Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Phillies Officially Open Spring With A Tie
EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Tie Yankees 5-5
The Yankees scored four runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday to tie the Phillies, 5-5, in their Grapefruit League opener at Bright House Field. Phillies left-hander Mario Hollands allowed five hits and four runs in the ninth, which included a two-out, three-run home run from Aaron Judge, the Yankees' No. 5 prospect. Yankees starter Adam Warren worked two scoreless innings. Luis Severino, the top prospect in New York's farm system and the No. 23 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, followed and allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings to hand the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Ryan Howard put Philadelphia on the board with a fourth-inning single to score Freddy Galvis, and third baseman Cody Asche later put the Phillies ahead with a sacrifice fly. "He did a lot of good things on the field," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Howard, who went 2-for-2. "He showed some good movement on the field, some range on some plays. He did a good job on a high throw over there at first base. He really moved around really well on the field, and he had some at-bats [in which] he squared some balls up. I liked him going to left field, opening up the field." Chris Young, Garrett Jones and Jose Pirela put together consecutive two-out singles in the first inning against Phillies right-hander David Buchanan to score the game's first run. Buchanan allowed one run in two innings. Jerome Williams followed Buchanan and worked two scoreless innings. Batting first and second, respectively, in the Yankees' lineup, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both went 0-for-3.
TODAY’S EXHIBITION GAME:
Philadelphia will make the short trip to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday to play the Yankees in a game airing at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. Right-hander Kevin Slowey will start after right-hander Aaron Harang was scratched. Harang woke up the other morning with his back not feeling 100 percent, so the Phillies are playing it safe. Harang could make his first start on Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla.
Buchanan Embraces Sneakiness – Phillies right-hander David Buchanan entered Spring Training last year as a last-minute invite to camp and a relative unknown outside the organization. But Buchanan, who allowed five hits and one run over two innings in Tuesday's 5-5 tie with the Yankees at Bright House Field, enters this camp as the favorite to be the team's No. 5 starter behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams. Buchanan's stiffest competition is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Chad Billingsley, but Gonzalez must prove that his right shoulder can handle a season-long workload and Billingsley is not expected to be big league-ready until late April after undergoing a pair of right elbow surgeries. "I went into Spring Training, and I was a nobody," Buchanan said of his experience last season. "Nobody knew who I was. I was invited because they had one more spot. I wasn't protected [in the Rule 5 Draft]. I was never on the Top 10 Prospects list. ... I always knew in my heart I could make it, and I wasn't going to stop until I did." Buchanan hopes to build upon his performance from last season, when he went 6-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie. Right-hander Jerome Williams had been scheduled to start on Tuesday, but both Buchanan and Williams were told on Tuesday morning that they would flip spots. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that was the plan all along. Whatever happened, it did not affect Williams. He allowed one hit in two scoreless innings against the Yankees.
Harang Held Back – Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang will not make his scheduled Grapefruit League start on Wednesday (1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV and MLB Network) against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. Harang, 36, had his lower back wrapped on Tuesday morning at Bright House Field. He said he woke up the other morning with something amiss and decided he needed to have a chiropractor adjust his back -- a process the right-hander said "is normal for me." The Phillies said they are playing it safe. "We're just making sure everything is OK from a health standpoint," pitching coach Bob McClure said. "Guys have twinges here and there -- let's make sure." Harang downplayed the back issue, which has been an irritation in the past. He said he could start on Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., which would mean he'd miss just one turn through the Phillies' rotation. "Right now, the main focus is maintenance stuff to make sure I'm ready," Harang said. Right-hander Kevin Slowey will start in Harang's place at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Howard’s Attitude Adjustment – Ryan Howard could have come to Phillies camp last month in a miserable mood and with a scowl on his face. Howard's offseason included a lawsuit between himself and his family, a concerted effort by the organization to trade him and a local radio interview in which his general manager said the Phillies would be better without him. But Howard showed up with a smile, and unless he is putting on an Oscar-worthy performance, he has maintained an upbeat appearance. "Everything that happened in the past is in the past," Howard said after the Phillies' 5-5 tie with the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon at Bright House Field. "We're all moving forward." Howard is arguably the most affable and accountable player in the Phillies' clubhouse. He has been for years. But this spring, he repeatedly declined interview requests and said he would not talk until he played in a Grapefruit League game, and even then, he would only discuss his performance in the game. Howard went 2-for-2 with one RBI on Tuesday. He played solid defense at first base and ran the bases relatively well, too. But as reporters gathered to speak to him for the first time since the end of last season, Howard repeated he would not discuss his offseason. "If anybody deviates from the game, it's over," Howard said. Howard talked about his batting stance (he is standing taller in the batter's box), his legs (he said they feel healthy after he underwent left Achilles tendon and knee surgeries in 2012 and '13), his improved physique (he credits an improved diet) and his team's chance to win (he thinks they could shock some people). He stuck to his guns otherwise. Does Howard feel he has anything to prove? "I'm just here to play ball," he said. Is he happy to be here? "Are you happy I'm here?" Howard said. "Are you guys happy I'm here?" Sure, why not? "Then there we have it," he said. Asked why he has made such a concerted effort to say he will focus only on the present and the positive and not the past, Howard said, "What good does it do? What's the benefit of it? Why be negative? It takes a lot more energy to be negative than it does to be positive. Negative, bad. Positive, good. When you throw it out there like that, bro, there's no need to be negative." Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Philadelphia Daily News that he recently apologized to Howard for his comments. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, who benched Howard last season and said he was no longer the de facto first baseman despite the $60 million remaining on his contract, has been quick to praise Howard throughout the spring. Howard, Amaro and Sandberg seem to have a professional relationship at this point, although it is easy to see why Howard might have felt slighted. He won the 2006 National League MVP Award, helped the team win the 2008 World Series and five consecutive NL East championships and he's regarded as the greatest first baseman in franchise history. But Howard's cheery disposition should not be entirely surprising. He is that way by nature, but things also went well this offseason, too. His wife gave birth to the couple's daughter. His family moved into a new home, which had been under construction for some time. And the legal battle with his family finally ended. That would be mentally draining for anybody. Maybe that is why it looks like Howard is having fun on the field. He didn't appear to be having much fun last season, if any at all. "That's the goal," Howard said. "That's what happens when you come positive. When you have fun, that's a byproduct. "I'm going out here trying to prepare myself for the season. I'm going to use these games to get ready and do what I need to do. My thing is taking care of my business in front of these white lines. Peace, love and hair grease."
ON THE RECORD:
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.