Results tagged ‘ J.A. Happ ’

Manuel Drops Hints about the Bullpen

Thumbnail image for happ 0720.jpgIt seems likely the Phillies take 13 position players and 12 pitchers into the postseason.

If there are just 13 position players they will be catchers Carlos Ruiz and Paul Bako; infielders Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pedro Feliz, Jimmy Rollins, Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett; and outfielders Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco and Matt Stairs.

The pitching staff is not nearly as easy to call, but Charlie Manuel dropped a few hints today.

Expect left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee and right-hander Joe Blanton to be in the rotation. No surprise there. The fourth starter will be left-hander J.A. Happ or right-hander Pedro Martinez. Happ is 12-4 with a 2.85 ERA, while Martinez is 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA. Happ deserves to start, but the Phillies are short in the bullpen with injuries to left-handers J.C. Romero and Jamie Moyer and right-hander Chan Ho Park. Manuel said they could use Happ in the bullpen early in the NLDS, but still have him start if he only throws an inning in those first couple games.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do that, but that does enter my mind,” Manuel said.

That would leave 10 pitchers competing for seven remaining bullpen spots: Antonio Bastardo, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Sergio Escalona, Scott Eyre, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers and Tyler Walker. Bastardo got recalled today, and he’s not here for the heck of it. He could make a good enough impression today or tomorrow to work his way onto the postseason roster, despite not pitching since June 25. (That shows just how shaky the bullpen is.)

Eyre and Myers both have battled injuries this month, but Manuel sounded like if they finish the season healthy they will be on the postseason roster.

“I think Scott Eyre definitely could pitch on lefties,” Manuel said. “I think Brett Myers has all the experience in the world. If he can go, I think he can help us in the bullpen because he’s done that.”

Is the closer Madson or Lidge?

“You’ve got Madson and you’ve got Brad,” Manuel said. “I’ve heard people talk. I’ve heard people say instead of using Brad use somebody else. But who else out there would you want on the mound if you were going to win or lose a game? Who would you want? Take your pick. I always get back to Lidge. I’ve got Madson and Lidge in there. Madson probably would be the guy I would go to today to win the game. But there’s going to come a point where Lidge is going to have to pitch and do the job.”

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The Phillies have clinched home-field advantage in the NLDS with St. Louis losing today to the Brewers.

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Could Happ Help the Pen?


Thumbnail image for happ 0805.jpgJ.A. Happ
has been so good this season that he could win National League Rookie of the Year.

But as good as he has been in the rotation, he could be in the bullpen in the postseason. In fact, he could be pitching in some big spots in some big games.

“Happ really has improved as the season has gone on,” Charlie Manuel said after the game. “I like Happ as a starter. I always have. But at the same time, I also see the way our pitching looks. There would be a chance that he could wind up in the back end of our bullpen if we don’t get some things straightened out and (J.C.) Romero doesn’t come back or something. I’m not going to say we’re going to do that, but we’re going to talk about it if we don’t have any lefties.”

Asked if he could see Happ as a ninth-inning guy, Manuel said, “Yeah, probably. You know one of the big things about Happ is? He’s not afraid to throw his secondary pitches. He’s really improved a whole lot. He’s still got a little ways to go yet, but he has really improved as the season goes along.”

And those improvements translate into him being able to shut down a team for an inning?

“Yeah, I think he could do that,” Manuel said. “And I think his experience that he has in the last couple years can allow him to do that, too. He throws strikes, and he definitely is not scared. I’ll talk about that. I don’t know exactly how we set up yet. If we get J.C. Romero back or something … I like Happ as a starter. I always have. He’s got a big future.”

So Happ, who has gone from bullpen to rotation to hot topic of conversation in Roy Halladay trade rumors, could be headed back to the bullpen if the bullpen doesn’t get healthy fast.

“I’m not looking that far ahead,” Happ said. “I have two starts left and I feel I can help us that way. But I want to help us, period. Whatever way that is, that’s what it is.”

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Ryan Howard‘s two RBIs pulled him into a first-place tie with Prince Fielder for the Major League-lead with 132.

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It's Lidge or Madson … Or Not


Thumbnail image for lidge 0529.jpgCharlie Manuel
is going to stick with Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson in the ninth inning.

Unless he’s not.

“We’ll do what we have to do,” Manuel said before tonight’s series opener against the Brewers at Miller Park. “We’ll see. Whatever we think, whatever we want to do, I’ll do it. I’m open to what I’m going to do, yeah.”

The never-ending ninth-inning saga for the Phillies continued after Lidge blew his Major League-leading 11th save of the season last night in a 7-6 loss to the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium. Lidge is 0-8 with a 7.48 ERA with 31 saves in 42 opportunities. In four appearances since Manuel returned Lidge to the closer’s role, he is 0-1 with a 14.73 ERA and three saves in four opportunities. Opponents have hit .421 against him. Lidge is on track to become one of just five pitchers in baseball history to finish a season with no wins, eight or more losses and a 7.00 ERA or higher:

  • Ed O’Neil went 0-8 with a 9.26 ERA in eight games in 1890 with Toledo and Philadelphia of the American Association.
  • Charlie Stecher went 0-10 with a 10.32 ERA in 10 games in 1890 with Philadelphia of the American Association.
  • Edgar Gonzalez went 0-9 with a 9.32 ERA in 10 games in 2004 with Arizona.
  • Russ Ortiz went 0-8 with an 8.14 ERA in 26 games in 2006 with Arizona and Baltimore.

Who would the alternatives be? 

Brett Myers would make sense, but he is hurt. He will throw bullpen sessions next Tuesday and Thursday, which would leave him no more than three games to show Manuel he could handle the job in the postseason.

Fans have asked about Pedro Martinez or J.A. Happ, but they seem unlikely. Martinez is 37 and has never closed before. Happ also has no experience in the role. One of them obviously will be in the postseason rotation. The other could be valuable as a multi-innings guy in the pen, especially if Chan Ho Park is hurt. 

Tyler Walker? He is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 27 appearances. He has closed before.

“He’s done a good job for us in the role he’s in,” Manuel said of Walker. “We’ll do whatever it takes that we think will win a game. I might give you guys something really good to write about.

“If you look and see what our pitching situation is right now, who we have there … both of those guys (Lidge and Madson), they are our talented guys. As far as stuff-wise and experience-wise and things like that. It kind of made it tough. But at the same time we’ve got to try to do something to win games, too.”

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Your Tuesday Injury Update

We’ve got doubleheader baseball today at Land Shark Stadium. We’ve also got Phillies injury updates:

  • Pedro Martinez. He left Saturday’s start in Atlanta after three innings after he strained a muscle on the right side of his neck while swinging the bat. Martinez said he felt a little better after visiting a chiropractor in Miami, but to give him extra time to recover the Phillies pushed back his start from Friday to Saturday in Milwaukee. Cliff Lee will pitch Friday instead. Ruben Amaro Jr. said Martinez threw today and felt pretty good, but the Phillies will know more after tomorrow’s bullpen session.
  • Brett Myers. He had a MRI on his right shoulder today in Philadelphia. He has a Grade 1 strain of his right latissimus dorsi. He will throw a bullpen next Tuesday, and the Phillies said they hope he will be able to pitch again before the end of the regular season.
  • Scott Eyre. He has not pitched since Sept. 7 because of a “loose body” in his left elbow. He threw a bullpen session before Game 1 of today’s doubleheader against the Marlins, and pitching coach Rich Dubee pronounced Eyre ready for action.
  • J.A. Happ. He is fine and will start Thursday in Milwaukee as scheduled. He left Friday’s game in Atlanta after three innings after manager Charlie Manuel thought he favored the rib cage muscle that caused him to miss his previous two starts.
  • Chan Ho Park. He continues to progress from a strained right hamstring. There is no schedule for when he might pitch again, but Amaro said it is possible Park could begin pitching as early as next week.
  • J.C. Romero. He threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday in Clearwater, Fla. He is expected to pitch Thursday in the Instructional League.
  • Jack Taschner. He has a strained back and continues to progress in Clearwater, Amaro said.
  • Carlos Ruiz. He said his sprained left wrist feels better and will play in Game 2.
  • Greg Dobbs. Miguel Cairo started at third base in Game 1 because Manuel said Dobbs’ right calif isn’t completely healthy. Dobbs said it won’t be 100 percent the remainder of the season, but it doesn’t affect him at the plate.

UPDATE ON MYERS (8:08 p.m.) READ ABOVE.

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It’s about 30 minutes before first pitch in Game 1 and I’m guess there aren’t more than 200 fans in the stands.

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Hitting Homers, Dropping Like Flies

OK, let’s run through a few things from last night’s 9-4 victory over the Braves:

  • Ryan Howard went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs. He has six multi-homer games this season, and three of the last five have come against the Braves. After Howard hit .233 (10-for-43) with five doubles, one home run and four RBIs in his first 11 games against the Braves this season, he has hit .647 (11-for-17) with one double, six home runs and 10 RBIs in his last five.
  • The Phillies’ magic number is eight.
  • Kyle Kendrick allowed three hits in four scoreless innings. Kendrick has looked good in his last five appearances (one start). He is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Opponents have hit .231 against him. Five appearances is a small sample size, but if he continues to pitch well, he just might plant a seed in the minds of the Phillies front office as they figure out how to set up their 2010 roster.
  • J.A. Happ said he is fine. He said he never tweaked his right intercostal (rib cage) muscle, which caused him to miss his previous two starts. No tweaks. No pain. No nothing. But Charlie Manuel wasn’t so sure because he said he didn’t see much life on Happ’s ball, particularly in an at-bat against Tim Hudson in the second. That was why Manuel pulled him after the third inning, when he thought Happ tweaked it when he turned to first base on a ground ball to Howard. “He said, ‘I’m telling you, I’m all right,'” Manuel said. “I think he might not have had much pain, but I think he felt something. I’m not sure, so I took him out of the game. We’re short on lefties right now anyway.” The Phillies currently are without left-handers J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre. I think it is safe to say Happ is a good possibility to pitch in the bullpen in the postseason should Romero and Eyre be unavailable.
  • Carlos Ruiz left the game in the sixth inning with a sprained left wrist. He injured it during a play at the plate in the second inning. He said he felt the wrist while he caught, but he mostly felt it when he hit. X-rays were negative, but the feeling from Manuel and Ruiz is that this is not an injury that should force Ruiz to miss an extended period of time. That would be a relief for the Phillies. “It’s a little sore,” Ruiz said. “I’ll see tomorrow how it feels, if I’m OK. If not tomorrow, maybe Sunday.”
  • Howard got hit with a pitch on the right forearm in the eighth inning. It hit him in the exact spot where he got hit with a pitch Thursday against the Nationals. “He ain’t dead by a long shot,” Manuel said. “If I had arms that big a baseball wouldn’t hurt me.” Of course, when you’re hit with a 95 mph fastball, you still feel it. “It’s a little extra sore today. A little extra stiff,” Howard said. “Hopefully in a couple days it will be all right. I’m going to be stiff and sore tomorrow. We’ll wait tomorrow and see how it feels.”

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Happ Leaves For "Precautionary Reasons"

Phillies left-hander J.A .Happ, who missed his last two starts with a strained right intercostal muscle, has left the game after three innings for what the Phillies termed “precautionary reasons.”

Happ appeared to tweak something — the same muscle? — when Nate McLouth grounded out in the third inning. After a lengthy discussion on the mound and after throwing a couple practice pitches, Happ remained in the game. He allowed a solo home run to Martin Prado before getting out of the inning.

We will have more info after the game. 

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Looking October Worthy

lee 0915.jpg“They have a lot pros over there. Lee and Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels go deep in ballgames. That’s a good formula for winning.” — Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman.

The past few nights at Citizens Bank Park have been impressive, and perhaps a glimpse into the future.

Cliff Lee shutout the Nationals tonight at Citizens Bank Park, 5-0, two nights after Pedro Martinez threw 130 pitches in eight shutout innings Sunday in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. Two nights before that, Cole Hamels allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his previous four starts.

“Our one to five is as good as anybody’s,” Lee said of a rotation that also includes Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ. “I don’t think you necessarily have to have a 1-2 punch. I think we’ve got a 1-2-3-4-5 punch. That’s never ending.”

It is too early to say what the postseason rotation will look like, but I think the health of left-handers Scott Eyre and J.C. Romero could play a part in it. If they are not healthy, the Phillies could move Happ into the bullpen to give them a left-hander. If that happens, Martinez obviously makes the rotation.

(And, yes, I know the Mets and Nationals aren’t the Dodgers, Rockies or Cardinals, but the Philllies starters are doing what they should do against these offenses. Shut them down.)

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The last time the Phillies had shutouts in consecutive games was April 27-28, 2003, when Kevin Millwood threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory against the Giants at Veterans Stadium and Brett Myers, Dan Plesac and Jose Mesa combined for a 3-0 victory against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

I remember Millwood’s no-hitter well. I had started the Phillies beat a couple weeks earlier for The Philadelphia Inquirer, but because the Phillies opened a series the next night in Los Angeles, I flew to California that afternoon. In other words, the very first game I missed as a Phillies beat writer Kevin Freakin’ Millwood throws a no-hitter. I remember getting into my rental car at LAX, turning on the radio and hearing Vin Scully say, “And Kevin Millwood has a no-hitter through eight innings!” I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t believe it.

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The last time the Phillies had consecutive shutouts in Philadelphia was Aug. 15-16, 2002, against the Brewers and Cardinals. Joe Roa, Mike Timlin and Carlos Silva combined for the shutout against the Brewers, and Randy Wolf shutout the Cardinals.

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Carlos Ruiz is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with one homer and nine RBIs in his past 17 games.

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We've Got Updates

Got a few injury updates for everybody:

  • Left-hander J.A. Happ, who has a strained intercostal muscle, said he thinks he is better than 50-50 to make his next scheduled start Friday against the Braves in Atlanta. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Happ is about 50-50.
  • Left-hander Scott Eyre said he hopes to receive a cortisone injection into his left elbow today or tomorrow so he can return to the mound in the next few days. Eyre has a “loose body” in the elbow. He described it as a bone chip still attached to the muscle or cartilage. Eyre said he will try to pitch through the pain the remainder of the season.
  • Left-hander J.C. Romero, who had a cortisone injection in his left elbow Tuesday, said he hopes to rejoin the team possibly as early as next Friday in Atlanta.
  • Right-hander Clay Condrey will make a rehab appearance tomorrow for Double A Reading. He could be activated Sunday.
  • Greg Dobbs, who has a strained calf, is running in Clearwater. We don’t have much more on him than that.

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Manuel Has His Limits with Lidge


Thumbnail image for lidge 0815.jpgCharlie Manuel
is sticking with Brad Lidge, but his patience has a limit.

He said this afternoon at Nationals Park that while Lidge remains his closer, there will come a time when the Phillies must “win the game.”

Lidge is 0-7 with a 7.15 ERA and a Major-League leading 10 blown saves, but the postseason is less than a month away and the Phillies need more certainty in the ninth inning. Phillies right-hander Brett Myers remains Manuel’s top option to close should Lidge continue to struggle and the Phillies decide they need to go in a different direction.

“When that comes up I think it’s something we will definitely work with,” Manuel said. “I think that he’s our closer. I talk about it every day with (pitching coach Rich) Dubee as far as where he’s at and how he feels and what he’s doing. But at the same time we’re trying to win a championship and everything like that. I’m hoping he’s going to really get more consistent and really help us.”

Asked if he has thoughts about Myers, Manuel said, “I have a lot of thoughts. Really. I think about winning the game. How many times you have guys in the last five years heard me say, ‘I try to win the game.’ What did you make that dumb move for? I said I did it because I tried to win the game. How many times have you heard me say that? Believe me, I was trying to win the game.”

Lidge has had a little bit of everything go wrong this season. He had reporters circle his locker today to ask him numerous questions about a blister on his right index finger, which has bothered him recently. (You never feel more tool-ish as a reporter than when you’re talking about a minor injury, and the questions about that minor injury go on forever.) Lidge said he is fine and ready to pitch. Most of all, he said he is ready to put his troubles behind him. Everybody is.

“We’re in first place,” Lidge said. “Unless catastrophe strikes we’re heading to the playoffs. My mission is to get myself as good as I can be for the playoffs and to do the things that I can do in the postseason. That’s what September is going to be for me: getting locked in. I’ve been having three good outings, one bad outing. Three good outings, one bad outing. I’d like to get to the point where they’re going to be all good. At some point I’ll look back and say, ‘Man, that was a crap year.’ If September goes well and I throw well in the postseason then I’ll be happy with the year. I really will. Because that’s the goal right now.”

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J.A. Happ has a strained right intercostal muscle and will miss Saturday’s start against the Mets. The Phillies hope he can rejoin the rotation next week. … Left-hander Scott Eyre felt a “quick and sharp” pain in his left elbow Monday in Houston. Doctors examined him today, and said he is day to day with elbow soreness. … J.C. Romero had a cortisone shot in his left elbow today. He will be shut down for a couple days. They will see how he responds and go from there. … Ryan Madson had tendinitis in his right biceps, but he said he is ready to pitch. … Greg Dobbs is running in Floriday and could begin a rehab assingment soon. … Clay Condrey will start throwing simulated games soon and could begin a rehab assignment after.

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Thinking of the Possibilities

hamels 0901.jpgWe have heard plenty lately about how nobody wants to face the Giants in the postseason, especially in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain?

You got a death wish or something?

But if Cole Hamels is back — he certainly looked like it tonight in a complete game 1-0 victory over the Giants — how scary does a rotation that includes Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ look?

Hamels has tied a career-high with 19 scoreless innings. Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts. Blanton is 7-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 17 starts since May 26. Happ is 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA, making him a frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year.

“If everybody pitches like they can and Joe continues to pitch the way he has then it could be a heck of a rotation,” Jimmy Rollins said. “But I think on the other side of it, we can’t count on that. If we do we’ll stop hitting. And if they count on us to keep hitting they’ll stop pitching. We go out there with a job to do on the other side of the ball, defensively and offensively, and we’ve got some pitchers who will hopefully do what they’re supposed to do on their side of the ball. If we do that we’ll be all right.”

Hamels has not allowed a run since the third inning at Citi Field on Aug. 21.

The difference? His fastball has been a big reason why he has improved. Hamels’ money pitch is his changeup, but it plays off his fastball. And lately Hamels seems to have better command of the pitch.

“He throws his fastball and changeup whenever he wants to,” Ryan Garko said. “Either one, on any count.”

“The velocity has definitely improved,” Jimmy Rollins said. “He’s throwing his fastball again, and that is making his changeup better. He’s working ahead. He’s not behind because his fastball is up and away at 88, 89 (mph). He’s throwing it down through the zone at 92. The changeup is following that same plane and it can be at times unhittable. He’ll keep you off balance, too. In and out. The way he’s been doing that lately, he didn’t have that. He tried to come in and it was right down the middle and they weren’t missing. And now he’s got a little angle back, and that helps his confidence.”

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Brett Myers struck out two in a scoreless inning tonight for Triple A Lehigh Valley. The radar gun showed Myers throwing 92 mph, but Tyler Walker pointed out in the Phillies clubhouse that the gun there is slow, so he probably is throwing a couple mph harder than that.

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