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Biddle Placed on Inactive List

biddleJesse Biddle entered 2014 season as the organization’s top pitching prospect, but at the moment he is lost.

The Phillies today placed the Double-A left-hander, who they selected in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, on the inactive list. Biddle, who is 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA in 13 starts, told the Reading Eagle, “I’m miserable out there. I’m very unhappy. And I don’t know why.”

It sounds like a mental health break for the 22-year-old.

Biddle, who is 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA in his last four starts, pitching past the third inning just once, battled the mental side of the game in 2013. He also suffered through whooping cough, and a postseason MRI revealed he pitched the final month of the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

He finished 5-14 with a respectable 3.64 ERA, but battled through constant frustrations.

“I was really, really immature in some ways handling my illnesses, handling some of the adversity I was facing,” Biddle said in January. “There were a lot of times I failed last year, and I didn’t handle it the right way. There are some things I really want to grow up on and want to improve.”

Former Phillies ace Roy Halladay had a one-on-one discussion with Biddle in Spring Training. He spoke with him for about 30 minutes one afternoon, discussing the mental aspects of pitching and handing him a copy of “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” by Harvey Dorfman, which Halladay credits for helping saving his big league career.

“A big thing for me will just be not sitting on things as long,” Biddle said. “There are times where I’ll let a game affect me for too long after the game is over, when the fact is, once my manager takes the ball out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do. As much as I want to, as much as I want to go back and replay it over and over in my head, there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

The Phillies also announced they released Double-A outfielder Jiwan James, who they selected in the 22nd round in 2007.

Sizemore Signed to Minor League Deal

sizemoreThe Phillies need some serious help in the outfield.

It is exactly why they signed Grady Sizemore today to a Minor League contract after the Red Sox released him last Wednesday. Sizemore will report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday. Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Sizemore has an out clause in his contract. The Phillies will have to bring Sizemore to the big leagues sometime in July or he can ask for his release.

“Well, I’d like to have more production in the outfield,” Amaro said. “It’s pretty simple. If we think after watching him play in Lehigh Valley, if we think he’s going to help us, then we’ll bring him. Really, this is a no-risk, high-reward situation for us. ”

Sizemore hit just .215 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 15 RBIs and a .612 OPS in 52 games before the Red Sox released him. Sizemore had been one of the better outfielders in baseball with the Indians from 2004-09 before seven surgeries for a variety of injuries limited to 104 games 2010-11 and kept him out of baseball in 2012-13.

“More than anything else, when you take that much time off, it takes a long time — much longer than people think — to get your feet back on the ground,” Amaro said. “I know Boston gave him an opportunity to play. He had some level of success and then he did struggle at times. We’ll see what he has in the tank. We believe in the athlete. We’ll see what he has left.”

There is reason to roll the dice. Phillies leftfielders entered Tuesday 30th in baseball with a .578 OPS and Phillies centerfielders were 27th with a .612 OPS. Individually, Domonic Brown was 162nd out of 167 qualified players with a .596 OPS. Ben Revere was 157th with a .615 OPS.

Marlon Byrd‘s .778 OPS was 63rd. He was on pace for 25 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Amaro said he thinks Sizemore can still play center field, although he will get a look at every outfield spot.

The Phillies expressed interest in Sizemore in the offseason, but did not want to offer him a big-league contract.

“We were interested,” Amaro said. “It didn’t work out. But we’ll get an opportunity to see how he’s progressed. We’ll see what happens. There’s a chance we could get him back here in July at some point.”

Utley Doesn’t Plan on Going Anywhere

Utley Addresses His Injured KneeThe Phillies have 33 games to play before the July 31 trade deadline, which leaves plenty of time for minds to change.

But Chase Utley indicated yesterday that he does not expect to change his mind.

Utley’s name is popping up as the trade deadline approaches with the Phillies sitting below the .500 mark and in last place in the National League East. The Phillies have played better recently, but they still have plenty of work to do. In fact, if they struggle leading to the deadline, the Phillies front office could initiate a fire sale with Utley becoming an attractive piece for postseason contenders, although the club has said it has no inclination to trade him.

Utley has indicated his desire to remain in Philadelphia, but what if the team begins a long rebuilding effort?

“Well, you’re creating situations that aren’t necessarily going to happen,” Utley told MLB.com. “I guess we’d have to see at that point, but I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Utley has 10-and-5 rights — 10 years in the Major Leagues, the last five with the same team — so he can refuse any trade at any time for any reason. He signed a $27 million contract extension last August, which could be worth as much as $75 if options are vested.

Utley said then that one reason he re-signed is because he believed the Phillies could win in the future.

“Last year, re-signing here was something I really wanted to do,” he said. “Great organization. Nothing has changed since then.

“I mean, honestly, I haven’t thought about it.”

But Utley said he still thinks the Phillies can win in the future.

“I think the mentality of trying to win will be there,” Utley said. “I think we need to make improvements as does every team in baseball.”

Utley’s comments follow ones made recently by Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. Rollins, who also has 10-and-5 rights, told USA Today that the Phillies “would have to come up with a reason for me to leave. … if they tell me to go, then I got no choice. I’ll go. If you make it that clear that you don’t want me, you don’t have to tell me twice.

“I’m not going to volunteer to go anywhere. Even if somewhere else was the perfect spot, this is what I know. You weigh that against the instant gratification of winning right now. You leave, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to win anyways. You pack up to leave for a different organization, a different city, and it feels temporary.”

Asked about his desire to remain in Philadelphia should the club elect to rebuild, Hamels, who has a partial no-trade clause, told CSNPhilly.com: “Then it’s a different situation. And I think you kind of have to look at it in a different way because your careers are only so long. Your good years only last so long. You want to make them count.”

But each player has indicated he wants to stay.

It’s A Start

A.J. BurnettThe Phillies had the worst record in the National League on June 8. They were 25-36, last in the division and seven games out of first place.

Sell, sell, sell!

But the Phillies are 9-4 since, which ties the Brewers and Dodgers for the best record in baseball in that span.

Buy?

Hold on a second. Despite their recent run, the Phillies are just 34-40. They remain in last place and are five games out of first place. They have played better, but they still have a long way to go. Even if they replicate their 9-4 mark over their next 13 games, matching their best 26-game run (18-8) since Aug. 25 to Sept. 22, 2012, they still would be a game under .500 on July 5. And at that point there are still 22 games remaining before the 4 p.m. trade deadline on July 31.

In other words, there is a ton of baseball to play before the Phillies hit the trade deadline. They need to keep going and they need to keep playing well over the next several weeks. Because the Phillies front office doesn’t need to do anything until 3:49 p.m. July 31, if they don’t want to.

Bullpen A Strength In Phillies’ Run

Ken GilesOne of the reasons for the Phillies’ recent success is their bullpen.

During their 7-2 run, the bullpen is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA, allowing 15 hits, three runs, three walks and striking out 32 batters in 25 innings.

But its success goes back further than nine games. It is 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 15 games since June 2, allowing 20 hits, five runs, six walks and striking out 46 in 37 1/3 innings. Its ERA, strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.67), strikeouts per nine innings average (11.09) and WHIP (0.70) are best in baseball in that stretch. It also is 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA in 26 games since May 22, allowing 45 hits, 18 runs, 31 walks and striking out 88 78 2/3 innings. It is first in WHIP (0.97), second in ERA and third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.07) in that stretch.

Here is a look at the individual numbers:

  • Jonathan Papelbon: He blew his second save of the season Monday in Atlanta, but is 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 16 saves in 17 opportunities since he blew his first save April 2 in Texas. He has allowed 16 hits, two runs, seven walks and has struck out 23 in 27 innings since.
  • Antonio Bastardo: He has not walked a batter in nine innings this month. In fact, he has allowed just one hit and struck out 10 in those six appearances. He also has a 0.50 ERA in 15 appearances since May 11. He has allowed four hits, one run, nine walks and has struck out 22 in 18 innings in that stretch.
  • Jake Diekman: He has a 2.95 ERA in 20 appearances since the end of April.
  • Justin De Fratus: He has not allowed a run in 11 appearances since being recalled from Triple-A late last month. He has allowed seven hits, two walks and has struck out 13 in 12 innings.
  • Mario Hollands: He has a 2.55 ERA this season, but he has not allowed a run in 14 appearances since May 7. He has allowed seven hits, six walks and has struck out 12 in 12 2/3 innings in that stretch.
  • Ken Giles: Since allowing a home run to the first batter he faced in the big leagues, he has allowed one hit, one walk and has struck out six in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
  • Ethan Martin: Has only pitched twice since joining the team, and not once since June 7.

 

Does Ryan Howard Listen to Nickelback?

nickelbackLast night a few girls at Turner Field held up a sign that claimed, “Ryan Howard listens to Nickelback.”

Scandalous!

We asked Howard after last night’s 5-2 victory over the Braves about these allegations.

“Damn, that’s outrageous,” he said. “I didn’t know that. Is it bad to listen to Nickelback?”

I mentioned the sign probably wasn’t meant as a compliment.

“I mean, I’m not afraid to say that I diversify my musical portfolio,” he said. “I didn’t know they could see or hear what … how do they know I listen to Nickelback? I listen to everything. I don’t know if there’s a specific song by Nickelback (I listen to).”

Brilliantly, the Braves’ organist (@bravesorganist) played some Nickleback before Howard’s at-bats late in the game. He had been playing the theme song to “The Office,” because a character on the show is named Ryan Howard.

Lee: Wednesday Is A Big Day

Cliff LeeCliff Lee took an important step in his recovery from a strained left elbow this afternoon at Turner Field.

He threw 20 fastballs in a bullpen session, his first since landing on the disabled list May 19.

“I can still tell something is there, but it’s not painful or uncomfortable at all,” Lee said afterward. “The past four or five days have been probably the best progression I’ve had since the first four or five days after I stopped throwing. Yeah, the last few days have been good.”

Lee said he “potentially” could be pitching for the Phillies before the All-Star break next month, but that remains to be seen.

“It’s tough to sit here and say anything right now,” he said. “Tomorrow is going to be the big day to see how I feel. Hopefully I come in and feel normal and continue as planned. I’ll have a bullpen in a couple more days. If I come in and there’ soreness or discomfort or something we’ll probably push it back a day or two.”

Lee estimated he was throwing 90 to 100 percent.

“I was throwing as hard as I could,” he said.

Rookie right-hander David Buchanan has made five starts in Lee’s place. He is 2-3 with a 5.97 ERA. Lee was 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts before the injury.

Rollins Is Hit King, Talks Future with Phillies

Jimmy Rollins, Mike SchmidtJimmy Rollins has more to accomplish, and it sounds like he hopes to accomplish those things in Philadelphia.

He reached a big one this afternoon when he singled to right field in the fifth inning in a 7-3 victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. It was the 2,235th hit of his career, which moved him past Mike Schmidt as the franchise’s hits leader.

“I’m not done,” Rollins said afterward. “Hopefully we can bring another championship to the city if I’m here long enough and the rest will be the rest.”

That is the question, isn’t it? Will Rollins be here long enough? He is signed through this season with an $11 million option that automatically vests with just 156 more plate appearances this season.

He will hit that mark with ease.

In fact, he should fly past that mark before the July 31 Trade Deadline, which brings up the biggest question of all. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights, so he can veto any trade at any time for any reason. He said last July in Detroit he would not waive his rights because he wanted to break the hits record.

Well, he has it. He also is playing on a team that, despite four wins in five games this week, is just 29-37 and on pace to lose 91 games following an 89-loss season in 2013 and an 81-loss season in 2012. Five consecutive National League East championships, two National League pennants and one World Series championship between from 2007-11 seems like a distant memory.

If the Phillies hold a fire sale next month would Rollins maintain his no-trade stance?

“It really depends if everything is blown up,” Rollins said. “Then you take that into consideration. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that right now. But if that time does come, and it’s time to go … people move on.”

(more…)

Everybody Surprised Hernandez Tossed, Except Umps

Roberto HernandezNobody seemed more surprised that Roberto Hernandez got ejected in the sixth inning last night at Citizens Bank Park than Hernandez.

Or maybe it was Ryne Sandberg.

Or maybe it was Starlin Castro and players and coaches from both the Phillies and Cubs clubhouses. Or every fan in the ballpark.

Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger, who is a Triple-A call up, ejected Hernandez almost immediately after he threw a first-pitch fastball that ran inside to hit Castro, who homered against him in the fourth inning of a 2-1 Cubs victory. It was a 2-0 game with two outs in the sixth and Hernandez had thrown just 81 pitches as he hoped to pitch past the sixth inning for just the third time in 12 starts this season.

“I was very, very surprised,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t throw that on purpose. I had two outs. I wanted to pitch into the next inning.”

Castro and Cubs manager Rick Renteria agreed.

“I don’t think he did it on purpose,” Castro said. “He’s a good friend of mine. I know him a lot. I see him every day in the Dominican. I was surprised because I don’t even know why the umpire threw him out for that. It was the same pitch as the homer. That ball ran in because he doesn’t have control.”

“I don’t think they were trying to hit Starlin,” Renteria said. “I think the ball got away from the kid.”

Crew chief Gary Cederstrom spoke briefly to a pool reporter after the game, barely looking up from his newspaper as he talked.

“I thought the appropriate action was taken,” Cederstrom said.

Why was Hernandez ejected?

“Intentionally throwing at the batter,” he said.

How did he know that? Was he reading his mind?

“That’s our job,” he said.

Ryne Sandberg jogged onto the field in disbelief. Ripperger ejected Sandberg shortly thereafter.

“Quick toss of the pitcher with no warning,” Sandberg said. “Well, there were some other pitches inside the rest of the game and even early on in the game. Hernandez did not have his control throughout the game. I think that has to go noticed by an umpire. Typically there’s a warning there if he thinks he did it on purpose. There was no way it was on purpose.”

Amaro Talks Trade Possibilities

Ruben Amaro Jr.Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke for a few minutes this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he was asked numerous questions about the upcoming July 31 trade deadline. He said no decisions have been made and he holds out hope the Phillies will do something with their current three-game winning streak.

If not, if the team returns to its losing ways, it seems safe to say a fire sale is a certainty.

Here are a few highlights:

Q: Are some of the contracts on the books inhibiting your ability to trade players?
A: Not that much because we’ve taken money back on deals before, so we’ll do it again if we have to.

Q: Are you already getting calls?
A: We’ve had discussions with a lot of teams about things.

Q: Do people like your guys?
A: Yes. Wouldn’t you? We have some pretty good players.

Q: In your mind, can Cliff Lee get back in time where he could become appealing to contending teams, if you go in that direction?
A: I think so. Cliff threw again today and it went well, which is good. Hopefully he can start going in a straight line.

Q: If you get into a rebuild situation and you subtracted, do you have any untouchables?
A: I can’t say there are any untouchables. We’ve talked about this before. I mean, some guys are less touchable than others.

Q: Where is your confidence/faith level this team can put together a run and get into this thing when it hasn’t won more than three straight in more than a year?
A: Yeah, it hasn’t been great in that regard. No question. Our recent history is not great. We’ve got to see what happens over the next couple of weeks because we’ve got (Cody) Asche coming back, we’re waiting on Cliff to jump back in this thing. We have our bullpen starting to do some things we hoped they would do earlier in the year. You’re seeing some of that growth now, finally. What’s my confidence level? I believe in our players, but if they keep playing at this same rate they were playing … if they play like the did the last three or four guys that’d be different. But if they keep playing at the rate they were playing the last week and a couple weeks prior then my confidence would be low. We’ll see. They have ability.

Q: You said a couple weeks ago you have no intentions to trade Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins and you’ve received no indications they’re interested. Has anything changed?
A: It’s hard to speculate because they’re 10-and-5 guys. If someone comes and says we’d like to have Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley or whatever player is out there, I have to do my job and listen and explore. But the reality of it is it could be all wasted time because they may not want to go anywhere. And at that time we may not want them to go anywhere either. A lot of it depends on what we want to do, and most of it depends on what they want to do.

Q: Are you confident in your ability to rebuild if you go that way?
A: Absolutely.

 

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