Amaro Encouraged with MAG

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezThe Phillies have tempered expectations for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez since they signed him to a $12 million contract in August.

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.

Pettibone Takes First Step Back

Bob McClure, Jonathan PettiboneThe Phillies had numerous problems last season, but one big problem toward the end was a lack of starting pitching depth.

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.

Adams Hopeful, But Facing Unknowns

Mike AdamsMike Adams had reason to be concerned earlier this week when he felt some discomfort in his right shoulder.

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.”

Schmidt on TV In 2014

Mike Schmidt on Mark McGwireThere will be a Hall of Famer in the Phillies’ broadcast booth this season.

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.”

Hamels Takes Next Step

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsCole Hamels declared this morning what every Phillies fans wants to hear:

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.”

Wheels’ New Life

wheels and sargeComcast SportsNet fired Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews as part of its recently negotiated 25-year contract with the Phillies. He spoke with reporters yesterday about that, his future with the Phillies and more.

Q: So, Wheels, they say baseball is a game of adjustments …
A: Well, that’s good. I guess it is. Nothing’s really changed that much right now because I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done. Which as (Frank) Coppenbarger says is nothing. I put the golf tournament together, which is tomorrow. I walk around and I talk to the manager and the players and the coaches. I talk to you guys. Just talk baseball. So the change will be Wednesday when we do the first telecast and I’m not on it. Then I don’t know what it will feel like, to be honest with you. It will be a little different.

Q: The Phillies haven’t announced your new title yet.
A: One of the things they want me to do is go around the ballpark and play the role of Chris Wheeler. Just show up at stuff. Anybody who has something in the organization that they may want me to do, like play golf with a sponsor – that will be a hardship – go into a suite, maybe talk to one of the sponsors dinners, offseason speaking engagements, which I’ve always done a ton of. I guess that’s it. They say I’m going to have a new role. Everybody ask me what it’s going to be. It’s undefined. Because right now nothing’s going to change down here. I’m going to be back doing the PA, which I did for 30-some years.

Q: Is it going to be strange, the three to four hours the game is actually going on?
A: You know what’s going to be really strange is when I don’t see a game. The last time I didn’t go on the road was 1976. I’ve been on every road trip from ’77 on. Which basically means that I’ve pretty much seen every game. Because even when we got better as a team and we wouldn’t do a Fox game or an ESPN game or something, I would still watch the game. I can’t help it. I love baseball. I love watching the games. So I think that’s what’s really going to feel different. What will really feel different is when I wake up and I don’t know if a base hit was a line drive or a blooper anymore. Because I didn’t see it. I’m 68 years old now. I’ll fall asleep during West Coast games. I won’t be up watching. I’ll be like a lot of people. So I’ll be up reading your stuff in the morning and watching the videos and all that to find out what happened. So that will be a little different.

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Grapefruit League Pitching Schedule

Here is the first pitching schedule for the beginning of the Grapefruit League schedule:

  • Wednesday vs. Toronto: Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Manship, Antonio Bastardo, Brad Lincoln, Jake Diekman, Kevin Munson and Phillippe Aumont.
  • Thursday @ Toronto: Cliff Lee, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, B.J. Rosenberg, Mario Hollands and Mike Stutes.
  • Friday vs. Detroit: Kyle Kendrick, Sean O’Sullivan, Justin De Fratus, Aumont, Luis Garcia and Cesar Jimenez.
  • Saturday @ Yankees: Ethan Martin, David Buchanan, Munson, Jeremy Horst, Shawn Camp and Ken Giles
  • Sunday vs. Pirates: A.J. Burnett, Jesse Biddle, Jonathan Papelbon, Bastardo, Lincoln and Diekman.

Report: Phillies Turn In 2 Players to NCAA

Ruben Amaro Jr. declined comment this morning when asked about a Baseball America report the organization turned in two college players to the NCAA for rules violations.

Amaro said he could not comment because it is an open investigation.

The Phillies drafted Oregon State left-hander Ben Wetzler in the fifth round and Washington State outfielder Jason Monda in the sixth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Neither signed. Baseball America reported the Phillies told the NCAA in November the players violated its “no agent” rule. College players are not allowed to hire agents before they sign, but it is widely known and accepted they use an adviser to help them negotiate before the signing deadline, otherwise it would be a college athlete negotiating on his own.

The NCAA has made Wetzler ineligible to play. It recently reinstated Monda.

Amaro directed questions to Phillies assistant general manager Marti Wolever, who declined comment to Baseball America.

“(Monda) agreed to the draft and then just changed his mind; he just decided to go back to school,” Wolever said after the draft.

The Baseball America report is receiving attention for a couple reasons. First, high draft picks often decide to stay in school and reenter the draft at a later date. But teams very rarely contact the NCAA for a player having representation. Second, there could be repercussions for the Phillies. If they draft a college junior in the future, he might have reservations about negotiating with the Phillies because of fears about being turned in to the NCAA if he does not sign.

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Jimmy Rolllins spoke yesterday about his bad 2013, his no-trade rights, chasing the franchise’s all-time hits record and more.

Happy In Retirement, Halladay Teaches

Roy HalladayRoy Halladay said there is no chance he is sneaking away to throw secret bullpen sessions this spring.

He is happy in retirement.

It helps he remains part of the game, which could become a full-time venture in the future. Halladay is in Phillies camp as a guest instructor, where he is imparting his philosophies about pitching to some of the organization’s younger and less established pitchers. The hope is some of them listen, pick up a thing or two and use some of his suggestions and ideas to help a pitching staff that ranked as one of the worst in baseball last season.

“I love being here,” Halladay said this afternoon at Bright House Field. “I definitely want to keep doing it. I think maybe this first year, I want to make sure that I get to spend the time that I want with my boys and my wife, and that’s my priority. Once I see how things work, yeah, I’d love to continue to do it and if I have more time, do more. I’ll always continue doing it. It’s just a matter of starting to figure out how much I can do. Once the kids are gone, maybe it’s something to do full time.”

Halladay spent more than 30 minutes yesterday with top Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle, 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.

Halladay, who once went from the big leagues to Class A before establishing himself as one of the best pitchers of his generation, has given the book to pitchers in previous springs, too.

“Obviously, it works,” Biddle said. “Just to hear what he has to say about the little things in the game I’m trying to learn and figure out, you can’t really ask for a better guy. His story is something they tell us when we start playing here. We’re taught about it. No matter how tough it gets, you can always bounce back. As long as they give you the ball, you can bounce back. But to hear him discuss it personally with me is pretty cool.”

Halladay has spoken to more than just Biddle. He is introducing himself and making himself available to everybody.

“The stages they’re at now it’s just a mental part and really it’s just confidence,” Halladay said of pitchers like Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman and Jonathan Pettibone. “They are very good at what they do, but there’s just that extra confidence that you see in every day Major League players opposed to maybe a guy at Triple-A or Double-A. I’ve been trying to help them speed that up by starting to think about the mental parts and preparing themselves and getting themselves ready to start. Really brainwashing themselves into thinking that’s something they can do consistently. That’s really what it takes. Some guys need to have that success first, but in the things I’ve seen a lot of guys can start to believe that and they talk themselves into that over and over and suddenly they become it. That’s something I’ve talked to some of them about.

Hamels, Adams Updates

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsCole Hamels is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session next Tuesday at Carpenter Complex.

He is behind schedule after feeling discomfort in his left shoulder in November. He said he could open the season on the disabled list, but if he does he does not expect to miss much time.

Right-hander Mike Adams is throwing off flat ground two more times before he could throw his first bullpen session Feb. 27. He is behind schedule following right shoulder surgery in July.

He said he would be pushing it to be ready by Opening Day on March 31.

“I would love to be ready for Opening Day, but I’ve got to do what’s best for myself and best for the team. I want to make sure I’m there for the long haul and not rush myself out there and do something that’s not smart. I’m thinking early to mid-April might be more realistic. Once I’m ready to go, I don’t want to have no more setbacks or go on the DL or anything. If it’s late April, it’s late April. Do what’s best.”

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