The Phillies Golden Age 2004 – 2012.. The Rise & Fall?

by bloggo schloggo aka charles oliver

A look into what we are witnessing as possibly the beginning of the end of what has to be considered historically as the Phillies finest 9 year run in their 130 years as a professional baseball club.

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Am...

Some may argue that the Phillies run over the course between 1975 and 1983 was an equal if not better 9 year period of prowess.

Of course you may also consider the world possibly ending in December according to the Mayan Calendar followers.

  • Philadelphia Phillies (8868-9890 W-L, 1890 – 2012) – 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants, and 14 Playoff Appearances
  • Philadelphia Quakers (390-424 W-L, 1883 – 1889)
  • Overall (9258-10314 W-L, 1883 – 2012) – 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants, and 14 Playoff Appearances
A comparison of the two 9 year periods –

2004-2012

Rk Year W L WL% Finish Playoffs R RA BatAge PitchAge Top Player Managers
1 2012 21 22 .488 5th of 5 172 169 31.3 30.0 C.Ruiz (2.0) Charlie Manuel (21-22)
2 2011 102 60 .630 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-2) 713 529 31.4 29.2 C.Lee (8.8) Charlie Manuel (102-60)
3 2010 97 65 .599 1st of 5 Lost NLCS (4-2) 772 640 31.8 31.1 R.Halladay (8.1) Charlie Manuel (97-65)
4 2009 93 69 .574 1st of 5 Lost WS (4-2) 820 709 31.3 31.2 C.Utley (7.9) Charlie Manuel (93-69)
5 2008 92 70 .568 1st of 5 Won WS (4-1) 799 680 30.1 30.6 C.Utley (9.0) Charlie Manuel (92-70)
6 2007 89 73 .549 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-0) 892 821 28.8 30.6 C.Utley (7.9) Charlie Manuel (89-73)
7 2006 85 77 .525 2nd of 5 865 812 29.3 30.5 C.Utley (6.8) Charlie Manuel (85-77)
8 2005 88 74 .543 2nd of 5 807 726 30.0 29.7 C.Utley (7.2) Charlie Manuel (88-74)
9 2004 86 76 .531 2nd of 5 840 781 29.3 29.8 B.Abreu (6.3) Larry Bowa (85-75)

1975 – 2012

Rk Year W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs R RA BatAge PitchAge Top Player Managers
30 1983 90 72 1 .556 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-1) 696 635 31.9 30.3 J.Denny (7.2) Corrales (43-42) & Owens (47-30)
31 1982 89 73 0 .549 2nd of 6 664 654 31.0 31.9 M.Schmidt (7.1) Pat Corrales (89-73)
32 1981 59 48 0 .551 3rd of 6 L LDS (3-2) 491 472 31.3 30.3 M.Schmidt (7.5) Dallas Green (59-48)
33 1980 91 71 0 .562 1st of 6 W WS (4-2) 728 639 30.6 28.6 S.Carlton (9.8) Dallas Green (91-71)
34 1979 84 78 1 .519 4th of 6 683 718 30.7 28.3 M.Schmidt (7.6) Ozark (65-67) & Green (19-11)
35 1978 90 72 0 .556 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-1) 708 586 29.9 30.3 M.Schmidt (6.0) Danny Ozark (90-72)
36 1977 101 61 0 .623 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-1) 847 668 29.4 29.7 M.Schmidt (8.7) Danny Ozark (101-61)
37 1976 101 61 0 .623 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-0) 770 557 28.8 29.8 M.Schmidt (7.9) Danny Ozark (101-61)
38 1975 86 76 0 .531 2nd of 6 735 694 27.7 27.3 M.Schmidt (7.4) Danny Ozark (86-76)
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2012.

Philadelphia skyline.

Question Marks –

What fans have had in the back of their minds as this season continues to unfold are now becoming evermore present in the forefront and increasing in numbers. There is something in the air. It’s tangible and you can smell it. No it’s not the stink of the refineries wafting across the city. It is emanating from “The Bank”, Citizens Bank Park.

I watched Cliff Lee surrender 5 runs the other day and Roy Halladay do the same last night. Overall they weren’t bad efforts. Although not what you would expect from either starter. When you have a lineup that produces 0 – 3 runs most nights it is a problem. A major one at that. Cole Hamels suddenly is the go to guy that is pumping out consistent starts and victories.

Actually the Phils are batting well as a team hits and average wise. How many times have the Phils had two runners in scoring position with 0 to 2 outs and the innings ended with a big fat goose egg?

Batting Chart

It’s all about power. A miserable lack of it. It became glaringly clear toward the end of last season and after the team’s quick exit from the playoffs. It was obvious that this was the main issue that needed to be addressed in the off season. The Phils did take care of it – well sort of. The lack of power from the bench was given a boost with the acquisitons on veterans like Thome, Wiggington, Nix, etc. As far as the everyday lineup goes zilch was done.

If you’ll remember at the latter part of last season with the Phils whimpering to the finish line  (the 1st round of the playoffs defeat to the Cardinals) they did so with Utley and Howard in the lineup. Everyone is sitting on their hands waiting for the second coming believing Utley and Howard will be their saving grace. Will that be the case? One has to wonder with both players numbers waning. The timely hitting morphing into whiffs and groundout double plays. Scoring opportunities fizzling and rallies killed.

Charlie Manuel

Surely with Utley and Howard back in the daily mix the Phillies will be a better team. But how much better? Will it be enough to turn the season around? With the Braves, Nationals, Mets and Marlins all far improved and knocking on the NL East”s Division Champs door will the Phillies win 102 or 82 games?  When Utley returns how long will he remain healthy?   It’s a shame a guy that once looked to be a sure fire future Hall Of Famer has had his career basically turned upside down with injury upon injury.

With the Phillies fortunes currently on the wane the fans are starting to get a bit restless. Especially with poor play on the basepaths and runners left on base. How much longer will the teams 250+ sellout streak continue? Have you noticed a change in the sound of the crowd? The Phils Phaithful are smart and sharp. They know their baseball and how the game is supposed to be played. With the support of the fans attendance the dough has been rolling in to enable big names and big contracts to happen in Philly. What happens when the coffers start to dwindle? If things continue on the current course will the Phillies initiate a fire sale come mid-season and head into a new direction?

As with the game of life all things will be answered it’s all a matter of time and circumstances. With just 1/4 of the season gone anything is possible and anything can happen. Just ask the 2011 World Champion St’ Louis Cardinals.

“I’d love to change the world but I don’t know what to do. So I’ll leave it up to you.”  ~ Ten Years After 1969 

The Future From Within

Top 15 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

by Marc Hulet

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have a strong farm system, but it certainly is an intriguing one. Considering how much talent the organization had to give up to acquire the likes of Roy HalladayCliff Lee (the first time), Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, that’s an impressive accomplishment. And its perhaps even more impressive when you figure in the number of high draft picks the club has had to deal away to assemble its impact ensemble. Still, all those trades have definitely hurt this organization’s minor-league depth:

1. Trevor May, RHP
BORN: Sept. 23, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 fourth round, Washington HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Fifth

SCOUTING REPORT: May is a big, strong pitcher with a solid repertoire that includes a 90mph to 95 mph fastball. He also has a potentially plus curveball, a changeup and a new-found slider. His delivery gets out of whack at times, which causes his command to suffer. As a player from a cold-weather state, he’s always been a little behind prospects from sunny weather locales, such as California, Arizona and Florida — but he’s definitely playing catch-up now.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Brody Colvin took a step back in 2011, and Jarred Cosartwas traded to Houston, so May’s breakout season was more than welcomed by the organization. The right-hander pitched a career high 144.1 innings and had a 2.69 FIP. He maintained an outstanding strikeout rate (12.10 K/9), but his control remained inconsistent (4.05 BB/9) — and that is the biggest thing preventing him from becoming an elite pitcher.

YEAR AHEAD: May will move up to double-A in 2012 and he isn’t far from contributing to the big-league team. Still, he needs to polish his secondary pitches and improve his control.

CAREER OUTLOOK: May has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter – especially if he commands his fastball at the major-league level. He has the frame to become an innings-eater.

2. Jesse Biddle, LHP
BORN: Oct. 22, 1991
EXPERIENCE: Two seasons
ACQUIRED: 2010 first round (27th overall), Pennsylvania HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Eighth

SCOUTING REPORT: A Philadelphia native, Biddle changed his commitment to the University of Oregon and signed with his hometown team. So far, it appears that he made a smart decision. The lefty has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter, especially with his solid two-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball and potentially plus changeup. He’s also dabbled with both a curveball and a slider.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Biddle has a strong frame and he showed his durability by increasing his innings total from 2010 to 2011. His overall numbers would have looked even better if not for his slow start in April. He allowed 13 earned runs that month (16.1 IP) and, by comparison, just 14 in the season’s second half (66 IP).

YEAR AHEAD: If he has a breakout season, Biddle could challenge May for the organization’s top prospect in 2012. The southpaw should open the year in high-A ball but he could be in double-A by the beginning of July. The big things he needs to work on are his control and the development of a consistent breaking ball.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Biddle is an exciting young player and he’s a few improvements away from being one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He could end up pitching near the top of the rotation before too long. The opportunity to watch — and potentially learn from — veterans Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee could make a big impact on his career.

3. Sebastian Valle, C
BORN: July 24, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2006 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Sixth

SCOUTING REPORT: If he were a little more patient, Valle would probably be discussed among the Top three-to-five catching prospects in the game. Offensively, he flashes above-average power due to good bat speed, but he doesn’t always make contact with best pitches. Early in his career behind the plate, he struggled throwing out base runners — but he has improved immensely during the past two seasons. He calls a good game and he has strong receiving skills.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Valle had a decent year at high-A in 2011. He produced the second-highest batting average of his career at .284 (.360 BABIP), but his power dropped from .174 ISO in 2010 to .109 last season. His modest patience also took a step back (his walk rate fell from 5.6% to 3.6%). Valle might benefit from returning to high-A ball for the first month or two in 2012.

YEAR AHEAD: Valle didn’t hit well in the Mexican Winter League, so double-A may be a bit of a stiff test for his over-aggressive bat in 2012. Even so, he should reach the majors perhaps as quickly as the second half of 2013.

CAREER OUTLOOK: The Mexico native is definitely the Phillies’ backstop of the future and he should be able to offer at least as much value as current starter Carlos Ruiz. If Valle can’t get his impatient ways under control, though, he’ll likely fail to reach his full potential.

4. Brody Colvin, RHP
BORN: Aug. 14, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Three seasons
ACQUIRED: 2009 seventh round, Louisiana HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Fourth

SCOUTING REPORT: When he’s on, Colvin shows that he has the makings of three average — or better — pitches. His fastball can reach 97 mph, but it often sits in the low-90s. He also features a curveball and a changeup. Colvin doesn’t have the smoothest mechanics and he throws across his body, which increases ball movement but hurts his control and also raises injury concerns.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Colvin battled injuries in 2011 and his numbers suffered. After pitching 138 innings in 2010, he managed just 116 in 2011. His strikeout rate also dropped – from 7.83 to 5.97.

YEAR AHEAD: Colvin could begin 2012 back in high-A ball. He has good stuff but he hasn’t dominated at any level. With improved command of his pitches, he could really break out – especially if he can shake the injury bug.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Colvin has yet to prove his durability, but he has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 starter down the road. There has also been talk of trying to develop him into a high-leverage reliever. The likes of Trevor May and Jesse Biddlecould make that move more palatable.

5. Jon Pettibone, RHP
BORN: July 19, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 third round, California HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: Pettibone is nowhere near as flashy as some of the other arms on this list, but he has the potential to develop into a No. 3 starter. He throws in the low 90s with his fastball but it can touch 94 mph. He also has a good changeup and a decent slider. His control is above-average for this stage of his development.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Pettibone produced some sparkling numbers at high-A ball in 2011, including a 2.92 FIP and a 1.90 BB/9. His strikeout rate, though, was low for the second consecutive season (6.43 K/9). He handled both right- and left-handed hitters equally well in 2011.

YEAR AHEAD: Pettibone should spend the year in double-A, although his above-average control gives him a chance to eventually reach triple-A in 2012 — and the major leagues some time in 2013. Further development of his secondary pitches will help him compete at the upper levels of the minors.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Although he can get some zip on his heater, Pettibone is more of a pitch-to-contact, control-type hurler. He has a big, strong frame to be an innings-eater and there is definitely room for him to improve as he learns to pitch off his fastball.

6. Maikel Franco, 3B
BORN: Aug. 26, 1992
EXPERIENCE: Two seasons
ACQUIRED: 2010 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: The breakout hitting prospect of the year, Franco wasn’t on anyone’s radar entering the 2011 season. He showed a solid eye at the plate and displayed good power potential, although he’s still learning to drive the ball consistently. Franco doesn’t exactly have an athletic body but he plays the position well and has a strong arm.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Franco did not turn 19 until part way through 2011, making his numbers all that more impressive. He hit for average and for gap power in short-season ball, while also showing a solid eye at the plate (10.9 BB%). He didn’t perform well during a late-season promotion to low-A.

YEAR AHEAD: The third baseman will take another shot at low-A in 2012 and he should spend the entire season there working on driving the ball. The organization lacks third base depth so another strong year could increase Franco’s hype.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Franco has the potential to be at least average on both defense and at the plate. He will have to watch his conditioning, though, as he’s already thick through the trunk. He’ll also need to see his power translate from gap to over-the-fence power if he’s going to be an everyday player at the hot corner.

7.Jiwan James, OF
BORN: April 11, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 22nd round, Florida HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Seventh

SCOUTING REPORT: James has a lot of potential but the organization left him unprotected during this year’s Rule 5 draft and he went unclaimed. The outfielder has been hitting for just two seasons after originally turning pro as a pitcher. Injury woes, though, put an end to his time on the mound. James could develop into a three- or four-tool player with his power being the least developed skill. He has good defensive skills and base-running speed but both areas remain raw.

YEAR IN REVIEW: In just his third year as a hitter, James spent the season in high-A and held his own. The switch-hitter showed that he’s much stronger from the left side of the plate (.721 OPS vs .608 OPS in 2011) and the organization might want to abandon the switch-hitting to help accelerate his learning. As mentioned above, James has good speed but he  got nabbed 16 times in 47 stolen-base attempts.

YEAR AHEAD: Double-A will be a stiff test for James in 2012, as he’ll have to tone down his aggressive ways at the plate. He’ll likely needs a full year of development at double-A before moving up.

CAREER OUTLOOK: I’m more than a little surprised that no one took a chance on James in the Rule 5 draft but there are still a number of questions surrounding his game. If the organization is patient, though, he could develop into a valuable contributor in Philadelphia.

8. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
BORN: Jan. 7, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 first round (11th overall), Quebec HS (near Seattle)
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: To say Aumont has had an up-and-down career is an understatement. A former Mariners’ first round pick, Aumont was the top prize when Philly traded for Cliff Lee. Originally a starter, Aumont was moved to bullpen permanently. The move allows him to focus on his two plus pitches: a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a curveball. Both his command and control need a fair bit of work.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Combined between two levels, Aumont struck out 78 batters in 53.2 innings — so that gives you a bit of an idea of how good he could be at the major-league level. Perhaps even more impressively, he allowed just two home runs all season and posted an outstanding ground-ball rate in double-A.

YEAR AHEAD: Aumont had solid numbers in both double-A and triple-A, giving him an outside shot of breaking camp with the Phillies in 2012. More likely than not, though, he’ll be given the opportunity to build up his confidence (and sharpen his command/control) with a few more months in the minors.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Aumont clearly has the stuff to close games someday, but it remains to be seen if he has the emotional fortitude to handle the role. At this point, I’m betting against that — but he’s still young and he has time to mature as a pitcher. At worst, he should have a Kyle Farnsworth-type career.

9. Justin De Fratus, RHP
BORN: Oct. 21, 1987
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 11th round, California CC
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: Although not as high-profile as Aumont, De Fratus also benefited from a permanent move from the starting rotation to the bullpen. It caused his stuff to jump up a notch and he reached the majors in 2011. His repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a slider and an occasional changeup.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Like Aumont, De Fratus split his season between double-A and triple-A (while also pitching four innings in the majors). He struck out 99 batters in 75.1 cumulative minor-league innings. He also produced above-average ground-ball rates.

YEAR AHEAD: De Fratus has a very good opportunity to break camp with the Phillies in 2012 but he should be eased into late-game situations and might mostly see action in the sixth and seventh innings.

CAREER OUTLOOK: De Fratus is a big, strong pitcher who has been extremely durable to this point. He could have a lot of value in the Phillies ‘pen next year. He’ll likely top out as a high-leverage, eighth-inning reliever. No matter how you slice it, he was an exciting find while he was pitching for a small community college.

10. Larry Greene, OF
BORN: Feb. 10, 1993
EXPERIENCE: Prep
ACQUIRED: 2011 supplemental 1st round (39th overall), Georgia HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

SCOUTING REPORT: The organization’s first pick in the 2011 draft (39th overall), Greene is a raw but powerful Georgia outfielder. There are some concerns about his bat speed but he hits massive home runs when he makes contact. He’s expected to produce a lot of strikeouts and not hit for much average — but he’s also still very young.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Greene signed too late to play pro ball in 2011.

YEAR AHEAD: The outfielder will likely open 2012 in extended spring training before heading to rookie ball in June. He will be a slow mover who could spend two years in short-season ball before hitting full-season A-ball in 2014.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Greene has the potential to develop into a 30-home run machince if he makes necesary adjustments and gets his bat started a little earlier. He likely won’t provide much defensive vale and he could end up moving to first base if he can’t hack it in left field.

The Next Five
11. Freddy Galvis, SS: I’m not a huge Galvis fan, but he has potential value as a young, switch-hitting infielder with a plus glove. His bat took a big step forward in 2011 and he hit for a more consistent average and showed more gap power.

12. Roman Quinn, SS/OF: The club’s second round pick, Quinn has 80 speed on the base paths. He’s learning to switch hit, which could increase his value as it will help him beat out even more infield hits. His ultimate position will also impact his overall value; he was an amateur shortstop but he’ll likely end up in center field.

13. Lisalberto Bonilla: The right-hander had a nice season and showed good control for his age. His repertoire features a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 mph. His second-best pitch is a changeup, followed by a developing slider. He could develop into a No. 3 or a No. 4 starter.

14. Julio Rodriguez, RHP: On numbers alone, Rodriguez looks like a very impressive prospect. He struck out 168 hitters in 156.2 high-A innings in 2011 but he succeeds on command and mixing his pitches. His fastball works in the upper 80s. Ultimately, he should top out as a back-of-the-rotation starter or as a middle reliever.

15. Aaron Altherr, OF: Altherr is a raw athlete who has an outside shot to develop into a 20-20 hitter. He’s too aggressive at the plate right now and he needs to learn better pitch selection. Defensively, he could become a plus fielder.

SLEEPER ALERTKyrell Hudson, OF: Hudson is another speedy, raw athlete. A former third-round pick in 2009, he has developed slowly. Still, he made significant strides in 2011 when compared to his two previous seasons. With that said, he still has a long way to go; and if he stagnates as a hitter, he has a plus arm that could turn him into a pitcher.

Domonic Brown Where Are You?

The Dramatic Decline of Domonic Brown

by J.P. Breen via FANGRAPHS

Domonic Brown

Coming into the 2011 season, Domonic Brown ranked as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The Philadelphia Phillies had just watched right fielder Jayson Werth depart for greener pastures in Washington and felt confident that Brown was the long-term answer at the position.

A little more than a year later, we’re all left wondering what went wrong.

At age 23, Brown got his second extended look in the big leagues starting in May of 2011. Though some skill at the plate was evident, he ultimately underwhelmed with a .322 wOBA in 210 plate appearances. The league-average wOBA in right field was .334 in 2011, and the struggles on defense could not justify allowing him to work through his growing pains at the big league level — at least, not for a team with legitimate World Series aspirations.

Philadelphia sent Brown back down to Triple-A in August. The only other big league action he saw last season was a brief call-up in late September once rosters expanded and the Triple-A season had already been completed.

His lack of success was largely attributed to the quickening of the game at the major league level.

“The big leagues moves fast,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “A lot of times when you come up there the game is quick. They catch a lot of balls you hit, things like that. Once you get used to it, if you’ve got the talent and you’ve got the fight and desire and the work ethic and everything. Then you’ll improve.”

In brief, Brown should have been expected to struggle in his transition to baseball at the highest level. Scouts, coaches, and players always talk about making adjustments. Brown simply had not made those adjustments yet at the major league, but very few people doubted the adjustments would happen and success would follow.

Fast forward to this season, and we find the young man hitting a paltry .247/.290/.355 through 26 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That was not supposed to happen. The Phillies wanted Brown to begin the season in Triple-A to build confidence and rediscover the success he enjoyed in Triple-A back in 2010, when he hit .346/.390/.561 in 28 games as a 22-year-old. It was not supposed to be a deepening of the struggles that plagued him last season at the big league level.

His .286 wOBA in Triple-A has fans and scouts absolutely miffed. When asked what caused the precipitous drop-off in production from Domonic Brown, one minor league scout said, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure.” Furthermore, Kevin Goldstein ofBaseball Prospectus, who speaks with scouts every day regarding minor league players, said, “I think I’ve passed 100 on the number of theories I’ve heard.”

Domonic Brown

One possible explanation for his struggles revolves around swing changes that the Phillies organization attempted to employ during spring training back in 2011. The organization wanted Brown to lower his hands at address to help shorten the swing and provide greater stability throughout his swinging motion. This video from early 2011 does a nice job illustrating the specific change and how it related to his timing at the plate.

The swing change, however, did not improve his success. In fact, he felt so uncomfortable with the lowering of his hands that he abandoned the swing changeall together. It is conceivable that the differing placement of his hands has ultimately disturbed his timing at the plate, and he is still working to rediscover the comfort he possessed in his swing throughout his minor league career prior to the 2011 season.

Another theory that some have put forward stems from his myriad of hand injuries. Since the 2009 season, Domonic Brown has suffered four injuries to his right hand. He has broken his hamate bone, which required surgery, sprained his thumb twice, and broken his pinkie finger. Perhaps the hand injuries — specifically the three since 2011 spring training — have been a major culprit in his power decline, a decline that has culminated in a 2012 season with no home runs thus far. He would not be the first hitter to experience such issues after multiple hand injuries.

In addition, not only has Brown played with swing changes and suffered multiple injuries in his right hand, he also been bounced around the organization and the playing field. He yo-yoed from Triple-A to the majors in both 2010 and 2011. His Triple-A manager,Ryne Sandbergsaid he dealt with a “rollercoaster season” in 2011. He needed stability. This season, the organization switched him to left field. Though that may sound insignificant because it is largely considered to be one of the easiest defensive positions, Domonic Brown struggled to learn routes and jumps in right field. Now, he must start over and learn an entirely new position, while still trying to straighten out his issues at the plate.

It is once again conceivable that the constant change throughout the past couple of years has ultimately fueled his decline.

The ultimate reasoning behind his decline at the plate may puzzle scouts, but the organization desperately hopes that he snaps out of it because he remains a focal point in the Phillies’ future plans for the outfield. Center fielder Shane Victorino is slated to become a free agent following this season, right fielder Hunter Pence will become a free agent following the 2013 season, and left field is currently handled by a committee of fringe players in John MayberryLaynce Nix, and Juan Pierre. Opportunities for ample playing time should be numerous for Brown. He simply needs to prove deserving of those opportunities.

Despite the struggles for Domonic Brown, the same scout mentioned earlier offered words of encouragement, “The tools are still there, though. There’s still hope.”

Phils By The Numbers Through April 26

2012 Philadelphia Phillies   Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics

9-10, 4th place in NL East (Schedule and Results)
View League Standings and Leaders

Manager: Charlie Manuel (9-10)
Scored 63 runs, Allowed 62 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 10-9

Ballparks: Citizens Bank Park · Attendance: 272,692 (1st of 16)
Park Factors  Over 100 favors batters, under 100 favors pitchers.
multi-year: 
Batting – 103, Pitching – 101 · one-year: Batting – 107, Pitching – 107

Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz

BATTING

Rk Pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
1 C Carlos Ruiz 53 6 16 3 0 2 5 0 3 6 .302 .328 .472
2 1B Ty Wigginton 46 8 14 3 0 1 6 0 5 11 .304 .365 .435
3 2B Freddy Galvis# 60 4 12 4 0 1 5 0 3 10 .200 .238 .317
4 SS Jimmy Rollins# 70 8 16 2 0 0 3 4 4 15 .229 .267 .257
5 3B Placido Polanco 59 6 14 2 0 0 2 0 4 7 .237 .297 .271
6 LF Juan Pierre* 59 6 20 0 1 0 4 3 2 2 .339 .361 .373
7 CF Shane Victorino# 75 10 19 1 0 4 8 6 6 9 .253 .309 .427
8 RF Hunter Pence 71 10 19 2 0 3 11 2 4 18 .268 .316 .423
Rk Pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
9 UT John Mayberry 45 0 9 2 0 0 2 0 0 14 .200 .200 .244
10 UT Laynce Nix* 23 3 8 4 0 1 6 0 2 7 .348 .400 .652
11 1B Jim Thome* 17 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 10 .118 .211 .118
12 C Brian Schneider* 15 1 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 .267 .313 .267
13 2B Pete Orr* 15 1 4 2 1 0 3 0 0 4 .267 .267 .533
Rk Pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
14 P Roy Halladay 11 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 5 .273 .273 .273
15 P Cole Hamels* 10 0 3 1 0 0 2 0 0 3 .300 .300 .400
16 P Vance Worley 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000
17 P Cliff Lee* 6 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333
18 P Joe Blanton 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .200 .000
19 P Kyle Kendrick 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
20 P David Herndon 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
21 P Michael Stutes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
22 P Joe Savery* 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
23 P Antonio Bastardo 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
24 P Chad Qualls 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
25 P Michael Schwimer 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
26 P Jose Contreras 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
27 P Jonathan Papelbon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team Totals 650 63 165 26 2 12 59 15 37 132 .254 .294 .355
Rank in 16 NL teams 5 14 5 15 13 11 4 15 10 6 14 12
Rk Pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
Cliff Lee pitching for the first time as a mem...

Cliff Lee

PITCHING

Rk Pos W L W-L% ERA G SV IP H ER BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
1 SP Roy Halladay 3 1 .750 1.50 4 0 30.0 19 5 8 19 0.900 2.4 5.7
2 SP Cole Hamels* 3 1 .750 2.73 4 0 26.1 24 8 3 30 1.025 1.0 10.3
3 SP Vance Worley 2 1 .667 2.16 4 0 25.0 22 6 9 27 1.240 3.2 9.7
4 SP Cliff Lee* 0 1 .000 1.96 3 0 23.0 14 5 2 18 0.696 0.8 7.0
5 SP Joe Blanton 1 3 .250 4.34 4 0 18.2 23 9 3 7 1.393 1.4 3.4
Rk Pos W L W-L% ERA G SV IP H ER BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
6 CL Jonathan Papelbon 0 0 1.13 8 6 8.0 6 1 2 7 1.000 2.3 7.9
7 RP Kyle Kendrick 0 1 .000 9.39 5 0 7.2 15 8 4 3 2.478 4.7 3.5
8 RP Chad Qualls 0 0 1.29 7 0 7.0 4 1 2 4 0.857 2.6 5.1
9 RP Michael Stutes 0 0 6.35 6 0 5.2 7 4 4 5 1.941 6.4 7.9
10 RP Antonio Bastardo* 0 1 .000 3.86 5 0 2.1 3 1 2 5 2.143 7.7 19.3
Rk Pos W L W-L% ERA G SV IP H ER BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
11 Joe Savery* 0 0 1.59 4 0 5.2 2 1 1 1 0.529 1.6 1.6
12 David Herndon 0 1 .000 3.18 4 0 5.2 7 2 1 7 1.412 1.6 11.1
13 Jose Contreras 0 0 10.13 3 0 2.2 4 3 2 2 2.250 6.8 6.8
14 Michael Schwimer 0 0 0.00 1 0 1.0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.0 0.0
Team Totals 9 10 .474 2.88 19 6 168.2 150 54 43 135 1.144 2.3 7.2
Rank in 16 NL teams 7 5 4 6 8 7 4 2 10
Rk Pos W L W-L% ERA G SV IP H ER BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9

Field view from the 300 level 03:28, 11 March ...

FIELDING

G Ch PO A E DP Fld% RF/9 RF/G PB WP CS PO Pos. Summary
Antonio Bastardo 5 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0 P
Joe Blanton 4 6 1 4 1 0 .833 2.41 1.25 2 0 P
Jose Contreras 3 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0 P
Freddy Galvis 19 99 30 68 1 14 .990 5.74 4.67 2B-SS
Roy Halladay 4 5 3 2 0 0 1.000 1.50 1.25 0 0 P
Cole Hamels 4 8 2 5 1 0 .875 2.39 1.75 3 2 P
David Herndon 4 2 1 1 0 0 1.000 3.18 0.50 0 0 P
Kyle Kendrick 5 1 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.17 0.20 0 0 P
Cliff Lee 3 2 1 1 0 1 1.000 0.78 0.67 0 0 P
John Mayberry 17 48 46 2 0 3 1.000 4.55 2.82 LF-1B-RF
Laynce Nix 7 50 46 3 1 6 .980 9.59 6.13 1B-LF
Pete Orr 4 14 3 10 1 2 .929 4.81 3.25 2B
Jonathan Papelbon 8 3 1 2 0 0 1.000 3.38 0.38 0 0 P
Hunter Pence 18 29 29 0 0 0 1.000 1.62 1.61 RF
Juan Pierre 14 18 18 0 0 0 1.000 1.53 1.29 LF
Placido Polanco 17 43 11 32 0 2 1.000 2.95 2.53 3B
Chad Qualls 7 2 1 1 0 0 1.000 2.57 0.29 0 0 P
Jimmy Rollins 19 73 23 49 1 15 .986 4.07 3.79 SS
Carlos Ruiz 17 118 107 11 0 2 1.000 8.19 6.94 1 1 6 0 C
Joe Savery 4 1 0 0 1 0 .000 0.00 0.00 0 0 P
Brian Schneider 5 36 30 6 0 0 1.000 8.31 7.20 0 1 1 0 C
Michael Schwimer 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0 P
Michael Stutes 6 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0 P
Jim Thome 3 32 29 2 1 3 .969 12.13 10.33 1B
Shane Victorino 19 44 43 1 0 1 1.000 2.35 2.32 CF
Ty Wigginton 15 94 79 13 2 9 .979 7.35 5.11 1B-3B
Vance Worley 4 8 2 6 0 1 1.000 2.88 2.00 2 0 P
Team Totals 19 736 506 220 10 59 .986 4.30 3.00 1 2 7 2
Rank in 16 NL teams 14 3 1
G Ch PO A E DP Fld% RF/9 RF/G PB WP CS PO Pos. Summary

Win Probability

PA BtRuns BtWins Plays WPA WPA+ WPA- WPA/LI Clutch REW boLI RE24/boLI PHlev
Joe Blanton 6 -0.8 -0.1 6 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.76 -1.0
Freddy Galvis# 65 -4.1 -0.4 65 -0.5 0.8 -1.3 -0.5 -0.0 -0.5 1.01 -4.9
Roy Halladay 12 -0.8 -0.1 12 -0.0 0.1 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 -0.1 1.00 -0.6
Cole Hamels* 11 -0.1 -0.0 11 0.0 0.1 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.1 0.84 -0.1
David Herndon 1 -0.3 -0.0 1 -0.0 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.86 -0.3
Kyle Kendrick 1 -0.3 -0.0 1 -0.0 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 1.17 -0.3
Cliff Lee* 7 -0.2 -0.0 8 -0.1 0.1 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.76 -0.2
John Mayberry 45 -4.9 -0.5 45 -0.6 0.4 -1.0 -0.6 -0.1 -0.7 1.01 -5.6 1.09
Laynce Nix* 25 2.7 0.3 25 0.0 0.6 -0.6 0.2 -0.1 0.2 1.03 2.0 1.21
Pete Orr* 15 0.2 0.0 15 -0.1 0.1 -0.2 -0.1 0.0 0.1 0.93 -0.0 0.11
Hunter Pence 76 -0.2 -0.0 78 0.2 1.6 -1.3 -0.0 0.3 -0.0 1.00 -0.6
Juan Pierre* 61 -0.1 -0.0 69 0.2 1.1 -0.9 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.94 0.4 0.86
Placido Polanco 65 -3.4 -0.3 66 -0.2 0.7 -0.9 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.87 -1.0 0.61
Jimmy Rollins# 76 -5.3 -0.5 85 -0.1 1.0 -1.2 -0.3 0.2 -0.3 0.94 -3.6
Carlos Ruiz 58 1.3 0.1 59 -0.2 0.6 -0.9 0.0 -0.3 -0.2 0.98 -0.4 0.26
Brian Schneider* 16 -0.8 -0.1 16 -0.2 0.2 -0.4 -0.1 -0.0 -0.1 1.08 -1.3
Jim Thome* 19 -2.5 -0.3 19 -0.5 0.1 -0.7 -0.3 -0.2 -0.4 0.99 -2.6 1.59
Shane Victorino# 82 -0.4 -0.0 87 -0.0 1.1 -1.1 0.2 -0.2 0.2 0.95 1.0
Ty Wigginton 52 1.5 0.2 52 -0.0 0.7 -0.7 0.1 -0.1 0.4 0.89 1.2 0.97
Vance Worley 9 -2.5 -0.3 9 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.73 -2.3
League Average
Team Total 702 -20.9 -2.2 729 -2.4 9.5 -11.9 -2.0 -0.5 -1.4 0.95 -20.5 1.12
PA BtRuns BtWins Plays WPA WPA+ WPA- WPA/LI Clutch REW boLI RE24/boLI PHlev

Team Batting Ratios

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2012.
PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/BB AB/SO AB/HR AB/RBI GB/FB GO/AO
Joe Blanton 6 0.0% 16.7% 16.7% 0.0% 1.00 4.0
Freddy Galvis# 65 1.5% 15.4% 4.6% 7.7% 42% 3.33 6.0 60.0 12.0 0.68 1.32
Roy Halladay 12 0.0% 41.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0% 2.2 11.0 2.00
Cole Hamels* 11 0.0% 27.3% 0.0% 9.1% 33% 3.3 5.0 1.33 4.00
David Herndon 1 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0% 1.0
Kyle Kendrick 1 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0% 1.0
Cliff Lee* 7 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0% 6.0 0.25 1.00
John Mayberry 45 0.0% 31.1% 0.0% 4.4% 22% 3.2 22.5 0.72 0.71
Laynce Nix* 25 4.0% 28.0% 8.0% 20.0% 63% 3.50 3.3 23.0 3.8 0.67 2.33
Pete Orr* 15 0.0% 26.7% 0.0% 20.0% 75% 3.8 5.0 1.20 2.50
Hunter Pence 76 4.0% 23.7% 5.3% 6.6% 26% 4.50 3.9 23.7 6.5 1.30 1.64
Juan Pierre* 61 0.0% 3.3% 3.3% 1.6% 5% 1.00 29.5 14.8 1.20 1.85
Placido Polanco 65 0.0% 10.8% 6.2% 3.1% 14% 1.75 8.4 29.5 1.00 1.38
Jimmy Rollins# 76 0.0% 19.7% 5.3% 2.6% 13% 3.75 4.7 23.3 0.83 1.00
Carlos Ruiz 58 3.5% 10.3% 5.2% 8.6% 31% 2.00 8.8 26.5 10.6 0.81 1.27
Brian Schneider* 16 0.0% 18.8% 6.3% 0.0% 0% 3.00 5.0 15.0 1.00 1.50
Jim Thome* 19 0.0% 52.6% 10.5% 0.0% 0% 5.00 1.7 0.75 0.67
Shane Victorino# 82 4.9% 11.0% 7.3% 6.1% 26% 1.50 8.3 18.8 9.4 0.67 0.92
Ty Wigginton 52 1.9% 21.2% 9.6% 7.7% 29% 2.20 4.2 46.0 7.7 0.71 0.57
Vance Worley 9 0.0% 44.4% 0.0% 0.0% 2.3
League Average 2.2% 19.8% 8.3% 7.2% 33% 2.37 4.5 40.8 8.9 0.87 1.19
Team Total 702 1.7% 18.8% 5.3% 5.7% 24% 3.57 4.9 54.2 11.0 0.90 1.29
PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/BB AB/SO AB/HR AB/RBI GB/FB GO/AO
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2012.

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.

Pierre Can Still Steal Bases- Phils Add Speed To Power Bench

Phillies ink Pierre to Minor League deal

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

In a small but potentially significant move, the Phillies signed speedy Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Friday.

Juan Pierre

Pierre, 34, batted .279 as the everyday leadoff hitter and left fielder for the White Sox last season. He stole 27 bases and was thrown out 17 times, but he did steal 68 bags for Chicago in 2010.

The Phils allowed Raul Ibanez to depart as a free agent this offseason, and it appeared at the outset that John Mayberry Jr. would inherit that spot in left field based on the fact that he batted .309 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in his last 149 at-bats of the regular season.

English: White Sox 3rd base coach with player .

Mayberry still has the inside track, but he also faces significant competition for playing time.

While talented-but-raw 24-year-old Domonic Brown may well get a full season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to polish his skills, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that he could still play his way onto the big league roster with an impressive spring.

Domonic Brown

Amaro also signed veteran Laynce Nix, who has been used primarily against right-handed pitching throughout his career.

The addition of Pierre adds another wrinkle to the situation and potentially gives manager Charlie Manuel another option in left.

 

Pierre has 554 career stolen bases, the most of any active player, and ranks 26th on the all-time list, three behind Davey Lopes. In the last 11 years, Pierre has 1,958 hits, fifth most among all players.

“He’s not the same blazer he was with Florida and Los Angeles, but we think he can provide something we were grossly lacking on our bench last year — speed,” Amaro said. “We did not sign him to be our everyday left fielder. The bulk of the time will go to John Maybery and Laynce Nix, and, of course, Dom Bown is still in the picture.

“But we’ll put [Pierre] in the mix and see what happens. We view him as a guy who can give us another element. He can be a very useful guy.”

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

Related articles

Inbox: What are the club’s plans for Brown?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers Phils fans’ questions

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
What on earth are the Phillies going to do with Domonic Brown? They have John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in left field, Shane Victorino in center field and Hunter Pence in right field. Where’s the space for Brown? — Brett L., Broomall, Pa.
Domonic Brown

There is none, unless there is an injury or Mayberry and Nix don’t perform. Unless things change, Brown is expected to play the 2012 season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he will be looking to regain confidence and learning to play left field.

Nothing really has gone smoothly with Brown the past couple of seasons. The Phillies admittedly erred in the way they have handled him (bringing him up in 2010, only to spend most of the second half of the season sitting on the bench).

Brown performed poorly in winter ball following that season and started slowly in Spring Training 2011 before breaking his hand. He was playing great with Lehigh Valley early last season, when the Phils called him up (after saying they didn’t think he was ready). He did OK, relatively speaking, but once the Phillies acquired Pence and optioned Brown to Lehigh Valley, he struggled.

The Phils are hoping a full season in the Minors will get Brown back on track. Maybe it will, but if Mayberry and Nix perform well in left, I would think Brown could be trade bait at some point.

If Ryan Madson does not come back, where do you think he will sign and why are the Phillies disinterested in him? — Daniel S., Pinellas Park, Fla.

Ryan Madson signing autographs before the Marc...

Who said they’re disinterested in Madson? I’m sure general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would love to have Madson as his setup man, but would Madson come back to set up for Jonathan Papelbon? If I’m Madson, I’m not sure I would. But if Madson can’t get a closer job at closer money, maybe he would come back to a place he’s familiar and set up before hitting the market again next offseason. But I’m betting Madson will take his services elsewhere before Spring Training.

Is Chase Utley healthy this year? — Janet X., Harrisburg, Pa.

Chase Utley

The Phillies said late last season that Utley, who had knee issues last year, will be on a different offseason training program that should allow him to strengthen his legs without causing the tendinitis that forced him to miss the first couple of months of the 2011 season. They said that lack of strength in his lower half contributed to his lack of pop at the plate. Will he be the old Utley in 2012, one of the best offensive performers in the game? I’m not sure, but they certainly need him to play much better than he did last season.

How can you argue the Phillies can only get younger at two positions when they have an aging and oft-injured third baseman? — Bob P., Renovo, Pa.

Got lots of questions over the past week about third base, the David Wright rumors, how much they can expect to get from Polanco. Those are good questions, but some of the questions are almost like, “What’s the Phillies’ problem? Why won’t they get David Wright?” Like it were easy. Like Amaro can get Wright (or another stud third baseman) by just snapping his fingers. The Phils would love Wright at third base, but it’s not going to happen right now. The club has said Polanco should be healthy entering the season. If he is, he’s a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman than hits better than .300. That’s not exactly chopped liver.

Do you think the Phillies will hit a wall and not win the National League East? — Steven B., Cheltenham, Pa.

English: John Mayberry, Jr. of the Philadelphi...

The NL East has improved, but I still think the Phils will] win their sixth straight division title. If everybody is healthy, of course. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will win their fair share of games. The offense, which has flopped the previous two postseasons, has been productive during the season. I just don’t see how anybody could catch them.

The bench seems to have gained some much needed depth this year. What impact will this have on the 2012 Phillies? — Zack K., Clarks Summit, Pa.

Laynce Nix

It gives manager Charlie Manuel more options. If Polanco misses time, Manuel can play Ty Wigginton at third instead of Michael Martinez. When Ryan Howard is out, the Phillies can play Mayberry, Nix, Wigginton or even Jim Thome. They should be able to handle injuries a little better than they have in the past, while not sacrificing as much offense in the process.

Do you see any offensive options the Phillies could pursue at the Trade Deadline, like David Wright or a left fielder? — Jim D., Tabernacle, N.J.

Whoa. We’re already looking at the Trade Deadline? It’s a long way from July 31. Like I mentioned above, I’ve gotten lots of questions about third base, left field, etc. There were similar questions last year at this time about right field, and how the Phillies were going to replace Jayson Werth. The Phils decided they would give Ben Francisco, Brown and Mayberry a shot. If it worked, great. If not, then they could always find somebody else.

I think the same holds true this year. Why not see if Polanco can stay healthy? Why not see if Mayberry and Nix can platoon in left field? If they can’t, they can always try to find somebody else. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be smart emptying the farm system for something that might not happen (Polanco staying healthy, etc.). It would be smarter to see how they do, then reassess midseason.

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

What’s In Store For Joe Blanton This Season?

Can Blanton bounce back in 2012?

COREY  SEIDMANcontributor.png

Four of five rotation spots are set for the Phillies heading into 2012 — it’s hard to envision Vance Worley being asked to do anything but pick up from where he left off.

Joe Blanton, however, has a small chance of losing his starting job to Kyle Kendrick or one of the many depth-starters the Phillies signed this off-season.

It is unlikely, but if Blanton shows up to Spring Training out of shape or still feeling pain in his elbow, he could quickly become an unusable and untradeable asset.

Ricky Bottalico touched on this subject Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet’s “Phillies Hot Stove.”

“[Blanton’s] gotta come in there, prove that he’s healthy, make sure he’s coming into Spring Training at 100 percent,” Bottalico said. “If he does not do that, I think there could be problems for the Phillies. You’re basically in a situation where you may have to eat $8 million.”

Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton warming up before...

Trade talks surrounded Blanton from the day after the Phillies signed Cliff Lee last winter until Blanton went on the shelf for the first time with a sore elbow. At one point, Blanton’s three-year, $24 million contract looked appealing to teams in need of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. But now, he’ll have to come back and make a handful of quality starts to generate any real trade value. Without doing so, no team will be willing to take on a significant portion of Blanton’s salary or part with an attractive enough minor leaguer to make a trade worthwhile.

“If he does come back healthy, either you give him a job as a fourth starter, or you throw him out to the wolves and see what you can get for him,” Bottalico said.

Of course, it’s a bit of a catch-22, because while you can’t trade Blanton without him proving his value, if he does come back and pitch well, the Phils might not have a reason to deal him. The upcoming season is Blanton’s last under contract with the Phillies.

Bottalico thinks Blanton can bounce back, but it should be noted that Blanton wasn’t all that effective even when healthy in 2010. In that season, Blanton had a 4.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 176 innings. His control was very good, but his strike-throwing came at the expense of allowing 10.6 hits per nine innings, one full hit over his career mark. He was a bit unlucky, stranding two percent fewer baserunners than usual and seeing his balls in play drop for hits 32 percent of the time rather than 29 percent. But it wasn’t as if his high ERA could have been blamed solely on misfortune.

Blanton has been with the Phils since midway through the 2008 season, but he is still one of the toughest players to predict moving forward. His National League resume includes one impressive season in which he struck out five percent more batters than ever before (2009), one slightly less than mediocre year (2010) and one season riddled with injuries (2011).

What stood out during that 2009 season was Blanton’s changeup. Whether it was the result of a full season under changeup-maven Rich Dubee or just a fluke, Blanton that year saved 1.98 runs on every 100 changeups. Since the start of 2010, the pitch has cost Blanton 8.1 runs.
The Phils won’t need a ton from Blanton next season… 175 innings with a 4.40 ERA would suffice based on the context of Charlie Manuel’s team. Whether Blanton reaches those goals is dependent on the health of his elbow and the strength of a secondary pitch – if not the changeup than his slider.

For more statistical musings from Corey Seidman, visit Brotherly Glove and Phillies Nation SEIDMAN ON TWITTER