At least two bombs exploded at the end of the Boston Marathon with multiple deaths and injuries reported.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon played seven seasons with the Red Sox and lived above the popular steakhouse Abe and Louie’s, where one of the explosions detonated. He carried a blank look on his face as he shared his thoughts before a game against the Reds.
“It’s sad, man,” he said. “Patriot’s Day is a big thing in Boston. Sox play at 11 o’clock. It’s all ruined. Families are ruined, lives are ruined. For what? It’s just sad.
“I’m looking at it right now and I’m like, damn, I used to live right there.”
Papelbon said he has tried to contact people in Boston, but has had no luck.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “I don’t know man, it’s crazy. It’s hard to even think about. … Hopefully the city can rally and make things better, but it’s going to be tough.”
Obviously, it was an eagerly anticipated win considering his struggles since last season.
Here are some highlights of Halladay’s postgame interview in the clubhouse:
QUESTION: After your struggles last season, this spring and the first two starts this season, how good did it feel to have teammates give you a bottle of champagne to celebrate your 200th win?
HALLADAY: I think more than anything, I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself. To get in there and really, my plan the whole week was to worry about the game and not worry about what was going on internally. I felt like that made a big difference. We got a couple of base hits. And in the past, in the last few starts, I felt like those guys would get on and instead of internally thinking, ok this is my plan, this is what I’m going to do, it’s like, well, you start thinking about the game and things you can’t control. To me that was a big difference and that was a big focus for me this week, to really try to focus on things that I could control. Thing are going to happen, hits are going to happen and guys are going to get on base, but most importantly, I have to stay with my plan, I can’t get caught up in things going on around me, whats going on on the bases, what the score is, things like that, I have to be able to be more narrow with my mindset about making pitches period, that’s my job. I think in the past I’ve tried to really control too much and do too much and worry about too much. I felt like today that plan was simpler: execute pitches one at a time and not worry about whats going on. And that made it good.
“I think it’s going to be a fun summer,” he said afterward.
He certainly can help the cause. Utley, who started each of the previous two seasons on the disabled list because of knee problems, is healthy and hitting .316 (12-for-38) with two doubles, two triples, two home runs and 10 RBIs in 10 games. He has reached base safely in every game this season, and last night was his second game-winning RBI of the year. He ranks first in the NL in triples. He is tied for third in RBIs, tied for eighth in extra-base hits (six) and tied for ninth in total bases (24).
He is looking like the Utley from 2005-09, when he was the best second baseman in the game. It is just 10 games, but it is encouraging.
- You should be worried about Roy Halladay. Despite protests from Halladay and everybody else in the Phillies clubhouse and front office, Halladay has not looked good since 2011. So this isn’t a four or five start slump. This is a slump that has extended beyond one full calendar year. It started in Spring Training 2012 and has lasted through his first two starts in 2013. Besides a drop in velocity, Halladay’s ERA from 2010-11 to 2012-13 has jumped from 2.40 to 4.95, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 6.75 to 3.43. He is going the wrong direction in every relevant statistic. Maybe he can figure out things and be productive, but right now there is no evidence to suggest he is close. He faces the wretched Marlins on Sunday. They’ve had Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hitting cleanup. It is a good opportunity to have some success on the mound. Maybe it gets him going.
- Don’t be worried about Cole Hamels. If we’re at Defcon 2 with Halladay, we’re at Defcon 5 with Hamels. There is nothing to see here. Please, disperse.
- It’s more the rotation than the bullpen. Phillies starters have a 6.24 ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. That is the biggest issue right now, not middle relievers like Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. Certainly they need to do a better job. They have allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score. That 80 percent mark is the worst in baseball. (Technically, the Reds have allowed 100 percent of their inherited runners to score, but they’re only 1-for-1.) But the middle relievers have been pitching too much and have put into too many tough situations. That blame falls on the starters. They are the ones that need to do better. They are supposed to pitch deep into games and they have not done that nearly enough.
- The Phillies rank seventh in the National League, averaging 4.67 runs per game. They have looked better recently, and they show some potential. Chase Utley, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are swinging well right now. Domonic Brown has been OK. I believe Ryan Howard will be better than he has been. The only drag right now is Ben Revere. He has struck out seven times in 38 at-bats. That’s 5.86 plate appearances per strikeout. He struck out 54 times last season, or once every 10.24 plate appearances. John Mayberry Jr. has been productive, but even if he continues to swing well the Phillies are going with Delmon Young in right field when he is ready. Add Young and Carlos Ruiz to the lineup before the end of the month and this lineup has a chance to score some runs.
- Utley looks like the guy that earned the “Best Second Baseman in Baseball” tag from 2005-09.
- Cliff Lee can be streaky. The Phillies should be thankful he started on a good streak, otherwise they’d be in deep doo-doo.
The Phillies made that clear today at Citizens Bank Park, where Ruben Amaro Jr. said Halladay gets as long as he needs to correct himself, and Charlie Manuel said he is completely committed to his former ace.
Manuel offered an example of just how long his leash can be.
“You guys used to get on me about Brad Lidge,” he said, referring to Lidge’s 2009 season when he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. “I used to look down there, and to me Brad Lidge was probably the best I had. If I was going to lose the game it was going to be Brad Lidge. I was committed to Brad Lidge. If I commit to you then I commit to you. And whatever happens is going to happen. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
Halladay has a ghastly 14.73 ERA through two starts, which follows struggles in Spring Training and struggles in 2012. He has allowed 12 hits, 12 runs, six walks, three home runs, one hit batter, two wild pitches and struck out 12 in just 7 1/3 innings this season.
Amaro and Manuel said they never considered holding back Halladay, having him pitch in extended Spring Training games before he was better prepared to pitch in the Phillies rotation. To have him pitch extended Spring Training games, the Phillies would have needed to place him on the disabled list, but Amaro said Halladay is not injured.
In fact, he said Halladay has not been on the team’s daily injury report once this year.
“Roy felt he was physically ready to go,” Amaro said. “There wasn’t anything real alarming.”
“Roy has earned the right to tell us how he feels, and how he wants to go about certain things when it comes to his routine and his pitching and things like that,” Manuel added. “We never once thought about shutting him down or nothing. I can tell you that. You know something else? Shutting him down ain’t the right way, either. I don’t see no way in the world, if he’s healthy and everything like that, we shut him down.”
But Roy Halladay insists his problems are fixable. He allowed six hits, seven runs, three walks and one home run in four-plus innings last night in a 7-2 loss to the Mets. He has a 14.73 ERA after two starts. His poor start last night followed his poor start Wednesday in Atlanta, where he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings. That start followed a troubling spring training, which followed a mediocre 2012 plagued by injuries. Halladay said his problems are mostly mental at this point. He is pressing. He is trying too hard. Maybe. But it is highly unusual for somebody of his caliber to struggle like this. He just might be out of bullets.
No, he insisted, it’s mental.
“One of my biggest mentors, [sports psychiatrist] Harvey Dorfman, used to always tell me, ‘When you’re trying to catch a bird, if you’re flailing at it, trying to grab for it, you’re never going to catch it. You have to hold your hands out and let it land in your hands. And it’s the same way with pitching,” Halladay said. “Especially when you want something so bad you’d do anything to get it. But sometimes the best course of action is to prepare yourself and let it come to you. But it’s tough because you care about the game, you care about your teammates, you care about the fans, you care about the organization. You want it badly.”
The Phillies continue to maintain Halladay is healthy. If he is healthy, what is the plan then? To me the plan is obvious: continue to let him pitch. Putting him in the bullpen isn’t an option because he’ll get such little work he won’t be able to fix anything. I don’t see the Phillies coming up with a phantom injury and sending him to the minor leagues, either. I think they will continue to express their faith in him, giving him the respect he deserves and crossing their fingers like everybody else that this is just a bad stretch. They really have no other option. If they felt they had somebody to step in and pitch successfully at the beginning of the season, they probably wouldn’t have signed John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. But they felt they lacked depth so they got him.
If the Phillies plan to win they need Halladay to pitch better. That is obvious. But that means they’ve got to give him a chance to fix himself. He’s owed that much.
They just hope it happens soon. Sometimes following one of Kyle Kendrick‘s starts, Charlie Manuel will say, “Kendrick pitched a Kyle Kendrick-like game tonight.” He means six innings and three or four earned runs. Not terrible. Not great, either. Competitive. Keeping the team in the game. Giving them a chance to win. You’ve got to think the Phillies would kill for a “Kendrick-like” game from Halladay. Because the only thing he is doing right now is burying them early and giving them no chance to win.
But organized infield and outfield work during the season had become so sporadic that any structured pregame practice at all stood out like a sore thumb. The Phillies picked up those sessions a bit following last season’s July 31 Trade Deadline, but they typically were limited to the first game of every home series.
That is changing. They already had practices Friday and yesterday and have another scheduled tomorrow as Phillies third base coach and infield instructor Ryne Sandberg makes them part of the team’s routine. He said they will be 20-minute sessions as needed and as he sees fit before home games.
“That’s what I do,” Sandberg said. “That’s what I like to see happen. It’s a stress on defense. It allows us to have time to work on things. It’ll be something that will be stressed throughout the whole year.”
The Phillies took ground balls regularly in the past, but it typically occurred during batting practice. Charlie Manuel calls this a more structured, more hands-on setup that allows for more discussion and teaching. The sessions are mandatory.
He likes it.
“The fact it is more organized, it gives you time to talk to get your points across as far as mistakes we’ve made or things we want to improve on,” Manuel said. “It’s a little bit stricter coaching and I like that. I like everything about that.”
But structured practices do seem to be a rare occurrence in baseball these days, not only with the Phillies, but every team.
“I don’t think getting away from it is a good thing,” Sandberg said. “Having it is a very positive thing. In my day we took infield every day, except for day games. I think it’s something that’s necessary to stay sharp and stay on top of things. We’ll also have the outfielders join us and throw to the bases, probably twice a homestand or something like that. It’s for everybody to stay sharp on defense. It’s a big part of the game. To work on it and stress it becomes important.”
A few thoughts: These first four games have been mostly ugly and it is not encouraging at all when compared to the Nationals and Braves. (I predicted this team to finish third in the NL East, but still challenge for a wild card. My third-place prediction looks good, but the Phillies aren’t making me look real good about their chances to win 87-91 games.) That said, it’s just four games. The Phillies have had poor starts in the past. The only difference this time is this team is coming off a down year, not a World Series championship or 102-win season. It’s not like you can say, “They’re fine. They won 100 games last year.” They’re coming off an 81-81 finish.
But take a deep breathe. I read wide-ranging tweets yesterday, everything from releasing or demoting Jeremy Horst (1.15 ERA in 32 appearances last season with left-handers hitting .170 against him) to releasing Chad Durbin (historically a slow starter, his career ERA in April is 1.75 earned runs higher than his career ERA from May through September) to fans drawing concrete conclusions about the offense, bullpen and rotation after just four games.
Let’s reserve judgment a little further down the road.
You know, like next week …
In the meantime, I know many fans enjoy this, but here’s the current Phillies’ at-bat/warm-up music as of today (courtesy of Phillies music director Mark Wyatt):
- Domonic Brown: Pop That -French Montana
- Kevin Frandsen: Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Freddy Galvis: Dime Te Me Va Dobla – Chimbala
- Ryan Howard: Started From The Bottom – Drake
- Erik Kratz: Collide – Skillet
- John Mayberry Jr.: Cashin’ Out – Cash Out
- Laynce Nix: Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) – Jay-Z
- Humberto Quintero: La Cosita – Juancho de la Espriella & Silvestre Dangond
- Ben Revere: Feel Me Flow – Naughty By Nature and S.C.O.M. – Fort Minor
- Jimmy Rollins: Function – E40 and R.I.P. – Young Jeezy
- Carlos Ruiz: In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
- Chase Utley: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
- Michael Young: So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys
It is no surprise he is as optimistic and upbeat as Halladay, Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr.
Here is some of what he said:
Q: What do you make of the results and are you as optimistic as him?
A: What I make of the results is pretty much that whole game. They struck out 16 times and they put nine runs up on us. They hit a couple of mistakes and we paid for it. But as far as Doc’s stuff, I feel very good about it. I think he continues to build. Like I said his last two outings in spring training, he’s starting to build momentum. Is he there yet? No. But I thought his stuff continues to improve. The one thing he’s not doing, he’s not commanding it like he needs to.
Q: Is there an issue with Roy trusting his stuff?
A: I don’t know if it’s an issue of trusting his stuff as much as trying to get to where he understands what his stuff is and how it’s going to play and how he can work off that. It’s still a phase where he’s trying to find out what he’s going to have and what he’s going to be able to do.
You talk about he got nine out of 10 outs with strikeouts. They got six hits, two of them were home runs, the other four weren’t hit very good at all. Broken bat by (Freddie) Freeman in the first, a jam shot by (Juan) Francisco in the first, a jam shot by Freeman and then (Andrelton) Simmons’ base hit in the fourth. That’s all encouraging to me. He’s still got swing-and-miss stuff and he’s got to find a way and we have to find a way to be a little more aggressive and get quicker outs.
Q: He said he can let his fastball loose, but he then threw mostly offspeed stuff deep in the count. Why?
A: Hitters will dictate a lot of time, too. If they’re still charging fastballs and you’re getting some of the swings you’re getting off breaking balls and splits, why wouldn’t you throw it?
Q: So he’s not afraid to let sinker or cutter go?
A: I don’t think so, no.
Q: What’s taken so long for it all to click for him then?
A: Bad habits. Bad habits that he acquired when he was hurt. This was a guy who did something as consistently as you could possibly do it for years.
Following a substandard 2012 and a troubling spring training in Florida, Roy Halladay lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his season debut last night at Turner Field. He allowed six hits, five runs, three walks, two home runs and struck out nine. Typically, when a pitcher records nine of his first 10 outs on strikeouts he is dominant. But Halladay was not dominant. Far from it. He threw 95 pitches (55 strikes) in those 3 1/3 innings as his performance only raised more concerns and doubts about his ability to return to form, despite Halladay and Charlie Manuel insisting everything will be fine.
The Braves certainly noticed a difference.
“It was a little bit different,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I couldn’t tell you what it is. His velocity was maybe a (tick) or two below what you’ve seen. But I couldn’t tell you much more than that, not living with him or not knowing what’s going on over there.”
“Not velocity wise,” said rightfielder Jason Heyward, when asked if Halladay looked the same. “But he has a lot of weapons. So it was no surprise to see the strikeouts. Once he gets two strikes against you with him, he can got whatever way he wants and pick at you. We did wear him down and we made sure we got some pitches to hit. When we hit him, we hit him hard.”
Halladay insisted he will fix his problems and he will be better.