Chris Pronger Media Availability Yields Plenty of Material as Always

Chris Pronger Media Availability Yields Plenty of Material as Always

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger spoke to the media in a conference call yesterday, touching on just about everything from his worst-ever season in terms of injuries, his health prognosis for the future, the Flyers' goalie situation, Mike Richards' role as captain, and the media. Ya know, the usual fare these days.

Although nothing earth-shattering, Pronger is usually an interesting listen/read, so we included the full transcript as provided to the media below. The last question and answer focus on Richards, and in it, Pronger becomes the second prominent Flyer this off-season to single out a Philadelphia media member for his coverage of the captain (the other being the captain himself vs. Tim Panaccio). The players are firing back.

Also interesting in that last comment are Pronger's thoughts on how a player evolves as a captain, how he himself wasn't always the Pronger we now see after games and in calls like these.

All that is fun and interesting, but the biggest concerns we still have are with Pronger's health. The team may have some very good defenseman outside of #20, but no one quite at his level, and they suffered without him. So far, there's still a lot of healing that must happen before he's ready to play again, and after that, there could still be re-injury concerns.

Full transcript below.

How did the surgery go and how are you feeling?
 
”Well, as far as I was told it went very well. It relieved a lot of the weakness I was having in my leg and now it is just a matter of how the nerve regenerates itself and the range of motion and all the rest of that stuff. How it recovers and that stuff are probably another four to five weeks before we see where that is at.”
 
Can you tell us about the decision to have the surgery, was that an option you were given or was it pretty clear you had to have it?
 
“It was an option, but in order for me to try and play hockey again it was pretty cut and dry. I could have went through the whole summer rehab and you know, get another steroid injection and see if that calms the nerve down, but it was a pretty bad herniated disc. The odds of it becoming an issue again were very high. In my estimation it wasn’t really that high of a chance of not having the surgery done if I wanted to play anymore.”
 
Was this the first time you’ve had issue with your back? I didn’t notice any other problems that you have had in your career.
 
“No, this is the first time I have ever really had any real problems with my back, obviously you get sore and whatever, but any serious or medical issues, no this is the first time.”
 
Did the doctors say you were going to be back at full strength or is this going to reduce your play at all?
 
“Well, like anything else, especially with the back, there’s no guarantee, and that was one of the things we wanted to find out when I went and met with the doctor and what his recommendations are and what he has seen. Everybody is different and everybody recovers differently and you hope that you’re able to recover a hundred percent, but that’s never a guarantee and you never know. It’s still very early to be able to tell that. I won’t know that until probably training camp or maybe even further on, who knows.”
 
But you do expect to start the season, right?
 
“I don’t know, as I said today is day fourteen post surgery, so again I’m not going to know. I go back for another check up in three to four weeks and then you know ill begin to start rehab and I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m not Kreskin, I can’t look into the future and tell you what’s going to happen or not happen. Time is really all you can, time and patience, which I know you guys don’t have a lot of.”
 
You’re a big Kreskin fan, huh? A couple times you’ve mentioned it.
 
“Yeah, you’re on the ball sir. I like it. I may throw it out there a few more times depending on the questions you guys give me”
 
I know you’re not a doctor but for the laymen and all… from how I understand it there’s an extrapolation up against your nerve. What did they do to repair it? Did they remove it or shave it?
 
“Actually, I think they cut it, trim it, whatever terminology you want to use, shave it, I’m not sure of the exact term that you can use. Basically, they removed the impingement that is pushing against the nerve root in order to alleviate, we can call it vibrations, sensations, weakness that you have in your leg and you hope that that nerve. You know the reason you want to do it as quickly as possible from what I got from my meeting with the doctor was you don’t want the nerve exposed to that too long. It just creates more and more damage and you want that nerve to be able to regenerate so that you can get as much strength back as possible.”
 
Is it similar to the surgery Michael Leighton had?
 
“I have no idea.”
 
A couple guys on your team said that even though you guys were eliminated two rounds earlier this year they actually think that you are closer to a Stanley Cup right now then you were last year. Do you agree with that assessment?
 
“Yeah, I think when you look at the strides that some of our younger guys have made. You look at how Claude Giroux improved immensely this year. You Look at James van Riemsdyk from the beginning of the year and how he finished the year, he made leaps and bounds in how he played. You know, you look at things like that, as we all know a lot of what happens for teams is the health factor and how guys are. Last year we were fairly healthy, especially on the back end we were real healthy. We obviously went through a ton of goalies through  injury and up front we had a number of guys hurt, but if we can stay healthy next year I certainly feel we definitely have a chance just like we did this year and  I thought we did last year as well.”
 
Chris, do you think that it is important for this team to get a goalie and bridge that gap for [Sergei] Bobrovksy?
 
“Well as we all know, it’s never easy. When I was in St. Louis, it was always we need to get a goalie, we needed to get a goalie, we needed to do this, we needed to do that. They don’t grow on trees, even the ones you get you never know. You just don’t know. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. That’s the difficult part of it. What do you have to give up to get one? What are the ramifications for your team? Again, that’s above my pay grade, I don’t know what we’re going to do, who you’re going to get, or how you are going to get them. That’s for management and ownership to decide what they’re willing to do. You could go get whoever, you name a guy, you could go get him. It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to win. Which seems to me, you guys think you go get a goalie and all of a sudden you win; it’s not that easy.”
 
Do you think it would have been a different series if you had played against the Bruins?
 
“I don’t know. You know what, I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. I am not going to look into the past and say could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. We lost plain and simple. I didn’t play, I was hurt. End of story. You guys have got to cut the cord and move on. No more arm-chair quarterbacking.”
 
How much time do you feel like you have left in your body?
 
“Well again, I don’t know…I felt good when I played this year. That the funny thing
, every time I started to feel better and started to get my feet underneath me and get back into the grove, I had another injury. You talk about the other season, I basically missed the whole season, I played five games and I had my wrist issue where I had reconstructive surgery on my wrist. Mentally I feel like I can play. When I was healthy, my play speaks for itself. It’s a matter of staying healthy. This year was very tough, every time I turned around I had another injury. It wasn’t like it was a bump and a bruise, it was something broken that needed surgery to fix. That can be a little disappointing and frustrating, when you know you can still play at a high level and your play speaks to that and you’re not able to go out and play. That’s tough, especially when you feel like you can add another element to the team when you’re out there. Mentally I’ve got a lot left, it’s how my back feels. Basically, if the surgery works and I am able to train properly and get healthy, I don’t see why I can’t continue to play as long as I want, as long as everything else holds up.”
 
Did you feel an immediate impact from that surgery? Did you feel relief right away?
 
“I did, yeah. I no longer had the burning sensation and the shooting pain down my leg was gone. Obviously you can’t move all that much, they don’t want you bending, twisting, doing all the rest of that stuff. You’ve got to let the back heal up. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area with nerves and all the rest of it. So, you’ve got to be very careful. You want to make sure you don’t want to rush things like this. You want to make sure you have all summer, training camp, the start of the year. I don’t know when I will be healthy, when it will be back. I hope it comes back and it’s a hundred percent, but I want to make sure I take my time and rehab it properly and do all the things necessary to make sure that it is a hundred percent when I do come back and there’s no issues moving forward after that.”
 
How is the rehab for the back going to affect the rehab you do for your hand? Can you do one while you’re waiting to start on the other?
 
“I am actually doing that right now, as we speak. I’ve got different things that I do on the days when I am not doing hand therapy with a hand specialist. Just continue to try to gain strength back and work on my hand to try to get it back to where it needs to be to play the game properly. It’s the same answer basically for my back, time heals most wounds. I am sure a long summer of rehab and what not will get that back to where it needs to be play at a high level, hold my stick, and do all the rest of those things that way I need to be a good hockey player.”
 
It requires a lot of patience doesn’t it?
 
“It does, it does. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of patience in order to kind of go through the different steps to reach each hurdle. As you progress in the rehab protocol, you’ve got to hit a hurdle and then you go to the next one. It takes time, you can’t just jump back in to things you want to do. While you may want to do those things, you’ve got to just buy your time and be patient and just work through the various steps that have been put in place, kind of gauge yourself. You’re going to feel good but you just got to gauge it. A lot of times you’ve got to tap down a little bit and slow yourself down; you get antsy. It was a tough year, but I want to be able to use this time to make sure I’m healthy when I come back.”
 
Has the doctor given you a time table for when you can start skating? I think he said in about four weeks you would be doing some things, but is that skating or do you know what’s next for that part of it?
 
“Again, Sam, I am going to say it one last time, patience. Time, we got lots of time. I don’t know when I am going to be able to skate. I didn’t even ask, that was the last thing on my mind. There are a lot of hurdles that I need to cross before I can begin skating and all the rest of that stuff. I can’t really do anything for six weeks, not four. So, once I go and get checked up, I will be able to get the Q and A on the progressing further along and begin my rehab.”
 
Have you been watching the NHL Playoffs? Are you finding yourself rooting for anybody in particular, maybe a former teammate, anything like that?
 
“I have not watched, I have watched some highlights, but I haven’t been watching too intently. I have not been rooting for anyone, just rooting for long series. I want every series to go seven.”
 
At the end of the season, Paul [Holmgren] said he couldn’t figure out why this team didn’t play as well as it did the first half of the season. Do you have any thoughts about that at all?
 
“I don’t. You know, I think everybody would have liked to get better as the season progressed and those are the teams that usually progress further into the playoffs. I think we’ve seen that with the four teams that are in the conference finals. All four of those teams got better as the season went along and that’s what you need to do be successful is playing your best hockey at the right times, and we weren’t. That is something for whatever reason we didn’t do. I don’t think I have an answer for why. I know you’ve got a lot of opinions on it. I couldn’t give you the answer as to why.  There’s going to be 29 other teams in the same boat as us. So, it sucks. You set out to have a goal and you don’t achieve that goal it’s very disappointing. There are always arm chair quarterbacks, there’s always people looking in, looking for excuses or answers as to why this happened, that happened. At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done. We’ve got to use the summer properly and make sure we are ready to go for September, whatever the start of camp is 15th or 16th, make sure once we set foot on the ice, we’re focused and understand what we need to do to be successful and follow through on that.”
 
Coming off that, a lot of fingers were pointed at Mike Richards, I am sure you have heard some of the things that were said about him…
 
“I have not. I have not. I have a simple answer for you. When a team wins, players get pats on the back or get all the credit. That’s usually your captain, your goalie, all the rest of that. When you lose, whether it’s fair or unfair, the people that get criticized are your captain, and your goalie, and all the way down the line. This is a team sport and for you to be successful you need everyone around you to play well. Whether it’s [Michael Richards], [Jeff Carter], myself, [Kimmo Timonen], [Brian Boucher], [Sergei Bobrovsky]; I mean it’s not just one guy. People can say whatever they want about Richie, but at the end of the day you have to realize it’s a team sport. Actually I did see one, is Sam Donnellon on the call? He’s not? I saw one headline ‘should Mike Richards step away for a year from the C.’ What good does that do? That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet. This is on the job training for Mike. I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences. I think I got here, he was 24, he’s now 26. I think he’s made some strides. Everybody does things their own way. I wasn’t always this vocal with the media or this patient. It takes time, you have to have those experiences. I think when you go through tough times, maybe this is one of them for him, you learn an awful lot about yourself, you gain a lot of experience. This game and life is not easy.  Nothing in life worthwhile is easy.  If it was, everyone would be able to do it. You learn how to handle different situations and it only makes you better as a player and
a person, because you can always look back on those tough times and [know] I was able to come through those with my head held high and better. So will Mike. I went through them as a young captain; I went through them as a player. Getting booed, getting mouthed off walking out of the rink and wanting to fight guys after games and all the rest of it. It’s not easy, especially on a team when the expectations are this high and the fans are this passionate. The media, you guys are bickering with one another trying to get the scoops. It’s not easy. I think as his career progresses, he is going to understand more and more what the media’s job is, and just to give you guys a little, just a little bit, just a little taste. Which is what I do, just give you a little taste. You don’t have to give it all, just enough so you guys can do your job and leave him alone. That’s all experience. I think it’s a little ridiculous to be blaming one person.  We win as a team and lose as a team – period, end of story.”

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Vince Velasquez just turned 24 in June.

He's under team control for the next five years and won't start making a lot of money (in baseball terms) until about 2020.

He has a big fastball that averages 93.7 mph, the 10th-best velocity of any NL starting pitcher.

He can be really, really good at times — the 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres, the 10-strikeout game against the Marlins, scoreless performances against the Mets, Indians and Diamondbacks.

And even when he's not at his best, like Friday night in Atlanta, Velasquez can succeed because his stuff is that good. He's made 18 starts this season and allowed two runs or fewer 11 times.

All of these things make him valuable to the Phillies. And all of these things make him attractive to every other team in the majors.

It doesn't seem likely that the Phils will ultimately pull the trigger and trade Velasquez to the Rangers, who are in "deep discussions" with the Phils on a deal, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury (see story). But Texas has such an intriguing group of prospects that it makes sense for the Phillies to listen.

Velasquez, for all of his strengths, has not proven yet that he can be a durable, 180- to 200-inning starting pitcher. He's never even reached 125 innings at any level in the minors. There have been numerous games this season in which his pitch count has soared — either because of a lack of control, nibbling around the plate or a lot of foul balls. The result has been some early exits. That was a knock on Velasquez when he was in Houston and he hasn't yet fully outgrown it.

That's why it could make sense for the Phils to trade him. Perhaps they believe they'd be selling high on a guy who's shown so much talent and promise but not the type of consistency of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Obviously, it makes sense to move him only if the return is strong. And the Rangers could certainly offer a strong package if they decide Velasquez is their guy.

The names you'll see thrown around a lot as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches are power hitting third baseman Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara.

Mazara is a pipe dream. The Rangers refused to include him in last summer's Cole Hamels trade, and he's only increased his worth to them this season by hitting .282/.334/.417 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for a first-place team. He'll be a top-three finisher for AL Rookie of the Year. It's almost impossible to envision the Rangers trading away a valuable piece of their major-league roster for Velasquez. It would be a wash, at best.

Gallo and Profar are more realistic targets for the Phillies in a Velasquez trade. Gallo, 22, has some of the best raw power in the minors, true grade-80 power. The 6-foot-5, left-handed hitter bashed 23 homers in the minors last season, 42 the year before and 40 the year before that. Initially, that power translated to the majors when Gallo was called up last June. He hit homers in each of his first two games and had five in his first 50 at-bats before pitchers adjusted. So far in 136 big-league plate appearances, he's hit .192/.287/.408 with seven homers and 63 strikeouts.

The whiffs will always be a part of Gallo's game. To me, he has Brewers' first baseman Chris Carter written all over him — a lot of homers, a lot of strikeouts, low batting average. Gallo could be better than Carter because he plays a more important position and will hopefully be more than a .217 career hitter like Carter, but you also have to keep in mind that the Phillies already have Maikel Franco at third base. If Gallo was traded here, he'd likely play either first base or left field.

It's hard to say right now whether or not Gallo is more valuable or a better fit for the Phils than Velasquez. Usually, it makes sense to go with the everyday player over the pitcher who can make an impact at most twice a week. But, as stated above, Velasquez can give you six quality innings even when he's not "on." He has the most upside of any of the Phillies' young starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola.

Profar, who is somehow still just 23 after years atop prospect lists and a few injuries, would seem to be a better fit. He's a multi-dimensional player who has impressed scouts for years for a reason. He can play every infield position in addition to left field, he has the look of a .300 hitter, and his power is developing.

A switch-hitter, Profar has hit .301/.356/.440 for the Rangers in 181 plate appearances this season with four doubles, two triples and five homers. It's been a while since his last full season in the minors, but in 2012 he hit .281 with an .820 OPS, 14 homers and 62 RBIs as a 19-year-old everyday shortstop at Double A.

The opinion here is that Profar will be a better major-league hitter than Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford.

There is, however, a vast financial difference between Profar and Gallo. Profar will go to salary arbitration in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before becoming a free agent. Gallo, like Velasquez, won't start making meaningful baseball money until around 2020.

But a team like the Phillies that has deep pockets and so much open payroll space moving forward should be more concerned with receiving the right player than playing the cost benefit game.

Another thing to consider here is that the Rangers need Profar. He's been playing every day for them and playing well at second base, third base and shortstop. He played Friday night in left field. He's started a bunch of games at first base, too, and figures to get some more reps there with Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland having just an OK year.

Brinson is another name to keep in mind. A right-handed centerfielder, he was Texas' first-round pick in 2012. He had a terrific year at three different levels in 2015, hitting a combined .332/.403/.601 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 20 homers. He's struggled this season at Double A Frisco, hitting .227 with a .692 OPS in a hitter-friendly environment.

The Rangers also have some other pieces who could help the Phillies, but you'd figure any deal for Velasquez would have to include one of these three. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to even entertain the idea of a trade.

And really, if the Rangers are willing to include one or more of those three young players, they could get any team in the majors to listen to an offer for a starting pitcher. A package centered around two of them might be enough for Chris Sale. Maybe one of them could net Atlanta's Julio Teheran. Velasquez is really good, but so are the combinations of trade packages the Rangers can put together.

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

The Eagles' first day of training camp in pads wasn’t without some minor casualties.

Cornerback Nolan Caroll left early with a sore ankle and wideout Rueben Randle left early with cramps. Both are considered day-to-day.

After Carroll left the field, Eric Rowe got some first-team reps with the defense. Randle was having a very good day, standing out with a one-handed grab, before going inside.

Undrafted wide receiver Marcus Johnson, from Texas, went inside early with a quad injury. Corner Ron Brooks (cramps) also went in early.

The Eagles started the day without starting right guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and starting running back Ryan Mathews (ankle). Neither have practiced since the whole team got together for the first full-squad on Thursday.

Darren Sproles continues to get most of the first-team reps at running back, with Kenjon Barner filling in. Veteran Stefen Wisniewksi has been taking Brooks’ spot at right guard.

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies (47-58) at Braves (36-67)
7:10 p.m. on NBC10

Two starters with uncertain futures take the mound in Atlanta on Saturday evening . Will either Phillies righty Jeremy Hellickson or Braves ace Julio Teheran be traded before, during or shortly after Saturday's first pitch? Time will tell.

Here are five things to know before Saturday night's contest at Turner Field:

1. Hellickson on the trading block
When the Phillies acquired Hellickson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-November, there was always a strong possibility the veteran righty would be flipped before this year's non-waiver trade deadline. 

With Charlie Morton going down with an injury early in the year, it appeared that Hellickson would be the only member of the Phillies' improved rotation likely to be gone on Aug. 1 (maybe not true, but more on that later). So after the Marlins already shored up their rotation with the acquisition of Andrew Cashner, who is still interested in the righty?

Teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, among others, come to mind. After all, many top starters are far from free agency or locked up by their teams, making a middle-of-the-road starter like Hellickson a hot commodity at this year's deadline.

Face it: There are always teams that need starting pitching. Pitchers can go down in an instant (like Morton did) or begin to struggle out of nowhere (look at Aaron Nola). With Hellickson's early career resume and his recent resurgence, plenty of teams could make use of him (see full story)

In 21 starts this season, he has thrown 125 2/3 innings and has a 3.65 ERA, nearly a full run lower than his final ERA from 2015. He's regained his trademark command and upped his strikeout rate. However, he is still a fly ball pitcher who can be burned playing in a small ballpark (Citizens Bank park, for instance). A team like the Blue Jays that plays in the home run-friendly Rogers Centre may think twice before acquiring him.

If Hellickson is traded, it would continue a youth movement for the Phillies, and not just with the prospects they would acquire in a potential deal. Top pitching prospect Jake Thompson is on turn to start Sunday in Triple A and with the Phillies' day off on Monday, he could easily slide into Hellickson's rotation spot. 

2. Teheran could be gone as well
The Braves' scheduled starter for Saturday could also be in another uniform when the calendar flips to August. However, an injury has thrown his status into flux.

Atlanta currently has the worst record in baseball, so any and every player could be considered a trade chip at this point in the year. That includes a player like Teheran, who is signed through 2019 to a team-friendly deal that includes a team option for 2020. 

And Teheran has been easily the best pitcher for the Braves. In 20 starts this year, he has a 2.71 ERA while averaging just shy of 6.5 innings per start. He earned his second All-Star Game appearance with a career-best walk rate, not to mention a 4.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also only allows 6.7 hits per nine innings, contributing to a career-best 0.956 WHIP. 

But the righty left his last start on July 22 with a tight lat muscle in his back. There was talk he may need to go on the DL, but he avoided it with a few extra days between starts. 

Teheran has been healthy in the past. He's made at least 30 starts each of the last three years and has thrown at least 200 innings each of the last two. He led baseball with 33 starts last season. 

However, the lat injury may scare teams hoping to acquire him before this deadline, making this start crucial. If there's no one willing to meet the price for Teheran, the Braves can simply retain him and see if anyone wants him in the offseason.

3. Hug watch on Velasquez?
In case you missed it, the Phillies are in deep discussions with the Texas Rangers on a deal involving 24-year-old starter Vince Velasquez (see full story)

Wow. It's certainly a shocker. Velasquez has been the Phillies' best starter in his first season with the club and has made Matt Klentak look like a genius for trading Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for him in the offseason. His fastball has electrified Philadelphia at times, especially during a 16-strikeout gem in his first start at Citizens Bank Park.

So could that really be coming to an end so soon? The Rangers, as mentioned above, are in the market for a starting pitcher. Their only consistent pitcher in the last month has been a certain familiar name acquired from the Phillies last year: Cole Hamels. 

Beyond Hamels, the Rangers' rotation has been battered by injuries this year. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are both on the 60-day disabled list and Yu Darvish has been off and on the DL in his first season after Tommy John surgery. Furthermore, Velasquez isn't eligible to become a free agent until 2022, giving value beyond any normal deadline acquisition.

But if Velasquez is under team control for so long, why would the Phillies trade him? Two possible reasons: First, a team knows its pitchers better than anyone and may be concerned with something in his health record or they simply don't value him as highly as other teams. 2. The Phillies know they can extract a tremendous haul for the flamethrowing righty.

The Rangers have some exciting prospects and young pieces that could make the Phillies jump. Slugging prospect Joey Gallo, starting outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Jurickson Profar intrigue teams and have been mostly deemed untouchable by Texas. But if Velasquez is in discussion, it's easy to speculate that one of those could be the headliner in a package coming back to Philadelphia. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: No one may be seeing Teheran on the mound than Freddy Galvis. The Phillies' shortstop is 6 for 14 against him with two walks. He could use a multiple-hit evening after piling up just five hits in the last week.

Braves: After tonight, Nick Markakis will have faced Hellickson more than any other hitter. Markakis has made 46 plate appearances against Hellickson and has just nine hits in those appearances. Two of the hits, though, have been home runs.

5. This and that
• Teheran has not allowed a run in his last 14 innings, dating back to July 9. 

• The Phillies and Braves have identical .240 batting averages this season. The Phils have a big advantage in home runs, however, outpacing the Braves, 101-64. 

• Ryan Howard has two career home runs off Teheran in 24 at-bats. Cody Asche has one homer in 21 at-bats against him. 

• A.J Pierzynski has nine at-bats against Hellickson and just one hit. However, the one hit is a home run.