By Bill Campbell

Phillies’ Moves During A Noteworthy Baseball Week

Their sluggish start has not caused the Phillies to push the panic button. But it has led to some interesting personnel moves.

The most noteworthy is the promotion of left-hander, Jake Diekman, from the Lehigh Valley Triple A roster to the Philadelphia major league team. The Phillies have been very impressed with Diekman, who is 1-0 with five saves, an ERA of 0.59 with 22 strikeouts in only three weeks and 15 ½ innings. During spring training, he did not allow an earned run in five appearances.

Admitting he has been on a cloud since being assigned to the big leagues, Diekman said, “When I found out, I called my dad right away and making him cry was pretty cool.”

Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel plans to use Diekman as a situation left-hander.

“He has a good arm and has the potential to be a good bullpen piece,” was the manager’s comment.

Diekman was promoted after first baseman, Layne Nix, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain, opening up a spot on the Phillies’ roster. Nix’s absence could be felt. He was hitting 326 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI”s in 22 games.

The Phillies also promoted outfielder, Hector Luna, and left-hander, Raul Valdes, from Lehigh Valley. Luna has previous major league experience: 311 big league games. He was last in the majors in 2010 with the Miami Marlins.

Also optioned to Lehigh Valley were left-hander, Joe Savery, as well as Michael Schwimmer.

Right-hander, Brian Sanches, who was 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA in 3 relief appearances, was out-righted to Lehigh Valley. Right-hander, Justin DeFratus, was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list with a right elbow strain.

While these moves do not approach panic status, they do merit concern because they are being made this early in the season. The Phillies cannot afford to fall too far back at this juncture, especially with the return of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard not yet on the drawing board. If and when Utley and Howard return, they likely still could need a month or so of daily activity and the Phillies have to question whether or not they can wait that long. Jim Thome, while eligible to come off the DL this week, apparently will not be ready to do so and will require more time to recover. So the team is making some moves.

Because it is such a singular accomplishment, the remarkable performance of Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton must be mentioned. His recent scoring of four home runs in one game has captivated baseball. The Phillies’ Cliff Lee is reported to have once said that Hamilton was the most gifted player he ever had seen. Lee should know a bit about Hamilton – he was once his teammate in Texas.

Josh Hamilton is an interesting story. He has had drug and alcohol addiction problems during his career. But he has fought them hard. Agent Scott Boras, who does not represent Hamilton, says of Hamilton, “He has a factual set of circumstances that go beyond skill, with values unique to him. His talent is objectively driven and is quite remarkable.”

When you weigh such talent against such problems, it makes you think Hamilton’s recent achievement at Camden Yards in Baltimore must have surpassed even his wildest dreams.

By scoring four homers in one game, Hamilton became the 16th player in baseball history to do so. It was one of the most prolific performances ever: 5 hits in 5 times at bat, 4 home runs, 8 runs batted in. An American League record of 18 total bases. At the moment, he leads the league in virtually every offensive category including a batting average in the .400 range, a total of 14 homers, 36 RBI’s and a 458 on-base percentage.

Hamilton is approaching his free agent year and possibly could be playing for a different team in 2013. As he put it the other day, “I pray all the time that God’s going to have us where he wants us to be. At the end of the season, if that’s Texas, then it’s Texas. If not, then I’ll be happy to go wherever he wants us to go.”

Josh Hamilton is 31 years old, an All Star for four years in Texas and the American League MVP in 2010. The Rangers have prospered with Hamilton, winning back-to-back pennants and becoming one of the elite franchises in the game. The Rangers want to keep him. Hamilton says he loves the Texas organization, his teammates and the fans. But he refuses to say he owes the Rangers. There has to be a certain amount of risk involved in awarding a long-term contract to a player who has substance abuse problems in his background. But the Rangers could put drug and alcohol use provisions in the contract. There are all sorts of options and compromises out there. I think Josh Hamilton’s future could be the baseball story of 2013. Last football season the story was all Peyton Manning. The baseball story should be Josh Hamilton. So stay tuned.

Basketball News – Pros and Olympians

Now only the 76ers remain. Our recent evenings had been occupied by following the Flyers, the Sixers and the Phillies. My prediction would have been that the Flyers would survive the Devils. But as good as they were against Pittsburgh is how bad they were against New Jersey. I wouldn’t want to trade places with Peter Laviolette this spring or summer. Surely he will have more than a few sleepless nights wondering what happened. If ever a team looked like one that was ready to make a serious run for the Stanley Cup, it was the Flyers. But they ran out of breaks, luck and steam.

The 76ers got two breaks in the playoffs: the injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. There was no way the Bulls could complete without them. So the Sixers are in Boston — where they managed to give away Game One. Outscoring the Celtics for three periods only to blow the lead will get you beaten every time. That’s what happened to Doug Collins’ team. They just ran out of gas which can be blamed on the season’s compressed schedule – 66 games in a period that normally accommodates 82. There also was the abnormal amount of injuries.

However, the Boston Celtics have played the same schedule and their players are younger, supposedly with a bit more spring in their steps. So let’s hang tough with the Sixers. At the moment, they’re the only team in town with realistic championship hopes – providing they can cool off the Miami Heat. Doesn’t seem possible.

The City of Columbus, Ohio, may be added to the National Basketball Association. The mayor of Columbus has sent an overture letter to NBA Commissioner, David Stern, stating that Ohio’s capital city would like to house an expansion or relocated team in its downtown arena along with the NHL’s Blue Jackets. In making his pitch for a team, the Columbus mayor cited the publicly-owned Nationwide Arena and the city’s largest in-state metropolitan population of nearly two million. He also noted that Columbus, located only 120 miles from Cleveland, has a strong economic climate featuring 15 Fortune 500 companies. The Knicks are only a 100 or so miles from the 76ers. So … no harm, no foul?

The U.S. men’s basketball team will have more time to make up its roster and solve the problems caused by having too many injured players. The Americans were granted an extension by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which pushed back the roster announcement deadline from June 18th to July 8th, allowing them to wait until after the NBA season ends and Olympic training camp begins. U.S. Olympic Chairman, Jerry Colangelo, says it has not yet been determined how many players will be invited to camp in Las Vegas. There are 18 healthy players in the roster pool.

James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky have been declared eligible for the pool to replace NBA players Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chauncey Billups and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are injured.

Final Question

The Phillies’ pitching is fine from a starting position, but it is being betrayed by the bullpen, which concerns management as indicated by the early season personnel changes noted. Worse, the roster doesn’t score runs. Certainly not enough to overcome the bullpen. The “Golden Four” of last year – Halladay, Lee, Hamels and The-Guy-from-Houston-Who-Didn’t-Work-Out – has become the Fabulous Three, though Blanton and Worley show signs of inheriting that spot. I know I’d like to see a lot more consistency there. The whole situation creates some added pressure, maybe more on General Manager Ruben Amaro than on Manager Charlie Manuel. Ruben has been solid and he can handle it. Question is, can we?