Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hamels Impresses Scouts In Loss To Yankees

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Yankees Beat Phillies 4-1

The Yankees batted around in the fourth inning, breaking open a scoreless game on the way to a 4-1 win against the Phillies on Friday at Bright House Field. Left-hander Cole Hamels made his first start of the spring for the Phillies and picked up right where he left off in 2014, when he finished with a 2.46 ERA. The lefty pitched two shutout innings, allowing just one single, and struck out two. "Cole looked really good. He had his rhythm. Real good pace to him," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He mixed his pitches well. Under the [rainy] conditions and everything, he performed good." Hamels was facing a split-squad lineup that included what is expected to be the Yankees' Opening Day starting infield: Mark Teixeira at first, Stephen Drew at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Chase Headley at third. Hamels has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason. He threw 31 pitches, about evenly divided between fastballs and changeups, 22 for strikes. Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who made his Major League debut last August, was every bit as good as the more celebrated veteran. He faced the minimum six batters in his two innings; Freddy Galvis singled but was erased on a double play started with an athletic play by Gregorius. The game started with a light rain falling and play was halted in the middle of the third. Play resumed after a 50- minute delay. The Yankees broke through against Phillies reliever Mike Nesseth in the top of the fourth. Teixeira led off with a single, and designated hitter Greg Bird followed with an RBI double, going to third on the throw to the plate. With one out, Ramon Flores singled to score Bird. With two outs, Slade Heathcott walked, and Gregorius singled to drive in the Yankees third run. The Yanks added another run in the sixth. Xavier Paul got the Phillies on the board with a home run in the seventh. Jaron Long, son of former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, recorded the win after throwing a scoreless third inning.

Veteran right-hander Jerome Williams will be looking to strengthen his hold on a spot in the rotation when he starts against the Blue Jays on Saturday at Bright House Field. Game time is 1:05 p.m. ET (watch on MLB.TV). Williams, 33, blossomed for the Phillies last season after being released by the Astros and placed on waivers by the Rangers, going 4-2 with 2.83 ERA in nine starts after being claimed by the Phils.


Scouts Out To See Hamels – Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels is well aware of the trade speculation that has swirled around him since the start of the offseason. And if it slipped his mind, all he had to do was look behind the plate at Bright House Field on Friday afternoon where 24 scouts assembled to watch his first start of the Grapefruit League. Hamels didn't disappoint against a Yankees split-squad lineup that included Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius. He sailed through two shutout innings, allowing one single while striking out two in a 4-1 Phillies loss. And he was just as hard to pin down when asked if he felt under the microscope when he went to the mound. "I think the whole team is. ... All the guys are," he said. "There's a lot of jobs to be won. I think if you're a young guy, it's a great position to be in. As veterans, I think that's just the situation and scenario that happened over the last couple years that we're in. I think it's everyone, even the front office. It's a team aspect, a team sport. And I think that's just kind of where we've been placed." He also insisted that rumors that he could be headed to the Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres or Yankees haven't been at all disruptive. "This has been a great spring, just from a sense of the overall team aspect of what we're trying to do out there, how we're trying to implement a new focus," he said. "But at the same time, we all know that we have to get ready and we have to be as competitive as we possibly can. So for what I like to do, and how I try to prepare, I've kept to the same sort of routine." The game started in a steady drizzle, but Hamels said he wasn't concerned about slipping and injuring himself. "You just want to get it in because there's a schedule and you want to stay on the same schedule to get ready for Opening Day and the year," he said. "I was getting ready. It's something where I just wanted to go out there and face hitters. Batting practices are great, bullpens are great, but there is just a little more adrenaline and focus that you need when you actually have a guy in there from an opposing team. And he's trying to get base hits, score runs. It's just the competitive nature and you want to be able to get that first one out of the way."

Ruiz Receives Rest – The last few springs catcher Darren Daulton spent with the Phillies, when the wear and tear had begun to accumulate, he was on a unique program. He usually didn't play behind the plate until around St. Patrick's Day. The Phillies are taking a similar approach with Carlos Ruiz this year. Even though he caught Cole Hamels in Friday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees split-squad at Bright House Field, he's not likely to start at catcher often in the early days of Grapefruit League play. "We kind of have a program for him," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "I'm going to get him behind the plate as needed the first half of Spring Training here. Get him to DH the other games. We also have a chance to get him some at-bats when they start [in the Minor League camp]." Keeping Ruiz healthy is a priority for the Phillies. He's 36 years old and has spent time on the disabled list each year since 2009, including twice for concussions. He's averaged 94 starts each of the last three seasons. The hope is that keeping Ruiz from getting too beat up in Florida will allow him to play more frequently and stay more productive. "For him to get work and throw and block and everything. But also preserve himself a little bit and have him on a schedule that has him ready for Opening Day," Sandberg said. Said Ruiz: "That's the plan until the middle of Spring Training, to be in good shape for the end of the season. I'm still catching bullpens in the morning and doing all my work. To keep fresh. Believe me, I don't want to get hurt. My goal is to stay healthy this year and play the most games that I can. Right now my body feels great. I don't have any issues." As important as it is for a catcher to get to know his pitchers, Ruiz doesn't anticipate a problem. He's still working with them. Just not during games. "I catch a lot of bullpens. I'm there every morning and try to catch everybody," he said. "I still do everything to try to stay focused behind the plate. In the bullpen sessions, I do it like a game. I block some balls. I feel great and that's important to me. "I know the games are different, but I watch the games. When the games are on TV I watch how the guys like to throw. Communication is the key. You put everything together and it ought to be good."

Focusing On Small Ball – When reserve outfielder Xavier Paul homered to lead off the seventh inning Friday, it wasn't just the only run the Phillies got in a 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to a Yankees split squad. It was the only home run the Phillies have hit in four games this spring. And while that's a small sample, manager Ryne Sandberg knows it could be a harbinger of what's to come. Last season the Phillies hit 125 home runs, the lowest total for the team since 1997. They also traded two of their top three power threats from last year, Marlon Byrd (25 home runs) and Jimmy Rollins (17). The projected starting outfield of Domonic Brown (10 home runs), Ben Revere (two) and Grady Sizemore (five) or Darin Ruf (three) combined for 20 home runs last season. "I look at our club and we're going to have to be able to do some little things," Sandberg said. "We're going to have to be able to move runners, make contact, hit and run, bunt. Maybe bunt early in the game, that type of thing. Definitely not to wait for the home run. To manufacture runs, especially early, to get a lead for the starting pitchers. That will be important for us." Of course, it's also possible that power could come from an unexpected source. "Darin Ruf could be a surprise guy for me," Sandberg said. "[Third baseman] Cody Asche and Sizemore might be guys who can chip in. Who knows how many home runs they can hit? If we're just thinking about solid contact and more contact and cutting down strikeouts from the type of team we had last year, I think that will go a long way with us. Driving balls into the gaps and some of those doubles turning into home runs."

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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