THE SKIP TALKS CANDIDLY WITH JIMMY
The most noteworthy update from Clearwater today came from a great recap of an interview with Charlie Manuel passed along by our friend David Hale at Delaware Online. Manuel relayed an almost half-hour conversation he had with Phils’ shortstop and lead-off man Jimmy Rollins prior to batting practice. According to Hale, Manuel acknowledged Rollins’ tendency to work hitter’s counts but chase a pitcher’s pitch: “Jimmy can get in the count 2-1, 3-1 quite a bit, then he’ll chase a ball up out of the strike zone and hit a fly ball to center field,” Manuel said. “I talked him about that. … If he looks for a fastball and it’s not a strike, then try to lay off it. Learn and practice that way, and also in the game.”
Hale provided some great stats including that J-Rol hit .288 with a .920 OPS when he was ahead in the count and had 58 walks v. 59 strikeouts. Many baseball observers note that as players get older, walks increase as part of an older skill set while other skills such as speed and defense decline. If Rollins’ walks do increase, he will be an even more valuable commodity to the Phils and, according to Hale, Charlie feels the same way: “I think he definitely carries that kind of weight on our team when he’s playing good and he’s got it going.”
Jim Salisbury at CSN-Philly stated that in addition to setting the tone at the plate, Manuel is looking for Rollins to jump start the team out of complacency. Salisbury wrote:
According to Manuel, he and Rollins didn’t just talk hitting. They talked about the team maintaining an energy level throughout the season, and not taking winning for granted. Even though the Phils have led the majors in wins the last two seasons, there have been times that Manuel has complained about complacency in the clubhouse.
He wants it to stop.
One thing that Manuel does not want to stop, according to Salisbury, is the influence of veteran Jim Thome on all hitters. Salisbury notes that Manuel has said Thome has already began to talk to slugger Ryan Howard about his approach. Salisbury’s piece contained the front-runner for best euphemism of the Spring: according to Salisbury, Manuel wants the clubhouse and dugout to be a “hitting laboratory”. According to Salisbury, Manuel said, “We used to talk about our hitting, used to get excited about our hitting. Two or three years ago, if someone had a good at-bat they’d sit down and talk about that at-bat. I haven’t seen that the last couple of years.”
UTLEY FEELING “SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER”
Chase Utley’s knee is feeling much better. Utley says an off-season stretching program combined with a reduction of heavy-weight exercises have helped strengthen the pieces and parts around the knee, which in turn will help stabilize his knee.
Hale provided updates on the following arms:
Jose Contreras – Will throw today, no setbacks.
Justin DeFratus – Tightness in elbow, not yet throwing.
Cliff Lee – Taking a scaled back approach, according to Rich Dubee.
Former Phillie Oswalt is evaluating all options, including signing at mid-season for a contender, first reported today by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Oswalt’s main concerns have been pitching closer to home in an environment he is comfortable in. He has already reportedly declined offers from the Pirates and Tigers, and is believed to have rebuffed offers from the Cardinals, Phillies, and Rangers.
All remaining non-pitchers and catchers reported to camp on-time today. No time for Luis Castillos this year.The first full-squad workout is tomorrow.
From the Wilmington News Journal: