All rock all the time…

moyer_cardIt’s definitely going to be a crazy week around these parts. Not only do we have Villanova heading to the Final Four and all the pomp that goes with that, but also the Phillies return to Philadelphia this week for a pair of exhibition games against Tampa on Friday and Saturday before kicking off the season for real on Sunday night against Atlanta.

Who knows, the most anticipated Phillies season ever could be sandwiched between ‘Nova’s national semifinal game and a National Championship on Monday night.

Hey, crazier things have happened.

Anyway, we’ll have a bunch of ‘Nova and Phillies stories all week leading to the big weekend. Until then, here’s a short list of the things I won’t write about this baseball season.

Before I start, I know how lame the list is. After all, don’t you hate those radio ads in which a station defines itself by what it doesn’t play? Then they cue them up and play programmed and contrived crap. I heard one the other day where the station’s big calling card was, “We aren’t iTunes, we are your tunes.

What? This is what they announce before they launch into Don Henley.

No, take them… they’re definitely your tunes.

So from here on out I’m drawing a line and painting myself into a tidy little corner. These are the stories I’m going to work as hard as possible not to write this baseball season:

1.) Jamie Moyer’s age

Yes, we all know that Jamie Moyer is old. In fact, he’s 46 and there have been just a select few ballplayers that had careers to that age. It’s remarkable, sure, but not necessarily such an anomaly anymore.

The fact of the matter is that 46 isn’t as old as it used to be. Better yet, a ballplayer only gets old if he allows himself to be that way or injuries add up. Ask Don Wildman about how limiting his age is. Or Dara Torres. Or Chris Chelios. Or Jamie Moyer.

Better yet, don’t.

“Some players get injured and others just lose the desire,” Moyer told me last August. “Then some, for one reason or other, are told to quit because they reach a certain age or time spent in the game. Some just accept it without asking why.”

Along the same vein, Moyer’s age won’t be used as a crutch, either. He’s 46. So what? He’s as fit as any player in the league and he hasn’t lost a thing off his fastball (tee-hee), so if he’s walking out there he’s no different than anyone else.

He’s 46? Big deal.

2.) J.C. Romero’s suspension

Oh yes, this is an important issue. It’s especially important since the Phillies won’t have their workhorse reliever for nearly a third of the season. But stories knocking it down as no big deal or some type of insignificant or unfortunate occurrence don’t get it. The truth is MLB did not want Romero to pitch in the playoffs, but they allowed him to do so anyway.

Why? And why not?

3.) Lefty lineup

Chase Utley to Ryan Howard to Raul Ibanez… deal with it. Certainly the opposing managers will have to figure out a way to deal with it. Last year Utley his .277 with 13 homers against lefties, while Howard hit 14 homers (just .224 though) and Ibanez batted .305 with seven homers vs. lefties.

Oh sure, in the late innings the Phillies will face a ton of situational lefties, but any time a manager goes away from his regular habits to rely on a pitcher generally used to facing just one hitter just might level the odds a bit.

For that middle of the order trio, even odds are pretty good.

chuck4.) Charlie Manuel’s managerial acumen

These are the facts: Charlie knows more about baseball than you. Actually he’s forgotten more about baseball than you have ever known. To top it off, he’s funnier than you and tells far better stories.

Plus, the way he handled that great comeback against the Mets last August in which he used to pitchers to pinch hit, had Carlos Ruiz play third base and put Chris Coste into the game in the eighth inning and watched him get four hits. The guy is always looking at the big picture and sometimes, just for fun, he’ll play a hunch.

What he doesn’t do is try to over think or out-fox the game like Tony La Russa or some other new age type. He’d rather beat you Earl Weaver style – sit back and wait for a big home run – but if he has to get some base runners moving with some steals or hit-and-runs, that works, too.

Meanwhile, he likes to put his pitchers into firm roles. Yeah, sometimes that can get him in trouble, but the good part is that everyone on the roster understands their role. Big league ballplayers love that.

And if that doesn’t work, Charlie will pull out the old, “Just hold ’em, guys… I’ll think of something.”

It’s worked so far.

5.) Raul Ibanez vs. Pat Burrell

Stat heads aren’t going to like this one, but Ibanez’s superior batting average and lower strikeout rate will matter. It mattered in Seattle and it will matter at cozy Citizens Bank Park, too.

The reason is as simple as the triple-digit RBI totals over the last three years – Ibanez hits the ball a little more. With Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Utley and Howard hitting in front of him, the 20 fewer times Ibanez strikes out as opposed to Burrell could be significant. Figure there are 26 weeks to a season with the potential for one more run a week produced from one spot of the lineup could add up.

Right?

There you go. Now I’m going to go put the iPod on shuffle… yep, my tunes.

Whatever the hell that means.

Dubee on Hamels: ‘Opening Day is probably a long shot’

coleanddubeePitching coach Rich Dubee on Cole Hamels:

“I don’t know if it’s out of the question, but it looks like it’s probably a long shot.

“We have to get him up and running and we have to stretch him out. I think he’s been up to 52 or 54 pitches. We like our guys, if they’re going to pitch, hopefully they’ll be ready to throw 100 pitches by Opening Day. It could be a long shot. Again, this guy has always risen to the occasion. It’s good that we caught it when we did. It wasn’t getting cleared up. It wasn’t getting any worse, but it wasn’t getting any better.”

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Utley plays

utley1CLEARWATER, Fla. — Yessir, as first reported by yours truly of CSNPhilly.com and Todd Cougar Zolecki of Phillies.com, Chase Utley played in a minor league game this afternoon at the Carpenter Complex.

I’m working on the details of the story now, so be sure to keep clicking back right here for all the particulars and some blurry camera phone pictures.

Meanwhile, Utley went 2-for-4 with a ground-rule double and a pair of whiffs in his first two ABs. Aftewards, Zo and I chatted up Utley about the return and it appears as if the recovery is still on track.

Also, Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin both pitched an inning each during the minor-league game. Lidge gave up a two-out double and had a strikeout in his inning, while Durbin was perfect. He even struck out some dude with “Utley” on a pitch that the All-Star complained was too nasty for this time of year.

So yeah, more is on the way…

New Season begins with old streak

Part of the allure of baseball’s Opening Day is the idea of renewal. For at least one day every team is in first place and every team has a chance to win the World Series. It’s that baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-life wispiness that pervades public radio and Roger Angell’s dispatches from The New Yorker. All baseball fans get caught up in that saccharin sweet romanticism at one point or another.

It’s hard not to.

But this year’s Opening Day for the Phillies was marked by the notion of continuation or extension rather than rebirth. Actually, the baseball world had its eyes trained on the Phillies opener against the Cardinals to see if something that began last season could break the invisible force field of a new season in an idea that flies in the face that everything Opening Day represents.

We’re talking of the streak, of course.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins coolly carried his epic, 36-game hitting streak that was momentarily halted for five months only to pick up right where he started. With a flair for the dramatic, Rollins dramatically added on to his streak by lacing a double to right field on a 3-0 pitch in his very last at-bat of the day to make 2005 morph into 2006. In fact, the build up to that final pitch offered to Rollins was so mind numbingly exciting that it made nearly everyone in the park forget that the Phillies lost by eight runs.

Think of it: Rollins’ streak could have ended if the pitch was just mere inches away from home plate. Rollins could have drawn a walk – a very good thing for a leadoff hitter to do – but his chance at making a run for immortality would have vanished into thin air faster than the trot from home to first base. He could have done his job yet been penalized for it.

Of course, it didn’t happen that way, but Rollins, unselfishly, says he would have taken the walk.

“If he would have thrown one I couldn’t get, I would have taken it,” Rollins said earnestly. “I wasn’t going to give the at-bat away. Luckily, he gave me something to hit.”

Do you believe him?

No, me neither.

Yes, we believe Rollins’ goal is to help the Phillies win games so they can finally advance to the playoffs. And yes, we believe that he is sincere in this sentiment. But if reliever Brad Thompson kept the 3-0 offering anywhere in the vicinity of the 215 area code, Rollins was going to swing.

Believe that.

That’s not a knock on Rollins. Au contraire. The very idea that Rollins is just as excited about his streak as the fans are is quite refreshing. Want to talk about it? Just walk up to Jimmy and ask him about it, he won’t be hiding in the training room to dodge the questions and attention. This is a once-in-a-lifetime feat. Why shouldn’t it be fun?

“It’s fun to talk about it,” Rollins said. “It’s brought a lot of attention to the team, which is the best part. As far as the streak goes, I’m not any more excited about it now than I was. I was blessed to be in this position and you have to be willing to accept that if you are in this position. That’s one thing I think I’ve been doing. You have to be willing to talk about it.”

Better yet, Rollins said if the streak becomes the focal point of the game and helps brighten the looming dark cloud brought about by the Barry Bonds steroid controversy, then bring that on, too.

“Hopefully, I can be a major part of what’s going on in baseball,” Rollins said. “Barry Bonds is going through a situation. He’s from the Bay Area, which is my hometown. Two stories are running together. Barry’s trying to accomplish something. I’m trying to accomplish something. He’s in a controversy. Right now, I’m on everybody’s good side. Hopefully, I can keep that going and going, and everybody can concentrate on what’s good about baseball.”

Certainly that can never get old.