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News » Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-21

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-21

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-21
This time, Jimmy Rollins wasn't going to get involved. In the latest oral volley with the New York Mets, Rollins was content to sit back, smile and let the Phillies' World Series championship do the talking.

But he just couldn't help himself.

Asked recently about the incessant trash talk coming from across the state -- specifically, about Carlos Beltran's light-hearted remark that the Mets want to "kill" Cole Hamels when they face him -- Rollins took another jab at the Phillies' top rival.

"I guess when Cole is pitching, they'll step it up, and of course, we are going to stand up for Cole," Rollins said. "So that will force us to step it up. We're going to win, but it definitely will bring out the best in both teams."

Not exactly another "team to beat" boast, but it should suffice.

For three years, since Rollins declared the Phils would be the "team to beat" in the NL East, the clubs have slung barbs. Beltran adopted the "team to beat" mantra last spring, and upon reporting to spring training, new Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez used the "team to beat" line but said he wasn't familiar with its history.

"I sit and laugh and say, 'Really, this is still going on?'" Rollins said of the Mets' mimicry. "If that's the term they want to use to state their claim, then so be it."

In December, two New York sports-talk radio hosts baited Hamels into labeling the Mets as "choke artists," prompting Beltran's comment Tuesday.

"I didn't know what I said when it happened. I really didn't," Hamels said. "I have to stick by what I said. But it's something where I truly like to do most of my talking out on the field."

Last week, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes ripped the Phillies for being preoccupied with the Mets. (Actually, Phillies players have barely talked about the Mets in spring training.)

"We don't worry about Philly," Reyes told reporters. "I don't know why they worry so much about the New York Mets. They have to be happy because they won the World Series. Why do they focus on us? What did I do to them?"

The Phils have criticized Reyes for his over-the-top celebration of home runs, even mocking teammate Shane Victorino for being Reyes-like during his raised-finger trot after hitting a grand slam off CC Sabathia in the postseason.

"A lot of people do that," Reyes said. "People from Philadelphia, too."

The first Phillies-Mets game will be May 1 at Citizens Bank Park.

Mark your calendar.

WHERE, WHEN: Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against Pittsburgh.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Carlos Carrasco, widely regarded as the Phillies' brightest pitching prospect, has electric stuff. Last season, he began to show the maturity to match it. He will have a chance to win the No. 5 starter job in spring training, even though he won't turn 22 until March 21 and has made only six career starts in Class AAA.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Ryan Madson emerged as the Phillies' setup man in September when he allowed one run in his final 14 appearances. Then, in the playoffs, he appeared in 11 of 14 games and registered a 2.13 ERA. But Madson's career has been marked by inconsistency, and the Phillies are counting on him more than ever.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Charlie Manuel was not the popular choice among fans when the Phillies named him their manager before the 2005 season. These days, though, he's beloved. That's what winning a World Series will do. Manuel also is one of only two managers to steer the Phils to back-to-back division titles (Danny Ozark had three straight from 1976-78). He's 354-294 in four years with the Phillies and ranks ninth on the franchise's all-time managerial wins list. But this season, Manuel will have a new bench coach by his side as Pete Mackanin replaces venerable Jimy Williams.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 21, 2009

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