Burnett Plans to Pitch with Hernia

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizA.J. Burnett will need surgery at some point, but he said today he plans to pitch the rest of the season with an inguinal hernia.

Burnett received a cortisone injection today and is scheduled to start Wednesday.

“It’s something that I think is manageable,” he said.

And what makes it manageable?

“I guess manageable is that I’m going to have to deal with it,” he said. “Paying attention to it, knowing it’s there, knowing what I can do to overdo it and knowing what I can do to keep it where it needs to be. I’m more of a go getter and I’m not really a take it easy kind of guy, so it’s going to be a test.”

Burnett had to be pulled from Friday’s start in the fifth inning because of discomfort, but he said, “I’ve pitched with worse. The other night was more of an uncertainty because I didn’t know where it was coming from. I didn’t know if it was hip, groin, whether I tweaked something or pulled something. Now that I know upstairs what I’m dealing with, I can deal with it a lot better.”

Cole Hamels pitched with same injury in 2011 before having surgery in the offseason. He went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) and finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting.

In a perfect world Burnett performs similarly to Hamels in 2011, and waits until the offseason to surgically repair it as recovery can take six to eight weeks. Burnett said he is confident he still can pitch like he had the past couple seasons with the Pirates, when he went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts.

Burnett is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts this season. In 16 innings, he has allowed 17 hits, 11 runs (seven earned runs) and 14 walks with 10 strikeouts.

“It could be a blessing in disguise and I pay attention more to my delivery,” he said. “The two pitches I felt it in my bullpen (Sunday) is when my timing was a tick off. I flew open early or something was off. But when I nailed my delivery in the next 15, it was fine. I’m not worried about it now that today happened. I talked to the doctors and had my questions answered. How severe is it? Can it get really, really worse?”

Can it?

“It can get larger,” he said. “But as far as pain wise, they said it would be the same. Uncomfortable.”

But surgery will come at some point. He knows that. He just hopes it’s not until after the season.

Utley Leads Phillies Offense

Chase UtleyEverybody seems to know by now that Chase Utley is the hottest hitter on the planet.

He leads baseball with a .500 batting average, .565 on-base percentage, .875 slugging percentage and 1.440 OPS. Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Phillies player to open a season 20-for-40 since Von Hayes in 1989.

We also know Utley won’t keep up this pace forever. But the Phillies are hoping their offense keeps up its pace through the first 12 games of the season. The Phillies lead the National League with a .354 on-base percentage and 49 walks. (Remove Utley from the equation and the team still has a .327 on-base percentage, which would rank fifth in the league.) Have the Phillies had bad days with runners in scoring position? Yes. They are sixth in the NL averaging 4.67 runs per game, so they can do a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities. But from 2005-11, when the Phillies led the league in runs, they also led the league in runners left on base. Utley often mentioned that in the past: Sure, they are leaving a lot of runners on base, but that is because they are putting a lot of runners on base. Typically, the law of averages kicks in and many of those runners score. The Phillies are hoping the same holds true this season.

Regardless, the first 12 games are a marked improvement over the past two seasons when the Phillies were ninth in the league averaging a paltry 3.99 runs per game and 11th with a .312 on-base percentage.

De Fratus ‘Not Doing Job’ Sent to Triple-A

Justin De FratusOne of the reasons the Phillies optioned right-hander Justin De Fratus to Triple-A Lehigh Valley today is because they needed a fresh arm in the bullpen following a busy weekend.

They recalled right-hander Luis Garcia from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place. But Garcia’s stint could be short. The Phillies are expected to activate right-hander Mike Adams from the 15-day disabled list tomorrow and Garcia seems to be the most likely candidate to make room for him on the 25-man roster.

But De Fratus also carried a 7.20 ERA following four appearances. He allowed five hits, four runs, one walk, two home runs and struck out two in five innings. The Phillies are struggling to find competent right-handers in the bullpen. Early this season Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has leaned heavily on left-handers Jake Diekman, Antonio Bastardo and Mario Hollands, routinely pitching them in high-leverage situations.

“I’m not doing my job, straight up,” De Fratus said. “I’m just not doing my job. I’ve got to get the ball down. That’s all it is. It’s not walking people. I’m trying to challenge people and I’m getting beat. That’s it. I’ve just got to get that fastball down, and that’s what I’m going to work on. It really is a simple solution.

“I don’t want it, but I need the time to straighten some things out because something has gone awry in the last couple years that’s not allowing me to get the ball down. I’ve got to find out what it is.”

Adams, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery, allowed two hits, one run and struck out one in one inning last night in a rehab appearance with Triple-A.

“Overall it went all right,” Adams said. “Health-wise it was OK. Today I feel fine. That’s the most important thing. It’s their decision (about Monday). I’m going to play catch today and we’ll talk after that.”

Burnett Hopes for Good News Monday

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizA.J. Burnett should know tomorrow if he will make Wednesday’s scheduled start against the Braves.

He will have an ultrasound in the morning to see if he has a sore groin or possibly something worse.

“I feel good, but I want my mind to be 100 percent,” he said about the ultrasound. “Let’s just hope it’s not a hernia or something. That’s what I’m worried about. Tomorrow will give me peace of mind. But as far as physically, today was a good day today. A lot better.”

Burnett left Friday’s start against the Marlins in the fifth inning because of soreness in his right groin. He threw a bullpen session this morning at Citizens Bank Park. He said it went better than expected, although he twice felt a pull in the muscle while throwing out of the stretch.

“It went away right after that,” he said. “I’m feeling good enough to throw.”

If Burnett misses a start or more they could use Triple-A right-hander David Buchanan. He pitched just one inning today, which keeps him fresh should he be needed Wednesday. Buchanan is not on the 40-man roster, but they made room on the 40-man Saturday when they outrighted right-hander Brad Lincoln to Lehigh Valley.

Burnett Goes Down, How Long?

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizCole Hamels could rejoin the Phillies’ rotation as early as April 22.

But will A.J. Burnett be there with him?

Burnett left last night’s game against the Marlins in the fifth inning with what the team called “groin soreness.” He will be evaluated today. The right-hander said his right groin affected him intermittently throughout the game, in which he allowed two runs on five hits and six walks while striking out four in 4 1/3 innings.

“It was in and out,” Burnett said. “It was pretty uncomfortable the last inning, but it came on early and went away. That’s why I didn’t feel like it was too serious.

“Pretty much every pitch out of the stretch, more so out of the windup, the last inning I felt it a lot. That ain’t me. I don’t walk guys like that. I’m going to walk my guys here and there, but I couldn’t throw the ball anywhere I wanted to. Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow that it’s not that bad.”

Burnett, 37, also walked six batters in 5 2/3 innings in his previous start Sunday at Wrigley Field, but he said he did not have any problems before Friday’s start.

“I’d just say it felt more snug that anything,” he said. “Like everything was tight, opposed to something going. I guess that’s a positive. I tried to mask it, but I guess I didn’t, huh? … I’m not too concerned about it, but then again, you never know. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. But it takes a lot to get me out of the ballgame. I’m not happy about that.”

Adams Could Be Back Monday

Mike AdamsThe Phillies bullpen needs help and it hopes Mike Adams is a solution.

He could rejoin the team as early as Monday following a rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Adams has not pitched for the Phillies since July, when he had right shoulder surgery. Nobody knows how he will perform once he returns, but the Phillies hope he offers at least a little stability to a bullpen that has struggled through nine games.

The Phillies bullpen has 4.81 ERA, which ranks 23rd in baseball. It has allowed 60 percent (6 of 10) of its inherited runners to score, which is the second-highest mark in the game.

“I feel great,” Adams said today. “Everything has gone above and beyond what I’ve expected. The bounce backs have been great. The soreness (has been minimal). I’m just looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Phillies signed Adams to a two-year, $12 million contract before the 2013 season, but he has made only 28 appearances. His fastball averaged 91.3 mph in 2012, when he pitched for the Rangers. It averaged just 89.8 last season, according to FanGraphs.

He said his velocity during his rehab assignment has been 89-90 mph.

“It’s around where I was last year, I guess,” Adams said. “Maybe a little better. Hopefully coming up here and getting into a big league ball game I can trigger a few extra notches, but we’ll see what happens. The main thing is I’ve been locating pretty well, changing speeds and working on a few things. The main thing is as long as I keep the ball down, 89-90, that’ll work.”

Galvis Up, Hernandez Down

Freddy GalvisThe Phillies activated Freddy Galvis from the 15-day disabled list today.

They optioned Cesar Hernandez to Double-A Reading to make room for him on the 25-man roster.

Galvis had been a lock to make the Opening Day roster, until he picked up MRSA in March. He is the team’s most versatile and best defensive player. I’m guessing Hernandez is headed to Double-A so he can move around the infield a bit more. He needs to learn to play shortstop and third base to get him to stick in the big leagues.

It Gets Harder from Here

Jose FernandezThis is the challenge the Phillies face tonight.

Following four consecutive losses by four or more runs, the Phillies must step into the batter’s box tonight at Citizens Bank Park and try to beat Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who went 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA in three starts against them last season, striking out 16 batters in 18 innings and holding them to a .359 OPS.

Fernandez has been dominant in his first two starts this year: eight hits, one run, two walks and 17 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

If the Phillies can’t crack the Hernandez code they will fall to 3-7. But it’s early, right? I’ve been reminded the 2007 Phillies opened the season 4-11 before winning the National League East. But a few things to remember there: the Phillies needed to finish 13-4 and the Mets needed to finish 5-12 to make it happen. It also took the Phillies until May 16 to get back to .500, and that team had the best offense in the National League and three MVP-caliber players in their prime in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. This team can’t say that. Perhaps when Cole Hamels returns the Phillies can say they have a formidable 1-2-3 punch atop their rotation, but they still need nights when they can string together a bunch of hits.

Ask Cliff Lee, who has had some of the worst run support in baseball since resigning with the Phillies in Dec. 2010.

The Phillies have hit just .243 with a .317 on-base percentage since they scored 14 runs Opening Day against the Rangers. They have hit just .203 with runners in scoring position in that stretch. But this has been a team effort. In their last four games, the pitching staff has a 5.91 ERA, which doesn’t include the 10 unearned runs they have allowed. The bullpen has allowed 60 percent (6 of 10) of its inherited runners to score this season, which is the second-worst mark in baseball.

I’ve heard countless baseball people say pennants can’t be won in April, but they can be lost. The Phillies entered the season with a very small margin for error. They don’t want to bury themselves too deep too quickly, but a 3-7 start would have them on the way.

Sloppy Times, Sign of Times?

Ryne SandbergMaybe the Phillies need more pregame drills and pitching talks.

It’s doubtful actually. The Phillies are on the field before every game, working on fundamentals. They’re constantly talking to their pitchers about how to attack hitters. But their last three games have been a nightmare for a manager that stressed fundamentals and clean play throughout Spring Training. The Phillies have allowed 10 unearned runs in their last three games to fall to 3-5. They lost their home opener Tuesday, 10-3, and their second home game last night, 9-4.

Elias Sports Bureau said it is the first time the Phillies have lost their first two home games allowing nine or more runs in each game since 1929 at Baker Bowl.

A closer look at some ugly numbers:

  • The Phillies lead baseball with 10 unearned runs. No other team in baseball has more than seven (Padres and Marlins).
  • Elias Sports Bureau found it is the first time the Phillies have allowed 10 or more unearned runs in three consecutive games since they allowed 10 from July 26-29, 2008. Interestingly, the Phillies went 3-0 in those games while they went 0-3 in these three.
  • They are fourth in baseball with nine errors. Only the Dodgers, Marlins and Rangers have more with 11.
  • Since they scored 14 runs on Opening Day, the Phillies are averaging 3.57 runs per game, which is 21st in baseball.
  • They are 25th with a .197 average with runners in scoring position since Opening Day.

You hate to say the ninth game of the season is a must win, but if the Phillies lose tonight with Cliff Lee on the mound, A.J. Burnett will be asked to outpitch Marlins ace Jose Fernandez tomorrow night. Fernandez went 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA in three starts last season against the Phillies, striking out 16 batters in 18 innings and holding them to a .359 OPS. Fernandez has been dominant in his first two starts this season: eight hits, one run, two walks and 17 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. If the Phillies play anywhere close to the way they’ve played the last three games against Fernandez tomorrow night they’ve got no chance.

“It’s possible early-season stuff, but we’re still in the process of ironing that stuff out and continuing to work at it and stress it, that’s for sure,” Ryne Sandberg said.

Boo Braun?

Ryan Braun, Carlos GomezSo, what should Phillies fans do to Ryan Braun tonight at Citizens Bank Park? They booed him yesterday, and he responded with three home runs.

“I love it,” Braun said about the boos. “It’s great. Seriously. As a competitor, I really do enjoy it. For all of us, it’s a challenging game, a long season, and playing in an atmosphere and environment like this is certainly something that’s motivating. … I try to use it to my advantage. As a competitor, the more hostile environment, the more enjoyable it can be. Just focus on the things I can control. I try to prepare myself every day to be successful. It’s great when we’re coming into these places and winning games; I think here and Boston are two of the most challenging places in baseball to come into and win games.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers