Aug 302010

Phillies 1B Mike Sweeney

August 30 Philadelphia Daily News

“It is still far too early to tell if the Phillies‘ acquisition of first baseman Mike Sweeney will pay dividends similar to the ones they reaped from August additions Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre during their World Series run in 2008. But the early returns are promising.

In yesterday’s 5-0 win over the Padres, the five-time All-Star hit his first home run with his new team, lining a two-run shot off Padres lefty Clayton Richard to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning.

The home run touched off the type of emotional outpouring that has come to define the 16-year veteran. After willing the ball over the leftfield wall, Sweeney had heartfelt dugout hugs with everybody from Jimmy Rollins to bench coach Pete Mackanin.

“He is definitely one of a kind,” said Rollins, who went 5-for-13 with two runs and one RBI in the Phillies’ three-game sweep of the Padres. “He gave me a hug after the home run. Usually, it’s you trying to initiate the hug. I was giving him a handshake, and he was like, ‘Give me a hug.’ All right, Sweeney.”

Sweeney, acquired shortly after Ryan Howard went on the disabled list with a sprained ankle on Aug. 3, was in the lineup in part to give the struggling slugger a day off. In seven starts since returning from the DL, Howard is just 3-for-32 (.094) with 16 strikeouts, one walk, and no extra-base hits. Including the final four games he played before spraining his ankle against the Nationals on Aug. 1, Howard is 4-for-46 (.087) with 24 strikeouts, two walks and no extra-base hits.

It doesn’t get easier for Howard when the Phillies open a three-game series at Dodger Stadium tonight. In his career against righty Hiroki Kuroda and lefty Clayton Kershaw, who are scheduled to start tonight and Wednesday, he is a combined 1-for-16 (.063) with seven strikeouts. Righty Carlos Monasterios, a 24-year-old who spent 4 years in the Phillies system before the Dodgers selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December, will start the second game of the series.

“I kind of wanted to just give him a break,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He hit the ball pretty good [Saturday], although he didn’t get any hits. He’s scuffling to get his timing. And we’re getting ready to go play the Dodgers and we played a day game today and I kind of wanted to get him a day off here. They’ve got two righties and they’ve got Kershaw. I wanted to put him back on a righty, try to get his swing good.”

The presence of the righthanded-hitting Sweeney provides the luxury to do so, especially with lefthanded-hitting backup first baseman Ross Gload on the disabled list. In a 3-1 win over the Padres on Saturday, the energetic veteran beat out a potential doubleplay ball that scored an insurance run. Since joining the Phillies, Sweeney is 10-for-42 (.238) with six RBI, four walks and seven runs.

“I’m just embracing being here as a new member of the Phillies,” said Sweeney, 37, who has never appeared in the postseason. “Any time I can go out there and play, whether it be a pinch-hit or giving big Ryan a day off, I want to do everything I can to help this team win. I’m thankful I was able to do it today.””

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