Jesse Biddle to the Braves

MiLB is now reporting that Jesse Biddle has been claimed from waivers by the Atlanta Braves. Biddle was placed on the 60 day DL while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

  
I consider myself lucky, I’ve gotten to know Jesse and his family over the years. Baseball Ross and I even saw Jesse play his very first professional game. (You can read about it HERE.

I was sad to see him traded from the Phillies and frankly, I miss seeing my friend around Spring Training. He always had a moment to talk to me. I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery. 

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Three Weeks In, Phillies Minor League Teams Shaping Up

We are three weeks into the minor league season and the Phillies’ Pharm teams are shaping up. In some respects, it’s what one would expect, in others, a bit of a surprise.

The most pleasant surprise is the Reading Fightins. Reading is 10-7 and are in second place, only a game and a half behind the New Britain Rock Cats. The biggest disappointment has been the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who have the worst record in ALL of of the International League at 5-14. In-between, are the Clearwater Threshers who are a game and half out of first in the Florida State League Northern Division, trailing the Daytona Tortugas. Their 10-9 record is a great improvement over last year at this time where they were 3-16! The Lakewood BlueClaws are 8-10, two games under .500 in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Reading Fightins

As expected they have been lead by outstanding starting pitching. Lead by newcomer Zach Eflin, who has yet to give up an earned run in his first three starts. He is 2-0, in his first three starts. Also, going 2-0 is prospect Jesse Biddle. Biddle, who is coming off of a very challenging 2014 season, has an impressive 2.76 ERA and averages a strike out an inning. Ben Lively is equally impressive with a 1.42 ERA and 1-0 in his first three starts. Aaron Nola, last years’ number one draft pick from LSU, has gone 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA.

Hitting-wise Reading is lead by 1B Brock Stassi, with a .357 batting average, 3 home runs and 19 RBIs. Phenom Roman Quinn, is off to a strong start, hitting .348, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs. He is currently 3rd in steals with 8 steals and leads the league with runs scored with 18.

The one disappointing event was the injury to former Golden Glove winner, 2B Carlos Alonso, who was injured by a Harrisburg Senator’s “take out slide” and is currently sidelined with a knee injury. He is currently on the 7-day disabled list.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Packed with veteran free agents that were released by other organizations, Lehigh Valley is off to a difficult start. The highpoint of the offense is the play of Maikel Franco, who is hitting .338 and leads the International league in doubles with 10 so far this season, while playing outstanding defense at third base.Conversely, rehabbing MLBer, Domonic Brown continuing to struggle, hitting only .139 in nine games for the IronPigs.

On the mound, the highlight is Severino Gonzalez, with a .357 ERA which earned him his first MLB start with the Phillies. The biggest surprise on the mound, however, is Phillippe Aumont. Aumont, who was dropped from the 40-man roster this spring, is 1-0 with 1.06 ERA in 17 innings. Even more surprising, he was moved from the bullpen to starter and is proving to be much more successful as a starter.

Clearwater Threshers

The Threshers are the team that never seems to say die. Last year, was one of the most difficult years I have ever witnessed in professional sport. It seemed like they always found a way to LOSE. Even if they managed to push a game into extra innings, they always seemed to come up short. This year, is very different. Four of their ten wins have been in extra innings, including an impressive win at home in SEVENTEEN innings.

Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win
Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win

Offensively, Dylan Cozens (RF) has driven in 13 runs to lead the team in RBIs. The fans in Clearwater have taken to calling him “Clutch” Cozens because he has gone 4-6 with 3 RBIs in extra innings. Leading the team in doubles are Willians Astudillo (3-6 with a walk off in extra innings) and Andrew Pullin with 5 each.

Threshers’ pitching is another great surprise with strong starting and relief pitchers. The tops starters are Brandon Leibrant (1-1, 1.80 ERA in 4 starts) and David Whitehead (1-2, 3.04 ERA in 4 starts). The bullpen has been exceptionally strong, led by Ulises Joaquin 1-0 with three saves, Edubray Ramos 1-1 with 1 save and Mark Leiter, Jr. who is 1-0 with one save and struck out TWENTY in 15 innings out of the pen. The top left handed reliever is Cody Forsythe, 1-0 and has struck out 13 in nine innings of work.

Lakewood BlueClaws

While the BlueClaws have been hanging around .500, there have been early flashes of brilliance. After completing what looks to be a successful weight training program in the off season, Carlos Tocci is hitting .338 and leads the team with 11 RBIs. Malquin Canelo is second hitting .333. First basemen Rhys Hoskins has supplied the power with 3 home runs, hitting .290.

Regarding pitchers, they are led by Tyler Viza, 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first three starts, all of last season, Viza went 3-17. Ricardo Pinto, 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, leads the team in strike outs with 18 in 19 innings of pitching. The bullpen is good as well, Matt Hockenberry has picked up three saves and has yet to give up a run in nine innings of work. Left handed reliever Austin Davis has yet to give up a run in ten innings of relief as the “set-up” man.

 

 

 

Day Five of Spring Training 2015

Today was one of those day where there wasn’t a lot of things that were out of the ordinary going on. Pitchers and catchers took batting practice, did drills and ran. Position players took batting practice and did fielding drills. Ryan Howard reportedly was at Brighthouse taking batting practice, but we did not make it over there Later in the afternoon, there was some workouts/long tossing by the minor leaguers that have reported early.

I think that sometimes a picture can speak more than a lot of esoteric comments on what is going on. So I present some pictures….

 

Baseball Ross snapped this pic of Tommy Joseph whom Ross said was looking good.
Baseball Ross snapped this pic of Tommy Joseph whom Ross said was looking good.
Cameron Rupp during batting practice
Cameron Rupp during batting practice
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Major League pitchers running.
I got to see new Phillie, Aaron Harang
I got to see new Phillie, Aaron Harang
Jesse Biddle
Jesse Biddle
Ray Burris offered Cameron Rupp words of encouragement
Ray Burris offered Cameron Rupp words of encouragement

 

Day Two of Phillies Spring Training 2015

Day two of spring dawned cold, so cold that records were broken throughout the Tampa Bay area. At our house in Dunedin, the temperatures when I woke up were at freezing.

Amazingly enough, by the time we got to the Carpenter Complex, t temperature was similar to yesterday’s temperature at 47°, but the wind had died down. It was a much more comfortable day.

I began the day watching the major-league pitchers in their PFPs.

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I was happy to see my old friend Jesse Biddle on the mound. He looks good, confident and prepared for this season.

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Adam Morgan was sharp and showed no sign of the shoulder injury that played him last summer. After making the play shown above, the coaches shouted, “Great play, Adam!”

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Cole Hamels.

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Justin DeFratus looked nimble.

We also ventured over to the half field next to Bright House stadium. Here, we saw Cody Asche and Darin Ruf taking ground balls.

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Cody Asche

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Darin Ruf

Baseball Ross and I stayed until The major-league players broke for lunch. Ross and I grabbed lunch ourselves then returned to catch the minor-league players who are already in camp practice. The pitchers have been throwing live batting practice to several of the position players who have reported early as well.

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First thing we saw as we returned, was Roman Quinn working in the outfield. Moments later, he looked happy to be taking batting practice.

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It was a much better day weather wise but we hurried home as today was “Tardy Mardi Gras” in Dunedin. Since the weather was horrid on Tuesday, the parade with more than 50 floats and tons of beads, doubloons, candy and toys was held tonight. It was a blast and I think I did rather well.

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Tomorrow the weather is predicted to be in the 70s so here’s to better days.

The Long, Hot Summer and My Favorites From It

I’ll admit it, I’ve slacked off a bit this summer. It’s hard not to. This has been one of the hottest summers in recent history and definitely the hottest since Baseball Ross and I moved to Florida full-time.  Almost every day for over a week has had “feels like” temperatures over 100, with one day being 110!

With the heat like that, going to Gulf Coast League games at noon is brutal. At the Carpenter Complex, there is a trade off: if you want shade-you get no breeze, if you want a breeze-you get no shade. Regardless of where you sit, every available space for spectators is covered in heat-absorbing concrete.

Couple all the heat with a severe case of elbow tendinitis in my right elbow that kept me from being able to take pictures with anything heavier than an iPhone and you have a recipe for a long summer.

That being said, I have gotten to see a fair bit of baseball and a few things that helped me to love baseball again.

So I will list them here (in no particular order):

1. Winning a jersey in an auction that was worn by my favorite Williamsport Crosscutter. Ross and I have been good friends with Feliberto Sanchez since last year when he spent the year here in GCL and the Fall Instructional League. He’s a great kid and I just had to have the jersey. OK, the auction was for their “Ugly Christmas Sweater” promotion, but still, it was Sanchez’s jersey. There was only one problem. The Cutters never responded to my inquiry about proxy phone bidding. Luckily, Tim Luzier (@20schmidtfan) saw my plea and helped me out. I’m so grateful for his help.

Sanchez Jersey

2. Our crazy marathon trip to see every team in the Phillies minor league system–IN ONE WEEK. (You can read it and see the pictures in this post.) 3,200 miles (1,200 by car) and it was a blast. That being said, I’m not sure I’d do it again! It was very draining.

3. Seeing pitchers overcome difficulties and succeed. Colin Kleven had a back injury that prematurely ended his season in Clearwater last year. Seeing him come back and steadily progress has been great. As difficult of a season that Clearwater had, I always looked forward and went out of my way to see him pitch and was often rewarded by a strong performance.

Colin Kleven
Colin Kleven at the preseason “Meet the Players” picnic

I was also glad to see Jesse Biddle roar back in a rehab appearance here in Clearwater. Jesse’s difficulties this year, starting with a concussion caused by a hail stone, have been well documented. To see him tear it up in his first rehab appearance was just great. (You can read my blog about Jesse here.)

Jesse Biddle
Jesse Biddle

3. Seeing Aaron Nola’s first and second professional starts. That could be one of those things that in 10 years I’ll be bragging about it. You can read about his first start HERE and the second start HERE.

Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola

4. Getting to know Frank Viola III and learning about the knuckle ball. I had written a story about Frank’s return to baseball and one night, while Ross and I were at dinner the waiter came up to me and asked, “Would you happen to be Baseball Betsy?” I replied that I was and he smiled and said, “The gentleman at that table over there would like to buy you dessert.” (Now there’s a guy who knows the way to my heart!) I looked over and it was Frank and his mother. He had read the story and liked it. Ross and I ended up joining them and had a great time. I learned so much about the “mindset of the knuckleball”.  If you’ve read my blog this summer, about a third of the posts were about knuckleballs.

Frank Viola III

After that, I followed his progress through the Blue Jays minor league system including a stop in Dunedin, where I got to see him pitch.

Sadly, my heart was broken at the end of July when he was released. On the plus side, I made a new friend and that is amazing by itself.

5. Helping the Threshers mascot, Phinley win the Mascot Mania Challenge to be the best mascot in ALL of minor league baseball. It was a hard push, but after hundreds of tweets, retweets, online votes and my followers retweeting my tweets helped to make Phinley a winner. It was a matter of time since he was second last year.

photo photo

 

I know looking at the picture above you can hear “You’re the Best Around” playing in your head.

6. Bark in the Park/Yappy Hour. To me, this is the best trend in all of baseball. Pay a few dollars to an animal charity for a “ticket” for your dog and they can join you at the game. We have two small shih tzus and over the years we have taken them to several BitPs. Sadly, Maggie our 14 year old, cannot endure the Florida heat so she was not able to attend this year, but Veronica our youngest, LOVES to go. I wrote a story about her game.

Veronica LOVES baseball
Veronica LOVES baseball

Just look at that face, you can tell she’s having a blast.

So there are the things I loved most about the summer of 2014, I couldn’t really even rank them because they were all pretty stellar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biddle is Back in the Saddle

I’ve been a fan of Jesse Biddle since 2010. If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have read my story from Jesse’s first appearance in Clearwater… SEE HERE where I recounted first seeing him make his first professional start in Williamsport.

I consider myself lucky that I’ve gotten to know him. After seeing someone pitch over the years you start to recognize their rhythm, their little habits, all the things they do before-and-after each pitch.

When I saw Jesse back in June, it was his second to last start before being deactivated. He seemed tense, all the “little things” seemed off, nothing you’d notice if you’d hadn’t been watching him for years.

Tonight, Jesse was different, he was like that Jesse I’ve known all these years. His confidence was back and all the little habits are just as they were when he was here in Clearwater back in 2012. Jesse was great! At he end of the fifth inning when they pulled him, he had a no-no going: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K.

He pitched well and made a play at first, SEE HERE

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And this may be the best baseball picture I’ve ever taken:

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It was good to see my friend doing what he is capable of doing. I really enjoy watching him succeed.

Welcome back, Jesse!

7 Teams, 8 Games, 3,200 Miles-A Trip of a Lifetime

It was during the long, cold winter that Baseball Ross and I were sitting and dreaming of warmer days. Somehow we got on the topic of “epic trips” and started brainstorming…what if…

At some point one of us said, “what if we saw every single team in the Phillies farm system in a week?” Sure, it sounded so easy when we were sitting there in the living room all wrapped in blankets (It was during the polar vortex and even here in Florida, we had wind chills in the teens) but putting it into action was a whole other story.

We scoured the schedules of all the teams looking for a time when all of them would either be at home or at an away game that would not only be an easy drive from Harrisburg (we have family there to see) but also coordinated with the pitching schedules of our favorite pitchers. What made it even more difficult is that the rotation for the Williamsport Crosscutters would be the last released, the day before their season began.

We found one week, actually 9 days, where we could see the last game of Extended Spring Training, get on a plane and fly to Harrisburg, the next night we drove to Williamsport saw the Crosscutters, then back to Harrisburg, then drove to Lakewood to see the BlueClaws, then back to Harrisburg, then to State College to see the Cutters again so we could see Feliberto Sanchez pitch, then back to Harrisburg, then we drove to Lehigh Valley to see the IronPigs, then back to Harrisburg, then we drove to Reading to see the Fightin’ Phils, then back to Harrisburg, then we hopped on a plane flew back to Clearwater and the next day see the first game of the Gulf Coast League Phillies and a Threshers game. We flew a total of 2,000 miles and drove an amazing 1,200 more. It really was a trip of a lifetime, because I really don’t want to do that all again in a week!

Williamsport

It was opening night. It had rained and was threatening to rain again (this would become an ongoing theme of the trip).  I did a blog on that night and you can read it HERE. The downside of all the driving (4 hours in the car for Williamsport) was that it did take a lot out of me so I only did this one blog while on the trip.

Lakewood

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We were here to see our friend, Ranfy Casimiro pitch. He’s a great kid and people never stop staring when they see us together. I’m barely 5 feet tall, he’s 6′ 8″! We are totally “the long and the short of it”.

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We were lucky enough to also catch Cody Asche make a rehab appearance here in Lakewood. (This would also be a reoccurring theme as we saw him in Clearwater before we left, then Lakewood…)

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The best was seeing Casimiro pitch one of the best games of his career.

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I also was lucky enough to meet Jay Floyd of Phoul Ballz. He had interviewed me last year on his podcast along with Mr. Tug. (You can listen to the podcast HERE)

While it didn’t rain, it was cold, 64 degrees!

State College to see Williamsport again

Our friend Feliberto Sanchez pitched in State College against the Spikes.

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For me this was sort of a homecoming. I went to Penn State, albeit the Harrisburg campus, but I have many fond memories of going to State College.

What trip to Happy Valley would be complete without a trip to the CREAMERY? If you ever go to Penn State a trip to the Creamery is a must.

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State College’s stadium is right next to Beaver Stadium. It also lies in the shadow of Mount Nittany. As this was the first game, it seemed that the grounds crew groomed the mound to be a miniature Mount Nittany. It was high and seemed to have steep drop offs instead of gradual sloping sides like a “normal” mound.

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We also got to see Ricky Bielski pitch

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The thing that sticks out in my mind is the lightning. It only rained for about five minutes that night but the lightning was all around the stadium. Long, bright bolts of lightning were striking all around the stadium. I was amazed that there wasn’t a delay. Ironically, the next night the new Lion LED sign that was added to Beaver Stadium just across the street was struck by lightning!

 

Lehigh Valley

There were many things on this leg of the trip that were memorable.

Three words: Aw Shucks Corn

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Seriously, it’s my favorite ballpark food of all time. I am ashamed to admit I ate two ears of it.

Four words: Bacon-scented Tee-shirts

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Seriously! I love bacon, but this is taking it just a little far don’t you think?

 

I finally got to meet @cherylpursell and @Kram209! Cheryl takes amazing pictures and Kram well he’s the biggest Pigs fan there is. He was also gracious enough to present me with a CODY ASCHE BOBBLEHEAD! (*FAINTS*)

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He was also kind enough to show me around Coca Cola Park.

 

The funny thing was, Cody Asche was making a rehab appearance there in Lehigh Valley so we got not only to see him play again, but got to see him next to his bobble head.

 

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I also was witness to long time Pharm-hand Tyson Gillies second to last appearance as a Pig before his release.

Reading

I got to see Jesse Biddle pitch.

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I also saw my friend Carlos Alonso

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I also met @Mr.Tug who was with PhoulBallz and is now the photographer of the Reading Fightin Phils! Meeting people is fun so before the night was done, @mikeyesh dropped by to say, “Hi” to Ross and I.

The next day, we flew back to Clearwater. By Friday we were up at ant Englebert field to see the GCL Phillies.

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Trey Williams

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All the draft picks were there including Aaron Nola, who could be called the 3.3 Million Dollar Arm.

All the Phillies Brass were there

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Nola didn’t pitch that day…

And finally to complete the trip, the Threshers game at night to catch a rehabbing Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

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The highlight was seeing JP Crawford in his first at bat with the Threshers.

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In all that traveling we managed to see my brother, his girlfriend and my niece as well as the two girls who grew up next door next to me as a girl who are like sisters to me. We even stopped at Hershey’s Chocolate World on the way to the airport.

20140705-222241-80561610.jpg It was a really good trip. We never really got rained on, saw next to no traffic and had no car mishaps. We didn’t even have any flight delays, in fact our planes arrived early!

I don’t think our crazy trip could have worked out any better! That being said, I sure am glad to be home.