Results tagged ‘ Michael Young ’

Schmidt on Howard, Ruf and Brown

Mike Schmidt, Charlie ManuelMike Schmidt is in camp through March 20 as a special instructor. He spoke for about 25 minutes this morning at Bright House Field, touching on a variety of topics. Here are a few higlights:

On new third baseman Michael Young. “Golly, I was talking to (Phillies president) David Montgomery about him 10 minutes ago. What a lot of people don’t realize and I haven’t heard it, Michael Young could retire tomorrow and he would be a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. He’s probably two Michael Young years away from being a first ballot Hall of Famer. I don’t know if anybody has thought about that. I don’t know what his career hitting numbers are, but he’s a little like Derek Jeter, is he not? He’s that kind of player and he’s had that kind of career. Obviously it’s not playing in New York, but if he played in New York, imagine what people would be saying about Michael Young’s career? Somebody would have mentioned the Hall of Fame a long time ago.”

On connecting with Ryan Howard early in camp. “I’ve got to tell you right out of the chute, Ryan Howard to me is very interested in my input in his hitting. To me that makes me really feel good. We’ve chatted over the years about hitting. I’ve always been a Ryan Howard fan, but he’s picking my brain a little bit more. He looks good. He’s thin. He’s doing some of the things we talk about. It’s not going in one ear and out the other. He’s taking it all in. I’m only in my second day here and I’m really excited. I feel like I’ve made more strides in my temporary coaching role than I ever had to this point. Of course we’ll see in a couple weeks how it all works out as they get game at-bats.”

On how he can help Howard the most. “He’s stuck in a game situation against the best pitcher, one of the best left-handers in the league, probably 60-70 times more than other any hitter in the league. He probably creates 20 jobs in the Major Leagues. There’s 20 left-handers that wouldn’t be in the Major Leagues if Ryan Howard weren’t in the major leagues, right? I guess what we’re kind of working on is a mindset that may allow him to become a little stronger in those at-bats. A little more contact. He’s still going to strikeout. I’m in the top 10 all time in strikeouts so I’m pretty comfortable with striking out. But I think he needs to and we were talking about ways where we might get him to be a little less strikeout prone in those kind of (Jonny) Venters at-bats, against Atlanta late in the game, when you get that nasty left-hander to get him out. We need contact in this at-bat. I don’t care if it’s a grounder to second or a chopper up the middle. Even if it’s on the first pitch or second pitch. Less foul balls and two-strike vulnerability in those at-bats. He has bought into the discussion 100 percent.”

On Darin Ruf. “At this point I’m a big fan. I chatted with him really quickly, told him, ‘Congratulations on your great start with the Phillies in the Major Leagues.’ I think he opened a lot of eyes when he came up. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I would guess they want him to play … I just like him. He’s a great young kid. He has no fear as a hitter against tough right-handers. You see that sometimes. He can give you a hell of an at-bat against a nasty right-handed pitcher. He’s very mature for 26. I wouldn’t discount him being your Opening Day starter (in left field). Let’s wait and see. He has everything you need to win that job.”

On Domonic Brown. “From a hitting standpoint, even now he might be ahead of where I was at that time, a little better idea of hitting. I couldn’t hit a ball to the opposite field to save my butt back then. I couldn’t hit a curve ball, I couldn’t hit a slider. But I sure could hit a long home run down the left-field line and play third base. I was afforded the time to make adjustments and sort of become an everyday, consistent Major League hitter. He doesn’t have that luxury. He has Darin Ruf hounding him … he’s got like six guys who want his position. For him to get that guarantee of, ‘You’re our left fielder, you’re getting 500 at-bats’ is very, very hard. … It’s about time that Domonic does the things that everyone thinks he can do. And not do them over a day, but does them over a month, then two months. And that’s when he gets his name inserted in the lineup every day.”

Green Likes Phillies, But Kids Need to Step Up

Dallas Green, Charlie ManuelIt’s always interesting to get Dallas Green‘s take on the Phillies. He has spent a lifetime in baseball, spending the recent past working in the Phillies’ front office as an adviser. The man has his opinions.

I wanted to talk to him yesterday about the past and if he sees any relation to the Phillies’ future. The Phillies won three consecutive National League East championships from 1976-78 before stumbling badly in 1979. Players knew entering the 1980 season they basically needed to get things turned around or the front office would make some big changes. Of course, they won the World Series. I asked Green if he thought there were any comparisons between the 1979-80 and the 2012-13 teams.

Read that story here.

But Green also offered his take on the current Phillies. Here is some of what he said:

Q: Can this team compete?
A: It’s a good club. The age business in baseball isn’t as stark as other sports in my mind. There are ways to rest guys. There are ways to take care of themselves, even though 162 is a hell of a grind. But our guys are very experienced. Jimmy (Rollins) knows how. Unfortunately he shows it too many times running to first, but Pete (Rose) never let age get to him. He didn’t have a great year in ’80, but he played his ass off. And experience carried him. Boonie (Bob Boone) was starting to show some age. Bull (Greg Luzinski) was breaking down a little bit too often. Smitty (Mike Schmidt) was still sound, but he was in his 30s. (Manny) Trillo, same way. Bake (McBride), same way. (Larry) Bowa, same way. There are a lot of similarities.

Q: Do you like the moves the Phillies made in the offseason?
A: I love Michael Young. I think he epitomizes what Chase (Utley) brings: the team value, the work ethic that’s important to a club like this. I mean, we lived on natural talent for so long. We really did. We could out-talent a lot of teams. We can’t do that anymore. You cannot go out there and just bang guys around and say, ‘We’re the Phillies.’ Now you’ve got to respect the other guys and figure out a way to win the game. And that takes some thought process in game situations. Those are very, very important. Game situation baseball is what I preach and what I live by. You can’t always hit a home run. You can’t always out-talent guys. You can’t always have good days. So you’re going to have a bad day, where you say, ‘If we can just get a run.’ That hurts pitching when you can’t.

Q: Would it surprise you if this team made the playoffs?
A: Oh, no. It wouldn’t surprise me. It really is expected. Again, there’s ifs. God damn, you’ve got to stay healthy. And we’ve got to have a couple of the young guys come through here. Whether it’s (Domonic) Brown or (Darin) Ruf or whoever. Somebody has to step forward and play baseball. Somebody has to. Even in the pitching. We’ve got a young bullpen. (Mike) Adams obviously is a big fit for us. And of course we’ve got (Jonathan) Papelbon. He’s one of the best. And then (Antonio) Bastardo, one day he’s good the next we don’t know what we have. And the rest of them are young. And they’re the guys that have to come forward. At least keep us in the god damn game in the sixth and seventh inning so if we can mount comebacks we can mount comebacks.

Q: You had some young guys step up in ’80. This team does need some young guys to step up this year.
A: It’s the same old thing. If you’re a prospect eventually you’ve got to put numbers up. You’ve got to put numbers up. I’ve always felt that in the Minor Leagues. I said how in the hell can I bring a guy hitting .220 over 140 games to the big leagues and expect him to be a big production guy? You can’t do it. Sooner or later in the Minor Leagues you’ve got to put some numbers up. And that gives you enough confidence to put you out here. It’s like Ruf. A couple years ago probably half of us didn’t think he could play. But he worked at his game, he got himself in better shape and he started popping the ball. That’s his style. He’s a home run hitter. He isn’t going to win a Gold Glove. You’re not getting a Gold Glove. And Brownie. I love the guy. I really do. Brownie has to step up. I read about opportunity. Gene Mauch used to tell us, ‘Here’s your opportunity. When I give you the baseball, go get an out. When I tell you to pinch-hit get a hit.’ That’s the opportunity. I’ve always impressed guys — that’s your opportunity. You couldn’t ask for more opportunities than he’s had for the production he’s given us. Opportunity is opportunity. ‘What’s my role? What’s my role?’ The role is if you make the 25 (man roster), if you’re asked to do something do it.

Can Young Play Third Base?

Michael Young stood in front of his locker this morning at Bright House Field and answered a familiar question.

Can he play third base?

Placido Polanco answered the same question in Spring Training 2010 after he spent previous seasons playing second base with the Tigers. Now Young, like Polanco, must prove he can handle third again. He played there regularly with the Rangers from 2009-10 (and 358 games in his career) before shuffling around the field the previous two seasons. And although he is not known for his glove like Polanco, the Phillies hope Young can handle the position competently.

“I’ve played there before,” Young said. “I have experience playing third base. I’ve had a full season over there. I’ve played in the World Series at third base before. As far as re-acclimating myself to it, it’s nothing a little hard work can’t fix. That’s why I was looking forward to getting down here.”

Young, 36, spends his offseasons in Dallas, so he worked indoors, which included fielding ground balls.

“Those are things that are part of normal offseason preparation heading into a season,” he said. “Then you get down here and you’re ready to go and the second they say, ‘Go, in Spring Training, you put your work in and you’re ready for Opening Day.”

While defense certainly will be important, the Phillies hope Young produces offensively. He suffered a career-low .682 OPS last season, but he said he believes he solved a mechanical flaw in his swing late in the year, which allowed him to hit .301 with an .801 OPS in September. If he can replicate that success over a six-month span in 2013, the Phillies will be thrilled.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Young said. “Whatever (manager Charlie Manuel) needs me to do, I’ll do. I know right now my role is to play third base every day and it’s something I’m looking forward to, but I’m prepared to do anything my team needs me to do to help them win games.”

*

Young lives in Dallas, so he got the Are you a Cowboys fan?!?!?! question. He said yes. Honestly, if that bothers anybody here I’m worried. The guy lives in Dallas, of course he’s a Cowboys fan. Better yet, who cares?

Why Not Wait and See?

Roy HalladayDuring our meet-and-greet Tuesday with Chad Durbin, a reporter asked him what it’s like entering the season with the Nationals and Braves considered the top two teams in the National League East.

“That’s the sentiment right now, but that can change in a month as soon as the games are played,” Durbin replied.

Wait for some games to be played. That sounds pretty reasonable. But why be reasonable when it’s more fun to speak in absolutes?

On paper I can’t argue the Phillies are the third-best team in the division. The Nationals won 98 games last season. The Braves won 94. The Phillies won just 81. And while I know the Phillies have been telling everybody they played .600 baseball from July 31 through the end of the regular season, those two teams are in a better position to win (especially the Nationals) while the Phillies have a ton of questions entering camp in a couple weeks:

  • Can Roy Halladay bounce back?
  • Can Chase Utley stay healthy and produce like a true No. 3 hitter?
  • Can Ryan Howard hit left-handed pitching and produce like a $20 million cleanup hitter?
  • Can Carlos Ruiz replicate his offensive numbers without the benefits of PEDs?
  • Can Michael Young return to form and play third base regularly?
  • Can Delmon Young play right field?
  • Who in the world is going to play left field?

Those seven questions constitute six of the team’s eight positions in the field, plus its ace. Oof. That’s ugly. And based on e-mails and tweets this offseason, most of you agree. There are a lot of angry, upset, depressed and pessimistic Phillies fans. But relax for a moment. Follow Durbin’s lead and give them until June 1. That’s just two months of baseball. I really don’t see any need to get bent out of shape on Jan. 31. What’s the point? A colleague recalled earlier this week how experts gushed over the Marlins and Angels last winter, annointing them the clear-cut winners of the offseason. Both teams missed the postseason — the Marlins in spectacular fashion — while nearly nobody had the Nationals coming together so quickly, the A’s winning the AL West or the Orioles winning an AL Wild Card.

Another colleague posed an interesting question last week: Do the Braves’ additions of the Upton brothers and Chris Johnson make up for the losses of Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn? The Braves might lead baseball in five-tool outfielders, but are they so much improved they’re completely uncatchable?

The Phillies need quite a few things to go right this season if they expect to win the division. The odds of that happening are not good. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to see them make the postseason. Their chances might not be as strong as the past few years, but this team is not doomed before camp opens. But that school of thought is not popular. It’s much better to declare clear-cut winners and losers and speak in grand absolutes. Delmong Young? Disaster waiting to happen. Michael Young? He won’t be able to play third base effectively every day. Utley? Can’t stay healthy. Halladay? Too many innings on that right arm.

Those things might end up being completely true. The Phillies might flat-out stink. They were on pace to lose 91 games on July 29. And with a few injuries and their worst fears coming true at a couple other positions, this team could lose 90 games this year. But is it more likely they lose 90 or win 88 and win the second Wild Card? I’d say 88, but I’m going to wait and see. I’m heading to Clearwater in a couple weeks. I’m going to grab some breakfast at Lenny’s, enjoy the sun and watch everything unfold.

It’s not the worst idea in the world. It’s much less stressful, too.

So What’s Manuel’s Lineup?

rollins 0517So, if everybody is healthy, what do you think Charlie Manuel‘s Opening Day lineup will be?

That’s a big if, obviously. Chase Utley hasn’t played in a single Grapefruit League game since 2010 and Delmon Young could miss the first couple weeks of the season because of an injured ankle. But if everybody is healthy, what will it be?

Here’s my best guess:

  1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Young, RF
  6. Domonic Brown/Darin Ruf/John Mayberry Jr., LF
  7. Erik Kratz, C
  8. Ben Revere, CF

Here is what Manuel said about Delmon Young hitting fifth, providing that right-handed power like Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth in the past:

“Yeah, he can hit fifth,” he said. “He definitely can hit fifth. I think once we get to Spring Training and put him in and let him play, I think hitting is definitely his strong point. I think he’s a good hitter.”

Where is Revere hitting?

“He can hit in the top of the lineup to somewhere down toward the bottom. It kind of depends on how he looks. I have seen the guy hit three times. I don’t go on somebody telling me where he can hit. I go on what I see, once I see him.”

If Delmong Young hits five, can Michael Young hit second?

“Yeah. First of all, we can do a lot of things. But also, too, as I explained, if we are going to give people time off and things like that, then we will have different lineups. We are going to have completely different lineups sometimes.”

Note: Scream so hard your face turns red, but I don’t see Rollins moving out of the leadoff spot. That could change once the season starts or if Manuel falls in love with Revere, but Manuel likes Rollins at the top of the lineup.

Opening Day Lineup: Take 1

Charlie Manuel, Chase UtleyCharlie Manuel talked a bit about his 2013 lineup this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park:

“Who we’ve got on the corners in the outfield, that’s who’s going to dictate where our lineup falls.”

For the moment, the Phillies have Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in the corners. Everybody in the organization would like to see them add a reliable, proven, right-handed-power-hitting corner outfielder, but nothing has happened yet. If nothing happens before Spring Training, Manuel will have to work with Ruf, Brown, Mayberry and Nix.

He said “without a doubt” the Phillies could platoon in both left and right field.

“But at the same time that’s something that will have to be worked out,” Manuel said. “If it’s what we’ve got right now, if that’s what we’ve got to go with, I think going into Spring Training I’ll play everybody and just see what happens. … We’ll just wait and see. Since we’ve been here our organization has always tried to improve our team, and if we can that’s what we’re going to do.”

Hey, maybe Ruben Amaro Jr. has something up his sleeve.

“I’m not leaning into that,” Manuel said. “I’m always going to fish. Of course I want him to get somebody good or big or whatever, but at the same time I think we’ve gotten much better. Young is definitely going to help us. So is Ben.”

Knowing it is only Dec. 10 and plenty can change before the Phillies’ April 1 season opener in Atlanta, here’s my best guess at Manuel’s Opening Day lineup:

(more…)

Phillies Trade for Young Heats up

Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday the Phillies had made progress at the Winter Meetings.

It turns out they are getting closer to finding a third baseman.

Sources said this morning they were in serious discussions about acquiring Rangers infielder Michael Young with everybody essentially waiting on Young to accept or reject the move. Young has full no-trade rights. If he said yes, the Phillies could feel a little better about their prospects at third base going into the season.

The Rangers are willing to eat some of Young’s $16 million contract, although it is unclear how much.

Young is a highly popular player and known as a good clubhouse guy in Texas, but his production suffered a steep decline last season. He hit .277 with eight home runs, 67 RBIs and a .682 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last season. He hit .338 with 11 homers, 106 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 2012, so the Phillies are hoping he can move back toward those 2011 numbers, even just a little bit.

It remains to be seen who the Phillies will include in the deal, but it is doubtful the Phillies would include a significant piece from their 25-man roster to acquire Young considering he is declining production and he is in the final year of his contract. It also is unclear how much Young can handle third base. He has spent the majority of his career at shortstop and second base, but played 25 games there last season. Scouts said earlier this week they weren’t sure he could play there an entire season.

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