Who'dathunk just a couple of years ago that an early-May series between the Phillies and Nationals would create this much buzz.
The Nationals did a fine job playing just awful enough baseball over the past few seasons to secure their team the ability to draft two extremely promising young studs in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Washington is unarguably a team turning things around and heading in a positive direction. They've even opened up their wallets to sign high-priced free agents like Jayson Werth (I don't think that will work out as well long-term as the two aforementioned draft picks). But they're trying, and they're currently atop the NL East after a month of play.
So this weekend should be a fun first step into what could become an exciting new rivalry. The whole Natitude thing, led by the "Take Back the Park" initiative, is quite corny, but it's basically just a franchise's marketing side of things trying to stand up for themselves and show they have a backbone. It's what they should do. And let's be honest, which of your favorite sports teams has never done something corny? That said, renaming your ballpark "Natitude Park" for the weekend is pretty laughable. That's a move a team with zero tradition makes. Oh.
check out the sign atop the scoreboard
Nats going all in with the Natitude Park idea. yfrog.com/ki7mypfj
4 May 12
All of that said, since I won't be in DC this weekend to cheer on the Phillies and enjoy a Half Smoke -- Sixers! -- my only real interest is in who wins the series and how the Phillies handle their business. A weekend win by the Nats over the reigning champion would open some eyes.
The Nationals have a favorable pitching matchup tonight with the phenom on the hill against Kyle Kendrick. But that may not be as incredibly advantageous as you think. Here's an interesting read on the Strasburg-Kendrick duel. Basically, the Natitudinal triangle offense is still pretty damn bad.
The Phillies have awoken themselves a bit out of the doldrums of April. A series win in Atlanta followed by a series win in DC would make for a happy Phillies nation.
7:05 first pitch from Natitude Park. Nat Nat Nat Nat. Go Team.
Two things so far at Nationals Park: They've renamed it "Natitude Park" for the weekend. Halladay is back and throwing a bullpen session.
4 May 12
Zoo With Roy
FYI tickets as low as $7 for Sunday Night national ESPN game @ Natitude Field at Derp Park
4 May 12
VOORHEES, N.J. — In many ways, Michal Neuvirth’s contract year officially gets underway Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers’ goalie will make his preseason debut against the Bruins and head coach Dave Hakstol’s plan is to play Neuvirth the entire game.
The 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 season, as can his goalie partner Steve Mason. The two make up a formidable tandem and both are considered No. 1 goalies.
The outlook doesn’t change, though, for Neuvirth.
“Every season is big,” he said Saturday after taking the ice at Flyers Skate Zone. “It’s a good opportunity. I want to play my best hockey.
“Just going to focus on myself and try to prepare the best I can for the season right now.”
Neuvirth started his preparation by playing in the World Cup of Hockey for Czech Republic. His last game was Sept. 17 when he lost to loaded Canada, 6-0, still making an impressive 44 saves on 50 shots.
He’s now ready to get back between the pipes at the Wells Fargo Center.
“Very excited,” Neuvirth said. “I haven’t played for a while and it was a good week for me in practice and finally get into a game.”
Entering his second season with the Flyers, Neuvirth is fresh off a career year in 2015-16, when he went 18-8-4 with personal bests in goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.924). He also shined in the postseason when he relieved Mason, going 2-1 against the top-seeded Capitals and stopped 103 of 105 shots.
Despite the internal competition, Neuvirth and Mason have always supported each other.
“It’s a great situation,” Neuvirth said. “Mase is a great guy, I love to be with him on the same team. Unfortunately only one guy can play. Like Mase said, we’re making each other better every day.”
Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek, all of whom played in the World Cup, will also make their preseason debuts.
Trying the left
Travis Konecny’s tryout at left wing starts tonight, as he’ll be centered by Sean Couturier with Jakub Voracek on the right, making up the Flyers’ second line.
Hakstol debuted the trio during Friday’s practice. It will now see its first game action.
“It’s exciting,” Konecny said. “They’re high-skilled, hard-working forwards, so it makes it easier for a guy like me to just keep things simple and just let the game take over and have fun.”
Left wing is Konecny’s greatest shot at making the Flyers’ roster. The Flyers are heavy at right wing, where if Konecny were to play, it would be on a bottom-six line. If he makes the roster, the Flyers likely want their prized prospect to play more than bottom-six minutes for developmental reasons.
“New spot for Travis in terms of playing on the left side, in our camp anyways,” Hakstol said. “He’s played there before. It’s his second day at left wing and he’ll get the opportunity there tonight.
“There’s an adjustment but good players make those adjustments.”
Konecny is happy to play left — whatever is asked of him.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just the other side of the ice,” he said. “I’m sure I’ve found myself on the other side of the ice when I’m right wing before.
“I’m not too worried about it.”
Instead of pairing Ivan Provorov with a veteran blueliner, which has oftentimes been the case during preseason, Hakstol is putting him with fellow 19-year-old prospect Philippe Myers.
“Those two young guys have played a little bit together on the power play, they’ve paired up pretty well in practice and I think they’ll handle things well,” Hakstol said. “They’ve got pretty good chemistry between the two of them. I’m sure there will be some challenges, but they’ll be fine.”
Five to Phantoms
According to a report by Tony Androckitis of the Home News, forwards Petr Straka, Andy Miele, Chris Conner and Greg Carey, as well as defenseman T.J. Brennan have cleared waivers and will join AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The five were reportedly waived on Friday.
Injured defenseman Nick Schultz (knee) skated before practice Saturday. It was announced Wednesday he would miss four to seven days.
F: Brayden Schenn-Nick Cousins-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal-Dale Weise
Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov
D: Shayne Gostisbehere-Michael Del Zotto
Ivan Provorov-Philippe Myers
Travis Sanheim-Andrew MacDonald
G: Michal Neuvirth
Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were all drafted and developed by the Phillies. They came to the majors and became the best first baseman, shortstop and second baseman in franchise history.
And, of course, they were a huge part of the core of the team that won the 2008 World Series.
Time moves on and so do great players.
Rollins was traded in December 2014 as the team began a rebuild. Utley was traded in August 2015. On Sunday, Howard, the last piece from that championship season, will play his last game with the Phillies.
Rollins took some time Saturday to pass along some thoughts on his friend’s time in red pinstripes.
“When Ryan first arrived in Philadelphia, he was merely filling in for Jim Thome in the eyes of many, but he did not let that opportunity to shine pass him by,” Rollins wrote. “He quickly became feared as he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years and reached 200 home runs quicker than anyone in the history of the game. He loved the pressure and wanted to be the man at the plate when the game mattered most.”
The Phillies won five division titles from 2007 to 2011. Howard led the majors in homers twice and RBIs three times.
“During our run, we leaned on him many times for big hits and clutch home runs and he found ways to deliver,” Rollins said. “Ryan never stopped working to better himself and his craft, whether it was getting to the field early for extra defensive work or finding that sweet home run stroke. Although he hit a lot of them, he was more than just a power hitter -- he was a great teammate.
“We all hoped to bring more than one championship to Philadelphia, but without Ryan that one may not have been possible. So, many thanks to 'Big Piece' for being such a big piece of the best years of my career in the City of Brotherly Love!”