Photo: Cliff Lee Drives a Golf Cart Like a Boss

Photo: Cliff Lee Drives a Golf Cart Like a Boss

The Phillies kicked off their exhibition On-Deck Series on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. The atmosphere at the ballpark was less about the numbers on the scoreboard and more about welcoming baseball back for another season.

Following that spirit a number of players and coaches were wandering around the park hours before the game interacting with fans to show their appreciation. Chase Utley was giving away booklets in the concourse. Charlie Manuel was signing autographs at one of the ticketing windows. Jimmy Rollins sang Happy Birthday to at least one lucky fan in the stands. Cliff Lee was cruising around outside CBP in a golf cart, picking up lucky fans along the way. [photo of Cholly below]

As for the game, it was tied at 3-3 in the seventh inning at the time of this publishing. Riveting action all over the place. Notable moments included Shane Victorino legging out a triple and Jimmy Rollins getting gunned down at third in an attempted triple of his own. Jim Thome also had a nice moment when the Citizens Bank Park faithful gave him a standing ovation as he came up to pinch hit in the fifth inning. Joe Blanton pitched fine in his final tune up, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work. The Phanatic, opting to wear red for the evening, shot hot dogs into the crowd from a cannon.

UPDATE: Freddy Galvis continued his impressive spring by ripping a go-ahead RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh. He also had a hit earlier in the evening and made a nice tricky stop at second.

UPDATE2: The Phillies won 4-3.

[video of Thome getting a nice ovation here]

RELATED: Thome and Pence talk about a new season in Philadelphia

Photo captions: Philadelphia Phillies' Cliff Lee gives a thumbs-up as he drives a golf cart to pick up fans outside the stadium before the Phillies' exhibition baseball game with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, April 2, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel signs a jersey for a fan as he works at a ticket window before the Phillies' exhibition baseball game with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, April 2, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.