Friday there will be no changes at GM or manager while Pat Gillick serves as interim president.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” he said. “We have to be better.”

There is no question the roster does not have enough talent to win, but there also is a staleness in the clubhouse. It might be a good idea to move some players simply to get fresh faces and perspectives in there.

Amaro said that could be a factor when shaping next season’s roster.

“There are a lot of factors,” Amaro said. “How a player will fit short term and long term for us. What guys bring to the table on and off the field. All those things. Intangibles. We have to assess all those things. And we’ll look to improve in all those areas.”

But money will make the job difficult. The Phillies are loaded with players with expensive contracts, which they have been unable to move in the past. They could find the same issues in the offseason.

“We have a lot of ideas where we want to go, but to crystallize those we’ll have to see how things go, particularly when we have a chance to see some of the guys called up here,” Amaro said. “We have a lot of decisions to make. I think it’s a good thing. Change is going to be good in certain ways. Consistency is important too. I think we have a lot to assess, but we have a pretty good idea where we want to go. We just have to start thinking about the execution of those things.”

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