Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

Tuesday’s Game Postponed

Nationals Phillies BaseballThe Phillies postponed tonight’s game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park because of rain.

It will be made up at a later date.

The postponement does not alter the order of the Phillies rotation. Left-hander Cliff Lee will pitch tomorrow night, while right-hander A.J. Burnett will pitch the series finale Thursday afternoon. Right-handers Jonathan Pettibone, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez would fall in line to pitch this weekend in Colorado.

But the Braves have skipped right-hander David Hale, who was scheduled to pitch tonight. Lee instead will face right-hander Julio Teheran and Burnett will face left-hander Alex Wood.

Perhaps a night off will help the Phillies starters get on track. They have pitched more than six innings just twice in 13 games, which has placed additional pressure on a bullpen with the third-highest ERA (5.53) in baseball.

Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. It is partially why Phillies games are averaging 3 hours, 17 minutes, which is the third-longest average in baseball.

“For me, the game starts with pitching and defense,” Ryne Sandberg said in his office before the postponement. “I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in the counts. I think that has a big part in why we’re playing the slowest games and longest games in baseball. Every time I look at the clock and leave (the ballpark), it’s almost midnight. I can’t believe it, but it is what it is.

“Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches, so on the starting pitching side of things they’ve been limited on the time that they can be out there and then we’ve had to use our bullpen and then with some of our bullpen guys it has been the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen.”

The Phillies planned to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tonight, but pregame festivities surrounding the Jackie Robinson Salute will take place tomorrow night, including both teams wearing No. 42 jerseys. All fans attending tomorrow night’s game will receive the commemorative Jackie Robinson print, featuring quotes from Phillies players and Sandberg on what Robinson meant to them.

Reports: Phillies Listening on Lee and Hamels

Cliff LeeInteresting start to the morning …

ESPN and CBSSports.com reported the Phillies have told teams they will listen to offers for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now why in the world would the Phillies do that? Well, it is important to note that listening is different than trading. But if some team is willing to offer premium talent for Hamels or Lee — and take their entire salary to boot — it would be foolish not to listen.

It would be foolish, however, to trade one of them for a package that does not address numerous and immediate needs. After all, what was the purpose of extending Chase Utley, signing Marlon Byrd and resigning Carlos Ruiz if the Phillies are not trying to win the next couple seasons?

The Phillies better than anybody know the risks of trading a top starting pitcher for young talent. They traded Lee to the Mariners in Dec. 2009 for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. They also have acquired Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt for prospects that included Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Taylor, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose.

Have any of those players come back to haunt the Phillies yet?

How certain can the Phillies be that the players they would get in return for Hamels or Lee would make a difference?

(Here are other examples of teams trading top starting pitching and getting very little in return.)

It also must be noted there are obstacles involved in any potential Hamels and Lee talks. First, both have limited no-trade clauses. Second, they are owed a ton of money. Hamels is owed $118.5 million over the next five years, which includes $22.5 million in salary each of the next five seasons, plus a $6 million buyout for a vesting option in 2019. Lee is owed $62.5 million over the next three years, which includes $25 million in salary each of the next two seasons, plus $12.5 million buyout for a vesting option for 2016.

If the Phillies trade either of them the other team must take their salary, which limits potential partners. The Phillies last ate money in a trade in 2005, when they shipped Jim Thome to the White Sox.

There are reasons it makes sense for the Phillies to listen. They have holes everywhere. They need to get younger. They could use the payroll relief. But there are plenty of reasons it won’t happen, too.

Lee Running Out of Bullets

Cliff LeeCliff Lee delivered the type of performance tonight the Phillies expected when they signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010.

But this start did not come in the thick of a pennant race. This start came with two inconsequential games remaining in the Phillies’ first losing season since 2002. Lee worked masterfully in eight innings in the final start of his season in a 1-0 loss to the Braves at Turner Field. He struck out six consecutive batters at one point — one short of tying Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling for the franchise record — and struck out 13 batters overall.

In the end, it was just another frustrating loss at the end of another frustrating season as Lee’s opportunities for meaningful baseball games shrink by the year. He has thrown 433 2/3 innings over the past two seasons and none have come in the postseason.

That’s a lot of wasted bullets.

“I am getting up there in age,” said Lee, who lost World Series with the Phillies in 2009 and Rangers in 2010. “I’m 35 years old now and when this contract’s over I plan on going home, so I’m running out of opportunities. All I can control is what I can control, and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know how to do.”

So he doesn’t see himself playing beyond this contract? It expires following the 2015 season, unless a club option is exercised for 2016.

“Right now I don’t,” he said. “There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then, but I just know that my kids are 12 and 10 and I’ve basically missed the first half of their lives. I’m financially able to shut it down, so … that’s how I feel right now. But when the time comes I might look at it differently. I also want to finish being good, not struggling and fumbling through at the end. I want to finish strong and take it to the house. Next year I want to win a World Series, then another one, then another one and take it to the house. That’s what I’m wanting to do.”

Lee finished this season 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, which is 10th in baseball. He became the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out 50 or more batters with one or fewer walks in a calendar month. He struck out 54 and walked just one in 39 innings in September.

He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable year.

“What gives me hope is the fact that this has been a winning organization for quite a while and you’ve got to expect the front office to make moves and do everything they can to keep that going,” Lee said. “We’ve still got some key guys coming back that have been injured with (Ben) Revere and (Ryan) Howard. KK (Kyle Kendrick) finished the year hurt. (Roy) Halladay, if they bring him back. We had a lot of guys that weren’t able to help us like they normally would.”

Lee will join Cole Hamels atop next season’s rotation. After that, who knows?

Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez figures to be in there, or else why would have the Phillies signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract? Kendrick, who is eligible for salary arbitration, could be back, too. Ryne Sandberg hinted at the possibility when asked about next season’s rotation.

“That’s a good place to start,” he said about Lee and Hamels before the game. “Have KK in the mix. And then some decisions have to be made from there.”

Quiet Deadline for Phillies?

Michael YoungThe Phillies have spoiled fans with plenty of action at the trade deadline in recent years, one way or another.

Let’s look back, shall we?

  • 2006: Traded Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, David Bell and Sal Fasano and DFA’d Ryan Franklin in a fire sale.
  • 2007: Acquired Kyle Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi.
  • 2008: Acquired Joe Blanton.
  • 2009: Acquired Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco and signed Pedro Martinez.
  • 2010: Acquired Roy Oswalt.
  • 2011: Acquired Hunter Pence.
  • 2012: Traded Shane Victorino and Pence.

This might be the quietest deadline since 2005, when the Phillies got Ugueth Urbina in June. I say that because last night the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox, which means Lee isn’t going to Boston or anywhere else. So I believe at this point it’s Michael Young or nobody. The Phillies are not going to trade Lee just to trade him. Why do that? They don’t need to shed payroll, and they’ve already been burned once on a Lee deal. Teams aren’t beating down doors for Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz or Delmon Young either, so they probably aren’t going anywhere. Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Chase Utley isn’t leaving as they’ve discussed a contract extension, so that’s basically it. It’s Michael Young or nobody, unless something crazy happens in the next few hours.

The Clock Is Ticking …

Cliff LeeThe speculation and rumors are at a full boil.

Depending on the time of day, Cliff Lee either is not going to be traded because the Phillies’ asking price is way too high — we’ve heard everything from three to four legitimate prospects to first, second and third born children — to there is a good chance he will be traded. Here’s what I know: the Phillies are willing to trade Lee. They are listening to offers for Lee. But they still plan to try to win next season and beyond — thus the $48 million to Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and the expected contract extension with Chase Utley — so they’re not pressured to trade him. They’re not the Marlins or Pirates or another small-market team. They don’t have to shed payroll. Lee’s contract isn’t an issue (although it is an issue for other teams), and for all of those reasons I would say the chances the Phillies trade Lee are less likely than trading him.

Now, please keep in mind these things can change by the hour, minute, text message or phone call. The Phillies thought they had no chance to acquire Hunter Pence before the 2011 trade deadline, but eventually got the deal done. The same could happen for Lee, but I think the Phillies aren’t as motivated to move Lee as they were to acquire Pence.

The most likely Phillies player to be traded is Michael Young for obvious reasons. He has value as a veteran corner infielder that can also DH and he isn’t expected back next season. But don’t expect much in return for a two-month rental.

The rest? Utley is not going to be traded. (See above.) Jonathan Papelbon‘s trade value isn’t terribly high at the moment and not because of his strong comments Sunday to MLB.com. It’s because of his performance and contract. His velocity has dipped and his five blown saves are tied for third in baseball. Carlos Ruiz could be moved, but don’t expect much in return. His .581 OPS would be the worst among big-league catchers, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Trading Jimmy Rollins is moot. He said Sunday he would not waive his trade rights. I suppose the Phillies could move Delmon Young, but they would get less for him than they would get for Michael Young. CSNPhilly.com reported the only three players the Phillies will not trade are Utley, Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown. No surprises there. The Phillies expect Hamels to bounce back and a team starved for young talent would be crazy to trade Brown at this point.

Stop Goofing Off: Amaro and Manuel Call Team Meeting

Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Jr.This is a huge homestand for the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. said as much Friday.

So when Amaro and his fellow front office executives witnessed Cliff Lee and others screwing around during Jonathan Pettibone‘s in-game interview Saturday in an ugly 13-4 blowout loss to the Braves, they decided to call a team meeting.

Read about the meeting here.

While I don’t think goofing on Pettibone had anything to do with the blowout loss Saturday and while I believe players need ways to break up the monotony of a grueling 162-game schedule, I also get that appearances matter. The season is on the line. You’re losing to the Braves in a big series. Now might not be the time to stick a paper cup on Pettibone’s head with a wad of gum. But let’s be honest about this: none of this happens if the team is winning. If the Phillies are winning, bloggers are making .gifs from Pettibone’s interview and having fun with it. (They probably still will.) The front office probably doesn’t care. The manager doesn’t care. It might be even discussed in postgame interviews. (Those wacky Phillies are having so much fun out there!) Nobody would have thought twice about it. But the team is losing so things are looked at differently. That’s the way it goes.

If the Phillies get on a roll this will be forgotten pretty quickly. If they lose and there is a fire sale, this will be just another low point to the season.

Stay tuned …

Is This A Playoff Team? Hamels Says Ask Somebody Else

Jimmy RollinsWell, that couldn’t have gone much worse.

A few thoughts on the Phillies following their 3-7 road trip:

  • There is a level of frustration settling into the Phillies’ clubhouse, an amount I haven’t seen in Charlie Manuel‘s nine seasons here. Just read Cliff Lee‘s comments Thursday in Minnesota, or what Cole Hamels told reporters after yesterday’s loss in Colorado. Is this a playoff team? “I’m not going to comment on that one,” Hamels said. “You can ask the other guys that one.” Remember, those comments are being made publicly, which certainly means the apathy/resignation/frustration is worse behind closed doors. That is troubling. I remember in seasons past, somebody like Jayson Werth would say confidently and almost nonchalantly, “Relax, everybody. We’re fine. We’re much better than this. We’ll pick it up when we need to pick it up.” They knew they would. You don’t hear that talk right now.
  • The Phillies are 25th in baseball in runs per game. They are 24th in ERA. In seasons past, the Phillies always had one thing going for it: a great offense or a great pitching staff. You could always say, “Well, if they add a bat (Hunter Pence) or if they add an arm (Lee or Roy Oswalt) at the trade deadline it could push them over the top.” You can’t say that with this team. There are too many holes. Where would you even start?
  • Look at where the Phillies rank in OPS at every position. Catcher: 23rd at .651. First base: 17th at .763. Second base: 20th at .671. Third base: 13th at .727. Shortstop: Ninth at .747. Left field: second at .876. Center field: 27th at .616. Right field: 23rd at .691. Second base would be better if Chase Utley had remained healthy, but other than that the only two positions holding their own against the best in baseball are left field (Domonic Brown) and shortstop (Jimmy Rollins).
  • If you say, well, the Phillies are only 8 1/2 games back in the NL East (I’m not sure why anybody would say that, but still …), remember the NL East is probably the worst division in baseball.
  • Looking for a reason to keep the faith? That’s tough, but I guess if you’re going to hold onto something hold onto this: Manuel’s teams traditionally are much better in the second half (.610 winning percentage after the All-Star break from 2005-12 is second-best in baseball). Of course, if they keep playing like this they could be buried in the standings and some of their top players could be traded by July 31. That traditional second-half surge might not matter.
  • Take a look at the upcoming free agent class at MLB Trade Rumors. I don’t see a lot of guys that could help the Phillies turn around their fortunes quickly.  Is there anybody that gets you excited enough to say, “I’d be OK if the Phillies shelled out a ton of cash for him?” There is Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury and that’s about it as far as high on-base percentage bats the Phillies could use. (Forget about Robinson Cano. I can’t believe the Yankees will let him sign elsewhere.)

Lee Wants to Win Somewhere, Anywhere

Cliff LeeCliff Lee spurned the Yankees and Rangers to sign with the Phillies in Dec. 2010 because he said they offered him the best opportunity to win multiple World Series.

But that dream has faded over the past eight-plus months of regular-season baseball. The Phillies missed the postseason in 2012 and improved to just 32-35 following last night’s 3-2 victory over the Twins at Target Field. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak as the Phillies left for a weekend series in Colorado with the sixth-worst record in the National League.

“The past year and a half hasn’t gone the way I would have anticipated,” said Lee, who improved to 8-2 with a 2.55 ERA. “It’s why you play the games. You never know. I don’t think anyone here is happy with the way we’ve played in that time frame. It’s due to a lot of injuries. There are some good excuses, but they’re still excuses. We’re the Philadelphia Phillies. We should play better than we have.”

But can this team win as it is currently constituted? The offense and bullpen each are one of the worst in baseball.

“I can’t look at it any other way, besides I expect us to win and catch up with the Braves and get into the postseason,” Lee said. “That’s the only way you can look at it.”

Does he want to stay if the team doesn’t turn things around?

“I definitely want to win,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

But if it doesn’t turn around?

“I want to win,” he repeated. “I don’t know how else to say it besides that. I want to win.”

Lee’s name already has been an endless topic of conversation weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline, and the buzz should reach a manic state in the next few weeks if the Phillies continue to struggle. Lee signed a five-year, $120 million contract before the 2011 season, but he has continued to dominate and a team in need of an ace certainly will be interested in acquiring him.

The Phillies have said they have a better chance to win in the future with Lee than without him. While that is true, when asked if he is prepared to play out the string the final two months of the season if things don’t improve, Lee said, “I don’t have any control over that. I know that I want to win and I’ll voice that to whoever. And that’s that. I want to win here. That’s why I signed here. And that’s where my focus is.”

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Phillies were supposed to be the Yankees of the National League. They were supposed to be heavy favorites for the World Series every year.

“Yeah, that’s what I expected,” Lee said. “That’s what I expected. We’ve had one chance (to win a World Series) in two-and-a-half years and this year is not over yet. I expected us to get multiple shots at it, but there are 29 other teams thinking the same thing so nothing is going to be given to you. Nobody feels sorry for you or any of that. You’ve got to go out there and earn it. I’m going to continue to do what I can to give this team a chance to win when I pitch and that’s really the only thing I can control.”

Lee After Win: This Is Who We Are

Cliff LeeWhy can’t the Phillies play like this more often?

Hey, Cliff Lee feels you.

“That’s more of what we are right there, no doubt,” he said following last night’s 6-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. “We definitely haven’t been playing up to our potential. We’ve been really far short of that to be honest with you. I think tonight’s more of a real depiction of what we are. Yeah, I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of underperformed this first month, and it’s time for us to turn it on.”

Lee said last Wednesday following a 6-0 loss to the Indians – one of five shutout losses in their last 20 games –the team needed to play with more pride. He reiterated those feelings last night.

“I think pride is a big part of executing. Just grinding,” Lee said. “Sticking in there … Basically, if you’re going to get beat, go down fighting. (The Indians) got us early both games, just seemed like we kind of laid down and let them take it from us. Just kind of what I was at hinting at with that. More of a pride, fight to the very end type stuff. It didn’t really feel that way in Cleveland. We were better at home against the Marlins, but we still could do even better and tonight was more of what I expect from this team as far as energy and applying the pressure to the other team rather than having them apply it on us.”

Charlie Manuel has been talking for weeks about playing a complete game: hitting well, pitching well and playing good defense for nine innings. Last night he got that game. Was it an aberration or a glimpse at what the Phillies could be, if they get their act together? That remains to be seen, but certainly they’ll need to do this more than once a week to get anybody to believe.

*

Lee, on picking up the slack in Roy Halladay‘s absence: “Obviously, we hope that it’s not as big of a deal as I think everyone might think it might be. Hopefully it’s something minor and he’s able to get back. If not, what can you do? You still got to go out there and grind and try to give the team a chance to win every time you take the mound, no matter who the guy is. Obviously he’s been one of the best pitchers over the past 10-12 years in all the big leagues. Missing a guy like that is definitely going to be tough on us, but injuries happen. You don’t want it to happen. Definitely not him. We all know that. That’s something that happens. He’s pitched a long time, fired a lot of bullets. I hope it’s not major and it’s something minor and he’s back in a couple weeks and jumps back on board. But until then, we just got to keep on grinding. Even if he’s gone forever, there’s nothing we can do. We got to go out there and continue to pitch and try to give the team a chance to win every time you take the mound. All of us.”

Pride in the Phillies?

Jimmy RollinsThe Phillies have looked lifeless for much of the first 28 games of the season.

That lifelessness is pretty easily explainable, if you ask me.

They enter tonight’s game against the Marlins ranked 26th in baseball in scoring, averaging a measly 3.57 runs per game. It is impossible to look energetic or lively when nobody is on base or scoring runs. But after the Indians outscored the Phillies, 20-2, in a couple blowout losses this week at Progressive Field, Cliff Lee made an interesting comment about the team’s play.

“They pretty much pounded us both games, there’s no way around it,” he said. “They crushed us both games. It was never really close, either one of them. We have to have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive. Both games, it was never close.”

Pride, huh?

Asked this afternoon about Lee’s comments on MLB Network’s “The Rundown Live,” Jimmy Rollins said, “It’s back and forth. It’s tough to put a finger on it. There are times we come out and the energy’s there behind us and you go out there and play and we go out there and perform as a team. Then there are games and series where it’s just like we’re stuck in neutral. Not going forward, not going back but not getting going at all. And that’s the thing that we can’t have. On the field, we go out there every single day. Guys are coming in early to prepare. I’m even getting there much earlier than you remember, to prepare. But it just isn’t happening all the time on the field. The good thing is, we have a long way to go. We’ve just got to make sure we take advantage of it and take what we do in practice into the game and we’ll be okay.”

Charlie Manuel said a lack of pride, leadership and effort are not the reasons why the Phillies have been unable to get on a roll. He pointed to their success in a weekend sweep against the Mets. They won because they played well, not because they cared more. No, he said, the losing is more about the team simply playing poorly the first month of the season. For what it’s worth, I agree. This team is loaded with veterans, MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars and postseason MVPs. I don’t think they want to be losers. I think they care. I just think they’re playing very, very poorly.

The real question should be this: Are they simply having a slow start or are they just this bad? Manuel’s teams are habitually slow starters. From 2005-12, they are 370-341 (.520) before the All-Star break, which is 11th in baseball. They are 357-228 (.610) after the All-Star break, which is second. I think this team needs a little more time. But like I blogged earlier today, they only have a couple more months. They have to be moving in the right direction come July or you’ll see some of this team’s top talent elsewhere.

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