Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reading righty Lively honored as EL Pitcher of the Week

Ben Lively, image- Tug Haines
On Monday, Ben Lively became the second Reading Fightins hurler in three weeks to be named as the Double-A Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week.

Lively, who was acquired last off-season from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd, notched two wins along with a 2.08 ERA while striking out 16 and walking just two in 13 innings for the Fightins during the week of April 27th through May 3rd.

The 23-year-old attributes his recent success to learning from his own mistakes.

"I've just been working on some stuff," Lively explained. "I was all over the place my first few games, it felt like to me. I mean I did alright, but I expected to do better, so I worked harder and it paid off."

According to Reading skipper Dusty Wathan, Lively is able to make improvements when and where others aren't able to, which has helped the Florida native make an impact.

"The biggest thing was he went into the sixth inning (on Sunday) and that was his best inning, so it showed me that he can make adjustments as the game went on. And as the game went on, he got better, which is good to see because a lot of these young pitchers, they can't make adjustments in the game and, hopefully, those adjustments can come quicker- inning to inning, pitch to pitch," Wathan stated.

Lively, originally a 4th round draft selection by the Reds in 2013, sports a four-pitch repertoire including a change up, a curve ball and a slider, but leans on his fastball, which mainly resides in the low-90's as his go-to offering in critical spots.

"He's a tremendous athlete, a good competitor, he's got a fastball that kind of plays a little bit better than what the velocity says. I think guys don't see it well," said Wathan.

As part of a highly touted starting rotation for Reading, which includes righty Zach Eflin, 2010 top Phils draft choice Jesse Biddle, last year's first round draft selection Aaron Nola and lefty Tom Windle, Lively cites a competition among his fellow hurlers as a factor that could drive him all season long.

"All five of us are fired up and we're competitors and we're competing among each other, pushing each other, and it's kind of cool to get noticed for it."

Among his peers, consistency is the aspect of Lively's game that stands out, according to Wathan.

"He throws a lot of strikes, Wathan stated, "I mean, if you can throw a lot of strikes you're going to have a good chance to win ball games and he throws strikes where he wants to."

Previously getting the nod as EL Pitcher of the Week last month was the aforementioned Eflin, who tossed 14 scoreless innings in his first two starts of the season.

Other Reading notes-

Reading infielder Carlos Alonso will miss the remainder of the season with a ligament tear in his left knee. Carlos is the brother of recent Eagles acquisition Kiko Alonso.

#TeamAaron...A grand slam by outfielder Aaron Altherr helped to lock in the third win of the season for right-hander Aaron Nola on Monday night as the Fightins defeated New Hampshire, 5-1.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Minor League Hot List: Bogusevic, Nola, Leibrandt, Tocci, Crawford notes

milb logoWe're back at it with another rundown of all the top performers from the Phillies' developmental ranks.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley-

OF Brian Bogusevic currently sports a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .346 during that stretch. The 31-year-old is hitting .310 with a home runs and five RBI through 21 games this season. Bogusevic batted .306 in 22 spring games with the Phillies this year.

Infielder Chase d'Arnaud is batting .324 and has four multi-hit games in nine games played this year. The righty batting 28-year-old is the older brother of former Phils prospect Travis d'Arnaud.

Double-A Reading Fightins-

Righty starter Ben Lively has a 2-0 record with a 2.16 ERA while striking out 24 and walking seven in 25 innings over four starts thus far this season. The 23-year-old struck out nine while allowing three earned runs in six innings when he notched his second win of the season on Sunday. Lively was acquired last off-season from the Reds in the trade for Marlon Byrd.

Infielder Gustavo Pierre is 9-for-17 (.529 avg) in his last six games. The 23-year-old Dominican is batting .281 with two homers, three RBI and three steals in 17 games this year. Pierre was acquired from Toronto in a deal for John Mayberry Jr. last year.

After giving up four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in his season debut, last year's top draft pick Aaron Nola has allowed three earned runs in 20 innings (1.35 ERA). Overall, the 21-year-old has a 2-2 record with a 2.55 ERA and a .222 batting average against in four starts.

Class A Advanced Clearwater-

Last year's sixth round draft pick Brandon Leibrandt has a 2-1 record along with a 1.74 ERA while striking out 28 and walking six in 31 innings through five starts. The 22-year-old lefty is also holding opponents to a .185 batting average against.

Catcher/DH Andrew Knapp has a six-game hitting streak during which he's batting .375. Overall, the 2nd round pick from 2013 is batting .280 with four doubles, three triples and 11 RBI in 22 games.

In an additional note, shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford will be activated from the disabled list (oblique strain) this week for the Threshers. The 20-year-old expects to be in their lineup on Wednesday after competing steadily for the extended spring training team for the past week.

Class A Lakewood-

Righty reliever Matt Hockenberry had his streak of seven scoreless appearances to open the season interrupted on Sunday when he notched his South Atlantic League leading sixth save. Overall, the 23-year-old Temple University product has a 0.75 ERA and a .158 batting average against to go along with no decisions this season.

Outfielder Carlos Tocci has recorded four straight multi-hit games. Through 23 contests this season, the 19-year-old Venezuelan is batting .400 (league best) with a homer, 12 RBI and nine steals.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins has a nine-game hitting streak during which he has tallied a .417 average. In 23 games for the BlueClaws, last year's 5th round draft choice is batting .345 with four home runs and 15 RBI.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Phillies players & prospects weigh in on Pacquiao vs Mayweather

fight posterAbout a month ago, Phillies Nation featured a post with prospects Brian Pointer and Mark Leiter Jr. predicting the outcome of the entire WrestleMania 31 card. Now, as the biggest boxing match in history approaches, those two and others took time to offer their thoughts on Saturday night's huge title match between undefeated Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao with the unified welterweight championship on the line.

Read ahead for comments from Pointer and Leiter as well as Phils relievers Justin De Fratus and Mario Hollands, Phillies backstop Cameron Rupp, pitching prospect Matt Imhof, Lehigh Valley righty hurler Tyler Knigge, top prospect J.P. Crawford, Clearwater third baseman Mitch Walding, Reading's speedy center fielder Roman Quinn along with former Phillies All-Star and current minor league coach Mickey Morandini.

Pointer- Money Mayweather will win in a unanimous decision.

Leiter- I'll take Pac-man. Turn it into a three-fight series!

De Fratus- No prediction. I don't know a thing about boxing. But I'll be rooting for Pacquiao.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hollands already rehabbing, No timetable for Imhof return

marioH
Hollands, image- MLB.com
In early April it was announced that Phillies lefty reliever Mario Hollands would undergo Tommy John surgery. The accompanying prognosis for being sidelined with that type of procedure is about a year or more.

Despite likely being two months away from beginning a throwing program, the 26-year-old UC Santa Barbara product is already in Clearwater, at the Phillies' spring training home, rehabbing under the supervision of the organization's training staff.

According to Hollands, who commented via text message on Friday, he has been in Florida rehabbing for the past week and is feeling good.

As a rookie last year, Hollands tallied a 2-2 record with a 4.40 ERA in 50 appearances with the big league team. The California native was a 10th round draft selection of the Phillies in 2010.

In other injury news, last year's 2nd round draft pick Matt Imhof, who is sideline with bicep tendinitis, is rehabbing the ailment without a timetable for a return.

According to Imhof, he has begun a throwing program and is working out daily in Clearwater as well.

Prior to the injury, the 21-year-old posted a 1-1 record with a 1.80 ERA in two starts with Class A Advanced Clearwater this season.

The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo product notched a 1-2 record with a 2.98 ERA in 11 starts at three levels last year after signing with the Phillies.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

BlueClaws Quotables: Non-drafted signee LHP Josh Taylor

Taylor, image- Jay Floyd
Lakewood BlueClaws hurler Josh Taylor has made an impact with the Class A club in the early going this season. Through four starts, the 22-year-old sports a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA while having struck out 24 and walked four in 22 innings.

After pitching in a summer showcase for college players last summer, the Phillies made an offer to the undrafted hard-throwing lefty. Once he signed, the six-foot-five 225-pounder notched a 2-0 record without allowing a run in three relief appearances for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Recently, I spoke with Josh, an Arizona native, about how he came to sign with the Phils last year, his pitching coach with Lakewood, Aaron Fultz, and more. Read ahead for those quotes.

-Speaking on how the Phillies came to sign him...

I went to two years at junior college and then I signed with a Division II school out of Georgia, Georgia College, and they set me up with a summer league out in the Northwoods League. And, from there, I got put into a showcase game and right after the game I got a call from a scout from (the Phillies) and after that, that's what it was. I couldn't say no.

-Describing his outing that the Phils first saw him...

I was pumped, because I think it's called The Big League Dream Showcase and I got the start. My velocity was good and I think that's what really sent me there. I allowed one hit, one walk, it was only an inning of work. I mean, it was nothing special. It was just a tall lefty throwing hard.

-Sharing details on his repertoire and velocity...

My fastball (in my first start) topped out at 95, but I'm usually 92 to 94. I got a curve ball, slider, change up and two-seam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Prospect Injury Notes: Crawford activation imminent, Watson progressing

JPCraw2
JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
Top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford, who has been out of action since late March with an oblique strain, is nearing a return.

After required rest, the 20-year-old is back in action, playing daily with the extended spring training team in Florida.

According to Crawford, he is feeling "ready to go", but the decision to activate him to a full-season team roster, either Class A Advanced Clearwater or Double-A Reading, will come from the team's athletic training staff, who is keeping a close eye on the youngster.

Crawford, who represented the Phillies in last year's MLB All-Star Futures Game, was the organization's top draft selection in 2013. He sported a .285/.375/.406 slash line in 123 games combined at two levels last year.

Additionally, right-handed hurler Shane Watson continues to recover from his second shoulder surgery.

According the the 21-year-old Watson, he tossed two innings of live batting practice on Tuesday. He'll continue his throwing program and anticipates competing with the extended spring training team in one week.

Watson, who last pitched in a regular season game with Class A Lakewood in 2013, was the Phils' top draft pick the year prior. He tallied a 4-7 record with a 4.44 ERA and a .227 batting average against in 21 combined games at two levels.

The goal for Watson, once he's stretched out without any setbacks this season, is for him to return to Lakewood, according to Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan.

Crawford and Watson grew up as childhood friends and were teammates at Lakewood High School in California.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Righty prospect Gonzalez gets the call for Tuesday start

SevGonzalez
Severino Gonzalez, image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies announced on Saturday that right-hander Severino Gonzalez will make his big league debut on Tuesday at St. Louis.

The Panama native was honored as the Phils' top minor league pitcher with the annual Paul Owens Award in 2013 when he posted a 7-5 record, a 2.00 ERA, a .224 batting average against along with his 10.33 K/9 and his 1.91 BB/9 combined across three levels.

Last year at Double-A Reading, Gonzalez's stats took a dip. En route to leading all Phillies minor leaguers in starts and innings, he posted a 9-13 record with a 4.59 ERA with a 6.52 K/9 mark. Not great numbers there, but he wrapped up his 2014 campaign nicely, notching a 3-1 record and a 2.53 ERA in his final five starts of the season.

This year, with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the six-foot-two 155-pounder has tallied a 1-1 record and a 3.57 ERA along with nine strike outs and two walks in 17 2/3 innings over three starts.

To put the progress of Gonzalez, at age 22 in the big leagues this week, into perspective, there are six pitchers on the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws roster (four levels down) that are older than Gonzalez.

What to expect:
Gonzalez's repertoire includes a cut fastball that peaks in the low 90's, a curve ball that dives down and away from righty hitters as well as a a quality change up.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 76: Matt Hockenberry & Jake Fox Interviews

On the 76th edition of the PhoulBallz Podcast, Jay and Tug chat about the brand new baseball season, running down the hot starts of prospects such as Brock Stassi, Jesse Biddle, Roman Quinn, Zach Eflin, Carlos Tocci, Rhys Hoskins and others. The show also features two exclusive interviews as "El Sangre" Jake Fox talks about leaving the Phillies organization and Temple University product Matt Hockenberry participates in the fun segment Nine Silly-ass Questions.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.
You can also check out previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lakewood Pitching Coach Aaron Fultz Interview Excerpts

Aaron Fultz, image- Jay Floyd
Former big leaguer Aaron Fultz is in his fourth season coaching in the Phillies' developmental ranks. In his career, the lefty Fultz tallied a 25-15 record with a 4.26 ERA and three saves over eight major league seasons. Now, the 41-year-old is leading the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws' pitching staff toward their dream of reach the top level of the sport.

Recently, I chatted with Fultz about various topics related to his young prospects. Read ahead for those interview excerpts.

-What are you impressions of your pitching staff in the early going this year?

So far, I've been really pleased with the amount of strikes that we've thrown. We haven't walked many guys. There's still some mistakes here and there, but overall very pleased with the way we're going about the game.

-Matt Hockenberry's got a true closer mentality and persona, as he mans the late innings for the BlueClaws.  He's a Temple guy with local ties.  What are your thoughts on Matt and what his ceiling could be?

You know what, he had a rough year here last year and he came to me in Williamsport and for me, he was outstanding. I loved just- he's very confident and some would say a very arrogant guy. But, I love his demeanor on the mound. He's very confident. He's goes out there and used all his pitches. I mean, so far, from last year and this year, I love what I see. And he's got the ability to be able to repeat it and do it every day.

-Out of spring and in the early portion of the season here, is there anyone on your staff that strikes you as performing at a higher level that you anticipated?

I had definitely high expectations of Ricardo Pinto. I had him last year. I picked him to be the opening day guy. A lot of the guys had good spring trainings. Alexis Rivero was a guy that made this team- he had a great spring. A lot of the guys, are doing really well. It's hard to say they're exceeding expectations, but we're off to a good start.

-Any thoughts you can share on the guys in your starting rotation?

Just going through the rotation- Josh Taylor, we got him as an undrafted free agent last year. I saw him in instructs last year and I loved his arm. He's going to be a really good one. I don't know how he slipped through, but he did. We got a good find there.

(Tyler) Viza impressed me in spring training. I hadn't seen him throw a lot before this year and he's a guy that's going to go after them and throw strikes, maybe too many strikes at times, but he's definitely learning and getting better.

Ranfi (Casimiro) had a rough (first start), but when he clicks, he's as good as anybody I've seen. We just gotta do that more often. He'll throw two out of 10 maybe that are really unbelievable. But, we just got to get him more consistent with that.

-In recent seasons we've seen Yoel Mecias in Lakewood and his change up was always raved about as big league ready. Is there anyone on your current staff that really has that standout pitch?

Pinto's got a change up that's as good as Mecias's or better. Chris Oliver throws some good change ups. Josh Taylor's got a good slider. You know, several guys with plus pitches. Again, it's still early, but Ricardo, his change up's as good as I've seen in a long time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Minor League Hot List: Franco, Quinn, Tocci, Eflin Start Blazing

milb logoAfter roughly a week and a half of the minor league schedule has past, so here's a quick run down of the top performers from the Phillies' developmental ranks thus far in the young baseball season.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley...

3B/1B Maikel Franco- The righty hitting slugger sports a .386 average with a homer and eight RBI through 10 games. After going 0-for-3 on opening day, the 22-year-old has put together a nine-game hitting streak with at least one extra-base hit in eight of those games.

RHP Phillippe Aumont- In three appearances, the 26-year-old has allowed one earned run in eight innings (1.13 ERA) while striking out 10 and walking four. Aumont has a career 6.13 ERA in 45 big league outings.

Double-A Reading...

RHP Zach Eflin- In two starts, the 21-year-old right has a 2-0 record while throwing 14 scoreless frames, having struck out seven and walked two. Eflin was acquired over the off-season from the Dodgers in the Jimmy Rollins trade.

LHP Jesse Biddle- The 23-year-old has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings (1.64 ERA) while striking out 12 and walking three to notch a 1-0 record in two starts. Biddle was drafted by the Phillies in the opening round in 2010.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

PhoulBallz Interview: Phils Director of Player Development Joe Jordan

Jordan
Joe Jordan, image- Jay Floyd
Recently, I caught up with the Phillies' director of player development Joe Jordan to discuss several key subjects throughout the minor leagues. Jordan, who took over his current role following the 2011 season, commented on pitching prospects Adam Morgan and Ricardo Pinto as well as outfielders Cord Sandberg, Roman Quinn, Cam Perkins and Aaron Altherr along with catcher Tommy Joseph. Also a topic of discussion is the realignment of some minor league coaches this year plus field coordinator Doug Mansolino.

Read ahead for the comments from Jordan and click here for his exclusive injury updates from last week.

-Adam Morgan (0-1, 5.00 ERA in two starts) is back in action at the Triple-A level for the IronPigs. What's the outlook for Adam right now?

Adam had a good camp. He just progressed all the way. We got him built up there at the end, so he was ready to go to Lehigh. Adam looks good, you know. He’s fine. He just needs to pitch. He needs to compete. He hasn’t been able to do that for a while. He got his feet wet in the fall league a little bit, which is what he needed. But, he had a good spring training and he just really needs to continue to get mound time, for me. His execution (in his first start) in Lehigh wasn’t very good, but the weather wasn’t very good. But, he’s fine. He just needs to get out and compete.

-I talked with Lehigh Valley pitching coach Ray Burris last week and he asserted that Adam's shoulder injury, which needed surgery, resulted from his mechanics and Ray saw it coming. Is it common that this sort of thing is noticed well in advance and it ends up with such a negative result anyway?

I think a lot of times what happens- yeah, we try to identify things early that we feel might become a problem. Now, if a pitcher’s having success, sometimes they’re not real open to change. You know, they’re being successful and things are going well and, so there are opportunities maybe after a guy is hurt for them to be a little more receptive. You know, this is going to happen again unless we can adjust a couple things.

Friday, April 17, 2015

PhoulBallz Interview: Rhys Hoskins talks transitioning to pros & his knowledge of Phils history

RHoskins
Rhys Hoskins, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Rhys Hoskins was selected by the Phillies in the 5th round of last year's amateur draft. After debuting as a pro, the six-foot-four 225-pounder showed some nice pop, slugging nine homers while lacing 15 doubles and driving in 40 runs to go along with his .237 average over 70 games with short-season Class A Williamsport.

Thus far this season, through seven games with Class A Lakewood, the California State University-Sacramento product sports a .261 average with two doubles and two RBI.

Last week I spoke with the 22-year-old about adjusting to the minor leagues straight out of collegiate ball. Hoskins also scouted himself, offered some thoughts on the BlueClaws' excitement level for a new season and proudly showed off his (limited) knowledge of Phillies history.

Read ahead for those interview excerpts from Rhys.

-How do you feel college ball prepared you for the minors?

I mean it did. It just taught me about the game itself. You know, obviously, the more you play, the better you get. So, I definitely wasn't ready to play pro baseball out of high school and just getting to learn the ins and outs, the way you have to think, has really prepared me for right now.

-You posted some good power numbers, but your average wasn't gleaming last year. What was the adjustment period like for you?

It definitely was not easy by any means. It was about as I expected. I think the biggest thing to get used to was just playing every day. And then, obviously, with the traveling- traveling through the night and that sort of thing. Probably, the biggest transition was, facing the quote-unquote "Friday night guy" in college, you face that guy every single night (in the pros). And then you get to the bullpen and face a guy that throws harder. And the next guy throws harder than that. So, it definitely wasn't an easy transition. I think, as a competitor, I was just trying to compete and, you know, the season, stat-wise, didn't go the way I wanted it to, but the power numbers were there and I think that's why I'm here, so I am satisfied with that. We'll see if (I) can get better this year and we'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4th Round Pick Oliver Ready to Shine for BlueClaws

C-oliver MiLB
Chris Oliver, image- MiLB.com
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Following a weak effort after turning pro, last year's 4th round pick by the Phillies, right-handed pitcher Chris Oliver, has things back on track and the team has high hopes for him this year with Class A Lakewood.

Fresh out of his outstanding junior season with Arkansas in which he sported a 9-4 record with a 2.51 ERA and a .213 batting average against in 16 starts last year in the highly competitive Souteastern Conference, Oliver had a disappointing campaign in his initial exposure to the professional ranks.

In nine minor league appearances last year, the six-foot-four 170-pounder tallied a 0-2 record with an 8.66 ERA and a .321 batting average against.

The downturn in results did not concern the Phillies. As Oliver explains, some mechanical alterations to his delivery and a switch from offering a curve ball to throwing a slider, mandated by coaches, were responsible for the dip in production.

"Mechanically, last year they wanted me to drop my arm slot a little bit. I tried it. It just didn't work out for me. Now, I'm back over the top. The thing we really focused on this year was getting more rotation with the hips. It's a lot more comfortable, a lot smoother," Oliver stated.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PNTV: Aaron Nola MLB Spring Debut Feature

On the latest television episode of Phillies Nation, Pat and Corey discuss the opening week for the Phils, including the good and the bad. Rachel jumps in with trending topics and the weekly fan question. The guys offer their weekly Draft Kings fantasy baseball picks and Jay Floyd brings viewers a feature on top pitching prospect Aaron Nola.

Check out the media player below for my segment on Nola and click here to see the full episode online.

New editions of Phillies Nation debut each week on The Comcast Network on Tuesdays at 6 PM and replay throughout the week on TCN and Comcast SportsNet.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

RHP prospect Anderson out with Tommy John surgery, more injury notes

D-anderson
Anderson, image- MiLB.com
Phillies director of player development confirmed to PhilliesNation's Jay Floyd on Tuesday that right-handed pitching prospect Drew Anderson will miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery recently.

Selected in the 21st round of the 2012 draft by the Phillies, the six-foot-three 185-pounder sported a 12-9 record with a 2.97 ERA and a 7.39 K/9 mark through 34 pro games before being sidelined with injury last summer for Class A Lakewood.

The Phillies' hope was for Anderson was for the 21-year-old to rehab through the ailment, but a setback with his throwing elbow resulted in the need for surgery.

"We knew there was a slight tear in the UCL ligament and we tried to rehab him through it, but it went ahead and blew (out), so it's time to fix it," Jordan stated.

In other injury news, top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford, who is currently sidelined with an oblique strain, will return to hitting this coming weekend and could return to action in a couple weeks.

"We're still hopeful that May 1st is realistic, it may be a few days after that," Jordan stated of a possible activation date for Crawford. "I think until he ramps up his activity and really swinging the bat and letting it go, until you see how his body responds, you never know for sure."

Outfielder Kelly Dugan, who is sidelined with a right foot fracture and sent home to California to heal, is set to return to Clearwater to begin rehabbing his injury.

Monday, April 13, 2015

BlueClaws Quotables: Viza, Oliver, Hoskins excited for new season

The Lakewood BlueClaws returned to action over the weekend, going 2-2 against division rival Kannapolis to start their 2015 campaign. Recently, I spoke with several of the team's players about the start of a new year. Read ahead for what righty pitchers Tyler Viza (32nd round pick, 2013) and Chris Oliver (4th round pick, 2014) as well as first baseman Rhys Hoskins (5th round, 2014) had to say about a brand new year in the Phillies organization.

Tyler Viza 4
Tyler Viza, image- Jay Floyd
-Viza, who pitched with Lakewood last year, posting a 3-17 record, spoke about his outlook returning to the BlueClaws...

I'm extremely excited. We've got a great group of guys, got a great coaching staff. I'm happy to be here, to play with these guys and play for these fans again. I'm really excited to be here. Last year's behind me and I'm ready to push forward this year.

-Viza commented on having former Phillies hurler Aaron Fultz as his pitching coach and what advantages he has with Fultz guiding his career...

I had Fultz in the instructional league. He's a great guy, awesome! I love having him as my pitching coach.

Yeah, you know it's kind of nice, you get to pick their brains a little bit about what works and what sort of things didn't work. Maybe what worked for him isn't going to work for us and vice versa, but it's awesome to have that experience at our disposal and to know what works.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Lakewood manager Williams following his lineage

Shawn Williams, image-Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ- Following in his father's footsteps is precisely the route that Lakewood BlueClaws manager Shawn Williams is taking these days.

Shawn is the son of former Phillies coach Jimy Williams, who had a brief playing career prior to turning to the coaching ranks and managing in the big leagues with Toronto, Boston and Houston.

After taking the step from coaching to managing the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters last season, Williams was promoted to take the reigns of the full-season A level BlueClaws for the 2015 campaign.

"They came to me with the managerial position last year in Williamsport, which was awesome to be asked to do that at a younger age. I'm just learning everyday and trying to get better," the 31-year-old Williams said during a recent interview.

Williams' older brother Brady is also a minor league skipper, at the helm of the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (Rays).

The learning process is a daily one for Williams, who is regularly in touch with his father and his brother in an effort to improve as the guy in charge of the Phillies organization's future stars.

"They're great for me to learn from, day in and day out," Williams stated. "I talk to them daily, both of them. They're teaching me things, I'm asking questions."

A key to learning the game as a youth was the inside exposure Williams got by being close to his father while he was coaching at the big league level.

"Growing up around the game and being around major league players, especially when I was younger, getting to learn from them, how to go through a daily routine and what's expected and to see how my dad worked. I just try to be like him, the best I can be," Williams asserted with an expression of admiration for his dad.

As a player, Williams was a fair performer, batting .283 with 17 home runs and 183 RBI over seven seasons in affiliated and independent minor league ball, but the Phillies saw his highest ceiling around the diamond as a coach. The Phils invited Williams, at the age of 29, to take off the spikes and begin teaching the game to their prospects.

"When they asked me to start doing it, I couldn't turn it down, even though I felt like I still could have been playing some more. This was an opportunity with a great organization that I was looking forward to and it's been great being with them. A lot of great people to learn from and it's been outstanding so far," Williams stated.

With Williams much closer in age than a great majority of other coaches, BlueClaws players, who mainly range from 19 to 23 years old, find it easier to bond with their manager.

A strong desire to develop his teacher skill set and his eagerness to help develop each of his players helps the skipper, who reads the baseball rule book during team bus trips, build a rapport with his players.

"I love playing for him," said slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins. "I definitely think he's a players' coach and the fact that he's recently removed from the game as a player really helps us connect with him as a coach and as a person. He gets it. He knows what we're going through and he knows the game. He loves the game. He eats, sleeps, breathes the game."

Williams took over for Greg Legg, who managed and coached in Lakewood for a majority of the past decade. Legg was promoted to manage Class A Advanced Clearwater in the Florida State League.

The BlueClaws will continue their season-opening home stand on Monday when they host the Greensboro Grasshoppers for a three-game set at FirstEnergy Park. Game time Monday and Tuesday is 6:35 PM with Wednesday's series finale slated at 11:05 AM.

This article originally appeared on ShoreSportsNetwork.com.