Results tagged ‘ Jim Thome ’

Big Jim, Big Truck and Bradenton

We’ve got another beautiful day in Clearwater …

The Phillies are headed south for a 1 p.m. game against the Pirates, but the big news today is at Carpenter Complex, where Jim Thome is going to play four or five innings at first base in a Minor League game, and Jose Contreras is going to pitch an inning. The Phillies are hoping Thome, who has not played more than an inning at first base since 2007, can play there 20 games this season. I think anything more than that would be a bonus, considering he is 41 and has a history of back problems.

Thome’s ability to play first base is huge. Charlie Manuel has said he wants Thome to get around 200 at-bats this season, but that is going to be difficult. Take a look at the most pinch-hit at-bats in a season in the big leagues since 1974 (thanks to David Hale for putting together this fancy chart):

Player Year PH at-bats
L. Harris 2001 83
R. Staub 1983 81
O. Palmeiro 2006 80
M. Franco 2003 78
J. Morales 1976 78
Ma. Sweeney 2008 78
J. Cruz 2005 76
Ma. Sweeney 2007 76
Gload 2011 74
5 tied N/A 72

So if Thome can match Gload he has 74 at-bats right there. Manuel said Thome can DH in nine road interleague games. Say that’s 35 at-bats. Thome now has 109 at-bats. He’s 91 at-bats short of Manuel’s goal. The only way to get close to 200 is his s ability to play first. Twenty games could give him roughly 80 more at-bats. So that’s why today is an important first step for the big man.

Today’s lineup in Bradenton:

  1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  2. Juan Pierre, LF
  3. Shane Victorino, DH
  4. Laynce Nix, 1B
  5. Carlos Ruiz, C
  6. Scott Podsednik, RF
  7. Tyson Gillies, CF
  8. Pete Orr, 3B
  9. Michael Martinez, 2B

Vance Worley is on the mound.

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!
Here are our upcoming book signings:

  • March 19: Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • April 2: Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 3: Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.

Photo Day

It was photo day at Bright House Field, which had players running from station to station for photographs for various publications and uses. Mike Schmidt happened to be taking his photos, when Jim Thome passed by and asked if he could take a photo with the Hall of Fame third baseman. At about that moment Ryne Sandberg walked past and hopped in for a shot.

That’s two Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer.

Unfortunately, I can’t find that photo, but I’ll look for it. Here’s Schmidt and Thome, though.

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!

Rollins Is A Happy Man

I talked on the phone a few minutes ago with Jimmy Rollins. Here is what he said about his three-year, $33 million contract with the Phillies, a lengthy negotiation process and more:

QUESTION: Are you happy this is finally over?
ROLLINS: Yes, I’m glad that it’s over. It’s good that it’s over for both parties. It’s an issue that’s been going on. Negotiations take time and both parties usually get a good idea where a finish line can be. It usually takes time to get there, but we got there.

QUESTION: Are you happy with the deal? You had asked for five years, and I also had heard you were unhappy with the pace of the negotiations.
ROLLINS: I never said that or even hinted toward that in any way. No, it’s not true. I wasn’t upset at the pace. I was glad it took a while because both sides were showing that they care. This is a business. There is a sports side of it and a business side of it, and the business side of it is always the most difficult part. Making sure that the numbers fit and the years fit and that both parties can be happy going forward is how business is. This is where we both sit and both parties feel comfortable going forward.

QUESTION: Do you feel you met the Phillies half way? You wanted five. They wanted three. But it sounds like the vesting option for the fourth year is easily attainable.
ROLLINS: That’s very accurate. The tough part is you’ve got to stick to your guns and they’ve got to stick to their guns. You negotiate. If I hadn’t started so high then we probably would have been looking at a two-year deal with a vesting option for three. People that understand business, they get it.

QUESTION: As long as you’re healthy you feel you will get that option?
ROLLINS: Exactly.

(more…)

Thome’s First Job: Recruiter

It sure sounds like Jim Thome would love Michael Cuddyer to sign with the Phillies, huh?

Thome signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Phillies yesterday, and he was asked if he had spoken with his good friend Cuddyer, whom the Phillies are pursuing in free agency.

“We’ve texted a little bit,” Thome said. “We’ve talked. All I can say about Michael is he’s a great player. He’s a winner. He’s a stand-up guy. I know he’s done a lot of great things on and off the field in Minnesota. Anybody that plays in that organization for a long time, their credibility is instantly high. Any team that gets him is going to gain. He’s a great teammate. I would put Michael as one of my top-five, all-time favorite teammates. No question. He’s up there. He’s a winner.”

Did Cuddyer express any interest in coming to Philly?

“I can’t answer that,” Thome said. “Look, every player that
sees the way the Phillies have done things over the last seven or eight years, they’ve set the bar very, very high. Guys around baseball would love to come here. When you win, you create a lot of good things.”

Did Thome encourage his former teammate to join him?

“I could, yes,” he said. “Absolutely. I’m sure we will talk
going forward.”

You can be certain Thome will be talking to Cuddyer, Charlie Manuel and anybody else who will listen (I’m sure Thome can shoot Ruben Amaro Jr. a few texts). Cuddyer makes sense for a few reasons. He is a right-handed bat that can play the corner infield and outfield positions, although my understanding is he isn’t much of a defensive third baseman. He has a career .343 on-base percentage. His .346 on-base percentage this season would have tied for fourth on the team with Ryan Howard. And one would think his offensive numbers would improve moving from pitcher-friendly Target Field to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. He also is a high-character, high-energy guy, which the Phillies value.

Of course, Thome can talk until he is blue in the face. If the money isn’t right it won’t happen. But if the money is close maybe Thome can push Cuddyer toward Philly.

Thome Is Back

Jim Thome might have one last shot at a World Series championship, and he plans to take it with the Phillies.

Sources told MLB.com this evening the Phillies and Thome have agreed to a one-year contract. The deal is pending him passing a physical. Terms are unknown, but I’m guessing it’s a low-risk signing for the Phillies (i.e. it’s relatively cheap). I’m not surprised this happened because the Phillies and Thome wanted to reunite this season. But there are plenty of interesting aspects to this signing: Can he play in the field? Can he get enough at-bats to stay sharp? Can he stay healthy?

If he can stay sharp and healthy, he provides the Phillies a left-handed power bat off the bench, which the Phillies needed this season.

Here’s a link to the story.

Nice Guys: Thome, Ibanez, Sweeney

Got an e-mail from the folks at Sports Illustrated. In its latest player poll, current or former Phillies were named the three nicest guys in baseball. I couldn’t agree more about Thome. The guy is as genuine as they come. Ibanez is unfailingly polite. Good guy. Sweeney is a hugger.

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Lee’s Back

Cliff Lee made his second debut with the Phillies tonight, and fans showed the love.

He got a loud ovation walking from the bullpen to the dugout before the game. I don’t recall an ovation like that since I started covering the team in 2003. Jim Thome got a huge ovation in his first game at the Vet. Roy Halladay got a huge ovation in his first start at the Bank. But this was sustained as Lee walked to the dugout. Very cool. Very loud.

“These fans have a knack for getting a little louder than everyone else,” Lee said. “I don’t what it is. I don’t know if it’s alcohol induced or what, but they definitely have a knack for getting really loud and supporting their team.”

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The last time the Phillies opened the season at home and won their first two games was 1980.

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The Phillies have 24 hits in two games, but just four extra-base hits! And no home runs! Bring back the long ball!

(Kidding.)

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Good Signs from Lidge?


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lidge 0523.jpgBrad Lidge
threw perfect innings Friday and Sunday to pick up saves against Atlanta, and with a little more than a month to play before the postseason, the Phillies are hoping they see more of that the rest of the way.

Because the Lidge they have seen for most of 2009 could bring heartache in the playoffs.

Lidge’s struggles have been well documented, but from a historical perspective they are even more jarring. MLB.com researched and found there have been just six relief pitchers in baseball’s modern era who have seen their ERAs jump five or more earned runs in consecutive seasons with 40 or more appearances in each season.

Lidge is trying to avoid becoming the seventh:

  1. Mike Flanagan (a 5.67 ERA increase): The American League Cy Young winner with Baltimore in 1978 sported a 2.38 ERA in 64 appearances with the Orioles in 1991. He had an 8.05 ERA in 42 appearances in 1992.
  2. Mike DeJean (5.38): He carried a 3.03 ERA in 59 appearances with the Rockies in 1998, but had an 8.41 ERA in 56 appearances in 1999.
  3. Gene Nelson (5.27): Nelson, who won a World Series with Oakland in 1989, had a 1.57 ERA in 51 appearances with the A’s in 1990, but had a 6.84 ERA in 44 appearances in 1991.
  4. Vic Darensbourg (5.15): He had a 3.68 ERA in 59 appearances with Florida in 1998, but had an 8.83 ERA in 56 appearances in 1999.
  5. Derrick Turnbow (5.13): He sported a 1.74 ERA in 62 appearances as Milwaukee’s closer in 2005, but had a 6.87 ERA in 49 appearances in 2006, when he made the NL All-Star team.
  6. Ron Davis (5.11): The 1981 American League All-Star with the Yankees carried a 3.48 ERA in 57 appearances with Minnesota in 1985, but had an 8.59 ERA in 53 appearances in 1986.

Lidge is 0-6 with a 7.03 ERA and has 27 saves in 36 opportunities. His ERA is the highest of any relief pitcher in baseball. His nine blown saves and his 75 percent save completion are the worst in the Majors. Last year he went 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 41 saves in 41 opportunities in the regular season and 0-0 with a 0.96 ERA and seven saves in seven opportunities in the playoffs.

Lidge’s turnaround could be dependent on one thing: the command of his fastball. Those who have seen him this year and those who watched him struggle in Houston say the same thing: he needs to command his fastball.

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The Phillies have recalled left-hander Jack Taschner, their first move since rosters expanded.

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The Dodgers got Jim Thome before last night’s midnight trade deadline. Thome called Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti before the trade and said, “Uh, you know I can’t play first base anymore, right?” Colletti said that is fine. The Dodgers are looking at Thome as a power bat to come off the bat in the late innings.

I think they’re still having nightmares of Matt Stairs‘ homer in Game 4 of the NLCS.

I kid, but that’s a heck of a weapon to have the rest of the season. And should the Dodgers make the World Series, they have one of the best designated hitters in baseball in their lineup in the AL park.

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Carlos Carrasco makes his big-league debut tonight for the Indians.

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How Much Is Too Much?

halladay 04.jpgThe Blue Jays want J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown.

The Phillies reportedly offered Happ, Carlos Carrasco, Michael Taylor and Jason Donald.

Is Happ, Drabek and Brown too much to give up for Roy Halladay? Halladay is arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and the Phillies would be getting him for two Octobers instead of one. We’re not talking about a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher here. We’re talking about Roy Freakin’ Halladay. Cy Young winner. Ace. Best of the best.

Two sources said Toronto’s demands are reasonable. So why won’t the Phillies pull the trigger?

They are keeping the future in mind, one source indicated. The Phillies’ rotation today includes Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, Happ and Rodrigo Lopez/Pedro Martinez. If the Phillies get Halladay for Happ, Drabek and Brown, the rotation next season would include Hamels, Halladay and Moyer, who is 9-7 with a 5.65 ERA this season. Blanton, who is salary arbitration eligible, seems like a smart bet to return, although the Phillies already have $95.5 million committed to 11 players next season. Add Halladay into that mix and the payroll jumps to $110.75 million. It seems unlikely, but it is possible the Phillies could non-tender Blanton, who would get a raise from the $5.475 million he is making, if they feel they need to trim some salary to pay Halladay and the rest of the roster. So that’s one starter if Blanton is back, two if he isn’t.

The Phillies can handle one starter. Maybe even two with Halladay and Hamels atop the rotation. But the number jumps to potentially four starters in 2011. There is no guarantee Halladay re-signs with the Phillies. He could leave for the highest bidder. Moyer presumably won’t be back. Blanton will be a free agent after 2010, and he also could leave for the big payday. That leaves Hamels and four vacancies.

The Phillies are considering those things as they consider a package for Halladay. They want to keep Happ or Drabek so they’re a little better equipped next season and beyond.

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Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi told FOX’s Ken Rosenthal that the chances of trading Halladay are “very slim.” Others agree. One source believes the chances of Halladay being traded are no better than 50-50. Another said he thinks it’s “unlikely” Halladay gets traded.

But one source said the Phillies’ counter offer, which ESPN.com said the Blue Jays rejected, is fair. He considers Happ a “poor man’s Andy Pettitte” and Taylor to be better than Brown. He also pointed out that entering this season many considered Carrasco to be the organization’s top pitching prospect. He also think Donald can be a good everyday player.

Of course, it only matters what Toronto thinks.

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It also is unlikely the Cliff Lee is traded. One source said it could be easier for the Phillies to make a trade for Lee because the package would be bigger, meaning not Drabek or Brown involved.

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Been hearing a lot about how the Phillies will have more money to spend next season because the Phillies are shedding the payroll of Adam Eaton ($9 million), Geoff Jenkins ($8 million) and Jim Thome ($3 million). Not exactly. The Phillies have 11 players who are signed through next season or beyond. Those 11 players make $78.25 million this season. But because of built-in raises they will make $95.5 million next season. There goes those savings from Eaton, Jenkins and Thome. And keep in mind, that $95.5 million doesn’t the $5 million club option for Pedro Feliz and salary arbitration figures for Blanton, Shane Victorino, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, etc.

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Back to Business

phillies jays scrum.jpgThe second half is upon us.

Pedro Martinez is in the fold. Roy Halladay is not.

But like the Shermanator said, “Confidence is high. I repeat: confidence is high.” Not long ago the Phillies lost 14 of 18 games and their season appeared to be spiraling into the ground. Then they went 9-1 at home to take a four-game lead over the Marlins (it’s the second largest lead of any division leader at the break).

Phillies fans consider a third consecutive National League East championship a fait accompli, which is a little scary when you think about it (remember the ’07 and ’08 Mets).

Fans have reasons to be optimistic. The Phillies have the best offense in the National League, and that is with Jimmy Rollins struggling most of the first half and Raul Ibanez missing much of June and July with an injury. They also have the best defense in the National League.

But pitching remains a problem, which could become a bigger issue in October. Phillies starters have a 4.98 ERA, which ranks 14th in the league. Cole Hamels has a 4.87 ERA and has pitched more than six innings just four times this season. Brad Lidge has a 7.03 ERA, and has a 6.00 ERA since he returned from the 15-day disabled list in June. Jamie Moyer has a 5.99 ERA. Those are some red flags, which makes it even more crucial the Phillies improve their pitching before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Halladay said this week in St. Louis he considers his chances to be traded at 50-50. If that is the case, his chances of going to the Phillies are less because so many teams are interested in him. But Ken Rosenthal said the Phillies are a favorite because he doesn’t think the Angels and Cardinals have enough in their systems to get him. The Phillies do.

Here are a few things to consider when talking about Halladay:

  • Halladay’s current contract is not an issue. One Phillies source said recently, “He isn’t making anything.” Halladay is making $14.25 million this year and $15.75 million next year. In comparison, Brett Myers is making $12 million this season. Halladay is a bargain at that price, and because the Phillies have been selling out the Bank regulary they can afford it. So, yes, the Phillies can afford to pick up Halladay’s contract. The issue with Halladay is going to be prospects. Who does the Blue Jays want, and who are the Phillies willing to give up? The Phillies are in better shape than most teams, which does put them at the top of the pack.
  • Halladay has not indicated he needs a contract extension to accept a trade. He said he has made plenty of money in his career. He wants to win.
  • Halladay sounds like he is ready to go to any winner, including Philadelphia. This isn’t a Jake Peavy situation.
  • I’m getting a lot of Halladay and Vernon Wells questions. Any inclusion of Wells is a deal killer for the Phillies (and most every other team out there). And I have not heard anywhere the Blue Jays insist on including Wells in any talks. If the Blue Jays suddenly insist on Wells in any deal, the Phillies won’t be getting Halladay. But like I said, I have not heard that to be the case. At all. So relax.

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I was looking for Halladay/Phillies pictures and came upon this one from Spring Training 2003. Halladay hit Jim Thome with a pitch and Larry Bowa sparked a bench-clearing brawl when Halladay came to bat later in the game. Good times.

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