The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

Chase Utley seldom looks out of place on a baseball field.

He is a preparation junkie, always in tip-top shape and runs out every play like it's his last.

Then he met the surgeon on the mound.

Roy Halladay, a competitor of Utley's ilk, was his match.

In his career, "The Man" never logged an official at-bat against "Doc" — and for that, he considers himself fortunate.

However ...

"I believe I faced him in spring training and he made me look like a little leaguer out there," Utley said Wednesday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk. "And I think I might have faced him in the All-Star Game (2009), and I remember thinking, 'OK, I've heard a lot about him, first pitch I see that's going to be a strike, I'm going to try to put it in play.' I did and I was out. He was a man among boys out there. He truly was."

Utley and Halladay, astoundingly alike in their baseball makeup and mindset, shared an incredible appreciation for one another, especially after they became teammates in 2010.

Over the past two days, Utley has found himself sharing that appreciation in the wake of Halladay's death on Tuesday, a result of a tragic plane crash.

"Obviously this is terrible, my heart goes out to Brandy and his two boys (Ryan and Braden)," Utley said. "I know he was really involved in their athletic abilities. I did a camp for them, this was a few years ago, and he was a coach, he had all the gear on, and he was really into it. Words can't really describe … it's just not a good thing. But I think it's important to reflect on all the positive things that he not only did for Major League Baseball, but for the Phillies and his teammates. He really made his teammates better."

Utley was made better by Halladay as the two pushed each other with their drive to be better than the day before. Utley offered a glimpse inside his own routine for spring training.

And the day someone actually beat him to the ballpark.

It was Halladay at 5:45 a.m.

"I heard a lot of good things about Roy prior to actually meeting him. Going back to the Instagram post that I put out [Tuesday], I thought I was a guy that got to the ballpark early to get a bunch of work done before the day really started," Utley said. "I walked in, I think I was with Brian Schneider at the time, and Roy was sitting there in his workout gear, almost finished with breakfast, he was soaking wet. I assumed he had worked out, but I made a joke, 'Hey, man, was it raining when you walked into the ballpark?' He kind of looked at me, laughed [and said], 'No, I just finished my workout.' That's something that I'll never forget about him. Right then and there, I knew what he was all about — all the rumors, all the stories that I heard about him prior to that, I knew they were all real."

Halladay captured the hearts of Philadelphia. A blue-collar city could tip its cap to a player with such dedication and determination.

Utley said those traits resonated with his teammates, as well.

"He was obviously an important part of our ballclub and he rubbed guys the right way, he made guys around him better, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball," Utley said. "Our pitching staff, even our position players, kind of watched what he did in between starts and I think a lot of them implemented that into what they did on a daily basis. Guys gravitated towards him.

"What he did, in the era that he did it, is truly remarkable. There's a reason he was so good. Obviously everyone is talking about how hard he worked between starts, and it was no joke. He was getting after it and it motivated me, it motivated a lot of guys to try to become the best player you could be. And he got the most out of everything.

"He was a once-in-a-lifetime player to be honest with you."

Utley got a taste of it one steamy day in Chicago's Friendly Confines, where he was baptized with Halladay's unmatched intensity.

"I remember a game we were playing in Wrigley Field. And for some reason that day, it felt like it was 1,000 degrees on the field. There was no breeze, it was probably 105 degrees, but the heat index must have been much higher," Utley said. "And he was working. As we all know, he was working hard out on the mound.

"I remember thinking, 'OK, he's working hard, it's super hot out here, I'm going to go to the mound and maybe give him a breather.' So I go to the mound, I think I pretend like I'm tying my shoes and he looked at me with like this evil look. I knew right then and there, he didn't need a break, he didn't need to take any time off. He wanted to get back to pitching, so I learned my lesson at that point to not bother him when he's doing his thing on the mound."

That's because Halladay was as fierce as any when it came to winning. Utley mentioned the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Halladay allowed a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who a moment later scored what turned out to be the game's only run. Halladay finished with eight innings of one-run ball and seven strikeouts. The Phillies lost, 1-0, and the 102-win season was over way too early.

Still, Utley looks back on that night in amazement of Halladay.

"You knew looking into his eyes after they scored that one run, that they were not going to score another run," Utley said. "And they didn't. Unfortunately we were not able to squeeze a run across, but I remember him just sitting in the locker room after the game, as we all were disappointed. At that point, I just said, 'Doc, you did everything you could do, you need to hold your head high.' I think that picked him up a little bit, but he was all about winning, that's what he wanted to do on a daily basis."

He accomplished plenty in Philadelphia. The perfect game, the postseason no-hitter, the 2010 NL Cy Young, the franchise-record 102 victories.

All with class.

"One thing that I took from him was obviously he was a great pitcher, he had so much success with the Phillies, but after every game he pitched well, which was pretty much the majority of all of them, he would always kind of deflect the attention to somebody else as far as, 'Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) called a great game, Ryan Howard had the big home run, Jayson Werth made a great play in the outfield,'" Utley said. "That right there showed me what kind of person he was — he wasn't about himself, he was about the team and he was definitely all about winning."

And, he somehow made a guy like Utley want to work even harder.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.