CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Philadelphia Phillies signing right-hander Kyle Kendrick to a two-year, $7.75 million contract extension Sunday won't prevent GM Ruben Amaro from using Nippon Professional Baseball as leverage again if he has to.
Back in spring training 2008, the Phillies famously concocted a most diabolical practical joke on Kendrick, telling him he was traded to the Yomiuri Giants for someone named Kobayashi Iwamura. Not a real person. Not a real deal. But Kendrick fell for it hard when Amaro (then the assistant to Pat Gillick) handed him the paperwork, and manager Charlie Manuel explained that he was headed overseas. Former teammate Brett Myers (the brains behind the gag) consoled Kendrick. All of it was caught on TV and it was one of Big League Stew's first big hits on the front page of Yahoo!
Anyway, on the occasion of Kendrick's extension, Amaro was asked if the Phillies gave him a no-trade clause to Japan.
"No, we did not," Amaro said. "But we could still send him there."
Kendrick, no longer an unsuspecting kid entering his sophomore season, wasn't buying it this time.
"I'm not 21 anymore," said Kendrick, who finished with a career-best 3.22 ERA in 2011.
Amaro, recalling the ruse, said he was a last-moment fill-in for Gillick.
"The funniest thing for me about that was, I wasn't even supposed to be involved," Amaro said. "Pat Gillick was supposed to be the one to tell him, but at the last second he backed out, 'Nah, nah.' So they made me do it."
Though he probably prefers to start, Kendrick said he is fine with relieving; pitching coach Rich Dubee said it was a possibility.
"I'll do whatever they ask," Kendrick said.
Except go to Japan.
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So I'm in the Clearwater Walmart, up to no good, when I see these displays:
The display was not that big of a surprise. The Phillies have been training in Clearwater since Mike Schmidt was a baby, or something, and the fan base always travels well. Plus, nothing opens the pocketbooks of Phillies fans like oversized team beach towels (with choice of color) and an appeal to "Visit Our Snack Center In the Store."
But what is that display under the sign?
It's a closet made of Budweiser cases, and it's filled with Phillies shirts! On the right, note the hanger clinging to the handle. Great beer closet engineering.
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Back to baseball: The Phillies really do envision Jim Thome playing some first base, even though he hasn't played the field in years because of the limitations of his balky back. Manuel even suggested Thome might be able to play first perhaps twice a week until Ryan Howard returns from his Achilles' injury. Nothing is impossible, except maybe for this.
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Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik are both in camp, which proves that they are not the same person. The Phillies are hoarding all of the speedy, big-socked former White Sox left fielders with raggedy left-handed arms. (Is there a playoff tiebreaker?) Pierre has a good shot to stick and play some left field.
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Dallas Green (left), Pat Gillick and Manuel presumably talk baseball.
Check back later in the day for an update on Vance Worley as he aims to post a super sophomore season ...