By Ted Keith
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Spring training is a great time for working on the fundamentals of baseball, like bunting, baserunning and coming up with creative ways to deny throwing at hitters.
Take the Phillies' Roy Halladay, a man whose surgical precision on the mound is so impressive he's won two Cy Young awards and earned the nickname Doc. On Wednesday at Bright House Field, Halladay threw behind the Nationals' Tyler Moore one half-inning after Washington's Stephen Strasburg plunked Chase Utley with a pitch. Afterward, Halladay said the pitch "slipped," but the windy conditions and cool weather had nothing to do with it. "But," he added, "it wouldn't have been the worst thing had it got him after hitting one of our good guys."
Halladay also said the Phillies' staff needs to do a better job protecting the team's hitters. Utley, incidentally, has been plunked 120 times since the start of the 2007 season, the most in the majors. Check out this photo breakdown and decide for yourself if the man with the majors' best active ratio of walks allowed per nine innings pitched had the ball slip out of his hand.
For his part, Strasburg was just perplexed about the whole thing. "I don't have any reason to throw at [Utley], do I?" he asked. "I mean, I don't understand why they'd think I was throwing at them. . . . If you're going to throw at somebody or send a message in spring training, go ahead." Incidentally, Philadelphia won the game. Still, this feels like a good time to remind you that the Nationals and Phillies will play each other 19 times this season, starting on May 24.