Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cuddly Phans

When Heath Bell was asked to name his wife's favorite road ballpark, his recent reply on Twitter surprised like a slide into pitcher's mound. "Philly," he Tweeted, "because they were really nice there and gave her sushi after the game.''

Phillies fans have been described in many ways; the Loveable Kook may be the first to depict them as kindly sushi sharers.

Whether Nicole Bell returns to her road ballpark of choice this summer will hinge on whether her husband is traded to the National League East leaders, who've been linked to Bell in published trade speculation for several weeks. Scouting with an eye toward October, the Phillies have appraised Bell and Padres setup man Mike Adams for three years now, and another team's scout familiar with their thinking says the Phillies believe each reliever would survive leaving the Petco cocoon. For trade this year, the Phillies also have considered Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick, notwithstanding his career .143 batting average in their cozy ballpark, because their lineup tilts left.

"I think the Phillies need a right-handed bat more myself," Paul Hagen, a longtime baseball writer with the Philadelphia Daily News, told this blog today. "But clearly Bell would help."

Typically the Phillies are armed with prospects and cash when trolling the trade market, but they've spent most of their best trade chips in recent years and claim they can't raise payroll this summer because it might trigger the luxury tax. Then again, they are a revenue giant, and their farm system isn't barren despite three trades for star pitchers in recent years. "They've got prospects on the mound -- a lot of power arms," a scout said. Most of those pitchers, however, are below Double-A.

The Phillies have a knack for surprising industry experts with their moves, so Hagen wouldn't rule out most any swap. Disclaimer noted, he doesn't expect them to part with corner outfielder Domonic Brown. Another Phils big leaguer, pitcher Vance Worley may be needed as insurance for Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt, who is on the disabled list. Worley, a starter and a reliever with a 2.21 ERA, doesn't have Bell's high-speed fastball, but the 23-year-old Californian might offset some of the personality loss if Bell is dealt. He refers to himself as "Van-imal," and during a game in San Diego spit at a single as it sped into center field.

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