Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Phillies Put It Together In HOF Duel

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Twins 3-0

Phillies third baseman Cody Asche hit his third home run in five days in Monday's 3-0 victory over the Twins at Bright House Field. Asche will be the team's Opening Day third baseman as the organization hopes to see him take a step forward from 2014, when he hit .252 with 25 doubles, 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 397 at-bats. "Cody has a nice swing working," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's making good contact. Another thing that he's doing is laying off pitches, avoiding strikeouts and having the count come back to him for strikes to hit. He continues to do real well, a real steady bat for us." The Twins, meanwhile, managed just five hits and were held scoreless for the first time in 20 Grapefruit League games this spring.

The Phillies travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to play the Braves on Tuesday afternoon, live on MLB.TV at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Aaron Harang will hang back in Clearwater to pitch a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. He has missed a couple starts this spring because of back problems. Phillies prospect Severino Gonzalez will start. He is the organization's No. 15 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

  • Phillies right-hander David Buchanan continues to pitch well this spring. He allowed two hits and struck out three in five scoreless innings. He has allowed just three earned runs in 16 innings this spring.
  • Ben Revere has played exclusively in center field since he joined the Phillies in December 2012, but he has played three consecutive games in left field as the Phillies take a look at Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera. Herrera has been hitting this spring, and the coaching staff is looking for a way to get Herrera's bat in the lineup.
  • The National Baseball Hall of Fame said it believes Monday's game is the first time two current Hall of Famers have faced each other as managers. Twins manager Paul Molitor was inducted in 2004. Sandberg was inducted in 2005. "The fact that it's never happened before is kind of an interesting little piece of trivia, but for me, it's more about managing against a friend." -- Molitor, on managing against Sandberg, the first time two current Hall of Famers have managed against each other.

HOF Matchup – Maybe one day it will happen in the regular season, when the results truly matter. But Monday's Grapefruit League game between the Phillies and Twins at Bright House Field was believed to be a first in Major League Baseball history. It was the first time two current Hall of Fame players managed against each other. Twins manager Paul Molitor was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was inducted in '05. "I'm glad to see it," Sandberg said. "The fact that it's never happened before is kind of an interesting little piece of trivia, but for me, it's more about managing against a friend," Molitor said. There have been numerous Hall of Fame players to manage in the big leagues, but one would think more would have made the jump from player to manager. They certainly have the knowledge of the game. They certainly have the pedigree. But some just do not want to take the path it sometimes takes to get there. Both Molitor and Sandberg spent time in the Minor Leagues before they got their shot. "Show baseball that you're interested in it," Sandberg said. "I think in the past, there have been some Hall of Famers that wanted to manage or coach at the Major League level but not go through the channels to earn that right. So, for me, I had to go for experience for myself, but also, I think, to earn the right." "One of the theories I hear often is players that played at a high standard don't have the patience to deal with people that can't meet those standards," Molitor said. "But I don't see that at all. It's kind of how you're wired, what your passion is, and that's putting your time in when you get the opportunity." 

Buchanan Making An Impact – David Buchanan surprised almost everybody in Phillies camp last spring. But he will leave camp this spring as a critical piece to the Phillies' rotation, especially with Cliff Lee almost certainly lost for the season with a torn tendon in his left elbow. Buchanan allowed two hits and struck out three in five scoreless innings Monday in a 3-0 victory over the Twins at Bright House Field. Buchanan has allowed 12 hits, three earned runs, zero walks and has struck out 11 in 16 innings this spring. "It's exciting, honestly," Buchanan said about opening the season with the team. "But I'm not really trying to get caught up in that. I haven't heard anything. I don't know anything. The first two outings [this spring] I was really trying to prove myself because of what happened last year, ending the year on the team. I was stressing to try to prove myself to get a spot [on the team]. I think that's why I wasn't throwing as well." After allowing seven hits, two runs and striking out one in four innings in his first two appearances this spring, he has allowed five hits, two earned runs and has struck out 10 in his last 12 innings. "I've really been focusing on keeping my head still with my mechanics and pounding strike one," Buchanan said afterward. "I probably wasn't as good as I wanted to be today, but getting strike one is a big thing for me. That's what I've really been focused on this spring."

Switching Things Up – It is clear the Phillies really like Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera, who is a lock to make the Opening Day roster. In fact, Herrera could be working his way into the starting lineup. "The way that he looks this spring, he brings a lot of life to the lineup," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Monday at Bright House Field. "I'm not making up my everyday or Opening Day lineup right now, but he finds himself in there quite often. And he continues to do some little things and bring energy to the field. It's nice to put him in the lineup." The Phillies have started Ben Revere in left field and Herrera in center field for three consecutive games in a move toward that, including Monday's 3-0 Grapefruit League victory over the Twins. Revere has played center field exclusively since he joined the Phillies in December 2012. He has played only 21 games in left field in his Major League career and only 52 games in left in the Minor Leagues. Revere said he is OK with the move. "It's been a little while since I've played there," said Revere, who had not played in left since 2012. "I really adjust quickly. It won't be anything I'm nervous about. They said they just want to see another bat in the lineup, so I just do what the coaches say. "Maybe we'll see it in the regular season, but it's just to get prepared for it." Sandberg said he expects the experiment to continue. "It really gives us a chance to improve our defense in a lot of ways," he said. "Herrera seems most comfortable right now as a young player in center field. I think Ben has showed in the past he does a good job in the corners." Herrera is hitting .357 (15-for-42) with one double, three RBIs, two walks, six strikeouts and four stolen bases in 13 games. One scout said Herrera could be the second-best hitter on the team behind Chase Utley. Sandberg said there are no more restrictions on Utley, who has come along slowly this spring after spraining his right ankle in January. Utley has played second base twice in the past three days after being the Phillies' DH earlier this month. "He's moving around good. He's running well," Sandberg said. "He's feeling pretty good." Sandberg also said Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown remains day to day with tendinitis in his left Achilles. Sandberg said he has no timetable for Brown's return to the field.

(Another) Man Down! – Phillies left-hander Mario Hollands is hoping for the best. He will visit Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti on Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia to discuss the MRI arthrogram that revealed a tear of his common flexor tendon in his left elbow. It is the same type of injury that is expected to end Cliff Lee's season. "It feels a lot better than last year," said Hollands, who suffered the injury last season. "The range of motion is better. But there's still no word until I get back there. "I don't know how bad Cliff's is. I never asked. I don't think so. I hope not." Hollands' injury clears up the Phillies' bullpen competition. Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus are locks. Rule 5 Draft pick Andy Oliver is a strong favorite for a spot. Luis Garcia has thrown seven scoreless innings. He also is a favorite. Jeanmar Gomez could be in line for the seventh spot. He has a 1.35 ERA in six appearances.

Looking Into The Future – Phillies fans looking forward to the future will have the opportunity to watch two of the organization's best pitching prospects this week. Right-hander Severino Gonzalez will start Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Right-hander Aaron Nola will start Friday's game against the Yankees at Bright House Field. Severino is the organization's No. 15 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Nola is No. 2. "I'm looking forward to that," manager Ryne Sandberg said about Nola's start. "It's an opportunity for him to experience Major League camp and pitch in a Major League game. I'd like to see composure, see strikes. That's what I've heard he throws. I think it'll be a good experience for him." Gonzalez reached Double-A Reading as a 20-year-old in 2013. He struggled a bit last season, but he finished in the top 10 in the Eastern League in innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. It would not be a surprise to see Nola, the team's first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, reach the big leagues this season. Scouts and executives agreed Nola was the most polished pitcher selected in last season's Draft. Right-hander Aaron Harang will pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday at Carpenter Complex. Harang has missed a couple starts earlier this spring because of back problems.

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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