Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Papelbon Gets Moved And The Phillies Keep Rolling

GAME RECAP: Philadelphia Tops Toronto 3-2

Ken Giles settled into his newly minted role as closer on Tuesday, helping the Phillies seal a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Hours after former closer Jonathan Papelbon was traded to the Nationals, Giles came on to protect a one-run lead and threw a scoreless ninth inning as Philadelphia took the opener of a two-game set. After allowing a leadoff single to Edwin Encarnacion, Giles retired Chris Colabello and Russell Martin on flyouts before Danny Valencia grounded into a forceout to end the game. It was Giles' first save of the season and the second of his career. "I can't thank him enough for guiding me through the way of the closer," Giles said about Papelbon. "I think I'm going to be a great closer." The Phillies rallied for three runs in the fifth to erase a two-run deficit, driving Blue Jays starter Felix Doubront from the game with four hits in a row, three of them for extra bases. Doubront lasted only four-plus innings, allowing six hits and three runs with two walks and three strikeouts. Lefty Adam Morgan took the win. Morgan allowed a leadoff homer to Devon Travis and surrendered another run on a pair of hits in the second, but he settled in and allowed only two more baserunners before he was lifted in favor of Jeanmar Gomez when the Phillies took the field for the seventh inning. Morgan tossed six innings and allowed five hits and two runs with two strikeouts and two walks.

  • The Phillies picked up 21 extra-base hits in their weekend sweep of the Cubs, their most in a three-game stretch since 2001. The power continued against the Blue Jays. After Ryan Howard started the fifth inning with a single, which appeared to carom off his leg, Darin Ruf, Cody Asche and Andres Blanco each doubled to hand the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
  • The Blue Jays have crushed left-handers this season, posting an .832 OPS against them. No other team had as much as a .771 OPS against left-handers. But Morgan handled himself well. After he served up the homer to Travis, he allowed one run in his final five innings to post his third quality start of the season. "It's challenging to face a lineup of all righties," Morgan said. "I just stuck to my game plan. This is a good hitting lineup, but if you keep the ball down and mix speeds, you give your team a chance to win. I learned pretty quick that anybody in that lineup can hit a home run. Just from then on, I really focused on keeping the ball down and mixing speeds in and out."
  • "It was hard to mentally prepare myself when I was already as nervous as I was. I think I did an OK job. I think it was the jitters, I was nervous up there. Just getting that first one out of the way, and hopefully the next one and beyond will be a lot smoother." -- Giles, on batting nerves as the team's new closer.
  • Troy Tulowitzki will make his much-anticipated Toronto debut when the Blue Jays and Phillies wrap a two-game series at Rogers Centre on Wednesday. The All-Star shortstop was acquired from the Rockies, along with reliever LaTroy Hawkins, early Tuesday, but he wasn't able to arrive in time to be in the lineup for the series opener later that day. He's expected to be activated ahead of the series finale. The addition of Tulowitzki is a clear upgrade at shortstop over Jose Reyes, who was sent to Colorado along with three Minor League pitchers in the blockbuster deal. Tulowitzki, 30, is hitting .300 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs this season. It's not immediately evident where he fits into the Blue Jays' batting order, but manager John Gibbons said that will become clear Wednesday.
  • Blue Jays rookie second baseman Devon Travis is questionable after exiting Tuesday's game with left shoulder irritation. Jose Bautista, who exited late due to a leg cramp, said he'll be ready to play Wednesday.

Right-hander Jerome Williams will make the start for the Phillies, his second since returning from the disabled list after he suffered a strained left hamstring. Williams is 3-7 with a 6.28 ERA this season. In four career games (three starts) against the Blue Jays, he's 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will get the start for the Blue Jays. The right-hander has surrendered three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his last 10 starts. 


Taking Over – Ken Giles seemed destined to pitch the ninth inning in a save situation Tuesday night, right? Less than an hour after the Phillies announced they had traded Jonathan Papelbon and cash considerations to the Nationals for Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta, Giles picked up the save in a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. "You know, the ball always seems to find you when you go in a game," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I was talking to [pitching coach Bob] McClure, and he said, 'The ball is going to find Giles tonight.' The baseball gods work that way." Giles allowed a leadoff single to Edwin Encarnacion before retiring the next three batters for the second save of his career, but his first as the full-time replacement for Papelbon, who ended his tumultuous three-plus seasons with the Phillies as the franchise's all-time leader with 123 saves. "I can't thank him enough for guiding me through the way of the closer," Giles said about Papelbon. "I think I'm going to be a great closer." The Phillies hope so. They need one. But while Giles certainly is confident in his abilities, he could not help but feel nervous Tuesday. It is one thing to be a setup man picking up a save for Papelbon late last season, when Papelbon was suspended for an indecent gesture after blowing a save. It is something entirely different to save a game as the man. "Yeah, I started to get a little nervous," Giles said. "The first one is the hardest. And even though I did it last year, I was way more nervous in this one, because I was the guy, I needed to get three outs to conserve that win. The eighth inning is way different. All I have to do is conserve that lead or come out with the tie. Closer, you just want to go 1-2-3, shut them down, let's go home." Papelbon had made his feelings known about his desire to be traded for more than a year. He said he enjoyed playing the role of villain in Philadelphia. He obviously had his detractors, but pitchers in the bullpen generally seemed to enjoy Papelbon's mentorship over the years. Giles is included in that group. "Pap was guiding me and teaching me the way," he said. "I knew he wanted to be traded, and I knew it was only a matter of time. It was just to the point of when he was going to get traded and when he felt like he was satisfied with where he wanted to go and stuff like that. I wish him all the best of luck, and hopefully we'll all cross paths once again and I'll see how he's doing then. "But being a closer feels great, it's a once in a lifetime dream for me to be a closer. Now it's my opportunity to show what I've got." So what's his intro music going to be? "I guess we'll wait and see."

One Down – Jonathan Papelbon finally got his wish. The Phillies announced Tuesday night they had traded Papelbon and cash considerations to the Nationals for Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta, ending Papelbon's tumultuous Phillies career without the trips to the postseason he expected when he signed a four-year, $50 million contract in November 2011. ranks Pivetta as the Phillies' No. 10 prospect. "We didn't want to just get rid of him," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a news conference in Philadelphia. "He had an extraordinary career with us. The fact of the matter is, he was as good as advertised and maybe better. We just didn't play very well around him. Unfortunately, we didn't have the kind of club that was the reason for him to be here. "No, I don't believe in just getting rid of the guy. Not for me. The ultimate goal was to do what's right for the Phillies. That's what I have to do. I think, ultimately, this will work out for everyone." Amaro said the Phillies are paying a "significant" portion of Papelbon's salary for the remainder of the season. The Washington Post reported it is $4.5 million, which is essentially the rest of his 2015 salary. But Amaro said they will pay none of the $11 million Papelbon will make in 2016. Papelbon, who waived his no-trade rights, actually took less money to leave the Phillies, forgoing a $13 million club option that would have automatically vested if he finished just 14 more games this season. Papelbon flew home to Mississippi following Sunday's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, so he never made it to Toronto. Papelbon recently had made it a habit to fly home for off-days, packing his bags each time and hoping he would get that call from the Phillies that he had been traded. He finally got that call Tuesday. Papelbon and his agents negotiated the new contract directly with the Nationals, and the Phillies and Nationals agreed on Pivetta. "I think every trade has its challenges," Amaro said. "This had a variety of different challenges because we had to get approval from him, and there was some complication in converting the contract. I think, at the end of the day, hopefully this works out for everybody." The Nationals selected Pivetta, 22, in the fourth round of the 2013 Draft. He went 7-4 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) this season with Class A Advanced Potomac before being promoted to Harrisburg, where he is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in three starts. "A strapping, big arm," Amaro said about Pivetta. "A guy who our scouts liked quite a bit. We have seen him quite a bit over the last couple of years. We like the arm. Hopefully, Nick can continue his development and continue his way up the ladder so he can help us in Philadelphia sometime soon." Amaro said Pivetta's ceiling is as high as a No. 3 starter. "He's still got some upside," Amaro said. "Our projections are a middle to the bottom of the rotation type of pitcher. Could be as high as a three. Could be as low as a five. A lot of it depends on how he develops. He's got great stuff to work with, and I like the way our development people are working with our pitching." Coincidentally, Papelbon's trade came two years to the day that he told in Detroit: "I definitely didn't come here for this." Papelbon had been vocal about wanting to leave Philadelphia ever since, most recently campaigning for a trade at the All-Star Game. He will leave the Phillies as the franchise's all-time saves leader, with 123. He finished his Phillies career 14-11 with a 2.31 ERA in 234 appearances, making the National League All-Star team in 2012 and 2015.

Trade Talk – Jonathan Papelbon is headed to the Nationals, but what about Cole Hamels? Sources told on Tuesday that Hamels is expected to be traded before Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, although nothing is imminent. But the Phillies moved Hamels' scheduled start from Thursday to Friday, which erases any risk of a freak injury and allows the acquiring team to pitch him almost immediately. The Phillies would not have bumped Hamels if they did not hope to trade him. reported the Phillies have told teams to make their best offers for Hamels by Wednesday. "I guess I'm pretty valuable to them right now," Hamels said with a smile before Tuesday night's 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. "I understand. It's OK. I just do what they tell me to do. But I understand them. I guess if I were in their position, I'd do the same thing, too." The Rangers and Dodgers remain the frontrunners for Hamels, but a source told on Tuesday that the Giants have escalated their efforts. San Francisco has the financial flexibility to facilitate a trade, although it is difficult to see how they will come up with the prospects to satisfy the Phillies. The Astros also have emerged as a suitor. reported that Phillies scout Charley Kerfeld scouted Houston's Double-A affiliate on Tuesday. Phillies president Pat Gillick leans heavily on Kerfeld's opinions, so the fact he has been watching Texas' and Houston's Double-A affiliates this week is worth noting. Sources said the Yankees, Cubs and D-backs also have expressed interest in Hamels. But the Rangers continue to make the most sense for the Phillies because they like the young power hitters in their farm system. Hamels can block trades to 20 teams, but he cannot block trades to the Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, Padres and Mets. But there are more hurdles to clear than just the no-trade list. First, the Phillies need to get some prospects they like, preferably power hitters. Second, there is Hamels' salary. Hamels will be paid $22.5 million each of the next three seasons, which includes a $6 million buyout on a 2019 club option worth $20 million. "We've had really fluid conversations with a bunch of teams on a variety of players," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a news conference in Philadelphia.

Minor Update – Players of the Week: Player 1B Brock Stassi, Reading…Stassi, 25, was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Week after batting .444 (12-27) in seven games with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, and in five of those games has recorded multiple hits. Stassi's 66 RBI are most in the league, and he also ranks among the top four in average (.315), on-base percentage (.406), total bases (156) and walks (54). His home run on July 23 was his ninth of the season, which is a new career high. Stassi was selected by the Phillies in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft out of The University of Nevada-Reno, and was signed by Joey Davis. Pitcher - LHP Ranger Suarez, GCL Phillies…Suarez, a 20-year-old lefthander, started one game last week, tossing 6.0 scoreless innings while allowing only two hits and a walk against the GCL Yankees. He struck out five batters en route to Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week honors. Suarez now has scoreless outings of 6.0 innings or more and three hits or fewer in three of his four starts. He has allowed only two earned runs in 27.2 innings pitched this season (0.65 ERA) and has a 0.69 WHIP (15 hits, four walks), both of which rank in the top four in the league. Suarez was signed as an amateur free agent in April of 2012 by the Phillies and Jesus Mendez.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs - International League North Division…46-56, 4th place…The IronPigs have improved to 5-0-3 in their last eight series after splitting a four-game set with the Toledo Mud Hens and then taking two of three from the Syracuse Chiefs. They have gone 24-14 since June 14 after posting a 22-42 record through that date. Top hitting performers - OF Aaron Altherr recorded RBIs in five of seven games, including three multi-RBI efforts. He clubbed two home runs, scored four runs and tallied 17 total bases for Lehigh Valley…In his return to the Phillies' farm system, C Erik Kratz batted .500 (7-14) with four runs scored, two doubles, a triple and a pair of RBI. Top pitching performers - LHP Anthony Vasquez won his third straight decision after tossing 6.0 innings of one-run ball against Toledo on July 21…LHP Jesse Biddle impressed for the second straight start, this time surrendering a run on four hits in 5.2 innings of work. He has allowed one run in his last 12.1 innings…LHP Adam Loewen appeared in four games, all in relief, and struck out five while allowing just three base runners (a hit and two walks) in 4.1 innings. He also converted his lone save opportunity. Reading Fightin Phils - Eastern League Eastern Division …54-47, T-2nd place…Reading's week began strong with a series win over Bowie, but quickly turned as they won just one game in a four-game series with New Britain. The Fightins sat in first place in the division briefly two weeks ago, but have now lost four of five and sit 1.5 games behind the first-place Binghamton Mets. Top hitting performers - 1B Brock Stassi was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Week after compiling a .444 average with two homers, eight RBI, a .531 on-base percentage and 1.309 OPS in seven games. He has seven RBI in his last five games and 66 for the season…SS J.P. Crawford doubled three times, homered, scored seven runs and knocked in two more while hitting .308…C Andrew Knapp batted .364 with six RBI and a team-high four doubles in six games. He had multiple hits in three of those games…OF Kelly Dugan went 7-24 (.292) with four runs scored, two doubles and two RBI. Top pitching performers - RHP Colton Murray had a 2.0-inning relief appearance and a 3.0-inning relief appearance and did not allow a base runner in either. He struck out six batters in those 5.0 innings combined…RHP Edubray Ramos combined for 4.0 innings and one unearned run in his two games out of the bullpen…LHP Tom Windle struck out five in 3.2 innings of work, allowing just one unearned run on two hits. Clearwater Threshers - Florida State League North Division…20-11, 1st place, 57-44 overall… The first-place Threshers started their week with three straight wins, scoring 20 combined runs in those games. They were unable to carry that momentum, however, as they dropped two of their last three against Jupiter and the series opener with Bradenton to finish 4-3 for the week. Top hitting performers - 1B Rhys Hoskins recorded 10 hits in 25 at-bats (.400) while reaching base in half of his plate appearances. He scored five runs, walked five times and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games…OF Carlos Tocci also batted .400, recording three multi-hit games with four doubles, four runs scored and four RBI…C Willians Astudillo is now batting .310 for the season after going 8-24 (.333) with five RBI and three runs scored…OF Andrew Pullin reached double digits with his 10th home run of the season and also drove in a team-high six runs while batting .320 in six games…OF Dylan Cozens may have only played in five games, but he still managed to hit a home run, triple and double while batting .412 with 13 total bases. Top pitching performers - LHP Brandon Leibrandt threw 7.0 strong frames, yielding just two runs on three hits to Jupiter. He has 11 quality starts in 15 total starts this season…RHP Victor Arano allowed two runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings during his lone start of the week. Lakewood BlueClaws - South Atlantic League Northern Division…19-11, 2nd place, 52-46 overall…Lakewood sits just a game back in the division after a dominant 5-1 week which included a series win over first-place West Virginia. The Blue Claws will finish their series with Kannapolis before heading to West Virginia to try to gain more ground on the Power in a four-game series. Top hitting performers - 2B Scott Kingery hit .346 with a home run, four RBI and four runs scored in six games. He has eight hits in last 17 at-bats (.471 average)…1B Kyle Martin continues his torrid season after batting .348 with four extra-base hits (two doubles, a triple, and a home run). Martin set a career-high with four hits on July 25, and is batting .372 this season…OF Jiandido Tromp went 7-21 (.333) with three doubles and two RBI. Top pitching performers - RHP Ranfi Casimiro has now won four straight decisions after throwing 7.2 shutout innings with six strikeouts against the West Virginia Power on July 22…RHP Will Morris lasted 7.0 innings for the second straight start, allowing three runs in his win over Kannapolis…RHP Tyler Viza tossed 7.0 scoreless frames and scattered six hits in his lone start…LHP Elniery Garcia tied his season-best with just three hits allowed in a 6.0-inning scoreless start on July 24…RHP Matt Hocknberry appeared in three games, combining for 4.0 scoreless innings and two saves in as many chances. Williamsport Crosscutters - New York-Penn League Pinckney Division…24-12, 1st place…The Crosscutters rebounded nicely from an 0-3 start to the week to win three of their last four games by a combined score of 19-10. They allowed three runs or fewer in each of their three wins and remain four games ahead in the division. Top hitting performers - OF Zachary Coppola hit safely in his first six games of the week, finishing with a .357 average and five runs scored to go along with a .400 on-base percentage…2B Josh Tobias hit .345 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and three multi-hit games…OF Jose Pujols went 8-27 (.296) with five runs scored, two driven in and a double. He is tied for the league lead with 11 doubles this season…OF Mark Laird batted .318 with four RBI and hit safely in all but one of his six games played…1B Brendon Hayden reached base at a .435 mark thanks to six hits (three doubles) and a team-high four walks. Top pitching performers -  RHP Mitch Gueller held Aberdeen to two runs (one earned) in 6.2 innings on the mound on July 24. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in four of his six starts…LHP Tyler Gilbert did not allow a run and surrendered only three hits in 5.0 innings of work during his one start…RHP Anthony Sequiera had outings of 2.1 innings and 2.0 innings, both of which were scoreless. He nailed down his only save opportunity, and now has five straight outings of at least 2.0 innings pitched. GCL Phillies - Gulf Coast League, Northwest Division…20-8, 1st place… Bad weather held the Phillies to just five games last week, as they had three contests, including a doubleheader, postponed due to rain. They took their first two games of the week against the Yankees by scores of 7-5 and 3-0, but then dropped three straight to the GCL Blue Jays on Wednesday and Thursday. Top hitting performers - OF Juan Luis raised his average 48 points in three games after going 6-9 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored…3B Lucas Williams batted .556 (5-9) in three games and now has a seven-game hit streak…SS Jonathan Arauz hit .364 with a walk in three games. Top pitching performers -  LHP Ranger Suarez's ERA sits at 0.65 after yet another scoreless outing. He pitched 6.0 innings and allowed two hits, giving him three starts of 6.0 innings, no runs and three hits or fewer this season. His dominant start earned him Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week…RHP Edgar Garcia made his first start of the season, yielding two runs (one earned) in 4.1 innings of work while striking out four…RHP Kevin Walsh did not allow a run in his season-high 3.1 innings of relief on July 23.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 38-63. 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 55-50-0 on this day.

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