Monday, March 21, 2016

Giles Greeted By New Look Phillies

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Astros 5-4

Nobody knows where it will go once the regular season starts, but the Phillies are showing some pop in their bats this spring. Cesar Hernandez hit a leadoff home run in the first inning in Sunday afternoon's 5-4 victory over the Astros in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field. It was Hernandez's first homer of the spring and the Phillies' 29th. They entered the afternoon with the second-most home runs of any team in Spring Training. Hernandez finished the day with three hits and three RBIs. He singled to drive in Cedric Hunter in the fifth and doubled to score David Lough in the seventh. Hernandez scored the game-winning run on a safety squeeze by Freddy Galvis later in the seventh. The Phillies scored twice in the fifth inning against Ken Giles, who is Houston's likely closer. It was the first time Giles faced the Phillies since they traded him in December. Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who is in line to start Opening Day, allowed no hits and three walks and struck out six in five scoreless innings. Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who is battling for a job on the team, allowed two hits and one run and struck out five in four innings. The Astros took a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning when Colby Rasmus hit a three-run home run to right field off Phillies reliever Hector Neris.

  • Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has not played since March 12 because of a bruised left finger. He said he plans to hit again Tuesday. Mackanin said the Phillies are being "very careful with him," which makes sense because they are very thin in the outfield without Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche. "We're going to give him time to get 100 percent," Mackanin said. "He's a big part of our offense, and we don't want to take any chances with him. He'll be ready for the opener."
  • The Phillies have had two successful squeezes in the last two games. Charlie Morton executed a safety squeeze Friday and Freddy Galvis executed a suicide squeeze to score the game-winning run in the seventh Sunday. "That's the kind of offense we're going to have to utilize," Mackanin said. "We're going to have to do a lot of different things to make the other team nervous."
  • Left-handers Daniel Stumpf (4.00 ERA) and Bobby LaFromboise (0.00 ERA) each threw a scoreless inning. Both are competing for a bullpen job.
  • The Phillies celebrated Alumni Day before the game, honoring former Phillies like Darren Daulton, Dick Allen, Dave Cash and Ron Clark.

Right-hander Aaron Nola is scheduled to start Monday's Game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET. The game can be heard with a free, live exclusive webcast on Nola is on schedule to start the second game of the season and the home opener April 11. 


Facing A Former Phillie – Ken Giles flashed a smile and shook a few hands on Sunday morning at Bright House Field. A couple hours later his fastball flashed 101 mph on the scoreboard. During the Phillies' 5-4 win on Sunday, Giles faced his former team for the first time since it traded him to Houston in December. The Phillies sent Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for five pitchers: right-handers Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. Velasquez is the favorite to be the team's No. 5 starter, while Oberholtzer is expected to open the season in the bullpen. "I think it's great," Giles said about being the key piece in a seven-player trade. "I didn't think I was that valuable to begin with because I'm just a reliever. Nobody thinks a reliever is that valuable. The market's changed for a reliever. I feel humbled that they thought of me as that valuable, and hopefully both teams get the best benefit." Giles seemed a little fired up to face the Phillies. His first pitch to J.P. Arencibia, who led off the fifth, hit 101 mph. But the Phillies still got him for two runs. Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel hit a 99 mph fastball to center field for a one-out single. Pinch-hitter Cedric Hunter then hit an 86 mph slider for a two-out double down the right-field line to score Goeddel to make it 2-0. Cesar Hernandez followed, hitting a 97 mph fastball to left field for a single to score Hunter. "They said he throws hard," Goeddel said. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin liked the fact Goeddel squared up the fastball from Giles because he had been tardy on them lately. "I was just trying to get on top of something," Goeddel said. "You've got to hit the fastball in this game to be successful. I've been trying to shorten everything up." "He's been working on a little flaw in his mechanics," Mackanin said. "It was good to see. "I like Hunter a lot. He's an aggressive hitter. The guy comes up there to do damage. I like aggressive hitters. We've tried with a few guys the past few years to be aggressive early in the count, but they haven't been. They're starting to get the hint." Hernandez went 3-for-4 with one double, one home run and three RBIs. He is hitting .390 (16-for-41) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs this spring. "Thank God it's gone well," Hernandez said about his spring through Arencibia, who translated for him. "I'm a lot more relaxed. Now I understand I'm an everyday player so I know I'm going to be out there every day."

Ready For Opening Day? – Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is on target to start Opening Day. The Phillies have made no official announcement, but Hellickson's pitching schedule lines up with an Opening Day start on April 4 against the Reds in Cincinnati. He allowed no hits, three walks and struck out six in five scoreless innings Sunday in a 5-4 victory over the Astros at Bright House Field and is scheduled to pitch Friday and again March 30. Aaron Nola is on schedule to start the second game of the regular season, which would put him on track to start the home opener April 11 against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. "We're not going to commit to anything right now," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We haven't said anything to anybody." Hellickson, 28, would love the opportunity. "The first dream is to make it [to the big leagues]. The other one is to be the Opening Day starter," he said. "Either way it doesn't matter, but it would be an honor." Sunday was Hellickson's first start in a Grapefruit League game since March 4. He missed some time because of the flu and then had Saturday's start against the Blue Jays rained out. "It's been an odd schedule, but I got four innings in a Minor League game (March 13)," Hellickson said. "But it felt like forever since I pitched up here." Hellickon said his goal this spring is simple: return to the way he pitched earlier in his career. He went 27-21 with a 3.06 ERA in 70 appearances (64 starts) the first three years of his career, which included winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2011. But he is 22-27 with a 4.86 ERA in 72 appearances (71 starts) in three seasons since. "I think I was giving in to guys too easy," he said. "I was throwing a lot of 2-0 fastballs, 2-1 fastballs. If I walk a guy, I walk a guy. It's just not giving in anymore. If I locate my fastball it's a different story. I just couldn't get my fastball down when I needed to. I was getting hurt a lot with guys in scoring position. My first couple years if I walked a guy on a 3-1 changeup, I'll just went after the next guy."

Starter Moves To Bullpen – Brett Oberholtzer can read between the lines. But he can read the Phillies' pitching schedule, too. He will pitch back-to-back games as a reliever later this week, which is a good indication he will open the season in the bullpen. "I guess the writing is on the wall," Oberholtzer said Sunday morning at Bright House Field. "Literally." Oberholtzer, 26, is out of options, so he had a guaranteed spot on the Opening Day roster. The Phillies acquired him in the Ken Giles trade in December, so they obviously had no plans of losing him. But the storyline entering Spring Training is that he had a chance to be the Phillies' No. 5 starter because he has a 3.84 ERA in 42 big league starts. The Phillies need quality starters. Phillies starters not named Cole Hamels, Adam Morgan,Aaron Nola or Jerad Eickhoff posted a combined 6.19 ERA in 106 starts last season. That cannot happen again. But while everybody acknowledged Oberholtzer deserved consideration to start, the belief remained that he would open in the bullpen because of his versatility and because the Phillies also liked Vince Velasquez and Morgan. Oberholtzer threw eight scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action, plus three scoreless innings in a Minor League game, while Velasquez has a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings -- including allowing just one run and striking out seven in his last start, which saw him go five innings -- and Morgan has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings, plus five scoreless innings in a Minor League game. Velasquez or Morgan will be the Phillies' No. 5, assuming Jeremy Hellickson, Nola, Charlie Morton and Eickhoff open the season healthy. Oberholtzer said he is OK with the situation. "Absolutely," he said. "Once the roster is set and we head up to Philly, there's going to be moves just because guys get hurt and things happen. For me, it's just go out there and be prepared for any role." Oberholtzer could be the first option to start should somebody get injured early in the season. Because of his versatility, he has experience with having his role fluctuate throughout the season. "I've been in the bullpen and up and down and used in different roles at different times, so I've been accustomed to not throwing, throwing, different schedules and all that stuff," Oberholtzer said. "It's just really getting used to a routine and going about it that way. Being prepared to be used every other day or every day, three innings, maybe one batter. I for sure think I have the mentality for it. To be able to go out there and get outs whenever my name is called. But again there's nothing that's set in stone." Nothing is official, but Oberholtzer also has been around long enough to know what's happening. "I haven't gotten a start officially," he said. "So yeah, I feel like I kind of got the hint that maybe it's the role they're using me in."

Lucky Play – Ryan Howard turned an unassisted double play during Sunday's Phillies-Astros Grapefruit League game. Now, there are two ways it could've gone down. If you watch the clip, it looks like Howard dropped Colby Rasmus' fourth-inning liner by accident, and then haphazardly turned it into an unassisted double play amid the chaos and confusion at first. And that may very well have been the case. Or, it could've all been part of his plan. After all, Howard's played almost 1,400 MLB games at first. He's fielded a lot of liners. He could've flubbed the catch on purpose, knowing he'd be able to nab Carlos Correa taking off for second. He could be a master of deception. Either way, he ended the inning, so it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But whichever you believe probably says a lot about you as a person, just saying. 

Today In Phils History - In a bipolar show of affection the Phillies honored Robin Roberts with a cocktail party to retire his number the same night following an exhibition game during which they roughed him up but lost to his new team, the Yankees. 15 years later, the Phillies paid their respects to cross Commonwealth rival Roberto Clemente by traveling to Puerto Rico to play a two-game exhibition series against the Pirates to benefit sports programs honoring the late superstar. Finally, it was 2 years ago today when Freddy Galvis was diagnosed with an infection form antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing Galvis to be placed on the DL and the Phillies having to disinfect the entire clubhouse.

The Phillies have begun the spring with a 13-5-2 record (14-5-2 if you include the exhibition game against the University of Tampa). With the Phillies having finished the 2015 season with a spectacularly awful record of 63-99 it will be interesting to see what kind of team new President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak put on the field. At the same time I am definitely looking forward to the games against Boston with former GM Ruben Amaro on the field. Given the departures, lingering contracts, a history of injuries, bipolar performances, and unproven talent, it should, at the very least, be an interesting season for the Phillies. Who knows, maybe they can avoid 100 losses... hopefully by more than one game!

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