Thursday, August 20, 2015

Phillies Win On Utley’s Final Night With The Team

GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Toronto 7-4

The Phillies fans who came to Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night were hoping to learn the official fate of Chase Utley. Jeff Francoeur, Aaron Altherr and Andres Blanco homered, and rookie left-hander Adam Morgan allowed just two runs in seven innings in the Phillies' 7-4 win over the Blue Jays. Shortly after the game, the Phillies announced that they had completed the deal to send Utley to the Dodgers for prospects infielder/outfielder Darnell Sweeney and right-hander John Richy. "Morgan was outstanding tonight," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Other than the fifth inning, he kind of mowed them down." "That's twice [Morgan] has pitched against us and we haven't been able to do anything with him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I thought we had him on the ropes there in the fifth inning and we got that second run so we went for it there and pulled it close. But then we gave up three [runs in the bottom of the inning.]"

  • The Phillies promoted Altherr on Tuesday from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he quickly showed why they think he could be part of their future. He doubled to score a run in the first inning. It was the first hit, double and RBI of his big league career. He then hit a two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning for his first home run. "It's good to get that first hit out of the way," Altherr said. "I just thank God for this opportunity. Hopefully I can continue to produce up here."
  • Morgan had arguably the best outing of his 10-start career. He allowed five hits, two runs and struck out three in seven innings against one of the best offenses in baseball. It should be a confidence booster for Morgan, who allowed five hits and two runs against the Blue Jays in Toronto on July 28. "Any team you face is a good team," Morgan said. "So any team I face and do well against is a confidence booster."
  • "I haven't seen the first one yet. Mystery ball. I don't know where it went. I got the home run ball, though." -- Altherr, on if he got the ball from his first-inning double. Teammates are almost certainly holding it as a prank.
  • Altherr is the first Phillies player to record his first hit, home run, RBI, run, double and walk in the same game since Denny Southern on Sept. 10, 1926, against the Cubs.
  • The Phillies lead the season series between the two clubs, 5-4, despite the Marlins outscoring Philadelphia, 42-35, over the nine games.
  • The Phillies begin life without iconic second baseman Chase Utley, whom they traded Wednesday night to the Dodgers. It is expected to make Cesar Hernandez the team's second baseman the remainder of the season, although it leaves them a man short in the infield with Maikel Franco on the disabled list with a broken left wrist. It will be interesting to see moving forward how the Phillies handle both second base and third base.

The Phillies and Marlins will open up a four-game series on Thursday at Marlins Park in a battle between division rivals. Philadelphia will send Jerome Williams to the mound to square off against Miami starter Brad Hand. Williams has had a difficult 2015, but August has been kind to the veteran right-hander. He's 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA, allowing just three earned runs over 18 innings. Williams entered the month with an ERA over 6.00, but he's now sitting at 5.47. Hand will hope his last outing was a blip on the radar, as the left-hander had also been strong to begin August. He surrendered 11 hits and six runs over six innings against the Cardinals his last time out. However, Hand allowed just one earned in his first two starts of the month (11 innings).


A Night To Remember – Phillies left fielder Aaron Altherr had a night of firsts on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. He picked up the first hit, double and RBI of his big league career in the first inning against the Blue Jays. He then hit the first homer of his career in the fifth inning of a 7-4 victory over Toronto. Altherr is the first Phillies player to record his first hit, home run, RBI, run, double and walk in the same game since Denny Southern on Sept. 10, 1926, against the Cubs. "It's good to get that first hit out of the way," Altherr said. "I just thank God for this opportunity. Hopefully I can continue to produce up here." The Phillies promoted Altherr from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, replacing injured third baseman Maikel Franco on the 25-man roster. He will get a chance to play the remainder of the season. He has performed well since Winter Ball. He hit a combined .293 (127-for-433) with 32 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 67 RBIs in 111 games with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Altherr is ranked the No. 23 prospect in the Phillies' system, according to

Utley To Reunite With Rollins – Chase Utley raised the Phillies cap from his head and acknowledged the fans standing and cheering for him behind the Phillies' dugout following Wednesday night's 7-4 win over the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park. He descended the steps and quietly disappeared into the clubhouse. It would be his last time in a Phillies uniform. The Phillies announced they had traded their iconic second baseman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Minor League prospects Darnell Sweeney, who is a Triple-A infielder/outfielder, and John Richy, who is a Class A right-hander. Sweeney, ranked the 11th-best prospect in the Phillies' organization according to, already has been promoted to take Utley's spot on the roster. reported the Phillies will pay $4 million of the $6 million owed Utley through the end of the season, which includes a $2 million buyout on a 2016 club option. "I'm not necessarily an emotional guy," Utley said in a news conference. "But this city's meant a lot to me over the years. I think everyone knows my love and affection for the city. It was a very, very difficult decision for me and my family to go. It's not so much changing uniforms, it's about leaving this city, which has given so much to me over the 12 or 13 years I've been here." Utley's departure leaves Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz as the only remaining members of the 2008 World Series championship team. It also reunites Utley with longtime teammate Jimmy Rollins, whom the Phillies traded to Los Angeles in December. Utley waived his no-trade rights to join the Dodgers, who are his hometown team. Utley grew up in Long Beach, Calif. He attended a 1988 World Series game at Dodger Stadium with his father. He attended UCLA before the Phillies selected him in the first round of the 2000 Draft. Utley, 36, had indicated for some time that he wanted to remain in Philadelphia, but his stance shifted as the Phillies continued to lose and traded Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and Jake Diekman in July. "Three weeks ago or so I had a conversation with [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.]," Utley said. "We put our heads together and decided it might be best for us to part ways. I gave them a list of a handful of teams that I would consider playing for, and then it was Ruben's job to find the best deal he could for the organization. And ultimately it came down to the Dodgers, a team I grew up watching." "Chase is an iconic, generational player here in Philadelphia, and arguably one of the most popular and most successful players we've ever had in our organization," Amaro said. "To have to take him away from our organization and put him in another one is not what I'd consider to be particularly gratifying. But I can say that I believe this is the best thing for all parties at this stage of the Phillies development and this stage of Chase's career." Utley leaves the Phillies as their greatest second baseman, and one of the most popular athletes in Philadelphia history. He ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in hits, doubles, home runs, extra-base hits, RBIs, games and walks. He helped the Phillies win five consecutive National League East titles from 2007-11, two National League pennants and one World Series title. He set a standard for hard-nosed play, which Phillies fans loved. "I don't think we're going to be around all night so we can go through all the great memories we had here, but obviously winning the World Series here in 2008," Utley said about his greatest memories. "Nothing is better than that. The way the city reacted to that team was truly special, something I will never forget. Going down Broad Street after winning the World Series was an amazing feeling. "But … it's time." Utley's locker had been cleared out by the time he spoke to reporters. His bags had been packed. He eventually left the ballpark with his wife Jen and his son Ben. The Phillies move on. Utley moves on. But the memories linger. "I don't think it has totally set in yet that I'm not going to be around here for the rest of the year," Utley said. "I don't know. Time will tell. But both myself and my family were comfortable with this decision."

Farewell To An Iconic Phillie – First baseman Ryan Howard won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2006. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins won it in 2007. Chase Utley never took home that hardware. But it's not a stretch to suggest that he meant more to the Phillies in those years than Howard or Rollins or Cole Hamels or Pat Burrell or anybody in that era. "He was flanked by league MVPs, left and right," said Ed Wade, the general manager when Utley was drafted. "But I think if you boil down his decade worth of performance in a Phillies uniform, I don't think it would be overstating to say he was the MVP of that era. As good as that core nucleus was, what all those guys did, there was sort of a performance and a heartbeat level that was happening at second base." That's not hyperbole. As calculated by, Utley's WAR is fourth in franchise history. Among position players, it is second only to Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Utley waived his full no-trade protection and was traded to the Dodgers on Wednesday night. Plaques and numbers are one thing. No player was more quickly adopted or fervently embraced by Philadelphia's blue collar fan base, a group that values unrelenting effort above any other quality in its professional athletes. He becomes the third member of the Phillies nucleus to say goodbye in the last eight months. Rollins was traded to the Dodgers last December, Hamels to the Rangers just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline last month. Now only Howard and Carlos Ruiz remain as links to the greatest run of sustained excellence in franchise history: five division titles, two pennants and a World Series championship from 2007 through 2011. It's a sobering reminder of how fleeting athletic glory really is. All good things must end. Utley had more staying power than most. For 13 Major League seasons, he played for the same team. "There aren't many guys who have been able to wear just one uniform through a fairly long career," Utley said after signing his most recent contract extension. "Especially nowadays with the amount of movement there is and the amount of money there is in baseball ... So, something that I've always wanted to do." It didn't work out that way, but he did join a select list of the longest-tenured Phillies ever. Only Schmidt (18 years), Granny Hamner (16), Steve Carlton and Rollins (15) and Robin Roberts and Chris Short (14) had more continuous service. It wasn't just that he was around for a long time that made him such a civic fixture. It wasn't just the six All-Star Game appearances. It wasn't just his good works along with wife Jennifer, much of it focusing on pet adoption and raising money for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It wasn't even that he became the best second baseman the Phillies, who opened for business 132 years ago, have ever had. Just as Rollins was the best shortstop, Howard the best first baseman and Hamels the best pitcher the organization had developed in 60 years. No, it was more intangible than that. The rugged good looks that made women swoon. The strong-but-silent demeanor that men admired. The countless hours studying video, part of his leadership by example. The understated derring-do and the sense that, no matter what, he was giving everything he had at all times. If there's one vignette that sums it up, it came on Aug. 9, 2006, at Turner Field in Atlanta. Trailing in the top of the seventh, the Phillies took the lead on a bases-loaded double by Utley. Howard followed with a dribbler to the right side that pitcher Macay McBride fielded in front of the base and flipped to first. Utley, running all the way, scored from second on an out that was hit, maybe, 70 feet. In the broadcast booth, Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas couldn't contain himself. "Chase Utley, you are the man!" he yelled into the microphone. That became a rallying cry, a short-hand for everything he meant to the team and, now, an epitaph. He signed that last contract two years ago and it ran through 2018 when he'll be approaching 40. But, to protect the team, the last three seasons were $15 million options that would vest with 500 plate appearances the previous year. That was prudent considering the knee problems that dogged him in 2011 and 2012. In the end, it took a perfect storm to end Utley's Phillies career. He injured his ankle working out before the season, but tried to play. He was batting .179 when he finally went on the disabled list on June 23. In his absence, Cesar Hernandez took off for an organization that by now was in full rebuilding mode. When Utley came back, he had no chance of guaranteeing his option. He also had to prove he could still hit, which he did by batting .484 (15-for-31) with a 1.227 OPS. That encouraged contenders to make offers. Finally, the front office needed to iron out the complicated details with a team he would also be willing to go to. It had to be an emotional ordeal for Utley, who remained publicly stoic throughout the process. That, too, demonstrated consistency. He shared little of his private life and few of his thoughts, which only added to his mystique. That's one reason it generated such a reaction when he referred to the Phillies as "world [bleeping] champions" in the giddy post-parade celebration at Citizens Bank Park following the 2008 World Series. It was one of the rare times he bared his emotions for the world to see. Once again, Philadelphia watches as a baseball icon who was signed and developed and helped the franchise reach unprecedented heights has been traded. It's best for the Phillies, who are retooling. It's best for Utley, who gets another shot at the postseason. But that doesn't make it any easier.

Howard Talks About Utley’s Departure – The next time Ryan Howard sets foot in the Phillies' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, the nameplate above Chase Utley's locker will be removed. The contents have already been packed. "And then there were two," Howard said following Wednesday night's 7-4 victory over the Blue Jays. Howard and Carlos Ruiz are the only two holdovers from the 2008 World Series championship team after the Phillies and Dodgers announced the trade that sent Utley to Los Angeles for a pair of Minor League prospects. "It's crazy," Howard said. "All the things we've been able to do here. He's been here ever since I first got called up to the big leagues. Yeah, it's going to be different looking over here and not seeing him here and everything. "All things come to an end. We had a great run. Things are definitely changing. It is hard to believe, but just four years ago the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games. They looked like they could win forever. But now the rebuilding effort is in full swing. Since December, the Phillies have traded Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd, Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo. "You remember when you first walked in and you were a rookie," Howard said. "And then the next thing you know you're the veteran guy on the team and you've got change taking place. It's definitely different. And it's definitely kind of a weird feeling."

Examining The Return For Utley – In the twilight of his career and in the midst of his worst big league season, six-time All-Star Chase Utley wasn't going to command a lot in a trade. But the Phillies managed to get a pair of potentially useful prospects when they granted Utley's wish of playing for a contender in his native Southern California. The Dodgers acquired Utley on Wednesday night in exchange for outfielder/infielder Darnell Sweeney and right-hander John Richy. Sweeney will report immediately to Philadelphia for his first big league callup. Sweeney, 24, signed for $100,000 as a 13th-round pick out of Central Florida in 2012. He has raised his prospect profile by producing throughout his pro career, including leading the high Class A California League with 16 triples in 2013. Sweeney also led the Double-A Southern League with 88 runs and 77 walks in 2014. He was hitting .271/.332/.409 with nine homers and a Triple-A Pacific Coast League-high 32 steals in 116 games this season. Though he's ranked No. 8 on's Top 10 Second Base Prospects list, Sweeney has spent more time in the outfield in 2015. Philadelphia could give him a look at second base, though Cesar Hernandez has hit well there this year. Or they could use Sweeney as a utilityman. On a contending club, he would profile better in the latter role. Sweeney doesn't have a plus tool, but he can provide a little bit of everything, and he can play just about anywhere on the diamond. He's a switch-hitter with occasional power and a knack for drawing walks. Sweeney's a solid runner with an average arm, though his infield actions and footwork aren't the smoothest. Richy, 23, is in the midst of his first full pro season after signing for $534,400 as a third-rounder from University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 2014. Toiling in the hitter-friendly Cal League, he has gone 10-5 with a 4.20 ERA and a 105/34 K/BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings in 22 games (18 starts). Richy has currently tied for the league lead in victories. Richy's fastball can reach 94 mph, but it is more notable for its run and sink -- he can add and subtract from it well. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and he also employs a curveball and cutter/slider. The righty throws all four pitches for strikes, giving him a chance to become a back-of-the-rotation starter. On MLBPipeline's updated Phillies Top 30 Prospects list, Sweeney checks in at No. 11 and Richy at No. 30.

Two Debuts Set For Friday – This week in Miami the Phillies will get a look at two of the prospects they acquired in the Cole Hamels and Chase Utley trades. The Phillies announced following Wednesday night's 7-4 win over the Blue Jays they had promoted Triple-A right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, whom they acquired in the Hamels trade with Texas. Eickhoff will start Friday night against the Marlins at Marlins Park. The Phillies also announced they have promoted second baseman/outfielder Darnell Sweeney, whom they just acquired in the Utley deal. Eickhoff is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in three starts with Lehigh Valley. He is the No. 15 prospect in the Phillies' organization, according to Sweeney is ranked as the Phillies' No. 11 prospect after being the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers' organization. He hit .271 (128-for-472) with 30 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 49 RBIs, 32 stolen bases and a .741 OPS in 116 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City. said about Sweeney: "Sweeney doesn't have a standout tool but can do a little bit of everything. He's a switch-hitter who has made strides in tightening his strike zone and possesses more power than most middle infielders. He has solid speed but is still figuring out how to use it after leading his leagues in getting caught stealing in 2013 and '14. He was also tied for most in the PCL when he was dealt to Philadelphia." The Phillies also acquired Class A right-hander John Richy in the Utley deal. He is ranked as the Phillies' 30th-ranked prospect, and was 29th in the Dodgers' system. He went 10-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) with Rancho Cucamonga. Said "Richy can throw strikes with four different pitches. He can add and subtract from his fastball, ranging from 86-94 mph and maintaining his velocity deep into games. His heater features run and sink, and he uses his 6-foot-4 frame to leverage it down in the strike zone. Richy has good feel for his changeup and spins both a curveball and a slider/cutter. He has a clean delivery and works in the strike zone enough to profile as a durable end-of-the-rotation starter."

Utley Named To AFL HOF – Two of the National League's most decorated players have been recognized for their individual achievements. Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley were named to the Arizona Fall League's Hall of Fame on Thursday. McCutchen, a five-time NL All-Star and the 2013 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, has already won three NL Silver Slugger Awards and one NL Gold Glove Award in his first six seasons. McCutchen, 28 years old, is the sixth player in Pittsburgh's franchise history to hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases. Utley, a six-time NL All-Star and a four-time NL Silver Slugger, was a key cog in the Philadelphia team that went to the World Series in 2008 and '09. Utley led all Major League second baseman in runs scored (868) and on-base percentage (.375) between 2005-14, and he had a 35-game hitting streak in 2006. "At 28, Andrew McCutchen is one of the youngest players to merit AFL Hall of Fame consideration and election," said Cobb. "He has become one of baseball's elite players in a very short time. Chase Utley is one of the most potent offensive performers in the history of Major League second basemen. It is an honor to welcome both players to the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 47-73. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 49-57-1 on this day.

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