Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Phillies Rest Before The Final Push

GAME RECAP: No Game Played Yesterday!
The Phillies are teetering on the verge of history needing a winning home stand to avoid their first 100 loss season since 1961. However, recent rookie performances and a stocked minor league system bode well for the future.

  • First baseman Ryan Howard is expected to be available to play as early as Tuesday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He has not played since Sept. 14 because of a bruised left knee. "He'll get back on the field at some point before the end of the year," Proefrock said. Third baseman Maikel Franco has been on the DL since Aug. 12 with a broken left wrist. He is scheduled to play five innings Monday in a Florida instructional league game. If that goes well, Proefrock said, "[Franco will] be back in Philly before the end of the season as well."
  • Outfielder Domonic Brown has not played since Sept. 2 because of a concussion. He is going to play in some instructional league games before he can be cleared, but he will not rejoin the Phillies before the end of the season. It could be the end of his Phillies' career. He is eligible for salary arbitration after the season and the Phillies could non-tender him.
  • Buchanan, who posted a 9.11 ERA and nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (26) through his first 11 starts, is looking to close his season on a high note. Buchanan's last two outings have been his best of the year, with just three earned runs in 11 innings. He has eight strikeouts and two walks over that stretch.
  • Colon has feasted on the bottom of the NL East all summer, going 12-2 with a 2.81 ERA against the Phillies, Marlins and Braves, and just 2-10 with a 6.48 ERA against everyone else. Tuesday will mark Colon's seventh consecutive start against one of those three teams; not surprisingly, he owns a 1.65 ERA over that stretch.
  • The Mets may spend this entire series without infielder Juan Uribe, who has not played since aggravating a chest injury Friday in Cincinnati. The team is unsure if Uribe will be healthy enough to play when the NLDS begins Oct. 9.

Even with seven bench players in their lineup on Sunday, the Mets dominated the Reds a day after clinching the National League East title on their turf. Perhaps that's a sign of things to come for a team that is hardly ignoring the challenge of attaining home-field advantage in the NL Division Series. The Mets will shift back to a more traditional lineup when they begin a three-game series Tuesday with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Though manager Terry Collins will rest plenty of players between now and the end of the regular season, he also plans on widening the small lead his team has opened over Los Angeles in the race for home-field advantage. The Phillies, meanwhile, will spend this week trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. Right-hander David Buchanan will start Tuesday's opener for them opposite Bartolo Colon, who shifted forward in the rotation to accommodate Jon Niese's move to the bullpen.


Time For Instruction – Please forgive Phillies farm director Joe Jordan if he sounds a bit euphoric. After a long season of overseeing the organization's future, he simply loves instructional league play. "It's one of the healthier environments in baseball," Jordan said. "They're young, they're energetic, they're very impressionable players. We have a great staff, and we have a lot of positive energy. It's my favorite four weeks of the year." It's a four-week span that started Monday spent at the Phillies' Spring Training facility in Clearwater, Fla., where many new members of the system come to learn more about what it means to be part of the organization and get some extra game action. Having someone like first-round pick Cornelius Randolph makes it an even better month for Jordan and his staff. Randolph, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 Draft and No. 5 on the Phillies' Top 30 Prospects list (No. 86 on the overall Top 100), had a strong pro debut by just about any measure. He finished eighth in the rookie-level Gulf Coast Legue with his .302 batting average, but he was second in on-base percentage (.425) and actually topped the league with his .866 OPS. "Cornelius is going to be a hitter, a good hitter," Jordan said. "I just really like what we got with our first pick. The ability to hit, he has an advanced understanding of himself for a young player. You talk hitting with him, and it's very impressive as far as some of the things he says and things he understands at that age. You look at the walks and strikeouts -- they were even. That's tremendous, and he's going to hit for power." That doesn't mean there aren't things to work on, of course. Randolph is just 18, and while the Phillies don't tinker with new draftees over the summer, now is exactly the time to drill down and help them get better. "We don't do a lot with newly drafted guys over the summer as far as changing things," Jordan said. "We let them do what they do for a certain amount of time, knowing we'll have them for these four weeks." One thing the Phillies will work on with Randolph is improving the use of his lower half. He's not your typical young hitter, in that his strength is middle and opposite field, and he shows an ability to drive the ball to left-center as a left-handed hitter. The Phillies feel he'll develop the ability to drive the ball to the pull side, and he's already showing that he can make adjustments in this regard. Randolph will also continue to learn a new position. A middle infielder in high school, he moved to the outfield immediately during his pro debut, playing 41 games in left. Instructs give him the chance to get more game-like situations under his belt. "He has a lot to learn about angles and routes," Jordan said "There are all sorts of intricacies he can learn out there. "I think moving to the outfield is going to be an easy transition. He's invested in it. I think we have a good one. I'm looking forward to watching him develop." Getting better acquainted with trade acquisitions: When the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, they got three Top 100 prospects in return. But they were sent to affiliates, with one exception, before the player development staff really got to know them. Both right-hander Jake Thompson (No. 2 on the Phillies' Top 30) and outfielder Nick Williams (No. 3) went right to Double-A Reading. Catcher Jorge Alfaro (No. 4) was recovering from left ankle surgery, or he would have surely joined his former Rangers teammates. It's not typical for players at the upper levels to go to instructs, but the Phillies wanted to get to know them a bit better and let the prospects learn a little more about what's expected of them in a new organization. For Williams, it's all about using his speed to a greater advantage. He stole 13 bases in total in 2015, but Jordan thinks there's more there to tap into. "He has a speed tool we're going to try to get him to use on the bases," Jordan said. "For me, he has the chance to steal 25-30 bags in the big leagues." Thompson will only be in instructs for a few days after throwing more than 132 2/3 innings this season. His visit will mostly be to talk about his offseason program and, as with Williams, to make sure he's ready when Spring Training rolls around. The plan for Alfaro is a bit different. With the exception of four at-bats in the Gulf Coast League in late August, he hasn't played since June. He's been at the complex in Clearwater since the trade, and the Phillies are just trying to prep him for winter ball in Venezuela. "We're getting [Alfaro] physically prepared, game ready," Jordan said. "He'll see some live pitching. He's been here the whole time, so he's been exposed a little bit more to our philosophy. For him, we're just getting him ready to play. He needs to go make up some time."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 58-97. 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 34-43-2 on this day.

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