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Philly Week In Review

June 4th 2012 20:23
"Can I get a win? Soon?"

Welcome back to yet another installment of the Philly Week in Review. I hope that everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day weekends, and have been enjoying the unofficial start of least until Seattle's weather band made its way East.

With two teams still licking their wounds from second round playoff exits and another doing some OTA's but still a couple of months from putting on the pads for some live hitting, it's the Phillies' show for now, and the reviews have been so-so at best.

Let's get to it:

The Phillies wrapped up a promising 5-2 road trip with a win on Wednesday against the Mets, and snapped the streaking Marlins' four-game winning streak with a 6-4 win in their series opener Friday night.

Unfortunately, this week wrapped up like most of the others this season for the Phils, as they dropped the final two games of the series, to finish the week at 3-3. The two losses also dropped them back to a single game above .500 at 28-27, and 3 1/2 games behind the first place triumvirate of the Marlins, Nationals and, ugh, the Mets?

The good news came shortly after yesterday's 5-1 loss to Miami, as Chase Utley announced that he would be heading to Clearwater to begin playing in extended spring training games today, and reportedly did so with a three-hit effort that included a home run. This is presumably the final step toward getting him back in the Phillies' lineup, barring any setbacks to his chronically-injured knees.

Chase Utley homered in his first rehab start at DH in extended spring training.

Please, please, please no setbacks! This offense needs something to kick start it, either Utley or some of those special Roger Clemens B12 shots maybe?

It wasn't a great week for the pitching staff, either:

That Cliff Lee is still winless as the calendar flips to June is pretty unbelievable. Despite his 3.00 ERA, his .234 opponents' avg. against and his 5.4 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, he's still got a goose egg in the win column, thanks in large part to the 20 runs the offense has put up for him over his eight starts, and that's not counting the 2-run homer Carlos Ruiz hit in his last outing after Lee was lifted in that spot in the order.

Joe Blanton has come crashing back to earth, sinking to a new low by allowing a home run to the opposing pitcher in each of his starts this week. Yesterday's opposite field shot by Carlos Zambrano wasn't terrible, as it was his 24th career home run; however, the one surrendered to rookie Mets' starter Jeremy Hefner was his first career hit - and an absolute moon shot, to boot.

Blanton also earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first Phillie starter to allowed at least five earned runs in four straight starts since Gavin Floyd in 2006. In Blanton's defense, yesterday's outing was pretty solid through the first six innings, as he had allowed on two earned runs before the wheels came off in the 7th.

Even the infallible Cole Hamels endured his second loss of the season on Saturday, falling to 0-2 on the season against the Marlins after sandwiching eight consecutive wins in between his season-opening and most recent loss to Miami.

Jose Contreras joined the injury parade - again - by tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow while warming up for an appearance Friday night, and will be lost for the season.

And, of course, we officially got word that Roy Halladay would be out for six-to-eight weeks with that "cranky" lattisimus dorsi/shoulder thing he's got going on.

The Fightins open a four-game set with the Dodgers tonight at Citizens Bank Park - weather permitting - and send out Vance Worley fresh off of the DL to face last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw.

The Phils' front office looks to begin the process of replenishing their farm system that has been depleted in recent years due to some high profile trades, as the annual First Year Player Draft kicks off tonight at 6:00 PM on the MLB Network.

Without a first round pick yet again (this year's was forfeited for signing Jonathan Papelbon as a free agent), Phillies' Assistant GM (and one of the nicest guys in baseball) Marti Wolever will at least have some ammunition early in the draft, with four total picks in the first 100, which includes #40 and #54 tonight.

Texas Tech OF Barrett Barnes is a potential Phillies' target in tonight's MLB Draft.

Wolever and his crew have been successful in selecting quality talent over his past several drafts in this range, many of whom have been the key pieces in trades to acquire the likes of Cliff Lee (the first time), Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence.

With a dearth of position player prospects in the system, some of the players expected to be available, according to Baseball America's rankings, include Texas Tech OF Barrett Barnes, University of Florida SS Nolan Fontana, and a pair of high school catchers in Union's (Washington) Clint Coulter and Calallen's (Texas) Wyatt Mathieson.

Another name is a Florida State OF with a strong Christian faith by the name of James Ramsey, but I don't know if they Phils will go there based on their draft record with religious Seminole outfielders...J.D. Drew, anyone?

The Eagles continued their preparations for the 2012 season with another couple of weeks of OTA's at the NovaCare Complex.

As much as the talk surrounding the team points to issues at the safety position, who the backup quarterback will be (more on that in a future post) and how newly-acquired Demetress Bell will fill in for the injured Jason Peters at left tackle, the main issue with the Birds remains the same:

Will Michael Vick play efficiently enough, and be healthy enough, to lead this team on a deep run in the postseason?

The spotlight again shines brightest on Michael Vick.

Vick has appeared to have grown tired of all of the criticism thrown his way - his injuries, the passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, his ability to throw consistently from the pocket, and his penchant for turnovers.

Most of these are legitimate concerns, however, and even with all of the improvements on defense and the contract extensions for DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and others, this season rests squarely on the left shoulder and the legs of Vick.

The other big news out of Birds' camp was Jason Babin's announcement that he was planning on running with the bulls in Spain in July. Just to clarify, Babin is not planning on doing some off-season conditioning overseas with Carlos Boozer and the rehabbing Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls here.

He wants to go and run through the streets of Pamplona with a bunch of other adrenaline junkies and/or morons with real live bulls, complete with a full rack of horns that are excellent for goring unsuspecting runners.
Jason Babin running with the bulls? What could possibly go wrong?

97.5 The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli touched on the topic in his weekly Sunday column for the Inquirer, and summed it up in exactly the way I would have: if you want to do it, do it when you're no longer playing.

When you have a team primed for a potential Super Bowl run depending on you, a coach squarely on the hot seat and a multi-million dollar contract at stake if you get gored or trampled in this non-football activity, what's the point anyway?

The Sixers are no doubt planning out their off-season, which figures to be a pivotal one for the future of their franchise. Among the key issues they face:

Will they exercise the new amnesty clause and release veteran Elton Brand, thus removing his large 2012-13 salary cap figure from the books free of penalty, with their only obligation being to pay out his final year of the deal?

Will they re-sign free-agent-to-be C Spencer Hawes, who turned down an extension before last season?

Will they be able to re-sign 6th man Lou Williams if he exercises the opt out clause in his contract, as he is expected to this summer?

And will they pursue a trade for All-Star F Andre Iguodala in an attempt to bring back a scoring threat and some front line depth?

The Brand release makes sense, but without a lot of quality depth at power forward on the market, aside from the former Mr. Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, it might suit the Sixers to have Brand play out his contract, and then load up for a run at some other attractive free agents the following summer, including restricted free agent Blake Griffin, and free agent PF Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks.

Have we seen the last of Elton Brand in a Sixers' uniform?

Hawes is a little tricky, but if the price is right he makes sense. Williams is a no-brainer, as he led the team in scoring and gave them a lift on a nightly basis whenever he entered the game.

Iguodala is another tricky situation - he's one of the top defenders in the game, but is inconsistent at the offensive end. A contending team might see him as the missing link for a championship run, and be willing to part with some young talent to get him.

And the Flyers' brass, like their basketball counterparts, were probably mapping out their off-season strategy as they look to build upon their 103-point regular season.

Free-agent-to-be Matt Carle will be GM Paul Holmgren's biggest in-house decision, as he could opt to sign him to a long-term deal - which he indicated he would like to do - or let him walk and go after one of the bigger names on the market, like top defenseman Ryan Suter from Nashville, or Devils' star forward Zach Parise.

I don't think offense is a huge need for a team that scored with the frequency that the Flyers did last season, and adding another top blueliner like Suter or his teammate, Shea Weber, in front of Ilya Bryzgalov would probably make the most sense.

Ryan Suter is expected to draw attention from several teams, including the Flyers.

I did see on Bleacher Report that they ranked their top 25 free agents and their probable destinations for 2012-13, and none of them were headed to Philly, in their opinion. I would be surprised if they weren't a player for one of the top guys, or if they pursued a trade to add a defenseman, perhaps including James van Riemsdyk as part of the package - which I think would be a mistake, as he's barely scratched the surface of his potential to put together a complete season.

And on the former Flyers' front, castoff Jeff Carter netted the game winner in overtime of Game 2 on Saturday night for the Kings, to lift them to a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Looks like Richie and Cartsie will be getting their names on the Cup first, after all...

Hope everyone has a great week, and Let's Go Phillies!
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