Notes: Perez's release hits home
Teammates say they will miss fun-loving, energetic infielder
PHILADELPHIA -- Word spread quickly through the Phillies clubhouse, as players learned that one of their favorites was gone. Some eyes welled up as they lined up to say goodbye to Tomas Perez.Despite what you might think about baseball players keeping their emotions in check and understanding the business side of the sport, they still take it hard when a popular member of their fraternity gets traded or released. Perez was one of those players, as the club released him on Sunday. "I'll say one thing, I'll miss the pies in the face," said Ryan Howard. "I'll tell you that much. It's unfortunate to have that with anybody, but that's the business of the game that nobody really wants to look at." It wasn't just the shaving cream pies that made Perez a constant presence in the clubhouse since joining the organization in 1999. Always the first player out of the dugout after a homer or game-winning hit, and often the player keeping others loose, Perez was constantly smiling and relished being one of the guys. "He's high on my Top 10 list of my favorite players I've played with," said Mike Lieberthal. "Everyone knows you only come across so many really good guys in your career, and he's one of them." "I can speak for everybody on the team," said David Bell. "This is probably one of the toughest losses. We're going to miss him a lot. He's a great guy, a great teammate. I know everything is going to work out for him, but we're certainly going to miss him here." Perez was understandably emotional after Sunday's game, pausing to compose himself. He spoke softly in discussing his future. "I'm 32 years old, and know I can help another team," Perez said. "I did my best for this team, and I appreciate what they did for me. It's part of the life. They had to make a decision. I wish good luck for these guys and this team, and thank the fans who support me for my career. "I have to turn the page." A hard day: Not every Spring Training story has a happy ending, and Chris Coste became a victim of the club not having enough roster room. The addition of outfielder David Dellucci completed the Phils' bench and ended Coste's magical Spring Training without the desired result. The 33-year-old career Minor Leaguer hit .463 this spring with three homers, and he did everything to make the club but sell peanuts and popcorn in the stands. He said all spring that he wanted to at least get on the radar for possible future consideration, and he's done that. "Small consolation," said Coste, his eyes tearing up. "The chance to play ... That was the big thing." Highly emotional, Coste -- who was reassigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- cut the pregame session short, and walked away from reporters and wasn't available after the game. "He's kind of upset right now, and probably has a right to be because of what he did and what he showed us," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's in a better position now than he was before he came to Spring Training, whether he realizes it or not." "The guy hit close to .500 all spring, then didn't make the club," said general manager Pat Gillick. "It's tough. None of these situations are easy when you have to disappoint people, and it's especially disappointing for a guy who's 33 and did all he could. We just decided that Dave Dellucci was a better fit for our club than Chris, but it wasn't easy. "You could tell by his body language that it was a kick in the stomach." Bell ready: Playing nine innings on Sunday in 58-degree weather proved to be the final test for Bell, who played his way onto the Opening Day roster. Bell got a late start this spring because of injuries to his left elbow and right quad, but he missed the most time because of back problems. But he played in Minor League games and worked his way back. "If my health was an issue, I would've gone in and told them," Bell said. "I wouldn't want to affect the team that way, so I'm 100 percent healthy and ready to start the season." A familiar ring: Aaron Rowand has big plans for Tuesday's off-day. He'll fly to Chicago to receive his World Series ring with his former White Sox teammates. "I couldn't have planned it any better," Rowand said. "It's important to pick up the hardware [in person], because you never know how many opportunities you're going to get." Rowand spent the past five seasons with the White Sox and helped end Chicago's 88-year World Series drought last season. He said he doesn't plan to lock his jewelry away in a safety deposit box. "I'm going to be flashing it around," Rowand said. "I earned that thing. I'm going to be wearing it. And if I lose it, I'll buy another one. If you lose it, you can have the company make another one. "I might say I lost it and get another one, and put that one away." Highlight reel: Shane Victorino couldn't help but smirk as he bounced up in center field during Sunday's exhibition game against the Red Sox, probably because he knew what awaited him in the clubhouse. "When the ball hits your glove, you're supposed to catch it," said Rowand. "Oooops." Victorino tracked a Chris Durbin fly to the center-field wall and stuck out his glove. Momentum jarred the ball loose and off the wall, then back into his glove. "That will make the not so Top 10," Victorino said. "It was more shocking, like, 'What just happened?'" Rowand was particularly impressed with Victorino's performance after misplaying the ball, when Victorino appeared to act as if he caught the ball. Players assigned: The Phillies assigned Coste, right-handers Clay Condrey, Jeremy Cummings, Travis Minix, Brian Sanches and catcher Dusty Wathan to Triple-A and outfielder Peter Bergeron to Double-A Reading.
Philling in: Manuel said after Sunday's game that he wasn't sure about his Opening Day lineup, but he did say Lieberthal would start for the 10th straight season. ... Gavin Floyd will start the fourth game of the season on Friday, with Ryan Madson following him as the fifth starter. ... Howard led the Phillies with 29 hits in Spring Training, including a franchise record 11 home runs. ... The players who participated the World Baseball Classic were recognized before Sunday's game.
Coming up: Jon Lieber makes his seventh career Opening Day start on Monday at 3:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park, when he opposes St. Louis' Chris Carpenter. Lieber is 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA when starting the first game of the season.
Also, shorstop Jimmy Rollins resumes his quest to break Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Rollins enters the season with at least one hit in 36 consecutive games.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.