by Chuck Hixson
One thing that's been overlooked in the Chase Utley and Placido Polanco controversy is how good Utley is coming off the bench. In his career, Utley is a .314 hitter coming off the bench and a .251 hitter as a starter. That's not to say that he should be left to play out his career on the bench, but his presence coming off the bench gives the Phillies an added plus. Wednesday night, Utley hit his third pinch-hit homerun of his career. This one was a grand slam that gave the Phillies a 10-6 win over the Giants and four wins in their last five games.
Vicente Padilla's sore back came at the perfect moment. With off days last Thursday and Monday, the Phillies could afford to skip Padilla in the rotation and go with four starters. It's worked well. Now, just as the Phillies approach needing a fifth starter, Padilla is reportedly feeling better. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday and reported no problems with his back. Padilla could possibly start Saturday night against Arizona when the Phillies need a fifth starter. If he can't go, it's likely that they would either put him back on the DL and recall someone from AAA or give Amaury Telemaco a start. In case you're wondering, Gavin Floyd is scheduled to start Friday night for Scranton. Saturday's pitcher is scheduled to be Eude Brito.
Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
Yes, Eude Brito is starting for Scranton these days. He started the season as a reliever and spent most of last season in the bullpen at Reading. In fact, coming into the season, he had started just 20 of his 179 minor league games. With Robert Ellis going back on the disabled list though, Brito is the fifth starter for the Red Barons. In four starts, Brito is 1-0, 5.82 and has pitched 17 innings for Scranton in those games. As a reliever this season, Brito is 0-1, 10.57. In his last start, Brito gave up three homeruns in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Ryan Howard had his power surge ended Tuesday night when he went 1-for-3 with just a single against Charlotte. In his four previous games, Howard had launched six homeruns. Howard is now hitting .327 and has 10 homeruns in 110 at bats. He also has 27 RBI in 32 games at Scranton.
Carlos Leon got a bit of a surprise promotion to Scranton. Leon was struggling at Reading hitting just .200 in 20 games. He had also gone 0-for-15 and 1-for-26 prior to his promotion. In his first game with the Red Barons, Leon added an 0-for-3 to those numbers. Early in the season, Leon was hitting well at Clearwater, notching a .309 average in 20 games with the Threshers.
Ryan Fleming is joining the Red Barons from AA Reading. Fleming hit 4-21-.293 in 46 games at Reading before his promotion. He also stole seven bases, putting him third on the club in steals behind Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn. While Fleming was moving up, John Castellano moved down to AA Reading. Castellano was hitting .242 in 48 games at Scranton.
By the way, that was the Robert Person who beat the Red Barons Tuesday night in Charlotte. The 35 year old Person is pitching for the Charlotte Knights and is 2-3 with a 7.00 ERA in seven starts. He allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks against Scranton. He also struck out five and allowed a homerun to Jim Rushford.
By Paul Warren
One of the reasons that Castellano was sent to Reading was to help out behind the plate. Trent Pratt was given permission to leave the team to be with his wife, who for the birth of twins. The R-Phils also got catcher Mike Lombardi from Clearwater to help fill Pratt's spot, but Castellano was the starting catcher in his first game with Reading. Castellano had been playing outfield for Scranton, but was their emergency catcher since they're facing a bit of a catching crunch too.
With Carlos Leon being promoted to Scranton, Jesus Merchan was signed as a minor league free agent. The 24 year old Merchan had played five seasons in the Twins organization, reaching High-A level last season. Merchan hit .289 in his career in the Minnesota organization, but was released after spring training this year. Merchan has taken over at second base for Reading and is 1-for-6 in two games.
Just as the Phillies have no idea when Tim Worrell will return to their bullpen, the R-Phils have no idea on when Steve Swisher will return to manage the club. Swisher took time off because of "personal issues" and there is no definite timetable for his return. Dave Owen has joined the club to serve as acting manager in Swisher's absence.
by Holly Oswald
Whether it was a day off, multiple roster moves or simply the fact that it was "Elvis Night" at BrightHouse Networks Field, the Clearwater Threshers were simply crushing the ball Wednesday night. They banged out 19 hits and 15 runs to pound Dunedin 15-5. Brian Sellier hit two homeruns, both coming in the same inning off different pitchers. Sellier was 3-for-4 on the night and now has five homeruns on the season. B.J. Littleton was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI for Clearwater.
Gabe Ribas joined the Threshers and made his first start Wednesday night. He threw six innings and gave up one earned run on four hits. Ribas, who is 26, spent three seasons pitching in the Padres organization after they took him in the 14th round of the 2002 Draft. Ribas had been pitching in independent baseball this season.
Another new face is Orlando Guevara, who played two games with the Threshers last season. Guevara came in to catch, relieving Marc Tugwell and went 0-for-1 in his first game with the Threshers this season.
The final move was the addition of Jorge Padilla from extended spring camp. Padilla won't be with Clearwater long, just long enough for him to get his swing back and move back up the ladder toward Scranton where he played last season. Padilla has been plagued by injuries throughout his minor league career, sidetracking a player who was, at one time, thought to be a top prospect in the organization.
Mitch Graham, who was seriously injured in a car accident, left for his native Australia Wednesday. The word is that he won't return to baseball. We certainly wish him all the best in the future.
by Chuck Hixson
Times continue to be tough in Lakewood, but some players are doing all they can to rise above the struggles.
Michael Dzurilla and Ryan Frith are the offensive stars for the BlueClaws. Both have been consistent and have showed solid offensive ability. Dzurilla is hitting .350 at Lakewood, while Frith is hitting .318 for the 'Claws. Frith chipped in with his fourth homerun of the year on Tuesday night as Lakewood beat Hagerstown 8-4. Jason Jaramillo has seen his average fall to .299 thanks to a recent slump. Jaramillo is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump.
Sam Orr currently is riding a ten-game hitting streak, hitting .378 (14-for-37) during the streak.
Andrew Baldwin threw a gem Saturday as Lakewood edged Charleston 2-1 in 10 innings. Baldwin threw eight innings, giving up just one run on four hits and no walks. He struck out four and lowered his season ERA to 4.13 for Lakewood. In his last three starts, Baldwin has a 1.66 ERA, and just a 1-0 record to show for his effort. He also hasn't allowed a walk in 21 innings.
Extended Spring Camp
by Holly Oswald
Pitcher Scott Mitchinson was hit by a comebacker on Saturday. "The ball came back quick. I didn't know where it was going when I threw it to first," said Mitchinson after the game. Mitchinson insists that the ball didn't do any damage and that he felt fine even though he was shaking his arm between some pitches. "Just keeping my arm loose. I didn't even know I was doing that," said Mitchinson.
In preparing to head to Batavia, Mitchinson was supposed to throw five innings Saturday, but went six. He admitted that he was tired in the last inning and thought he wouldn't be going back to the mound. "I thought I was done," said Mitchinson. "I didn't think I was throwing another one and I got really tired."
The Phillies and Devil Rays played a double-header on Wednesday and will play another on Thursday. The Phillies are using these games to make final decisions on spots where they may need help in the draft and to determine which players may wind up in Batavia and which may start in the Gulf Coast League.