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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All Pieces In Place – It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

Doc’s Return Marks Phils Return To Health

by Charles Oliver aka Bloggo Schloggo

Now that all the major pieces to the Phillies puzzle are back in place and healthy there are no excuses. It’s now or never time to make a strong run in the second half of the season for a chance at the post season. With the addition of a second wild card spot available this year the Phils still have a valid shot at competing in October. It’s going to be quite a chore and an uphill battle requiring lots of winning. Skipper Manuel has had a way of steering the team into playing it’s best baseball after the all-star game while running the Phillies show as recent history shows.

The Phillies logo during their 1950 World Seri...

The Phillies logo during their 1950 World Series year.

The Phils won 102 games last year and had the best record in baseball. This year they are going to have to play their hearts out with little room for error to win 88 games which is probably about what they’ll need to make it in as a wild card.

There has been a lot of chatter about the Phils being sellers before the trading deadline. I for one believe that would be a bad move. Especially dumping Cole Hamel who has been the teams most consistent starter this year. The team basically has the same starting line-up and starting pitching staff as last year which is an array of proven winners. With everyone back and active off the DL there is no reason why with the level of talent they that they have can’t find their way back to becoming consistent winners.

The main issues they now face are crawling out of the deep hole they dug for themselves in the first half of the season and the talent performing up to its capabilities.

As I write this the Phils have won 3 games in a row with Doc on the mound tonight against the Dodgers. Ryan Howard hit his 1st home run of the season last night. It was to left field which is a good sign anytime Howard is projecting his power to the opposite field. Halladay having a strong performance tonight and another Phils win could be the start of something good. Psychologically the club could get a major boost and start playing with the fire we’ve seen in recent past seasons when they were perennial division champs.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

The Nationals aren’t going away and have proven they are for real. Catching and over taking them at this point is pretty much all but an impossibility. Stranger things have happened though. As we remember last season the Cardinals weren’t on anyone’s radar and we know what they did much to the chagrin of Phillies fans figuring the Phightins were on their way to another World Series and once again being world champions.

The Mets, Marlins and Braves also will have a large say in where the Phillies fortunes take them. It’s a tough division to find yourself 13 games off the pace and sitting in the cellar. The Phils are 10 games behind with an elimination number of 63 with 61 games left to make it as a wild card. There isn’t much wiggle room there. They are ranked 9th in the wild card standings.

The Phillies main weakness is not getting hits when it really counts. They are hitting the ball ranking 2nd only behind the Cardinals with 827 total hits. However they are ranked  6th and 7th in runs scored and RBIs – with 386 and 370 respectively. How many times have we seen runners in scoring position zero to two outs left standing there as an inning or game ends?

PHILLIES 2011 Post All-Star Break Hitting Stats

RK   G     AB    R     H     2B  3B HR SB

6th  977 2473 329 633  120 18  75  35

RBI  BB  SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS

316  232 467 35  13  .256 .323  .410 .733

PHILLIES 2011 Post All-Star Break Pitching Stats

RK    W  L  ERA   G   GS  SV  SVO    IP        H

12th  45 26 3.02  242  71   22   28     645.2  580

R   ER  HR  BB SO  AVG WHIP

234 217 57 178 593 .241   1.17

Post Script—–  Watching tonight’s game and Doc’s return to the mound. Ryan Howard took a 4 pitch walk. Batting .143 it was refreshing not to see the big guy swing at a pitch miles outside of the strike zone. Despite the homer last night he still looks uncomfortable at the plate as he did last season. Letting pitches he should cream float on by and swinging and lunging at pitches he couldn’t reach or hit with the side of a barn.

Through the first 5 innings Halladay has looked very good yielding 2 runs and having good command of his pitches. The Phils batters have managed but one run having left runners on second base in three innings against a rookie making his first MLB start named Fife. His performance thus far has not been Barney Fife like.

Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence

Howard walked again in the 6th. Maybe he should concentrate on walks and let Chooch take care of the clean up duties. Hunter Pence batting .224 with two outs and runners in scoring position punched a single out to Kemp and appeared to have scored Howard. The ump said he was out. It looked like Howard had got his hand on home plate before the tag. Having seen the replay it’s hard to tell. Whatever it was close but, just another zero on the scoreboard.

In the 8th Pence batted with the bases loaded, two out and hit a single up the middle scoring two. Ruiz was cut down sliding into 3rd to end the inning. The Phils had only 4 hits in the game before Pence’s timely two run single. Phils take the lead 3-2.

For the first time in their last 39 games trailing after 7 innings the Phillies turned it around and won the game. Another healthy sign. Papelbon got the save. That’s 4 wins in a row. They are doing what they have to do. Will their winning ways continue? It’s a mighty tough mountain to climb. Time will tell.

Wild Card Expansion This Season? Looks Likely

Wild Card expansion for 2012 talks ongoing

 By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are working toward a Thursday deadline to expand the playoffs by adding two additional Wild Card teams overall, creating a one-game first-round playoff in each league, beginning with the 2012 postseason.

The new format was set late last year for a 2013 inception in the new five-year Basic Agreement between the owners and union. The two sides had a deadline of about two months to negotiate the logistics of beginning it a year early.

English: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig prese...

A report on Wednesday that the deal is nearly complete could not be confirmed. A highly placed source said negotiations between the two sides were ongoing and that work still had to be done.

The agreement expands the Wild Card by adding two additional teams, one each in the American and National Leagues. The three division winners in each league would await the survivor of the one-game Wild Card playoff, establishing the Division Series field. The subsequent DS, League Championship Series and World Series formats would remain the same.

This has been the logistical problem: The regular season ends this year on Wednesday, Oct. 3, leaving only two days for travel, weather problems, plus season-ending tiebreakers for division titles and Wild Card berths and the Wild Card play-in games prior to the start of playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 6. The World Series is slated to start on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

This year’s schedule was long set before collective bargaining ended with a new agreement on Nov. 21.

The expanded playoffs were linked this past November to the sale of the Astros by Drayton McLane to Houston businessman Jim Crane and their move from the NL to the AL, effective for the 2013 season. The Commissioner’s Office and the union collaborated on those developments during last year’s months of collective-bargaining negotiations.

The Astros’ shift from the NL Central to the AL West will give each league 15 teams and all six divisions five clubs.

MLB has been studying how to expand the playoffs for at least two years, and it became a hot topic of discussion in Commissioner Bud Selig‘s 14-man special committee that has been studying on-field improvements of the sport.

The playoff and realignment matters had to be collectively bargained because they involve scheduling, and the union made it clear that any playoff expansion would be tied to moving a team from the six-team NL Central to the four-team AL West to create better competitive balance.

Michael Weiner, the union’s executive director, ultimately said that the playoff expansion wouldn’t have happened without the Astros’ move into the AL.

The 2004 World Series Trophy in City Hall Plaz...

The current Wild Card format and three divisions in each league were adopted in 1994. From 1969-93, there were two divisions in each league and a League Championship Series between the first-place teams as a prelude to the World Series. Prior to 1969, only the pennant winners in each league met in the World Series.

The new format means that 10 of the 30 teams make the postseason. The additional Wild Cards will place a premium on winning the division title for several reasons: The division winner will get at least a couple of days to breathe before the start of each Division Series, plus it won’t have to burn up perhaps its best starting pitcher to win a play-in game.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.