Sunday, March 15, 2015

Phillies Show Unexpected Power In Win Over Tigers

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Tame Tigers 5-4

Brian Bogusevic, a last-minute replacement in the Phillies' lineup, hit two home runs off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez. However, it was a Russ Canzler single that set up the go-ahead run in the ninth for Philadelphia's second win over the Tigers in three days -- a 5-4 decision on Saturday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium. Bogusevic wasn't in the lineup until Jeff Francoeur was scratched with a sore left oblique. He took over Francoeur's original cleanup spot and jumped a 91-mph fastball for a two-run homer, part of a 33-pitch opening inning for Sanchez in his third spring start. The ball landed near the bottom of the left-field berm, just out of Xavier Avery's reach at the fence. "He's here in Spring Training having a look like everybody else. He's shown a good bat," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Bogusevic. "The ball really comes off his bat well. He's shown a good arm in the outfield. He's an interesting guy. We have some interesting players in camp, so we'll continue to look and watch." Sanchez allowed hits to three of Philadelphia's first four hitters. He allowed one other hit over the rest of his four-inning performance. That, too, came from Bogusevic, who sent a slider out on a line over the right-field fence in the corner for a third-inning solo shot. "We want to be a team that doesn't sit back and count on the home run, but with more contact and possibly cutting down on strikeouts and having a good approach, some of that can happen," said Sandberg, whose Phils have hit three homers in the last two spring games after belting two in the first 10 contests. "So that's a plus sign of what we're working on. When you hit the ball correctly and you hit down at it through the ball, you can backspin some balls out of the park." The Tigers chipped away at the 4-1 deficit with help from Phillies starter Paul Clemens, who walked four batters and threw just 18 of 48 pitches for strikes over 2 1/3 innings. Jefry Marte's fifth-inning solo homer completed the comeback minutes after Marte's off-balance threw robbed Odubel Herrera of a bunt single leading off the top of the innings. The two bullpens traded scoreless frames from there until Canzler hit a one-out single in the ninth off Alex Wilson and went to third base on Chris McGuiness' single. Catcher Shane Zeile's passed ball allowed Canzler to score.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, competing for a spot in the rotation, will start for the Phillies split-squad that plays the Red Sox at Bright House Field on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. The right-hander will be looking to rebound after going 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA to open Grapefruit League play. The other split squad will travel to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., where right-hander Sean O'Sullivan will start against the Yankees.


Surprising Strides In Spring Training – After hitting just two home runs in their first 10 Grapefruit League games, the Phillies have now hit three in their last two contests. That includes two by non-roster invitee Brian Bogusevic in Saturday's 5-4 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. He was a late addition to the lineup after Jeff Francoeur felt a twinge in his left oblique during batting practice and was scratched for precautionary reasons. One of the themes of camp for the Phillies has been that there are jobs to be won. The 31-year-old Bogusevic took full advantage of his first start to show what he can do by homering to left in the first, a two-run shot, and then to right in the third, both off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez. "He's here in Spring Training having a look like everybody else. He's shown a good bat," manager Ryne Sandberg said. The ball really comes off his bat well. He's shown a good arm in the outfield. He's an interesting guy. We have some interesting players in camp, so we'll continue to look and watch. "For anybody in camp it's important to show what they can do, put themselves in a position to leave with the ballclub or to be one of the guys [you turn to] in a need situation. We have a lot of new faces in camp. So for us to get to know some of these guys and for them to show what they can do is very important." Bogusevic has been held back by injuries with the Cubs in 2013 and the Marlins' Triple-A New Orleans affiliate last year. "There have been ups and downs, but that's how baseball goes," he said. "That's how life goes. It's not a big deal. You just keep going. "Every spring you have goals of making teams and this and that. But really what you have to do is get ready for a season. If you're not trying to get ready for the season, you're really not doing yourself any favors. Just see as many pitches as possible, get as many good swings as possible for the first game of the season, no matter where it is." Two other players getting a close look, for different reasons, also played on Saturday. Phillippe Aumont, the towering right-hander who is out of options, struck out two of the six batters he faced after allowing an inherited runner to score in the third. "He threw a lot of strikes," Sandberg said. "He was much better. Got ahead of the hitters. It was good outing for him. He needs to be able to repeat it, hit his spots, not make mistakes, keep the ball down, quality pitches. He showed more of those in this outing." Touted No. 3 prospect Maikel Franco went 0-for-3, dropping his Grapefruit League average to .182. "He needs to make some adjustments," Sandberg said. "We saw some of the same approaches and same swings last year in September [when the 22-year-old batted .179 in 16 games]. For him to break into the league and be an established hitter, he needs to hit for an average and use the whole field. That's what's talked about with him. He looks like he's overswinging."

Disappointing Fill In – The Phillies needed a starter to fill in for veteran Aaron Harang, who was scratched for the second time this spring with lower back discomfort, against the Tigers on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium. Enter right-hander Paul Clemens, a non-roster invitee who pitched for the Astros last season. The hope, of course, is that Philadelphia won't need long-term replacements for Harang or Cliff Lee, who has been sidelined with renewed left elbow inflammation after missing the last two months of the 2014 season. But the club also has to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. And that's why the 27-year-old Clemens was so disappointed that he gave up three earned runs on three hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings of what turned out to be a 5-4 Phillies win. "We need those guys healthy. But it opens a door to show what I can do," Clemens said. "This was a great opportunity to really show that I can work deep into a ballgame. We jumped on them early. So today was a great opportunity that I let slip away. That's tough to swallow. I'm confident in what I can do. I know what I bring to the table." Clemens was unable to locate his fastball, which meant he was pitching behind during much of his outing. "It was pretty brutal actually. When you're not getting ahead of the guys, you're in for a long day," he said. "I was consistently behind guys, putting guys on base without them earning it. Makes it rough, makes it tough. I felt good with my stuff, but I couldn't command my fastball the way that I should have." Said manager Ryne Sandberg: "He's shown some good things in his outings as far as hanging in there and making a pitch and not getting rattled. But for him to be able to throw strike one would go a long way with what he has on the mound, so that's something he needs to improve on." The Phillies didn't provide updates on Lee or Harang on Saturday. Cole Hamels and Jerome Williams are the only other starters penciled into the rotation at the moment, although David Buchanan appears to have an inside track on a spot. Other options include Kevin Slowey and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Game Clock Has A Fan In De Fratus – A few days ago, Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus had a thought about Major League Baseball's attempts to tighten up inning breaks and shared it with his Twitter followers. "Game clock between innings is awesome!" he tweeted. Given the opportunity to expand his opinion beyond 140 characters before the team bus left Bright House Field for Saturday's Grapefruit League game against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium, the right-handed De Fratus, who has pitched three scoreless innings and earned two saves this spring, offered an interesting take. "This is just my own personal opinion. I have no numbers to back this up. I don't think the average time between innings is so much less," De Fratus said. "But what I think is happening is, it doesn't allow for that one inning that causes the entire pace of the game to hit the brakes. There always seems to be that one moment. The game seems to be moving along great, and then it hits this moment, and it can never pick that original pace back up." Game clock for in between innings is awesome! - Justin De Fratus (@JustinDeFratus) March 9, 2015 Part of MLB's pace of play initiative this year adds a timer which counts down from 2:25 beginning as soon as the third out of an inning is made (2:45 for nationally-televised games). Ideally, the pitcher and hitter should both be ready to go when the clock hits 20 seconds. "It's just allowing the game to move more naturally. And it doesn't allow for that stop," De Fratus said. "You know like if you're going on a road trip or something like that? And all of a sudden, somebody has to use the restroom? It's like, 'Dang it, man, you just killed the whole momentum of our trip.' "Before you had the jams going. And afterwards you get back in the car and you're just kind of dead now. This isn't allowing for that moment where so-and-so took five minutes between innings and now everybody's just kind of dragging. That's what I love about it. I don't think it's really shaving off a whole lot of time, per se, as opposed to not allowing that moment of the game hitting the brakes. Because once that happens, it's hard to get it back."

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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