Phillies open second half with a three-game set in Atlanta

With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, several Phillies may be on the move.

Ryan Howard's future in question as struggles at plate continue

Phillies officials are considering possibly relasing the three-time All-Star at season's end.

New book due out this fall looks at importance of baseball post 9/11

Gordon explores the symbiotic relationship between baseball, journalism and nationalism.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hamels tosses a gem as Phillies avoid sweep from Giants

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 24 2014, 4:15PM EDT.

PHILADELPHIA - Cole Hamels tossed eight strong innings for the Phillies on Thursday, collecting 10 strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park.

The win is just the fifth of the season for Hamels, but that's mostly due to poor run support. He's now also pitched at least seven innings in 13 of his last 15 starts while posting a 2.04 ERA over that span.

"He's pitched like an ace for us today," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. "He's at the top of his game."

Jimmy Rollins hit a double in the opening frame and eventually scored on a Marlon Byrd single to give the Phillies an early 1-0 lead.

The Giants answered in the fifth with Ehire Adrianza collecting an RBI-single scoring Gregor Blanco who reached on a single.

The Phillies countered in the bottom of the inning with Ben Revere reaching base on a dropped pop-up and eventually scoring on a Chase Utley single to center.

Jonathan Papelbon tossed a scoreless ninth, picking up the save after a loss and a blown save opportunity earlier this week.

The Phillies open a three-game set Friday with Arizona at Citizens Bank Park.

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Ryan Howard's days in a Phillies uniform may be numbered

Phillies - Ryan Howard

 By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 24 2014, 1:00PM EDT.

PHILADELPHIA - Ryan Howard was not in the Phillies lineup again on Thursday, marking the first time all season the first baseman has sat for back-to-back games.

Manager Ryne Sandberg stopped short of saying it Wednesday, but it appears he plans to platoon Howard with Darin Ruf at first base.

"The lineup will be a day-to-day thing now," Sandberg said.

Howard, 34, has two years remaining on a contract with the Phillies and is owed $25 million over each of the next two seasons. He also has a club option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout. Lofty figures considering he's hitting .156 in the month of July with a .270 on-base percentage and a .219 slugging percentage.

“It's about wins and losses out here,” Sandberg said. “When the game starts, it's about winning the game and being productive and chipping in and doing the part and doing something to help win a game. If that means playing somebody else there and there's production right away -- that's trying to win a baseball game.”

Phillies officials have internally discussed the possibility of releasing Howard at the conclusion of the regular season, but the amount of money he's owed makes the decision to split ways that much more difficult. The Phillies have floated his name to other clubs for a possible trade, but his contract is too large of a burden for a club to take on.

"I can't think about that stuff," Howard said late Wednesday afternoon. "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion."

Howard is one of the main pieces of an aging core that put together a successful run, including a World Series in 2008 and five consecutive division titles. A three-time All-Star, he won an MVP Award in 2006 and twice led the majors in home runs.

“It’s been a disappointing year for me, period,” Howard said. “Things haven’t necessarily shaped up the way I’ve wanted them to, coming back after basically not playing for the last two years, trying to make it through a full season. There have been a lot of highs and lows. A lot of frustration. There’s frustration from the fans, frustration period. I have my own frustrations as well.

“You know, you try to stay positive. I know people are going to put a lot on either how much money I make, or what I’m doing on the field, this or that or whatever, but at the end if the day, you go out there and try, you try to do what you can. I’m really just trying to get back in the flow of things, trying new things, lowering my hands. Trying to get back into the flow of everything. It is what it is right now. You just try to continue to work. It’s all you can do.”

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Burnett, Phillies fall in series opener with Braves

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 19 2014, 11:00PM EDT.

A.J. Burnett admitted last week he's heard his name mentioned as a potential trade target, yet he was quick to say the talk never seeps into his mind while on the mound.

"You learn to deal with it," Burnett said. "Especially if you're around the game long enough. I don't comment on it."

Burnett's value may have taken a slight hit Friday night in Atlanta as the Braves scored four times in the second frame en route to a 6-4 victory over the Phillies at Turner Field.

"Everything was up," Burnett said. "I was off. [Jason] Heyward hit a change-up up. The curveball was up. A few innings in the middle I got it where I wanted to but it was inconsistent. You can't pitch against this club and be inconsistent, that's for sure."
Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett
The Braves had nine of 10 hits and five of six runs come with two outs.

"Not the start we wanted the second half," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We had some good at-bats though, with some men on base. It felt good jumping out early but they came right back with the four runs."

The Phillies jumped ahead with a 2-0 lead in the first, but the Braves quickly answered with four runs in the second and another two runs in the fifth to put the game out of reach.

The loss knocked the Phillies to 12 games below .500 and increased the probability that major changes to the roster will come prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"The guys bounce back each day and they come out to win the game," Sandberg said. "That's been the demeanor of the guys and that'll continue. We have a game [Saturday]. We have Cole [Hamels] so I'm looking forward to that."

Hamels will oppose veteran right-hander Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.53 ERA) on Saturday. 

Hamels had a 2.18 ERA in his past 13 starts entering the All-Star break, but was just 3-3 during that stretch thanks in part to poor run support from the Phillies offense.

"It's kind of something I think I've battled for a while, and hopefully I don't have to battle it for too much longer," Hamels said. "I know I am human and it does always kind of creep into your head a little bit. I think that's just kind of the competitive nature that I have and just the understanding of what's going on in that sense. But I still have to be able to locate and I have to throw strikes and I have to go after guys."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Friday, July 18, 2014

With trade talks swirling Phillies open second half in Atlanta

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 18 2014, 3:00PM EDT.

The Phillies open the second half of the regular season with a three-game series in Atlanta beginning Friday night.

With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, the remainder of July presents an opportunity for the Phillies to retool by shopping players to contenders.

Marlon Byrd ranks as one of the top power outfielders in the National League and is under contract for another year at a reasonable $8 million. Jonathan Papelbon, despite an outstanding first half, is a bit more difficult to move with a $13 million price tag for next year and a vesting option for 2016.

Other potential players on the move include Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo and Friday night's starter A.J. Burnett.

"Time is running out," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. "I'm hopeful we turn things around now, especially with [Cliff] Lee and [Carlos] Ruiz returning soon."

The Phillies enter Atlanta with fourteen of their next 24 games against teams from the NL East.

"I know we've been saying it for a while now, but it really is now or never," Burnett said. "Things need to turn around quick."

Burnett has pitched extremely well over his last seven starts, putting together a 3-3 mark to go with a 2.94 ERA. He's another chip with the potential to be moved.

"I don't talk about those things," Burnett said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Scouts from at least four different clubs were at Citizens Bank Park last weekend when the Phillies hosted the Nationals. More are expected tonight in Atlanta.

"That's part of the game," Byrd said. "If you're around long enough you run into this sort of thing."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.