Notes: Manuel not leaving haven

Notes: Manuel not leaving haven

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel couldn't get very sentimental about his last business trip to Chain of Lakes Park.

A longtime member of the Cleveland organization before becoming Philadelphia's manager, Manuel brought the Phillies here for the last time for Saturday's exhibition.

This is the Indians' final Spring Training here. Next year, they join the Cactus League exodus, relocating to Goodyear, Ariz.

The Indians are leaving, but Manuel isn't going anywhere.

He has made his winter home in this haven since 1993, when the Indians first trained here and Manuel was a manager in their Minor League system.

"Live about five miles away. I only come here when we play them," Manuel said. "But I drive by it an awful lot."

Chain of Lakes Park, on the shores of Lake Lulu, is unlikely to again host a Major League Spring Training. The quaint facility will be preserved for use by high school and college teams.

One recollection made Manuel laugh out loud: The Lulu Ness Monster.

Gene Mathews, a longtime member of the park's ground crew, who is nicknamed Gator for good reason, once hid a five-foot alligator in the locker of pitcher Wayne Kirby.

"Ol' Kirby reaches into his locker for something. His eyes get as big as saucers and he jumps five feet, then just takes off," Manuel recalled.

Not all the memories provoke smiles.

The Indians' very first Spring Training here was ruined by unspeakable tragedy -- the boat accident that killed pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews, and severely injured another, Bob Ojeda.

Even in a Philadelphia uniform, Manuel couldn't escape some horrible news here. The Phillies were also in Chain of Lakes Park last March 8 when word came of the death of coach John Vukovich.

Vukovich passed away at 59, soon after being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

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"Oh, man, I can still hear him yelling, 'Let's go people!'" said Phillies coach Ramon Henderson, shaking his head somberly in remembering the high-octane Vukovich. "In more colorful language, of course."

Candle(stick) in the wind: Following Saturday's game, kids were allowed on the Chain of Lakes field to run the bases. They would've had more fun given a chance to try to catch popups.

The windy aftermath of overnight thunderstorms turned the Indians' 9-5 win into an adventure.

At one point, Cleveland center fielder Jason Tyner camped under Valentino Pascucci's fly ball -- which caromed off the wall, 30 feet to Tyner's left.

It took three tries to retire Chris Snelling for the final out. His high foul pops eluded first baseman Jordan Brown, then catcher Wyatt Toregas before shortstop Josh Rodriguez contorted himself to catch another popup to end it.

In between, the 6,136 fans saw the rare wind-blown glove: Phillies right-fielder Greg Dobbs backtracked and reached up in the second for Andy Gonzalez's deep fly, and both the ball and Dobbs' glove wound up on the other side of the wall.

Manuel didn't want to hear about adverse conditions contributing to the Phillies' fifth loss in six games.

"You've got to be able to play, under any circumstances," he said.

Not so g-day, mate: Travis Blackley appeared to let something else undermine his latest chance to grab the pole for the fifth starter's slot. The Australian left-hander had a solid first inning, but fell apart after a balk call in the second.

Andy Marte, who had drawn a leadoff walk, was picked off by Blackley's move. But first-base umpire Adam Dowdy immediately signaled balk.

In quick order, Gonzalez poked his three-run homer, Ben Francisco stroked an RBI single and Blackley couldn't finish the inning.

"That's tough. That wasn't a balk -- I'd picked my leg up [in making the move to first], the way you're supposed to," Blackley said. "You think you've got an out, and instead you've got no outs and a man on second.

"But I need to get over something like that, and I put it behind me. I just didn't have a feel for the ball. I wanted to work on my changeup, and it just wasn't working. I'm disappointed, but it can only get better next time."

Blackley gave up five runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings. But he didn't give up his shot at the rotation.

"His command wasn't good. He's still in the mix," Manuel said.

Up next: The Phillies are back in Clearwater, Fla., on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET for a rare home game in Bright House Field, against the Blue Jays. Kyle Kendrick, roughed up in his first two starts (12 hits, eight runs in 5 2/3 innings), tries it again, opposing Toronto's Jesse Litsch. It will be only the Phils' second home game in a nine-game stretch.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.