Scenes from Spring Training: Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 3

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After the clubhouse I made it out to the field and scoped the scene:

Phillies stretch.JPGThe Phillies take a much more casual approach to stretching than the circle-em-up Pirates do.
 
Howard skinny.JPGAt the risk of best-shape-of-his-life cliches, I really can’t impress upon you just how good Ryan Howard looks. He has absolutely transformed himself over the past couple of years.

Catcher Pitching.JPG I hadn’t noticed catchers warming up from the mound anywhere else, but both of the catchers who were suited up for Philly on Saturday did. Also: earlier, when the position players were warming up, Shane Victorino got down in a catcher’s crouch and Howard fired in a couple of full windup pitches to him. Worth noting that the pitches from both catchers and Howard were harder and more accurate than the pitches from the best dude most of you faced in high school.
 Dugout.JPGI don’t think I’ve ever paid close enough attention to notice if this is common or not, but I kind of like the two-row dugout.

Phanatic.JPGBright House is a new stadium — opened in 2004 — and has a lot of amenities that aren’t typical in the Grapefruit League. One of them is a cool kids’ area, complete with a playground, a special kids’ snack bar and, of course, a Phanatic statue for photo opportunities and, for the more intrepid youngins, climbing on.

Practice field.JPGThis practice field sits directly behind the stadium. There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that it was a prototype designed to extend Pat Burrell’s usefulness as a defensive player. I mean, that would be silly. He couldn’t cover a left field that large.
Thome Homey.JPGThe Twins were in town, and Jim Thome made his way out to the field to say hello during Phillies’ BP. Everyone who came near him, be it players, coaches or media, either hugged him or gave him a fist bump. Everyone loves Jim Thome. I’ve been following his career since he broke in with the Tribe, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing about the guy.
Police Truck.JPGYou think the City of Clearwater wasn’t cognizant that 10,000 Philly fans were on the premises? They had a police command station set up right outside the ballpark. They know who they’re dealing with.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.