Results tagged ‘ Matt Stairs ’

Going to New York

Here are a few things from today’s workout at the Bank:

  • Charlie Manuel expects to see CC Sabathia three times if the World Series goes seven games.
  • Raul Ibanez is going to DH Game 1, which would allow Ben Francisco to play left field. Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs could DH Game 2 against A.J. Burnett.
  • Robin Roberts spoke about the 1950 World Series. He said back then he hated four things: Notre Dame, Michigan, the Yankees and Russia. That might be one of my top five answers to a question all year.
  • Manuel would not say who will pitch Game 2, but he sounds more and more like it’s going to be Pedro Martinez. Martinez went 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five starts at home this season. He went 3-1 with a 5.66 ERA in four starts on the road, not including the seven shutout innings he threw in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. He is 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA in his last five postseason appearances against the Yankees. But Martinez has experience. He won’t be intimidated. “We weigh all that,” Manuel said. “We try to weigh everything possible. I guess that’s the good part about my job. I’ve got quite a few people around and we discuss everything about the game. We discuss everything that you’re supposed to cover. There’s not a whole lot that we’re going to miss as far as what we want to do. But when I look at Pedro, Pedro has been in the big environment. He’s pitched about everywhere you can pitch. I don’t think nothing is going to really bother him or get him upset. I think we can pitch him in either ballpark, really. I don’t think it matters at all.”


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Phillies-Rockies II

Thumbnail image for stairs 0412.jpgHey, it looks like a rematch.

The Colorado Rockies swept the Phillies in the National League Division Series in 2007, but the Phillies get another shot at Colorado this week when they meet again in the NLDS.

Game 1 is Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

“We kind of owe them something,” Charlie Manuel said yesterday. “[Rockies general manager] Dan O’Dowd is my former boss and a good friend of mine. Man, I’d like to beat him. I think we’ll be prepared. But I also think they’ll be prepared. They’ve got a lot of energy and they like to play. That’s why they’re where they’re at. That’s why they have such a big record ever since the first month of the season. They play like they just love to play baseball, and they go out there to beat you.”

The Phillies are 4-2 against the Rockies this season, but they have not seen them since Aug. 6 in Philadelphia. The Rockies were 59-49 at the time, but are 34-19 (.642) since for the best record in the National League and the second-best record in baseball.

The Phillies haven’t been in Colorado since April, when Matt Stairs capped a three-game series victory with a pinch-hit home run in the ninth-inning in a 7-5 victory April 12. It wasn’t just a memorable homer because Stairs won the game with a bomb to right-center field. It was memorable because it was Harry Kalas‘ last home run call. He died the next day in Washington.

The Phillies won the three-game series in August with the help from left-handers J.A. Happ, who threw a four-hit, 10-strikeout shutout, and Cliff Lee, who allowed one run and struck out nine in seven innings.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Manuel: 'We Don't Put Anybody Away'

nats 0910.jpgThe Phillies have lost nine of their last 16 games, and seven of those losses have come against Pittsburgh, Houston and Washington.

What do those teams have in common?

They’re bad.

And that is what had Charlie Manuel so frustrated last night at Nationals Park. Sure, the Phillies scored five runs in the ninth inning — Matt Stairs snapped his 0-for-30 slump with a pinch-hit grand slam — to show some fight in a 9-8 loss to the Nationals, but they still lost to the worst team in baseball. And now their 8 1/2 game lead over the Marlins has turned into five with 24 games to play.

“We’ve been getting outplayed by second division teams,” Manuel said. “Our guys, especially the guys who were on our team the last couple years, know exactly what we’ve got to do. They know exactly how to get it. We’re playing right to the beat of basically who we’re playing. We’re just playing right with them. That’s how we played Pittsburgh. That’s how we played Houston. That’s how we played these guys. We were fortunate to beat (the Nationals) two out of three.

“We don’t put anybody away.”

Manuel and Jimmy Rollins talked about this just the other day.

“In a lot of ways I agree,” Rollins said. “There’s no doubt about it. But there are definitely times that we haven’t played down to our level of competition. I mean atmosphere and everything, not just the team. But it’s better to go on a bad stretch I guess against bad teams than against good teams. You do it against good teams you feel like, man, maybe we’re not good enough. Against bad teams it’s like, we’re just bad.”

I asked Rollins if there is any concern about letting their NL East shrink.

“Win by one,” he said. “There’s no pressure to win by 10. Win by one. We found that out a couple years ago. It doesn’t matter when we get there. You just hope to qualify and when you do qualify you hope to be playing your best. There’s no pressure to win by a certain amount of games because you have a lead. Win by one. That’s all it takes.”

But Shane Victorino said he doesn’t want things to get too close.

“We want to put ourselves in a situation where we still control our own destiny,” he said. “But yet we’re letting teams creep back in and giving them some kind of confidence. That’s the one thing that we fear. That we’re letting these teams have confidence. We shouldn’t let that happen.”

Here is another reason to get motivated for these final 24 games. The Phillies have the third-best record in the National League, which means they would open the NLDS on the road. If the season ended today, that would mean the Phillies and Dodgers would meet in the first round with the first two games at Dodger Stadium.


Brad Lidge pitched the eighth inning, when the Phillies trailed, 8-2. He allowed a triple, but struck out Pete Orr and Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

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. 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.


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


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.


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


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Leaving Pittsburgh Is A Good Thing

Thumbnail image for happ 0805.jpgI’m not sure what it is, but the Phillies just don’t seem to play well in Pittsburgh. Well, at least they haven’t played well in Pittsburgh since I started covering the team in 2003. They’re 9-12 at PNC Park in that span. That’s pretty remarkable considering the Phillies have had a winning record every season since 2003 and the Pirates haven’t even hit .500 since 1992.

Blame me?

Nah, don’t blame me.

But the Phillies left Pittsburgh last night with a three-game series this weekend against the Braves at the Bank. The Braves are throwing Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens at them this weekend. The Phillies are throwing Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee and Joe Blanton. It should be an interesting series, and if the Braves go crazy they could make things a little more interesting in the National League East.


J.A. Happ pitched well in last night’s 3-2 loss. He is 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA. That’s the lowest ERA of any Phillies rookie since Ben Tincup‘s 2.61 ERA in 1914. I’m not familiar with Tincup, besides the fact he has a cool last name. He went 8-10 in 1914, but appeared in just 10 games in 1915. He didn’t pitch again in the Majors until 1918 with the Phillies. And he did not pitch again in the Majors until 1928 with the Cubs.

Wikipedia has some interesting info about Tincup. And we know 100 percent of everything in Wikipedia is factually accurate.


The Phillies were hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position last night. They hit .107 (3-for-28) with one homer and six RBIs with RISP against the Pirates this week, and have hit .214 (52-for-243) with 14 homers and 86 RBIs with RISP since July 27.


Raul Ibanez has hit just .227 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 38 games since he returned from the disabled list July 11. He has hit .140 with one homer, four RBIs and 20 strikeouts in 57 at-bats since Aug. 9.


Matt Stairs‘ hitless streak reached 25 at-bats. He hasn’t had a hit since July 11.


The Phillies have not talked to Lee about a potential contract extension, according to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. He said the Phillies are focused on 2009. Lee said he also is focused on 2009. But reports that Lee is going to go for a big payday down the road. I wouldn’t see why he wouldn’t, but in the meantime I’d just enjoy the ride.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Making More Moves?

amaro 01.jpgThe national pundits have spoken: the Phillies were winners at the trade deadline.

But a few teams were. The Cardinals reshaped their offense with Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo. The Tigers got Jarrod Washburn. The Red Sox got Victor Martinez. The Pirates … ah, nevermind. But the Phillies bolstered their rotation with Cliff Lee, who won the 2008 American League Cy Young Award. They also added a much-needed right-handed bat to their bench with Ben Francisco.

“We’re pretty happy with how it went,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

But not completely satisfied, either. The Phillies still have room to improve, and Amaro said they were close to another trade before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline. Amaro wouldn’t say what it was, but a good guess is another bench player like Francisco because the Phillies seem to have a plethora of arms in the rotation and bullpen.

The Phillies can continue to try to make trades through Aug. 31 and still have those players eligible for postseason play. But players traded from the 40-man roster through the end of the season must clear waivers first.

The Phillies have had success in recent seasons in making waiver trades. There was Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre in 2008, and Jamie Moyer, Jeff Conine and Jose Hernandez in 2006.

“It’s possible,” Amaro said of a waiver trade. “But you never know which guys will get through the waiver process. But we’ll certainly keep an eye on the waiver wire and see if there are ways to improve. Our needs might change as we go through the next month.”

Looking on the bench, Francisco and Stairs solidify the outfield, Greg Dobbs is one of the team’s most potent pinch-hitters and the Phillies like Paul Bako as Carlos Ruiz‘s backup, although Bako has been playing more lately.

Eric Bruntlett has struggled. He is hitting .123 (10-for-81) with six RBIs in 55 games this season.

“Unfortunately for Brunt and fortunately for us, everybody has stayed healthy in the infield,” Amaro said. “He’s not serving the same role as he was last year when he was being used in the outfield for Pat [Burrell]. Basically, he hasn’t had a chance to be on the field as much, so it’s been very difficult to get into any type of offensive rhythm. But he still has a lot of versatility, which is probably his strong suit. He hasn’t produced offensively, and I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit that. But right now there’s nobody who can do that job in our system.”

Triple-A Lehigh Valley infielder Miguel Cairo is hitting .296 (69-for-233) with four homers and 26 RBIs, but the Phillies don’t feel he can play shortstop as well as Bruntlett.


Joe Blanton is 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA (six earned runs in 36 2/3 innings) in his previous five starts, and 5-2 with a 2.33 ERA (21 earned runs in 81 innings) in 12 starts since May 21. … The Phillies are hitting .103 (6-for-58) on this road trip with runners in scoring position.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Roy, Roy, Roy, Pedro, Pedro, Pedro

halladay.jpgGuess what the talk is in St. Louis?

Pedro Martinez, who will be in Philadelphia tonight to take a physical tomorrow, and Roy Halladay, who sounds more and more like he wants to be traded to get a chance to play baseball in October.

“It’s tough,” Halladay said. “I’m somewhere I enjoy being. I’ve spent my entire career here. I think there’s a lot that goes into it. But I think as a player there is that will to win and that will to do it in October. And basically that’s all this has been about. I would like that chance. I’m not saying it won’t be Toronto. It’s what’s going to be best for the organization, and are we going to be able to do that?”

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he has no plans to talk to Halladay, who has a complete no-trade clause.

“I don’t do that,” he said. “I can’t do that. I think that’s kind of out of line.”

But while Manuel is reluctant to talk about Halladay — oh, those blasted tampering rules! — the Phillies All-Stars in St. Louis made no bones they would love to have him in a Phillies uniform. But at what price? Phillies managament is trying to walk the fine line between going for broke and mortgaging the future for something that is not guaranteed.

“I understand all that,” Jayson Werth said. “We won last year and we pretty much have the same team this year. If you were ever going to sell the farm I think now would be the time. But that’s just me speaking who has a short window of a career. Ruben (Amaro Jr.) and those guys are going to be there for a long time. It’s a lot to leverage, I know. But I think we’re definitely in a situation where if we did go for it, it could pay off.”

“I’m good with trying to win now,” Ryan Howard said. “That’s just me. Not to try to upstage anybody or anything in the front office. Obviously, they’re going to make that decision. Whatever decision it is, when the dust settles, we live with it, we go on and we play. Hopefully, that’s an addition we take. If not, we’ve still got to go out there and play. But I think if you ask everybody on this team right now, you would want to try to win now because you never know when you’re going to get another chance. For a guy like Raul (Ibanez) … last year a guy like (Matt) Stairs, Geoff Jenkins and Jamie Moyer. Jamie has been in this league for 20-some-odd years now. And that was his first trip to the World Series. Not his first World Series win. His first trip. So you never know. In this game as a player everybody’s mindset is trying to go out there and try to win now because you never know what’s going to happen.”

“As a player you try not to play GM because you don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Chase Utley said. Who’s available. Who’s not available. I do think we have something special going on right now in Philadelphia. We have a lot of players in their prime. So now is a good time to win.”


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Amaro Talks Halladay, Martinez, World Peace, Etc.

ruben green.jpgRoy Halladay
! Roy Halladay! Roy Halladay!

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke with reporters a few minutes ago at Citizens Bank Park. He would not comment specifically about Halladay, who is available via trade. But he talked about trading for the theoretical stud pitcher. He also said little about Pedro Martinez other than “we are trying to do what we can to add to our club, and if we feel at the end of the day Pedro is going to help us than we’ll make a run at him.”

Question: Can you go out and get a stud pitcher?
Answer: We have some flexibility. A lot of it depends on the player that we’re talking about. But we have some flexibility. It’s not unlimited. And as you know, we have the highest payroll we’ve ever had. We’re well over $130 million, and there is a limit to what we can spend.

Q: Are there untouchable players in your farm system?
A: There are some untouchables in our system. We feel that we’re building a pretty strong farm system. … We have to be prudent about what our future is about. It is important to win now, and we understand the importance of that. But that said, there are players we would like to keep for our future. And I would say they’re not as touchable as others.

Q: But it is a situation where you absolutely would not trade somebody? If the best player in the Major Leagues is available, are there still players you would not consider trading?
A: There are.

(Those players are right-handers Kyle Drabek and Jason Knapp and outfielder Dominic Brown.)

Q: Last year you reportedly finished second in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes …
A: Really? If you’re second, you’re last, I guess.

Q: Are you in better position to make a trade for somebody like a Halladay this year?
A: I think we’re in good position to do some things overall. Like I said, I think our farm system has improved. Again, when you’re talking about doing trades of any type, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We may think our guys are much better than they think our guys are.  We’ll try to be aggressive with the right deal. At the same time, we have to be prudent about what some of these moves might impact our future, too.

Q: You understand fans and the manager don’t like to hear that?
A: Oh, yeah, I understand that. The goal is to win this year. There’s no question about that. That doesn’t change. But we didn’t get CC last year and we didn’t get Manny (Ramirez) last year and most of these guys on the field right now are toting rings around.

Q: Would you substract from the Major-League roster to make a trade?
A: The goal is to add, not to subtract. That’s really the goal, so subtracting doesn’t necessarily help us.

Q: If there is a guy you’re pretty sure can help you win a World Series this year, but you’d have to give up a guy you think might be a superstar … is that a tough call to make? Kind of like Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz. Is it worth giving up a guy like Smoltz for a World Series?
A: Well, if you can guarantee me that it’s going to win a World Series then probably, yeah. You don’t get a chance to win too many World Series. But that’s the thing. When teams put a really huge investment in a move they expect to win. Some pretty big names got moved last year and while those teams made the playoffs, they didn’t necessarily make for a championship club.


Asked about getting a right-handed bat for the bench, Amaro said, “I’d like to. Do we need to? I’m not sure. We’ve picked up guys like Matt Stairs late.”


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Rollins Hits Sixth

Jimmy Rollins is back in the Phillies lineup tonight, but he is not hitting leadoff.

Charlie Manuel is having Rollins hit sixth, and it sounds like it could be for more than just tonight’s series finale against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Manuel thinks Rollins, who has just two hits in his last 23 at-bats, needs a different look. Fifty-four games into the season, Rollins is hitting just .217 with a .257 on-base percentage.

Rollins did not start yesterday, the third time this season Manuel has rested Rollins to try to get him going. Tonight is the fourth time this season Rollins has not hit leadoff. (He hit fifth the previous three times.)

While Rollins has hit .217 overall, he has hit .213 in 48 games in the leadoff spot, which ranks 39th out of 41 hitters who qualify for the statistic. His .249 on-base percentage is worst amongst those 41 leadoff hitters. His .294 slugging percentage is tied for 37th with Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell.


Matt Stairs is attending his daughter’s high school graduation today, which means the Phillies have just three bench players available: Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett and Chris Coste.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.

Manuel Clears the Record

manuel looks on.jpgI joked with Matt Stairs last night that the Phillies should start spending nights in Philadelphia in hotels so they think they’re on the road.

The Phillies are 9-14 at home and 16-6 on the road.

Charlie Manuel addressed his team’s issues at home again after last night’s 6-2 loss to the Marlins. Actually, Manuel addressed something he said Tuesday, which was blown out of proprtion Wednesday.

Manuel met with reporters in his office Tuesday afternoon, when he also addressed his team’s issues at home. Manuel was asked about the fan support, which he said has been great. But he also mentioned how before games, standing behind the batting cage during batting practice, he often hears fans thank his players for last season. He said that is great, but he also does not want to live in the past. He said he wants to win in 2009, too. That is when Manuel said the following about the fans:

“Maybe they should get on us a little.”

Now here’s an important piece of context to that quote: He wasn’t being serious. In fact, he laughed after he said it.

Manuel wasn’t really suggesting the fans need to start booing the Phillies more. He wasn’t suggesting the fans are playing a role in his team’s struggles at home. He cracked a joke. But because it got taken out of context, Manuel felt he had to address it after last night’s game.

He said he was trying to be funny. He said the team’s problems at home have nothing to do with the fans.



Barry Axelrod is the agent for Jake Peavy. He said last night that the Phillies have two of three things going for them in a potential trade: they’re in the National League and they’re a winner. The one strike against them? Geography. Peavy’s family has a home in Southern California. He has three small boys, and they prefer their father remain close to home where they can see him.

“It’s not a controlling factor, but it is a factor,” Axelrod said.

My sense is that Philadelphia simply is too far for Peavy to go, and that even if the Phillies could work a deal with the Padres that Peavy ultimately would veto it.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter.