Schwimer Shipped Off With Being Out Of Favor And A Bullpen Glut

Phils acquire first baseman Charles for Schwimer

 

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com | 02/23/2013 6:31 PM ET

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — There is more to the Michael Schwimer trade than just a glut of relief pitchers in Phillies camp.

 

Michael Schwimer

Michael Schwimer (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

 

The Phillies announced Saturday that they traded Schwimer to the Toronto Blue Jays for Minor League first baseman Art Charles. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said they shipped Schwimer to Toronto because they had depth in the bullpen, they needed to anticipate future roster moves and they needed power at the Minor League level. But Schwimer had fallen out of favor with the organization after he disputed the Phillies’ decision to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August, claiming he was injured, although there also had been other issues.

 

It might be more accurate to call this trade addition by subtraction.

 

“He’s a great kid,” said Amaro, when asked if last season’s dispute sparked the trade. “There’s nothing wrong with Schwim.”

 

Schwimer said he agreed, but added one caveat.

 

“The Phillies want to win, period, so they’re not going to let any petty differences affect them wanting to win,” he said. “So, in my opinion, I think that had absolutely zero effect.”

 

English: Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phill...

Cole Hamels

 

Major League Baseball rules prevent a team from sending a player to the Minor Leagues while injured. The Phillies optioned Schwimer to Lehigh Valley on Aug. 23. He said he was hurt and should have been placed on the disabled list, but the Phillies disagreed. Schwimer didn’t report to the team immediately as he sought a second opinion. And while no formal grievance has been filed, Schwimer said, “As far as I’m concerned it’s an open issue. Nothing has been filed. Nothing has been done. But it’s still definitely an open issue.”

 

“There’s a lot of things I can’t get into with that,” he added. “What I will say was there was definitely a disconnect in communication from what I … that’s all I’m going to say. It was nothing personal against them, it was nothing personal against me. As a young player, you really don’t know how to handle certain things, and in their opinion I handled things the wrong way, and in my opinion they handled things … it was just a communication difference.”

 

Schwimer also got into trouble earlier in the season when he tweeted roster moves before they became official. And while there was a personality conflict at times, Schwimer was highly complimentary to the organization Saturday.

 

“This is a business,” Schwimer said. “Everybody has to do what they think will make the team better. I respect their decision completely. I absolutely loved my time with the Phillies. They drafted me in 2008, called me up to the big leagues and … if I wasn’t a Phillie I would never have met my wife, so there’s a lot of life things and a lot of both on and off the field things that would never have happened if I wasn’t a Philadelphia Phillie. I loved the teammates and the team. I hope we meet in the World Series. It’s been a great time and a great ride.”

 

Even with a plethora of relievers in camp, it is unusual to trade a pitcher like Schwimer, who has plenty of potential. He had a 7.56 ERA through nine appearances last season, but a 3.46 ERA in his final 26 appearances. He also has options remaining, which makes him valuable.

 

“It’s an arm that should pitch in the big leagues,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “He’s got plenty of talent to pitch in the big leagues. He’s got to get some presence. He’s got to get some composure on the mound. He’s got to understand who he is and what he is as a pitcher. But he’s got to stick to doing things the right way instead of trying to be too macho at times and coming out of his delivery.”

 

Asked if he felt like he needed to make this trade now, Amaro said, “No, we didn’t have to. We could have waited, but we felt like it was the right thing to do right now for us.”

 

Charles, 22, hit .236 with 15 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .909 OPS combined with Rookie level Bluefield and Class A Vancouver.

 

“Charles is a guy that has got big pop,” Amaro said. “Whether he is going to be a Major League hitter at some point, we don’t know. But we know he has a lot of power and is a pretty decent athlete. He’s a big kid, and we’ll see — a lot of home runs, a lot of strikeouts, a lot of walks. We’ll see. We’re taking a chance on a guy.”

 

Hamels feeling urge to accept leadership role

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Nobody has said a word to Cole Hamels about Opening Day, which is fine with him.

 

Pitching the season opener would be nice, but …

 

“I’ve never really thought about it,” he said after pitching two scoreless innings Saturday in the Phillies’ Grapefruit League opener against Houston at Bright House Field. “It’s one game, one appearance and then you’re back into the normal baseball atmosphere. I’ve never really looked at it as this big sort of ordeal. I’ve always valued the playoffs. When you have to lead off the playoff game and a series, I think that’s pretty important. I think that’s kind of where it’s at. If you do get that honor, you just go out and stick to business and try to win a ballgame.”

 

Hamels is expected to start Opening Day on April 1, but that is more than a month away. Saturday simply represented the first step toward what Hamels hopes is a late run into October. That is what he is preparing for, and that is what is on his mind.

 

It is why he said he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

 

“I don’t think it’s the smartest thing for pitchers to do,” he said. “Ultimately, I think a lot of the pitchers have the right idea, too. You don’t see any of the big-time guys up there. I think ultimately our goal is to win a World Series, not the WBC. That’s something I’m always going to keep on track, that’s first and foremost — winning the World Series. I’m going to do everything I can for the Phillies and this organization and my teammates.”

 

So Hamels also acknowledged he could step into more of a leadership role this season. Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay said earlier this week it’s Hamels’ time to start Opening Day. He also said it’s time for him to become more vocal as a leader. Those comments came before closer Jonathan Papelbon said he hadn’t seen any leadership in the clubhouse since he has been here.

 

“I’m almost 30, so I should probably kick it in gear with the leadership role,” Hamels said. “I have been here for a long time and I’ve seen some leaders leave, like Pat [Burrell], [Jamie] Moyer and Jayson Werth and Aaron Rowand — those guys were big-time leaders. You can’t expect new guys to come in and lead a team. They have to feel it out. I agree with Pap. Last year, I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the bargain either. We are all guilty. We all have to step up and take a role and a presence in this team and get back to what we’re capable of doing, which is winning.”

 

Hamels used to talk about throwing perfect games and winning Cy Young Awards, but that is on the back burner. He said he sees a sense of urgency in the clubhouse this spring as some players sense the window of opportunity to win closing.

 

So the Cy Young Award? Eh, that would be a nice bonus.

 

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it would be nice to have one,” he said. “I would trade Cy Youngs for World Series rings any day of the week, and I think [Cliff Lee and Halladay] would, too. That’s the reason why we play baseball — to win championships, not a plaque to put on the wall.”

 

Utley steps right up in game action, feels ‘perfect’

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It had been a couple years of setbacks and soreness, but Chase Utley is finally back on the field.

 

He played three innings Saturday in the Phillies’ Grapefruit League opener against the Houston Astros at Bright House Field. It was his first Spring Training game since 2010 because of problems with chronically injured knees. Utley went 1-for-2 with one RBI, ripping the first pitch he saw from Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell up the middle in the first inning to score a run in the 8-3 loss.

 

“It was a good first step,” Utley said.

 

Utley isn’t sure how much he will play this spring or if he will be on a routine schedule like other players in camp, but he will not play Sunday against the Tigers in Lakeland. He is expected back in the lineup Monday against the Tigers in Clearwater.

 

“To be honest, I forgot what a normal Spring Training schedule is,” he said. “No, what Charlie [Manuel] and I have planned, there will be plenty of games under my belt. So far so good. Things are progressing well. … The last couple of Spring Trainings I was just trying to figure out a way to get on the field, and that didn’t work. This year, the stuff I did in the offseason has worked so far. Hopefully it will give me a chance to not only know what I need to do to get on the field but to actually make some progressions while playing.”

 

But the biggest question is: no pain in the knees?

 

“I feel good,” he said. “Perfect.”

 

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

 

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Phils and Baseball 2013 Now In Session With Spring Training Play

Utley, Hamels come out sharp in Phils’ spring opener

 

Second baseman notches RBI in first at-bat; starter tosses two shutout innings

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros opened their Grapefruit League schedules Saturday with a game at Bright House Field.

 

It was the Astros’ first game in the American League.

 

Spring training

 

It also was Phillies second baseman Chase Utley’s first Spring Training game since 2010 because of knee injuries. He ripped a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw from Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell in the first inning to score the Phillies’ first run in an 8-3 loss.

 

The Astros took a 3-2 lead in the fourth, when Nate Freiman — who had two RBIs — and Carlos Corporan each singled to knock in runs.

 

Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels threw two scoreless innings. Harrell allowed four hits, two runs and one walk in two innings.

 

“Physically, I feel really strong,” Hamels said.

 

Cole Hamels pitching a complete game shutout v...

 

“I was just mainly trying to locate,” said Harrell, who could be the Astros’ Opening Day starter. “I didn’t locate very well, and the results showed that. A couple of times I made good pitches and got a lot of ground balls, which was a plus. I was pulling off on my front side a little bit, and a few pitches were pretty flat. Then I started making [pitches in] the second inning when I went back out to make sure my front shoulder was closed. Just trying to work [at keeping] the ball down and work the sinker.”

 

Robbie Grossman notched his first of two RBIs with a single, and Freiman added his second RBI in a two-run Astros fifth before Brandon Barnes clubbed a solo home run in the seventh.

 

Second baseman Pete Orr mashed the Phillies’ first home run of the spring, a solo shot in the eighth.

 

The Phillies committed four errors.

 

Up next for Phillies: Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay will make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday against the Tigers in Lakeland at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on Gameday Audio. Halladay is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2012 season and says a revamped offseason training program has him moving in the right direction. Sunday will be his first true test in finding out if that program worked.

 

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

 

 

Phils Win 1st Spring Exhibition Over FSU 6-1

Phils’ first taste of game action is win over FSU

Luna homers as part of five-run seventh for Philadelphia

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. — A five-run seventh inning broke open a close game against Florida State University as the Phillies took a 6-1 victory in their opening contest of the spring.
Florida State University College of Motion Pic...

FSU Campus

The Phillies used Wednesday’s exhibition against the college team as an opportunity to get a look at some of their younger arms in camp.

Austin Hyatt is 25, but he still qualifies as young.

He started the game and struck out three in two perfect innings at Bright House Field.

“I’m one of the few starters whose first time it is in camp, I guess one of the younger guys, so I was happy to be called upon,” Hyatt said.

English: Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer J...

Joe Savery

Hyatt went 12-6 with a 3.86 ERA at Double-A Reading last season, making the Eastern League All-Star team in the process. Hyatt needs more seasoning in the Minor Leagues, and there certainly is no need to rush him with a big league rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley and Joe Blanton.

Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery, Phillippe Aumont and B.J. Rosenberg each threw a scoreless inning, for the Phils, who were paced on offense by Hector Luna (1-for-1, HR, two RBIs, walk) and Tyson Gillies (1-for-2, two runs, RBI, stolen base).

Hunter Pence doubled in his spring debut, while Pete Orr and Tuffy Gosewisch also recorded two-base hits.

Hyatt said he plans to soak in everything possible while he is in big league camp.

“I try to sit back and listen, pick up some things here and there,” Hyatt said. “But the guys, they make you feel welcome at the same time, so it’s not as intimidating as it may seem. It’s an honor to be around them.”

Hyatt is hoping to open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and continue the progress he made last season.

“It definitely gets more exciting when you get closer,” he said. “It’s what you kind of work your way up the Minors for, to get closer, so yeah, I realize if you pitch well for a season, you could be there. It is nice to think about.”

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Oswalt Back? Utley Rebound? Charlie Looking For Bats Crushing Balls

Oswalt remains unsigned; Philly return possible

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy Oswalt remains a free agent, and his agent said Thursday that Oswalt might wait to sign until later in the season.

Don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a run at him, if they need him.

Roy Oswalt

While there are multiple reports Oswalt’s top two choices are the Cardinals and Rangers, a source told MLB.com on Thursday that Oswalt also is very interested in returning to Philadelphia. It is not a stretch to think that if something happens to one of the Phils’ starters that Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would sign Oswalt as a replacement.


Hitting foremost on Manuel’s mind this spring

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Charlie Manuel is setting a clear tone for his hitters in Spring Training.

The Phillies manager talked with Jimmy Rollins for more than 15 minutes in his office Thursday, on the eve of the team’s first full-squad workout Friday.

“We talked about how we wanted to play, we talked some about hitting,” Manuel said. “It was good. Jimmy’s always been a good student as far as knowing how to play the game and all about the game, and I felt like before we got going here that I would want to sit down and talk to him.”

Manuel wants his team to take a better approach at the plate, and he wants his hitters to talk more about their hitting during the season. He hopes that will help the Phillies avoid the postseason offensive slumps that played a big role in ending their last two seasons.

“I want to talk to all of our guys,” Manuel said. “I want our guys to talk about hitting. I want guys like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins and [Ryan] Howard and [Shane] Victorino … I want to have more talk about hitting, talking about getting good balls to hit, not giving away at-bats, things like that.

“With our pitching and everything like that, we need to score the runs that we’re supposed to score. If we have a guy on third base with less than two outs early in the game, we need to score one run. If we have two guys on, we need to make sure we score one run, instead of a guy standing there maybe trying to bust the game open.”

Manuel also confirmed Rollins will be his leadoff hitter this season, which is not a surprise.

Utley has utmost confidence he’ll bounce back

By Todd Zolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies saved arguably the biggest storyline for last.

Almost every day since Spring Training started, the Phillies sent a different player to the media room at Bright House Field for a news conference. Jonathan Papelbon spoke last Friday about leaving the Red Sox and joining the Phillies. Cole Hamels talked Monday about his impending free agency. Roy Halladay spoke Tuesday about his continued pursuit of a World Series championship and his (embellished) encounter with an anaconda on the Amazon River. Ryan Howard talked Wednesday about his recovery from left Achilles surgery.

Chase Utley spoke Thursday.

Chase Utley rounding the bases after hitting a...

Utley could mean the most to the Phillies’ success in 2012. He certainly seems to be the most intriguing player to watch. While Howard’s recovery is important, he might not feel completely like himself until next season. And while Hamels’ future with the Phillies is key, Utley is trying to bounce back from the worst season of his career while playing with a chronic right knee condition.

If Utley bounces back this season, it would be a tremendous boost to the lineup and make the Phillies feel a little better about their future.

If he’s unable to bounce back, it could signal a premature end to one of the best second basemen of his generation.

Naturally, Utley likes his chances of turning around his career.

“I think I can overcome this without a doubt,” Utley said. “I have pride in how I play and the way I play and that’s not going to change.”

But pride can’t overcome an unhealthy body. Utley missed the first 46 games last season because of a chronic knee condition. Utley avoided surgery, which could have ended his career, but he could not keep his legs strong through the rest of the season. The result? He hit just .259 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .769 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 398 at-bats. Utley showed little of the power he had in the past. His .769 OPS was his worst since his rookie season in 2003.

It was a precipitous fall for Utley. He had a .915 OPS as a first-time everyday second baseman in 2005. It went to .906 in ’06, .976 in ’07, .915 in ’08, .905 in ’09 and .832 in ’10 before dipping under .800 last season.

Utley said he is confident he can return to his All-Star form.

“It feels significantly better,” he said. “Last year, it was very uncomfortable, especially the first week [of Spring Training]. Right now, I think I’m in a good place. The goal for me is to kind of stay in the same place and improve in small increments and not try to irritate it to the point where I’d have to slow down. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Utley changed his offseason workout routine, incorporating more stretching and manual therapy and not as much weightlifting. He tried to make his legs stronger without putting as much strain and pounding on his knees.

“This offseason, I was able to strengthen them, maybe not quite as much as in the past, but they’re definitely stronger than they were going into last year,” Utley said. “My goal now is to maintain that. Ideally, it would be nice to make them stronger, but at the same time, I have to keep them loose and take it easy.”

Utley will have a lighter workload this spring. Fewer hours on the field, maybe fewer games. The whole idea is keeping him as fresh and strong as possible for the season. And even then, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Utley won’t play more than 150 games this season.

“It’s something I’m always going to have to monitor, forever, to be honest,” Utley said of his knee. “But I think I have a game plan put together that I’m able to overcome it. But again, it’s something I’m going to have to deal with on a daily basis, and I’m willing to put the effort into making sure it’s OK.”

Utley struggled so much last season that Manuel finally pulled him from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. It’s likely Utley opens the season back in that spot, but Manuel might be forced to pull him again if he can’t knock in runs like he has in the past.

“It’s always frustrating when you’re not playing well,” Utley said. “Even when I am playing well, I’m still not satisfied. You still have to have that drive on a daily basis and try to figure out ways to help the team win.”

Utley had a chance to help his team in the ninth inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. He flied out to the warning track, momentarily giving Phillies fans in the ballpark hope that the team might tie the game.

Utley acknowledged there were a few balls last season that he thought he squared up, but couldn’t drive like he had in the past because of his weaker legs.

“I tried not to let it affect me mentally,” he said. “Once you think about it mentally, it’s going to change your approach and make you even more frustrated. And that’s something you don’t want to be. I tried to put it behind me. I tried to take every game the same way, try to find a way to win. Where that’s hitting a home run, getting on base, drawing a walk, getting hit by a pitch, those are the things I try to do on a daily basis.”

His ability to do all those things with regularity will play big in the Phillies’ success in 2012.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Raul Off To The Yanks

Phils get compensatory pick for Ibanez

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will get a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft because the New York Yankees signed Raul Ibanez to a contract on Monday.

Yankee Stadium on July 1, 2010

The Phillies had offered Ibanez salary arbitration last winter, with the understanding Ibanez would not accept it.

Philadelphia earlier received two draft picks as compensation when the Reds signed reliever Ryan Madson to a contract.

Howard’s recovery progressing nicely

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ryan Howard seems to be making progress.

Ryan Howard (left) and Manny Ramirez

Howard took swings in the batting cage, fielded ground balls, and jogged lightly around the diamond on Monday at Bright House Field. He is recovering from left Achilles surgery, which is expected to cost him at least the first month of the 2012 season. The Phillies are hopeful Howard could return to action sometime in May, but time will tell.

Howard will meet with reporters to discuss his recovery on Wednesday.

“He did good,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Really good. … We’re definitely not going to hurry him along. The trainers and the doctors, they check him out and they correspond with him every day. It’s not like we’re pushing him to get back. I think where he’s at — go ask [head athletic trainer] Scott Sheridan or [team physician Michael] Ciccotti — they’ll tell you they think he’s ahead of [schedule]. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to take him out there and run him through strenuous practice programs, right now. We want to monitor him and work him along. To say he’s going to start the season, that would be a reach. I think there’s a good chance he’s going to miss some time. How much? I don’t think it’s going to be as much as you think, but we’ll wait and see.”

Thome arrives at camp in great condition

CLEARWATER, Fla. — General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Sunday that Jim Thome‘s physical looked better than the one he took with the Phillies in 2003, which was the first year of his five-year, $85 million contract.

Jim Thome with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005

Thome, staying true to character on Monday, downplayed any accolades thrown his way.

“You try to come [to] camp in good shape, sure,” Thome said. “I’m a little lighter, now. I’m excited. I’m ready.”

Thome has been asked countless times since he signed with the Phillies in November about his ability to play first base this season. His answer remains unchanged: He will not know until he actually plays. Thome is taking ground balls, but nothing can simulate playing in a game like physically playing in a game. He hopes to work into that gradually. But until Thome plays his first Grapefruit League game next month, it seems unlikely anybody will have a better idea about it.

Thome also said he isn’t sure how many at-bats he thinks he needs to stay sharp at the plate.

“That’s up to Charlie [Manuel],” Thome said. “My role is to be a bench guy, but also to be ready to go when called upon — if that’s two days a week, if that’s four days a week, whatever position he puts me in. It’s up to the player to get ready for that — it’s not about the at-bats, it’s not about home runs, it’s not about any of that. It’s about winning a World Series, and trying to be part of a team that’s been successful for quite a while.”

Worth noting

• Right-hander Jose Contreras, who is recovering from right elbow surgery, could throw off a mound on Tuesday.

• Jimmy Rollins appeared in camp in fine spirits.

• Shane Victorino, who appears on Monday’s night episode of “Hawaii Five-O,” is expected in camp on Tuesday.

Charlie Manuel

• Manuel will be supporting Special Olympics Sarasota County, when he appears at the Forum Salon from 3-6 p.m. ET on March 1 in downtown Sarasota. A $5 donation gets an autograph from Manuel.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Zo Zone. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.