Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spring Baseball Officially Begins Today!

Yep, the Phillies are still unable to sit on the bench comfortably.


Jerome Williams and the Phillies take on the Yankees at home.


Taking His Time – Chase Utley did not work out with his teammates Monday and he will not play in at least the first week of Grapefruit League games because of a sprained right ankle, but he said there is no reason to be alarmed. Utley rolled the ankle in January. It remains visibly swollen. "I'm making a little progress," Utley said. "Obviously, I wish it was a little quicker, but I'm trying to be smart about it. It seems like it's making some progressions every few days. I'd like to get out there as soon as possible. "There's no sense in overdoing it and screwing something else up, especially when we have a month until the season starts." Nobody could say when Utley might play in a game. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Sunday they would work Utley into a game "down the road." General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley would not play "for a little while." Utley said he did not participate in Monday's workout because a nearly two-hour mandatory domestic violence education program curtailed his daily routine to get his knees and ankle ready for the field. Utley missed most of Spring Training in 2011-12 because of knee problems, and he works daily to keep those issues at bay. "There's a process I go through to get on the field," Utley said. Of course, because of Utley's health history, any time something happens to him in Spring Training, folks wonder if something more might be afoot. Utley said that is not the case. "I understand, but my ankle, look at it," Utley said. "It looks worse than it is. But it's not like it's [completely healthy]. There's no point balancing on it or jumping on it. If I start balancing on it and jumping on it, and this isn't ready, then something else is going to take the brunt of it, and I want to avoid [that]. So that's where we're at."

Last Chance? – Phillippe Aumont seems to have made a few thousand adjustments to his delivery since he joined the Phillies following the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle in 2009. Aumont changed his arm slot. He stood more upright. He tried this. He tried that. "I've just had so many changes," Aumont said Sunday. "I try to not even think about it." All those coaching tips led to what could be Aumont's final chance with the Phils, who open their Grapefruit League season Tuesday afternoon against the Yankees at Bright House Field. The right-hander is out of options, so he must be exposed to waivers if he does not make the Opening Day roster. If Aumont is claimed, Philadelphia will have nobody left from the Lee trade. Aumont said he has not thought much about it. "If it's not here, it's going to be somewhere else," Aumont said. "I want to play here. This is a great opportunity for guys like me, young guys, to step up. But I don't think about if I mess up ... if it happens, it happens. "That's the business side of the game. I don't worry about that. I just try to go out there, have fun and be a good teammate. Whatever happens is going to happen." Aumont, 26, has a big arm, but he has been unable to throw strikes consistently. He has averaged 8.8 strikeouts and 6.1 walks per nine innings in 45 appearances with the Phillies over the past three seasons. Aumont has a 6.13 ERA in that time. The strikeout/walk averages have not been much better in Triple-A. Aumont could benefit from a change of scenery, which has helped players in the past. The moment the Phils traded Gavin Floyd to the White Sox in 2005, he seemed destined to turn things around. Floyd went 7-5 with a 6.96 ERA in 24 games (19 starts) with Philadelphia from 2004-06. He went 63-61 with a 4.20 ERA for Chicago from 2007-12. "Yeah, I mean, it crossed my mind," Aumont said about a change of scenery. "But at the moment, I'm here, so I want to compete for this team. If it ever comes down to that and I go somewhere else, then I'll think about it when I'm there. But right now, the Phillies are giving me that opportunity, and I'm taking it and I'm going for it." Aumont allowed three hits and one run in one inning in Sunday's 6-2 exhibition loss to the University of Tampa. "I feel much better this spring," Aumont said. "I feel like I caught on to some stuff that I've been working on. This is my eighth, ninth Spring Training. I know how to throw a baseball. I'm not doing it maybe perfectly, but I know how to do it."

Oliver In The Running – Ryne Sandberg searched for the positives from Sunday's 6-2 loss to the University of Tampa. He settled on left-hander Andy Oliver and right-hander Elvis Araujo. Oliver, who threw two scoreless innings, is a Rule 5 Draft pick from Pittsburgh who has a good chance to make the Opening Day roster as a reliever. The Phillies signed Araujo, who struck out the side in one perfect inning, to a Major League contract this offseason despite the fact he has not pitched higher than Double-A. The club loves his arm and his potential. Oliver, 27, will get a longer look than most pitchers in camp. The Phillies must keep Oliver on the 25-man roster the entire season to keep him in the organization. If they do not, he must be offered back to the Pirates. But because Philadelphia is rebuilding, the team could stash him on the roster the entire year. "Regardless, you still have to go out there and perform," Oliver said. "You still have to do your job." Oliver made seven starts for the Tigers in 2010-11, going 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA. He joined the Pirates' organization in 2013, moving to the bullpen in '14. He went 3-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 48 appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis. Oliver averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings, but also 6.6 walks. He will need to throw strikes consistently to make the team and remain on the roster the entire year. "I feel like I've learned a lot," Oliver said, when asked if he is different than his stint in the big leagues. "I'm a little wiser, knowing what I need to do and what it takes and how I go about it."

The Phillies will look to rebound this season from a 73-89 record last year. While uncertainty abounds, there is little question that the franchise is in rebuild mode based on the moves and statements that have been made during the offseason. The only question that remains is whether or not the young and veteran talent on the team can work together to disprove Gillick’s predictions either this year or next.

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