Big League Stew - MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies have invited a robot to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before their game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.

The mechanical man is headlining "Science Day" at Citizens Bank Park and is ready to show what he can do with a baseball. Curiously, the creators of "Philliebot" — a droid built by University of Pennsylvania engineers — say his pitch to the Phillies mascot won't reach speeds higher than 30-40 mph.

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Robot overlord Jamie Gewirtz told the Philadelphia Inquirer it's a matter of safety for the robot's first appearance at CBP.

"We had strict instructions not to hurt the Phillie Phanatic," Gewirtz said. "So we wanted to make sure that we had something that would go the distance but also throw softly enough that it wasn't going to injure anyone."

But 30-40 mph? He's going to have to throw harder if the team wants Philliebot to replace struggling right-hander Kyle Kendrick(notes). That's the real reason for this charade, right?


"In theory, you could up the pneumatics, up the speed of the 'wham' arm and throw this pretty quickly," Gewirtz said. "But that could put a damper on somebody's day if it really was moving that fast."

Such a damp day could be happening soon to Kendrick, who was on the verge of being traded to Japan in the spring of 2008 before the club relented (actually, it was an elaborate prank).

Kendrick is making $2.45 million as a mop-up man and has pitched poorly in 2011; he has six walks in six innings, including an ugly performance in Monday's loss to Milwaukee. And he's the guy that so many in Philly prefer to blame for stuff.

But the team hasn't had any better options — until this robot came along. Therefore, scouting has to be the real reason behind Philliebot's appearance.

Philliebot, a creation of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception lab (GRASP — get it?) at Penn, is fitted with a jai-alai cesta for a hand and a modified Segway platform for mobility. No Tasers, according to its specs.

If the Phillies sought to improve security, they would bring in The Robot from "Lost in Space," with its built-in Tasers and oral warnings of "Danger!"

Big BLS H/T: Hardball Talk

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