This week brought changes to the playing surface as well as player status. Here are some links and updates:
New Infield Being Constructed. From Kurt Landes’ Twitter Feed 3/9/2014
The IronPigs had help this week in preparing the field for the 2014 season. The field has to be ready on Monday, March 31 when the players arrive for Media Day and their first workout at Coca Cola Park. They’ll most likely work out again Tuesday prior to the game in Reading that evening, 4/1/2014. They may even get another workout in Wednesday before busing to Pawtucky for the season opener Thursday April 3. The seating bowl doesn’t have to be ready until 3PM or so on Monday April 7, for the home opener.
Another Landes Photo from Twitter 3/9/2014
I’m going to try to link to a couple interesting things I saw this week via The Morning Call and Channel 69 News. I apologize if the links don’t work. But first, let me propose a possible solution for the seating bowl. If the seats haven’t melted themselves clear by the weekend of April 5 and 6, I think the IronPigs should activate the fans to help. The ‘Pigs play at 1:05 each day that weekend (in the woods of Rhode Island.) Put the game up on the big screen. Give out free hot dogs and sodas. Open up a bar or two for $1 drafts. We’ll all bring shovels and ice picks and sham-wows and help out. It’s the old “invite your friends over to help you move” (and you’d better have a case or two of beer on hand). We’re the best fans in Minor League Baseball, there’s no reason we can’t lend a hand (you know, in exchange for some consideration–will also accept additional ballpark credit or Majestic Clubhouse Store gift cards).
Here’s a report from 69 News:
Baseball team undertakes a different kind of spring cleaning.
There’s a photo gallery of Coca Cola Park as it appeared on February 17 here from The Morning Call.
Here’s a link to a Jeff Schuler Morning Call story about the snow removal process, from Monday: HERE
There’s another Photo Gallery, from Thursday: HERE
As you can see, they’ve brought in outside help. It sounds like replacing the infield was in the plans all along. Certainly, they’re under the gun to complete the project. I wonder if there’s a somewhat silver lining: With new sod due to arrive for the infield, at least it will be healthy and green (assuming proper installation and conditions). The craziness of the weather might not allow the “chemical process” we leaned about last Spring to have its full, desired effect. I guess we’ll know when we compare the infield and outfield. I did not hear them say that the outfield would be replaced as well.
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, some players have been shifted around a bit now that the Minor League camp is in full swing. Yesterday morning, outfielders Kelly Dugan and Aaron Altherr were reassigned to minor league camp. I expect both to be with Reading to start the season. While we’re talking Reading OF: Cameron Perkins is in the Reading “group 2″ in minor league camp. It’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll be in Reading, but he has the opportunity. Meanwhile, Anthony Hewitt came up lame running for first yesterday (one report said hamstring, another ankle) during an intra-squad scrimmage–that may impact Reading’s OF to start as well.
Leandro Castro was reassigned too. I expect him to be with the IronPigs. After spending all season with us last year, the Phillies re-signed him to a minor league contract with an MLB invite. I would think that means they like him enough to keep him around at AAA. The fact that he got sent down so early in the process probably means that they want him to get more playing time, and that they know what they have with him at this point.
Catcher Sebastian Valle was reassigned as well. As I’ve written, I expect him to open with Reading if he’s not part of a trade prior to the season. His reassignment tends to confirm that. I still expect Cameron Rupp and Lou Marson to be IronPigs, but keep an eye on Nieves–if he doesn’t play well he could find himself DFA’d if he gets out-played by Rupp and/or Marson. However, I would think that’s unlikely. You can always use extra catchers.
After yesterday’s game top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle was reassigned as well. In his case, I don’t think it necessarily portends Reading or Lehigh Valley. They likely have things for him to work on and want him getting regular time which he might not get in Major League camp. It does mean he won’t be the one filling in for the “not injured but really tired” Cole Hamels in the Phillies rotation right away. (I have no problem with Cole–it’s the Phillies not being forthright about injuries that I question)
Relief pitchers Luis Garcia and Michael Stutes were optioned to minor league camp yesterday. I know Luis hasn’t had the success in MLB Spring Training games, but I haven’t seen him pitch. As long as he’s throwing hard and not locating, the potential is there–expect him to be part of the Lehigh Valley bull pen while he works on it.
Michael Stutes first appeared with the IronPigs in 2011. He was a fast-rising relief prospect who went on to pitch well in Philly at the age of 24. 2012 was almost a “lost” season for Michael as he rehabbed and came back from injury. He struggled a bit last season, too, as he pitched for both the IronPigs and the Phillies. There are now worries about Stutes’ shoulder again, and his fastball velocity which used to be around 95 now struggles to even hit 90. I would hope that Stutes can get stronger and perhaps alter some pitching strategy to continue to compete. However, DL time, surgery, rest, release from the team…it’s all on the table right now. He almost certainly won’t be on the Phillies’ opening day roster, and I don’t think he’s a lock to be an IronPig on opening day either. It bears watching. He was a favorite of mine to watch in 2011, and I wish him well.
Coming this week:
Tuesday: Season Ticket packages will be ready to pick up at the Coca Cola Park ticket office starting at 10AM. Check back with the Horn and Bell on Tuesday for further details.
Also Tuesday: The Phillies’ minor leaguers begin their “games” with a matchup versus the Toronto franchise: AAA (group 1) and AA (group 2) in Clearwater, and A+ (group 3) and A (group 4) in Dunedin.
And: IronPigs radio personalities Matt Provence and Jon Schaeffer will have the radio call for the Phillies’ game in Orlando versus Atlanta. Listen via MLB.com.
Wednesday: Our own Cheryl Pursell will be in Clearwater. We wish her safe travel, and look forward to reports on Twitter (@CherylPursell) and via the IronPigs media feed. We’ll post anything she sends us, right here on the Horn and Bell Blog.
And: Provence and Schaeffer again on the call (radio) as the Phillies visit the Orioles in Sarasota. Also MLB.com I believe.
Stay tuned, it’s starting to get good!