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Inbox: How will Phils' offseason play out?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions

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Email your questions to Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki for future Inbox consideration.

I'm not sure what to think about the upcoming offseason. Is there any reason to be optimistic?
-- Frank H., West Chester, Pa.


The most encouraging thing about the offseason is that interim president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have acknowledged in recent weeks that the organization rode the core from the 2008 World Series championship team too far. In the past few offseasons, the front office thought the Phillies would win if everybody stayed healthy and the club surrounded Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz with productive complementary pieces. But that is no longer reality.

Rollins, Utley and Howard will be regarded as the greatest Phillies at their respective positions in franchise history, but they can no longer carry a team on their shoulders. That is an important first step for the front office. It doesn't mean the Phillies will turn their fortunes in one winter, but they should have a clearer picture of what they need to do to improve.

Who is going to be in the Phillies' outfield next season?
-- Matt S., Boston

It would be very surprising if Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere and some combination of Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore are all back. At least one new outfielder, maybe two, is likely. Phillies left fielders have a combined .620 on-base plus slugging percentage, which is 28th in the Majors. Brown's .652 OPS is the lowest among qualifying left fielders since Juan Pierre's .650 OPS in 2011. If the Phillies move on from Brown, they could platoon Ruf and Sizemore. Revere had to hit at a .363 clip from June 26 through Sept. 5 to get his season OPS to .694, which is 19th out of 26 qualifying center fielders.

Manager Ryne Sandberg stopped short last week when asked if Revere is viewed as a bona-fide everyday center fielder in the National League. The feeling here is that the front office would like to upgrade at center field, if possible, because Revere almost needs to hit at a .350 clip to be productive, since he lacks power and is a liability defensively due to his weak arm.

Byrd has been productive; his .765 OPS is 12th out of 27 qualifying right fielders. But if the Phillies are not going to contend next season, it would make sense to trade him for a piece or two that could help in the future. Of course, the Phillies tried to trade Byrd before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline without success. In fact, sources said the Phillies could not get anything close to a top 10 prospect in any team's farm system for him. Byrd will make $8 million next season and has an $8 million club option in 2016 that vests automatically based on plate appearances. Byrd, who has 617 plate appearances this year, needs 550 plate appearances next year to vest the '16 option.

That is an issue for interested teams because Byrd will be 38 at the end of next season. Look for the Phillies to take a run at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is a free agent. If they like him, they are prepared to pay him because the crop of free-agent outfielders is relatively weak (Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, Michael Cuddyer, Jonny Gomes and Josh Willingham) and the Phillies have nobody coming through the system.

Do you think the Phillies will trade Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason?
-- John D., Philadelphia.

They will try hard to trade him, but Papelbon's contract and his recent seven-game suspension will make it more difficult than it should be. Papelbon will make $13 million next season and has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 100 games finished across 2014 and '15. (The right-hander has finished 50 games this season.)

Papelbon remains one of the game's elite closers, but the perception that he is a problem in the clubhouse permeates the game. Surprisingly, Papelbon has been a tremendous influence on the team's young relievers all season. But owners and GMs from other teams flinch when they see Papelbon's behavior and hear other stories.

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


Phils drop seesaw finale with A's in 10th

Byrd drives in three as Philly erases three deficits

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OAKLAND -- The Phillies finally ran out of answers against the A's on Sunday.

Despite doing an effective job of playing catch-up earlier in the game, Philadelphia was saddled with an 8-6 walk-off loss to Oakland when Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off Miguel Gonzalez in the 10th inning to keep the A's in the driver's seat of the American League Wild Card race.


The extra-inning dramatics wrapped up what was something of a seesaw contest after subpar outings by the starting pitchers.

"The offense kept battling back, and primarily the top five guys in the lineup," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We had a couple of two-out rallies to score some runs. The offense kept battling back, and the bullpen overall did a good job to get us some chances."

Ultimately, Donaldson crushed a 94-mph, belt-high fastball from Gonzalez to deep center field to notch his third walkoff homer of the year. Gonzalez said he threw the pitch where he wanted, locating it on the outside half of the plate.

"It's just something. Ever since I was a little kid, that's what you prepare for," Donaldson said, "whether it's basketball, trying to hit a game-winning shot; football, making the catch; baseball, getting the game-winning hit. Ever since I was a kid, that's just the moment I've always wanted to be in."

A.J. Burnett has struggled since the All-Star break for Philadelphia, and Sunday was no exception. The veteran right-hander matched his season high by issuing six walks, bringing his yearlong total to 93, the most in the Majors. He allowed six runs on three hits while striking out three, and is now 2-9 with a 5.85 ERA in 13 second-half starts.

As much as Burnett labored, the Phillies' offense was able to keep him in the game, coming back to tie after falling behind three times against A's lefty Scott Kazmir, who struck out nine but was charged with six runs on 11 hits and a walk.

"I was upset because the guys came out swinging the bat," Burnett said. "Anytime the offense gives you runs … I don't think I would have been as upset if I would have got hit around the yard. But to be wild like that, it's just hard to swallow. It's embarrassing to me, it's embarrassing to this team. … You'd rather give up 20 hits and 20 runs than walk them on the base and give them free passes."

After publicly contemplating retirement following the 2013 season, it could be easy to point to fatigue as a reason for the 37-year-old Burnett's struggles. Sunday's start marked just the third outing this year that he wasn't able to complete the fifth, his 207 innings pitched tied for the third-highest mark of his career.

Like Burnett, Sandberg wasn't using age or fatigue as an excuse.

"You know what, his stuff is still there," Sandberg said. "He had six walks, two hit batsmen and four of the walks scored, so that came back to haunt him. But he was just off the plate, wasn't able to work ahead the count. But as far as being gassed, the stuff still comes out of his hand good. The zip's still on the ball and he still has a good breaking pitch when it's for strikes."

Marlon Byrd, who went 2-for-5 for three RBIs, drove in the game's first run with a double that scored Chase Utley. After the A's took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first, Byrd pulled the Phillies even in the third with a two-run double that plated two teammates.

Oakland jumped ahead, 4-3, in the third inning when Burnett walked Geovany Soto with the bases loaded. The next half-inning, Carlos Ruiz roped an RBI double to knot the game, 4-4.

Soto then gave the A's a 6-4 advantage with a two-run double in the fifth, but Kazmir couldn't get a shutdown inning in the sixth, as the Phillies engineered a rally to tie the game and chase him from the mound.

Given his team's trio of comeback efforts on Sunday, it's easy to see why Burnett was beating himself up after the game.

"I didn't make any pitches today from the get-go," Burnett said. "We jumped out to the lead, the shutdown inning wasn't there. Then in the last inning I walked more guys. I just walked 'em all. It's embarrassing."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


First career save a testament to Giles' progress

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OAKLAND -- The lineup card from Saturday night's 3-0 Phillies victory over the A's was in Ken Giles' locker before Sunday's matinee and for good reason.

The rookie setup man recorded his first career save against Oakland on Saturday, which also marked his 24th birthday. And to think, when he turned 23, Giles was getting prepared for the Arizona Fall League after a disappointing season at the Class A Advanced level.


Giles only made 24 appearances in 2013 because of a pair of oblique injuries, but he said the setbacks have turned into a blessing.

"Staying healthy is a big part," Giles said of his success this season. "But getting hurt also helped me rethink how to pitch and how my mechanics work for me. I think that's what was a big part of that year. I kind of reshaped myself and reworked my pitching strategy."

Giles said he tweaked his delivery to make better use of his entire body instead of just his upper half. The hard-throwing right-hander has been lights out since reaching Philadelphia after spending time in Double-A and Triple-A to start the year.

He's posted a 1.24 ERA while racking up 63 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Together with suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon, who's eligible to return on Tuesday, Giles has given the Phillies one of baseball's top 1-2 punches at the end of the bullpen.

Giles has the makeup of a closer, but Papelbon is signed for $13 million next year and could be a hard to trade. Papelbon, who has a 2.10 ERA and has converted 37 of 41 saves, also has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 50 more games by the end of 2015.

When looking at the rest of the bullpen, which has posted an MLB-best 2.37 ERA since Aug. 5, Giles said it's been a pleasure to learn from Papelbon and others like Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus.

"I think that's the best thing that's come for this team this year," Giles said. "We have so much talent in this 'pen, it's amazing. We can do amazing things, I believe. If we continue that next year, anything can happen."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Red-hot Hamels leads Phillies vs. rival Marlins

Alvarez opens Miami's final home series of 2014

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It will take a lot, but the Phillies could work their way out of the National League East cellar this week. On Tuesday, they begin a three-game set against the Marlins, then wrap up 2014 with three against the Braves this weekend.

Cole Hamels will get the ball for Philadelphia, which trails Miami by 3 1/2 games in the NL East. The Marlins will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound.


Hamels has posted a career-best 2.47 ERA over 28 starts this season, and has been stellar in September --- a month that began with the veteran lefty throwing the first six innings of the Phillies' combined no-hitter against the Braves.

In his last four starts, Hamels is 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA and .237/.312/.351 slash line against. He tossed seven innings and allowed just a run while fanning nine on Wednesday against the Padres. The start prior, he allowed one run over seven frames in a 3-1 win over the Marlins.

For the Marlins, their most reliable starting pitcher over the course of the season has been Alvarez, who stepped up after Jose Fernandez's season ended after Tommy John surgery in May.

"Henderson has had his bumps and bruises, but he's been able to fight through it," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "For me, Henderson has had a big breakout year as far as his innings, having success. He's another guy, we're not where we are without his success."

Alvarez, 24, became an ace and an All-Star, and also one of the most unheralded right-handers in the National League.

He's making his 29th start, and he has a chance to finish the season with an sub-3 ERA. With two starts to go, he is at 2.82 in 172 1/3 innings.

Phillies: Brown expects to return to lineup
Left fielder Domonic Brown struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in Sunday's finale with the Athletics, and he said he expects to be back in the starting lineup against the Marlins on Tuesday.

Brown injured his right wrist while making a diving catch on Thursday in San Diego and missed the first two games of the Oakland series. Brown is batting .236 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs.

"It's just a bruise," Brown said. "We took the X-ray and everything came back negative. I'm all good to go."

Marlins: Worn down 'pen boosted by Hatcher
Shortly before the start of Spring Training, the Marlins weren't sure they would be able to retain reliever Chris Hatcher. Out of options, Hatcher found himself designated for assignment because the team was looking to create 40-man roster space.

Hatcher was available to any team, but no other club took a chance on the converted catcher. The Marlins felt fortunate Hatcher returned to the organization and accepted starting off the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Now, Hatcher has become a solid option to pitch the seventh and eighth innings and is solidifying his case to be a part of the bullpen on Opening Day 2015.

"He's only been a pitcher for a few years," Redmond said. "I really give him a lot of credit, coming into Spring Training after he had been taken off the roster, and really using that to motivate himself. He's stayed here because he's had success, and he's worked hard. Sometimes, it isn't easy to work through all that adversity."

Worth noting
• The Marlins sent two team executives to attend a workout of highly touted Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

• The three games in Miami will close out the Phillies' final road trip of the season. They are 1-5 on the trek.

Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brown expects to return from injured wrist Tuesday

Brown expects to return from injured wrist Tuesday play video for Brown expects to return from injured wrist Tuesday

OAKLAND -- Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown said he was available to pinch-hit for Sunday's series finale against the A's and he expects to be back in the starting lineup against the Marlins on Tuesday.

Brown injured his right wrist while making a diving catch on Thursday in San Diego and missed the first two games of the Oakland series. Brown is batting .237/.288/.356 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs.


"It's just a bruise," Brown said. "We took the X-ray and everything came back negative. I'm all good to go."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Williams' third win vs. A's one for the books

Veteran righty beats Oakland for third time with third different club this year

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OAKLAND -- Jerome Williams made baseball history on Saturday -- albeit in bizarre fashion -- as he became the first pitcher ever to earn three wins against the same team in one season as a member of three different clubs.

Williams beat the A's on April 26 with the Astros, on July 25 with the Rangers, and on Saturday with the Phillies, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory.


"That is crazy," Williams said. "For one, you would never think that you would face the same team. Obviously I was with the AL West so I knew I was going to face them, but coming over to the Phillies in Interleague Play, you didn't think you were going to face the team again. It's a good feat."

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was already impressed with Williams' ability to simply pitch for three teams in one season.

"That's one thing," Sandberg said, "and then to beat a team three times, that's pretty ironic."

Adding to the irony is the fact that the first two wins of Williams' career came against Oakland -- in 2003, as a member of the Giants.

Now with his seventh team, Williams is still putting up zeros. He has not allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings over his last two starts, and he is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA in eight outings since joining the Phillies.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Galvis helps Williams earn historic 'W' over A's

Shortstop breaks up scoreless affair with two-run shot in seventh

Galvis helps Williams earn historic 'W' over A's play video for Galvis helps Williams earn historic 'W' over A's

OAKLAND -- There has not been much to smile about lately for the Phillies as they approach the end of their second straight losing season. Saturday's 3-0 win over the A's, however, was peppered with bright spots.

Ken Giles, the team's possible closer of the future, earned his first career save on his 24th birthday. Jerome Williams made baseball history, becoming the first pitcher to earn three wins against the same opponent as a member of three different teams. And Freddy Galvis continued to make the most of his time as the starting shortstop, hitting a two-run homer to break a scoreless tie in the seventh.


"Starting pitching, the bullpen, some good defense out there, one swing of the bat for the home run and then an add-on run," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "A solid game and a lot of good stuff in a tight game."

Giles was dominant as ever in his first save opportunity, throwing 10 pitches -- nine strikes -- in a 1-2-3 ninth. The Phillies would have liked to give Giles a save chance sooner with Jonathan Papelbon serving a suspension, but the birthday boy was simply thrilled to achieve the milestone.

"It's awesome. I'm going to remember it forever," Giles said. "I've been waiting for my time to come. I'm blessed that I got the opportunity to get it on my birthday."

In order for Giles to get his chance, Galvis first had to play hero. Until the seventh inning, it was a war of offensive attrition at Coliseum between two floundering offensive clubs, and the Phillies had just one hit when the seventh began.

But Cody Asche lofted a one-out double down the left-field line, and Galvis -- a switch-hitter batting left-handed -- took reliever Dan Otero deep. The pitch -- a 3-2, 91 mile-per-hour sinker -- was belted over the right-center-field wall.

"I went to 3-1, 3-2, then he threw me a fastball in the middle," Galvis said. "I was trying to hit it hard on the ground or a line drive. I hit it for a homer."

Galvis has started all 12 games at shortstop since Jimmy Rollins strained his left hamstring, going 11-for-38 (.289) with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs scored.

"He seems to be a guy who comes up in that situation, that spot, and he has a chance to drive one," Sandberg said. "Surprising power at times for a little guy.

"He's really improved his offense this year going back to Triple-A. He did a nice job working on some things and he hit for average there. He's brought that here with him. He's getting some time here at shortstop. Probably goes a long way with getting him at-bats at this level and making some adjustments. He's come up with some big hits for us."

For the season, Galvis is still batting just .165 in 97 at-bats -- though 12 games ago that number was a paltry .085.

He helped Williams make history by beating the A's for the third time this year -- once with the Astros, once with the Rangers and once with the Phillies.

Williams threw seven scoreless innings and held Oakland to four hits, and he has not allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings over his last two starts. In eight outings since joining the Phillies, he is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA.

"He's been solid since he's come over, with quality outings, good stuff," Sandberg said. "He hits his spots real well with moving stuff, so he's effective in the strike zone and really does a good job working well with the catcher."

Williams induced a double play with the bases loaded to end the second inning, and it was smooth sailing from there.

"I don't think anything changed [after the second]," Williams said. "It's just I had a couple pitches I left over the plate and I wasn't attacking the zone. I think after that I just started attacking the zone, keeping the ball down, getting key ground balls when I needed them."

Marlon Byrd added a two-out RBI in the eighth to give the bullpen a three-run cushion.

The Phillies improved to 2-4 on their final road trip of the year and set up a rubber match against the A's on Sunday.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Rollins progressing, but return uncertain

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OAKLAND -- Jimmy Rollins, who has been out with a strained left hamstring since Sept. 8, continues to work on running the bases, and it remains unclear whether he will return this season.

"There is improvement," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said after Saturday's 3-0 win over the A's. "He was working on the rounding aspect of running. He did pretty well with it. We'll check him out tomorrow, continue to check him out day to day to see how he progresses with all that."


Asked if Rollins will play again this year, Sandberg said: "We'll see. We'll see how he does and how he goes. I'm not going one way or another on it. Just watching the progress. He's doing good with what he's doing."

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Phillies bats stay quiet in loss to Oakland

Buchanan solid in start, but Howard's HR all offense can muster

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OAKLAND -- David Buchanan was good, not great, on Friday in the Phillies' first game at Coliseum since 2008, but a three-run second inning by the hosts was enough to spell defeat against Jon Lester and the A's.

Philadelphia fell, 3-1, and has now dropped nine of its last 13 games on the heels of a 19-14 stretch. Over those 13 contests, the Phillies are averaging just 2.8 runs per game.


Buchanan lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits, striking out six and walking two. The rookie right-hander has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts, though his record is 5-5 over that span.

"He's shown very good improvement," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "He's really making the most of this opportunity. He's come a long way in a lot of ways. He's very good with the running game, he's got some deception with his motion. He's gaining confidence as he goes along.

"As far as stuff, this could have been one of his better outings."

The Phillies' lone tally was a Ryan Howard solo shot off Lester in the fourth, continuing a season of strange offensive splits for the lefty. Ten of Howard's 22 home runs have come off left-handers, while his slugging percentage against southpaws -- .458 entering Friday -- is more than 100 points higher than his mark against righties.

"You got to hit lefties to get to the big leagues," he said. "Just got to continue to try to build on it."

Otherwise, the bats were quiet against Lester, who allowed five hits in seven frames to lift the free-falling A's to a much-needed victory. Lester's ERA is 1.68 over his last 18 outings, all of which have been quality starts.

"Using all his pitches, locating back and forth, in and out," said Marlon Byrd. "He used his breaking ball a lot more, so it's a little bit different than I remember him being in the past. He was changing it up, that differential -- 93 fastball to 77 for breaking stuff."

The Phillies forced Lester to throw 24 pitches in the first inning but were unable to capitalize.

"Early on it looked like he was missing on the corners," Sandberg said. "In some ways that would have been a good opportunity to take advantage of that, but he made some adjustments and started getting ahead of hitters."

Oakland mustered three RBI singles with two outs in the bottom of the second, and there was some tough luck involved for Buchanan. With runners on first and second, Derek Norris lined a base hit to right field that was bobbled by Byrd, allowing the slow-footed Adam Dunn to score easily.

Eric Sogard followed with a soft liner just past a diving Maikel Franco at third, and Coco Crisp added a perfectly placed grounder up the middle to plate the A's third run.

Other than that, the 25-year-old Buchanan was his usual solid self. He did not give up another hit until the sixth when Jed Lowrie led off with a triple, and Buchanan proceeded to fan Norris before Lowrie was cut down at home on a safety squeeze.

Justin De Fratus, called upon to retire Josh Donaldson with the bases loaded and two outs, did so with one pitch -- a popup to short.

Buchanan walked away with yet another quality start, though he claimed ignorance of the numbers.

"I don't even know those kinds of stats," he said. "I just try to go out there every time and throw up zeros, go out there for as long as I can."

The Phillies had a runner on third with one out in the eighth against Luke Gregerson, but Carlos Ruiz chopped one to third and Freddy Galvis was thrown out at the plate to kill the rally.

On Star Wars night at the Coliseum, the A's made the most of their second-inning chance, while the Phillies made little of their opportunities, going 0-for-5 with men in scoring position.

"That's how the game goes," Howard said. "I guess in the spirit of the Star Wars theme, the force was on their side."

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Phillies pitching prospect suspended 50 games

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OAKLAND -- Right-hander Shane Watson, the Phillies' first pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, has been suspended for 50 games without pay after a second positive test for a drug of abuse.

His suspension will take effect at the start of the 2015 South Atlantic League season. Watson is currently on the roster of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, but he missed the entire 2014 season due to shoulder surgery and remains in the rehab stage.


Watson, who turned 21 in August, was drafted 40th overall. He has posted a 4.75 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 28 walks in 79 Minor League innings, mostly as a starter.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Sandberg wants Revere to revisit approach

Phillies skipper suggests center fielder could increase doubles power

Sandberg wants Revere to revisit approach play video for Sandberg wants Revere to revisit approach

SAN DIEGO -- The Phillies need to get creative this offseason to improve an offense that badly needs help.

They will look for improvement in the outfield.


Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd could be traded. The organization also might move on from left fielder Domonic Brown. But what about center fielder Ben Revere? He entered Thursday's series finale against the Padres at Petco Park hitting .306 with 13 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 25 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and a .690 OPS.

Despite a second-half surge, Revere's .689 OPS as a center fielder ranks 19th out of 26 qualifying center fielders.

"I can say that he's made very good strides in different parts of his game," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, who stopped short when asked if he views Revere as an everyday center fielder for a National League team. "I think he's really improved his stolen-base capability, a little bit more aggressive. His bat has come alive like we saw at times last year for a long stretch, and I think that he's improved on his outfield play with some added work and a change of the routine. I think overall he's made improvement, which goes a long way with him being an everyday center fielder." 

The Phillies certainly could use more power from Revere, and Sandberg said he thinks Revere has it.

"I actually think that he has the ability to hit 30 to 35 to 40 doubles with the way that he makes contact," he said. "He's strong. I think that should be the next thing for him is to hit 35 to 40 doubles in the season, hit in the gaps. We see it all season long in batting practice, there is no reason that shouldn't translate into games and certain situations with certain pitches.

"It might be a little bit of a mindset change. He tries to hit it on the ground and he really tries to work it up the middle, which I think is the approach that he has probably been told for a number of years. But I think he has the ability to turn on the ball and hit the ball the other way to left-center, to right-center, down both lines."

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


Sixty years ago, A's play last home game in Philadelphia

Having fallen on hard times, team moved to Kansas City after 1954 season

Sixty years ago, A's play last home game in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Athletics finished their dismal fling at Connie Mack Stadium yesterday as the New York Yankees rallied in the eighth inning to post a 4-2 victory.

The story in the Philadelphia Inquirer chronicling that Sept. 19, 1954, game went on to describe the setting as a "dreary afternoon." It didn't specify whether that was a reference to the weather -- foggy and wet -- or the sparse crowd of 1,715 or the fact that the A's were solidly in last place. The team would eventually lose 103 games and finish 60 games out of first.


There was also no mention of the possibility that it might have been the last time the Athletics played a home game in Philadelphia, their base since becoming a charter member of the American League in 1901.

But it was. Exactly 60 years ago Friday, the team departed the corner of 21st and Lehigh for the train that would take them to play the Boston Red Sox, beginning a season-ending road trip.

They never returned.

After the season, the team was sold to Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson, who promptly moved it to Kansas City. The team relocated again when new owner Charlie Finley took the franchise to Oakland following the 1967 season.

Which sets up one of those neat coincidences that make baseball so much fun. Tonight, six decades to the day after what turned out to be a more significant nine innings than many realized at the time, the Athletics will reconnect with their roots when they open a series against the Phillies at Coliseum.

It's a little surprising that more wasn't made at the time, back in 1954, about the chance that Philadelphia might soon become a one-team town. In June, Earle and Roy Mack, sons of elderly family patriarch Connie Mack, who had managed the A's for its first 50 seasons, had informed Mayor Joseph Clark that they would have to sell the team unless attendance jumped dramatically. A sale might mean the franchise would move, they warned.

The threat did nothing to improve the gate. Even though the A's were historically more successful, the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Phils had captured the imagination of the city and the National League team was still basking in the afterglow. In the end, just 305,000 people passed through the turnstiles at Connie Mack Stadium to watch the Athletics that season.

A "Save the A's" committee was formed, but the public didn't rally behind the effort. And there was friction in the front office as well. Connie Mack was 91 years old and largely a figurehead. Roy wanted to raise the money to buy out his father and brother and become team president. Earle was content to cash out and walk away from baseball.

On Aug. 3, Johnson made a formal bid to buy the A's, offering between $4 million and $4.5 million with the stated intention of moving the team. Three days later, local businessman Harry Sylk, president of Philadelphia's Sun Ray Drug Co., made a counter offer to keep the team in the city. Backroom intrigue ensued.

The first AL meeting was held on Sept. 28 in New York, but no vote was taken. A second meeting was called for Chicago on October 12. The powerful Yankees pushed for approval of the sale to Johnson, with whom they had a business relationship; he owned Yankee Stadium. The motion passed. But in a dramatic twist, just before the deal with Johnson was to be finalized, the Macks signed papers to sell to a local group headed by auto dealer John P. Crisconi.

Johnson threatened legal action against the syndicate. Another league meeting was called for October 28 in New York. That gave Johnson time to lobby the Mack family. On November 4, he got a signed commitment from Connie, Roy and Earle. Finally, on November 18 in New York, the AL owners voted unanimously to approve the sale of the A's to Johnson and 6-2 to allow the transfer of the team to Kansas City.

That was the backdrop against which the Athletics played that day. It was, at least, a decent game. Art Ditmar started for Philadelphia and pitched five scoreless innings with the help of a great running catch by right fielder Vic Power, who made a spectacular catch of a Mickey Mantle line drive.

The A's broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run single by second baseman Pete Suder. But Gil McDougald's three-run homer off Moe Burtschy in the eighth keyed a four-run rally to give the Yanks the win. Jim Konstanty -- who won the NL MVP Award for the Phillies in 1950 when he appeared in 74 games and pitched 152 relief innings -- got the last six outs for the save.

Now the Athletics have played longer outside of Philadelphia than in the city where it all started. But those roots haven't been completely forgotten. In 1902, New York Giants manager John McGraw contemptuously dismissed the A's as "White Elephants." Connie Mack defiantly adopted the image as the team insignia ... and went on to win the pennant.

And when the Oakland Athletics take the field Friday night, they'll be wearing a replica White Elephant logo on the left sleeve of their uniform tops, just as they have since 1988.

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


Kendrick, offense unable to find rhythm in SD

Starter struggles with command; Phillies missing timely hits

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SAN DIEGO -- This is not the season Kyle Kendrick or the Phillies imagined when Spring Training opened in February.

It will be over soon enough. Kendrick struggled with his command in five innings in Thursday's 7-3 loss to the Padres at Petco Park. He fell to 9-13 with a 4.73 ERA, which is the eighth-highest ERA out of 91 qualifying pitchers in baseball, while the Phillies fell to 70-83 as the offense continued to struggle.


The Phillies have lost eight of their last 12 games after a 19-14 run from July 31 through Sept. 6.

"Coming up with the clutch hit or a two-out hit with men on base, the Padres got some of those and they minimized us in those situations," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about the Padres winning three of four in the series.

Sandberg had started to feel a little better about his team during that 33-game stretch, which was the eighth-best record in baseball, but harsh realities have returned. The Phillies have hit .205 and averaged just 2.9 runs per game in their past 12 games. They pieced together just five hits and one run in six innings against Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin, who improved to 4-4 with a 4.53 ERA.

"They hit a couple of balls on the nose," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We played a solid game defensively."

The Phillies will have to find offense somewhere in the offseason.

Kendrick will have to figure out his future, too. He is a free agent after the season. He wiggled out of a jam in the first inning before he allowed a home run to Alexi Amarista in the second to hand the Padres a 1-0 lead.

Kendrick has allowed 25 home runs this season, which is tied for fifth-highest in the Majors.

The Phillies tied the game in the fourth. Darin Ruf hit a one-out double to left field and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Domonic Brown singled to left field to make it 1-1.

But Kendrick could not hold the score. He quickly loaded the bases in the fourth before Amarista's sacrifice fly made it 2-1. It could have been worse, but Brown threw out Seth Smith at third for the second out.

Kendrick retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth then allowed a single to Jedd Gyorko and walked Yasmani Grandal. Smith singled to right field to score Gyorko and make it 3-1. Antonio Bastardo allowed a run in the sixth, and Cesar Jimenez allowed three on Will Venable's home run in the eighth.

Kendrick allowed six hits, three runs, five walks, a home run and struck out two in five innings. It was the seventh time in his career and second time this season that he walked at least five batters in a start.

"I didn't have any command from the start really," Kendrick said. "I walked the first hitter. That's pretty rare for me, but I had to battle. I was pretty fortunate just to give up three runs there. I had no command. It's tough to pitch like that."

But here is the inning that encapsulated the offensive woes. The Phillies had runners on first and third with no outs in the eighth, but Padres right-hander Dale Thayer struck out Marlon Byrd, Ruf and Maikel Franco swinging in succession to retire the side.

Sandberg said he gave some consideration to having one of the many left-handed hitters on his bench hit against Thayer but added, "It's a chance to see some of these guys in that situation -- Ruf, Franco."

Sandberg has talked recently about a more consistent offense next season, especially when it comes to putting the ball in play. The eighth inning drove home that point pretty clearly when nobody could put the ball in play with a runner on third.

"Especially in the situation with the men on base right there," he said. "Just looking for some contact."

The Phillies have struck out 1,334 times this season, which is a franchise record.

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

{} Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Gwynn Jr. forging ahead after his father's passing

Though it's difficult, Hall of Famer's son says he's 'focused on the task at hand'

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SAN DIEGO -- For Tony Gwynn Jr., there hasn't been much time to mourn. The baseball season has a pace and presence to it that demands staying in the present and not reflecting on the past. There are signs and stories and memories of his famous father everywhere. Gwynn Sr., the Hall of Fame right fielder and eternal Padre, passed away June 16 at age 54 after a long battle with cancer of the salivary gland.

While the public took stock of the loss, it hit the family hardest, as always.


"This year has been really hard. It's still hard for me at this point," said Gwynn Jr., in town with the Phillies this week for a four-game series at Petco Park. "The key for me is just trying to go day to day and enjoy the day, the now, because I don't know what God has planned. I found that delving into the past too much can be a hindrance. That's probably been the hardest part for me, not dwelling too much in the past.

"Obviously, I have so many memories of my pops, I'm not going to forget them or lose them. But when you lose someone like that, your first instinct is to grab on to those memories and hold them as tight as you can and keep shoveling through them as much as you can. Suddenly, you find yourself not doing what you're supposed to be doing during the day."

There will be time for all of that, he knows, when the season ends. He can stop and reflect and try moving forward with his baseball career. This is only the second time Gwynn Jr. has been home since the funeral at the Student Union on the campus of San Diego State on June 21. Gwynn Sr. never played a game at Petco Park. His last game came at the end of the 2001 season across town at Qualcomm Stadium, the ballpark where the Padres played for his entire 20-year career.

But that hardly matters.

"He was instrumental in this being built," said Gwynn Jr., who had a short stint with Padres himself in 2009-10 and played the outfield at Petco.

Talk about reminders, the ballpark that opened in 2004 is located on the corner of K Street and Tony Gwynn Drive. The Gwynn statue in the Park beyond the right-center-field bleachers is a popular destination. The younger Gwynn has never seen the statue and found it was too difficult for him the take the trek out there this week.

"I haven't yet. I haven't yet," he said. "I'll probably do it in the offseason when I have more time."

The memories spin on. Taking a walk with his dad through Monument Park at the old Yankee Stadium as a 16-year-old the day before Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, playing a few seasons for him at San Diego State where Gwynn Sr. was the head coach from 2003 until his death, the drive across the desert his father took to see his son play in the Major Leagues for the first time after Gwynn Jr. was called up to the Brewers in 2006.

"Those are good memories to hold on to," Gwynn Jr. said. "Anything regarding my dad's baseball career, I generally remember like it was yesterday."

Particularly, now that the phone calls have forever stopped. The two were always close, speaking regularly until his dad became too sick to participate.

He was his father, coach and spiritual advisor, talking about everything from hitting to family to baseball to life. The last time Gwynn Jr. saw his father alive was just prior to joining the Phillies as a non-roster invitee this past February. By then, he knew the illness was growing dire. Gwynn Sr. had spent Christmas week in intensive care. For the first time in his career, Gwynn Jr. donned his dad's retired No. 19, and he still wears it in his honor.

The last time he had a conversation on the phone with him was this past spring.

"The last real talk I had with him was right after our series in New York [on May 11]," Gwynn Jr. said. "The bus ride home from that series was the last time I had a real conversation with him. From then on, he gradually couldn't talk. That was difficult in itself. We talked every other day from the time I started playing professional baseball. To not be able to talk to him was a real adjustment."

From then on, it was calls to his mom, Alicia, who would relay the messages. Even on Father's Day, the day before his dad died, Gwynn Jr. was only able to ask his mom to give him his well wishes.

"I told my mom to tell him I'd look forward to speaking with him at a time when he could talk," he said. "But I never got the chance, obviously. He passed the next day."

Even now, Gwynn Jr. says he can't fathom the fact he no longer can pick up the phone and reach his dad.

"It's super weird," he said. "I still have about 28 messages on my phone that I can't -- I haven't been able to bring myself to go through them yet. It's just like reliving that day."

Time marches on, though. On Tuesday, Gwynn Jr. was back in the starting lineup, leading off and in center field. When he saw the lineup card, he immediately called his mom, who lives in nearby Poway, and asked her to attend the game. She hadn't been back to Petco since the public memorial service on June 26. As her son went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, she sat in the stands.

"I think for her, that was a big thing," Gwynn Jr. said. "She's starting to turn the corner."

Gwynn Jr. said he began to turn the corner after the Phillies released him this summer and re-signed him to a Minor League contract. At 31 and with the rest of his life ahead of him, Gwynn Jr. realized he had to do what ballplayers do best: compartmentalize. That's what his dad would have wanted: "Hey, don't worry about me"

"When I went back to [Triple-A] Lehigh, that's when I realized I have to start being in the now, especially if I'm going to continue to play baseball," he said. "Baseball is not a sport where you can have your brain split in two different areas. You have to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand. I want to keep playing, no doubt. I know when I'm not dealing with these kinds of issues off the field, I'm a pretty good big league ballplayer. It's just rebooting the system this year and starting over."

His dad would have been proud.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Ruf spells Howard at 1B in back-to-back games

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SAN DIEGO -- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg planned to play Darin Ruf a lot at first base in the second half, but it never happened.

Sandberg benched Ryan Howard for three consecutive games July 23-25, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. quickly came out to back Howard, who has started nearly every game at first base since. Thursday was the first time since late July that Ruf started consecutive games at first base.


Sandberg said the fact the Phillies faced left-hander Robbie Erlin had something to do with it, but Howard also has been struggling. He is hitting .154 (4-for-26) with one RBI in his last 10 games.

"He just seems to be just off the ball a little bit more than he was a few weeks ago," Sandberg said about Howard. "Just a little bit off, he's getting him in some holes and missing some pitches and fouling some pitches off, misses his pitch."

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


Cryptic Burnett hints at health issue

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SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Burnett said Tuesday he has felt terrible for much of the season, although he used a more colorful word than terrible.

He also declined to elaborate.


Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park that he was unaware of any health issues for Burnett, other than the inguinal hernia he has had since April. Burnett is 8-17 with a 4.40 ERA this season. He leads Major League Baseball in losses and walks (87), but Tuesday he increased his 2015 player option to $12.75 million with his 32nd start of the season.

"If anything he has displayed just the opposite," Sandberg said about Burnett's health. "Very durable guy with innings, the length that he does give, durable arm. The hernia thing kind of came and went kind of fairly quickly with some minor adjustments with his stride. From my knowledge, that's been a non-issue."

Burnett also said he expected a lot of things to be different this season, but declined to elaborate. Sandberg said he is unaware of any issues Burnett might have had on or off the field.

Worth noting

• Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon served the third game of his seven-game suspension Wednesday. Papelbon said Monday he would speak to reporters once he learned more about his situation, but Wednesday he told a team spokesman he is not speaking publicly at this time.

• Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has not played since Sept. 8 because of a strained left hamstring. He fielded ground balls before Wednesday's game in an effort to test the hamstring. It is unclear when Rollins might return to the lineup.

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


Power-seeking Phillies keen on Cuban outfielder Tomas

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SAN DIEGO -- Ryne Sandberg said late last season the Phillies needed to upgrade their rotation heading into 2014.

He again made it a priority Wednesday at Petco Park.


"Solidify the starting rotation," he said, referring to a rotation that ranked 11th in the National League with a 3.90 ERA and 13th with a 1.32 WHIP.

But this team needs much more than starting pitching. It needs some big bats in the middle of the lineup. Internally, Phillies officials acknowledge Chase Utley (.660 OPS since May 28) and Ryan Howard (.685 OPS this season) would be better suited hitting somewhere other than third and fourth in the lineup.

Of course, No. 3 and 4 hitters are terribly difficult to find.

"Everyone needs the same thing," Sandberg said.

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas could be an option. He is working out Sunday for big league teams, and the Phillies are interested. But Tomas could command a huge price, based on the fact fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo recently signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox.

Sandberg said the team could use "more consistent production" from the middle of the lineup. He said he would like to see fewer strikeouts, too.

"I'd like to see that come down," he said.

Howard entered Wednesday second in baseball with 177 strikeouts. Marlon Byrd ranked third with 173. But the Phillies could handle the strikeouts if they came with more power. Howard has just 21 home runs. Byrd leads the team with 25.

The Phillies are fourth in the league with 1,223 strikeouts, but are 13th with a .364 slugging percentage.

"Just an approach of overall contact, making things happen, putting the ball in play," Sandberg said.

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


Ruf makes his case for playing time with big night

Platoon player has two hits, scores two to back Hamels' stellar outing

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SAN DIEGO -- Pat Gillick has been following the Phillies around the country since ownership named him interim president late last month.

He has been evaluating the talent on the field and considering the ways to improve a team that is suffering through its third consecutive season without a winning record, despite Wednesday's 5-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.


He will take his opinions into meetings with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the rest of the Phillies front office next month, when they plan a course of action for the offseason.

Darin Ruf certainly will be discussed. He went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a double Wednesday.

How much is he part of the Phillies' plans?

It has been a topic of conversation for Phillies fans since Ruf slugged 38 home runs with Double-A Reading in 2012. He is hitting .255 with 17 doubles, one triple, 20 home runs, 48 RBIs and an .814 OPS in 424 career plate appearances. He has been even more productive as a starter, carrying an .851 OPS in 98 career starts before Wednesday.

"I try to [take advantage]," Ruf said about his starts. "That's the goal. Get hits when you play."

But he has played only sporadically since the Phillies recalled him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on July 22.

It had not started that way. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg announced the following afternoon he planned to play Ruf frequently at first base the rest of the season. He said he already knew what Ryan Howard could do. He wanted to see others play there.

Sandberg benched Howard for three consecutive games July 23-25, but after Amaro quickly came out to support Howard, Ruf's playing time at first base dwindled. Wednesday was Ruf's fifth start at first base in the past 49 games.

He has started in left field just 10 times in that 49-game stretch.

"It might be my role going forward, so I've got to get used to it," Ruf said. "Take advantage of when I'm in there. If it's a pinch-hit situation, try to take advantage of that. Be aggressive."

He keyed Cole Hamels' ninth win of the season. Hamels allowed seven hits, one run and one walk and struck out nine in seven innings. He has a 1.86 ERA in his last 21 starts, and despite spending most of April on the disabled list with left biceps tendinitis, he has thrown 189 2/3 innings.

He should hit the 200-inning mark with two more starts to go.

"Everything," Hamels said, when asked what it would mean to reach 200.

Hamels allowed a run in the fourth inning when Tommy Medica singled, stole second and scored on Cameron Maybin's single to hand the Padres a 1-0 lead. But the Phillies answered with four runs in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead.

Ruf started the inning with a single to left field against Padres left-hander Eric Stults. Domonic Brown and Carlos Ruiz followed with singles to load the bases, and Freddy Galvis followed them with a single to center field to score a pair of runs to make it 2-1.

Ben Revere doubled down the left-field line to score Ruiz and Galvis to give Hamels a three-run cushion.

Ruf doubled and scored in the sixth to make it 5-1.

Internally, the Phillies believe Ruf could be a platoon player in the future. The Phillies faced the first of five consecutive left-handed pitchers Wednesday, so it should mean more playing time this week, especially with the Phillies getting to use the designated hitter this weekend in Oakland.

"Hopefully," Ruf said. "We'll see. I show up planning on playing every day, but we'll see what happens."

Ruf missed time earlier this season with a strained left oblique, which he suffered in Spring Training, and wrist and knee injuries in Triple-A. He will play some Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic to get back the at-bats he lost this summer.

"Hopefully get some at-bats against right-handed pitching," he said. "Keep working on defense. Keep refining my approach at the plate. The only way I know how to get better is to keep playing."

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


Umpire West suspended one game for contact with Papelbon

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Umpire Joe West was suspended by Major League Baseball for one game Wednesday for making contact with Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon during an argument on Sunday.

West, whose 36-year career makes him the longest-serving active umpire, ejected Papelbon for making an inappropriate gesture as he walked off the field in Sunday's 5-4 loss to Miami. West, in an ensuing argument, grabbed the pitcher's jersey. Papelbon was suspended for seven games for his actions.


West will serve his suspension tonight instead of working the Yankees-Rays game at Tampa Bay. Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, issued a statement regarding the suspension.

"Joe West handled himself appropriately in ejecting Papelbon after the player's lewd gesture to the fans," Torre said. "I fully understand that Joe was reacting to a player who was acting aggressively, and can understand his frustration with the situation.

"However, Joe knows that an umpire cannot initiate physical contact with a player, just as a player cannot initiate physical contact with an umpire. I spoke to Joe about the incident, and he admitted that there was a better way to handle the situation. I consider this matter closed."

Papelbon gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Sunday's game, and he made a gesture as he walked off the field. West, who had been umpiring second base, approached the dugout and ejected Papelbon, leading to a vigorous argument on the field between the two. West grabbed Papelbon's jersey at one point.

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


Burnett coy about future after giving up lead in loss

Righty allows go-ahead, two-run HR to Padres' Amarista in sixth

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SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Burnett has something on his mind, but he instead spoke cryptically Tuesday night at Petco Park.

He allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings on his way to his 17th loss of the season in a 5-4 loss to the Padres. Burnett, who leads Major League Baseball in losses and walks, is the first Phillies pitcher to lose 17 games in a season since Mark Leiter lost 17 in 1997, when the Phillies were in the midst of seven consecutive losing seasons from 1994-2000.


The Phillies clinched their second consecutive losing season Tuesday with their 82nd loss, despite a franchise-record payroll.

"I expected a lot of things to be different," Burnett said. "A lot."

The Phillies signed Burnett to a one-year, $16 million contract in February because they believed they would win if everybody stayed healthy, but with just 11 games remaining the organization only can hope to avoid a last-place finish in the National League East.

"It's disappointing," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

That is an understatement. The future for the Phillies is murky, including the rotation. Burnett made his 32nd start of the season Tuesday, which increased his 2015 player option to a cool $12.75 million. Burnett, 37, indicated earlier this season he probably would not pitch next year, but he has since backed away from that comment.

So is he still on the fence about next year?

"Am I on the fence about what?" he said.

Continuing his career?

"Yeah, if I can lift my arm up at the end of the season then I might pitch," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

Burnett said he has felt terrible this year, although he used a much more colorful word than terrible. He has been pitching with an inguinal hernia since April, although he has said in the past it has not affected him on the mound.

He has thrown a lot of pitches, too. He has thrown 3,268 pitches this season, the most he has thrown since 2009 (3,462). He has thrown 115 or more pitches in a start four times, a mark he had reached just once in the previous two seasons. He has thrown 120 or more pitches in a start twice, a mark he had not reached since 2010.

"I haven't been me all year," Burnett said. "A handful of times. We'll discuss that when we need to. But I pitched the best I could."

Burnett repeatedly declined to elaborate, only promising to discuss his season upon the season's conclusion. He makes his final start Sept. 27 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, the second-to-last game of the year.

"We'll describe it when the season's over, OK?" he said. "We'll describe it when it's over. … I'm not making any excuses, bro. I messed up tonight. I walked a guy and I … the curveball wasn't down enough. I ain't making no excuses. We'll talk when it's time to talk."

Sloppy defense in the first inning allowed the Padres to take a 2-0 lead, but Domonic Brown's 10th homer of the season in the second cut the lead to 2-1 and Freddy Galvis' two-run homer in the fifth gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead.

Burnett retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth, then he walked Jake Goebbert. Alexi Amarista followed and hit a two-run home run to right field to give the Padres a one-run lead. Another run eventually scored as Burnett dropped to 8-17 with a 4.40 ERA.

The Phillies offense continued to struggle. It had runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, when Padres left-hander Frank Garces entered the game to face Cody Asche and Chase Utley. Garces retired both hitters, then faced three more left-handers in a perfect eighth inning.

Sandberg had right-handed hitters like Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco on the bench, but chose not to use them.

"I thought about it, but we also had some innings to play," Sandberg said about letting Garces face five consecutive left-handed hitters late in the game. "The other thing is to get some earlier offense off a right-handed starter. That's where it can pay off. We haven't been able to do that the past couple of days."

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


Rollins named Phillies' nominee for Clemente Award

Shortstop has raised more than $1 million to help children in Philadelphia

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SAN DIEGO -- Major League Baseball named Jimmy Rollins the Phillies' 2014 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

The award recognizes the player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.


Wednesday marks the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which MLB established to honor Clemente's legacy.

Rollins has raised more than $1 million to directly impact children in the Philadelphia community over the past 15 years. He holds the longest running Phillies' charitable ticket program, J-Roll's Aces, and reading program J-Roll's Readers, each of which is dedicated to directly working with and enhancing the lives of Philadelphia's students in the inner city.

He also has hosted major fundraisers to contribute to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF); Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation (JRA); Prevent Child Abuse, Pennsylvania; The Food Trust; SHARE Food Program and St. Christopher's Foundation for Children.

"It is truly an honor to be named the 2014 Phillies' Roberto Clemente Award nominee," Rollins said. "Being associated with the man named for this award and what he stood for is really outstanding. I hope to continue the tradition of ballplayers giving back, especially to the kids in my community, for many years to come."

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


Would replay have changed history for '77 Phillies?

Would replay have changed history for '77 Phillies?

The play at first was close, but umpire Bruce Froemming called Dodgers baserunner Davey Lopes safe. Phillies manager Danny Ozark walked slowly out of the dugout, then peeked back at bench coach Bobby Wine, who gave him a thumbs up. Ozark turned to Froemming and said he was challenging the call. Replay officials in New York began to study the video.

Aw, that didn't really happen on Oct. 7, 1977, during Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, of course. This is the first year Major League Baseball will utilize expanded replay in the playoffs. Still, Phillies fans have to wonder how vastly different things might have turned out if the system had been available 37 years ago on what will always be remembered as Black Friday. It's all speculation, naturally, but the potential ripple effect is profound.


Here's the set-up: After splitting the first two games of the best-of-five series, the Phils had a 5-3 lead going into the ninth at Veterans Stadium. With Steve Carlton, who would win the second of his four NL Cy Young Awards that season, set to start the next day, the chances of making it to the World Series for the first time since 1950 seemed bright.

Except the Dodgers rallied with two outs. A single, a double and an error made the score 5-4, with the tying run on third. Lopes hit a grounder that took a bad hop off third baseman Mike Schmidt and caromed toward shortstop, where Larry Bowa grabbed and threw. Froemming called Lopes safe. He eventually scored the winning run and the Dodgers beat Carlton the next day to snuff the Phillies' hopes.

The Phils didn't ended up winning the first World Series championship in franchise history for another three years.

Replays, relatively primitive back then, appeared to show that Bowa's throw beat Lopes. Which didn't matter at the time, because that evidence couldn't be used to overturn the call.

But what if ...

Bowa, who played in more than 2,000 big league games and coached or managed thousands more, still watches that play.

"I have all these films and everything. That's the game that, once a winter, I always look at it. That will live forever with me," he said. "I think that was our best team. I think we would have had another ring, maybe, or at least a chance to win another.

"When I see Bruce I always say, 'You know, if anybody but Davey Lopes is running, you call him out.' But the fact that he ran so fast, the fact that Schmitty didn't catch the ball, you're saying to yourself, 'There's no way this guy could be out.' And to this day, he goes, 'No, no, no. I got it right.'"

There's much more. Maybe the Phillies wouldn't have signed Pete Rose before the 1979 season. Maybe Dallas Green wouldn't have replaced Ozark as manager on Aug. 31 of that season.

"I don't think they would have [fired Ozark]. Even if we just get there," Bowa said.

Which means that Green could have remained a Minor League director and never blossomed into the larger-than-life figure that he became after famously leading the team past the Royals in the 1980 World Series.

"Bad for me. No doubt," Green said with a laugh. "I guess they call it fate. Danny would have still been there [if Lopes had been called out] and he'd be an icon instead of me. Because that was the ballgame. That killed what momentum we had and gave them more momentum. I still think we were the best team in baseball that year and we just let it get away from us."

Without the profile he gained from that World Series, it's entirely possible Green wouldn't have been hired as general manager of the Cubs in 1982, eventually becoming team president. That helped alter the course of another franchise. One of his first moves he made after arriving at Wrigley Field was to make a trade with the Phils, getting future Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg as a throw-in.

Schmidt has mixed emotions about that pivotal play.

"You never know how the outcome of that game would have been," he said. "We probably would have played a little more relaxed, a little more confident. There just would have been a feel about the game the next day that we were one step away from the World Series. Sometimes each individual goes to a different level. It's easy to say it would have happened. But when you're down and have to win, you should go to a stronger level, too.

"But you know, I was involved in that. If I'd have caught the darned ball and thrown the guy out at first, everything would have been different."

Bowa, on the other hand, has no doubt.

"People say there are no hangovers in baseball," he said. "Even though we had our best pitcher going, it seems like they took that game right away from us. When you play 162 [games] and they take one away from you, you say, 'Aw, well.' But when you're in the playoffs, there's a scar there, no matter what people say: 'Turn the page. Forget about it.' We basically came out with a little hangover. I really believe it was a big letdown for us, even though we had our big guy on the mound."

This, again, is exactly why baseball now has expanded replay. To get it right.

"It's amazing how one play changes everything," Bowa said.

Or maybe not. What-if is intriguing and seductive, but there's ultimately no way of saying with certainty what would have been different and what might have changed.

"If I hadn't stopped switch-hitting, I wouldn't be [in the Hall of Fame] right now," Schmidt said with a laugh. "Or what if Columbus had gone in a different direction?"

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


Gwynn Jr. gets start in city his late father starred in

Son returns to Petco for first time since Hall of Famer died in June

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SAN DIEGO -- The Phillies pulled up to their hotel late Sunday night, just across the street from Petco Park.

Only Tony Gwynn Drive separates the two buildings.


"You look at it and it's like, how many people have a street named after him?" Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. said Tuesday afternoon. "And now that my dad is gone it holds so much more significance. There will be children now that won't have had the opportunity to see him play or know what he's about. But they'll know there's a street named after him, so they'll know he was important to the city."

Gwynn, who spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Padres, died in June following a battle with salivary cancer. His son returned to the ballpark for the first time since his father died. He learned Tuesday afternoon he would start that night's game, a nice moment for the son of the Padres legend.

Gwynn Jr. texted his mother to let her know. He hopes she would come.

"It might be too tough for her to come still," he said.

There are signs of Gwynn everywhere at Petco Park. There is the street, of course. There is the No. 19 standing over the batter's eye in center field. Then there is the Gwynn statue beyond the batter's eye.

Gwynn Jr. has never seen it up close.

"I mean, prior to my dad's passing it was a statue I knew I could go see at any time," he said. "Don't get me wrong, it's obviously an honor to have a statue of your dad, but at the time it was just that. It was a statue that I could go see at any time. I could get in the car and drive 25 minutes and come see it. But obviously now there's a little more significance behind it. I'm sure before this series ends I'll get out there and check it out."

It has been a trying year for Gwynn Jr., both personally and professionally. He not only had to deal with the death of his widely beloved father, but the Phillies released him July 27. He signed a Minor League contract Aug. 3, but there was no guarantee he would be called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley once rosters expanded this month.

There was no guarantee he would even continue his baseball career.

"There was doubt," he said. "In my mind, I didn't know if I wanted to keep playing. It's just a lot. You can only go through so much before you start to question if you're doing the right thing for your family and yourself. But it only took me about 24 hours to figure out that I wanted to keep playing. I've been around baseball for my entire life. I thoroughly enjoy playing and being around my teammates. After that 24-hour period went away, I knew I was going to come back and play."

And he found himself back in San Diego, where he planned to be anyway.

"I knew that San Diego was coming up," Gwynn Jr. said. "I look at the schedule and I always look to see when you're going to play the Padres because how many times do you get to stay in your house during the season? You look forward to it.

"When I got sent down, it was one of those things where I knew at the end of the day either I was going to be up in September and I was going to get to go, or I was going to be home already in September. The way this year has gone, for me, either one was going to be a positive. I either get to be home and help with my mom and her going through the grieving process and my family, my girls and my wife, or I get to be back in the big leagues and living the dream as they say."

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


Papelbon suspended seven games for gesture

Phillies issue statement supporting MLB's decision

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SAN DIEGO -- Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was suspended for seven games and fined an undisclosed amount for his actions in the top of the ninth inning Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

Umpire Joe West ejected Papelbon after he made an obscene gesture toward the crowd. Papelbon, who also made contact with West, will not appeal the suspension and will begin serving it immediately.


The Phillies issued a statement saying they completely supported the suspension.

"We apologize to our fans for the actions of our player yesterday," the team said.

Papelbon has had his moments since he joined the Phillies before the 2012 season, criticizing the organization's operations from the top down in July 2013 and saying this July how he hoped to be traded because he no longer cared to play for a losing team. But asked before Monday's game against at Petco Park about Sunday's incident, he said nothing.

His agents later issued a statement from the closer, which read, "I am accepting my suspension and regret making any contact with the umpires. While I completely understand how the fans would perceive my gesture while being booed, it was not my intent whatsoever to insult the fans of Philadelphia. If it was perceived in that manner, I sincerely apologize. … I look forward to returning this season and closing it out strong. For those reasons, I will not delay this process with an appeal."

Papelbon blew a three-run lead in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Marlins. Fans booed him as he left the mound. Just before he reached the dugout he grabbed his crotch in an exaggerated manner. West noticed it and ejected him. Papelbon and West then got into a heated confrontation. Papelbon made contact with West, who grabbed Papelbon's jersey.

The Phillies made it clear Monday they had no jurisdiction in the matter. They said in their statement they "have no authority to make official judgments about activity which occurs on the field or to determine the appropriate penalty for misconduct."

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg held an 18-minute meeting with Papelbon in his office Monday afternoon. He said it was the first time he had spoken to Papelbon about the incident. He said Papelbon stuck to his story that he wasn't disrespecting fans.

"That's not my job or position to believe him," Sandberg said. "As we are right now, he's our closer. … All I can base it on is what he told me and he had no intentions of that being toward the fans. It's not my position or my spot to make any judgment on that, but just to listen to him."

Does he at least understand why fans are upset?

"Well, I could understand the perception and he indicated to me that he understood the perception also and he thought that was unfortunate," Sandberg said. "But yes, I do understand the perception. From him it was poor timing. He'd have much rather waited to get in the dugout. He indicated that to me. That was basically our conversation."

Is he at least satisfied with his explanation?

"I just listen," Sandberg repeated. "There was nothing for me to judge. It's not for me to judge. I just listened to hear what he had to say."

Sandberg also declined to say if West overacted.

"That's not my area, either," he said.

The seven-game suspension is one of the longer non-PED suspensions for a player in recent memory. MLB suspended John Rocker 28 games (reduced to 14) in 2000 for his controversial comments in a Sports Illustrated story. Ian Kennedy was suspended 10 games last season for his role in a brawl between the D-backs and Dodgers.

Sammy Sosa was suspended eight games (reduced to seven) for using a corked bat in 2003. Carlos Carrasco was suspended eight games (reduced to seven) last season for hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch after he had just finished a six-game suspension (reduced to five) for a similar incident in 2011.

"He's been great this year," Sandberg said about Papelbon. "He's been a leader with the young pitchers. He's been on a tremendous roll all year for us. He's been a big part of the team, which he still is. He's been outstanding. He's been one of the leaders. The last three or four weeks with the team playing well, he's been a part of that, doing his part."

Ken Giles is likely to close in Papelbon's absence, although Sandberg said that is to be determined.

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


Williams' brilliant start foiled by silent bats

Philies manage two hits in shutout, make two key outs on bases

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SAN DIEGO -- Petco Park lived up to its reputation as a pitcher's park Monday night.

Or were the Phillies living up to their reputation in a 1-0 loss to the Padres? Or maybe was it Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner, who has a 2.20 ERA in 17 starts this season?


The Phillies have had trouble scoring runs throughout 2014, although they entered the series opener in the middle of the pack in the National League with 3.91 runs per game. Still, they have been shut out 14 times, which is tied for fifth in Major League Baseball. That follows 15 shutout losses in 2013, which ranked fourth.

"We just couldn't get anything going off Cashner," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He was ahead of the hitters all the way through the game, for the most part."

Cashner, who allowed two hits in nine innings, carried a no-hitter into the fifth, but lost it with one out because Domonic Brown beat the shift.

The Padres shifted their infielders to the right side of the field in Brown's first at-bat, so he told Sandberg he might try to bunt in his second plate appearance if the Padres shifted again.

They did, so Brown bunted a first-pitch curveball up the third-base line. Fans booed and Cashner was upset, but in a one-run game, the Phillies needed baserunners. And it was early enough in the game not to enrage most of the enforcers who love to cite the unwritten rules of the baseball.

"I thought it was the best thing to go with right there," Brown said. "He's a tough pitcher, man. I was trying to get some baserunners."

"Excellent," Sandberg said of the play. "I'd like to see more of it. That's how you stop the shift."

Cashner looked plenty steamed.

"Yeah, he was [upset] for sure," Brown said.

What did he say?

"We can't talk about that," Brown said.

Any help here, Cashner?

"You can ask him what I thought of it," he said.

"There was more grumbling in the stands than in the dugout," Padres manager Bud Black said, acknowledging Brown's bunt didn't break any baseball code. "As of last year, he had a bunch of home runs and power. Our defensive metrics show we're going to shift on this fellow. He's playing the game. He might not have had that great a feeling that he could get Cashner [by swinging away]."

Brown said he would have swung away if Cashner had carried his no-hitter into the ninth.

But Brown's good fortunes ended when he tried to steal second before Wil Nieves popped up a ball in the infield. Brown made his way past second base when he had to circle back toward first. He actually got back to first safely because Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko fumbled the flip to first. Of course, Brown also got back to first safely because he never retouched second.

He was called out and the inning was over.

Marlon Byrd picked up the team's only other hit with one out in the eighth inning. But he was thrown out at second when he tried to tag up on a flyout to right.

"I thought it was a heads-up right there," Sandberg said. "Guy's against the wall. It's a big outfield. The guy threw the ball right on the bag. It's a heads-up hustling attempt."

That was all for the Phillies.

The Padres scored their first and only run in the second inning against Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams. Rene Rivera doubled, advanced to third on a fielder's choice and scored on a two-out error from Phillies third baseman Cody Asche.

"Just missed it," Asche said.

Williams is 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA (14 earned runs in 44 1/3 innings) in seven starts with the Phillies. He is making a good impression. If not for the Phillies, then the other 29 teams in baseball.

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


Papelbon's rough ninth spoils Buchanan's bid for win

Rookie goes 6 1/3 strong innings, but veteran closer blows save

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PHILADELPHIA -- David Buchanan continues to make his bid for a spot in the 2015 rotation, but on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, the promising rookie's sparkling performance was overshadowed by a disappointing outing from a veteran.

Jonathan Papelbon blew a three-run lead in the ninth as he vied for his 38th save of the season. He loaded the bases with no outs before a groundout and back-to-back singles made it a tie game. With Marcell Ozuna batting and Christian Yelich at third, Papelbon's bitter afternoon got worse, as a wild pitch allowed the decisive run to score in Miami's 5-4 victory.


"For me, I was just catching too much of the plate today and wasn't as sharp as I have been here for most of the year," Papelbon said. "It was just one of those days I didn't have much on the baseball today, much control."

Papelbon, who entered the game having allowed just three earned runs in 27 career innings against the Marlins, had pitched the previous two nights against Miami.

"He's done that before and he's the closer," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "That's what they do, come in with a chance to close three games in a row. That's what a closer does."

"I mean, it is three in a row, it is what it is. I felt fine," Papelbon said. "I have done that situation plenty of times before and been fine and [it] doesn't really affect me, no."

The Phillies put the first two men on in the bottom of the ninth, but Ben Revere, Maikel Franco and Chase Utley struck out in consecutive at-bats to end the game.

The loss was just their fifth this season when leading after eight innings (54-5). The Phillies' bullpen entered the game with a Major League-best 1.92 ERA since Aug. 5, holding opposing hitters to a .200 average over that span.

"I don't remember the last one we lost in the ninth," Sandberg said. "We've been pretty solid winning after the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. I don't think it typifies us at all. I think our late-inning bullpen guys have been solid and when we've had a lead late in the game, we've been able to hold it. Played a good series. Obviously had a chance to sweep the Marlins, but we came up short and took two out of three."

Still, Buchanan's effort was a positive one for Philadelphia. On June 24, the 25-year-old went five innings and allowed two runs en route to a victory over Miami. But three months is a lifetime for a developing rookie, and Buchanan looked even sharper in his second go-around against the Marlins.

Buchanan went 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out two. His only blemish came in the top of the fourth, when Enrique Hernandez hit a solo shot that tied it at 1.

The Phillies scored their first run on an RBI single by Franco, who was making his eighth big league start.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies scored two more, driving home a run on a double-play groundout by Domonic Brown and tacking on another on a single by Carlos Ruiz.

Buchanan's recent performances, as well as his continued growth, have made him a compelling option for the Phillies' '15 rotation. Since being recalled on Aug. 6, Buchanan has a 2.91 ERA (15 earned runs in 46 1/3 innings) in eight starts.

"I think me and Chooch [Ruiz] had a good one today and we worked well together," Buchanan said. "It's all a work in progress. You continue to improve every outing. As long as I stay true to myself, that's when I continue to progress in my game and get better at pitching in the big leagues."

Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Marlins win challenge on close play at first base in Philly

Hernandez ruled safe after crew overturns call

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PHILADELPHIA -- Enrique Hernandez believed he beat the throw, and instant replay confirmed his instincts in the second inning at Citizens Bank Park.

The Marlins successfully overturned what would have been a called double play on Hernandez's grounder to third base. The Phillies got the force at second when third baseman Maikel Franco threw to Chase Utley. Utley's quick turn and throw to Ryan Howard was initially ruled an out by first-base umpire Marty Foster.


Hernandez immediately signaled to the Miami dugout to review the play. Manager Mike Redmond challenged, and after 34 seconds, the call was overturned.

Miami is 19-for-27 on the season in challenges.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

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Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.


Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Young fan catches foul, can't contain excitement

Young fan catches foul, can't contain excitement

On Saturday night, one young Phillies fan snagged a foul ball after it ricocheted off another fan's hand. But the catch, while excellent, was nothing compared to the kid's reaction. 

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