First of all, Jupiter makes me pine for the Northeast. You know how in Philadelphia and New York they have historical districts, attitude, culture and good old fashioned crime and seediness? Well, down here it’s all about sleek, soulless planned communities (cue angry emails from soulful Jupiter residents), like Main Street at the Magic Kindgom without the merriment. Makes me want to get mugged in a back alley or something, just as a reminder that I’m alive.
The Phillies must have liked the place better than I did—they beat the Marlins 5-1 today, and their bats and the arms looked good. Joe Blanton’s command was so precise that, in pitching six one-hit, shutout innings, striking out three and walking none, he threw 44 of his 56 pitches for strikes. Blanton never threw more than four balls in an inning, never went to a three-ball count and began each inning with a strike.
Afterwards, he was typically self-deprecating, crediting Chris Coste with calling good pitches. Nice of you to say that, Joe, but you did aim nearly all of them perfectly into Coste’s glove.
Charlie Manuel enjoyed the performance, smiling after the game while offering praise in short declarative sentences: “He threw strikes. That’s super. He’s doing it very good.”
Following Blanton, Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless seventh and said that he felt on track to begin the season at full strength, Clay Condrey allowed one run in the eighth, and Rule 5 draft choice Bobby Mosebach pitched a scoreless ninth.
Manuel and Rich Dubee have some tough roster choices coming up, but when I asked the manager today if the decisions had begun to congeal in his mind, he said no. “I’m the type, I’m going to wait until I have to make a decision,” he said.
To update some of the contenders: Miguel Cairo hasn’t been much of a topic yet this spring, but it’s worth noting that the veteran infielder is batting .324 to Marcus Giles’ .161. As far as the others who are competing for a bench job, Jason Donald is at .320 (and one thing that isn't showing up in the box scores, Donald is hustling as hard as just about anyone. He takes aggressive leads off first, has stolen two bases, scored five runs, and the other day stretched a double into a triple. He's clearly doing everything he can to show Manuel that he is hungry to make the team), John Mayberry Jr. .275, Matt Stairs .318. Also, Stringer Bell is on The Office tonight, so that’s pretty cool.
Tomorrow, the Phillies face the Cardinals in Jupiter (the Cards share a stadium with the Marlins). Carlos Carrasco has a chance to build on his improved performance last Sunday against the Astros, when rather than stressing during a tough inning he struck out Lance Berkman with two outs and the bases loaded. Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson also pitch.
And J.C. Romero returned to Clearwater yesterday, following Puerto Rico’s exit from the World Baseball Classic.