The Phillies are accused of secrecy regarding Ryan Howard; Ruben Amaro plays defense

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There were two interesting articles in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

  • Bob Brookover reported how he was removed from Bright House Field in Clearwater last week while trying to cover Ryan Howard’s rehab; and
  • Frank Fitzpatrick questioned the Phillies’ giving Howard a cortisone shot in September and quotes medical experts who suggest that the shot could have contributed to Howard’s Achilles injury in the playoffs.

Obviously both of those were shots over the Phillies’ bow, with the first one accusing the team of secrecy. The second one was notable for the fact that the Phillies declined comment.

In response, GM Ruben Amaro had a hastily-assembled press conference yesterday in which he defended the team.  Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia has the report. The upshot: Amaro says the team is conservative with cortisone shots and that they’re not concerned. As for keeping the media out of Howard’s rehab — both the Inquirer and CSNPhilly have been barred from covering his workouts — well, the rationale is somewhat less clear:

“We just feel uncomfortable with it,” Amaro said. “We’d rather be able to report those things. I just don’t feel comfortable putting the player in that position right now … We’re not trying to hide things,” Amaro continued. “That’s not our job. Our job is to have the best interest of the player in mind and we want to make sure he gets ready at his own pace. When you have people getting involved in a rehab such as this it can, in fact, affect the player.”

Given that most other teams allow the press to watch workouts down at spring training facilities, this explanation isn’t exactly satisfying.  We don’t want to let the press in because … we don’t want to let the press in.” Hurm.

This is not the first time the Phillies have been cagey with injuries and rehab. Chase Utley’s situation has had its own lack of transparency too, though many chalk that up to Utley’s wishes, not the team’s.  It’s unclear whether Howard’s situation is the same or if, rather, it’s indicative of the Phillies consciously staking out a different approach to such matters than the other teams.

I will observe one thing, however: if the intention of such an approach is to limit media scrutiny, Amaro is in for a rude awakening.  The one thing that makes reporters work harder to get a story is telling them that they can’t get the story.

Pirates looking for outside outfield help

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.

Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.

Matt Barnes ejected after throwing at Manny Machado’s head

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On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.

MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”

Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.

The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.