Friday, February 27, 2015

Pat Gets A Plaque, Frenchie Has A Chance


Burrell Headed To The Wall – The Phillies offered Pat Burrell a pretty sweet farewell from Philadelphia in 2008. Burrell led the World Series championship parade down Broad Street. He then signed with the Tampa Bay Rays a short time later, ending his nine-year career with the Phillies. But the Phillies are bringing Burrell back to Citizens Bank Park on July 31 to induct the slugger onto the organization's Wall of Fame. "He was a big part of our team," former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Thursday at Bright House Field. "People in Philadelphia were excited about him. They stuck with him even when he would hit some slumps or wouldn't do so good. He became a big leader on our team." The Phillies made Burrell the first overall selection in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft. He debuted with the Phillies in 2000 and delivered a double in the seventh inning in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, which led to the winning run in the series' final game. He hit .257 with 251 home runs, 827 RBIs and an .852 OPS during his time with the Phillies. Only Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Del Ennis have hit more homers in Phillies history. Burrell's 827 RBIs rank 10th on the franchise list. "It's a tremendous honor and privilege to be added to the wall next to Philly's all-time greats," Burrell said in a statement. 

Frenchie Has A Chance – Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said last week he hopes to help Jeff Francoeur's swing and get him back to the big leagues. "Hopefully, we can get him back to where he was a few years ago," Manuel said. The true tests will come once Grapefruit League games begin on Tuesday, but so far Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has liked what he has seen from Francoeur, a non-roster invitee who could make the team as an extra outfielder. "He's fun to be around," Sandberg said following Thursday's workout at Carpenter Complex. "He's a guy that's very welcome in camp as far as everybody is concerned. For a right-handed bat, he's making some adjustments. He's trying some things differently. He's shown some very good swings of the bat off the coaches so far in camp, so I'm anxious to see him in game situations." Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, Grady Sizemore are locks to make the outfield. Darin Ruf has a good shot at a spot because he can also play first base. Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera has a good chance to make the team, too. Francoeur could battle Ruf for a roster spot because both hit right-handed, or both could make the team if the Phillies decide to carry only one utility infielder or one fewer relief pitcher in the bullpen. "He's shown to have a good arm in right field, and he's a good outfielder," Sandberg said. "He brings a good attitude to the clubhouse. It seems like every time I look at him he's got a few guys around him. I think there's a good reason behind that. Players tend to go to him." The Phillies want infielder Freddy Galvis to think down and think easy. Sandberg said the coaching staff has been giving Galvis a few key reminders in the batter's box. "'Abajo' is down and the other key is 'suave' to take it easy, take it easy," Sandberg said about the native Venezuelan. "When he swings easy, the ball jumps off his bat. Then he has a chance to get bigger from then on out. I think just taking it easy and putting a consistent bat on the ball and a short swing for Freddy will help him. He'll have to fight that a little bit. It's a part of his game, but he has to go forward to help us win games."

The Phillies Fleeting Options – The Phillies can remove another potential landing spot for closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Brewers and Francisco Rodriguez on Thursday agreed to a two-year, $13 million contract, effectively making him Milwaukee's closer this season. The Phillies have been trying to trade Papelbon for nearly two years. They had been talking seriously with the Brewers earlier this year, but the talks stalled in recent weeks. The Phillies also have been talking to the Blue Jays, although those discussions had been considered less serious than those with Milwaukee. Of course, anything can change with one phone call. Papelbon told he would welcome a trade to Toronto. "Yes, Toronto interests me -- if it interests [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.]," he said. "I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They're a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I'd be interested." Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause and could block a trade to Toronto, but the closer has indicated in the past it would not be an obstacle. He is set to make $13 million this season with a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he finishes 48 games in 2015.

Aiming For Opening Day – Nearly every time a Rule 5 Draft pick enters Spring Training, somebody likes to mention Rule 5 success stories like Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino and Joakim Soria. They are the best of the best. There are many more times a Rule 5 pick does not survive camp and returns to his former team, or survives the entire season with his new team but fails to make a significant impact at the big league level. The Phillies hope Odubel Herrera, whom they drafted with the eighth overall pick in December's Rule 5 Draft, leans more toward Victorino (2004 pick) than Michael Martinez (2010 pick). "I feel good about it and excited about it when I received the news," Herrera said Thursday morning at Bright House Field. The Phillies jumped at the opportunity to draft Herrera, who won the Double-A Texas League batting title last season and the batting title this winter in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has played mostly infield in the past, but this spring, the Phillies are looking at him as an outfielder. He played exclusively center field in Venezuela, but he also will see time in camp in left and right. Because the Phillies aren't counting on making the postseason in 2015, Herrera has an excellent chance to make the Opening Day roster and stick with the team for the entire season. Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, Grady Sizemore and Darin Ruf figure to have the inside track at four of the outfield jobs. Herrera could be the fifth. "We feel like we're taking a shot on a prospect," Phillies pro scouting director Mike Ondo said in December. "We've always viewed this guy as an offensive utility guy. The difference is this year, toward the end of the year, he started playing in the outfield. He's a good athlete. He has some speed. He obviously has a feel for hitting. We like the bat speed." Herrera hit .321 with 16 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 48 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a .775 OPS over 96 games for Double-A Frisco in 2014. His OPS ranked 10th among Texas League hitters with 300 or more plate appearances. He then hit .372 with 14 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 27 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .988 OPS in winter ball. The 23-year-old showed more pop in Venezuela. How much more does he have? "You're going to see," Herrera said with a smile. In the previous 10 Spring Trainings, the Phillies had 10 Rule 5 picks in camp. Three made the Opening Day roster: Ender Inciarte (2013), Martinez ('11) and David Herndon ('10). Inciarte only lasted a few days before the Phillies returned him to Arizona for Ezequiel Carrera. Martinez and Herndon survived the seasons. Many forget, but Victorino didn't make the Opening Day roster in 2005. The Phillies offered him back to the Dodgers, but they declined. The Phillies got incredibly lucky there. Victorino re-signed with the Phillies, and he spent most of the season in Triple-A before getting a callup in September. He established himself as an everyday outfielder and helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series. "I'll try to do the best I can, and if I make team as a Rule 5, I'd like to do that and follow his steps," Herrera said.

The Phillies will look to rebound this season from a 73-89 record last year. While uncertainty abounds, there is little question that the franchise is in rebuild mode based on the moves and statements that have been made during the offseason. The only question that remains is whether or not the young and veteran talent on the team can work together to disprove Gillick’s predictions either this year or next.

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