- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | From the standpoint of recent prestige, the Philadelphia Phillies have as much claim to prime-time television slots in the first round of baseball’s playoffs as anyone else. They are, after all, the defending champions, and in 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels’ mind, that should get them something.

But these things are decided by one factor: TV ratings. And there, the Phillies have no claim against the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.

So they are opening their title defense with a pair of afternoon games against the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series; their 5-1 win Wednesday and Thursday’s Game 2 were both scheduled to start at 2:37 p.m. In Hamels’ mind, that doesn’t sit well.

The left-hander voiced his displeasure with the afternoon starts, saying the Phillies’ fans deserved better than a pair of start times that conflict with the workday and suggesting a normal routine is more important to most players than making money off baseball’s TV contract.

“Being the defending world champs, I kind of think it’s a little weird that we get both games at 2 o’clock,” Hamels said. “I don’t think it’s fair. I definitely don’t think it’s fair to the fans, because this is all about the home-field advantage or just baseball in general.”

MLB certainly has reason for bumping the Phillies from prime TV slots - their World Series win over the Tampa Bay Rays last year was the lowest rated in 40 years - but Hamels steered the conversation elsewhere, saying the odd start times affect competition.

“I understand TV ratings, but I think at the end of the day most players would rather play where they’re [most] comfortable, and that’s kind of where we’re trained at,” Hamels said. “We want to get ourselves to the World Series and win it, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about how much money we can make in the process of playing this game, because truly, being a world champ, that’s what we live for.”

Rockies take a chance

The Rockies made a gutsy call in naming right-hander Aaron Cook, who has started just two games since Aug. 21, their starter for Thursday’s Game 2. But manager Jim Tracy said Cook, who won 14 games last year and 11 this year before missing a month with a right shoulder strain, has made a convincing case he’s ready.

Cook was on a pitch count for both starts but needed just 85 pitches to get through eight innings last Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers. He allowed one run on four hits, displaying the sharp sinker that has made him a staple of the Rockies’ rotation. With Jorge De La Rosa out for the NLDS, Cook becomes a key contributor for the Rockies.

“When I saw the start last Thursday, it was the Aaron Cook that we have - as the Rockies have grown accustomed to seeing when he’s on his game in that manner,” Tracy said. “Tremendous sinker, great competitor.”

Pedro’s role unclear

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wasn’t ready to commit to Pedro Martinez starting in the NLDS.

Manuel said Martinez is available to pitch and is “in the mix” to start in the series but added he wanted to get through the first two games of the series before setting his rotation for the rest of it.

Martinez and Joe Blanton were bullpen options for the first two games, but Manuel said Blanton would physically be in the bullpen, while Martinez wouldn’t - at least not for Game 1.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide