MIAMI - Three words you are bound to hear at least twice a week when the Phillies play at Citizens Bank Park:
In this ballpark. As in . . .
In this ballpark, you just want to give your offense a chance to score runs.
In this ballpark, the Phillies' lineup is dangerous.
In this ballpark, little lawn gnomes swing the bat and run the bases for you.
But not long ago, Jimmy Rollins took exception to the phrase.
"Everybody wants to talk about the ballpark, but we do the same thing on the road," the Phillies shortstop said. "The ballpark doesn't matter, it's the team."
Looking at the numbers, he has a point.
The Phillies have been one of the most prolific road teams in the majors. Heading into last night, they ranked second in home runs (42), slugging percentage (.447) and total bases (505); tied for second in RBI (156) and on-base percentage (.336); third in runs (163); and seventh in batting average (.260).
Furthermore, the Phillies were one of only three teams in the majors with a winning road record, at 18-15.
"We come out and we play that game on that day," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It doesn't matter where we are playing. A couple of years ago, I told you that champions can play anywhere. I think that's kind of the way you go about looking at the game. If we are good, why can't we play anywhere?"
Despite the fact that the Phillies' lineup is loaded with lefthanded hitters, they have performed surprisingly well against lefthanded starters. They are 16-8 in games started by southpaws, including 14-5 in their last 19 games. Chase Utley entered the day leading all major league hitters with 11 home runs and 25 RBI against lefties, and went 1-for-3 against lefty starter Andrew Miller, with an RBI single and two strikeouts.
"The more they throw them, the better we're going to get at them," Manuel said. "Being a lefthanded hitter when I played, the more I faced lefthanded pitchers, the better I got at them, the better I could hit them. I feel like that's basically what our team is starting to do."
Steve Kline had been struggling on the mound for Triple A Lehigh Valley.
So the veteran lefthander's indefinite suspension for bumping an umpire Monday night after being ejected from a game couldn't have helped his cause. The Phillies parted ways with Kline yesterday, releasing him only 2 months after signing him to a minor league contract.
He was suspended by the International League and the organization after getting ejected for arguing a non-strike call and making contact with the home-plate umpire.
Kline was never a serious contender for a spot with the big-league club, going 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in 22 2/3 innings for the IronPigs.
The Phillies hoped Kline eventually would become the second lefty reliever they have sought since spring training, but lefthanders were hitting .341 against him at Lehigh Valley.
Though talks with first-round draft pick Anthony Hewitt are still in their preliminary stages, the Phillies announced seven more signings from the 2008 draft, including former Germanton Academy standout lefty Sean Grieve (21st round, William & Mary). Righthanders Vance Worley (third round, Cal State Long Beach), Julio Rodriguez (eighth round, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy), Brian Rosenberg (13th round, Louisville) and Ryan Bergh (26th round, Old Dominion), and lefthanders David Noles (24th round, Columbus State) and Spencer Arroyo (31st round, Modesto Junior College) all agreed to contracts yesterday. *