Saturday, March 12, 2016

Phillies Rough Up Former Teammate

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Philadelphia Assaults Atlanta 9-2

Ryan Howard recorded one of the three doubles his former Philadelphia teammate Kyle Kendrick surrendered during a three-run first inning that propelled the Phillies to a 9-2 win over the Braves on Friday afternoon at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. Kendrick's bid to earn a roster spot with Atlanta was further weakened as he retired just five of the 16 batters he faced before exiting with two outs in Philadelphia's four-run second inning. The former Phillies pitcher surrendered nine hits, including a pair of doubles recorded by Darin Ruf. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was impressed with what he saw from Howard, who returned to the lineup after battling the flu and served as the club's designated hitter. "I told him, 'You should not take batting practice all year,'" said Mackanin. "He hadn't had an at-bat in a week, and that's as good as he's looked in awhile. So I'm real happy about that. "I'd like to play him tomorrow at first base to try to catch up. He swung the bat real well." Phillies leadoff hitter Peter Bourjos reached safely in each of the three plate appearances he recorded through the first three innings. Bourjos began the game with a double and then advanced to third base on the first of the three singles recorded by Cesar Hernandez. Emmanuel Burriss also notched a three-hit game for Philadelphia. Kendrick came to Spring Training hoping to earn a spot in Atlanta's starting rotation. But his hopes have diminished as he has allowed 14 hits and nine earned runs over 3 2/3 innings in his first two starts. Phillies starter David Buchanan looked like he might also be in for a long day when he loaded the bases before he recorded his first out. Buchanan limited his first-inning damage to two runs, as A.J. Pierzynski and Dian Toscano notched RBIs. Buchanan stranded two runners when he completed a scoreless second inning with a strikeout of Freddie Freeman. "I was just a little erratic today," said Buchanan. "I've just got to keep the ball down. I've been throwing well in my bullpen [sessions] and the games I've been in this spring, so I'm going to build on that." After swinging and missing the final pitch he saw from Buchanan, Freeman exited because of discomfort around his right hand and wrist. The veteran first baseman was either sidelined or burdened by right wrist discomfort for most of last season's final four months.

  • Jim Kaat, who won 283 games during his 25-year career, started his stint as a guest instructor on Friday. Kaat pitched four years with the Phillies from 1976 to 1979.
  • Right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who started his big league career by going 74-68 for the Phillies in eight seasons, started for the Braves Friday and faced his former team for the first time. "I'm over it," said Kendrick, who signed a Minor League contract with Atlanta. "Besides, outside of (Ryan Howard), I really don't know any of those guys." With the Rockies last season, his starts didn't line up with the games against the Phils.

Right-hander Vince Velasquez, who was acquired from the Astros as part of the Ken Giles trade over the winter, will continue his quest to nail down a spot in the starting rotation when he faces the Blue Jays on Saturday at Bright House Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and the game will air on MLB.TV. It will be the third Grapefruit League appearance, and second start, for the 23-year-old who made his big league debut with the Astros last season.


Making Up For Lost Time – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Ryan Howard, who returned to the lineup Friday in a 9-2 win over a split-squad Braves club after missing a week of Grapefruit League action, will have a heavier-than-normal workload during the final three weeks of Spring Training to make up for the time he's missed. "I told him, 'You should not take batting practice all year,'" said Mackanin. "He hadn't had an at-bat in a week, and that's as good as he's looked in awhile. So I'm real happy about that. "I'd like to play him tomorrow at first base to try to catch up. He swung the bat real well." Howard started at designated hitter against the Braves at Champion Stadium and had a two-run double off Braves starter Kyle Kendrick in the first. In the second, Howard lined out to right and in the seventh he flied out to the base of the wall in left-center. "We've got to get him as many at-bats as we can," said Mackanin. "And if and when Cody Asche is able to come back [from a strained oblique] in the spring, we've got to try to do the same thing with him. It remains to be seen when he'll be back. But Howie's here and we're just going to run him out there." Howard had been sidelined with the flu bug that has been making the rounds of the Phillies' clubhouse. When Howard was feeling better, he was interviewed by Major League Baseball regarding an Al Jazeera documentary which claimed that he -- along with Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and others -- had used performance-enhancing substances. Howard has vigorously denied the allegation and is suing Al Jazeera. MLB's involvement does not mean there's a presumption of guilt. All allegations are routinely investigated. But playing time is more important than usual for Howard this spring. Mackanin has suggested that the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player needs to prove he can hit left-handers this spring or he might find himself in a platoon at first base with Darin Ruf. That's one reason Howard made the hour-and-a-half trek to Disney on Friday, a bus trip established veterans are often allowed to skip. Instead, Howard volunteered to be on the travel squad. "I have to get him back in the swing of things," said Mackanin. "So I'm going to play him as much as I can to get him ready. I'm going to try to get him as many at-bats as I can, right or left. He just needs to get at-bats."

Strong Bullpen Candidates – Left-hander Bobby LaFromboise was twice claimed off waivers during the offseason. After the Phillies took him in January, he was designated for assignment and re-signed to a Minor League contract so he could be taken off the big league roster. Despite that inauspicious start, LaFromboise has made a strong impression this spring. He pitched two scoreless innings in Friday's 9-2 win over the Braves, walking one and striking out three. After six Grapefruit League innings, he still hasn't allowed a hit. Two other lefties, Edward Mujica and Elvis Aruajo, also pitched scoreless innings Friday. "It was nice to see LaFromboise, [James] Russell and Araujo, all the three lefties who are in contention for a bullpen job, it was good to see those guys do well," said manager Pete Mackanin. Russell showed poise in the fifth inning when Barrett Kleinknecht ripped a line drive back up the middle that knocked his glove off. But Russell was able to retrieve the ball and throw Kleinknecht out at first. Left-hander Daniel Stumpf, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick, has given up just one run in five innings. Mackanin said no decision has been made on how many bullpen lefties the Phillies might break camp with. "It depends on how we feel about all of them," said Mackanin. "There's nothing wrong with having three of them in the bullpen, but it depends on everybody else, I guess. "I think it's interesting to note that this was the year everybody was told this was the spring that would be full of competition unlike any spring we've ever had here before. Guys like [first baseman Darin] Ruf, he's really doing well. [Catcher Cameron] Rupp is doing well. [Catcher Carlos Ruiz] is gung-ho all the time. You can tell he's battling. Everyone seems to be battling, and it's bringing out the best in the guys." The 29-year-old LaFromboise has been one of the most pleasant surprises in camp, and part of the reason might be a change pitching coach Bob McClure suggested after seeing him thrown only once or twice. "He moved me over to the third-base side [of the rubber] and it's kind of helped me with my fastball coming in," LaFromboise explained. "That's a big part of it. He said, 'Hey, try this.' So I went over, tried it and liked it. When I'm throwing from the first-base side, I'm really cut off. It's hard for me to get inside to a righty. From the third-base side, it's almost like that's my plane." At the University of New Mexico, LaFromboise threw from the third-base side. The Mariners moved him over after he signed with them in 2008. LaFromboise doesn't throw hard, but he has a deceptive delivery. So far, he's more than holding his own in the bullpen sweepstakes. "I like that funk he offers," Mackanin said.

Close Up On Spring Training – Tim Stoeckle rode on the Phillies' team bus to Friday's game at Champion Stadium, even though his name didn't appear on the travel roster. He was in the dugout during a 9-2 win over the Braves, but manager Pete Mackanin never considered sending him up to pinch-hit or asking him to get loose in the bullpen. Stoeckle, 24, is the Phillies' social media representative, and he was chronicling the team as part of Snapchat Day across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. Stoeckle's first post went up before the bus pulled away from Bright House Field. He had shots of going across the Courtney Campbell Causeway, arriving at Disney and players getting ready in the clubhouse. There were brief interviews with Cameron Rupp and Mackanin. Stoeckle also spent some time in the broadcast booth with Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen. "It's really cool. It's finding out what it's like to be in the big leagues," Stoeckle said. "I love it. It's great." It's also great for baseball. "It gives the fans some access they don't normally get and they can't really get anywhere else," Stoeckle pointed out. "Snapchat is a social media platform that allows you to send photos and videos in real time. And you can see it as it's happening. So, for example, when somebody on the Phillies scored a run and came into the dugout, everyone was giving him high fives. And there's a video of that up close that fans get to see." Stoeckle started doing in-game tweets for the Phillies after the All-Star break last year as an MLB Advanced Media employee. The Phillies hired him to cover all social media in November. What if Mackanin had told him to grab a bat? "I was ready," Stoeckle said with a grin. "I did some stretching before the game."

Today In Phils History - There are good and bad moments to remember this day. 1980 was a great year for another reason as Chuck Klein was finally elected to the Hall of Fame. Unforetunately, 5 years ago today, David Montgomery announced that Reuben Amaro, Jr. had signed a 4-year contract extension to remain the Phillies' GM. In addition to the birthdays of some early Phillies including Phil Knell (1865), Billy Hulen (1870), George McAvoy (1884), and Charlie Johnson (1885) it is also the birthday of some more modern great Phillies including Johnny Callison (1939) and Dale Murphy (1956). 

The Phillies have begun the spring with an 8-3-2 record (9-3-2 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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