Monday, March 28, 2016

Phillies Still Have Some Work To Do

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Red Sox Route Phillies 5-1

Home runs by Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts helped the Red Sox to a 5-1 win over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at JetBlue Park. Knuckleballer Steven Wright, who is competing for a spot in the Red Sox's rotation, went 5 2/3 innings, giving up one run on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. "He certainly helped his cause today with a solid outing," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I thought he did a nice job with his fastball and his curveball in the early innings to get back into some counts. And then he got a better feel for his knuckleball as the game went along. But to get him up over a 100 pitches here today, today was a good step for Steven." Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff exited after five-plus frames, allowing five runs on 11 hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Eickhoff was making just his second start because of a fractured right thumb earlier in spring. "He's rusty," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made a lot of real good pitches with his curveball, but he didn't locate his fastball real well. He's behind everybody, so I'm not concerned about it. He did OK." Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Bogaerts -- Boston's 1-2-3 batters -- combined for seven hits, three runs and two RBIs. The Phillies opened the scoring in the first inning when Odubel Herrera, who went 3-for-3, reached on a one-out single and scored on Maikel Franco's double off the replica Green Monster in left-center field. Franco, who leads all Major Leaguers with eight home runs this spring, just missed another. The umpires, who convened to discuss the drive, let the on-field call stand. Boston went ahead in the bottom of the frame when Betts and Pedroia led off with doubles. David Ortiz's RBI groundout scored Pedroia to make it 2-1. The Sox added two more in the fourth on Bradley's two-out home run, scoring Ryan Hanigan, who had reached on a single. It was Bradley's third dinger of the spring. Bogaerts led off the fifth with his second long ball of the spring.

Right-hander Vince Velasquez has an important start on Monday afternoon against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET in Dunedin, Fla. It can heard live exclusively on He is competing with left-hander Adam Morgan for the No. 5 spot in the Phillies' rotation, so Velasquez needs another strong showing to perhaps clinch it.


Getting His Swing Back – If the Phillies stand pat, it looks like Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel will be in the starting lineup Opening Day on April 4 in Cincinnati against the Reds. Some combination of Cedric Hunter, David Lough and Emmanuel Burriss could round out the outfield. Herrera went 3-for-3 in Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. He is 5-for-10 with one double since missing nine games because of a bruised left middle finger. "I feel fine," Herrera said through the Phillies' translator. "I don't think it's an issue anymore. The more I play, the better I feel." But what about the rest of the outfield? Bourjos hit .200 with a .623 OPS in 225 plate appearances in 2015. He is batting .311 with a .948 OPS in 45 at-bats this spring. Goeddel has never played higher than Double-A. He has posted a .250 average with a .674 OPS in 52 at-bats. The Phillies have said they are not aggressively pursuing outfield help, despite injuries to Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche, and production concerns surrounding the others. But that could be because they figured players would become available before the end of the month. That is exactly what is happening. Yankees outfielder Chris Denorfia opted out of his contract. Some in the organization like him. David Murphy could opt out of his contract with the Red Sox on Sunday. The Indians released Will Venable. Other teams will be making moves in the next week, so the Phillies should have more options to choose from. But at least Herrera is hitting the ball well. "He's a freak," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's just a real different kind of hitter. He's got such great hand-eye coordination. It doesn't take him long to get on track."

Who’s On First? – Ruben Amaro Jr. tried to steer the conversation on Sunday from his Phillies past to his Red Sox present. Amaro is the Red Sox's first-base coach. His nearly seven seasons as Phillies general manager ended in September. "I'm proud of the things we did there," Amaro said Sunday morning at JetBlue Park, where the Phillies played the Red Sox in a Grapefruit League game. "The Phillies are the Phillies, and they have their own organization. I was fortunate to be a part of it. I'm on a new chapter now, and I'm loving what I'm doing. And I've kind of moved on. I mean, listen, I'm going to watch and see how those guys progress, obviously, but for me it's about moving my own baseball life forward." But one wonders how Phillies history might have changed with a hit here or a pitch there. The Phillies had the best record in the Majors in 2011. They won a franchise record 102 games with one of the best rotations in baseball history. But Chris Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, 1-0, ending the Phillies' season of high expectations with massive disappointment. If Cliff Lee held a four-run lead in Game 2, if Raul Ibanez or Chase Utley squared up a couple of warning-track fly outs a little more in Game 5, maybe the Phillies win the series and maybe they win the World Series. And maybe Amaro remains GM. "In '08, we ended up being the best team in baseball because we won the World Series, but I don't know if we were the best team in baseball," Amaro said. "When you get to the playoffs, it's about whether you can execute at that moment, whether you can make the pitch, whether you can get the big base hit. We did it in '08. We didn't do it in '09, '10 or '11. I'm every bit as proud of those teams. They were good friggin' teams. They were good teams." Everybody knows what happened next. The Phillies started their fall to the bottom of the NL standings the following season, and they finished with the worst record in baseball in 2015. The Phillies fired Amaro in September, replacing him with Matt Klentak in October. "It was clear that changes were going to be made," Amaro said. "That didn't stop me from trying to do my job. We continued do things the way we operate, and hopefully the Phillies will benefit from that." The Phillies' farm system jumped from one of the worst to one of the best in little over a year, specifically from the moment former Phillies president Pat Gillick gave Amaro permission to begin the rebuilding process following the 2014 season. Big reasons for the drastic improvement are the trades Amaro made before he lost his job. The biggest is the one that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to Texas in July for Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher. Thompson, Williams and Alfaro are three of the top 100 prospects, according to MLBPipeline. Eickhoff, who started Sunday's game in Fort Myers, will open this season in the Phillies' rotation. The Phillies have been praised for that trade, although it remains to be seen how many of those players fulfill their potential. But it is a little ironic that the same guy that got criticized for being allergic to analytics might have made the trade that helps the Phillies return to the postseason in a couple of years. "We did that because we had good scouts," Amaro said. "Mike Ondo is a very, very good pro scouting director. We had people who know baseball and know players. I think we did that [trade] because of that." Members of the new Phillies' regime have said the analytics system was way more advanced than they had anticipated, based on nothing more than the world's outside perception of it. If that is true, then why did the Phillies try to seem so unanalytical at times? "We didn't think it was all that important for us to have to advertise what we were doing," Amaro said. "Why do we have to advertise what we do? Am I doing it to save my job or what? We were a little behind I think with some of the analytics. The reality of it is we won without the analytics. We had the best team in baseball without the analytics … a full analytics core. Could we have been better? Maybe. There's always ways to improve, but that's probably why I'm in a uniform now." Amaro said he is enjoying his new job. He lost 15-20 pounds since the fall, looking fitter than he has in years. His former employees noticed. "Damn, what happened, man?" Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa said, lifting up Amaro's blue batting practice pullover to reveal Amaro's thinner frame. "You look good." "I'm trying to be like you," Amaro said. Amaro chatted with a few of his former players on Sunday prior to Boston's 5-1 win. He is following Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and others. He certainly will follow the progress of the prospects he acquired. "Like I said, I'm proud of the things we did there," Amaro said. "We had a lot of great years, a lot of fun, fun years. Obviously when there's change made there's a reason there's change. That's not stuff I can control. I'm enjoying what I'm doing now, and we'll see what happens after I get this opportunity and see how it goes."

Today In Phils History - I can't believe that it has already been 5 years since the famous Sports Illustrated cover featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton hit the shelves. In the same vein, it doesn't seem possible that it has already been 16 years since Mickey Morandini returned for his second stint with the team. However, it is easy to believe that it has been 100 years since the Phillies completed a 7 game exhibition sweep of the Cubs.

The Phillies have an impressive record this spring… 14-9-3 (15-9-3 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!

No comments:

Post a Comment