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01/02/08 11:00 AM ET

Mailbag: Fans' eyes on Abe, pitching

MLB.com reporter Ken Mandel answers your questions

I'm beginning the first mailbag of the new year with a question I had never received before.

Hey Ken, here's a curveball for the new year. In glancing at the Phillies roster from 1883, I stumbled across the name Abraham Lincoln. How is this possible, especially since he was assassinated in 1865?
-- Martin B., Lancaster, Pa.

That is an amazing random question and a fantastic way to start 2008. When I first saw it, I thought you were nuts, and decided to prove it through research. Of course, I found the opposite: an Abraham Lincoln did play for the Phillies, though he was obviously not the author of the Gettysburg Address.

His full name was Abraham Lincoln Wolsenholme, and he was a catcher who made his debut on June 4, 1883, according to www.baseballreference.com. A 22-year-old rookie, he went 1-for-11 in his first and only season in the Majors (the hit was a double), getting 11 more plate appearances than the much famous Archie "Moonlight" Graham.

Here's the awesome part: He was born March 4, 1861, the same day Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th President, which is likely where he got his middle name. He also passed away on his birthday in 1916 in Philadelphia, 150 miles from Ford's Theatre.

I enjoyed answering that inquiry, though I realize I likely opened the door for questions regarding William Aloysius "Blondie" Purcell, Frank Gray "Piggy" Ward and Alonzo Breitenstein.

Is there a little more pressure on Chase Utley now that Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have a Most Valuable Player Award in their trophy cases?
-- Brian B., Montgomery, N.J.

It's doubtful. Utley puts plenty of pressure on himself without worrying about winning an MVP. He'll continue as the game's best offensive second baseman, regardless of any hardware won by his teammates.

What's going on with Kris Benson? Didn't he throw for scouts? You mentioned several times that the Phillies might be interested in him.
-- Mike B., Hilton Head Island, S.C.

The team's interest has cooled somewhat. General manager Pat Gillick said the organization felt Benson was "still a couple months" away, meaning that it was too early to get a proper gauge on how he was doing in his recovery from right shoulder surgery. He's still a possibility, just not a very likely one, since they've subsequently went in a different direction with Chad Durbin.

There has been a lot of talk of securing starting pitching this offseason. Is there anyone on the farm who could step into a starter's role and be as effective as Kyle Kendrick was in 2007?
-- Wayne S., Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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The Phillies don't think anyone is close at this point, but they quickly point out that they said that last year, too, before Kendrick showed up and pitched well. Keep an eye on Josh Outman, Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ and Joe Savery. One of them could be wearing a Phillies uniform during the season.

Are there any plans to hire Mike Schmidt as a hitting or bench coach?
-- Jim M., Langhorne Pa.

No. Schmidt will likely return for his usual 10-day stint as a special hitting instructor in Spring Training, but he doesn't want anything more than that. Schmidt dipped his toe in the managerial waters a few years ago as the Class A Clearwater Threshers manager, and left after one season.

What are the chances of the Phillies giving Freddy Garcia another shot or bringing back Eric Milton?
-- Shane D., Philadelphia

Zero. And seriously, why would they want to?

I noticed that Bob Wickman is still a free agent. Could he be a possibility for the bullpen? He could be a nice middle guy and good insurance should something happen to Brad Lidge and Tom Gordon at closer.
-- Anthony A., Oreland, Pa.

The Phillies were slightly interested in Wickman when he was released by Atlanta late last season, but soured when they believed he would be unhappy doing anything but closing. That was one of the reasons he was released by Atlanta. If that remains true, Philadelphia will remain uninterested.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.