Phillies 2014 Preview: Bursting with Experience, or The Walking Dead?

Cliff Lee. Photo | Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Cliff Lee. Photo | Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The white board in the Phillies’ locker room — across from the tubs where the players dump their dirty clothes — was the spring training communications center.

It’s where the daily lineup and travel rosters were posted, along with reminders for players to get their visas and announcements about who had to show up for which practice.

One by one every morning, guys walked over to see if there was anything pertaining to them.

On the last Sunday of spring training, a message was written in green marker.

“Walking Dead Night Sunday,” the message read.  “(See AJ about details).”

I never was able to pin down A.J. about the details, but I am guessing he wasn’t referring to the potential disaster which general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hath wrought.

Still, Burnett may just have well been forecasting 2014.

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Ruben Amaro Jr.: Jimmy Rollins Isn’t Going Anywhere

Ruben Amaro

Ruben Amaro Jr.

Sitting in “Whale Beach,” an outdoor section of stands at Bright House Field reserved for media and VIPs, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., talks to Philadelphia magazine about the Jimmy Rollins controversy, Freddy Galvis’s health scare, and whether he is feeling the heat going into his sixth year at the helm after two straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.

Philadelphia magazine: Given super-sub Freddy Galvis’s bout with MRSA and the ceaseless chatter about the need to dump Jimmy Rollins and the team being too old, is this spring crazier than usual?

Ruben Amaro Jr.: No. Every year is a challenge. We always have to deal with DLs and issues that pop up. Like (former GM) Dallas Green told me from the very beginning, we are firemen. We have to try and put out fires and this is just another set of them, and we have to deal and go from there.

Philadelphia magazine: How is Galvis (who contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus after suffering a scrape on his left knee)?

Ruben Amaro Jr.: Galvis is doing just fine. We were concerned about the severity of the infection. I don’t know how long it is going to take him to be ready but I’m more concerned about his overall health and so far he’s doing a lot better.

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Phillies Great Mike Schmidt Talks About Cancer, Announcing and His Man Crush On Roy Halladay

Photo | Howard Altman

Photo | Howard Altman

The best third baseman ever to play the game sits down on a metal picnic bench between the Phillies’ spring training practice field and Bright House Field and fiddles with his new press pass.

“I have the Gold Card,” Michael Jack Schmidt jokes to a group of reporters who have gathered around to hear him speak publicly for the first time since being diagnosed with skin cancer last summer.

The 64-year-old Hall of Famer, who will be returning to the broadcast booth during Sunday home games this season, spends the next half hour talking about coming back from cancer, his own limitations as a broadcaster, the current state of the Phillies and his bromantic crush on former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay.

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Carlos Ruiz at Phillies Spring Training: “If We Stay Healthy, We Can Do a Lot of Good Things”

Photo | Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

Photo | Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

Sitting in front of his locker in a padded folding chair, across the room from the raucous noise of Howard and Byrd and Rollins and rap, the man they call Chooch is for a moment alone, quietly looking down at the glowing screen of his cell phone.

It is nearly five hours before the Phillies – the 1-and-8-and-1 Phillies, the worst-spring training record-in-baseball Phillies – will take the field for Grapefruit League game number 11. And Carlos Ruiz, who returned to the team on a much-chided three-year, $26 million contract, is tuning out the cacophony.

Inside the locker room and outside as well.

“I feel great with the group we have,” says Ruiz, who turned 36 on Jan. 22. “If we stay healthy, we can do a lot of good things.”

If we stay healthy.

If.

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