Thursday, March 26, 2015

Well, That Wasn’t Very Good!

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Astros Pummel Phillies 7-1

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa powered the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday at Bright House Field. Correa, who is the Astros' top prospect, doubled to score a run in the second inning and hit a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning against Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who is competing for the fifth spot in Philadelphia's rotation. Hank Conger followed Correa's homer in the fourth with a solo home run to right field. It was Conger's first of the spring.

The Phillies host the Blue Jays at Bright House Field at 1:07 p.m. ET on Thursday. Left-hander Cole Hamels will start, and fans can listen to an exclusive webcast on The club hasn't made a formal announcement, but Hamels will make one more Spring Training start before taking the ball for Philadelphia on Opening Day.

  • Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown hit Wednesday for the first time since leaving last Thursday's game because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. Brown expects to try running Thursday, and he is hopeful to be ready by Opening Day.
  • The Phillies reassigned infielder Chase d'Arnaud and outfielder Darin Mastroianni to Minor League camp following Wednesday's game.
  • The right-hander did not help his cause to make the rotation. He allowed eight hits, four runs, two home runs and struck out one in four innings. He has a 7.53 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances.
  • Cameron Rupp is on his way to making his first Opening Day roster as the Phillies' backup catcher. He doubled in the fifth inning and is hitting .391 in 11 Grapefruit League games. He has outplayed his only competition, veteran Koyie Hill (0-for-11).
  • Ben Revere and Odubel Herrera have started four consecutive games together, with Revere in left field and Herrera in center field. It could be a look Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg uses in season.
  • "They hit all of them." -- Gonzalez, when asked if any particular pitch caused him problems in his four innings of work.

Rupp Ripping Into Backup Role – Cameron Rupp should be a cinch to be Carlos Ruiz's backup on the Opening Day roster. The Phillies have not announced anything with the opener 12 days away, but Rupp is hitting .391 (9-for-23) with five doubles and three RBIs in 11 Grapefruit League games. He doubled in the fifth inning in Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. "He's making contact," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's shortened his stroke a little bit, and he's strong. It's resulting in some extra-base hits. But Cameron, yeah, he's making some progress there. He's getting some pitches to hit, not missing them. He's driven the ball to all fields, and he has some pop in his bat." Rupp's only serious competition in camp is Koyie Hill, who is hitless in 11 at-bats with three walks and five strikeouts. "I feel confident and comfortable in the box," Rupp said. "I'm taking pitches that I know I can't hit instead of putting a bad swing on it. Now, when I get a pitch in my zone, I'm being aggressive. The swing feels good." Rupp has hit .205 in 78 plate appearances in the big leagues. He hit .165 in 219 plate appearances last season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 26-year-old suffered a strained left oblique in April, which he said put him in a hole. Rupp said Wednesday he now feels like his old self again. Rupp showed he could hit in earlier Minor League seasons. He posted a .720 OPS in Class A Lakewood in 2011, a .770 OPS in Class A Clearwater in '13 and a combined .755 OPS later that season with Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley. "It feels good to be confident up there," Rupp said. Rupp is intriguing as a backup, because if the Phillies monitor Ruiz's playing time -- he is 36 and has never started more than 113 games behind the plate in any season -- he could get enough at-bats at the big league level to further his development. It looks like he will be getting that opportunity.

Still In The Running For The Rotation – Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is running out of time, but fortunately for him, the Phillies' fifth-starter options are limited. It might be the only reason Gonzalez remains a candidate to make the club's rotation, if he remains a serious one at all. Gonzalez allowed eight hits, four runs and two home runs in four innings Wednesday in a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. Gonzalez is 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances. He has allowed 25 hits, 12 runs, five home runs, one walk and has struck out seven in 14 1/3 innings. "It's not the right time to be frustrated," Gonzalez told translator Rickie Ricardo. "If I'm going to make mistakes, let it be in Spring Training. If it comes to that, I'll get frustrated in the regular season, but not now." Gonzalez is competing with Kevin Slowey and Sean O'Sullivan for the No. 5 job. Slowey allowed three hits and three runs (two earned) in one inning Wednesday. O'Sullivan is pitching in Minor League camp, but he pitched for the Phillies last season. "We'll continue to look at our options from here to the rest of camp," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We will have somebody as the fifth starter." Gonzalez is in the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract. The organization is still looking for a return on their investment. "He's just struggling with his control and command and pitches," Sandberg said. Gonzalez allowed back-to-back home runs to Carlos Correa and Hank Conger in the fourth inning. Gonzalez has allowed five home runs this spring, which ties Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, Baltimore's Bud Norris and Detroit's Justin Verlander for the most in baseball. "It doesn't worry me, because it's a decision that's out of my hands," Gonzalez said about his chances of making the team. "I'm here to do my best, and whatever decisions management comes up with, I can live with it. "Physically I feel fine. The only thing has been my location. It's still off, but it's what I'm working on on a daily basis and it's understood with the pitching coach and the coaching staff that I've been working on location."

Needing A Better Mix – If the season started Wednesday, Kevin Slowey's numbers might make him the Phillies' No. 5 starter. But at this point, nobody is a safe bet to win the job. Slowey allowed three hits and three runs (two earned) in one inning Wednesday during a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. He has a 3.72 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances, allowing nine hits, five runs (four earned), two walks and one home run with seven strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. His results have been markedly better than Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who has a 7.53 ERA. But Gonzalez remains a candidate for the job because of his stuff and his $12 million contract. Sean O'Sullivan also remains one, despite the Phillies reassigning him to Minor League camp March 16. He is building arm strength, which helps his cause if the club isn't comfortable choosing Gonzalez or Slowey. "He's working on his breaking stuff," manager Ryne Sandberg said about Slowey. "He's featuring a lot of fastballs right now. And for him to be a multiple-innings guy, to be a long type of a guy or even to step into the rotation, he needs to mix his pitches, his breaking pitches, work on his breaking pitches. He's thrown a lot of fastballs in his outings." Slowey could be a candidate for the bullpen, although the Phillies have been impressed with Jeanmar Gomez, who could be their choice as a multiple-innings reliever. "For me, the goal is to come north, in whatever capacity that is," said Slowey, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. "I'm more than willing to do it. Like I said, I've done both in my career. I feel like I have that ability, and whatever they ask me to do, I'll do."

Pitching For A Bullpen Spot – The Phillies entered Spring Training with plenty of candidates for three bullpen vacancies. Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez might have received the least amount of attention, but he has an excellent chance to make the team with Opening Day just 12 days away. Gomez, who posted a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances the past two seasons with Pittsburgh, allowed one hit and struck out two in two scoreless innings Wednesday in a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. He has a 1.04 ERA in seven Grapefruit League appearances, allowing nine hits, one run, one walk and striking out four in 8 2/3 innings. "He's been pretty impressive," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I like him with his command. He works ahead in the count. For me, he's a candidate for a two-inning stint out of the bullpen. He has the experience. He also throws strikes, and he throws strikes with his slider right from the get-go out of the bullpen." Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus are locks to make the bullpen. Right-hander Luis Garcia and left-hander Andy Oliver have the inside track on two jobs. Garcia has not allowed a run in seven innings this spring. Oliver, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick, has allowed two runs with 16 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. Gomez might lead the pack for the last spot. Other candidates include right-hander Phillippe Aumont (3.52 ERA in six appearances), Paul Clemens (5.19 ERA in four appearances), left-hander Cesar Jimenez (5.87 ERA in six appearances), right-hander Hector Neris (5.87 ERA in seven appearances) and right-hander Kevin Slowey (3.72 ERA in six appearances). Aumont is out of options, which could be a factor. Slowey is a candidate to be the team's No. 5 starter, but he could slide into a long-man role in the bullpen. "I feel good," Gomez said. "I worked hard in the offseason. I'm healthy."

Banking On A Big Bat – Freddy Galvis needs to display more offense than he has shown during Spring Training and in his 550 plate appearances with the Phillies. The Phillies hope a bigger bat will help. Galvis has been using a Louisville Slugger U1 bat this spring. It is 35 inches, 33 ounces, which makes it longer and heavier than his standard bat (34 inches, 31 ounces). It also has a smaller knob, which makes a hitter less inclined to swing out of his shoes. The Phillies believe the heavier bat -- the same model used by Roberto Clemente and many others -- will prevent Galvis from swinging too hard. "It's a bat that's not about being down on the nob and over swinging for home runs," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's taken to it very well. It's been a good thing for him." Galvis singled in Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field to raise his batting average to .280, but with no walks and no extra-base hits, his .560 OPS is lackluster, well off his .621 career mark in the big leagues. But Galvis said the bat is serving its purpose. He believes his swing is shorter and more compact, and he has found that when he connects the ball still sails. "It's heavy," Galvis said. Galvis said it did not take long to get accustomed to it, but he noticed after swinging it during early work and during batting practice before the game his arms started to tire. So now he is using his regular bat before games and carrying the U1 to the plate once the game begins. Galvis said he has ordered more U1's and plans to try them out during the regular season. "I knew I over swung, but I didn't know with the heavy bat I'd have more control," Galvis said. "I thought with a heavy bat I'd have to do more to get to the ball. But what it showed me is if you relax your hands and let the ball come to you and throw the bat [at the ball], that's it. Because when you hit it good, it's going to go."

Put Me In Coach – |It's safe to say that Roy Halladay is enjoying retirement. The eight-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award-winner has been spending his down time trolling fans wearing his shirsey, going to the zoo with the guy who runs a blog about going to the zoo with Roy Halladay and coaching his son's baseball team. On Tuesday evening, Halladay took to Twitter to brag that his favorite baseball player in the whole wide world stopped by practice to speak to his youth baseball team. Oh, and his favorite baseball player in the whole wide world just so happens to be Phillies All-Star second baseman, Chase Utley: Just look at those two dad bros doin' what dad bros do best: Wearing weird shoes without laces and constantly asking everyone to take pictures in Florida.

A Reason To Watch The Goldbergs – There are some things from our childhoods that we know we'll never be able to do again, like drink Surge or rent VHS tapes. But thanks to ABC's "The Goldbergs," we can revisit one thing we thought was gone forever: The Vet. On this week's episode of the family sitcom, Adam Goldberg and his dad go to a game in Veteran's Stadium, where the Phillies played from 1971-2003. You thought it you'd never see it again, but thanks to the magic of TV, look! There it is: Maybe you really can go home again. But it might take some work. Adam spends most of the episode lost in the stadium, looking for his dad: Your browser does not support iframes. Though he doesn't find him right away, he does find someone else: Happily, the two are soon reunited. But the most important thing about this episode isn't the resurrected Vet or the message of family togetherness. Nope, it's this bedazzled Phillies jersey that Adam's older brother Barry wears during the ending credits: We'll take ten, please.

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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