Oswalt pitches, reflects on frightening experience

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Oswalt pitches, reflects on frightening experience

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Posted: 7:44 p.m.

By Jim SalisburyCSNPhilly.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Images of earthquake ravaged Japan are everywhere. They are a stinging reminder of Mother Natures fury and of how lives can change when the ground shakes, the seas rise or the wind blows.

Roy Oswalt needs no reminder.

Less than a year ago, a devastating tornado ripped through the pitchers small Mississippi hometown. The house in which he grew up was leveled. Seven people in the area were killed.

Oswalts mother, Jean, was in the house when the wind started howling. She survived by ducking into a closet. His father, Billy, was on a hunting trip in Missouri when the tornado struck.

Oswalt is the first to admit that the destruction and tragedy that befell the area around Weir, Miss., last April pales in comparison to what has happened in Japan. Nevertheless, it was a frightening and difficult time in his life.

The pitcher, of course, was with the Houston Astros when the tornado hit his hometown. He was traded to the Phillies several months later. Upon learning of the tornado, Oswalt and his wife and their two daughters drove eight hours from Houston to Weir. While driving, Oswalt received updates from his brother, Brian.

Prepare yourself, Brian Oswalt told his brother. Theres nothing left.

When Roy arrived, he saw what his brother meant. Their boyhood home, the house in which they, along with their sister, Patricia, were raised, had been reduced to kindling by winds as high as 200 mph. A few strong beams around the frame of a closet saved their mother from serious injury or worse.

We were lucky, Oswalt said after pitching 5 23 innings in a minor-league game Sunday. My mother was OK. You can always build a new house.

Oswalt still has pictures of the destroyed home on his cell phone. Other pictures show a friends banged-up pickup truck. It had been tossed about like a toy.

It looked like a bomb went off, Oswalt said. Even now it looks totally different. All the trees are gone.

Oswalt lives about a mile from his parents. His home was untouched by the tornado.

For Oswalt, the most difficult part of the ordeal wasnt so much seeing his childhood home reduced to rubble. It was being the guy who literally drove the bulldozer that cleaned up the debris.

Youve probably heard the story about Oswalt and the bulldozer, but its worth telling again. Drayton McLane is the owner of the Houston Astros. He once asked young Roy Oswalt what his lifes goals were. Oswalt, a county boy who enjoys working the land on his property on Mississippi, responded that he wanted to own a bulldozer someday. McLane never forgot that.

Before Game 6 of 2005 National League Championship Series, with the Astros first-ever berth in the World Series on the line, McLane promised to buy Oswalt a bulldozer if he won the game.

Oswalt beat St. Louis and McLane kept his promise.

But Oswalt never dreamed hed one day use the bulldozer to clean up the rubble from his boyhood home.

That was pretty rough, he said.

Oswalt was actually the MVP of that NLCS and he had given the award to his parents. It was destroyed in the tornado.

I actually pushed up pieces of it with the bulldozer, he said.

A number of pictures and home movies some with Roy pitching as youngster and other mementos were also destroyed in the tornado. In a nice gesture, the Astros had a duplicate NLCS MVP award made for Oswalt. And in another nice move, the local photography studio that had taken high school portraits of all three Oswalt children still had the negatives on file and made reprints after the originals, which had hung on the wall at the family home, were destroyed.

In a small town, everyone tries to help each other, said Oswalt, who is clearly very proud of his hometown and the people in it.

Though there are still scars on the land, many of the structures that were leveled around Oswalts hometown last year have been rebuilt. In November, his parents moved into a new home built on the same spot as the original. Oswalt said his mother still gets a little antsy during thunderstorms, but is doing well otherwise.

Thats one thing about where I live, he said. People have a way of picking right back up. Theres a good spirit in our town.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

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MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

NEW YORK -- The Mets have found help at first base following Lucas Duda's injury, acquiring veteran James Loney from the San Diego Padres for cash.

Loney has spent this season in the minors, playing well for Triple-A El Paso. He was batting .342 with two home runs and 28 RBIs over 43 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Always a fine fielder, the 32-year-old Loney hit .280 with four homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 104 games with Tampa Bay last year. The Rays released him April 3 and he signed with the Padres on April 8.

Duda was put on the disabled list Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back that is expected to sideline him at least four to six weeks, probably longer.

Until Duda returns, Mets manager Terry Collins says Loney, a left-handed hitter, will mostly face right-handed pitching in a first-base platoon with Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell. Flores is close to returning from a strained hamstring.

In a corresponding move Saturday, the team selected the contract of right-hander Casey Fien from its top farm club.

Dodgers send lefty Urias back to minors after brief debut
NEW YORK -- Following a brief major league debut, the Los Angeles Dodgers have optioned 19-year-old pitching prospect Julio Urias back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says the team wanted another arm in the bullpen after Urias lasted only 2 2/3 innings Friday night. Los Angeles used five relievers in a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets.

Urias, one of baseball's top prospects, threw 42 of 81 pitches for strikes at Citi Field in a much-anticipated big league debut that lasted 59 minutes. He became the first teenage pitcher to start a game in the majors since Seattle's Felix Hernandez in 2005.

The left-hander gave up three runs, five hits and four walks while striking out three. He was on the hook for a loss until Los Angeles rallied for four runs in the ninth to tie the score (see full story).

Royals: Catcher Perez hurt, helped from field
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez had to be helped off the field in the ninth inning Saturday against the Chicago White Sox after colliding with rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert while catching Adam Eaton's foul popup.

Cuthbert came sliding in and struck Perez's lower legs. Perez went down in pain as trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost rushed to the field.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon collided Sunday while chasing a foul ball at Chicago and both landed on the disabled list. Gordon has a broken right wrist and is out for three to four weeks, while Moustakas tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is likely out for the season.

Drew Butera replaced Perez.

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter activated from paternity list
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Matt Carpenter has been activated from the paternity list by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Carpenter missed two games after being placed on the paternity list Thursday. His wife gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl, on Wednesday.

Carpenter leads the Cardinals with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.

To make room for Carpenter on the 25-man roster, St. Louis designated infielder Ruben Tejada for assignment on Saturday. Tejada was batting .176 over 23 games with no homers and three RBIs.

If Tejada is released, St. Louis would be responsible for the remainder of his $1.5 million salary this year, which was $1,049,180 entering Saturday.