Random musings from an interesting week in Philly.
Geoff Blum’s neck issues became worse overnight and he’s on his way home for an examination by a neck specialist. He arrived early to the clubhouse on Wednesday and said to manager Brad Mills, “It’s worse today than yesterday. I can hardly move it.”
While I admire Blum for pushing through the aches and wanting to be there for his teammates, the club, and Blum, need to be thinking bigger picture. Blum’s contract has a mutual option for 2011, and the Astros need him. Blum is a role player, yes, but he’s a tremendous presence in the clubhouse and the absolute perfect veteran to help transition this club from what it was to what it is — young, inexperienced and peppered with some pretty decent players.
Blum handles the ups and downs of a baseball season better than anyone on this team. Combine that quality with the elements of his game that make him so valuable — his ability to come through with the clutch hit off the bench late in games, his versatility that allows him to play all over the infield — and Blum’s definitely someone who needs to be around next season. But he also needs to be healthy, so there’s no need to push through anything in a non-playoff season.
As you can imagine, there was plenty of chatter in both clubhouses today about Tuesday’s five-hour, 20-minute 16-inning game between the Astros and Phillies. Lots of strange twists and turns made this one of the most entertaining games I can remember, especially since it involved Roy Oswalt coming in to face his teammates…as a left fielder.
I snuck over to the Phillies’ clubhouse while the Astros were taking batting practice to say hi to Oswalt and Brad Lidge, whose lockers are coincidentally right next to each other. I asked Roy why it took so long for the Phillies to get back on the field after Ryan Howard was ejected (which left them with no position players to replace Howard at first). According to Roy, he first had to run to the clubhouse to put on a jersey and a pair of spikes, which took a minute. He also was in a bit of a foot race with fellow starting pitcher Joe Blanton, the other option to play defensively that inning.
Oswalt said he beat Blanton back to the dugout and said to Charlie Manuel, “I’m ready.” Manuel said, “Where do you want to play? First base?” Oswalt said. “No. Left field.”
I was glad to see Oswalt heading that direction, mainly because I wanted to see him run down a fly ball with that special, unique Oswalt sprint. For those of you who have watched Oswalt run down the first base line many times over the years, you know what I’m talking about. He has a funny way of running — he’s completely upright to where he almost looks like he has a board attached to his back, and he takes short, choppy strides, as if his legs were half as long as they are. It’s quite entertaining and I really wanted to see him chase a ball near the line, just for comedic purposes.
Roy did have to run to make a catch, but it wasn’t as entertaining as I’d hoped, seeing he didn’t have to go very far. Still, his appearance in the game was THE hot topic in both clubhouses the next day, as was the camera shot capturing Blum and Jeff Bagwell clapping along with the crowd during the “Let’s Go Oswalt” chant.
“Had to,” Bagwell said. “I knew he wasn’t getting a hit.”
Had the game continued past the 16th inning, Wednesday’s starter, J.A. Happ, was next in line to pitch.
“It was after midnight and he was scheduled to pitch today anyway,” Mills quipped.
You have to hand it Humberto Quintero, who executed his Major League-leading sixth pickoff play when he barely nabbed Ben Francisco at third base in the seventh inning.
Quintero noticed Francisco had turned his back to him for just a brief moment, probably because Francisco thought Quintero was changing out the baseball with the umpire. Instead, Q fired down to third, and Chris Johnson touched Francisco just before he put his foot back on the bag. It was a gutsy call by the umpire, but replays showed it was the right call.
Pretty crafty on Q’s part.