Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nola Gets No Support In Impressive Debut

GAME RECAP: Rays Shutout Phillies 1-0

Rays right-hander Nathan Karns provided the only blemish to Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola's highly anticipated big league debut Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Karns hit a first-pitch fastball off Nola to left-center field for a solo home run in the third inning of a 1-0 victory. It would be plenty for the Rays, as Karns and the Rays' bullpen combined to allow just four hits in the shutout. "Unique win, but we'll take as many of them as we can get," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. Nola, who is the No. 28 prospect in baseball according to, took the loss, but he left fans excited about the future with an impressive showing. "It was pretty awesome to be out there to feel the energy from the fans," Nola said. "To pitch at this level is pretty amazing and a pretty good feeling tonight. I had a little bit of jitters in the first inning. But once I threw a few pitches, they were gone."

  • The Phillies are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, and Nola offered one in his big league debut. He threw 88 pitches (59 strikes), throwing his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes. If this is just a glimpse of Nola's potential, the Phillies will be very happy they selected him with the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft. "I gave it everything I had out there," Nola said. "I was blessed for the opportunity to pitch here."
  • The Phillies might not have scored anyway, but Asche made the first out of the second inning at third base, trying to go from first to third on Brown's single to right. Odubel Herrera then bounced into an inning-ending double play in the fifth, when he simply stopped running to first base. Herrera remained in the game. "Herrera didn't assume he was going to throw to second base," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He kind of quit running. He's got to understand that's not the way you play."
  • "You've got an American League pitcher up there, it's the first pitch of the inning. You're not going to try to trick anybody. I've known Nathan for a long time, and I can sit here and say a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then" -- Rupp, on Karns' homer run against Nola.
  • The Phillies sold 8,500 tickets since Friday, when they announced Nola would make his debut. They sold 4,000 tickets Tuesday. Tuesday's crowd of 28,703 was the Phillies' largest crowd for a weeknight game (on a non-fireworks night) since May 14, when they had 29,205 for the final game of a series against the Pirates.

Rookie left-hander Adam Morgan (1-2, 3.91 ERA) hopes to continue his roll Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his first four starts, and he has pitched more than six innings in two of his last three. Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 2.80 ERA) will start after taking his sixth loss of the season Friday night in Toronto when he had a career-high-tying five walks. In addition, he allowed a season-high six earned runs and had a season low for strikeouts with one. He has not faced the Phillies, but he is 3-3 with a 3.51 ERA in seven career Interleague starts. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday.


Nola Impresses In Debut – Dan Baker, the Citizens Bank Park public address announcer, has introduced thousands of lineups in his career. Still, he was able to reach back for a little more when he got to the Phillies' starting pitcher -- AA-ron NO-la -- Tuesday night. The crowd responded with genuine enthusiasm. There was a buzz in the blue seats that has been missing for much of the season. When the game started, the fans hung on every pitch, groaning when Nola didn't get the benefit of the doubt on a close pitch. When he got a big strikeout, the television cameras cut to his parents, sitting in the stands. Nola's father pumped his fist. Phillies fans had something to be excited about. Nola, the organization's first-round pick out of LSU just over a year ago, made his Major League debut against the Rays. And he didn't disappoint, allowing just one run in his six innings. Fifteen of Nola's 18 outs came on strikeouts or ground balls. The spoiler alert is that the Phils lost, 1-0. Now, Major League debuts are like Opening Days. They're a lot of fun. And they almost never turn out to be as significant as they seem at the time. Still, it's hard to overstate what a crucial piece Nola plays in the puzzle the Phillies are trying to assemble. One start doesn't make a career. But that doesn't mean that what Nola did Tuesday night, and what he'll do the rest of the season, aren't vital to the ongoing reconstruction project the organization has undertaken. Think about it this way: Nola is already the 12th pitcher to start a game for the Phils this season. And, right now, you'd have to say he's the best bet of any of them to be in the rotation when the slate is wiped clean and the 2016 season begins. Ace Cole Hamels is widely expected to be traded before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley were low-risk, high-reward gambles when they were signed in the offseason; Harang faded after a hot start and then went on the disabled list, while Billingsley has been unable to stay healthy. Jerome Williams has so far been unable to replicate the success he had for the Phillies last year after being released by the Astros and waived by the Rangers. Dustin McGowan was signed after being released by the Dodgers, and Kevin Correia was brought aboard after being released by the Giants. Sean O'Sullivan had a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. All are currently on Triple-A Lehigh Valley's roster. Phillippe Aumont has left the building. And the organization, after declining an outright assignment to the IronPigs. Youngsters Adam Morgan, Severino Gonzalez and David Buchanan have promise, but none have shown enough yet to be written into the 2016 rotation in ink. Sure, trades could change that picture. Free agent signings, too. And there are some pitchers down below, including Zach Eflin at Double-A Reading, that the baseball people are bullish on. Maybe, could be, possibly. It might not be fair to project a starring role next season for a 22-year-old who wasn't even a non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring. It might be a gigantic leap to suggest that after one big league start, Nola jumps to the top of the list. But dealing strictly with the known commodities on hand, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion. Besides, everything the Phils do these days matters less about the here and now than what the projected impact might be moving forward. Ruben Amaro Jr. tempered his remarks, which is prudent. "He represents the kind of things we're trying to do," the general manager said, "which is trying to get our young players to the big leagues and find out about them. We think he's going to be a good, solid Major League pitcher. And he got off to a great start. I'm happy for him. I'm sure it was nerve-wracking for him and his family. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get any runs for him." Veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who's seen a lot of young pitchers come and go, was impressed. "I would imagine he'd be No. 2, No. 3 next year behind Cole, if Cole's here, and whatever else they do," the 31-year-old outfielder said. "But he's got great stuff, and it looks like he's got a good head on his shoulders. So for all of us, it was fun to see. You're always happy for guys like that." Cameron Rupp, who caught Nola, noted that a performance like this is another reason to have hope for the future. And he also liked the electricity that ran through the park. "He's exciting. And fans think he's exciting, too," Rupp said. "That makes it even better. People come. We want to play in front of a lot of people. So I think that's huge."

Nola Offers Glimmer Of Hope – Aaron Nola provided the Phillies and their fans a much needed feeling of hope Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Nola, who is the No. 28 prospect in baseball according to, made a memorable debut in the midst of a forgettable season in a 1-0 loss to the Rays. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out six in six innings. He threw 89 pitches (57 strikes), throwing his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes. He singled to center field in the fifth inning, one of only four hits for the Phillies. Nola, whose fastball hit 94 mph, looked composed from the moment he stepped onto the mound to the moment he left. He looked like he belonged. "From the stint he had in Spring Training to the past 24 hours he has been here, he has shown a lot of poise," Phillies ace Cole Hamels said afterward. "That's good to see. You know that is somebody you want to call a teammate. You know that is somebody you're going to have faith in when the game is on the line, especially when you're in pennant races and getting to postseasons. He seems like that type of big-game pitcher. "It's something you can learn, but it's very difficult to learn. So if you already have it, you're already on your way. You're accelerating yourself to be in a good position in the big leagues." The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft with the belief he would join the big league rotation before the end of 2015. He lived up to the hype through his quick rise through the Phillies' farm system. It is why the Phillies sold 8,500 tickets since Friday, when they announced Nola would make his big league debut Tuesday. They sold 4,000 tickets Tuesday, making the announced crowd of 28,703 their largest weeknight crowd on a non-fireworks night since May 14. Fans wanted to see a reason to believe in the future. "He was terrific," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He did a great job. He showed a lot of poise." "He was poised," interim manager Pete Mackanin echoed. "He had a good mound presence. He didn't look scared." Nola allowed a leadoff double to John Jaso in the first inning, but struck out Steven Souza Jr. and Evan Longoria before getting James Loney to ground out to end the first inning. Nola's only mishap came in the third inning, when Rays pitcher Nathan Karns hit a solo home run to left field on a first-pitch fastball. "It was pretty awesome to be out there to feel the energy from the fans," Nola said. "To pitch at this level is pretty amazing and a pretty good feeling tonight. I had a little bit of jitters in the first inning. But once I threw a few pitches, they were gone." Nola's next start is Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. While there will be ups and down along the way, the Phillies hope Tuesday was a glimpse of what could be in a few years if J.P. Crawford, Zach Eflin, Roman Quinn, Cornelius Randolph, Andrew Knapp and others develop like the organization hopes. "I feel like we're just going out and doing our job and playing to the best of our ability," Nola said, when asked about the fact he represents the organization's future. "There's a lot of other great guys on the team that are there doing their job, too. We're trying to win."

Poor Base Running Sinks Phillies – Cody Asche did what he was supposed to, and it backfired. Odubel Herrera made a mistake, and the Rays took advantage of it. And on a night where two runs could've meant a completely different ballgame, those two mistakes buried the Phillies. The Phillies lost, 1-0, to the Rays on Tuesday night in a game where ace pitching prospect Aaron Nola lived up to the expectations the Phillies had of him when they selected him in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Despite this, the Phillies' offense also lived up to its reputation as the second-worst in the National League by runs scored and was unable to supply the rookie with run support, squandering its best opportunities in the cases of Asche and Herrera. In the second inning, after Asche walked to lead off the inning, he moved to second on a Domonic Brown single into center field. The single trailed into right field and Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier had to chase it down, so Asche rounded second and headed to third. This proved to be a mistake as Kiermaier showed off his arm and gunned Asche down at third for the first out of the inning. Although the outcome wasn't optimal, Asche defended his aggression. "Right there, that's just the play," Asche said. "He made a hell of a play. Not a lot of center fielders have the athletic ability to do that. I haven't seen it, but to make that throw from where he was on the line was pretty impressive." Although Asche's mistake came first, Herrera's might've been more pivotal. With Nola on first and one out in the fifth inning, Herrera dribbled a 1-1 pitch down the first-base line to Rays first baseman James Loney. Loney turned and fired to shortstop Jake Elmore, who was covering second base to retire Nola. By the time the ball made its way to Elmore, Herrera was barely out of the batter's box, as he elected not to run down the line. By the time he realized he could've beaten out the double play, it was too late, as Elmore delivered back to Loney for the easy 3-6-3 double play. "He didn't assume [Loney] was going to throw to second base, so he kind of quit running, which is something he's got to understand that's not the way you play," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's like getting a base hit to the outfield and not thinking about going to second base because he's going to catch the ball. You don't assume the outfielder is going to make the play." For some managers, the temptation after a play like that where it appeared Herrera suffered from a lack of effort might be to bench the player as punishment. That, however, is not Mackanin's style. "I'm not going to do that unless it's flagrant," Mackanin said. "This kid works as hard or harder than anybody. He puts in his time, and he's a good kid. I like the way he prepares for the game, but he's had a few incidences where he just didn't do things he should've done, and tonight was one. I'm not going to bury him because of that."

Franco Day-To-Day – For the first time since May 15, Maikel Franco's name was not listed in the Phillies' starting lineup Tuesday. The rookie third baseman left Monday night's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay with soreness in his right elbow that he said he aggravated on a throw in the sixth inning. Out of precaution, Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin removed him from the game and decided to give him Tuesday off. Despite this, Franco said that he thinks he is available to pinch-hit if necessary, and he feels well enough that had Mackanin decided to start him, he thinks he could've played comfortably. "For me, I'm ready to play," Franco said. "I know it's sore a little bit, but I can play like that. But I just want to take a day off, and we'll see what happens." As he said he would Monday night, Franco arrived at Citizens Bank Park earlier than usual Tuesday to be evaluated by team trainers. Both Mackanin and Franco confirmed that the 22-year-old didn't undergo an MRI or any other tests. Rather, the trainers merely examined Franco's elbow. Based off their diagnosis, Mackanin listed Franco as day to day. Andres Blanco, a player Mackanin is glad to find a way to get in the game, started at third Tuesday. "I had planned to today, tomorrow and the next game have Blanco play a game at third, short and second -- not in that particular order -- to get him some at-bats and keep him sharp," Mackanin said. "I won't say it works out well that [Franco's] hurt, but I think it's just a day to day thing. He'll be fine." Since his callup from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 15, Franco has been a fixture in the Phillies' offense, producing primarily from the third spot in the order. He is batting .283 with an OPS of .818, 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Evaluating Trade Value – If the Phillies keep a five-man rotation through the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Cole Hamels has just one more opportunity to pitch for his suitors. He will pitch Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and if the rotation remains in order, he will not pitch again until the following Friday night against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, three hours past the Deadline. Of course, with no game scheduled Monday, the Phillies could skip somebody and pitch Hamels on Thursday night. There are reasons to want to see Hamels pitch at least one more time. He has a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts. But the Phillies do not think Hamels needs to dominate Saturday to alleviate any potential concerns of pursuers like the Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox and Astros. The Phillies quickly mention Hamels' track record. He has a 3.09 ERA from 2010-15, which ranks eighth out of 101 qualified pitchers in baseball, and he is a proven postseason performer. "He needs to pitch like Cole," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday. "He's been pitching close to 10 years. They know what he is." Of course, it only would make sense for opposing general managers to use Hamels' recent struggles as a bargaining tool. Boy, Ruben, we can't give up these prospects when we've seen Cole pitch so poorly lately. "Then don't trade for him," Amaro said. "I think if the shoe were on the other foot and we were in pursuit of players, our biggest concern would be health. Do we see something mechanically? Do we see something different? If we saw something alarming, it would be different." The Phillies have told teams they could wait to trade Hamels (and others) until the offseason, but more starting pitchers will be available in the winter as free agents. Hamels is signed through 2018 at $22.5 million per season with a $20 million club option for 2019. The deal includes a $6 million buyout. "You think anybody is going to sign a three, plus one of the ilk of Hamels?" Amaro said. "Do you think [David] Price will do a three-year deal? I would think not, based on what the marketplace has done for some other guys. You're looking at five, six, seven, eight years. What did [Clayton] Kershaw get? Seven years? We have a contract that is locked in at three, plus one. So, yeah, I've been under no mandate to move any of these players. The mandate from our ownership group and Pat [Gillick] is 'Make good deals.' That's the goal." Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur continue to receive interest. Chase Utley is on the disabled list, but he could begin a rehab assignment soon. Sources indicated there could be some interest from the Angels, who are looking for a left-handed bat. "We've had pretty significant dialogue the past couple weeks about things," Amaro said. "I think things will continue to heat up, yeah. "I believe that it's clear that clubs have needs and have been aggressive. It doesn't mean anything will get done, but there's been some aggressiveness. Listen, we have some players that are desirable. And so I would fully expect them to be aggressive, because we've kind of opened up the doors to allow them to discuss them. We've been open-minded from last October on."

Crawford Showing Power – Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford appears to have found his groove. Not typically known for his power, the shortstop now has five extra-base hits in his past three contests, including two homers. Tuesday night, he went 2-for-4 with a double and a solo homer for Double-A Reading, which took down Bowie, 6-4. Crawford's blast was clutch. It tied the game at four with two outs in the seventh inning. On the year, baseball's No. 15 overall prospect is hitting .266/.370/.431 with 11 doubles, four triples, four roundtrippers and 17 RBIs at the Double-A level. Drafted in the first round by the Phillies in 2013, he made his Reading debut earlier this season and is on pace to set new career bests in hits (currently at 79) and total bases (110).

Minor Updates – Players of the Week: Player OF Cord Sandberg, Lakewood...Sandberg, 20, hit a robust .435 (10-23) with a double, triple, five RBI and five runs scored in six games for the BlueClaws, earning him Phillies Minor League Player of the Week. He reached base safely in exactly half of his plate appearances and extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 4-4, three-run game on July 19 against Rome. Those three runs were his season-high for a game, and the four hits tied his season best. Sandberg was selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2013 draft and was signed by Alan Marr. Pitcher - LHP Jesse Biddle, Lehigh Valley...Biddle, a 23-year-old southpaw, was named Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week and International League Pitcher of the Week honors after a dominant start on July 17 against Rochester. In that start, he tossed 7.0 scoreless innings, allowed just three hits, walked one and struck out seven. It was his first scoreless start of more than 5.0 innings this season at any level. Biddle was the Phillies' first-round selection in the 2010 draft, and was signed by Eric Valent. Lehigh Valley IronPigs - International League North Division…42-53, 4th place…Lehigh Valley split four games with the Rochester Red Wings in what was their only series last week due to the triple-A All-Star Break. The IronPigs are 4-0-2 in their last six series, with their last series loss coming back in June. Top hitting performers - OF Aaron Altherr clubbed his fourth home run for Lehigh Valley and his 10th overall this season. He is now hitting .293 since joining the IronPigs…1B Chris McGuiness had hits in three of his four games, including his second home run of the season…OF Jordan Danks homered, drove in two runs, scored two more and walked twice in four games. Top pitching performers - LHP Jesse Biddle was strong in his start against Rochester, tossing 7.0 shutout frames and while allowing just three hits. He struck out seven and walked only one…LHP Adam Loewen converted both of his save opportunities and now has thrown four straight perfect innings for four straight saves…RHP Dalier Hinojosa tossed 1.2 innings and allowed one hit in his IronPigs debut on July 19. Reading Fightin Phils - Eastern League Eastern Division …51-43,T-1st place…The Fightins also had an abbreviated week due to the All-Star Break, as they played four games against the New Britain Rock Cats. Reading won three of those four, moving into a tie for first place with the Trenton Thunder. With their series win, they are eight games over .500 in divisional play, which is tied for best in the Eastern Division. Top hitting performers - OF Kelly Dugan batted .333 (5-15) with a triple, three RBI, a stolen base and a run scored…OF Cam Perkins slashed .364/.462/.636, doubled, tripled, scored a run and drove in another. He had hits in each of his three games…SS J.P. Crawford had a team-high three extra-base hits (double, triple, home run) in four games played…C Andrew Knapp played in two games, hitting a triple in one and a home run in the other. He has hit safely in all of his 15 games with Reading. Top pitching performers - RHP Ben Lively scattered seven hits and allowed two runs over 6.1 innings of work on July 19. He has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts…RHP Colton Murray appeared in two games out of the bullpen and earned two wins after combining to throw 3.0 scoreless innings…LHP Joely Rodriguez had a successful relief outing, allowing just one hit in 2.0 innings pitched. Clearwater Threshers - Florida State League North Division…16-8, 1st place, 53-41 overall…Clearwater was able to work around a rough series against Palm Beach to still finish the week with a winning record and remain 3.5 games up in the division. After winning consecutive games against Fort Myers and Palm Beach to start the week, the Threshers offense fell silent and produced just two runs over the next three games. They rebounded in their series opener with Lakeland on Sunday, riding Ricardo Pinto's strong start to a 3-1 victory. Top hitting performers - C Willians Astudillo batted an even .400 with two doubles, four RBI and a .429 on-base percentage last week. He hit safely in all but one game…CF Carlos Tocci went 9-23 (.391) with his first home run of the season for Clearwater, three runs scored and a stolen base…OF Aaron Brown hit .300 and had his first multi-home run game of the season. He now has six round-trippers this season. Top pitching performers - RHP Ricardo Pinto made two starts, combining to throw 14.2 innings while yielding just three runs (one earned) for a 0.61 ERA. He allowed nine hits and struck out eight…RHP Victor Arano lasted 7.0 strong innings in his start against Palm Beach, allowing just a run on five hits…LHP Brandon Leibrandt started one game for the Threshers and held Palm Beach to one run in 6.0 innings. He has allowed one run in each of his last three starts. Lakewood BlueClaws - South Atlantic League Northern Division…14-10, 2nd place, 47-45 overall…The BlueClaws continue to gain ground on West Virginia, and now sit just three games back after a 4-2 week. Those four wins came in convincing fashion, as they outscored opponents 29-12 in those games. Lakewood will finish their series with Rome to begin the week before meeting with the first-place Power for a three-game set. Top hitting performers - OF Cord Sandberg was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Week after batting .435 with a double, triple, five RBI, five runs scored and a .500 on-base percentage…1B Kyle Martin collected 10 hits in 23 at-bats (.435 average) and now has a nine-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .472 with 11 RBI. His 33 hits are eighth most among all players drafted this year…2B Scott Kingery recorded eight hits in six games, batting .364 with a double, triple and three walks…OF Herlis Rodriguez homered, scored four runs and batted .348 over five games. Top pitching performers - RHP Will Morris lasted a season-high 7.0 innings and surrendered three runs while striking out five batters…LHP Joey DeNato converted his only save chance-a six-out save on July 16-and also threw another scoreless frame in relief on July 19…LHP Austin Davis set a season-high with 6.0 IP in what was just his third start in 25 games overall. He allowed only one run on two hits…RHP Ranfi Casimiro struck out four and earned the win in his lone start. Williamsport Crosscutters - New York-Penn League Pinckney Division…21-8, 1st place…Williamsport went 4-3 last week and remains the only team in the New York-Penn League to have not yet reached 10 losses this season. They also recorded two more shutouts, and now boast a miniscule 2.44 staff ERA through 29 games. Top hitting performers - C Austin Bossart was locked in at the plate, collecting hits in six of his 10 at bats while hitting his first professional home run and knocking in two runs. He has hits in nine of his 10 games and is batting .385…1B Brendon Hayden hit .333 with a .444 on-base percentage, three walks and a couple of multi-hit games. Top pitching performers -  RHP Mitch Gueller is now 4-1 after tossing a 7.0-inning complete game shutout on July 17 against Batavia…RHP Alejandro Arteaga lasted 6.0 innings and allowed just one run in his one start, giving him four straight starts with either one or zero runs allowed…RHP Feliberto Sanchez made two scoreless relief appearances, one of 3.0 innings and another of 2.2 innings…RHP Luke Leftwich scattered three hits over 5.0 scoreless frames in his lone start of the week…RHP Anthony Sequeira converted a six-out save and added another 2.0 perfect innings in relief…RHP Robert Tasin tossed two scoreless frames for his sixth save of the season in as many chances. GCL Phillies - Gulf Coast League, Northwest Division…18-6, 1st place…The Phillies' lead in the division increased to 3.5 games after another strong showing. They won two straight against the Tigers before splitting two-game sets with the Astros and Braves, giving them a 4-2 record for the week. The Phillies currently have the most wins among all 16 GCL teams. Top hitting performers - OF Jesus Alastre batted .545 (6-11) with three runs scored, an RBI and a walk in his three games played…One week removed from Player of the Week honors, SS Jonathan Arauz continued to impress by hitting .300 with two doubles and a team-high four RBI…OF Cornelius Randolph reached base at a .435 clip and hit .316 with four runs, four walks and an RBI in six games. Top pitching performers -  RHP Felix Paulino made two starts, combining to allow three runs (two earned) in 10.0 innings while striking out nine batters…RHP Adonis Medina lasted 5.0 innings in his one start, surrendering a run on four hits…In his first start of the season, LHP Bailey Falter threw 4.0 shutout innings and struck out five batters…RHP Horace Stubblefield recorded two consecutive six-out saves, striking out seven total batters in the process.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 33-63. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 53-57-1 on this day.

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