Does Charlie have Phillies on the right pace?

Big_chuck From the way Charlie Manuel explains it, he’s an organic kind of guy. In baseball there is a natural ebb and flow of things that Charlie doesn’t like to mess with. With its rhythms and whatnot, a baseball season unfolds a certain way for a reason so when there is anomaly that pops up, Charlie rarely bats an eye.

For instance, if a player comes out of the gate hitting everything in sight and posting huge numbers, Charlie doesn’t get too excited. Just wait, he says, everything will even out as long as nature is allowed to work its course. After all, it would be silly to sprint the first mile of a marathon with 25 miles left.

Pace yourself.

So with Shane Victorino back with the team after going 6-for-8 with a homer, triple and four RBIs in two Triple-A rehab games, and Chase Utley cleared to resume his hitting drills while Ryan Howard was back to taking grounders, don’t get too crazy with excitement yet. Charlie says there will be a period where the players will have to knock off some rust.

It won’t be the players’ fitness or skills that will be the issue, the skipper says. It will be the hitters’ timing. As Charlie explains, it often takes a player more time to recover his timing at the plate and his in-game conditioning. Sometimes just gripping a bat feels a bit weird even though the hits could be dropping in. As a result, a late-season injury to guys like Howard, Utley or Victorino might not be the boon logic would dictate.

On the plus side, the Phillies will have some depth.

“I feel like when we get everybody healthy our bench definitely should be as strong as it’s been all year,” Charlie said. “Without a doubt.”

That’s the only doubt Manuel doesn’t have. Otherwise he’s full of them. Baseball managers always are—even successful ones like Big Chuck. Truth is, calling them “managers” is a misnomer this time of year considering there is very little they get to manage at all. With the Phillies it has been about the injuries as well as some inexplicable ineffectiveness with the bullpen. Sure, Brad Lidge appears to have it together despite a bit of a dip in the velocity of his fastball, but the club’s lone lefty, J.C. Romero, is dealing with some strange “slow hand” phenomenon.

“My hand was slow,” Romero explained after a rough outing on Tuesday night against the Dodgers. “Not my arm. My arm got there. My hand was slow.”

Wait… aren’t they connected?

“I still, to a certain extent, don't understand what the problem is,” Charlie said about his lonely lefty. “We have to find out about it.”

See what were saying about “managing?” How can anyone have a say over a guy whose arm is moving faster than his hand? Perhaps it could be Romero’s mouth is working faster than his brain in this instance?

But don’t think for a minute Charlie would trade his injuries for the one Braves’ skipper Bobby Cox is dealing with, or for the craziness Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel has going on with his closer. After all, Victorino can go out there and play tonight while Utley and Howard should be back before the end of the month. Actually, the toughest decision Manuel has looming is whether or not to keep top hitting prospect Dom Brown in the majors or send him back to Triple-A for the final week(s) of the International League season.

Certainly there are some big issues concerning the Phillies, like what they are going to be able to do about the left-handed reliever problem. For now, we’ll just have to pretend that Ryan Madson is a lefty and hope he continues to strikeout left-handed hitters at a rate of 25 percent per at-bat. The righty handled two of the Dodgers’ toughest lefties in the eighth inning of a close game on Wednesday night and might find himself pushed into more righty-on-lefty action as long as Romero’s left hand continues to belabor the pace.

Still, no one with the Phillies was called down to the precinct house in order to post bail for the closer early Thursday morning. According to published reports, the Mets’ All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez cursed at reporters before allegedly walking to another portion of the clubhouse where he was accused of committing third-degree assault on his 53-year-old father-in-law. The 53-year old went off to the hospital, while K-Rod was arraigned and released on $5,000 bail on Thursday.

With the rival Phillies headed for Queens this weekend, K-Rod likely will be serving a team-issued suspension. Meanwhile, ace lefty Johan Santana has been sued for rape by a Florida woman after authorities declined to prosecute.

ChuckIn comparison, Charlie will take those injuries.

But certainly not the one that appears to cost Braves’ future Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones the rest of the season. It came out Thursday that Jones tore the ACL in his left knee and likely will have season-ending surgery. If that’s the case, the first-place Braves will go into the final month of the season without their best hitter, who just so happens to be a Phillie killer, while hoping the aches and pains suffered by All-Stars Jason Heyward and Martin Prado relent enough so they can carry the load.

“When you think of the Atlanta Braves, the first guy you think of is Chipper Jones,” Braves’ GM Frank Wren told the Associated Press. “His presence in our lineup has been increasing based on his performance the last couple of months. He was a force. So, yeah, we're losing a lot.”

So put this way, the Phillies might be coming together just in time. Considering spring training lasts approximately six weeks, Charlie’s boys ought to be running at full steam in time for the last week of the season.

Talk about perfect timing.

Yawn! Sizing up Moyer’s big night

Jamie_moyer After Friday night’s game in which he became the oldest man in Major League Baseball history to toss a shutout, Jamie Moyer was rather non-plused about his performance. When asked what he thought about making a somewhat significant piece of baseball history, Moyer acted like he didn’t know what was going on.

It was kind of weird considering someone had to tell Moyer what he did in the approximately 30 minutes it took him to record the final out and then talk to the press. Besides, at this point in his career/life, Moyer has to know that when he accomplishes something exemplary like throw a two-hit shutout, chances are he’s the oldest guy to ever do it.

It’s a curious thing watching someone accept platitudes by downplaying them. Maybe Moyer is just shy or a little embarrassed about how good he was in comparison to the Braves? Maybe he doesn’t like to talk about his age?

“It was cool,” he said, downplaying the result, and seemingly holding back a bored yawn. “Just doing my job.”

Yeah, ho-hum.

After an evening to reflect on what we saw from Moyer on Friday night against a Braves team that has been barraged by a number superlative pitching performances this season, it’s pretty safe to assume that we witnessed a record that won’t be broken any time soon. When Phil Niekro established the record in October of 1985, Moyer, then 22, had wrapped up a season where he climbed from Single-A Winston-Salem to Double-A Pitsfield. Niekro broke the record set by Satchel Paige in 1952 (his second shutout as a 46-year old), which was a decade before Moyer’s birth.

In other words, if anyone breaks Moyer’s record he probably is coming through the low minors or hasn’t even been born yet. Or maybe it’s Tim Wakefield, who at 43 is still floating that knuckleball up there for the Red Sox… that is if Wakefield can get back into the starting rotation four years from now.

Yeah, that’s “cool.”

Nevertheless, since Moyer downplayed the event, maybe we should, too. After all, it was the Braves the wily lefty blanked and they didn’t have All-Star catcher Brian McCann or rookie phenom Jason Heyward in the lineup. Moreover, Troy Glaus led off the second inning with a single on the first pitch and then from there it took Moyer just two more pitches to record the final three outs of the inning.

One hit, three hitters and three pitches…

“Cool.”

This season the Braves have been no-hit by Ubaldo Jimenez, though he allowed six walks to do it, and the day before Moyer’s gem, Washington’s Scott Olsen came five outs away from a no-no against Atlanta. Considering that Olsen often seems to be his own worst enemy on the mound and was sent to the minors at the start of the season, a second no-hitter would have been the greatest indignity.

“I think if that would have happened you probably have to put us all on a suicide watch,” Chipper Jones said.

After last night’s game Jones went on about how Moyer, at “87,” schooled them.

“Jamie carved us up,” Jones said. “The guy is 87-years old and he’s still pitching for a reason. He stays off the barrel. He changes speeds, changes the game plan and keeps you guessing.”

Considering the Braves also posted eight scoreless innings against back-of-the-rotation hurler, Kyle Kendrick, and were already shutout by Roy Halladay, it seems as if everyone is having a good time with the Braves’ hitters. At least the Phillies starters are, combining to go 32 innings against the Braves in four games without allowing a single earned run. What stands out more is that the Braves have more strikeouts (20), than hits (17) against the Phils’ starters this season.

So really, maybe it was the lineup Bobby Cox sent out there on Friday night that had the most to do with Jamie Moyer’s record-setting performance. Considering he was two Troy Glaus singles away from a perfect game, that might have something to do with it.

Shine on you crazy diamonds

Here it is… this is Charlie Manuel's World Series ring shown off by hand model extraordinaire, Leslie Gudel. The BlackBerry pictures certainly don't do the ring justice, but trust me – the thing is as big as a belt buckle. In fact, Charlie even reported that there is some room for him to grow into the ring.

More importantly, it's nice. It's not tacky like the one the Marlins got in 2003. However, it's definitely something noticeable when it's worn. Several of the players left the ballpark with their new bling on and it stood out.

Anyway, here's Chuck's ring:

chucks-ring

chuck_ring

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Speaking of the hand model, we were a bit taken aback when Chipper Jones said he was going to play out his current contract and then "sail off into the sunset."

Unlike with Curt Schilling, there is no debating that Chipper is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

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image from fingerfood.typepad.com Oh, here's a crazy story… at Tuesday night's game at the Bank, I asked a few members of the Phillies PR staff when the team would make the traditional White House visit that championship teams often are honored with.

Actually, not to be confusing, I asked, "Hey, when is the team going to visit the White House. You guys have that off-day, afterall?"

I figured the question was appropriate considering the team will be in The District next week and had an off-day scheduled for Tuesday. But, good question, right? It was quick, concise and to the point and can illicit just a handful of answers.

Or so I thought. Apparently it was a stumper because no one on the staff had an answer to give me or another colleague of the writing press corps.

So imagine our surprise this morning when we woke up, clicked on our mobile devices and saw that the team web site was reporting that the Phillies would visit with the President next Tuesday at the White House.

Wha happened?

I guess the query was too complex or maybe they thought I asked if the team was going to the White House right this minute. As in, "Hey, are guys going to visit the White House, right now?"

Hey, it's not the first time this type of confusion has occurred in the past month. But the season is young… they'll get it together and make sure I don't have answers to basic questions at least once per series.

And of course I will always report back to you there in front of your computer… that's right, I'm looking out for you, dear readers.

So yeah, the Phillies are going to the White House next Tuesday. In fact, Gary Matthews already has an in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since his daughter and President Obama's daughter were friends in Chicago.

Yeah, that's right… Sarge rolls with the leader of the free world.