Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Phils Rally Past Rays To Pick Up Nola

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Rail Rays 5-2

The Phillies scored four in the eighth to defeat the Rays, 5-2, for a Grapefruit League victory at Charlotte Sports Park on Tuesday. Aaron Nola started for the Phillies and hit leadoff batter Logan Forsythe on the arm. Forsythe left the game with a left elbow contusion and was replaced by Juniel Querecuto. Brad Miller followed with a single to left before Evan Longoria grounded into a double play, moving Querecuto to third. Logan Morrison then doubled down the left-field line to put the Rays up, 1-0. Rays starter Drew Smyly continued to look sharp in his third start of the spring, posting two scoreless innings before Cedric Hunter homered deep to right field on a 0-2 pitch leading off the third. "I mean, kudos to that guy," Smyly said. "It was up and away. Might have hit a righty. Definitely would have backed him off the plate. And that was the first fastball he'd seen, because I'd thrown him curveball-slider the first two pitches." Smyly allowed one run on three hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. Of the 66 pitches he threw, 45 were strikes. "I'm feeling great right now," Smyly said. "Confident, very comfortable. Just trying to get my work in and go out and have fun." Kevin Kiermaier hit his first home run of the spring when he homered off Nola in the fifth to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Nola allowed two runs on six hits while striking out five in 4 2/3 innings. Cesar Hernandez doubled off Xavier Cedeno in the eighth and was driven home by Andres Blanco's two-bagger in the next at-bat to tie the game at 2. Blanco later scored on Darnell Sweeney's single to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead, and Philly added two more runs when Taylor Featherston grounded into a force out with the bases loaded and Sweeney scored on a wild pitch.

  • Right-hander Yoervis Medina had to leave Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., in the ninth inning. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Medina felt a "pop" in his right elbow. The Phillies acquired Medina from Pittsburgh for Jesse Biddle.

The Phillies have a day off Wednesday, but they return to action Thursday afternoon against the Rays at Bright House Field. Vince Velasquez will make the start with Jerad Eickhoff scheduled to follow him. Velasquez is battling Brett Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan for the No. 5 job in the rotation. Eickhoff sees his first Grapefruit League action after being sidelined this spring with a broken right thumb. He is expected to make the rotation. Thursday's game will start at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.


Hernandez Back On The Mound – he Phillies plan to have David Hernandez pitching in the back of their bullpen this season, either as a closer or a setup man. He needs to get healthy first. Hernandez, who had not pitched since March 1 because of right triceps tendinitis, threw one inning Tuesday afternoon in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. He allowed three hits, three runs, one walk and struck out two against Triple-A players from Toronto. Hernandez threw 28 pitches (17 strikes), and his fastball hit 93 mph. Blue Jays prospect Rowdy Tellez, who is the No. 8 prospect in Toronto's system according to, crushed a double off the top of the batter's eye in center field to score two runs. "It's probably the best I've felt the last two weeks," Hernandez said. "Obviously, the results weren't what I wanted, but I'm just trying to get in and get out healthy, and I feel really good. We'll see how I bounce back tomorrow." The Phillies signed Hernandez to a one-year, $3.9 million contract in the offseason, making him the only free agent they signed to a Major League contract. They are counting on him to stabilize the bullpen. Hernandez said there is enough time to make that happen. After Tuesday, there were 14 Grapefruit League games remaining before the Phillies head north to play three more exhibition games. Hernandez said he can pitch enough innings in those games to improve his command, though he said appearing in back-to-back games will be a truer test of his readiness. Hernandez said he still feels something in his elbow, but he said he is not concerned about it and that it is normal for somebody who has had Tommy John surgery. "It's been mostly just post-throwing," Hernandez said. "It kind of gets tight on me, but during pitching and playing catch, it doesn't really bother me. It's just calming down, it gets cold on you and it just gets stiff. It's just part of getting back. When I threw my first game, I felt it while I was throwing, so now I don't feel it while I'm throwing. It's a good sign."

More Roster Revisions – It is officially a three-man battle to be the Phillies' No. 5 starter. The Phillies on Tuesday morning optioned right-handers David Buchanan and Alec Asher to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, leaving right-hander Vince Velasquez and left-handers Brett Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan to compete for the job. Buchanan allowed five hits, two runs and two walks with two strikeouts in four Grapefruit League innings. He went 2-9 with a 6.99 ERA in 15 starts last season. Asher allowed 10 hits, seven runs and three walks with 14 strikeouts in eight innings. He went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts last season. They had a steep climb to move past Velasquez, Oberholtzer and Morgan on the depth chart. "It's part of the game," Buchanan said. "You never want it to happen. Obviously you want to spend your whole career in the big leagues. It's another opportunity to work and to continue to build on what I've been doing this whole spring. I'm excited where I'm at mentally. I know I'll get another shot there, and I'm excited for that. Because when it comes, I'm not coming back. So I'm good." Buchanan knows it is a near certainty that the Phillies will use more than five starters this season. Pitchers get injured. They struggle. There could be opportunities for him in the future. Of course, the runners-up in the No. 5 competition figure to get the first crack at it, but Buchanan and Asher could put themselves in line for a promotion down the road. Prospects Jake Thompson, Mark Appel and Zach Eflin also figure to get consideration later in the season, if they pitch well in the Minors. The Phillies are in no rush to promote them. "I'm pretty sure that's where the mental training I've been doing this offseason is helping me, because I'm not really concerned about that," Buchanan said about his place on the depth chart. "I'm not putting my energy into that, because I can't control that. "All I know is I've done a lot of training to get myself in the right state of mind to do what I can do and control what I can control. So that's what I'm focused on now. I'm going to go down there, continue to pitch, continue to do what I've been working on and continuing to get better. As soon as the phone rings, I'll be ready to go."

GM Impressed With Change – What a difference. The Phillies are halfway through their Spring Training schedule, and almost nothing has resembled what happened last year. After a 5-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday, they entered Wednesday's day off at 11-4-2, which is among the best records. They have hit 23 home runs, which is tied for second. They have legitimate competition for the final rotation job. The players are younger and more energetic. They have big-time prospects. "I know they're Spring Training games," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday morning at Bright House Field, "but I've been very encouraged by the way Pete [Mackanin] has guys playing. The energy, the effort and the outcomes. We've won a lot of games this spring, and that's been a really positive thing for us." Of course, Klentak knows Spring Training records do not predict the future. For example, the Cubs, Royals, Mets and Pirates entered Tuesday a combined 19-33. That said… "It's better to win than to lose," Klentak said. Here is a look at where the Phillies stand in three important areas as they enjoy Wednesday's day off: The rotation: Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton and Jerad Eickhoff are locks, assuming everybody is healthy. The Phillies narrowed the fifth-starter competition Tuesday, when they optioned right-handers David Buchanan and Alec Asher to Triple-A. Right-hander Vince Velasquez and left-handers Brett Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan are competing for the fifth job. Oberholtzer (eight scoreless innings) is out of options. The Phillies like his versatility, so at the very least, he will be in the bullpen. The favorite entering camp seemed to be Velasquez, and that has not changed. He has the best stuff, and he is the jewel of the Ken Giles trade. But Velasquez (four earned runs in nine innings) will need to pitch well if Morgan (two earned runs in nine innings) and Oberholtzer continue to pitch like they have. "Competition tends to bring out the best in players," Klentak said. "They've all thrown the ball really well, and they're all different. They have different track records, different strengths and different weaknesses. They're giving us a lot to think about, and that's a really positive thing." One thing is certain: The Phillies should be better prepared to handle attrition to their rotation than last season. The bullpen: There are jobs to be won. David Hernandez has one, considering the Phillies signed him to a one-year, $3.9 million contract. He pitched Tuesday for the first time since March 1 because of triceps tendinitis. If Hernandez is healthy and ready, the other locks look like right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and Oberholtzer (unless he wins the No. 5 job). Non-roster invitees Edward Mujica (four scoreless innings) and Andrew Bailey (four scoreless innings) have impressed in camp. They have solid lines on jobs. The fact Mujica has a March 26 out clause will be a factor in making the team or not. Bailey has a May 1 out clause, which is less of a factor. Ernesto Frieri has a March 31 out clause, but he has struggled (six runs in 4 2/3 innings). The Phillies are expected to take at least one more left-hander if Oberholtzer is in the 'pen (and two if he is not). Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf allowed one run in six innings before allowing three in the eighth inning Monday in Sarasota, Fla. Bobby LaFromboise has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and non-roster invitee James Russell has pitched three scoreless innings. Elvis Araujo (two runs in four innings) has options, which figures to play a factor when matched up against somebody like Stumpf. Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa (five scoreless innings) has pitched well. "The players have given us a lot to consider," Klentak said. "There are a lot of players that have stepped up and have thrown the ball well. Pete has been exposing a bunch of them to multiple innings to see who has the ability to carry the load that way, and I like the options we've seen from the left side." The outfield: Do not be stunned if the Phillies acquire an outfielder before camp breaks. Aaron Altherr will miss four to six months following left wrist surgery. Cody Asche remains sidelined with a strained right oblique. He might not be ready by Opening Day. That leaves Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel, who has impressed the GM, as the likely starters. Darnell Sweeney and non-roster invitees David Lough and Cedric Hunter, who homered against the Rays on Tuesday, are competing for the fourth and fifth jobs. "Obviously, we'll have to make some decisions on the Opening Day roster and when Cody comes back," Klentak said. "But as far as the depth, one of the big things we're focused on is making sure we run a strong defensive club out there to help with our run prevention and to help as we introduce young pitchers to the big leagues. I want to be mindful of that. "Even in Lough and Hunter and Goeddel, we've got players who can go out there and catch the ball. You can never have enough depth at any position, and certainly with Altherr out and Asche being banged up, that's tested our depth early in spring. The good news is that it was tested early, so hopefully when we get into the season, we'll be healthy and we'll be OK."

Today In Phils History - Let's keep it simple today. Happy birthday to 2 players born exactly 70 years apart, Lloyd Waner (1906) and Abraham Nunez (1976). 

The Phillies have begun the spring with an 11-4-2 record (12-4-2 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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