Cole Hamels and Chase Utley looked pretty darn good in the Phils’ Grapefruit League opener on Saturday. That’s the good news.
Darin Ruf made an error in left field, and Michael Martinez, Erik Kratz and Ben Revere also had fielding miscues, giving the Phils four errors total in an 8-3 loss to the Houston Astros. That’s the bad news.
This is only the first game of the spring and players are bound to be a bit rusty. That’s the good news.
The Phillies are a team that struggled with their defense last year, committing 101 errors in 2012, eighth-most in the NL, and defense is a major focus for Charlie Manuel and the coaching staff this spring. That’s the bad news.
Certainly Ruf’s error, which came when he failed to field a base hit to left field cleanly, and allowed the hitter to have an extra base, is a bit concerning given how inexperienced he is in left. However, Manuel said they’re not going to bench him for it.
“I think Darin is going to make some mistakes,” Manuel said. “Playing down here in spring training is going to help him. I didn’t expect him to go out there and make great catches or catch every ball. He hasn’t played much out there and he’s going to make mistakes.”
No one is expecting Ruf to be Barry Bonds out there, and hopefully as the spring goes along, his bat (which was silent on Saturday, going 0-3) will make up for any defensive shortcomings.
In the meantime, Cole Hamels came out firing in his first official action of the spring, pitching two scoreless innings against Houston, and looking to be in midseason form. And Utley continued to look like a perfectly healthy player, stinging a line drive RBI single up the middle to give the Phils a 1-0 lead early. He also went from first-to-third with tremendous speed and aggression. So far, his knees look good.
“It’s been a few years since I played a spring-training game on that field,” Utley said. “It was exciting. It was a good first step.”
Both sides say a dispute over an injury last year did not lead to the deal, but it’s fair to be skeptical of those claims. Last year, the Phils sent Schwimer to the minors, however, Schwimer claimed he was injured. Ballclubs are not allowed to send players to the minors if they are injured, and the Phillies said he was not.
And while no official grievance has been filed, the dispute remains open and a grievance could be filed at any time.
There also appeared to be personality conflicts, at least based on this comment by Rich Dubee today concerning Schwimer.
“[Schwimer is] an arm that should pitch in the big leagues if he sticks to doing things the right way instead of being too macho at times and coming out of his delivery.”
As for the player sent to the Phils, Charles is a 22-year-old, 6-foot-6 lefthanded hitter, drafted in the 20th round in 2010. He has a .239 career batting average, an OPS of .840, and 28 homers in 585 minor-league at-bats. But he has never played above Class A.