Today's Tigers-Phillies game is scheduled to be broadcast on MLB Network, but for those of you who are at work or do not otherwise have access to a television and would like to keep tabs on things, I'll be updating this post with highlights, stats, analysis, knock-knock jokes, etc.
MIDDLE OF 7th INNING: And here comes Aumont. The hulking righty retired all three batters he faced, a fly-out to left on a 1-1 pitch, a swinging strikeout on what looked like a slider or a splitter, and a groundout to short stop on a 1-0 sinker.
MIDDLE OF 6th INNING: The Tigers scored eight runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings, six of them coming against Jonathan Papelbon, two against Mike Stutes. Stutes, clearly, has more to prove this spring than Papelbon, who will enter the season as the team's closer after a excellent first year with the club. The righty missed most of last season with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. Stutes has said that he feels like the shoulder is no longer an issue and that he has the same stuff that won him a job with the Phillies in 2011, but he struggled with his command yesterday, starting off his appearance with five straight balls. All three outs he recorded were loud fly outs. Stutes is competing with Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus, among others, for a spot as a righty in the front of the Phillies bullpen. De Fratus also struggled with his command in his first outing (not today), walking two without a strikeout and allowing two runs in two innings. Aumont has yet to pitch in Grapefruit League action.
MIDDLE OF 5th INNING: The Phillies went just 23-30 in games against left-handed starters last season. They are hoping that the addition of Michael Young helps balance out their lineup. In the fourth, Young and Chase Utley drew back-to-back walks against lefty Casey Crosby, who then allowed a sacrifice fly to Ryan Howard to push a run across. While some people wonder whether Young can bounce back from a down offensive year at the age of 36, and whether he can play third base full time, Lee spoke in glowing terms about his former teammate with the Rangers.
"He was the heart and soul of that team and I think they borderline took him for granted there," Lee said.
Lee, who spent the last couple of months of the 2010 season in Texas, called the addition of Young "huge" to the Phillies.
"He's like Chase in a lot of ways," Lee said. "Plays hard, never takes a single second off during the game. He's positive. He's a great teammate and a leader. Definitely in Texas he was the leader on the team. He was the guy. To have a personality or a player like that on our team just makes us that much better. I can't say enough about him. He was the heart and soul of the Rangers for a while. And they are a pretty good team."
Lee said he was confused why Texas ended up parting with Young, who played a variety of positions after the Rangers signed free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"I think that baffled a lot of people around that organization," Lee said. "Like I said, he was the heart and soul of that team for a long time, and I can't understand their thinking on some of the moves they made. He's a really good player. I don't know why you wouldn't just let him do his thing. You never know what they are thinking or their motives behind some of those things. You don't really have to understand it. They've got their reasons and they've got their theories on their team and they have a right to do whatever they want, really, as an organization. But in my opinion you want guys like Michael Young around and you want him to be happy and you want to let him go out there and do what he was."
Lee stressed he was not ripping the Rangers as an organization.
"It all worked out, the way they were doing it," he said. "I mean, they went to the World Series back to back years and it's hard to second-guess any of those decisions when you are in the World Series. But I think it takes a special personality to handle it the way he did and to still go out on the field and give it 100 percent every time and not let it affect your play on the field. That's just a credit to him as a person and as a competitor and as a baseball player.
"They've still got a pretty deep pool of players over there. They've done a lot of things right over the past few years. I don't know how they've acquired all of those players, whether it is the draft or trades or what, but whatever they have done has been pretty good. So they've got something figured out. So I have to say that at the same time that I say it's hard to understand what they were doing with Michael Young. They've fielded a pretty good team over the past few years, so you don't really have to understand or know everything that is going on behind the scenes. The fact of the matter is, they've fielded a pretty good team."
END OF 2ND INNING (Phillies 0, Tigers 0): Cliff Lee is done for the day. He retired six of the seven batters he faced, the lone exception a walk to Miguel Cabrera in the third inning. He struck out the the last two batters he faced, Jeff Kobernus and Nick Castellanos. Three groundouts, one flyout, one walk, two strikeouts. That's the final tally. Lee will be replaced by Tyler Cloyd, who figures to start the season in Triple-A after finishing 2012 with the big league club.
Ryan Howard has a single off of lefty Drew Smyly. He also had a hit off of a lefty yesterday. Chase Utley grounded out after falling behind 0-2 in his only at-bat against Smyly.
PRE-GAME: One thing to note about the Phillies lineup is that Chase Utley is batting second, Michael Young third and Ryan Howard fourth against Tigers lefty Drew Smyly. We have to be careful not to read too much into a spring training lineup, because it is not always reflective of a manger's idea of the optimal batting order. Yet in this case, I don't see an obvious alternate explanation for why Charlie Manuel would bat Utley second and Young third instead of vice versa except that he wants to break up Utley and Howard, both of whom have struggled against lefties over the last couple of seasons (Howard has struggled against them longer than that).
On a couple of occasions this offseason, Manuel has hinted that he is considering using Young to break up Utley and Howard. That might not seem like a big deal, but the manager has always insisted that Utley is a three-hole hitter. All 81 of Utley starts last season came in the three-hole, most of them with Howard batting directly behind him. Utley hit just .215/.324/.355 with 17 strikeouts, 16 walks and four home runs in 142 plate appearances against lefties last season. In 2011, Utley posted a .187/.298/.308 line with 22 strikeouts, nine walks and two home runs in 124 plate appearances against LHP. Before 2011, Utley was always a solid hitter against lefties. Even now, he carries a career line of .270/.379/.474 against them.
Utley started 31 games in the two-hole in 2008 and 18 in 2009, but he started just 17 combined in 2010-11 and none last season.
Here's today's lineup:
- Yuniesky Betancourt SS
- Chase Utley 2B
- Michael Young 3B
- Ryan Howard 1B
- Darin Ruf LF
- Carlos Ruiz DH
- John Mayberry Jr. RF
- Erik Kratz C
- Michael Martinez CF
For the Tigers, prospect Nick Castellanos is starting in left field and batting seventh, so we'll get a chance to see what all the fuss is about. He's a right-handed hitter who is wearing No. 79. We heard a lot about him at the trade deadline last year.
Here is that lineup:
- Austin Jackson CF
- Torii Hunter RF
- Miguel Cabrera 3B
- Victor Martinez 1B
- Omar Infante 2B
- Jeff Kobernus DH
- Nick Castellanos LF
- Alex Avila C
- Danny Worth SS