While fans and the media want to focus on the upcoming arbitration hearing between the Phillies and Ryan Howard, the players are simply focusing on defending their NL East Championship. Howard himself turned the focus to talking about baseball rather than about the money he may or may not get in arbitration. Players have been relaxed and appear anxious to get back to work.
Meanwhile, the team dreamed up an elaborate practical joke to play on one of the key players from last season's playoff run. The plot involved assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., Kyle Kendrick's agent, Joe Urbon, the rest of the Phillies players in camp and even the media. Kendrick was set up to believe that he had been traded to the Japanese League, even though such trades are not allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. Amaro showed up with some rather official looking paperwork for Kendrick to sign, Urbon spoke to his client about pitching in Japan and the media assembled in front of Kendrick's locker to fire questions about the deal. After the shell-shocked Kendrick looked like he had been run through the ringer well enough, pitcher Brett Myers officially declared that Kendrick had been "punk'd". The scam worked perfectly and the look of unbelief on Kendrick's face remained as he first couldn't believe the news of the trade and then couldn't believe the news of the practical joke.
It truly was perfect.
That type of approach is exactly what the Phillies want this spring. This is a team that works best when it's relaxed and all concerned are doing their best to keep things light.
Kris Benson came to camp and made his first appearance on the mound Saturday throwing 60 pitches. After the session, he conceded that even though he's feeling and throwing much better, he may not be ready to go when the season opens. It's likely that Benson may stay behind in Clearwater for extended spring training and then make a few minor league appearances before potentially joining the Phillies rotation.
Mathieson doesn't throw
Scott Mathieson isn't quite sure what the problem is or if there even is a real problem. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Mathieson has been shut down after experiencing some pain, but team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti said all looks well physically. The Phillies aren't taking any chances and Mathieson will have some further tests, but it appears that the problem is nothing that is unexpected. Many pitchers develop some pain and discomfort on their way back from TJS and it's thought that's all Mathieson is dealing with. It's still going to be difficult for Mathieson to be ready to open the season on time, but he could be a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen sometime after opening day.