Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Can The Phillies Rebound In Game 2?

GAME RECAP: No Game Yesterday!

Phillies looked like they needed to collect their thoughts after the bipolar pitching they received on opening day with Hellickson making a strong first impression and the bullpen doing the near impossible… making Phillies phans long for the days of Jonathan Papelbon.

  • The Phillies have five rookies on the 25-man roster: outfielder Tyler Goeddel, right-hander Dalier Hinojosa, outfielder Cedric Hunter, left-hander Daniel Stumpf and right-hander Vince Velasquez. The five rookies are tied with the Brewers, Dodgers, Padres and Rockies for the most on any roster in the National League. Only the Orioles have more with six.
  • Expect Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton to bat ninth behind the pitcher until he earns his way back to the top of order with a better on-base percentage. Reds manager Bryan Price likes Hamilton batting ninth rather than eighth, because if he is caught stealing with two outs, the pitcher will not lead off the following inning.
  • Expect Cameron Rupp to catch for the Phillies on Wednesday. He will receive the bulk of playing time this season, but Carlos Ruiz started Opening Day because he is a veteran, and this is expected to be his final season with the team.

The Phillies considered Aaron Nola as a potential Opening Day starter, but they opted to pitch him Wednesday night against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Having arguably their best starter pitch the second game of the season allows the Phillies to pitch him in next Monday's home opener against the Padres. But make no mistake: the Phillies are high on Nola, who was their first-round pick in the 2014 Draft. Nola went 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts last season as a rookie, giving the rebuilding Phillies some hope for the future. Wednesday's start will be Nola's first against the Reds. Cincinnati will start left-hander Brandon Finnegan, who started four games late last season after being acquired in the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City. Finnegan, who struggled his last few starts in Spring Training, went 2-2 with a 4.71 ERA in those four starts -- all on the road. This will be the first home start at Great American Ball Park for Finnegan, who made two relief appearances there last year. He has never faced the Phillies.


Phils Release Frieri – The Phillies hoped Ernesto Frieri could help their bullpen this season, but that will not happen. The team announced Tuesday morning it had released Frieri, 30, from his Minor League contract. He had been reassigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after struggling in seven Grapefruit League appearances. Frieri posted an 11.57 ERA in seven innings, allowing 10 hits, 10 runs (nine earned runs), four walks and five home runs with eight strikeouts. The Phils promoted right-hander Reinier Roibal from Double-A Reading to take Frieri's place on Lehigh Valley's roster.

First Questions Of The 2016 Regular Season – If the Phillies lost 99 games last season with a good bullpen, what is going to happen to them this season? -- Max S., West Chester, Pa. I am not smart enough to work in the Phillies' analytics department, but I find that logic flawed. Yes, the Phils were 48-3 last season when holding the lead after seven innings. But how many games did they have no chance to win because of poor starting pitching? If you've read this spring, then you know a stat I have cited a few times. Pitchers not named Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan made 106 starts for Philadelphia last season. They had a combined 6.19 ERA. Essentially, the Phillies found themselves with little chance to win in nearly two-thirds of their games. The Phils' rotation should be better this year, which should allow the team to be in more games. And even with a shaky bullpen, they should win a few of them. Who will be the first Phillies prospect to reach the big leagues? -- Cindy T., Philadelphia. The best guess is outfielder Nick Williams, because the Phillies are so short in the outfield. But even then, I don't think he will be rushed. The Phils certainly will need a starter at some point, and Morgan is expected to be the first call from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. David Buchanan follow him, unless Jake Thompson is ready. So what kind of reaction will Ryan Howard get next week at the home opener? -- Brad N., Edina, Minn. Personally, I find this a strange question, because there is only one answer here. Howard should be applauded. I mean, what else should happen? Yes, I know Howard remains a source of frustration for some Phillies fans, but those folks need to take a step back. This is going to be Howard's last season with the Phillies. They are not going to pick up his 2017 club option. This is it. Howard knows this, and it seems like he has come to peace with it. He was in good spirits this spring. Howard seemed to be more engaged than at any point last season. Perhaps he is smelling the roses. Fans should smell the roses, too. Howard is not the player he once was, but he remains the greatest first baseman in franchise history during arguably the greatest run in franchise history. Philadelphians love to talk about how much they love winners. Well, Howard won. He was a big reason the Phillies won. So while he is no longer an everyday player -- Pete Mackanin pinch-hitting for Howard late in Philadelphia's Opening Day loss to Cincinnati made that clear -- he remains one of the greatest players to ever put on a Phils uniform. Howard and Darin Ruf playing in a platoon this season is not going to set back the Phillies' rebuilding efforts. It is not blocking the next Howard from an opportunity to play in the big leagues. It is not going to prevent Ruf from getting enough plate appearances to prove himself. Playing Howard is no more of a detriment to the Phils' future than Carlos Ruiz playing behind Cameron Rupp this season or Chase Utley playing in front of Cesar Hernandez last season. In my opinion, Philadelphia fans who appreciate what he accomplished should give Howard a proper sendoff this season.

Who Is The 2016 Wall Of Fame Inductee? – Former slugger Jim Thome will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame on Aug. 12, becoming the 38th member of the illustrious group. Thome, who played for the Phillies from 2003-05 and again in '12, was elected through fan voting on "It is extremely humbling and gratifying to be given this honor by the great fans of Philadelphia," Thome said. "I always enjoyed playing here, and to join the generations of Phillies greats on the wall is just so special." The ceremony will take place before the Phillies' 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Rockies. Tickets for that game, as well as all three games during Toyota Phillies Alumni Weekend, are currently on sale. Thome hit 101 home runs, drove in 281 runs and slugged .541 over 391 games with Philadelphia. His 47 home runs during the 2003 season led the National League, and the following year, he became the second Phillies player since 1930 to record back-to-back 40-home run seasons. Thome, who slugged 612 career home runs in his 22-year career, hit his 400th career home run on June 14, 2004, at Citizens Bank Park. In 2012, he became the fourth player in Major League history to hit 100 home runs with three teams, and he also set a Major League record by hitting his 13th career walk-off home run.

Yes, RBI Baseball Still Exists – Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced Tuesday that R.B.I. Baseball 16 is now available at participating U.S. and Canada retailers as well as for download, and here are 10 things to know about the much-anticipated video game release: 1. It comes complete with this advice from cover star Mookie Betts of the Red Sox: "Just stay with it. Dreams do come true. Just work hard and let the chips fall where they may." 2. You can be like Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Trout, Kevin Pillar and others by making ridiculous catches at the wall, and then brag about them on social media. A redeveloped defensive AI introduces new fielding capabilities including those wall catches, dives, fake throws and more. This system gives you more control than ever in making defensive plays. 3. Like Betts in the outfield, R.B.I. Baseball 16 is all over the place. It is on far more platforms than in previous years. In additional to downloading the digital version for iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam, gamers also can now purchase the physical product at participating U.S. and Canada retailers including Best Buy, Walmart, GameStop, Toys 'R Us and Target. 4. Lead Distance, First Step, Max Speed ... go. Baserunners' abilities are built in part from MLBAM's award-winning tracking Statcast™ technology, and they will be driven by on-field metrics from the 2015 season. Does your catcher have the Arm Strength and Pop Time? 5. Swing earlier on inside pitches and later on outside pitches. An improved batting engine will feature variable perfect timing, and you'll want to follow that tip for the best outcome. Work hard at it like Betts, who said in a Twitter interview last week: "I can still improve a whole lot more getting my hitting to be more consistent." 6. Be "honored and hungry" and you will go far. Hey, it works for Marcus Stroman, who tweeted that after being named Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays. The right-hander is Canada's representative as the R.B.I. Baseball 16 cover player, and we can't wait to see how his sim version will fare. With a reworked pitching strategy AI, pitchers will play to their individual strengths. For example, a pitcher who features a wide range of velocity will mix speeds more often. 7. Sims and double-switches. Everyone is posting their postseason predictions and projected individual award winners, and you can one-up them by running your own simulated picks. During season mode play, sim a game or multiple games to quickly advance through the season and into the postseason -- should the team win its division or earn a Wild Card spot. Lineups can be set from a franchise's 40-man roster or the game's classic 16-player rosters, and you can modify a lineup pregame or in-game, including substitution strategies such as those constant National League double switches. 8. Day games or night games, and even those dreaded on-field shadows. All 30 ballparks will feature a new lighting system based on actual geographic locations, field views and additional hi-resolution realistic design elements. 9. There are more than 1,100 reasons to play. Modify your team's lineup with complete MLB rosters including that many members of the MLB Players Association. Take Todd Frazier, for example. In this space one year ago while he was with the Reds, we posted a sim result that predicted he would bat .263 with 88 runs, 24 homers, 91 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He wound up at .255 with 82 runs, 35 homers, 89 RBIs and 13 steals ... and a trade. Now you can see how he fares with the White Sox, and get a look at all those other new players in new places. 10. Speaking of Frazier ... we would be remiss in ignoring his dramatic hometown title in the last Home Run Derby in Cincinnati. Or that the brand-new Home Run Derby video game is now available as well on all Apple devices, with the new Petco Park backdrop for All-Star Week.

Phils History - There wasn't a second thought on opening day in 1974 when Mike Schmidt hit a homerun in the 9th to win the game. It was certainly a topic of conversation a few years later when that pitcher, Tug McGraw, became his team mate. Speaking of pitchers and homerun hitters, on this day in 2001 the Phillies retired the jerseys of Jim Bunning, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Chuck Klein. Well, one number at least as Alexander didn't wear a number and Klein wore numerous numbers. Five years later, Jimmy Rollins saw a number of his own go into the history books as his hitting streak ended at 38 games. The third baseman at the time, Wes Helms, would be sold to the Marlins two years later for another memorable number $1. The same day of the sale, Brad Lidge made his Phillies debut. And, finally, Happy 49th Birthday Tommy Greene!

The Phillies are currently 0-1 this season putting them on pace to meet most preseason predictions. The Phillies finished the spring exceeding most expectations compiling a record of 15-11-3 (18-11-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). All time, the Phillies are 10-13-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record. Let the rebuild begin!

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