Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Wonder What The Goldbergs Think Of This Phillies Team?

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Braves 5-3

Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf damaged Mike Foltynewicz's rotation bid with back-to-back third-inning home runs, and Brian Bogusevic delivered a decisive eighth-inning sacrifice fly for the Phillies in Tuesday afternoon's 5-3 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium. Howard's third home run of the Grapefruit League season highlighted the Phillies' offensive charge, after they struck first with Bogusevic's second-inning RBI single. The Braves remained scoreless until Andrelton Simmons highlighted a game-tying, three-run seventh with a two-run homer off Paul Clemens.

The Phillies host the Astros on Wednesday afternoon at Bright House Field at 1:05 p.m. ET. It is another important start for right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who is competing for a job in the Phillies' rotation. Gonzalez's performance this spring has been uneven at best, but a solid outing Wednesday could put him in good position to make the team. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

  • Phillies pitching prospect Severino Gonzalez allowed four hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings. He got the start because Aaron Harang remained in Clearwater, Fla, where he threw in a Minor League game. Gonzalez is the organization's No. 15 prospect, according to
  • It looks like Ruf is getting on track offensively. He went 3-for-5 with one double, one home run and one RBI against the Braves. He has homered twice in the past six games and remains in line for one of the Phillies' five bench jobs.
  • Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown is not sure if he will be ready for Opening Day. He has been sidelined since Thursday because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. He said he hopes to begin running in the next couple of days.
  • Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies are hoping Billingsley, who is recovering from a pair of elbow surgeries, will be ready to join the rotation in late April.
  • Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt walked off the field following Howard's homer. Play had been briefly halted earlier in the inning when it appeared Wendelstedt was having trouble keeping his balance while standing near first base. 

Brown Questionable For Opening Day – Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown has just 13 days to get himself ready for Opening Day. He cannot say if he will make it, but he said the tendinitis in his left Achilles has improved in the past couple days. Brown left Thursday's Grapefruit League game in the third inning because the Achilles bothered him. "I'm feeling better, much better," Brown said Tuesday morning at Bright House Field. "I'm not going to lie to you guys, I was a little nervous there before the MRI. "Hopefully I can be back on the field in another week or so." Brown said he expects to start running in the next few days. In the meantime, he is receiving treatment, riding a bike and playing catch. He has not hit since Thursday. "Hopefully I can be ready for Opening Day," he said. "That's the goal right now, but we'll see what happens. I'm excited it wasn't a tear or anything like that. We're moving in the right direction." If Brown is unable to play Opening Day, the Phillies could open with Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera and Grady Sizemore or Darin Ruf in the outfield.

Ruf Waking Up – Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf had a slow start to spring, but he remains in good shape to make the Opening Day roster. The Phillies need right-handed bats, preferably with power. Ruf fits that description, and in Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the Braves at Champion Stadium, he went 3-for-5 with one double, one home run and one RBI. He also scored the go-ahead run in the eighth. Ruf is hitting .385 (5-for-13) with one double, two home runs and two RBIs in his last five games. He opened the spring hitting .172 (5-for-29) with one double in nine games. "I would narrow that down to maybe the last three [games]," Ruf said about feeling better at the plate. "I'm feeling a little more comfortable. I've been working on something new every day, just changing things up to try to get comfortable. My timing has been better." Ruf took some at-bats in Minor League games last week, which seemed to help. "I think my hands were creeping a little too far up," Ruf said. "I worked with Mike [Schmidt] and Sal [Rende], and I started my hands back a little more. That way when I start my swing, they're a little bit quicker." Said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg: "[He's been] a little more aggressive. I think he's found a stance that he likes as far as the hand slot. He's real short to the ball and aggressive in the count. That's a good combination from him. That's kind of what we've been preaching to him. It's good to see him take advantage of those hitting situations and be swinging the bat in those counts."

The Other Gonazalez Is Looking Good – Phillies prospect Severino Gonzalez is listed at 6-foot-1 and 153 pounds. He is so unassuming, he looked like the bat boy as he carried a couple bats and a batting helmet toward the visitors' clubhouse Tuesday at Champion Stadium. But Gonzalez, 22, had just pitched three scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory over the Braves. He held a lineup that included Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes to four hits. He struck out two. "I'm very, very happy," he said through an interpreter, radio personality Rickie Ricardo. "It was my first time ever in a Major League game, so I'm very pleased." Gonzalez is the organization's No. 15 prospect, according to The Phillies named him their Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, but he struggled a bit in his second season with Double-A Reading in 2014. There is a plausible explanation for that. The Phillies told Gonzalez to stop throwing his cutter and work on his changeup, which needed to improve. He went 9-13 with a 4.59 ERA in 27 starts, although he finished in the Top 10 in the Eastern League in innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. He led the entire Phillies' farm system in starts and innings. He got the start Tuesday because Aaron Harang pitched in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. Harang has been battling back problems this month, so there was no reason to put him on a lengthy bus ride. Gonzalez got the good news on Sunday. "I was nervous when I first found out, but then I said to myself: 'It's the same kind of baseball. All I have to do is go out there, do my thing, and everything will be fine,'" Gonzalez said. Gonzalez thinks everything will be fine this season, too. He has big goals. "I want to get called up in September," he said. "I want a taste of the Major Leagues this year." He got his first taste Tuesday, and he fared well, impressing manager Ryne Sandberg. "I think he backed up [wanting a callup] with his outing," Sandberg said. "ESPN game against the Braves. They had some good hitters in the lineup that he faced. Great pace of game. Great tempo. He threw a lot of strikes. He mixed his pitches well. I really liked the way he got the sign and delivered the pitch."

Is Harang Health? – Right-hander Aaron Harang remained on schedule to start the second game of the regular season against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, if that's what the Phillies decide, after pitching five innings against a Pirates Class A lineup on Tuesday at the Carpenter Complex. Harang, who has had scheduled starts pushed back twice this spring because of lower back discomfort, allowed three runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 54 for strikes, and then he went to the bullpen at Ashburn Field and threw seven more pitches. Most importantly, he said he experienced no physical problems. "It felt good. No problems getting up and down," said the 36-year-old, who threw to regular catcher Carlos Ruiz. "I felt like I had pretty decent command. Not great. But when you come over and throw one of these back-field games, it's more about just a feel. These guys want to come out and swing hard and swing early, so it makes you have to pitch backwards -- work on your offspeed stuff early in the counts and then go back to fastballs." He has been back to his normal workout routine for the last several days. Harang sailed through his first four innings, including an extra batter in the second after he needed only eight pitches to record three quick outs. He needed 21 pitches to get through the fifth when he gave up two runs on four hits. "The last inning, I was specifically working out of the stretch from the get-go, just to make sure I had a feel for that," he said. Harang's next start is expected to come Sunday against the Tigers at Bright House Field. The decision for him to pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday was made partly to allow him to avoid the two-hour bus ride to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the team's Grapefruit League game against the Braves. "It was nice to be in that controlled environment, because if I got in a situation, I wasn't trying to battle through and potentially [come] out in the third or fourth inning," he said. Harang will likely aim for 85 to 90 pitches his next time out.

Billingsley Ready To Return – Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley hopes to clear another hurdle in his recovery Thursday. He is scheduled to pitch a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. Billingsley, 30, is recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries, which have limited him to just 12 innings in the big leagues over the previous two seasons. Billingsley is expected to throw 30 to 35 pitches, about two innings of work. "Then do it again," Billingsley said. The Phillies have indicated Billingsley could make a Grapefruit League appearance before the team heads to Philadelphia on April 2, but he said he is not focused on that. "I'm not thinking that far ahead," Billingsley said. "When you've been going through two years of rehab, you don't look beyond the next week or the next start or the next whatever. You just kind of approach it one start at a time and put all your focus on doing your rehab and your treatment to get to the next step. I'm just getting ready for Thursday." Billingsley's bid to return to the big leagues is worth following. First, the Phillies need starting pitching help. Second, if Billingsley comes back and pitches successfully, he could be a valuable trade chip come July.

Jockeying For Bench Position – It is pretty clear that Cord Phelps has made a favorable impression on Phillies coaches this spring. Phelps, who is a non-roster invitee, hit third for the Phillies in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Braves at Champion Field. In 13 games, he is hitting .303 (10-for-33) with one double, one home run, five RBIs, seven walks, six strikeouts and an .849 OPS. Phelps has emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the Phillies' bench as a utility player with Opening Day only 13 days away, although he might have to beat out Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez entered camp as a favorite if for no other reason than that he is out of options, and the Phillies' front office places considerable importance on that. But Hernandez entered Tuesday hitting a mere .088 (3-for-34) with two doubles, one RBI, four walks, six strikeouts and a .352 OPS in 16 games. "You want to show what you can do and try to take advantage of every opportunity," Phelps said. "That's just good preparation for the season, because you never know how things are going to play out. That's a skill we try to develop. Maybe you don't know when you're going to get in there, but when you do, you try to perform at your highest level. I feel like I'm having good at-bats. I feel like I'm putting balls in play with hard contact." The Indians selected Phelps, 28, in the third round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He has hit .280 with an .800 OPS in 681 games in the Minor Leagues, but just .155 in 126 plate appearances in the big leagues. "This game is a crazy game," said Phelps, when asked why his Minor League numbers have not translated into a longer look in the big leagues. "Everybody does the best they can to play and get an opportunity. You've got to be a really good player, but you also have to be in the right situation. That's what everybody is hunting for. We prepare, but there is a lot of stuff out of your hands. You just hope you get into a situation where your skill set matches their needs." Right place, right time. "That's life in general," Phelps said. Phelps could be in the right place with the Phillies. Odubel Herrera, Darin Ruf and Cameron Rupp appear to have a hold on three bench jobs. (Herrera could find himself in the Opening Day lineup as well as he has played.) Phelps and Hernandez are competing for a fourth spot as a utility infielder. Jeff Francoeur, Brian Bogusevic and Jordan Danks could be fighting for an outfield job. Andres Blanco remains a possibility if the Phillies want a second utility infielder. Phelps came up as a second baseman, but has played first base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. His versatility helps his cause, especially on a National League team. "He's come in and done a nice job," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He shows his versatility. He's a switch-hitter. He's hit the ball well. He's done situational hitting very well. He's competing for a job."

Welcome Back To The Vet – Veterans Stadium could be an intimidating place for opposing teams and opposing fans. It could be scarring for young Phillies fans, too. Adam Goldberg knows. He is the executive producer and creator of ABC's "The Goldbergs," a sitcom about his family in 1980s suburban Philadelphia. The show is a love letter to the '80s and Philly, and has made numerous Philly references since its 2013 debut, including a remake of a Flyers game at the Spectrum. "The Goldbergs" gives the Phillies and The Vet some love in "The Lost Boy" episode at 8:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. "Some of my best memories were going to Phillies games with my dad [Murray, portrayed by Jeff Garlin], going to Veterans Stadium," Goldberg said in an interview with "There was one particular instance where we got separated, and in the '80s when you got separated from somebody in a big place without a cell phone, there was no way to find them. So I was telling this story [in the writers' room] about how I went with my dad to a Phillies game and we got separated. And there was this panic you felt, because Veterans Stadium was so big and so scary. It was terrifying. It's really an episode about Adam's [portrayed by Sean Giambrone] transition into manhood as he learns to survive in Veterans Stadium by himself." But at one point, it looked like the episode would not happen. The scripts for "The Lost Boy" and an earlier episode, "Barry Goldberg's Day Off," were not initially cleared by Major League Baseball. Goldberg expressed his frustrations on Twitter. Phillies director of marketing and special projects Michael Harris quickly contacted Goldberg on the social media site, and later that night, they were on the phone resolving the scripts' issues. It turns out one joke caused the biggest hiccup. Goldberg said he "very cavalierly" wrote a joke in "Barry Goldberg's Day Off" about Barry Goldberg (Adam's older brother, portrayed by Troy Gentile) being pelted by batteries at a Phillies game after he caught a ball. "And here come the batteries," the announcer said. "That one line they were like, 'Oh, boy. That's a nonstarter. That's something we never want to happen again. We don't want to encourage it,'" Goldberg said. "When I heard that was the concern, I was like, 'Oh, I totally get what you're saying. We'll remove it.' "They had concerns about the scripts as any franchise would, be it sports or even when we try to get an '80s movie cleared. Everyone wants their property to be portrayed in the right way, and they have concerns." Said Harris: "Once Adam and I directly connected, we were able to resolve [the concerns] instantaneously. A good old-fashioned phone conversation is all it took. He was able to quickly tweak a few things without impacting the original integrity and intent of the scenes. It's obviously a comedy, and everything is in good fun. Adam is a big fan of the team, and obviously we're thrilled the Phillies will be featured on such an enormously popular national TV show." But clearance meant Goldberg had to recreate The Vet, which was imploded in March 2004. It was a challenge. The show does not have a massive budget, so it could not build something from the ground up. It could not use CGI. It essentially reconfigured a college football stadium near Los Angeles and had two days to shoot everything. A crew recreated the stands, yanking out the seats and replacing them with the ones Goldberg remembered. It recreated the concourses, concession stands and bathrooms, looking at old photographs as a guide. "Those bathrooms," Goldberg said. "Those giant troughs that you had to pee in with the drunk fans. You're so crowded in. I remember having stage fright for the first time, having to go so bad, but being so freaked out by the experience, I couldn't go. "I know I'm going to get tweets and Facebook messages about how they saw an orange seat, and they were blue or green. But it's what I'm working with. At the very least, I got approval from the Phillies. They're being as cooperative as possible. They're being awesome, and within my budget, I'm trying to do as much as I can. It was so ripe for material. This episode came out so easily, because we all have so many experiences going to Phillies games [at] Veterans Stadium." Goldberg also looked into recreating the Phanatic, but found it cost about $8,000 for a reproduction. He asked Harris if they could send him a Phanatic costume. "How about we send you the Phanatic?" Harris replied. "I think they're seeing that this show is a love letter to everything we grew up with," Goldberg said. "They're excited to be part of that, which is very cool. Some of my best memories were going to watch those Phillies games. This was a way that [my father] could connect with us. There was an awesome activity going on, we didn't have to talk that much and we could cheer and be on the same team. And even though I didn't really know all of the players and my dad would have to tell me what was going on, it was still some of my fondest memories of him. So it always holds a big place in my heart."

Immortalizing Dickie – Dickie Noles' phone and inbox blew up in November 2013, when ABC's "The Goldbergs" mentioned his name. In the "Call Me When You Get There" episode, Jeff Garlin's character, Murray Goldberg, was watching a Phillies' World Series game when he yelled, "Oh! What is that pitch?! That's garbage! I hate you, Dickie Noles!" The show is set in suburban Philadelphia in the 1980s, and it plays loose with the years and sequence of events because, hey, it makes the show better and funnier. But hardcore fans know Noles only pitched for the Phillies in the 1980 World Series against the Royals, and his only relief appearance came in a memorable Game 4. Noles replaced Larry Christenson in the first inning and allowed five hits, one run and two walks while striking out six in 4 2/3 innings. But most important, Noles threw a nasty brushback pitch to George Brett, which many credit for turning the series in the Phillies' favor. "I saw it," Noles said about the episode. "I think it was just a reference to Philadelphia sports. He's a Philly fan, right?" Show creator Adam Goldberg is a Philly fan and Wednesday's episode will once again feature a vintage Phillies feel. He is originally from Jenkintown, Pa., and Goldberg laughed when asked why he picked Noles out of all the Phillies' pitchers from the '80s. "That's something I remember my dad screaming as he was watching the Phillies," Goldberg said. "My dad had a bad temper, so he was a yeller. And every time he'd sit home and watch the games, I remember him screaming. I remember being a kid and hearing that name and it just stuck out in my head. That's why I picked it. Everyone in the writers' room was like, 'That is so random.' "The things you remember from when you were a kid. It's so random that you remember that name vividly. Of all the Phillies, you remember Dickie Noles." Said Noles: "It got me a lot of calls from a lot of different people, and some people that are not baseball fans. It's kind of neat that way."

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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