Friday, March 20, 2015

Phillies Show Some Power Against Yankees

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Yankees 7-3

The Phillies' offense is very left-handed heavy, which makes right-handed hitter Darin Ruf a pretty important part of their 2015 roster. After Carlos Beltran's RBI single off Joely Rodriguez in the sixth inning tied the game for the Yankees, Ruf hit his first spring homer in the eighth to put Philadelphia up in a 7-3 victory over New York at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday night. Cody Asche also hit his first spring homer, while Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz stroked run-scoring singles off Yankees starter Esmil Rogers, who surrendered his first three runs of the spring in an underwhelming 3 1/3-inning outing. Chase Headley homered in the second for New York off Phillies starter Aaron Harang, and Stephen Drew, who went deep Wednesday, lashed a third-inning RBI double.

The Phillies play the Pirates on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Bradenton, Fla., where right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has another opportunity to prove he deserves a spot in the rotation. Gonzalez has not shown that yet. He has a 9.00 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances. "A little bit more consistency and a good solid outing would go a long way," Sandberg said.

  • Chase Utley went 2-for-2 with one walk and two runs scored. He has not played in the field yet because of a sprained right ankle, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said before the game that could be coming soon.
  • Harang allowed two hits and one earned run in three innings, which was progress. He had missed two of his first three starts this spring because of back soreness. The Phillies need Harang healthy with Cliff Lee lost for the season.
  • Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown left the game in the bottom of the third inning because of soreness in his left Achilles. He said it has been bothering him for a couple of weeks. He will be examined by a team doctor on Friday.

Another Phillie Goes Down – Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown sounded deflated Thursday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He left the Grapefruit League game against the Yankees in the third inning because of soreness in his left Achilles. He said in the visitors' clubhouse the Achilles had been bothering him for a couple of weeks. "They're saying tendinitis," Brown said. Brown said he will have a team doctor examine him Friday. He struck out twice in his only two plate appearances Thursday. He is hitting .241 (7-for-29) with one double, two RBIs, five walks and five strikeouts in 11 games. The Phillies are hoping for a big bounceback season from Brown, who struggled as one of the least productive outfielders in baseball in 2014. "I want to be in there, Spring Training or not," Brown said. "I feel pretty good at the plate. I don't want to miss any time, but this is part of the game, also. I'm definitely frustrated for sure. It seemed like we were going in the right direction, it was getting a little bit better. "As soon as Chase Headley hit the home run [in the second inning], I took off and started feeling it then. Once I got to the on-deck circle. ... I could definitely feel it. Not pulling but grabbing a little bit." Brown missed a game earlier this week because of dehydration. He said he had been doubling up on anti-inflammatories, which might have keyed the dehydration.

Moving Closer To Second – There are 18 days before Opening Day and Chase Utley still has not played an inning at second base. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that could happen soon. "We're getting closer to that date," Sandberg said before Thursday night's Grapefruit League game against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. "He got ground balls yesterday and he wanted to get a pregame today and then DH and then we'll go from there." Utley, who played his fifth Spring Training game as a designated hitter on Thursday, sprained his right ankle in January, and it has been slow to heal. Outfielder and non-roster invitee Jeff Francoeur has not played since last week because of a sore left oblique. He needs to get on the field if he expects to make the team. Sandberg said Francoeur, who is hitting .278 (5-for-18) with two doubles and two RBIs this spring, could play in a game this weekend. "He needs a couple of days of batting practice and then just build up to a game-speed situation for him," Sandberg said. "And him being a high-intensity guy, it might be tough for him to do, but he's going to have to manage a little bit in his first couple of games back by cutting down his swing a little bit and kind of ease into it to see where he's at."

Back To Form? – Aaron Harang's sore back would have been an issue this spring even if everybody in the Phillies' rotation had been healthy. But with Cliff Lee's season almost certainly finished, the back that forced Harang to miss a couple of Grapefruit League starts became more important. Harang returned to the mound Thursday night in a game against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field, allowing two hits, one earned run and striking out one in three innings. "You know what?" Harang said. "I was trying to be an innings guy before Cliff went down. I'm not going to be putting any more pressure on myself. I'm just going to go out and do what I do, go out and give us a chance to win. "I'm not worried about [the back]. I've felt really good the last few days. I don't have feeling or semblance of what was going on [with the injury]." Harang threw a little more than 50 pitches, including a quick session in the bullpen. He could have three more starts before the regular season opens. The veteran said it is enough time to be ready. "Obviously, we just have to make sure nothing comes up, but the last few days I've felt great," he said. Harang threw a 1-1 cutter to Chase Headley in the second inning, and Headley connected, hitting a solo home run to right field. Harang allowed an unearned run in the third. "Having that time off, I've got to go out and find that feel," the righty said.

Franco Struggles Through Spring – There will be no Kris Bryant controversy in Phillies camp this spring. Infielder Maikel Franco is ranked No. 3 among the organization's top prospects, and the past two springs he entered camp with an opportunity to push third baseman Cody Asche for a job. But even if Franco played well this spring, he still might have opened the season in Triple-A because a few more weeks there would push his free agency from 2020 to '21. The Cubs have the same exact situation with Bryant, who is their top prospect. But Bryant is having a fantastic spring while Franco is not. Franco, who struck out in his lone at-bat in Thursday night's 7-3 win over the Yankees, is hitting .200 (6-for-30) with one RBI and four strikeouts. "I don't know if there's something about big league camp or what, but after a very good winter ball of swinging the bat, he's struggled," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's struggled this spring as far as having consistent at-bats, having a good approach and putting together good at-bats. It's been a struggle with him. He looks like he's trying to do too much. He looks like he's over-swinging. He's definitely talked about it on a daily basis, so all in all, it's been a little bit of struggle for him." Franco, 22, played an entire season of winter ball, where he hit .265 with nine doubles, eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .779 OPS in 43 games. Could he be tired? "He doesn't show tiredness," Sandberg said. "It's more about just cutting down the swing and looking for solid contact, making that a goal rather than some power and home runs. I just wonder if he's looking for too much too soon. Early in camp, it's more about fine-tuning your swing and having a good approach and having good, solid contact. That's more of the approach that's being talked to him about."  Franco is scheduled to serve as the designated hitter in Friday's game against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.

Getting Closer To Return – Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday at Carpenter Complex. Billingsley is recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries, and this will be his first game action since June, when he made a rehab appearance with Double-A Rancho Cucamonga. The Phillies hope he can be ready to join the rotation by late April. Billingsley's progress became increasingly important following this week's news that Cliff Lee is almost certainly lost for the season because of a torn tendon in his left elbow. Two other Phillies starters also have been banged up recently. Right-hander Aaron Harang missed two of his first three Grapefruit League starts because of back problems. He started Thursday night against the Yankees. Right-hander Jerome Williams missed his last start because of a "tweaked" right hamstring. He is scheduled to start Sunday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

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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