Sunday, April 5, 2015

There Is Some Life In The Dugout After All

GAME RECAP: Phillies Sweep Pirates 6-4

Last year, Phillies pitcher David Buchanan was scheduled to pitch this game, the last tuneup of the exhibition season at Citizen's Bank Park. But he never got to the mound; the game was rained out, and Buchanan found himself headed to the Minors instead as the Opening Day starter for Lehigh Valley. This year, he not only made it to the mound, he turned in five strong innings that soldified his presence in the starting rotation in a 6-4 Phillies win Saturday over the Pirates. "I remember just being so excited to pitch -- and then it never happened," Buchanan said. "That's just part of it." Saturday, Buchanan pitched five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out four. He finished 3-0 this spring with a 1.29 ERA. "Overall, I'm pretty pleased," he said. "My curveball was successful this spring; I've had good command and been consistent in the strike zone. Walking guys gets on my nerves, and I'm still trying to avoid that. "I wouldn't say I feel secure; I'm comfortable that I can have success at this level, but I'm never going to be content. I think that goes for all of us on this team. We're hungry. We want to go out and prove people wrong." The Phillies announced that Buchanan will be the third starter behind Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang. Jerome Williams is the fourth starter. "The experience he gained last year has really shown," Phils manager Ryne Sandberg said. "All the way through the spring, he's had a really confident feel for what he wants to do and what kind of pitcher he is. He's done very well." The Phillies got a boost from the start as Pirates starter Charlie Morton showed he's not all the way back from offseason hip surgery. After the game, the Pirates placed him on the disabled list; Morton will head to Florida and pitch in extended Spring Training. "What you saw was a guy battling without being physically able to do his best," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "His arm feels fine. He's been able to compete, and we're optimistic. But he just didn't look right." While the Pirates' final roster isn't set, Hurdle announced that Vance Worley would take Morton's spot on the rotation. Ben Revere singled to lead off the game and stole second. Morton moved Revere to third with a wild pitch as he was in the process of walking Odubel Herrera, and that was when things went sideways. Morton threw a pitch behind Chase Utley and another at Utley's ankles that the second baseman hopped over. Morton steered a pitch over the plate that Utley drilled to center for a single that put the Phillies up 2-0. Then Morton hit Ryan Howard, walked Carlos Ruiz to load the bases, hit Grady Sizemore and walked Cody Ashche before getting out of the inning thanks to a double-play grounder by Buchanan. But Morton opened the second by walking Revere and allowing a single to Herrera. Ryan Howard grounded to first, but Pedro Alvarez, trying for the force at second, made a poor throw that Jordy Mercer couldn't handle. Herrera and Howard were safe, and Revere scored on the throwing error. Carlos Ruiz followed with a single that scored Herrera. A walk to Cody Asche finally brought Hurdle from the dugout and ended Morton's day. Morton allowed four hits, five walks and hit two batters in 1 2/3 innings, throwing just 31 strikes in 70 pitches. The Pirates got two runs in the sixth on Corey Hart's double off Ken Giles, scoring Andrew Lambo and Keon Broxton. In the seventh, the Pirates added two more runs off Seth Rosin, as Broxton singled to score Josh Bell and Eric Wood.

Both teams are off Sunday. The Pirates travel to Cincinnati and will open the season Monday with Francisco Liriano on the mound against the Reds' Johnny Cueto. It's the second straight Opening Day start for Liriano (he also started Opening Day 2009, with the Twins). The Phillies will open at home against Boston, with Cole Hamels on the mound against Clay Buchholz.


Opening Series Preview – The Red Sox and Phillies will resume a rivalry that began when they faced each other in the 1915 World Series with an Opening Day matchup at Citizens Bank Park on Monday. A more recent connection between the franchises centered on Phillies ace Cole Hamels. Despite spring-long speculation that Boston might trade for the left-hander, he remains in red pinstripes and will start against Boston's Clay Buchholz. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m. And there's Shane Victorino, a star of the Phillies run of five straight division championship starting in 2007. Now the Red Sox right fielder, he'll be getting his first at-bats in Citizens Bank Park since being traded to the Dodgers at the Deadline in 2012. Both teams are coming off last-place finishes in 2014, but enter the new season with dramatically different expectations. The Red Sox have made extensive roster renovations, not to mention an up-close-and-personal view of what's possible after winning the World Series in 2013 a year after finishing last. To bolster their chances they shelled out $95 million to sign Pablo Sandoval and $88 million for Hanley Ramirez to reinvigorate their offense. The club also signed Rusney Castillo for $72.5 million last year, and the outfielder will start the year in the Minors. Buchholz is the only starter remaining from Opening Day 2014. Rick Porcello was acquired from Detroit and Wade Miley from Arizona in the offseason while Joe Kelly came from St. Louis before the Trade Deadline last season. "I think there's a lot of excitement, and rightfully so, about the additions [general manager Ben Cherington] has made to our team," manager John Farrell said. "This is a talented group." In addition to revamping the rotation, the Red Sox have addressed concerns about an offense that had a .684 OPS last season; only the Mariners finished lower in the American League. "There's no question our lineup is much more deep," Farrell added. "It's got more power potential. It's got a chance to be a dynamic-type lineup." The Phillies, on the other hand, have been upfront that they view this as a rebuilding season. Club president Pat Gillick candidly said on multiple occasions that he doesn't expect the Phillies to contend in 2015 or '16. "I don't think it's in the cards. I think somewhere around 2017 or 2018," he said. That's why, despite hitting fewer home runs (125) than any season since 1997, the Phillies traded Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, who combined to hit more than a third of them. But those deals netted Minor League pitchers Zach Eflin, Tom Windle and Ben Lively who, the Phillies hope, can help form the basis of their next great rotation. For the series finale, players from both teams will wear replica 1915 caps, commemorating the centennial of the Phillies first World Series appearance. Even though the opening of a new season is a time to look forward, in this case it will be fun to reflect a little on the past as well.

Final Formation Of The Roster – The Phillies won't finalize their roster until closer to the deadline Sunday, ending the exhibition season with an answer about Ken Giles' health but a big question in the outfield, where Ben Revere is rumored to be on the trading block. FOX Sports first reported that the Phillies were widely shopping Revere, who hit .205 this spring. Revere, 26, is owed $4.1 million in 2015. If he isn't traded, he'll open in the outfield with Odubel Herrera and Grady Sizemore, with Jeff Francoeur, Darin Ruf, Jordan Danks, Cord Phelps and Russ Canzler fighting for the final spots. Giles has been fighting a back injury and came out in the middle of the sixth inning Saturday after getting just one out, allowing two hits, a walk and two runs. But afterward, Giles and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg were adamant that Giles was ready to go for the regular season. "Giles felt fine," Sandberg said. "We just wanted to get him out there on the mound. He actually had his best fastball of the spring. He passed the test." Asked if he'd be confident in using Giles on Monday, Sandberg said: "Absolutely." Giles has an 8.00 ERA this spring. "I felt fine," Giles said. "My No. 1 priority was just getting out there and facing hitters. I feel fine about Monday. I didn't care what the outcome was. I just wanted to get out there before Opening Day."

Bolstering The Bullpen – The Phillies have reached a deal with Dustin McGowan, adding the 32-year-old right-hander to their bullpen, the club announced on Saturday night. McGowan went 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA in 53 appearances (eight starts) last season with Toronto. He is 25-27 with a 4.57 ERA in 158 appearances (68 starts) over parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays. He had a 6.75 ERA in seven Cactus League appearances this spring with Dodgers, who released him on Tuesday. He would have made $1 million had he made the Dodgers. The Phillies must finalize their Opening Day roster before 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman entered the weekend as locks to make the big league roster, and the team selected the contracts of relievers Jeanmar Gomez and Cesar Jimenez on Saturday, putting seven in the Opening Day bullpen. Rule 5 Draft pick Andy Oliver had been outrighted to Triple-A, but he elected to become a free agent. Right-hander Luis Garcia remains in Phillies camp. He has options remaining. The club could elect to carry an eighth relief pitcher until it needs a fifth starter on April 12.

After ending 2014 with a 73-89 record, there second consecutive losing season, the Phillies are currently tied for first place for the 2015 season. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 9-12-0 on this day.

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