Cole Hamels Could Return Sooner Than Anticipated

Good news, everyone! CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Cole Hamels “feels great” and could need only two more rehab starts before returning to the team. The Inquirer’s Matt Gelb says Hamels is shooting for April 22 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Hamels has been rehabbing after missing spring training with tendonitis in his left shoulder.

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Phillies Could Call on Jonathan Pettibone to Start Saturday

Throughout the spring, we were subjected to the competition between David Buchanan and Jeff Manship for the fifth spot in the Phillies’ rotation – organizational depth against, well, a guy with a career 6.29 ERA. To their credit, both pitched well in a small sample size. Buchanan finished with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings, while Manship posted a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.

The Phillies initially expected to need a fifth starter on Sunday, April 13. Based on the way the off-days were situated, the Phillies could have skated through the first two weeks with a four-man rotation. However, because Monday’s home opener was postponed and rescheduled to Tuesday, the Phillies will need a fifth starter six days earlier than expected.

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Derek Jeter Pulled A Jimmy Rollins on Monday

The year-long Derek Jeter farewell tour is under way. Yankees fans got to see him at home for the first time during the 2014 regular season yesterday against the Orioles. Jeter almost gave them a storybook day, lining a Ubaldo Jimenez offering down the left field line. Everyone — the fans, the YES Network broadcasters, and even Jeter himself — thought he had a home run, but the ball caromed off of the top of the wall and Jeter dove head-first into second base for a double.

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Chase Utley Had A Pretty Good Week

With six games in the books, the Phillies are now merely 3.2% of the way through the 2014 baseball season and everything that has occurred thus far falls under “small sample size” caveats. Although we are largely unable to extrapolate meaningful data and trends from what we’ve seen the Phillies do this past week, what we can do is savor the game that has mercifully returned to our television sets for our regular 7:05 (or 8:05 or 2:20) appointments. The return of Phillies baseball brought enjoyable moments including Jimmy Rollins’ opening day slam and a superb start by Kyle Kendrick, but the most impressive achievement was the display Chase Utley put on this week for Philadelphia fans desperate for meaningful baseball after an impossibly long and snowy winter.

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So, Where’s Brad Lincoln?

I promise the bullpen-management posts won’t be so frequent going forward, but this issue is a bit perplexing.

During the off-season, GM Ruben Amaro traded back-up catcher Erik Kratz and Minor League pitcher Rob Rasmussen (acquired from the Dodgers in the Michael Young trade) to the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Brad Lincoln. The Jays had acquired Lincoln in July 2012 for Travis Snider, but Lincoln struggled with command in his 60 1/3 innings in Toronto, walking 11.4 percent of batters.

The acquisition was one of the few in recent history that indicated the Phillies were buying low as opposed to buying high. Lincoln cost the team next to nothing — back-up catchers and minor league Quad-A type pitchers are as fungible as they come — but he still has the upside to evolve into a future set-up man or closer with a few minor alterations.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due: Ryne Sandberg Managed Well in Friday’s Win

We — or at least I — have spent many words criticizing the strategy of Phillies managers on this blog over the years. In my quest to be fair, I try to highlight the good as well as the bad, but there’s always some bias in what gets published. The bad gets your attention while the good slips on by unnoticed. Recently, I wrote about Ryne Sandberg‘s questionable decision-making in handling his bullpen. On Friday against the Cubs, his bullpen management was wonderful.

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Pitchers Changing Their Approach to Domonic Brown

In January, I wrote an article about how pitchers had altered their approach to Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown in the second half of last season. After Brown had a ridiculous month of May in which he hit 12 home runs and a productive June in which he hit six homers and drew 12 walks, opposing pitchers began throwing him more stuff low and away not unlike what happened to first baseman Ryan Howard.

The trend has continued in the early going as evidenced by these heat maps:

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Pat Burrell Can Still Hit Dingers

The Giants broadcast showed a video of former Phillie Pat Burrell taking some casual batting practice before last night’s game against the Diamondbacks. Apparently, Burrell hasn’t lost much in retirement, as he hit a home run that “went out by a bunch”, according to the telecast. Burrell is currently serving as a scout for the Giants.

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Jonathan Papelbon Lacked Velocity in Phillies’ Walk-Off Loss

Jonathan Papelbon allowed three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday, allowing the Rangers to walk-off happy winners for the second night in a row. Papelbon allowed three runs on four hits and two walks. That Papelbon was in trouble again was not very shocking, considering how often he was found on the tightrope last season. What was concerning, however, was that his fastball velocity remained in the low 90′s where it was last season, when discomfort about his viability began.

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