Sunday, March 22, 2015

Homers Hound Hamels As Phillies Fall To Jays


Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista each launched first-inning home runs, and Josh Donaldson went deep in the sixth as the Blue Jays beat the Phillies, 6-3, before a sell-out crowd of 9,568 at Bright House Field. Left-hander Cole Hamels, coming off an outing in which he surrendered five runs on six hits in two innings, settled down after the two early homers. Hamels allowed five hits and struck out five as he threw 72 pitches over 3 2/3 innings. "Just being able to go out there and feel fresh even with that [pitch count] increase, I didn't even notice it," Hamels said. "I guess that's a good thing." Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey made his third Grapefruit League start for the Jays and continued to pitch well. The right-hander pitched a full six innings, allowing five hits and two unearned runs. Reyes and Bautista provided the early offense for Toronto. Reyes crushed his first homer of the spring on Hamels' first pitch, lining it down the left-field line. Bautista followed Reyes' homer with a bomb of his own, sending a 3-1 pitch over the fence in dead center field to make it 2-0. "He hits the ball hard," Hamels said. "If you get yourself in a bad count, you know he's going to do some damage. ... When he's up, you really have to be precise and execute pitches." The Phillies got on the board in the fourth inning. Second baseman Chase Utley reached on an error by Reyes, moved to second on Ryan Howard's groundout and slid home safely after a single to right by catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz then stole second and scored on a single by center fielder Odubel Herrera to tie the game. Donaldson's solo homer off Seth Rosin broke the tie, and the Jays pulled further ahead with three more runs in the eighth. The Phils added a run in the bottom of the inning when Ben Revere scored on a groundout by Russ Canzler to bring the score to 6-3.

Right-hander Jerome Williams will take the mound Sunday as the Phillies head south to face the Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Williams was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday after he "tweaked" his hamstring. Williams has given up three runs on seven hits in eight innings this spring. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET live on MLB.TV.

  • Right-hander Chad Billingsley, working back from surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right arm, threw 18 pitches in one inning during a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex. Billingsley gave up two hits and struck out one batter.
  • Before Saturday's game, the Phillies optioned catcher Tommy Joseph to Minor League camp. Joseph, brought over in the Hunter Pence trade in 2012, went 2-for-13 in five Grapefruit League games. The Phillies now have 44 players in big league camp, including 15 non-roster invitees.
  • Outfielder Jeff Francoeur (oblique soreness) is scheduled to get back on the field Sunday for the first time since March 12, playing right field against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
  • The Phillies honored more than 30 former players, coaches and executives during a pregame Alumni Day ceremony Saturday afternoon. Darren Daulton threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Larry Bowa.

Back To Normal – Chase Utley took another step forward in the Phillies' 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Bright House Field on Saturday, playing four innings at second base -- his first defensive action all spring. Utley only had to make one play, snagging a line drive by Jose Reyes to lead off the third inning, but he said after exiting the game that he felt good. "It went well. Played four innings, didn't have a whole lot of action, but it went well," Utley said. "Just trying to get some defensive reps. Today was a good start." Utley isn't sure what his schedule looks like the rest of the way. With more than two weeks to get ready for Opening Day, the Phillies likely will gradually increase the number of innings he plays at second per game. "I don't necessarily see playing every single day from here on out, but trying to just, take baby steps in a smart way," Utley said. "Good to see him out on the field," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg added. "That's a step in the right direction as far as him saying that he's ready to play the field." Utley, who sprained his right ankle in January, seems to have no issues running the bases. He ran hard from second base, turned the corner at third and slid home safely in the fourth inning of Saturday's game. "So far, so good," Utley said. "The last few games, I've been on the bases, and I've had to pump it up a little bit, and it's been fine."

Out Of Left Field – Ben Revere received word Friday morning that he would be spending some time in left field. So when the Phillies hit the road to Bradenton, Revere hit the field to work at a position he hasn't played in nearly three years. Revere started Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays in left field, with Odubel Herrera in center field. They're slated to line up the same way against the Red Sox on Sunday. Revere has exclusively played center field for the Phillies. He spent 21 games in left with the Twins from 2010-12, and he played 52 games there in the Minors. Could this change be permanent? "Never know. You never know," Revere said Saturday morning. "Definitely a lot of changes this spring and everything, so if it's permanent, got to be ready for it." Revere began getting ready for the idea on Friday, estimating that he fielded 100 balls either hit by Minor League coaches or fed into a machine. It will be an adjustment for Revere, but he seemed to be taking it well. "I'm ready for it. Just something to help get some guys in the lineup, get some bats in the lineup," Revere said. "If it's something I have to do, I have to do [it.] If they move me back to center, I'll be ready for it. But if I play left, I'll be ready for that, too. "As long as I'm in the lineup, as long as I'm out there trying to help the team win, that's the biggest key for me." If it sticks, the switch would provide more of an opportunity for Herrera, the Phils' Rule 5 Draft pick who has impressed so far this spring. Herrera is hitting .389 with four stolen bases. "Kind of all part of Spring Training, to try some different things and some different possibilities," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Something I wanted to look at. All part of Spring Training." Herrera was lifted for a pinch-runner after reaching on a bunt single in the seventh inning on Saturday. He said afterward that his right knee was sore, but Sandberg said the substitution was precautionary. Before that, both players handled the adjustment well Saturday afternoon. Herrera unleashed a perfect throw to shortstop Freddy Galvis, who made an equally impressive throw home to tag out a runner in the sixth inning. Revere threw out a runner at home in the eighth as well. "Herrera's arm, I think, plays in center field, and I think left field allows Ben's arm to play a little better," Sandberg said. "Overall, the defense we show [is] pretty solid in those two positions with that combination."

Stretching Out – Opening Day is a little more than two weeks away, and Cole Hamels has yet to throw four innings in a Grapefruit League game. It's not that Hamels hasn't built up his pitch count; he just hasn't been able to pitch deep enough into games. Hamels threw 72 pitches in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Bright House Field. His pitch limit was 75, so he came out after 3 2/3 innings. The left-hander's velocity is fine, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, and Hamels said he felt so good that he was "shocked" when Sandberg said it was time to come out of the game. But Hamels and Sandberg said the lefty has some work to do before his fastball command is where it should be. "I felt like it got better. It's nowhere where I expect it to be, but that's what I have to work toward the next two weeks," Hamels said. "That's what I'm going to build up to, is really to be able to focus and be able to get the fastball location down more of the nine out of 10 [times], as opposed to probably where I'm at -- at two out of 10." "Cole threw a lot of pitches for his four innings. He had a lot of deep counts. Not sharp yet with control or command," Sandberg said. "That doesn't allow him to really get to his offspeed stuff in counts where he would like to have it. A lot of pitches in four innings." Of course, Hamels' 7.59 ERA this spring is no indication of the pitcher he is during the regular season. He had a spring ERA of 6.67 in 2011 then went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA during the season. Sandberg even said there were "no concerns for Cole as far as I'm concerned." But when it comes to preparing for the season, Hamels would obviously like to pitch deeper into games to build up his stamina. "Just want to be able to get out there and get enough up-down innings, which I think is the next step," Hamels said. "I think that would probably be everybody's goal as a starter."

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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