Friday, March 4, 2016

Phillies Earn Split Against 2015 Playoff Teams

EXHIBITION GAME 1 RECAP: Phillies Flog Yankees 13-4

Alex Rodriguez homered on the second pitch he saw, but Maikel Franco cleared the wall and Darin Ruf drove in three runs, helping the Phillies rally for a 13-4 Grapefruit League victory over the Yankees on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Franco's fourth-inning shot off right-hander Diego Moreno tied the game, and Philadelphia rallied for four runs in the fifth, highlighted by Ruf's two-run single. Franco and Tyler Goeddel also collected RBIs in the fifth off Jacob Lindgren and Anthony Swarzak. Rodriguez, who hit 33 homers in what he called a "Cinderella season" after returning from a historic drug suspension, connected on a 1-0 pitch in the first inning from left-hander Adam Morgan. Ivan Nova started for New York, permitting a Ruf RBI double among two hits over two innings. Nova, who is competing with CC Sabathia to serve as the Yankees' No. 5 starter, walked none and struck out one. Nova said that he feels "great" in his second year back from Tommy John surgery and that he is not concerned with trying to impress manager Joe Girardi or pitching coach Larry Rothschild. "I just have to prove to myself I can be in the rotation. I don't have to prove anything [to them]," Nova said. "They have seen enough from me. This is my seventh year in the league, so they have seen enough. I don't worry about trying to impress my manager or pitching coach. I just have to concentrate and do my job." Morgan worked two innings, allowing two runs and two hits.

EXHIBITION GAME 2 RECAP: Astros Edge Phillies 3-2

George Springer swung the bat well in the Astros' Grapefruit League opener Thursday afternoon at Bright House Field. The right fielder went 2-for-2 with two doubles in a 3-2 victory over the Phillies. He also got hit by a pitch. Astros right-hander Doug Fister allowed two hits, one walk and struck out four in two scoreless innings in his Astros debut. The Phillies had two of their better pitching prospects pitch the first four innings. Right-handers Jake Thompson allowed three hits, one unearned run, one walk and struck out one in two innings. Right-hander Zach Eflin had command issues in the third inning, walking two and hitting a batter to allow a run. Eflin pitched a scoreless fourth. "Thompson, it was the first time that he had pitched in a big league game, and Eflin as well," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "They had a little bit of the jitters. Other than that, we left too many men on third base and we had chances to score. But we had chances to win that game."

  • Cody Asche remains sidelined with a sore right oblique. The outfielder took dry swings Thursday, and he said he hopes to play in a Grapefruit League game sometime early next week.
  • Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is recovering from a broken right thumb, threw a batting practice session Thursday morning.
  • Right-hander Jimmy Cordero is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session of Spring Training on Friday. He has been sidelined with biceps soreness.
Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson starts Friday's Grapefruit league game against the Braves at Bright House Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and it will air on MLB.TV. The Phillies are expected to choose between Hellickson and Aaron Nola as their Opening Day starter.


Forget About The Trades – Jake Thompson has learned a few things in the past 20 months. One of those things: forget about the trades. The Tigers selected Thompson in the second round of the 2012 Draft, but they sent him to the Rangers on July 23, 2014, as part of the Joakim Soria trade. The Rangers shipped him to the Phillies on July 31 in a package that landed Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman. That's two big trades in 12 months. "Cole Hamels is Cole Hamels, he's undeniably good," Thompson said Thursday after he allowed three hits and one unearned run in two innings in a 3-2 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. "For me, I don't try to get super wrapped up in it." Thompson, 22, is ranked the club's No. 2 prospect and 55th overall by He is the most polished of the Phillies' pitching prospects, and the club is hopeful he will join Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff in the rotation in the future. But Thompson must continue to pitch well to make that happen, something he did following his arrival from Texas. Thompson had not pitched particularly well following the Soria trade, at least by his standards. He had a 4.30 ERA in 24 appearances (23 starts) with Double-A Frisco. "I was trying to do things I wasn't capable of," Thompson said. "I tried to overdo everything -- every fastball max [velocity] and not really utilizing all of the strengths of my game, like the movement on my fastball." But Thompson returned to his roots following the Hamels deal. Thompson stopped trying to live up to the hype of a recently acquired top prospect. He went 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Reading. "It was a personal thing," Thompson said. "When I got traded the first time, I struggled a little bit and it frustrated me. This time, I said, 'I'm just going to go out there and try to get outs, I'm not going to try to drop the jaws on everybody in the stands. I'm going to try to go out there and be a good pitcher.' The last part of Reading, it really panned out for me, and it's something as my command gets a little better here, I'm going to keep doing that, keep getting ground balls, keep getting weak contact." Thompson is expected to open the season at Triple-A with fellow pitching prospects Mark Appel and Zach Eflin. Both Appel and Eflin pitched Thursday. Appel allowed one hit, one run and four walks in two innings in a 13-4 victory over the Yankees in Tampa, Fla.. Eflin allowed one hit, one unearned run, two walks, one hit batter, one wild pitch and struck out one in two innings to the Phillies. Thompson walked in a run in the second after a two-out error by Phillies third baseman Taylor Featherston extended the inning. "I'm still trying to grow as a pitcher," Thompson said. "There are still certain things I feel I need to improve on. This is my first time in big league camp, getting out there, feeling the competition, seeing some of those guys you've see play on TV and facing them. It's a really cool thing and I was excited to do it."

Prospects Learning From Veterans – Every player has expectations about their first big league Spring Training, and Zach Eflin is no different. It is not what he anticipated. "Coming in here, everyone is open to talking and stuff," Eflin said after pitching two innings Thursday in a 3-2 loss to the Astros in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field. "Coming in here, I thought it'd be the young guys kind of shying away [from the veterans], but they've been completely outgoing and it's been incredible." Of course, the young guys outnumber the old guys these days. In previous camps, the veterans outnumbered the prospects. They typically convened at a table on the north end of the clubhouse while the youngsters and sixth-year free agents hung out at a table on the south end. But with so many players in camp, the Phillies put six additional lockers on the south end, moving the tables to one side. The clubhouse reconfiguration has forced everybody in camp to mingle together while they eat breakfast or hang out after a workout or game. "I've learned a lot," Eflin said. "I've really picked the brains of a lot of guys in the clubhouse." Eflin allowed one hit, one unearned run, two walks, one hit batter, one wild pitch and struck out one. He hit George Springer to start the third inning. Eflin walked Matt Duffy with one out and threw a wild pitch to put runners at second and third. An error from third baseman Taylor Featherston (his second of the game) allowed a run to score. Eflin walked Danny Worth to load the bases before getting out of the inning. "I've never been out of the bullpen before, so the blood was pumping," Eflin said. Eflin is the No. 13 prospect in the organization, according to He is expected to open the season in Triple-A with fellow pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Mark Appel. Thompson, who started the game, and Appel, who faced the Yankees in a split-squad game in Tampa, Fla., are second and fourth among Phillies prospects, respectively, and 55th and 70th among all prospects in baseball, respectively. Of the three, the Phillies consider Thompson to be the most advanced, while Appel has the best stuff. Eflin's stuff is similar to Appel's, but the organization wants him to set up and finish hitters more consistently this season. The Phils think once he gets it, his strikeout ratio (4.6 per nine innings last season with Double-A Reading) will take a jump. "I don't think they could have done a better job of getting a better group of guys together and going through it together," Eflin said about the potential Triple-A rotation. "We love it. Every single guy in here, we're all good with each other. We're all close-knit friends. I think it establishes and builds a foundation. If there's no competition, what do you have to prove?"

Spring Training Family Reunion – Jim and Racquelle Stassi stood behind the Phillies' dugout Thursday morning at Bright House Field, surveying a scene that had them recalling those countless hours spent on baseball fields back home in California. Their son Max Stassi made the drive with his Astros teammates from Kissimmee to play the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game. He is expected to be Houston's backup catcher in 2016. Their son Brock Stassi is in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee, fresh off a season that earned him the Double-A Eastern League Most Valuable Player Award. For the first time since high school, they saw their sons on the same field together. "It's kind of the culmination of all of those years," Jim Stassi said. "My wife and I said, 'No matter what, we're not going to miss this one.'" The Stassis are a baseball family. Max and Brock's great, great uncle is Myril Hoag. He played 13 seasons in the big leagues from 1931-45, most notably playing on the Yankees with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. Their grandfather played Minor League baseball as well, and Jim Stassi played in the Giants' system from 1982-83. Jim coached baseball at Yuba City (Calif.) High School for about 25 years. He had Brock, Max and his youngest son, Jake, who played at Long Beach State and Sacramento State, on the same team when Brock was a senior in 2007. "It's been baseball all the time for us," Brock said. "It was just a normal household with three boys, I guess you could say," Jim said. "We had holes in the walls from golf balls, a soccer field set up in the living room and things like that." Max and Brock played together on the same team in winter ball in Puerto Rico this offseason, but obviously Thursday was different. This was the big leagues. "It's pretty special," Max said. "It's kind of something you dream about ever since both of us have been drafted and playing against each other, and finally it's a reality. Even though it's Spring Training, it's still pretty cool growing up, and he's obviously my best friend and cool to be on the same field as him." Max finally has a clear path to be Houston's backup catcher after the Astros traded Hank Conger to the Rays in December. Brock had a fantastic season in Double-A Reading, and he is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Brock has become a fascination of sorts for Phillies fans. Brock has put up great numbers, but he is nowhere to be found on prospects lists. His age (26) has much to do with it. "I get it," Brock said. "All those guys on that list when I was in high school, they weren't even born yet. Everybody has their peak year. Maybe I just peaked a little later. Whatever my path, whatever my story might be, it's going to be different from a No. 1 pick than a guy like myself drafted in the 33rd round. As long as we get to where we're supposed to be at the end is all that matters." On Thursday, that path led Brock to be on the same field with his younger brother. "Hopefully he gets up there, and whoever is pitching, we can get the best of him," Max said. So he knows how to get Brock out? "Oh yeah, I know all his holes," Max said.

Today In Phils History - Nothing in the way of events or trades but there are plenty of birthdays to celebrate including Abe Wolstenholme (1861), Tom Gunning (1862), Al McCauley (1863), Bull Whitrock (1870), Lefty O'Doul (1897), and Art Rebel (1915).

The Phillies have begun the spring with a 1-2-1 record (2-2-1 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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