Phillies

Latest A.I., Pete Rose transgressions spoiling Philly sports fan's escape

Latest A.I., Pete Rose transgressions spoiling Philly sports fan's escape

The Wildwood Boardwalk is a veritable potpourri of indulgence and goofiness. It’s a wonderful, wacky place. You have roller coaster rides and water parks. Haunted houses. Sketchy hucksters trying to lure you to play their fixed games of chance. Feeling hungry? Nothing hits the spot like a slice of boardwalk pizza. And, of course, there is that beloved mode of transportation, the Tramcar.

It also has more T-shirt shops per capita than anywhere in the world (unofficial count). So last week, while on vacation down the shore, I happened upon one such place. There I spotted a throwback Charlie Hustle shirt with the image of baseball’s all-time hit king, sliding headfirst on the front. Being a huge Pete Rose fan as a kid, holding dear that memory of him being the final piece to put the perennially close Phillies clubs of the late 1970s over the top. And being a proponent of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was a no-brainer, I bought it. Little did I know, I would get exactly one wear out the garment.

When word surfaced early this week that Rose, during sworn testimony, admitted to engaging in a relationship with a girl either 16 years old or younger in the '70s, my first reaction after wanting to throw up and take a shower was to toss my new shirt.

No more.

No more can I defend the guy. No more can I separate Rose the epitome of what you would want as a player with Rose the train wreck of a human being. I shouldn’t have been surprised, none of us should. He bet on baseball and, perhaps worse, carried on a lie about for the ensuing 20-plus years. Not to mention that pesky jail sentence for tax evasion. But I was willing to forgive while looking forward to his induction into the Phillies' Wall of Fame next week. However, this latest news and Rose’s testimonial justification that she was of the consensual age of 16 when he was a 34-year-old married, father of two, drove me to the point of check out. 

I’m done.

Couple the Rose revelation with Allen Iverson’s latest Houdini act and subsequent one-game BIG3 League suspension by Ice Cube (you can’t make this stuff up), and it hasn’t been a banner couple of weeks for former Philadelphia sports icons.

One of the tenet’s of sports from a fan’s perspective is this: It should provide an escape from the real world. And when said reality creeps into our fantasy bubble, it’s a bummer. To deny die-hard, unconditional supporters a chance to see you play one more time on the Wells Fargo Center floor, even for a token cameo is wrong. Same with Phillies fans, who have been waiting for nearly 40 years to celebrate Rose. Those folks are the ones who get it in the end.

Iverson supporters, while bummed presently, will be more apt to forgive his transgressions. But in the case of Rose, the long-term, permanent damage for many like me has been done. It does make you appreciate players like Brian Dawkins, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley that much more. But ultimately, we don’t know what is going on with any of these guys. Either way, it’s no fun when reality creeps into our sporting cocoons.

And while we’re at it, watch the Tramcar, please.

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

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AP Images

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff is an important man in this Phillies season. He needs to be closer to the guy who pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings in 2016 than the one who had a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings last season.

It all starts with good health. Eickhoff, 27, missed time with an upper-back strain and a nerve issue near his right shoulder last season.

He is healthy now and has made a tweak in his mechanics to ease pressure on his shoulder. He made his spring debut with two hitless, scoreless innings in a 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa on Thursday (more on the game here). Eickhoff threw 17 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. 

“No matter what game it is that you pitch in, you get that intensity, there’s a hitter in the box, you still get butterflies being back at it,” Eickhoff said. “Today was a big day, facing some competition. The live batting practice was checking off the first box. A game setting was kind of the second box, so I think the sky is the limit from here. I feel great.”

Eickhoff developed a mechanical flaw last season as his body would often fall toward first base after delivering the ball. That put pressure on his shoulder. He has tried to correct the flaw this winter by holding his glove a little higher before he releases the ball. That helps him get going toward home plate.

If healthy, Eickhoff will be in the starting rotation. (Former bench coach Larry Bowa is high on him). But he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I try to approach every spring like I’m trying to win a job,” Eickhoff said. “I have something to prove every year.”

Notes
• Andrew Knapp caught and batted leadoff. He worked a walk to lead off the game and that impressed manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler advised not to read into batting order positions this early in camp. 

“These are practice settings,” he said.

• The Phillies play their Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Rotation candidates Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr. are expected to get some work. Non-roster invite Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 437 career saves, could also get an inning.

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

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USA Today Images

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was a nice little glimpse of the future.

Seven of the eight pitchers used by the Phillies in Thursday’s 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa were prospects who likely need a little more time in the minors, but could someday be mainstays in Philadelphia.

Jerad Eickhoff started and pitched two scoreless innings (see story). After him, prospects Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez kept the shutout intact. None of the Phillies’ pitchers walked a batter, though Eickhoff did hit one.

“No walks, that’s fairly unusual for spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was like Command City. Guys were on top of it.”

Kapler singled out Dominguez, a strong-bodied, power-armed, 23-year-old right-hander who earned a spot on the 40-man roster in November. Dominguez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh then came back with three swinging strikeouts, all on high-80s sliders.

“He maintained his composure, had electric stuff and the bravado of a seasoned veteran,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 in 2012, touched 100 mph with his fastball as a starter in the Florida State League early last season. He ended up missing time with biceps tendinitis, but is healthy now. The Phillies have reduced his pitch mix from four to three (fastball, slider, changeup) and he will convert to the bullpen, where he profiles as a potential closer, this season. He is likely to open at Double A Reading. Don’t rule out seeing him in Philadelphia later this season if all goes well.

“As a bullpen guy, he could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

“He has a top-of-the-scale fastball,” director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings.”