TORONTO - It is never pretty when siblings go at it.
On the floor of Rogers Centre on Friday, Mariners bullpen catcher Jason Phillips and his younger brother, Blue Jays reserve catcher Kyle Phillips, ran a race for the ages – spurred on by Toronto players who wanted to see the epic confrontation.
“You had slow vs. slow,” Jason said. “Neither one of us was born with any speed.”
Jason Phillips retired this spring as a player at age 32, about the same time 25-year-old Kyle got his first big-league time with the Blue Jays.
For the first time this season, they got a long weekend together, trying to catch up. But being around other players meant the reunion became something else.
“I was teasing Vernon Wells (Thursday) and he yelled at me in the bullpen – ‘Be on the field tomorrow, 3 p.m.’,”Jason said.
Phillips showed up and learned Wells, the Blue Jays’ center fielder, and other players had set up a 60-yard dash to be run, mano y mano, by the Phillips brothers.
“I hadn’t run since spring training,” Phillips said. “And Wells tells me he’s got money on my brother. I told him, ‘You should.’ When we started, I thought I might lock up and go down.”
The race was close at the midpoint, but Kyle finished a full stride ahead of his brother. The two embraced afterward and laughed.
“My only shot today was to beat him off the line,” Jason said.
Turns out, he’d used that strategy to win their last sprint – in 2004.
“It was the offseason after he’d been drafted, and my dad was throwing to both of us and somehow we wound up racing,” Jason said. “I smoked him off the line and just did beat him. Apparently, he remembered.”
Remember the days when the Mariners played 81 games a season on the Kingdome’s AstroTurf – and inevitably had players complaining of swollen ankles and knees?
Well, the team rarely plays on turf these days, but all six games of this trip are being played on the rubberized grass.
“You worry about guys, like (Ken Griffey) Junior,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “When we get home, you watch, someone will be stiff. Now, it’s mostly because guys don’t play on it much.”
It can also be a factor in the field, Wakamatsu said.
“The ground ball to Adrian Beltre that got through (Thursday) is an example,” Wakamatsu said. “That ball comes up almost everywhere we’ve played this season, but on turf, it stayed down on him.”
The ball went between Beltre’s legs for an error.
Designated hitter Mike Sweeney took a pitch off his left big toe Thursday and was hobbling a day later. The Mariners face two lefties in the final two games in Toronto, and are hoping Sweeney is good enough to return to the lineup. ... Russell Branyan was a “little stiff” a day after his first full session of batting practice. That meant no ground balls again Friday, but he did take another round of batting practice. The team remains uncertain when the first baseman will return. ... Shortstop Jack Wilson isn’t progressing much with the bone bruise in his heel that sidelined him last week at home. His chances of playing again this season remain remote.
The Mariners play the Blue Jays in a 10:07 a.m. PDT game that will be televised on FSN. Probable starting pitchers: Ian Snell (5-2, 4.53 ERA) vs. David Purcey (1-2, 5.31).