Spring Training Report: February 24, 2004

The news is rolling out of Clearwater, Florida at a fast and furious pace. Full squad workouts haven't even started yet, but there's been a major press conference, Harry Kalas is definitely back and with a restaurant in his honor to boot. Plus, Billy Wagner had an MRI done on Tuesday and the Phillies family has suffered yet another loss of an old friend. And all of that has happened just in the last 24 hours.

Wagner Feels Discomfort In His Finger

The Phillies are saying it's just precautionary and they don't believe it's anything to worry about, but Billy Wagner complained of some pain in the index finger of his left hand (in other words, his throwing hand).

The Phillies immediately sent Wagner for an MRI, but are stressing that it was just precautionary. Wagner didn't seem too concerned later in the day when he was seen talking with GM Ed Wade and trainer Jeff Cooper.

Even though his finger hurt, Wagner was impressive in his throwing session in the morning. Catcher A.J. Hinch, who was working with Wagner, was seen shaking his glove hand several times after catching Wagner's pitches. Everyone in attendance reported that nothing appeared wrong with the new Phillies closer.

Pat Burrell Wants To Move Forward

With almost the full press corps in town for the opening of spring training, Pat Burrell decided to gather them for a little discussion. Burrell basically invited those assembled to ask whatever questions they had about his season-long slump from last year. He told them that he was willing to answer any and all questions for as long as they wanted. There was a catch though. This was going to be the last time that he would discuss 2003 because as far as he was concerned it was behind him and he didn't feel the need – nor, does he have the desire – to answer questions about last season on an on-going basis.

For what it's worth, the early word on Burrell is that he has moved a bit closer to the plate and that he is swinging the bat very well in the early going. Burrell was in camp early to work with Larry Bowa and special hitting instructor Charlie Manuel.

It's Official: Harry Is NOT Outta Here

After what seemed like lingering and often sour negotiations, Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas signed a three-year contract with the Phillies. The deal will take Harry through the 2006 season and will presumably be the last contract of his broadcasting career.

True to their earlier word, the Phillies also announced that a two-tier restaurant built into the scoreboard in left field would be named after the Phillies legend – Harry The K's – will be an open-air restaurant featuring primarily finger food and the like. The restaurant will also have a full view of the playing field.

One of the alleged sticking points in the deal was who Kalas would work with in the booth. He had commented a couple months ago that he "didn't feel as comfortable working with Chris Wheeler." Apparently, the two will have to patch things up, because they will be sharing some time in the booth. Especially since John Kruk, who handled some color commentary assignments on home games is likely headed for a job with ESPN on Baseball Tonight. Kruk interviewed and auditioned for the job left open by Bobby Valentine and reportedly is a shoe-in for the gig.

No word on who will fill Kruk's TV duties, but Tom McCarthy has been added as a full-time announcer on the radio side. McCarthy will add the fifth and sixth innings to his duties of hosting the pre and post-game shows on the Phillies radio network.

Rest In Peace, Pete Cera

In the type of news that has been repeated much too often this off-season, the Phillies are mourning the passing of a friend.

Long-time clubhouse man Pete Cera passed away at his home in Hazleton, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Cera was known to many of the players as a master of his craft who could fix and re-string gloves in near record time and better than almost anyone around.

Cera's passing follows the death of Andy Seminick on Sunday, which followed the passing of fellow Whiz Kid Mike Goliat. Of course, former GM and manager Paul Owens and Phillies favorite Tug McGraw both passed away earlier this winter.

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