Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pithing Remains Top Of Mind For Phillies

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Astros Edge Phillies 2-1

After wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning by allowing just one run, Astros pitchers shut down the Phillies en route to a 2-1 win on Wednesday night at Osceola County Stadium. Astros starter Michael Feliz gave up three walks, one hit and one run in the first inning and got a strikeout of Freddy Galvis to strand the bases loaded. That began a stretch in which he sent down 10 batters in a row through the fourth inning. The run the Phillies scored in the first inning came on an RBI single by Cedric Hunter. Preston Tucker tied the game in the fifth inning when he shot an RBI single to right field, and the Astros took a 2-1 lead later in the inning when Colby Rasmus grounded out to second base. The Astros had five hits -- Jason Castro with three and Tucker with two. Phillies starter Charlie Morton threw 5 1/3 innings and gave up two runs and (none earned) and four hits while striking out five hitters. Astros reliever James Hoyt continued his solid spring by throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

  • Left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf fanned both batters he faced Wednesday and now has made three straight scoreless appearances. Stumpf, a Rule 5 draft pick, seems to be on the verge of locking up a bullpen role. "He's making it a little easier after tonight," Mackanin said the club's looming decision. "He threw some real sharp sliders and a couple good changeups. Went right after them, and he made a good impression tonight."
  • The Phillies reassigned catcher Gabriel Lino to Minor League camp before Wednesday's game. Lino, 22, went hitless in eight at-bats over six Grapefruit League games. The Phillies now have 47 players in Major League camp.
  • Outfielder Odubel Herrera (bruised finger) was a last-minute addition to Wednesday's travel roster and took batting practice but didn't play. Mackanin said Herrera will probably play Thursday if he has no pain.
The Phillies once again hit the road Thursday, this time heading to Champion Stadium to face the Braves at 6:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Adam Morgan, who is battling righty Vince Velasquez for the fifth starter's spot, makes his fifth Grapefruit League start. He hasn't allowed a run in his last three starts and has a 2.00 ERA this spring.


Hellickson To Open Season – Jeremy Hellickson is the Phillies' Opening Day starter, manager Pete Mackanin announced Wednesday. Right-hander Aaron Nola will start the second game of the season and the April 11 home opener against the Padres. "Hellickson has experience, he's been pitching really well, so we'd like him to be the Opening Day starter," Mackanin said. Hellickson, who turns 29 on April 8, has allowed one run in seven Grapefruit League innings in his first camp with the Phillies after being acquired from the D-backs in November. Hellickson has said in the past how honored he'd be to receive the Opening Day nod in his seventh Major League season. "I've been a part of five Opening Days now, and just the atmosphere -- standing on the line, seeing everything, how Opening Day goes down -- you kind of just think, 'Hopefully I can pitch one of these game sometime in my career,'" Hellickson said. "It's exciting, that's for sure." Mackanin said Charlie Morton will follow Hellickson and Nola, while Jerad Eickhoff appears to have the edge for the No. 4 spot. Left-hander Adam Morgan and righty Vince Velasquez are still battling for the fifth spot. Although the Phillies previously floated the idea of using a six-man rotation, Mackanin said Wednesday that is no longer under consideration because of roster constraints. 
With two spring starts remaining, Hellickson is gearing up for what he hopes will be a successful season as he approaches free agency. The right-hander won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he had a 3.10 ERA in '12, but he's posted a 4.86 ERA over the past three seasons with the Rays and D-backs.
Hellickson freely admitted free agency has crept into his mind, but he's looking more so at this season as a chance to make his mark. "It's definitely an opportunity," Hellickson said. "I couldn't ask for a better situation to come into. You know, from top to bottom here, this organization is awesome. And all of the guys that I've got to meet so far, we've had a lot of fun so far. So we're all just excited for the season to get started."

Looking To Improve – Charlie Morton felt better physically and had his sinker working, but the Phillies' right-hander wasn't exactly thrilled with his outing Wednesday evening in his team's 2-1 loss to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Morton, whom manager Pete Mackanin announced earlier in the day would start the third game of the regular season, allowed two unearned runs in 5 1/3 innings -- but needed 94 pitches to get there. Morton said he felt like he had good stuff, but he still struggled to get ahead. Only 58 of his 94 pitches were for strikes. "The goal was to go out there for six ups; get into the sixth inning," Morton said. "And the way you do that is by getting outs, and you can't get to the sixth inning if you're not getting outs. When you see where we are in spring, that's a requirement. You have to be able to go out there and throw deeper into games." Morton's sinker was effective despite the high pitch count, as he recorded 10 of his 16 outs on the ground. He also struck out five and walked two. "There are a couple things execution-wise I hope to get a little sharper, but I feel like I'm in a good spot," Morton said.

Today In Phils History - It was a busy day for the Phillies on this day in 1984 as they first acquired Dave Bergman from the Giants and immediately flipped him (with Willie Hernandez) to the Tigers for John Wockenfuss and Glenn Wilson. The Phillies weren't as receptive to their players in 1995 as 1 day after Curt Schilling, Tommy Greene and Dave Hollins were spotted by the press at the Carpenter Complex, Phillies president Bill Giles announced that following instructions from the Office of the Commissioner, players would not be allowed to use team facilities during the baseball strike. Finally, in the only hiccup of his perfect 2008 season, Brad Lidge was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 21.

The Phillies have an impressive record this spring… 14-7-2 (15-7-2 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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