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News » Philadelphia Phillies Notes, Quotes 2009-02-07

Philadelphia Phillies Notes, Quotes 2009-02-07

Philadelphia Phillies Notes, Quotes 2009-02-07
--RHP Kyle Kendrick won 21 games for the Phillies over the past two seasons, although that can be easy to forget. Last September, Kendrick fumbled his spot in the rotation, and he will have to win it back in a four-pitcher competition during spring training.

"I've got something to prove this year," Kendrick told the Philadelphia Daily News in early February from the team's spring training facilities in Clearwater, Fla. "That's why I'm down here now. I want to get started."

Kendrick was the Phillies' savior in 2007. Called up from Class AA to help an injury-ravaged pitching staff, he went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA and never returned to the minors. Even last season, although he still hadn't developed a breaking pitch to augment his trademark sinker, Kendrick fooled hitters just enough to go 8-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 19 starts before the All-Star break.

But hitters finally figured him out in August and September. Kendrick went 3-6 with a 7.59 ERA in 11 post-All-Star break starts, and he was replaced in the rotation by rookie LHP J.A. Happ. He was excluded from the Phillies' playoff roster and sent to the Florida Instructional League to find that elusive breaking pitch. This spring, Kendrick will compete with Happ, veteran RHP Chan Ho Park and RHP Carlos Carrasco for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

--SS Jimmy Rollins was included on the United States' provisional roster for the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. But he wasn't chosen over fellow SS Derek Jeter or SS Michael Young, and the star-studded U.S. team failed to qualify for the semifinals. Since then, Rollins' profile has risen considerably.

He recorded 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 2006, career highs that were erased in 2007 when he notched 30 homers and 94 RBIs. He also batted .296 with 38 doubles, 20 triples and 41 stolen bases that year, led the Phillies to the division crown that he predicted before the season and was named NL MVP.

So when it came time to build the U.S. team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, manager Davey Johnson didn't hesitate to call on Rollins, even after naming Jeter as the team's captain. Johnson has said Rollins will receive significant playing time.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Rollins said. "I'm just fortunate to be on the team. That's enough. I have no problem with Derek Jeter being the starting shortstop. I can't think of a bigger city or a better guy. It's not about me or about him. It's about bringing the title home."

--1B Ryan Howard appears to be headed for the arbitration table for a second consecutive year. Phillies officials and Howard's representatives remained hopeful of reaching an agreement on a contract for 2009, but the sides remained $4 million apart. Howard is seeking an $18 million salary, while the Phillies have offered $14 million. Neither side was willing to divulge the date of Howard's arbitration hearing, but it's expected to be during the week of Feb. 9 in Phoenix. Hearings run through Feb. 20.

Once again, Howard's camp is likely to build its case around the slugger's unmatched power numbers. Howard led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs last season and has more homers (153) and RBIs (431) than any player over the past three seasons. But the Phillies are hoping Howard has overreached with his latest salary request. Last season, Howard won a $10 million arbitration award, the highest figure ever given to a first-year arbitration-eligible player. His $18 million submission is the third-highest salary ever requested and $2 million more than the 2009 salary of Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols, the reigning NL MVP and a player with whom Howard often is compared.

--C Chris Coste was the Phillies' feel-good story in 2006, a 33-year-old rookie who finally reached the majors after more than a decade in independent and minor leagues. But Coste will face competition for his job this spring from Ronny Paulino, acquired in a December trade with the Pirates.

Paulino, accused of being out of shape last season, lost his starting job in Pittsburgh and was criticized for his work ethic. But the Phillies believe he has potential, especially after he hit 11 home runs in 457 at-bats for the Pirates in 2007. Coste batted .263 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 274 at-bats as Carlos Ruiz's backup last season, but he has been criticized for his defense.

"Baseball people have always assumed that I was a weak defensive catcher, and once the label of poor defense was attached, it became nearly impossible to shake," Coste told the Philadelphia Daily News in December. "I could block a thousand dirt balls in a row, but the first one that gets by me is the one people will remember. Believe me, I don't claim to be a defensive wizard. But I do know that I'm far better than what people think."

--3B Pedro Feliz is progressing in his recovery from November surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Feliz likely won't be ready for the Phillies' first exhibition game Feb. 25 against the Pirates, but his rehabilitation is expected to put him on track for the season opener April 5 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Feliz, 33, batted .249 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs last season and knocked in the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series.

BY THE NUMBERS: .316 -- C Chris Coste's career average against left-handed pitchers, a stat that could make him valuable to the Phillies as a right-handed pinch hitter, even if he loses the backup catcher competition in spring training.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nomar has been great through the whole process, but he doesn't want to put our team in position to bring on a player who may not be prepared to perform at his accustomed level. But if we can bring Nomar in and give him an opportunity to be in camp, if he feels like he's healthy enough to do that, it gives us more depth." -- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on the club's interest in free agent INF Nomar Garciaparra, who hasn't decided if he'll play in 2009.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: February 7, 2009

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