Red Sox fans are crazy. Yeah, I said it. First of all, they pay admission to stand in the aisle. Seriously. For nine innings of a spring training game while people walk in front of them.
Also, when John Mayberry Jr. hit into a double play to end a bases-loaded threat in the fourth during today’s 3-0 Phillies loss, the Sox fans cheered with regular season intensity, apparently forgetting that IT WAS A GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE GAME. Clearwater folks know how to take in a March exhibition with the appropriate relaxed half-attention.
Speaking of things which seem important but actually aren’t, we’re all trying to figure out who will start opening night. Sports is full of both actual human drama and manufactured drama. An example of the former: will Cole Hamels remain healthy enough to continue a remarkable career? An example of the latter: who will start opening day? Rich Dubee was right today when he said: “It’s just another start.”
Because of that, the Phillies need to give Hamels adequate time to prepare for a productive season, not push him toward some arbitrary deadline. I suspect they will do the right thing, though Charlie Manuel wasn’t ready today to rule out Hamels. Manuel said that Brett Myers, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer could all be the opening day starter. Myers, of course, has been cast in that role for the Phillies recently.
Hamels long-tossed today, and is Sunday, and five days after is Friday’s exhibition in Philadelphia against the Rays. So it’s hard to see how he pitches on Sunday, April 5th. It’s also hard to justify any more time thinking about this.
Speaking of those exhibitions in Philly, Manuel said today that he would probably wait until traveling north to make final roster cuts. The team usually brings 7-8 extra players to that series. So, for example, Chris Coste and Ronny Paulino will both make the trip, but only one of them is likely to make it to Sunday night. So if you’re looking for answers, you won’t get them until the very end.
But some decisions are sort of making themselves. Marcus Giles’ average has sunk to .156, and he wasn’t invited on the trip to Fort Myers today. Miguel Cairo was; he started at shortstop—a position that Giles can’t play—and is batting .268. The rapid recoveries of Pedro Feliz and Chase Utley were not good for Giles’ chances.
Mayberry's OBP is down to .323, and he seems in need of more seasoning. Kyle Kendrick is improving, but doesn’t appear to have time to catch J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park (Manuel said yesterday that he saw no way whatsoever to keep all three on the roster, and can you imagine Happ and Park, barring injury, not making the team?)
The bullpen is still interesting, with Mike Koplove and Gary Majewski pitching well, Bobby Mosebach improving, and one of Happ/Park likely headed there.
Manuel and Dubee said three weeks ago that these things would work themselves out, and that’s what’s happening. Neither has said who will make the team, and who will be cut. But they hint, and we can look at the numbers, though reminding ourselves that it ain’t over yet.
Evidence of either media training or natural born tact: Brad Lidge and a few writers were standing outside the Phillies’ locker room two days ago in Jupiter. It was the bottom of the ninth, and the Phillies and Cardinals were tied 2-2, with Koplove pitching. We had been stuck in that godforsaken Perfectville for two days. The team bus was revving its engine, and everyone wanted to get on the road.
I asked Lidge, “are you rooting for Koplove, or are you rooting for it to end?”
“I’m rooting for Koplove to end it,” he said. I thought it was a brilliant non-answer. Koplove, to everyone’s chagrin, pitched a scoreless inning, and the game ended after 10 in a 2-2 tie.