Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ryan Howard on Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard is back in Philadelphia for the first time since the last weekend of April.

He could get the go-ahead tonight to begin an official rehab assignment as soon as tomorrow, which would put him in line to rejoin the Phillies shortly after the All-Star break.

Howard spoke to the media at length regarding his long rehab from left Achilles' surgery. Here is all that he said.

Q: How are you feeling? 

Howard: I feel good, I feel good. I’ve been down in Clearwater, just trying to grind it out every day, just trying to get a little stronger, a little bit more comfortable with it and I guess… now we have a change of scenery. But I feel pretty good.

Q: Sounds like you're starting rehab soon. Think you'll be back within a couple weeks?

Howard:  I’d like to. But that’s up to the guys upstairs and the front office, with all the evaluations and what not. I mean, it‘ll be up to them depending on how they think it is. But I would like to be able to try to start a rehab assignment hopefully tomorrow or fairly near future and try to work my way back.

Q: Assistant GM Scott Proefrock said you’re going to have to re-learn running. What does that entail?

Howard: My Achilles is fine. That’s a non-factor to me. My biggest thing has been rebuilding the strength in the calf, in the fore foot and all of that. There was a little flatness early on running, I was just trying to smooth it out, because I had a little bit of a hitch in the giddyup and what not. There might still be a little bit there, but that’s to be expected. Just getting to the point in where I’m confident and comfortable running, even with that hitch, it’ll eventually work itself out. You do have to go through that entire process of getting confident that the strength is there and that there’s more strength coming in the future.

Q: Mental hurdle too? I imagine first couple of steps were biggest issue?

Howard: Initially the first couple of steps were always an issue. As of late it’s gotten a lot better. It’s not going to be Olympic-time trail type speed, I know you guys are going to be real disappointed with that, but whatever I got is what I’m going to give. It’s definitely gotten better with all the progressions and I’m happy with where it is right now.

Q: Can you still drive ball?

Howard: Hitting-wise I don’t feel any difference. It’s one of those things I don’t even think about. I’m able to get up on the ball of my foot on my swing, on my follow through. Swing-wise, it doesn’t feel… I don’t feel any difference. So to me, that’s a non-factor.

Q: Building strength in calf, in left leg, where’s that at?

Howard: I think there’s still a little bit to go. Not an overly large amount, but there’s still a ways to go to where I’d feel like I was truly 100 percent. But like I said, today I ran a little bit and I felt pretty good.

Q: When do you feel like you’ll be truly 100 percent? 

Howard: me honestly, who knows. Maybe not until next year. But you know, if it’s 80, 85 percent, the only thing I can do is give you 100 percent of 85 percent.

Q: What was tougher: to come out of the box, or moving laterally?

Howard: Originally it was tougher getting out of the box. The lateral movement, that really never bothered me that much. But now, getting out of the box, it’s gotten a lot better than what it was. We really worked hard in Clearwater working on that, trying to build up that strength.

Q: People here worry about home runs. Have you let it go… with your swing?

Howard: Yeah, my swing has been normal. I haven’t toned anything back, or tried ot hold anything back form my swing. I’ve been able to get my legs in my swing. During the simulated games and whatever games i was playing in Clearwater, I was able to focus on finding my swing again and just getting my approach back and all of that stuff. As far as getting my legs into my swings, I have been able to let it go and let it do what it does. There was no trying to hold anything back.

Q: This has taken a while. Did you learn to appreciate the game more?
Howard: Most definitely. There are times when you get caught up in the routine of playing every single day, then you get your off-season. It’s kind of like you are on borrowed time, then you are taking a little time off and you are back in the weight room and picking a bat back up. This was probably the first year that I didn’t pick a bat up until the first week of February — I would normally pick a bat up in November. It’s allowed me to focus on figuring out a new plan for myself mentally and physically, trying to get my body into shape and getting to attack the baseball end of things.

Q: Do you have a return date in mind?
Howard: Not really. I think now, its going to be getting into game type situations, running the bases, playing defense, just being in baseball situations- it shouldn’t take that long and playing the game — that’s the benefit of playing 162, you known when you are ready for those things. Having played in rehab games, being able to get a gauge for the speed of the game, that will be the biggest thing.

Q: How long has it taken you to get back into baseball shape in past injuries?
Howard: This injury, as opposed to the sprained ankle, it was different. This has carried on through the season and the ankle happened during the season. I had played game and a gauge for the speed of the game. I was already in game shape. This is brand new that when you miss half a season, you miss spring training, you are trying to pick up and treating these games as somewhat of a motified spring training to get my timing and situations under my belt. Then, you just go from there.

Q: Given best and worst case scenarios, how do you think this rehab has gone?
Howard: I mean, you want to be back as early as you possibly could while making sure that everything was in place, that my foot was healed and it was strong. But I mean, we had the infection and the tough part about it was getting it to close. I could have been back a lot sooner, but the infection didn’t close and we didn’t want to have any more setbacks.  Now, its closed and its just trying to move forward.

Q: You said 80 percent this year. How is speed, mobility, power?
Howard: Speed- we knew I was a blazer out there. For all the fantasy people, I’m not going to be stealing bases this year. It saddens me. But hitting wise, its fine. I’m able to do everything in the box that I need to do in the box. It’s the strength aspect from a running standpoint- either jumping off or something like that. Its not going to be all the way there yet. Spring training, it will be back at 100 percent.

Q: Utley is back today. Feel like you're getting the band back together?
Howard: “I’m excited for it. I’m excited to be here to be able to watch Chase come back tonight, number one. And I’m excited whenever they release me to go on my rehab. At the same time, I know what it’s going to take for me on my rehab. What I need to do in getting myself prepared and getting myself comfortable out on that field before I can come back and play.”

Q: Are you happy with your physical shape?
Howard: “Yeah, I’m good with it right now. Being down in Florida, it’s kind of hot, so every day we’re at the complex doing groundballs or hitting, it’s all conditioning in itself. Then I was going over to the place where I normally train … in the mornings, five in the morning or whatever, and get my lifts in there and then I would go do my other stuff at the complex. I was doing kind of two-a-days, so I mean I feel like I’m in good shape.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ryan Howard likely to return in three weeks

While most of the eyes of the Phillies organization are on Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where Chase Utley will play for the IronPigs in what is likely his last test before being activated off the DL, a press release from the organization likely diverted some of those eyeballs Tuesday.

Via a press release, Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Ryan Howard is headed back up north, and possibly, for good.

Howard, who had left Achilles surgery in October, will be examined by the medical staff in Philadelphia on Wednesday. 

"If he passes testing," Amaro said. "He will begin a rehabilitation assignment with single-A Lakewood on Thursday, June 28."

So take our your handy Phillies pocket calendar out and circle July 18. When an official rehab assignment starts, so does the clock on the player's return.

Position players can't spend any more than 20 days on a rehab assignment. So if Howard plays in Lakewood Thursday, he will be activated from the disabled list for the first time this season on or before July 18.

Charlie Manuel said he spoke to Howard on the phone yesterday:

"He’s been doing real good. He’s looking forward to when he can come back," Manuel said. "He's feeling real good. 

"He told me that when he runs, he’s got a little limp. But he says ‘I want to play and I feel like I can play. I don’t know if I’ll be where you want me to be or not.” But at the same time, he definitely has to be able to go play, to be able to do some things. To move, things like that. He feels like he’s getting there. He’s very positive abut where he’s at when I talked to him."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Victorino "long over" playing in a contract year

For just the second time this season, Shane Victorino is not in the starting lineup.

Charlie Manuel decided to give his long-time center fielder a mental break Friday, less than 24 hours removed from a loss that had Victorino bristling to reporters afterward.

"You guys always want to bring up the negative stuff - I'm over it," Victorino said as he walked away from a media herd Thursday night.

Victorino cooled down Friday afternoon. He's honestly one of the most accountable players in the clubhouse, which he should be commended for.

But he's also simply not having a great season.

Victorino, who leads all major leaguers with 71 games played this season, is hitting .252 -- 25 points below his career average. In the last month (25 games), he's hitting .215 with a .288 on-base percentage.

The obvious question: is his pending free agency an issue?

Manuel believes so. The manager did a slow eye roll when asked about the subject and then said he's actually had the discussion with Victorino recently.

Victorino, however, doesn't believe his contract status is related to his slump at the plate.

"I’m long over that," Victorino said Friday. "Maybe early on the thought process was there. But once... I overlooked that. Now I go out there and just… in this game, as we says, there’s enough pressure as it is. When you start adding things to your plate, the your world will start spinning. But I haven’t even… I’m just going out there trying to be the best player I can be and help the team win. Worry about that, focus on that.

"That’s how I look at it. One way or another I’m going to have a job somewhere. I would long for it to be here. But we understand it’s a business and things happen. So, I look at it that way. I’m worried about 2012, focused on winning here, bringing a championship here and whatever happens after the World Series ends and free agency begins, we’ll focus about that then.

"Don’t get me wrong, when I sit here and see I’m hitting .250, that’s not where I want to be, or where I can be or where I should be, but I can’t sit there and mope about it. I think that’s where I’m at. I’m over the fact of where the focus is, the ‘oh he’s not having the year he should during free agency and he’s focused on that; I’m not. I’m not focused on that."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ruiz believes he'll avoid DL

Carlos Ruiz hit in the cage Saturday morning. He took full batting practice with the rest of the Phillies prior to today's game, spraying line drives all over the Rogers Centre and hitting a BP home run, too.

About 15 hours after leaving Friday night's game with a left oblique strain, Ruiz said he felt fine Saturday morning. He said it was more of a cramp, not a strain.

Although Phillies management and the medical staff contradicted that later today - they said it is a strain, that a person cannot have a cramp in the oblique area - it appears Ruiz is OK. He'll be reevaluated when the Phils return to Philly Monday.

"I had an oblique problem in Colorado last year or a couple years ago and I know how it feels," said Ruiz, who missed 21 days with oblique strain in 2009. "I think this is more like a cramp, you know This is more like a cramp. That’s what I feel. They want to make sure that I’m OK. Today when I woke up, maybe I was a little sore. But I feel good. I’m ready to go. We’ll see how it goes."

Q: Does it make sense to take tomorrow off, too, since you guys are off Monday?

Ruiz: "I don’t know. We had a plan to catch today, but maybe they’re going to give me today off and I’ll be back tomrrow."

Q: You must be relieved, huh?

Ruiz: "Yeah, definitely I was worried. Because you can lose at least two weeks and sometimes more than that. So I’m happy that I feel good."

Q: Did you think it was bad after the last at-bat last night?

Ruiz: "I felt it, and it was there for most of the night. Like, it was real tight. But today I woke up and I feel great."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Halladay throws, Howard homers

Roy Halladay returned to the place he spent his first 12 major league seasons and took part in a baseball activity as routine as any: he played catch at Rogers Centre in Toronto Friday afternoon.

Halladay threw 30 balls from 60 feet. It may have looked like a routine catch - and it was - but it was also an important step in his return from a right lat injury.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said the session went better than Halladay expected. Halladay played it down.

"This was one of the steps," Halladay said. "It felt good. Still a long ways to go."

Halladay hadn't thrown a pitch since May 27 in St. Louis, when he left his start after two innings with shoulder soreness.

He is expected to be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks. He was expected to begin throwing again three weeks from the injury.

So he was about two days early...

"I had to do it because of our off day on Monday," Halladay said. "I wanted to get a couple days [of throwing] in. Today, again on Sunday and Tuesday. It’s a day or two early, but it’s basically three weeks."

Halladay will take Saturday off and play catch again Sunday. He said he'd likely "bump up" the throwing sessions Tuesday.

In other Phillies injury news...

--1B Ryan Howard (left Achilles') went 2-for-3 with two home runs in an intrasquad game in Clearwater, Fla. Manager Charlie Manuel said Howard has begun to run to first base after he hits.

--2B Chase Utley (left knee) played an inning at second base in a camp game in Clearwater. Utley went 1-for-4 with a walk. Utley spent the last three nights as the DH for the Class A Clearwater Threshers. Manuel believes Utley will slowly increase his reps at second base, from one inning for a game to three, to six and so on. 

--LF/1B Laynce Nix (calf) went 1-for-3 with a home run in an intrasquad game in Clearwater. He could begin an official rehab assignment within the week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Galvis has Pars fracture, other Phillies injury updates

Freddy Galvis is in a brace and will remain so for the next 3 weeks.

The rookie second baseman saw a specialist in New York on Tuesday and the diagnosis was in unison with the Phillies' -- Galvis has a Pars fracture on the right side of his back. He is out indefinitely.

"We really won’t know a lot more until we get to that (three week) time period," Phillies head team athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said Wednesday. "The biggest thing right now is to try to get him to feel better, to get home comfortable, try to get this thing to heal."

Could he be lost for the season?

"I don’t know yet," Sheridan said "We’ll get to 3 weeks and we’ll see where it’s at. A lot depends on how he responds to the three weeks."

Galvis will be immobilized for those three weeks. He'll wear the brace every day, all day; Sheridan said the only time he won't wear it is when he showers.

"If you had a fracture in your arm, you’d be put in a cast and you’d leave it and wouldn’t do anything with it," Sheridan said.

Since Galvis would have to begin a lengthy rehab after the three week period even if he is feeling better, he isn't likely to be back for a while.

Other Phillies injury notes:

--2B Chase Utley went 0-for-5 as the DH in the first game of his official rehab assignment at Class A Clearwater on Tuesday. He will play again tonight, again as the Threshers' DH.
 "I think the fact he just played and he got 5 at-bats, that’s a good sign, that he can play in a game now," manager Charlie Manuel said. 
  Update: Utley grounded out in his first at-bat in Clearwater tonight, knocking in a run in the process to put the Threshers in front 1-0.

-- RHPs Mike Stutes and David Herndon still haven't began throwing in Clearwater. They were shut down last month; both went on the disabled list in late April.
   Assistant GM Scott Proefrock said both are scheduled to be examined by team doctor Mike Ciccotti next week.

--1B Ryan Howard has continued to play in simulated games in Clearwater. But he has not began running in game situations yet.

--OF/1B Laynce Nix could begin a rehab assignment within the next week, Proefrock said.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Galvis's back injury "serious."

The Phillies have played without Chase Utley for the first two months of the season. They may have to play at least the next two months without his replacement.

Following a 9-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock updated the status of rookie infielder Freddy Galvis, who was placed on the disabled list with a lower back injury Thursday.

After going through a battery of tests in Philadelphia, Galvis is believed to have a pars fracture in his back.

“It’s serious,” Proefrock said. “It could keep him out for a considerable amount of time.”

The 22-year-old Galvis will go for a second opinion this week. The Phils will have a definitive diagnosis after that visit.

“From what I understand, it's a minimum of at least six weeks in a brace,” Proefrock said. “But again, that's what our doctors have seen. They're going to get a second opinion."

Mets All-Star third baseman David Wright missed two months (from May 15 to July 22) with a similar injury last season.

Galvis suffered the injury Wednesday night. He left a game against the Dodgers in the middle of his at-bat in the fifth inning after grabbing at his back after running out a foul ball.

Galvis hit .226 in 58 games and played a Gold Glove-worthy second base in 58 games in place of Utley. He also showed a knack for driving in runs. 

Galvis had 24 RBIs, which was fourth among major league rookies and second in the National League when he suffered the injury. Among rookies, his 19 extra-base hits are second only to Cincinnati's Zack Cozart.

Polanco out for the weekend

Placido Polanco's left hand will keep him out of the series at Camden Yards in Baltimore this weekend.

Polanco, who took a spike to his left hand on a slide from Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor Tuesday night, was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game on Friday. When the Phils left for Baltimore after Thursday's game, Polanco stayed behind to get his hand checked out in Philadelphia.

He ended up getting stitches on his left index finger and a cortisone shot to heal his wrist, too.

Polanco called the wrist injury "a small tear."

"I got a shot there and I’ll need a couple of days," Polanco said.

Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Polanco would be out for the weekend and reevaluated Monday, when the Phils have off before heading to Minnesota.

Without Polanco, Charlie Manuel started Ty Wigginton at third base for the third straight game. Wigginton made two errors in Thursday's 8-3 loss to the Dodgers.

Manuel said Michael Martinez could get a start this weekend.

Phillies lineup:

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Juan Pierre, LF
3. Hunter Pence, RF
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Shane Victorino, CF
6. Carlos Ruiz, C
7. Ty Wigginton, 3B
8. John Mayberry Jr., 1B
9. Mike Fontenot, 2B

Joe Blanton is pitching.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Freddy Galvis to the DL

The Phillies have got no cleanup hitter, their All-Star second baseman has bad knees, their pets' heads are falling off....

OK, occasionally you need to work in a line from "Dumb and Dumber" to stay sane over the course of a 162-game season.

But the desperation Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn faced in the beginning of that classic film (OK, OK, slapstick movie) relates pretty well to the current situation the Phillies find themselves in two months into the 2012 season.

They've lost a season-high five straight games.

They're six games out of the NL East lead.

They've been in last place for all but one day since May 5.

And now, another injury....

After playing all season without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phils have seen three more players head to the DL in the last 11 days. First it was Roy Halladay (out 6-8 weeks) then Jose Contreras (out for the season) and now, slick-fielding rookie second baseman Freddy Galvis

Galvis left the fifth inning of Wednesday night's 6-5 loss with lower back pain. After the game, the Phils announced that he would be placed on the disabled list, where he'll join Utley, Howard, Halladay, Contreras, Laynce Nix and relievers Mike Stutes, David Herndon and Justin De Fratus.

Galvis was only sprung into major league starting duty when Utley's knees weren't healthy enough to play this spring. A shortstop his entire life, Galvis made the transition to second base in spring training and has been a revelation in the field in the first two months of the regular season.

He makes at least one eye-catching play every game - on Wednesday, he backpedaled into shallow right center before making a behind-the-back, leaping snag of a fly ball - and has also filled in adequately at shortstop in the few games Jimmy Rollins has missed.

Galvis is hitting .226, but he's been durable (he's tied with Shane Victorino with the most games played among all major leaguers, with 58) and he's shown a knack for driving in runs. 

Galvis has 24 RBIs, fourth among major league rookies and second in the National League. His 19 extra-base hits are second only to Cincinnati's Zack Cozart.

“It’s another one of our guys going down?” manager Charlie Manuel said. “What more can I say?”

Perhaps there is nowhere to go but up?

"I feel like what’s going on wrong, sooner or later it’s going to be like the stock market and bottom out somewhere," Manuel said. "We’ll start working from there. Hopefully that was tonight."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meet the Press, with special guest Roy Halladay

Nine days after the shortest start of his Phillies career, Roy Halladay talked about his rehab back from his right shoulder injury (a lat strain) and how it affects his future, too.

In the last week, Halladay saw the Phils team physician Michael Ciccotti and Mets team doc David Altchek, who specializes in shoulder injuries. After looking at his current MRI and one the Phils had on Halladay before the trade that brought him to Philly in December of 2009, Altchek came to the same conclusion at the Phillies: there was minimal changes in his rotator cuff in the last 2 1/2 years.

So, Halladay will continue as planned, taking a three week break from throwing. He is still expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks total.

Here are some of the highlights of this afternoon's press conference at Citizens Bank Park:

Q: Is this something that you'll have to re-evaluate after the season, possibly have to go in surgically to check it out further?

Halladay: "From what I understand, no. It’s a matter of calming it down and strengthening everything around it. I think from what they saw, the changes weren’t such that would warrant anything down the road. From my understanding, I was never asked to see him at a later point. Once we calmed it down and got things comfortable, it wouldn’t be something we’d have to evaluate later."

Q: Knowing your personality as someone who wants to compete all the time, is it tough to be patient?

Halladay: "I think there’s ways to work hard and be smart about it and rehab yourself correctly. The first week was obviously tough, but I found things to do,  not arm related. The important thing is just knowing that a week could save me a month. As much as I want to be back, I want to make sure that when I am back, it’s not something I have to address later on, that it’s a hurdle that’s been passed and doesn’t need to be something that reoccurs down the road. I understand that and I’m going to be very cautious of that.  At the same token, I want to be out there. I’m going to do everything I can to rehab and all the other stuff to make sure we’re doing it the right way. That’s I think a part of the reason I wanted to get the second opinion is you just want to try to gather as much information as you can so you know what you’re dealing with and you know how to approach it the right way and what makes the most sense and ultimately what’s best in the long term. And I’m very well aware that a week during this process could save me a long period of time. I’ll be very upfront with them and use the knowledge around me."

Q: How do you feel now?

Halladay: "I’m trying not to test it. Really, there’s one specific area I felt it right before I was letting go of the ball. At this point, it’s not something we’re testing. It feels good doing the exercises. I have no problems doing any of that. It’s not something I feel when I’m laying in bed. It was never that day. It was only when I was throwing in certain positions.  I think as we get closer to that 3-week period is when we’ll start testing it a little bit and basically that will tell us when we can start throwing, but I have not tested that part of it and I don’t think we plan on doing that until we get closer."

Q: Plenty of reports about your velocity being down. Is that getting old or injury-related?

Halladay: "Honestly, I try not to pay attention to it. I think at times it was pretty similar. At times there was probably a few miles per hour difference. I think that it’s probably a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of guys gain velocity as they got older. I’m aware of that. I’m aware that the older you get you’re going to have to be a little better at spotting the ball and changing speeds. I think that’s part of the aging process. I felt at times it was good. I felt at other times it wasn’t as good. I’ve felt like it’s still there. I can tell when it doesn’t feel like it’s coming out the right way. There were plenty of times this year when it felt like it was. There were also other times I felt like everything I Had it just wasn’t coming out the way it should. I feel like it’s there. It’s such a matter of timing and all that. I don’t feel like I’m going to be throwing 98 in a couple years. I understand that. I understand it’s a gradual process and you’re probably going to lose a little bit here and there. But as much as I can maintain or stat at an even level I’m going to try and do that."

Q: When you return, can you still be the complete game guy, the one who throws 130 pitches? Or do you have to be cautious?

Halladay: As far as a lot of pitches and stuff, I’ve always felt like the games that I pitch deeper in, the complete games and stuff, I feel like I’m more efficient in those games. Usually when I hit 125 or 130, I’m kind of scuffling through 7 or 8 innings. I still feel like I’m going to be able to do that. And I feel like, it’s going to be important to monitor the throwing. And that was kind of the tough part for me through this process. I felt like I had adjustments that needed to be made, but at the same time we went through a stretch of 7 or 8 starts on five days rest. I was delicate of how much I could throw in between and work on what I needed to do and how much I needed to rest, but I think that’s going to be important going forward, monitoring those in between days with the training staff and stuff. It’s been very good the first two years here. I don’t see any difference in that.

Q: You have a vesting option for 2014 based on innings pitched, which you probably won’t meet now. Are you concerned about it? Have you talked to the agent or the Phillies about your future here?

Halladay: It’s a year and a half away. Ultimately, my goal is to finish my career with the Phillies and win a World Series here. Some of those things are not fully in my control, but my intent is to play here and finish my career here and be here as long as I can. I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next year and a half, but I know from my side I’m going to make an effort to be here as long as I can and finish here. I don’t want to go anywhere else.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

M.A.S.H. Report

As you may have noticed, several prominent Phillies players are not currently playing for the Phillies.

Here is the latest on all of them, courtesy of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Roy Halladay (right shoulder): The two-time Cy Young Award winner has not thrown a baseball in 10 days. The Phils are still waiting for the final word on the second opinion Halladay had Wednesday in New York (with Mets team physician and shoulder expert David Altchek, but Amaro said he "doesn't envision it to be anything different" than the current 6-to-8 weeks diagnosis. Halladay has began exercises and, according to today's medical report, "symptom free."

Ryan Howard (left Achilles): The former MVP has been in Clearwater for over a month now and has been hitting against live pitching for at least two weeks. He will play in an extended spring training game Wednesday; he will hit, but he will not run. Amaro: "He’s been doing jogging, light sprint work. But his calf just isn’t strong enough to do full-out sprint work."

Chase Utley (left knee): After going 3-for-4 with a home run Monday, Utley did not appear in an extended spring training game today. He'll join Howard in a game Wednesday. Both players will DH. Although there is just one more game left in extended spring, Amaro doesn't foresee Utley going out on an official rehab yet because he hasn't played in the field in a game setting yet.

Jim Thome (back): Amaro said he would likely be activated before the end of the current homestand (Thursday). He has been playing in extended spring games regularly for over 10 days. Thome will not, however, play in the field again, as Amaro said the future Hall of Famer has too much back discomfort while playing first base.

The relievers: Justin DeFratus (elbow), who has pitched in one minor league rehab game this season and missed all of spring training, is coming along better than everyone else. Amaro said he's been feeling good and "hopefully we'll get him on the mound" in the next couple of weeks. Mike Stutes (shoulder) and David Herndon (elbow)  are "moving pretty slowly," Amaro said. Contreras (elbow) is out for the season but has not decided whether or not he'll have Tommy John surgery.

Chooch behind the pack in All-Star voting

Among major league catchers with a minimum of 150 plate appearances, Carlos Ruiz is:

 --first in batting: .368

 --first in OPS: 1.016

 --tied for third in home runs: 8 (but tied for first in the NL in home runs)

 --tied for second in RBIs: 32 (but also tied for first in NL in RBIs)

 -- first in slugging percentage: .600

 -- second in extra-base hits: 20

 -- seventh in All-Star voting: 562,021 votes (which is almost half of NL leader Yadier Molina's total).

 That's right, Carlos Ruiz, who has risen from the eighth spot to the cleanup spot in the Phillies batting order, who is a legitimate MVP candidate through the season's first two months (if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he'd be leading the major leagues in hitting and he'd be sixth in OPS) is way behind the pack in his bid to go to his first All-Star Game.

 And, honestly, that's sad. Especially when he plays for a team that has sold out every home game this season (and, thus, there should be plenty of fans filling out those ballots).

I once spoke to a prominent Phillies player and former All-Star who made the observation that, for whatever reason, Phils fans don't get too much into the All-Star voting process). This would be the best proof yet.

 Here are the results for the first round of balloting among NL catchers:

  1. Yadier Molina, STL: 1,100,048 votes 
  2. Buster Posey, SFG: 1,072,464 
  3. Brian McCann, ATL: 707,508 
  4. Carlos Ruiz, PHL: 562,021 
  5. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL: 457,590

 Other major league catchers with more votes than Chooch: Texas's Mike Napoli, Baltimore's Matt Wieters and Minnesota's Joe Mauer.

 No other Phillies were among the top five players in their respective positions (which isn't shocking, given the way the offense has performed over the season's first two months).

 Among NL outfielders, Hunter Pence is 11th (446,460 votes) and Shane Victorino is 15th (373,034).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Utley headed to Clearwater

On a day the Phillies offense looked as ill-suited as ever in attempting to overcome a 5-0 deficit - Hector Luna was the cleanup hitter - the team got good news following Sunday's game.

Chase Utley is taking his rehab to Clearwater, Fla., where he'll begin playing in games.

"I'm excited about it," said Utley, who has miss the season's first tow months with chondromalacia in his left knee. "I've made some progress in the next two months and I'm ready to take the next step."

Utey hopes to hop right into extended spring training games on Monday. He'll take at-bats and run the bases initially, and then hopes to begin fielding in games, too.

When Utley missed the first seven weeks of the 2011 season, he left for Clearwater on May 10, returned to Philly 10 days later and was activated on May 23. But he couldn't say if he'd be able to make a similar, less-than-two-weeks return to Philadelphia this year.

"I don't have a time frame," Utley said. "My whole goal is to feel comfortable and feel that I can contribute on a daily basis."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Contreras's season over, career in jeopardy

Jose Contreras has likely thrown his last pitch as a big leaguer.

Contreras left Friday's game after throwing five pitches in the seventh inning. It did not look good.

The MRI results Saturday confirmed the Phillies' initial fears.

The 40-year-old Contreras has a complete UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) and a flexor pronator tear in his right arm. The Phils will wait to hear a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum, who preferred elbow surgery on Contreras in September.

But general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the initial findings would mean Contreras' season is over.

"It’s kind of unfortunate for him, I feel badly for him," Amaro said. "He worked pretty hard to get back to the point where he was starting to be pretty effective. It’s a tough piece of news to take."

Contreras began the season on the DL while recovering from his surgery in September, but became a vital cog in the Phils' pen in the last month. 

In Wednesday's 10-6 win over the Mets at Citi Field, Contreras struck out two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

After allowing 10 runs in his first 10 games this season after being activated off the DL, Contreras extended his scoreless string to six straight games on Wednesday; he has a 1.86 ERA in 11 games since May 4 before taking the field on Friday.

Contreras' current injury would require Tommy John surgery. Since he turns 41 in December, his major league return appears to be very unlikely.