Friday, July 13, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Former player & current coach Keoni De Renne

Keoni De Renne played 11 seasons in professional baseball.  Since 2012 he's been a coach with the Pirates organization.

In his playing days, the University of Arizona product spent time in the Yankees, Braves, Phillies and Red Sox organizations in addition to playing independent ball.  The Hawaii native was a switch hitter that was listed at five-feet-seven, 170 pounds.

This week, De Renne was in Trenton, NJ for the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game, representing the Altoona Curve as part of the Western Division coaching staff.  I chatted it up with the native of Hawaii about his whirlwind 2010 season when he went through 13 different transactions within the Phillies' system, his path to coaching, relating to his players, facing a highly touted Stephen Strasburg in the minors and plenty more.

It's been some time since I posted audio of an interview, and since this discussion is a bit of a throwback, you can check out the recording as well as a handsome image of Keoni and me in the media player below.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Green follows up All-Star appearance with promotion to Triple-A

Zach Green, image- Jay Floyd
In the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, four Reading players represented the Phillies in the contest played at Trenton's ARM & HAMMER Park. 

Catcher Deivi Grullon, who won the EL's All-Star Home Run Derby on Tuesday, first baseman/third baseman Zach Green and outfielder Jan Hernandez were all in the starting lineup.  Grullon and Hernandez each homered while Green went 0-for-2.

Relief pitcher Edgar Garcia was charged with three earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

The contest was tied at four runs apiece after nine innings, so to decide the game, each team selected one batter to face off in a hitting challenge.  In a two minute window, the players would accumulate points for balls in play or balls launched as home runs.  Green, representing the Eastern Division was bested by Pirates prospect Will Craig, the Western Division's representative, in the unique tie breaking overtime round. 

In the Triple-A All-Star Game, played in Columbus, OH, the Pacific Coast League defeated the International League 12-7. Lehigh Valley pitcher Cole Irvin started for IL, pitching a scoreless inning, striking out two and surrendering two hits.  First baseman/OF Joey Meneses laced two hits in three at bats.

On Thursday, it was announced that Green would be promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  Corner infielder Damek Tomscha is reportedly headed back to Reading, where he played earlier this season, from Lehigh Valley.

Green, 24, was the Phillies' 3rd round draft selection in 2012.  In 77 games this year, the righty batter posted a .296 average with 17 homers and 53 RBI.

Tomscha, a 26-year-old righty batter, tallied a .196 batting average with two homers and eight RBI in 26 games for the IronPigs.  He was the Phils' 17th round draft pick in 2014.

In other moves between the Phillies' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates...hurler Ranfi Casimiro goes to Reading with catcher Nick Rickles and pitcher Jake Waguespack going up to Lehigh Valley.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Phils prospect Haseley ready for move to Double-A

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
A tap on the shoulder from the skipper while sitting at your locker after a game can usually mean you did something wrong on the field and a talking to is in order.  For Adam Haseley on Monday night, it was a little bit of a better meeting than what initially may have crossed his mind.

The Phillies' first round draft selection (8th overall) from last year was informed after Clearwater's contest on the road at nearby Dunedin by manager Shawn Williams that he had earned a promotion to Double-A Reading.  There was relief and joy all at once.

Through 79 games in the Class A Advanced Florida State League this season, the 22-year-old lefty batter posted a .300 average with 13 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 38 RBI and seven stolen bases.

The production is exciting to see for many, as Haseley, a University of Virginia product, struggled out of the gate this season, sporting a .222 average after two weeks of the season.  Since then, he's batting .315 and has looked comfortable at the plate in his first full season of professional baseball.

"I think it was just kind of getting adjusted to the league," Haseley stated during a phone interview on Wednesday.  "I think that takes time."

Haseley also asserted working closely with Phillies roving hitting coordinator Andy Tracy and Threshers hitting coach John Mizerock, to iron out some mechanical or approach concerns, was beneficial to the strides he has taken during his 2018 campaign.

Prior to the season, Haseley didn't quite envision a move or a promotion.  He chose to take a simpler approach.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't really have any level goals," Haseley shared.  "I just wanted to one; get better and two; continue working on the stuff that I had been working on in the off-season.  I think I did both of those things in Clearwater and I hope to continue them in Reading."

With Reading off for the Eastern League's All-Star break, Haseley was able to move his belongings back to his native Orlando, then plan his travel to Pennsylvania.  A relaxed path that most players that are promoted, and needed by their new team with urgency, don't get.

In recent weeks Reading has added a pair of other Threshers, first baseman Austin Listi and pitcher Connor Seabold.  Both of those players lived with Haseley in Clearwater, so his addition to the Fightin Phils roster completes a trifecta of roommates moving north for some summer baseball.

Another Threshers teammate of Haseley is 2016 first overall draft selection Mickey Moniak, who hasn't been able to shake offensive difficulties the way Haseley has.  Through 70 games, the 20-year-old sports a .240 average with two homers and 32 RBI.  The elder first rounder remains confident in the left-handed hitting Moniak, who is one of the league's youngest batters.

"I think for the last month and a half maybe two months now I think he's really swinging (the bat) a lot better," Haseley said of his good friend.  "He's just so young.  It's kind of hard at that age that he's at that level.  I think he's performing better and better as the weeks go by."

On his new home park, Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, Haseley has already heard about the venue's reputation of being a place that can be advantageous to hitters.  He's looking forward to upgrading from finger taps to the Fightins' fist so he can test the waters in the Eastern League and face some better competition.

"The arms are going to be that much better, so with some guys saying the ball travels a little bit better, it's kind of give and take of whatever side you want to look at.  But, I'm excited to get there and get going." 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reading backstop Grullon wins EL Home Run Derby

Grullon celebrates his HR Derby win, (nice) image- Jay Floyd
TRENTON, NJ-- Dangle a championship belt, a butt load of pork roll and $500 in front of  Deivi Grullon and there is no stopping him.

The All-Star catcher for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils launched longball after longball and convincingly won the Eastern League Home Run Derby on Tuesday night.

Eight participants would each have a four-minute turn to hit as many homers as they could and the top two totals would advance to a championship round.

Grullon, a 22-year-old righty batting Phillies prospect topped all hitters in the opening round, slugging 14 round trippers, some of which peppered the highway, Route 29, beyond the left field foul pole and one of which traveled as far south as Bordentown, as the host Trenton Thunder PA announcer Matt Hillman asserted, from ARM & HAMMER Park.

Rockies outfield prospect Sam Hilliard would face Grullon for the prize money, title belt and delicious meat product, all courtesy of event sponsor Case's Pork Roll.

Hilliard stepped to the plate first, slugging nine homers in a four-minute title round.  Those appeared to be enough to win, until Grullon heated up midway through his turn.  He would collect 11 homers in the round off of Trenton bullpen coach Luis Dorante to grab the derby crown.

Grullon, who looked a bit drained following the triumph on a humid and sticky night, stated that he pulled from his late father to top the other seven competitors.

"My energy is from my father." Grullon explained.  "I was blessed at the moment.  I mean I expect a lot of energy here with all the players, but this is for my father.  And I'm tired, but I won this honor."

In 54 games with Reading this season, Grullon sports a .287 batting average with a career high tying 12 homers and 40 RBI.



Phils prospect Haseley promoted to Double-A Reading

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
TRENTON, NJ-- The Phillies 2017 first round draft selection Adam Haseley is on his way to join the Double-A Reading roster following the Eastern League All-Star break, per a source.

The 22-year-old lefty batting outfielder tallied a .300 average with 13 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 38 RBI and seven stolen bases in 79 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers this season.

To date, since turning pro last year, the Virginia product sports a .294/348/.411 slash line in 137 professional games at three levels.

Haseley was the 8th overall pick in last year's MLB amateur draft.

Reading, at 41-47, is in 5th place, 8 1/2 games out of first place in the Eastern League's Eastern Division.  They will open the second half of their season on Thursday at home when they host Bowie at 7:15 PM.


Monday, July 9, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs All-Star SP Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin, image- Jay Floyd
Selected as one of three IronPigs' All-Star representatives, lefty pitcher Cole Irvin has enjoyed a remarkable season in the International League.  

Through 17 starts, the 24-year-old sports an 8-3 record with a 2.89 ERA and a .239 batting average against for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. 

A 5th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2016 out of Oregon, Irvin has enjoyed a swift rise through the organization's developmental ranks.

He'll represent the IronPigs in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Tuesday night, July 10th.

Recently, I talked with Irvin about being named an All-Star, his progress this year and his team.  Read ahead for that complete interview. 

-You've enjoyed a remarkable season to date.  What does the All-Star nod mean to you?

It's always cool to represent your team for an All-Star Game, an All-Star appearance, and you know being this close to the big leagues, you'd almost take a call up to the big leagues over an All-Star appearance, but it's a cool accolade.  It's a cool event.  I'm excited that I get to represent not just the IronPigs, but also the Phillies as well.  It's gonna be a really good time.  I'm really excited.

-You get to go with a pair of teammates, with Joey Meneses and Enyel De Los Santos voted in as starters for the game.  Does it make it more fun to be going with those guys?

Oh, absolutely.  It's gonna help my Spanish a little bit because they're both, you know, very, very fluent in Spanish.  (laughs)  But it's gonna be a good time.  I'm excited to spend a little bit more time with De Los Santos and Meneses.  And I'm just really excited to get to know them a little bit more. I'm pretty sure that their girlfriends are going.  So, you get to know them a little more off the field at events like these.  So it's going to be really cool to get to bond with them.

-Where's the game set to be played?

It's in Columbus, Ohio.

-Have you guys played there?

We have not played there yet.  I've been in Columbus, been to the stadium and stuff when I was a freshman at Oregon when we went to Ohio State.  So, I'm familiar with the ballpark, I'm familiar with everything that Columbus has.  So, I'm excited to get back there for everything Columbus has and get to see some friends I have up in that area.

-This season, you've been great, doesn't seem like there was any adjustment period to the level.  What can you share on the ease with which you've seemed to handle the competition?

I think I've got to give a lot of credit to (Nick) Rickles and (Logan) Moore and (Matt) McBride for catching me.  They call really good games.  I'm the one that has to execute the pitch in the end, but they're smart guys.  They're smart catchers and they know the guys in this league.  So, it just kind of helps to have guys in your corner helping you out and to be able to execute those pitches is a lot harder than it looks.  So, I've been fortunate on that end.  But, I've got to give all the credit to the catchers because they're keeping me composed out there.

-If somebody wanted to give you some of the credit, what's been working for you?  Is there a go-to pitch that's really helped you in key spots this year?

No, I mean I've always believed that every pitch you have should be a weapon and should be an out pitch.  So, I've just been able to throw a little bit more strikes this year.  I think I've thrown in some outings where I've given up a little more runs, I think I've thrown more strikes.  Maybe over 70-percent, which is really high for a pitcher, so it's just throwing strikes and limiting walks and limiting the time that runners are on base and just kind of managing the game and I've just had a really solid stretch of games where I've felt like I've managed things very well.  And it's a credit to our team with a lot of veteran experience kind of keeping me composed out there too. 

-You talked earlier about being close to the big leagues.  Not that the topic weighs on you, but when you are this close to the big leagues and there are names called for promotions, are there moments when you're on edge about it?

No, not really because that's all the work you gotta do to get there.  So, the guys that get called up have proven their worth and proven their abilities at this level.  And, really, they're your teammates, so you're rooting for them and you hope on the flip side that they're rooting for you as well.  And on the chance that a guy gets called up, it's always an awesome feeling in the clubhouse.  Whether that's myself or any other guy on this team, it's fun when a guy gets his name called. 

-I talked to you last year around the same point of the season and you were all smiles that day.  You're still smiling now.  I love it.  Since we've talked last, who has helped your progress or helped you learn a lot?

I think a lot of guys on this team have left a good impression.  Kind of how you should be with your teammates and stuff.  We've got Trevor Plouffe, Collin Cowgill, Danny Espinosa just joined us.  You know, Matt McBride.  There's a lot of guys that have been around the league for a while and it's just been really fun to interact with them and there's just some really good chemistry among the guys.  So, honestly, I feel like the whole team, I feel like there's been a really big kinda push for me.  It's fun to come to the ballpark when you've got a good group of guys around you having fun.

-Was there any one in spring training, a big leaguer that you got time with, that you learned from?

I mean I spent a little time in big league camp.  You learn from everyone.  I think (Jerad) Eickhoff was the bigger guy that I spoke to the most.  (Aaron) Nola as well.  It's just been a learning experience being with guys here.  More so because they're my teammates.  

-Were there any moments this season or even last season that was sort of a misstep that could have resulted in a learning experience?

I've kind of just kept my head in the dirt this year and just played.  I haven't had too much bad experiences, but I just really like playing with this team, so I'm just going to keep my head down and work my butt off and play for these guys that I have around me.  And when my name is called, I'll do that same thing in Philly.

-What's the best thing about this place, these fans, this facility in Lehigh Valley?

They're fun.  They come with energy every night.  It's just a fun time to be around.  We've got a really good team with the big club and we've got a really good team here.  So, any piece can fit.  It's just a matter of time.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

De Los Santos to join Phillies rotation

De Los Santos, image- Jay Floyd
Right-hander Enyel De Los Santos continues to make headlines.  Following recent announcements that he was elected to start the Triple-A All-Star Game and that he was selected to be part of the MLB All-Star Futures Game World roster next week, the Phillies will upend both of those things by adding the 22-year-old to their starting rotation.

Teased on Twitter by De Los Santos's gurlfriend Melissa and confirmed by IronPigs beat writer Tom Housenick, the promising prospect is on his way to join a first place Phillies club.

Per the Housenick report, De Los Santos will start against the Mets at New York's Citi Field instead of at Huntington Park in Columbus, OH at the Triple-A exhibition.

Through 16 starts this season, De Los Santos sports a 9-3 record, with 1.89 ERA and a .210 BAA with 87K, 31BB in 95 1/3 IP.

The Dominican Republic native was acquired last off-season from San Diego in a trade for shortstop Freddy Galvis.

The Phillies have a need for an extra hurler with a double header (make up of an April 2nd rain out) slated in New York for Monday using up two of the team's pitchers.

Friday, July 6, 2018

De Los Santos to represent Phillies at Futures Game

De Los Santos, image- Jay Floyd
The rosters for the 2018 MLB All-Star Futures Game were released on Friday and this year's lone Phillies representative is slated to be Triple-A All-Star pitcher Enyel De Los Santos.

De Los Santos, 22, has been remarkable all season long with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, posting a 9-3 record with a league leading 1.83 ERA and an 8.2 K/9 mark through 16 starts. 

The six-foot-three 175-pound right-hander was acquired last off-season from San Diego in a trade for Freddy Galvis.

The Dominican native was named to the World roster, which will be managed by David Ortiz with Francisco Cordero acting as the squad's pitching coach. 

The game is set for Sunday, July 15th and will be played at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

In recent years, individuals that played in or attended the All-Star Futures Game have been permitted to skip their league's All-Star events in order to get some time off over the break.  The Futures event, however, typically occurs in the same week, before minor league All-Star Games.  The Triple-A All-Star Game is prior to the Futures Game, taking place on the previous Wednesday.  It's unclear if De Los Santos, who was voted in as the International League team's starting pitcher, will make the Triple-A All-Star trip to Columbus, OH, but the Phillies will likely prefer him to pass on one of these exhibitions. 

Last year the Phillies were represented in the Futures Game by current big league contributors Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs catcher Nick Rickles

Nick Rickles, image- Jay Floyd
Backstop Nick Rickles has been a key contributor this season for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, not only at the plate, but also by helping to lead a promising pitching staff.

Through 42 games, the 28-year-old righty hitter sports a .239 average with five home runs and 16 RBI.

In his pro career, Rickles has played in the Athletics and Nationals organizations.  He joined the Phillies last season as part of a trade from the Nats.

Last week I talked with Rickles about a pair of IronPigs All-Star hurlers, being a new father, his hockey fandom, a particular big name NBA standout and more.  Read ahead for that full interview...


-Hey, how's fatherhood for ya?

So far so good.  Sleep's kind of a reward at this point, but at the same time it's all new, so there's really no patterns.  She's five months old now.  You know, my wife's been the back bone for sure.  She's definitely taken the lead in (parenting), which allows me to focus on the field.

-Are your wife and daughter staying around here, in Allentown, with you so you can be with them as much as possible?

Yeah, they're up here now for the rest of the year.  Originally, we weren't going to do it.  But just, it didn't take.  I was getting the pictures every day and I wanted to be there, then obviously, my wife wants me around for the help too so she can get sleep when she can.  So, yeah, they're gonna be up here in Lehigh Valley for the rest of the year.

-Cool.  You've got a Golden Knights hat on.  Are you a full supporter?

Yeah!  I've got a jersey made for them.  "Vegas Born" on the back for their slogan..  Unfortunately, it didn't get in till after the Stanley Cup was over.  But, it's cool seeing how much love and support Vegas has given them and how much they've given Vegas.  Especially, with the times we dealt with over the off-season, so we're looking forward to next year.

-Is that home for you?

Yeah, I've lived out there for two years. My wife's lived out there he whole life.  I'll be back there again this off-season.

-Great.  You've enjoyed some nice success here with the IronPigs this season.  Can you share some thoughts on your season thus far and International League competition?

It's been great.  I spent some time here last year, after some time with the Nationals the year before that and baseball is baseball, no matter where you're at.  The team we're on has been phenomenal this year.  We have a great club with great coaches.  So, I'm looking forward to seeing how the second half ends up.

-I got to see you a little bit with Reading last year and you switched organization mid-season, then changed staffs with the promotion from there to here.  How swiftly are you able to adapt to or learn a new system, a new staff...that sort of thing?

Spring training kind of gets you ready for that.  You go in there with 50-plus guys in the clubhouse and you've got to get to know everybody pretty quick.  And being around-- and I've been around since 2011-- so I knew Harold Martinez and a few of the other guys from playing against them, so once I got in the clubhouse, we just kind of hit the ground running and went from there.  Thankfully, I was able to come up to Lehigh Valley at the end of the year last year.

-I talked to Cole Irvin and he's had a great season.  He was giving so much credit for his success to both you and Logan Moore, his catchers.  What does that mean to you to have an All-Star crediting you with his results?

He's so well prepared that it takes a lot off of our shoulders.  So, going in to a game, we have what our preparation would be and then he has his.  So when you put those two preparations together, it allows us to hit it off and you can see the success is transitioning onto the field as well.

-Cool.  You've got a couple new guys joining the team this week with Ranger Suarez and Tyler Gilbert joining the IronPigs' pitching staff.  Is it easy for you when guys come up to build a rapport after having some familiarity from spring training?

Yeah, especially in spring training, you know, they do a few different groups where we have different guys rotate in.  Even if it's one time, being able to catch a guy's bullpen you have a pretty good idea of what his stuff looks like and it's good that (they're) able to join us halfway through the year. 

-Enyel De Los Santos is another All-Star on this team.  He's been remarkable on the mound for this team all season.  What can you share about him?

His pace has been great.  He's got four pitches that he can command and throw at any time and that's huge.  We always talk about being in rhythm.  He doesn't shake off very much.  Same with game-planning.  We've been on the same page so much that we kind of just roll through innings.  It helps keep his pitch count down low, helps keep him fresh.  And as you can see, same as Cole, being an All-Star, the success has really translated on the field as well.  

-You mention game-planning and I've seen heat maps in the dugouts and things like that.  What's the difference, if any, this year with the new regime up above versus what you saw here last year?

You know, really, just understanding the shifts and how to pitch to them.   It's been great, but we had very similar information at this level provided to us last year and I think being able to spend a full year in this organization and seeing how spring training is run has really helped me understand what they're trying to do with the pitchers and how they want to call a game.  And (Dave Lundquist), our pitching coach, has been really, really great with communicating with us what he wants to see on a daily basis and we've been able to execute that on the field.  

-How does this place compare to other venues, other facilities, other fan bases that you've played in front of or played at?

This, you know, honestly this is probably one of my favorite places that I've played at in the minor leagues.  The fans are great.  They do great promotions.  And our G.M. really has a great idea of what we need as players to be able to succeed on the field.  And even tonight- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it doesn't matter.  We get a pretty good (crowd), which is great for us to come to the park to play in front of.

-You mention promotions and the promotion tonight involves "hashtagging" LeBron James and trying to recruit him to join the IronPigs as a free agent.  What position do you think LeBron could has success with on the baseball field?

I have to go with first base.  He's so tall, he'd be a great target to throw to.  Maybe even get on the mound a little bit.  Having that kind of presence out there might intimidate a few guys.  I've never seen him throw a baseball, but I've seen him throw a basketball from one end of the court to the other to Dwyane Wade so I'm sure he'd be able to do it.

-Have you ever seen him play?

Yeah, I saw him play in Miami when he was there with Dwyane Wade and then when we were on the road this year, we saw him play there in the playoffs in Boston against the Celtics...

-You were one of the guys there...

Yeah, me Cole, Dean (Anna) and (Dylan) Cozens, we all ended up going to the game, which was awesome.  So we got to see him play there too.

-Dylan Cozens kind of got some attention online, posting video of himself trolling Boston fans.  Philly fans aren't the most fond of Boston after the Celtics knocked the 76ers out of the playoffs, so Cozens got some love from that.  Were you doing a little of that?

Being a little out of my element,, I wasn't really a fan of either team, so I really didn't rooting for any of them.  But, to comment on Dylan, he's more of an instigator than anything else, so he does like LeBron, so I'll give him the credit there, but once he gets into the center of attention, he is a funny guy.  He likes to think he's funny also.  So, seeing him in that atmosphere was pretty entertaining for us and obviously for some of the Cavs fans, as you can see in some of the videos.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

OF Sandberg retires from baseball

Cord Sandberg, image- Jay Floyd
Following the organization's announcement that Double-A outfielder Cord Sandberg retired from baseball on Tuesday, the 23-year-old teased via a pair of social media posts that he's ready to pursue a dream in another sport.

Sandberg, who was a well regarded quarterback in high school and was committed to Mississippi State prior to being selected by the Phillies in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft, posted images of himself on the gridiron playing quarterback.



The lefty batting Florida native was hitting .231 with three homers and 11 RBI through 54 games with Reading this year. In his pro career Sandberg sported a .243/.298/.348 slash line.

If the Twitter and Instagram teases prove true, he'll be the third Phillies prospect in recent years to leave the game of baseball behind to try a go at college football. Outfielder Kyrell Hudson, a 3rd rounder in 2009, and pitcher Mitch Gueller, a supplementary 1st round selection in 2012, have also taken the same route. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lehigh Valley pitching coach Dave Lundquist

Last week I spoke with Triple-A Lehigh Valley pitching coach Dave Lundquist.  Among the topics of discussion were promising pitching prospects Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, Brandon Leibrandy, Drew Anderson, Tyler Gilbert and plenty others.

Lundquist pitched in the major leagues with the White Sox and the Padres prior to joining the coaching ranks.  He has been with the Phillies developmental staff since 2008.

Read ahead for the full interview...

-You've got a couple International League All-Stars on your pitching staff.  Can you comment on those guys and the honor?

Yeah, we got De Los Santos, who's been selected to be the starter for that game.  You know, that's a huge honor.  It goes back to his work ethic and what he's done, what he's accomplished all year.  The guy's had, you know, a tremendous first half.  Let him go enjoy that game and pick up the second half where he left off.  

Cole Irvin, image- Jay Floyd
With Irvin also, he's been as consistent as you can be.  From start to start, his last seven or eight have been-- it's like just looking at the same thing over and over.  You get seven innings, sometimes a run, sometimes two, but he's been as consistent as you can be.  And the development on both of them, you know with their breaking stuff and their secondary pitches has been tremendous to watch.

-When a guy like De Los Santos is acquired over the off-season, do you see that deal get made then get excited, 'cause you'll have a new promising hurler to work with?

A little bit, yeah.  You get a new toy, you get excited.  I didn't know a whole lot about him.  I got to see him a little bit in spring training, not a lot of him.  And then when we got up here, my eyes were really opened.  I was like, "Wow, we've got something special here."  So, the talent is excellent.  You know, good kid.  He's fun to work with.

-You talked about guys that have been consistent, Ben Lively showed consistency prior to landing on the disabled list.  He didn't have that same success up at the big league level this year.  What can you share on him?

Well, I don't really know what is going on in his starts up there.  Down here, he's maintaining better angles with his stuff and that adds to his deception.  His secondary stuff has definitely gotten better every year.  And this year, he started showing some plus secondary stuff.   He started working in a usable change up as well.  A strong pitcher that's got a mean streak on the mound and he's shown a feel for four pitches and better angles.

-Back to Cole Irvin real quick.  He's kind of an earlier round (draft) guy that came out of college.  When he's here with you, in Triple-A, less than two years after being drafted, when he's on the fast track like that, does he excite you too, the way that a completely new guy like De Los Santos does?

Absolutely.  You've got a guy that is, like you said, in his second year from being drafted and to do what he's done here at this level-- he's faced a lot of guys that have been in, or are top prospects, guys that have been in the big leagues and come down, guys that have been there for a while and there's no panic in anything he does.  He's relaxed and he knows he has a chance to beat you every night.  It's fun to watch.

-You talk about guys that don't panic and you've got another guy like that.  A guy that's got a focused and relaxed demeanor when he goes out there, Drew Anderson.  What have you seen from him this year?

Consistent development of everything.  Delivery's getting stronger and stronger.  Secondary stuff-- we all know he's got a plus-plus curve ball, but the slider and change up have become plus weapons for him as well.  These last three starts have been very consistent with command and the ability to finish hitters when he has to and how he wants to finish them.  Really, his last three games in particular, he's really starting to show what he can do.

-Leibrandt's another guy that has has loads of success for you. He also has had a good pace getting to this level, getting here last year.  Now this season, he's got a 1.42 ERA.  Talk about him a bit.

Yeah, he started in the bullpen, he had to do go through a stretch there where we needed and start, and he did a tremendous job there.  I don't know, it was 31, 32 scoreless innings to start the year.  It was a ridiculous number.  And when it comes down, he's got deception, he throws strikes and he's got good secondary stuff.  A plus change up and he can spin the ball.  Again, with him, there's no panic.  "There it is, try to hit me!"  And then he goes back to the bullpen and we got him on back to back days and I thought he was better on the second day than he was the first day, which is a credit to his thought process, his mentality, his mental strength.  He really showed me a lot doing that.

-Jake Thompson's kind of an on-deck reliever for the big league team, when there's a need of late.  Going back and forth, can that benefit him?  Can that hurt him, based on what you've seen?

I think it benefits him because he has to be sharp, he has to be ready and all times.  You know, him and Mark Leiter.  They have to be ready at a moment's notice.  I think it's a good thing.  It teaches them that they can't take a day off.  You know, they've got to be paying attention to all things in the games when they're not throwing, when they are throwing, taking care of their bodies, everything they have to do to be ready.  There could be a call in five minutes or it might not be for a week.  We don't know.  But, just making sure those guys do what they do to stay ready for the big leagues.

-Obviously, when guys get their first call up, it's a very special moment.  But when there are guys that are the up-and-down guys, is that call up an exciting moment still?  Or can it be a headache to have to deal with that extra travel back and forth?

I think it's always exciting.  To have an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues it's always a good thing.  You know, if you have the mindset that you're going up there and you're going up to stay, you can do some good things and open some eyes and force people's hand to where they have to keep you. They've got a lot of good pitchers up in Philadelphia right now and being and up-and-down guy is not a bad thing.  You could be a guy that's here without consideration, but to have that consideration, as a guy to come up there situationally, go long, go short, come in and get you out of a jam, come in and eat some innings, whatever the case may be, I think it's always a good thing to have that.

-Great.  Tom Eshelman does not have as gleaming of a stat line as he did here last year, when he was the starting pitcher on the All-Star team.  What are the differences for him?

Really the biggest thing with Tom this year-- the little bit of difference is the fastball command.  Last year, he really put the ball where he wanted to.  He's starting to turn a corner now.  His last couple starts have been pretty good.  We've limited how far in the game we were gonna let him go, when we got him to the point where we thought that was a positive outing, we got him.  The last couple have been five innings and we got him.  We thought those were positive and productive and we were gonna get something out of it and be able to get a good work week in for him and prepare him for his next start.  But, really the secondary stuff has been good.  The curve, slider have been good.  Change is okay.  It's really just been the fastball command overall that's different from last year.  And we've looked into a ton of different things, used every resource within the organization to find if and where the flaws are and working on fixing them.  He's starting to show inning to inning that he's getting it back.  So that's fun to watch.

-Tom Windle's a guy that has looked good at times since coming to the Phillies, but has taken steps back.  More good than bad recently, of course (1.48 ERA last 10 outings).  Can you talk about him a bit?

Yeah, he's done a nice job for us, especially early in the year.  He came in this year as a strike thrower.  The fastball cuts, the slider plays, can throw it for strikes, can throw it out of the zone.  There was a little bit through the middle of the year where he didn't get as much work as he may have needed to stay sharp, but he's done a nice job the last couple of weeks, keeping himself sharp and preparing himself.

-A new addition is Tyler Gilbert to the club.  Had a really strong half a season with Reading, comes here to join your bullpen.  What do you know of him?  What have you seen?

I know he's a strike thrower, with a cutter and a curve.  I got to watch him throw a little bit in the bullpen today and I can't wait to see this in a game.  Everything that's I've got from (pitching coach Steve Schrenk) in Reading has been positive.  From the coordinator's everything is positive.  From seeing him short limited times on the mounds up here, it looks like it's going to be fun to watch. I look forward to it. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Clearwater 3b/OF Luke Williams

Williams with Lakewood in 2017, image- J. Floyd
You would have a hard time finding a player that had a hotter offensive month in June than Clearwater's Luke Williams.  In 24 games the 21-year-old right-hander posted a .333 average with six doubles, a triple, six home runs and 20 RBI.

The California native was the Phils' 3rd round draft selection in 2015.  Since then he's worked to improve and the time and patience has being paying off of late, as he has more than doubled his career home run total over the past month.  Also, as recently as June 3rd, his batting average dipped as low as .167, but has since shot up to .246 on the season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

Strictly a third baseman until this season, Williams has added to his versatility by playing some outfield (left and center), some first base and a game at second base.

Recently, I talked with Williams about his successful month of June.  Read ahead for that full interview. 


-Related to the improved output...What has been the biggest difference for you this month compared to the first two months of the season? 
I think the big thing for me is that I’m not missing fastballs. I’m not fouling off as many pitches and I’d say it’s a physical and mental adjustment. I’ve closed my stance a little bit and set my sights to right center field and I feel that is helping me stay on balls longer. 

-What feedback have you gotten from coaches either about your improvements or were there things they said that have helped you make the improvements?
(Hitting coach) John Mizerock has been great help to me all season. One things he’s got me doing every day is hitting off the fastball machine. That’s also been a huge help. But as for feedback, I haven’t really gotten much. I don’t think anyone wants to talk to me and mess me up. (laughs)
-Are your teammates enjoying your recent success?  Any feedback or excited ball busting from those guys?
We’ve been having a lot of success as a team as of late and we, as a team, have been having tons of fun! We are a really close group and are always messing around each other and keeping things loose. 

-When there were struggles to maintain decent numbers early in the season, was that discouraging?  Did you think you could turn things around as much as you have?

I’m not going to lie, it was tough. There were some really tough days. I got very frustrated at times. But I know what I’m capable of. I knew that if I came to the field everyday with the same attitude and work ethic, that I was going to get through it. And I’ve started to turn it around, but I’m not done.
-How do you feel about the new positions on defense?  Easy transition or still adapting?
It’s been a fun transition. I grew up playing all around the field so I’ve enjoyed the transition. It keeps things exciting. 

-What's the best thing about playing in Clearwater?
I’d have to say playing at all the (big league teams') spring training fields. They are all so nice and the clubhouses are all top notch.