One thing I’ve noticed over the past several days: the mood around this team is becoming more serious. I arrived in Clearwater on March 1, and for weeks, the locker room had a post-party feel. It’s not that people weren’t working hard, but they were being asked about the World Series every day, and many seemed to be in savoring mode. Now, as opening night draws closer and players compete for jobs (and some, like Marcus Giles, Kyle Kendrick, and those being sent to the minors realize that the goals and hopes expressed weeks ago will have to be readjusted), Bright House Field feels more focused, less playful. Everyone knows they will have to compete in about a week.
I was talking with Jamie Moyer about this earlier today. The 46-year-old is entirely inexperienced as a defending champion, and all he could do was hope that his teammates do not linger on their October memories for long. “That almost doesn't matter anymore, and a lot of individuals will have to figure out how to get focused again,” Moyer said, without the usual authority in his tone.
When Moyer talks pitching, he locks you into eye contact, a professor lecturing quietly during office hours. Talking about this, he gave me a searching look, shrugged, and said: "I hope we all can do it."
There have been a number of trade rumors in recent days. Here’s what I know: the Phillies are willing to move Ronny Paulino. They have recently been engaged in talks with the Giants about lefty Jack Taschner. The Kendrick for Jeff Baker thing the other day was Bunk Moreland. The Marson to Boston for a Clay Buchholz-type pitcher sounds too good to be true for the Phils, no offense to Marson.
Ruben Amaro Jr. has made it clear that he is actively looking to tweak. I think they will live with Miguel Cairo as that righty bench bat, but wouldn’t mind an upgrade. As far as the bullpen goes, Scott Eyre today was knocked around harder than his teeth were the other day, surrendering five hits and five runs in an inning against the Yankees today (the Phils lost 10-2). Wouldn’t worry about Eyre, though. Before today, his ERA was 3.00; he’s been fine.
Philly man Mike Koplove pitched another scoreless inning today, lowering his ERA to 1.23, and Gary Majewski’s ERA is 2.00. These men are righties, but they give the team bullpen depth. A guy like Taschner, therefore, becomes more of a luxury than a necessity.
I’ve received some emails asking about John Mayberry Jr
., and addressed his status in yesterday’s live chat. But in a nutshell—Mayberry’s power excites people, but he needs time to work on making consistent contact and getting on base consistently. He is batting .274, with an OBP hovering around .330. As detailed in this story
, Charlie Manuel
and Milt Thompson
have made some adjustments in Mayberry’s swing, and the kid ain’t gonna develop them pinch hitting for the Phillies. He belongs in Lehigh Valley, where the team hopes he will improve after four seasons in the Texas system defined by home runs and strikeouts.
Cole Hamels threw a bullpen session today, and is on track to start Sunday against those bloody Sox.
Utley and Howard both homered in the first off Joba Chamberlain, and then the Phillies went quiet for the afternoon.
My aside about Jeter belonging in centerfield raised a few questions, and my obsessive New York bias (OMG!! HE ADMITTED IT!!) compels me to elaborate. It has been obvious for a few years that Jeter’s range to his left is deteriorating. When Team USA played in Clearwater a few weeks ago, I stood in left field foul territory; the view of Jeter from back there was ghastly. He couldn’t even get his glove down on stuff that Rollins fields routinely (and Davey Johnson DH’d Jimmy in an elimination game?!?!).
But one of Jeter's strengths has always been running back on the ball hit to shallow left-center. He has the athleticism to track fly balls well. And his bat is not good enough to make him valuable at the corners. The Yankees are mulling a thrilling Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner competition in center this season, by the way. Hey, you asked.
Not sure how much blogging will happen tomorrow night, as I’ll be driving back from Kissimmee on a Friday. I’m told the traffic could keep me on the road until the clubhouse opens Saturday morning. Been listening to Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers during car trips this month, which helps with the Florida traffic, and provides an SAT question for the readers to ponder--Thomas Jefferson: James Madison :: Charlie Manuel: ?