Monday, December 29, 2014

Moyer signs; Park could start; Optimistic Utley tells kids: Don't curse

On a busy news day for the Phillies, lefthander Jamie Moyer has agreed to a 2-year contract to return. The deal took much longer than anticipated to get done, with the second year seemingly being a sticking point.

Moyer signs; Park could start; Optimistic Utley tells kids: Don't curse

Chase Utley spoke to the media today about his recent hip surgery, saying he is hopeful he can return to the field by Opening Day. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Chase Utley spoke to the media today about his recent hip surgery, saying he is hopeful he can return to the field by Opening Day. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Tonight, it is Eagles vs. Browns.

Tomorrow, it is Phillies vs. Eagles.

It will be a good old-fashioned war for the sports pages (and internet hit counters) tomorrow as the Phillies unleashed a barage of news today in advance of the Eagles' Monday night showdown with the Browns. Make sure to monitor all the progress here on Philly.com live throughout the day tomorrow, courtesy of the "Most Viewed" stories box on the right hand of your screen.

Maybe I'm getting a little too excited about this. Regardless, here's what has transpired today on the Phillies front:

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1) First and foremost, the Phillies have agreed with Jamie Moyer on a new two-year contract. What took so long? Moyer wanted two years. The Phillies were hesitant about going beyond one. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was candid about that hesitation throughout the offseason, and he admitted this afternoon that giving a 46-year-old pitcher two years guaranteed pretty much goes against every rule in the Physiology of Baseball book. But Moyer is a special case, not just because of his performance - he led the Phillies with 16 wins in 2008 and pitched very well in the World Series - but because of what he brings to the clubhouse.

"There's no question it was a concern and for us to go two years guaranteed shows one, our committment to him," Amaro said, "but also he's probably one of the best-conditioned athletes that we have and his dedication to his craft is as high as anybody's on this club. Jamie is going to do what he can to play out this contract and be an effective pitcher for us. We have reason to believe that with the way he works and the way he pitches that he can do just that."

I rationalize like this: when you are paying for Moyer, you aren't just paying for a pitcher, you are almost paying for another coach because of the amount of experience he brings to the clubhouse and to the pitching staff. With young hurlers like Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco and Andrew Carpenter on the way up, there is no underestimating the value of having a guy like Moyer around.

"I think we have one of the best clubhouses in all of baseball," Amaro said. "These are players - we had one up here today (in Utley) - who are dedicated to winning. . .Jamie certainly represents that. You talk about his presence in the clubhouse. He's been through so much over the course of his career, it's inevitable that he is going to be able to provide some of the information that will be very important for our young players and even older players that we acquire who have to make adjustments in their careers, which Jamie has done. He is an invaluable players to us and an invaluable person and we are pleased to have him back."

2) I asked you guys last night to throw out some questions for Chase Utley, who met the press for the first time since his hip surgery three-and-a-half weeks ago, and he pretty much answered all of them at one point or another in the press conference. Utley said he is hopeful to return as soon as possible, but it sounds like both he and the Phillies are going to approach his rehab with caution. Both Utley and Scott Sheridan were asked several different ways whether they thought the second baseman would be ready by Opening Day, and every time they answered with a generic "If all goes well. . ." type of response. In short, it is way too early to tell when, exactly, Utley will be back. But everything has gone smoothly thus far, and there is no indication that it will take him anywhere close to the back end of the initial 4-to-6 month prognosis.

"Ruben's given me a few lectures already to slow me down a little bit, because I do want to be ready to go from Day One," Utley said, "but it is something that I have to be careful of. So I imagine I will hear that a lot from these guys to try to slow me down a little bit, which is fine."

3) Utley said he is hoping to play in some spring training games.

4) Utley joked about the way he and the Phillies kept his hip issue under wraps throughout the season. The only public acknowledgement of the condition came from then-Phillies GM Pat Gillick, who simply said that Utley's hip had been bothering him. But Utley refused to acknowledge the condition during the season, preferring instead to focus on baseball.

"This kind of didn't get worse, it kind of stayed the same over the course of the season," Utley said. "That's why I didn't make a big deal about it. I didn't feel like making a big deal about it because I didn't want it to be a distraction. That's the last thing we needed, especially with the position we were in. I thought we handled it pretty well."

5) Utley said the pain affected him more in the field than at the plate, but conceded that the injury probably had something to do with the drop off in his power numbers over the course of the season.

6) One question I had for Utley concerned how his hip rehab will affect the normal offseason conditioning routine he uses to get ready for the season. Utley said the only part of his workout that is affected is his lower body workout. But after two and a half months he said he'll be able to start running around.

7) Utley said there isn't much of a chance that the hip issue could be one that arises again. It sounds like the surgery should be a permanent solution, which bodes well for the future.

"Now, I kind of have a nice little pretty hip, so it should be fine," Utley said.

8) And, finally, a public service announcement from Utley, who infamously declared the Phillies "World F-----' Champions" on the day of the parade.

"I'll tell all the kids not to use that word," Utley said. "But if they are 29 and they win the World Series, they could say that."

9) Expect an official announcement of the Raul Ibanez signing, and perhaps a press conference, Tuesday.

10) Chan Ho Park is indeed on his way to becoming a Phillie, although the signing will not be official until he takes a physical here in Philadelphia. Amaro said Park could be used as a starter or a reliever. He'll get an opportunity to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton and Moyer. If Kendrick,  Happ, Carrasco or Carpenter happens to win the spot, Park would then move to the bullpen.

11) Carrasco has finished playing winter ball in Venezuela. Carrasco chose to play winter ball on his own, but has called it quits after about 30 innings, something the Phillies are glad he decided to do.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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