Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fightins Quotables: Legg and Kingery interview excerpts

This week with the Double-A Reading Fightins making a stop in Trenton, I had the opportunity to chat with manager Greg Legg and surging second baseman Scott Kingery about several topics.  Primarily, both men spoke of Kingery's recent success at the plate (click here for that article), but Legg also talked to me about some other members of his roster including outfielder Andrew Pullin.  Kingery offered thoughts on a few other topics including a funny jab that a teammate took at him for being so good that it's gotten boring.

Read ahead for those exclusive quotes from Legg and Kingery.

Greg Legg, image- Jay Floyd
-I asked Legg about outfielder Andrew Pullin, who has been an excellent offensive performer since he made his Double-A debut last year...

He can hit.  He comes to the park and he knows how to hit and he's got some pop, extra base hits, he can leave the yard and he can hit anybody's fastball.  

-I inquired with Legg about his Fightins pitching staff having a collection of hurlers with high ERA's (five starting pitchers with marks over five, two of those are over six)...

Well, the guys are battling hard.  They're competing well.  That's all you can ask.  Drew (Anderson)'s coming on and (Brandon) Leibrandt's pitching good games for us.  (John) Richy kept us in the game (Monday) night and then they put a three-spot on him in the fifth, you know.  He's a pitch away from getting out of that.  And (Tyler) Viza's coming on, working on some things, so I look for them to take us deeper into games.  

-I followed up asking if he's pleased with the output from the bullpen...

Oh, yeah.  Our bullpen's done a great job.  Through the I guess it's the first 39 games they've been outstanding.

-With certain players, including 2014 third round draft pick outfielder Aaron Brown not seeing a lot of action and lefty batting first baseman Kyle Martin sitting against a left-handed pitcher, I asked if it's hard to get everyone playing time, or if Legg thought that each player is playing as much as he deserves...

No, we're trying to get everybody in the ballgame, let them contribute.  A lot of times we're working with guys in the cages and things like that, but no, I'm not matching up.  They're all getting their chance to play.  Harold (Martinez)'s been hurt, and we got him back in the game tonight.

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
-I asked Kingery if there was a lot of excitement surrounding his success at the plate coming from his teammates...

It's funny, 'cause (Sunday), when I hit my first home run (on Sunday) Harold (Martinez) came up to me and he said you're starting to get on Andrew Pullin's level.  It's not even exciting when you hit home runs anymore.  I got a good laugh out of that.

-Kingery discussed feeling worn down last year and the benefits of spending time in the Arizona Fall League after his first full season in the pro ranks...

Well, first of all, when I got here last year, I think it was (because it was) my first full professional season, I got pretty worn down.  You know, it got to me a little bit and obviously, going to the Fall League and seeing great pitching there- obviously, the pitching's good here, then going there and having even better pitching there, it was good for me.  It was good to get more experience and to get more at bats.  

-I asked Kingery about playing in front of the fans in Reading, who grew up as true Phillies fans...

That's awesome.  I experienced it some last year and they pack the place on weekends.  And as summer's approaching, they're going to be packing it a lot more.  It's good to have those guys on your side.  You want to do good for them, get some wins for them and they're really excited and they're engaged in the game, so it makes it a lot better to play. 

-I inquired if Kingery and the team were already thinking of getting back to the playoffs for a second straight season...

Definitely!  I think this is a really exciting team and I think we have everything it takes to get back to the playoffs and make a run at it and we struggled a little bit out of the gate- I think we started 0-and-3 and, you know, after that we started getting some good chemistry and started seeing what we need to do to win some ball games.  And from there, it's been rolling and we've been playing good baseball.  So, yeah, I definitely think this is an exciting team. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading's Kingery surging on offense thanks to off-season focus

Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
Another day, another home run for Phillies second base prospect Scott Kingery.

A deep drive to left field off of Yankees number six prospect Justus Sheffield on Monday night on the road in Trenton would be the 23-year-old's minor league leading 14th homer of the season.

The big fly marked Kingery's fifth round tripper in his last four games with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils.

With all the fireworks on display, the Phillies' second round draft choice from 2015 still doesn't feel that he's a power hitter.

"I've been talking with (hitting coach John) Mizerock and I believe this as I go up, some of those home runs, they're going to start being doubles," Kingery stated following Monday's series opener.  "I think I'm a gap to gap guy.  I'll have my fair share of home runs.  I'll run into a few.  But it's been a line drive swing and I've tried to keep that approach and right now, they're getting out."

Kingery's home ballpark, First Energy Stadium has a reputation for being kind to hitters, but the home field isn't fully responsible for the righty hitter's surge.  Six of his 14 home runs have come on the road.  

Additionally, Kingery is batting .290 with 28 RBI and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts in 38 total games to date this season. 

The output this year is a considerable turnaround from the.250 average with two home runs, 18 RBI and four steal in 37 games for Reading after a promotion from Class A Advanced Clearwater last season. 

Reading skipper Greg Legg, who managed Kingery last season with the Threshers, cited the biggest difference from last year to this season.

"He's stronger," Legg said.  "He knew what to expect.  Everything else is the same.  The defense was great.  He was leading the (Florida State) League in doubles last year.  Now some of them are leaving the yard."

Kingery, an Arizona product, admits the grind of his first full professional season took its toll on his offensive numbers last season.  And that was a major focus for him over the off-season.

"In the off-season I really focused on trying to put on a lot of weight and muscle because I felt like I was losing weight the whole season and by the end I was just worn down.  It was about putting on muscle and weight and keeping my playing weight higher than it was last year," Kingery asserted.

"I had to bulk up as much as I could and keep shoveling food down my mouth and just trying to get some extra weight."

News out of the Phils organization on Monday revealed that injured Triple-A Lehigh Valley second baseman Jesmuel Valentin, out of action since May 12th when he was injured in the field on a diving play in extra innings, may miss the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery.  That bit of information sparked many thoughts about moving Kingery up a level to take on more of a challenge. 

That's a topic far from the mind of the player, however. 

"I'm here right now.  I've got to focus and improve every day here and do what I need to do to get better and prove that I can go up to that next level, so if I do get that call, I'll be ready."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Interviews with Cord Sandberg and Nick Williams on the Felske Files Podcast

It's been a week since I have published anything on the site here, with life getting in the way at times, it can be difficult to always have fresh material. Without anything new ready to go, I wanted to post a pair of fun interviews I did with some talented outfielders in the Phillies' system that were published elsewhere online.

Throughout the season this year I will be contributing exclusive interviews to John Stolnis' top-notch podcast known as the Felske Files. Recently, he debuted an older never-before-published interview with Triple-A Lehigh Valley's Nick Williams, who was a big part of the Cole Hamels to Texas trade. Also on the show, a brand new interview with Class A Lakewood's Cord Sandberg was released.

Williams, a 23-year-old lefty batter, sports a .261 average with three homers, 13 RBI and three steals in 38 games thus far this season. The Texas native was the Rangers' 2nd round draft choice in 2012.

Sandberg, a 22-year-old left-handed hitter, is batting .289 with three home runs, 19 RBI and three stolen bases through 38 games this year. A Florida native, Sandberg, who is no relation to former Phils manager Ryne Sandberg, was the team's 3rd round draft pick in 2013.

In the top embedded player below, episode 112 of the show features my "Nine Silly-ass Questions" interview with Nick (26:50 mark) in which offers help for naming my son, and answers other generally nonsensical inquiries.

In the second embedded player below, I sat down with Sandberg, who also participated in a session of Nine Silly-ass Questions, including inquiries about ballpark food and music on episode 114 of John's outstanding program. This edition also features a call-in interview with IronPigs hurler Tom Eshelman.

Of course, the show also features an array of key topics dealing with the big league team. This podcast is definitely worth fitting into your regular listening rotation. Check it out!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Threshers second baseman Drew Stankiewicz

Drew Stankiewicz, image- Jay Floyd
Clearwater second baseman Drew Stankiewicz has been lighting it up offensively in recent weeks.

The 23-year-old lefty batter has used a sizzling stretch in which he's gone 15-for-34 (.441 avg) over his last 10 games to launch himself into the Class A Advanced Florida State League's batting average leaders and has helped the Threshers stay atop the North Division standings with a 20-14 record.

Son of former big leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, Drew was the Phils' 11th round draft choice out of Arizona State University in 2014.

This week I talked with Drew about his hot streak, the team's success, not being held in the same regard as some other second base prospects, his family and much more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-With a lot of success for you recently, I wanted to ask what has led to the improved results?  Any changes or anything like that?

Right now, I'm just sticking with my plan.  My hitting coach Rob Ducey has emphasized sticking with my plan and trusting my ability to have success.  That's what I've been doing lately and it's been working.

-Are you working with Ducey pretty heavily or is it guidance and encouragement mostly?

A little bit of both.  If I'm going good, he doesn't want to kind of mix up the chemistry of anything, but whenever I need a little tweak or something like that, I go to him and, I've had him the last two or three years now and he knows my strengths pretty well and it's good to have him real close to me.

-Is confidence a big factor for you lately?

Big time.  I don't think you can play baseball without having some confidence.  Knowing that you're going to go out there and succeed in a failure game, so right now it's really high for me and it's working out.

-Along the lines of what I first asked about, but comparing your batting average with Clearwater last year at .204 to where you are now at .337, what has been the biggest difference between then and now there for you?

I think last year I was kind of put off as a utility guy and I would get some spot starts and when I did start, I tried to do too much.  But when I got to play, that's what really hurt me.  I tried to be a player that I wasn't.  And now, me and Ducey had this talk prior to the season starting, to not have the same results as last year, you can't do the same things, so I really emphasized me sticking to the player that I know I am and I think that's the thing, what I'm doing right now, how my play has been and how the team is doing.

-Beautiful.  So, you mentioned how the team is doing and I know the Threshers have been atop the division standings for a while.  There's a lot of good stuff going on with other players too.  What do you think the biggest part of the team's success has been?

I think the biggest part of the team's success is definitely how close we are as a team.  It sounds a bit cliche, but our pitchers know that our hitters are going to get them runs and our hitters know the pitchers are going to have shutdown innings. So, it's pretty nice to have the confidence that we have in each other an the team confidence is pretty nice.

-I know there is a catchphrase that has helped to unify some of the guys within the Phils system and it helps with positivity and boosts morale in a game of failure, as you called it.  I talked with Cord Sandberg about it last month and I'm wearing my shirt with the motto on it right now.  What are your thoughts on "It's all part of it"?

The "it's all part" thing it's definitely prevalent in our clubhouse.  Cord's just a good buddy with all of us.  We definitely use it on a daily basis and just like Cord said, I read (your article on it) too and if something weird happens or something bad happens, it's all part (of it).  It definitely is a little morale booster, as you said.  It gets us through the days in the long journey of the minor league grind.

-Something else I wrote about recently was the depth of talent the Phillies have at the second base position throughout the organization with Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery, Daniel Brito and Jesmuel Valentin.  I talked with (Phillies director of player development) Joe Jordan before your production picked up about all those guys.  Since that article came out, you have been scorching on offense.  At any point, have you felt overlooked at that position?

I don't feel-- I don't really get caught up too  much in that.  I know the player that I am and I know how good I am.  I don't really-- there isn't any concern about outsiders and what they think.  I know how good of a player I am and I know that I can produce at the big league level and I know what I can do on the field to help the team win.  I don't really concern with, "Oh, I'm not a prospect or I'm not top 100 MLB whatever".  I don't concern myself with that.  I just want to help the team win and just try to make it to the big leagues.  That's all I care about.

-Absolutely. Mentioning getting to the big leagues, your dad's been there and that's something I wanted to get to.  You talked about influence from hitting coach Rob Ducey.  Is there still any influence that comes from dad?

Oh, yeah.  It's actually pretty funny.  Rob Ducey and my dad actually coached together when they were both in the Yankees organization coaching.  So, it's pretty-- I don't know if it's a little annoying having Ducey there sometimes from my dad's point.  And of course a son doesn't want to listen to his father all the time, but it's kind of funny how that played out.  But my dad will definitely give me a call when he's not busy doing his thing over in Arizona (as the head baseball coach at Grand Canyon University).  It definitely gives some insight and he knows when to lay off and he knows when to press on me.  So, it's a good mix.

-From your social media postings, speaking of your family, I can see that you're very close with them.  Do you get a lot of support from other members of your family aside from your dad?

Oh, yeah.  Me and my sister and brother and, actually, my other sister now- it's kind of crazy how fast she's growing up- but they all send me texts and they follow the Threshers and MiLB on Twitter and they see how I do and they screen shot it and they send me it and say, "Good job!"  All my family, we're very close and it's really nice to see that back at home, that kind of support.  In the sport and playing in the minors leagues, it's much needed.

-That minor league life, all the travel and being away from home, that can be a drag, I'm sure at times.  But it's the life.  It's all part of it.  Outside of the slogan though, what do you feel may be the secret to peace of mind for all these months with all the travel and minimal days off and everything you go through in the minors?

I think separating when you're at the field and when you come back to your three bedroom apartment with six dudes in it, I think separating that and, honestly, the friendships that you build are going to last a lifetime.  Just all that stuff.  Honesty, it's a breath of fresh air when you come back and you're buddy-buddy with the team that you live with and very rarely do you talk about baseball outside of the field.  So it's nice to get that break and the number one thing is the friendships that you have here- it's awesome.  The grind that you're going through is what they're going through as well.  And it kind of eases your mind a little bit to know they're going through the same things you're going through and vice versa.  And you know what, the grind is what we're going to miss in 20 years, or whatever it is, when we're done playing baseball.  And we're going to miss these days.

-Who are you rooming with?

I'm living with Mark Laird, Zach Coppola, Damek Tomscha, Luke Leftwich and Matt Hockeberry.

-How much fun are you guys having?  I saw you post a story on Instagram messing around with Zach after he fell asleep, getting an absolute close up of him.

It's a blast.  We have to keep on our toes, 'cause if one of us does something embarrassing, you know another one is going to give each other crap for it.  It's awesome.  It's just the camaraderie of it and it's definitely all part of it!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Phillies organization minor league leader boards- May 8, 2017

Friend of the site Steve Potter, also known as @JpoppaCool on Twitter, took time this weekend to provide some lists of top performers throughout the Phillies' minor league ranks.

Steve is the author of the book The 2016 Phillies Minor Leagues: A Fan's View.  It's a great paperback offering that is available at Citizens Bank Park and online from multiple outlets.

Take a look at the organization leader boards in various offensive and pitching categories below...

Phillies Minor League Leaders - Offense - ( thru 5/7/17 games)

Top 10 - Batting Average : ( minimum 75 at bats)

Drew Stankiewicz - .345 ( 29- 84)- Clearwater
Damek Tomscha - .342 (38-111) - Clearwater
Rhys Hoskins - .337 ( 32-95) - Lehigh
Jorge Alfaro - .319 (29-91) - Lehigh
Carlos Tocci - .304 ( 28-92) - Reading
Herlis Rodriquez - .303 (27-89) - Clearwater
Deivi Grullon - .300 (27-90) - Clearwater
Andrew Pullin - .298 (31-104) Reading
Scott Kingery - .296 ( 29-98) - Reading
Daniel Brito - .294 ( 37-126) - Lakewood

Top 10 - Home Runs
Rhys Hoskins - 8 - Lehigh
Andrew Pullin - 7 - Reading
Scott Kingery - 7 - Reading
Jan Hernandez - 6 - Clearwater
Kyle Martin - 5 - Reading
Damek Tomscha - 5 - Clearwater
Dylan Cozens - 5 - Lehigh
Herlis Rodriquez - 4 - Clearwater
Darick Hall - 4 - Lakewood
Cornelius Randolph - 4 - Clearwater

Top 10 - RBI's
Rhys Hoskins - 20 - Lehigh
Dylan Cozens - 20 - Lehigh
Andrew Pullin - 20 - Reading
Scott Kingery - 19 - Reading
Kyle Martin - 19 - Reading
Damek Tomscha - 18 - Clearwater
Cord Sandberg - 16 - Lakewood
Mickey Moniak - 15 - Lakewood
Carlos Tocci - 13 - Reading
Jorge Alfaro - 13 - Lehigh
Cornelius Randolph - 13 - Clearwater

Top 10 - Runs
Scott Kingery - 27 - Reading
Daniel Brito - 21 - Lakewood
Rhys Hoskins - 19 - Lehigh
Damek Tomscha - 17 - Clearwater
Dylan Cozens - 16 - Lehigh
Andrew Pullin - 15 - Reading
Jiandido Tromp - 14 - Reading
Mitch Walding - 14 - Reading
Mickey Moniak - 14 - Lakewood
Roman Quinn - 13 - Lehigh
Carlos Tocci - 13 - Reading

Top 10 - OPS
Rhys Hoskins - 1.087 - Lehigh
Scott Kingery - 1.013 - Reading
Darick Hall - .983 - Lakewood
Andrew Pullin - .965 - Reading
Herlis Rodriquez - .934 - Clearwater
Damek Tomscha - .916 - Clearwater
Drew Stankiewicz - .897 - Clearwater
Cameron Perkins - .867 - Lehigh
Jan Hernandez - .847 - Clearwater
Jiandido Tromp - .832 - Reading

Top 10 - OBP
Rhys Hoskins - .423 - Lehigh
Damek Tomscha - .411 - Clearwater
Malquin Canelo - .394 - Reading
Drew Stankiewicz - .385 -Clearwater
Scott Kingery - .381 - Reading
Zachary Coppola - .370 - Clearwater
Carlos Tocci - .369 - Reading
Cameron Perkins - .367 - Lehigh
Herlis Rodriquez - .361 - Clearwater
Andrew Pullin - .360 - Reading

Top 10 - Slugging Percentage
Rhys Hoskins - .663 - Lehigh
Darick Hall - .643 - Lakewood
Scott Kingery - .633 - Reading
Andrew Pullin - .606 - Reading
Herlis Rodriquez - .573 - Clearwater
Jiandido Tromp - .519 - Reading
Drew Stankiewicz - .512 - Clearwater
Damek Tomscha - .505 - Clearwater
Cameron Perkins - .500 - Lehigh
Jiandido Tromp - .495 - Reading

Top 10 - Doubles
Andrew Pullin - 11 - Reading
Wilson Garcia - 9 - Clearwater
Nick Williams - 8 - Lehigh
Cameron Perkins - 8 - Lehigh
Jiandido Tromp - 8 - Reading
Drew Stankiewicz - 8 - Clearwater
Cord Sandberg - 7 - Lakewood
Mickey Moniak - 7 - Lakewood
Rhys Hoskins - 7 - Lehigh
Scott Kingery - 6 - Reading

Top 10 - Hits
Damek Tomscha - 38 - Clearwater
Daniel Brito - 37 - Lakewood
Rhys Hoskins - 32 - Lehigh
Cord Sandberg - 31 - Lakewood
Andrew Pullin - 31 - Reading
Mickey Moniak - 30 - Lakewood
Jorge Alfaro - 29 - Lehigh
Scott Kingery - 29 - Reading
Drew Stankiewicz - 29 - Clearwater
Carlos Tocci - 28 - Reading
Wilson Garcia - 28 - Clearwater
Herlis Rodriquez - 27 - Clearwater
Deivi Grullon - 27 - Clearwater

Top 10 - Stolen Bases
Roman Quinn - 7 - Lehigh
Zach Coppola - 7 - Clearwater
Grenny Cumana - 7 - Clearwater
Daniel Brito - 6 - Lakewood
Scott Kingery - 6 - Reading
Herlis Rodriquez - 5 - Clearwater
Malquin Canelo - 4 - Reading
Mickey Moniak - 4 - Lakewood
Lucas Williams - 4 - Lakewood
Nick Williams - 3 - Lehigh

Top (Most strikeouts) 10 - K's
Jose Pujols - 50 - Clearwater
Dylan Cozens - 43 - Lehigh
Kyle Martin - 34 - Reading
Cord Sandberg - 33 - Lakewood
Roman Quinn - 32 - Lehigh
Daniel Brito - 31 - Lakewood
Cornelius Randolph - 31 - Clearwater
Mitch Walding - 30 - Reading
Nick Williams - 29 - Lehigh
Mickey Moniak - 27 - Lakewood

Top 10 - Walks
JP Crawford - 17 - Lehigh
Mitch Walding - 17 - Reading
Rhys Hoskins - 14 - Lehigh
Malquin Canelo - 12 - Reading
Zach Coppola - 12 - Clearwater
Cornelius Randolph - 12 - Clearwater
Malquin Canelo - 12 - Reading
Scott Kingery - 12 - Reading
Edgar Cabral - 12 - Lakewood
Cameron Perkins - 11 - Lehigh
Dylan Cozens - 11 - Lehigh
Cameron Perkins - 11 - Lehigh
Kyle Martin - 11 - Reading
Damek Tomscha - 11 - Clearwater
Chace Numata - 10 - Reading
Carlos Duran - 10 - Lakewood

Phillies Minor League Leaders - Pitching - ( thru 5/7/17 games)

Top 10 - Wins
Will Hibbs - 4 - Lakewood
Nick Pivetta - 3 - Lehigh
Ben Lively - 3 - Lehigh
Tom Eshelman - 3 - Reading
Cole Irvin - 3 - Clearwater
Jose Taveras - 3 - Clearwater
Seranthony Dominguez - 3 - Clearwater
A bunch tied with 2

Top 10 - Losses
Ricardo Pinto - 3 - Lehigh
Jake Thompson - 3 - Lehigh
Tyler Viza - 3 - Reading
A bunch tied with 2

Top 10 ( ERA - minimum 18 IP - rounded up) -
Starting Pitchers
Ranger Suarez - 0.93 ( 29 IP) - Lakewood
Nick Pivetta - 0.95 ( 19 IP) - Lehigh
Nick Fanti - 1.48 ( 30 IP) - Lakewood
Cole Irvin - 1.69 ( 32 IP) - Clearwater
Seranthony Dominguez - 1.74 (31 IP) - Clearwater
Jose Taveras - 1.80 (30 IP) - Clearwater
Adonis Medina - 2.16 (25 IP) - Lakewood
Franklyn Kilome - 2.51 (29 IP) - Clearwater
Ben Lively - 2.79 ( 29 IP) - Lehigh
Blake Quinn - 2.79 ( 19 IP) - Clearwater
Sixto Sanchez - 2.79 ( 19 IP) - Lakewood

Top 10 ( ERA - minimum 9 IP - rounded up) - Relief Pitchers
Pat Venditte - 0.00 (14 IP) - Lehigh
Will Hibbs - 0.00 (17 IP) - Lakewood
Hoby Milner - 0.00 ( 10 IP) - Lehigh
Ismael Cabrera - 0.69 (13 IP) - Lakewood
Mauricio Llovera - 1.32 (14 IP) - Lakewood
Austin Davis - 1.33 (20 IP) - Clearwater
Miguel Nunez - 1.59 (10 IP) - Reading
Jessen Therrien - 1.72 (17 IP) - Reading
Jeff Singer - 1.98 (14 IP) - Clearwater
Yacksel Rios - 2.16 ( 17 IP) - Reading

Top 10 - Games
Jessen Therrien - 12 - Reading
Pedro Beatto - 12 - Lehigh
Yacksel Rios - 11 - Reading
Miguel Nunez - 11 - Reading
Jeff Singer - 10 -Clearwater
Jonathan Hennigan - 10 - Lakewood
Jacob Waguespack - 10 - Clearwater
Luke Leftwich - 9 - Clearwater
Alexis Rivero - 9 - Reading
Tom Windle - 9 - Reading
Pat Venditte - 9 - Lehigh
Michael Mariot - 9 - Lehigh

Top 10 - Saves
Jeff Singer - 6 - Clearwater
Pedro Beatto - 6 - Lehigh
Jessen Therrien - 5 - Reading
Miguel Nunez - 3 - Reading
Luke Leftwich - 3 - Clearwater
Jonathan Hennigan - 2 - Lakewood
Will Hibbs - 2 - Lakewood
A bunch tied with 1

Top 10 - Innings Pitched (rounded up)
Cole Irvin - 32 - Clearwater
Ricardo Pinto - 32 - Lehigh
Seranthony Dominguez - 31 - Clearwater
Jose Taveras - 30 - Clearwater
Nick Fanti - 30 - Lakewood
Tom Eshelman - 29 - Reading
Ben Lively - 29 - Lehigh
Ranger Suarez - 29 - Lakewood
Franklyn Kilome - 28 - Clearwater
Mark Appel - 27 - Lehigh

Top 10 - Strikeouts
Seranthony Dominguez - 38 - Clearwater
Ranger Suarez - 37 - Lakewood
Nick Fanti - 31 - Lakewood
Jose Taveras - 30 - Clearwater
Adonis Medina - 30 - Lakewood
Franklyn Kilome - 28 - Clearwater
Jo Jo Romero - 28 - Lakewood
Sixto Sanchez - 28 - Lakewood
Luke Leftwich - 27 - Clearwater
Yacksel Rios - 27 - Reading
Jessen Therrien - 26 - Reading
Austin Davis - 26 - Clearwater

Top 10 - Walks ( most issued)
Alberto Tirado - 13 - Clearwater
Mark Appel - 13 - Lehigh
Ricardo Pinto - 12 - Lehigh
Shane Watson - 11 - Reading
Jake Thompson - 11 - Lehigh
Jonathan Hennigan - 11 - Lakewood
Seranthony Dominguez - 10 - Clearwater
Pat Venditte - 10 - Lehigh
Jo Jo Romero - 10 - Lakewood
Jose Taveras - 10 - Clearwater
Nick Fanti - 10 - Lakewood
Miguel Nunez - 10 - Reading

Top 10 - WHIP ( minimum 10 IP - Innings rounded up)
Jessen Therrien - 0.54 (17 IP) - Reading
Hoby Milner - 0.62 (10 IP) - Lehigh
Nick Pivetta - 0.74 (19 IP) - Lehigh
Pat Venditte - 0.77 (14 IP) - Lehigh
Will Hibbs - 0.71 (17 IP) - Lakewood
Nick Fanti - 0.79 (30 IP) - Lakewood
Yacksel Rios - 0.84 (17 IP) - Reading
Harold Arauz - 0.87 ( 21 IP) - Lakewood
Austin Davis - 0.89 (20 IP)- Clearwater
Sixto Sanchez - 0.90 ( 24 IP) - Lakewood
Ismael Cabrera - 0.92 (13 IP) - Lakewood
Cesar Ramos - 0.92 ( 17 IP) - Lehigh

Top 10 - Holds
Jessen Therrien - 3 - Reading
Michael Mariot - 3 - Lehigh
Yacksel Rios - 3 - Reading
Mario Sanchez - 3 - Reading
Tom Windle - 3 - Reading
Jacob Waguespack - 3 - Clearwater
Pat Venditte - 2 - Lehigh
Tyler Gilbert - 2 - Clearwater
Austin Davis - 2 - Clearwater
Hoby Milner - 2 - Lehigh
Mario Hollands - 2 - Reading

Top 10 - Games Finished
Jeff Singer - 10 - Clearwater
Miguel Nunez - 10 - Reading
Pedro Beatto - 10 - Lehigh
Will Hibbs - 8 - Lakewood
Jacob Waguespack - 7 - Clearwater
Jessen Therrien - 6 - Reading
Hoby Milner - 4 - Lehigh
Harold Arauz - 4 - Lakewood
5 tied with 3

Sunday, May 7, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood first baseman Darick Hall

Darick Hall, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Darick Hall missed time in April with an ankle sprain but is fully healthy and back on track for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.  This week, the 21-year-old slammed a home run in three straight games.  Overall in 11 games this season, Hall, who was the Phillies 14th round draft selection last year out of Dallas Baptist has tallied a .276 batting average with nine RBI.

After debuting as a pro with the short-season A level Williamsport Crosscutters last season, Hall posted a .282/.372/.518 (slugging percentage was league best) slash line in 57 games.

Last week I spent some time with Darick, who discussed team chemistry, his team's offensive inconsistency prior to locking down seven straight victories, coming from a baseball family and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-After returning from the injury, what are your early impressions of the Sally League?

Well, you know, the pitchers pitch backwards and we're figuring that out the hard way.  But, the pitching's good.  There's good arms.  I think the key for us is going to be for us is that we have to be more disciplined at the plate.  Swinging at pitches in certain counts that we shouldn't be swinging at, we're not getting our pitches to hit.  I think that's been what we've been struggling with.  But the league is good.  Defense and pitching always wins games and when the offense figures it out, that really helps too.

-You spoke there about the offense getting things together and making adjustments, what are your thoughts on this collection of guys in this lineup? 

I think we're going to be really good.  I think we're a young offense and we just gotta grow and maybe stop making so many outs early and hit deeper into counts and wait for the mistakes that the pitchers are going to give us.  But, I think we're solid pitching and I think we're solid defensively.  I just think the offense is going to take a little bit.  It can't get much worse than it's been.  We're only going to get better.  That's kind of how it was in Williamsport last year.  It took us a little bit to get our feet wet and then we kind of took off towards the end.

-Does it give you extra motivation when there are games where the team only collects two or three hits and has those struggles that you were referencing there?

Yeah, that and sometimes you gotta give credit where credit is due.  You might have a dude on the mound who was three pitches and he's throwing them where ever he wants and that's baseball.  But, when that happens, you've gotta make something happen.  Whether that means getting a walk, a good A.B., getting him out of the game early, the little things we can do to combat a three or four hit game with a (standout) guy on the mound.

-You talk about standout guys on the mound, this club, the BlueClaws, has some of those.  Can that drive the offense as well, to help and support those pitchers that are getting it done for you?

Oh, yeah.  You know, we've got a great pitching staff and they do everything they can and we've got to do everything we can to support them, 'cause they're keeping the games tight, with shutdown innings.  We just gotta keep rolling.

-I've been around this team a couple times so far this season and each time I notice this group has a lot of energy and is having a lot of fun.  What can you share on that, the fun level with this group?

In pro ball, sometimes you find places where there's not a lot of team chemistry, people are out for themselves.  In the Phillies organization, that's not how it works.  We play for each other.  We have energy because we all want to do well.  We want to succeed as individuals and as a team.  We play for each other and I think that's what's really cool about us.  And we all like each other.  We enjoy being around each other and that's something that you don't find, too, in other places. 

-So, the team is fun, but my early impressions of new Lakewood manager, Marty Malloy, are that he may not be all about the fun.  He seems like all business all the time.  What can you tell me about him?

He's a great guy.  He definitely keeps us going in the right direction.  You know, he runs a tight ship and you have to do that. We're young.  You know, he's a guy that will always give good advice.  He's been there.  He's experienced.  We really enjoy him as our manager.

-Is structure a big part of the game for you?

Absolutely.  You gotta have structure.  Without structure the wheels can come off.  You always have structure to look back to, to move forward.

-I have talked to Cord Sandberg this year and he's a big advocate of the motivating catchphrase, "It's all part of it".  A lot of players are into it as a way to spin any negative that could arise in or around the game.  Are you down with this outlook?

It's all part of it is a great phrase because of all the crap that we go through being in the minor leagues and failing and more failure than succeeding.  That phrase kind of helps put an understanding to what we go through.  It's, you know, in the minor leagues it's about succeeding, but it's also about you have to learn through your failures to succeed.  Like, you gotta age as a man and a baseball player to move up.  You know, and that's kind of the phrase, "It's all part of it".  You might go 0-for-4 with three (strike outs)- it's all part it of.  Learn to take whatever happened that game to know what you gotta do.  Whether that's be more disciplined or maybe pick out and be more selective, it just kind of is what it is.

-Who were your favorite players as a kid or did you collect cards and was there someone who was your favorite to collect?

I didn't collect baseball cards, but Ken Griffey Jr. was always my favorite.  It sounds dumb, but I grew up playing Nintendo 64 with Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest and the first time my uncle was drafted, he was drafted by the Mariners, so it was like all in that time frame, so I grew up really liking Ken Griffey Jr.

-Cool.  Who is your uncle? 

Ladd Hall.

-How far did he get as a player?

Well, he went to ASU and got hurt.  So, he was drafted three times and didn't sign.  He was trying to build his-- and it turned out as a baseball coulda-woulda-shoulda.  But, my other uncle Shane Hall, he was drafted in the 12th round by the Red Sox and he played four years as a pitcher.  So...

-You grew up with those guys as inspiration and rooting for their teams?

Oh, yeah!  I was always at their-- 'cause they started out at junior college, I remember being at high school games and hearing about pro ball.  I grew up in a baseball family. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lakewood's Fanti, Bettencourt combine for no-hitter

Nick Fanti and Trevor Bettencourt, image- Lakewood BlueClaws
With two outs in the ninth inning and two runners on, Lakewood starter Nick Fanti's no-hit bid was turned over to someone he lives and works very closely with every day.  His roommate.  

Fanti, who was a 31st round draft selection by the Phillies in 2015, was off to a terrific start this season entering the night, but his effort on Saturday night will certainly draw some major attention.

The 20-year-old lefty hurler came within one out of becoming just the third pitcher in team history to toss a complete game no-hitter.

He sailed through eight innings on the road, dominating the Columbia Fireflies (Mets affiliate), walking just two batters.

To open the final frame, Fireflies backstop Ali Sanchez reached on an error by Lakewood third baseman Danny Zardon.  Next, Columbia third baseman Milton Ramos grounded into a fielders choice that erased Sanchez.  Fireflies lead-off man, shortstop Andres Giminez, struck out swinging, putting the potential for history just one out away.  Second baseman Luis Carpio then drew a walk.

With his pitch count at 113 on the evening and the game on the line, Lakewood skipper Marty Malloy made the call to his bullpen.  Right-hander Trevor Bettencourt would record the final out on a strike out of designated hitter Michael Paez to notch his second save.

Bettencourt, a 25th round draft pick last year, felt some added pressure locking down the final out on Saturday night.

"I had to calm myself down," Bettencourt stated on the phone Saturday night.  "It was the first time this year that I had to physically stop and take a breath on the mound and slow myself down.  But it was cool especially 'cause me and Fanti are roommates back home in New Jersey and on the road in hotels.

"The first thing he did, he came out, gave me a hug and said, 'That's roommate love right there!'"

The 22-year-old UC Santa Barbara product, Bettencourt, wasn't surprised with the game's result.

"I think this is definitely huge, but I think it was just a matter of time before someone did it," Bettencourt said, expressing his confidence in his team's pitching staff. 

The BlueClaws' pitching staff leads the Class A Sally League in ERA with a 2.63 mark.
Lakewood won by a final score of 1-0.  Shortstop Jose Antequera plated the game's lone run on a sacrifice fly in the 8th inning.

It was the fifth no-hitter in BlueClaws history.  The four previous no-no's: Keith Bucktrot (2001), Gavin Floyd (2002), Carlos Carrasco & Andy Barb (2006), and Jeb Stefan, Ramon Oviedo, and Chris Burgess (2013).

The outing for Fanti takes his season numbers through five starts to a 2-0 record with a 1.48 ERA, a 9.2 K/9 mark and a .133 batting average against.

For Lakewood, the victory was the team's seventh consecutive win.  With a record of 18-12, the BlueClaws are in second place in the South Atlantic League's Northern Division, 1/2 game behind Hagerstown.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs OF Cam Perkins

Cam Perkins, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Cam Perkins is having another remarkable season for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  Fresh off an All-Star campaign in the International League last year in which he posted a .292/.329/.419 slash line, the 26-year-old Purdue product is proving to be consistent, as he is batting .303 with seven doubles, a triple, three HR and nine RBI in 23 games.

Perkins, a 6th round draft pick of the Phillies in 2012, spent the off-season playing baseball in the Dominican Republic.  This year in big league spring training, the six-foot-five 195-pound right batter tallied a .355 batting average with three doubles, two homers and six RBI in 14 games.

Last month I talked to Cam about winter ball, his spring training experience, his current IronPigs team and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-You enjoyed a very successful spring campaign, which may have been a surprise to some, but probably was not a surprise to you.  What was that experience like for you?

It was fun.  The opportunities I got, I felt like I took advantage of it.  Just playing in front of the big club, showing them what I can do and, you know, like you said, it wasn't really a surprise to me.  I know I can play like that.  I think I showed that in winter ball last year.  Yeah, it went well.

-Right, of course- you played winter ball, which ran close to the spring training report date.  Do you feel like that benefited you?

Sure, it was great.  I was definitely a different experience.  It's one of those things I feel like every American baseball player should play once in their career.  See how the international players that come over here, see how it is for them, when you go over there, playing in a different environment.  It was good baseball.  You get to see a lot of pitchers that you haven't seen that you're going to see, so you can kind of figure out what they have.  And just continue to play and I had like three weeks off between the season and spring training, so it kind of just all rolls over without a break, so it definitely keeps it fresh.  

-Some players report to a winter league team early and are done their time by the holidays.  Others, like you, report later and pay into the new year   .  What goes into the decisions for that?

Definitely one big reason is that way it's closer to spring training and it rolls over.  That way you can get ready.  I had family reasons that I needed to take care of- girlfriend, family, dog, all that stuff after the season.  So you go home and rest and get healthy for those two months and I went down there mid-November, right before Thanksgiving and stayed there for two months.  Came home for Christmas.  That's the only time, but yeah I just-- it's just a little easier for me to go second half instead of first half.  

-Your team, the Gigantes, reached the postseason.  What was that atmosphere like?  A lot different?

It was awesome.  It's one of those things where if the lead-off batters gets a walk, the place goes crazy.  Like, it's the top of the 1st and the infield's in and it's just pure "win the game".  Who cares who gets hits?  Who's literally just win the game.  It's a valuable tool for players to have to just know how to go out there and win a game and not worry about box scores and not worry about this average or I gave up three runs.  Well, that fourth run could have been the biggest run of the game and you didn't give it up.  So it's literally just win the game and that's so much fun.  That's the way I like to play the game for sure.  

-Was there anyone that you played with, or a coach, that you picked up a lot from down there?

I mean, just guys.  (Alec) Asher and Rhys (Hoskins) were on my team.  (Maikel) Franco, played with him a lot.  Nelson Cruz was a big guy.  Just seeing how they go about their business and stuff like that.  Like I said, the biggest take away from winter ball was learning how to play winning baseball.  That's all that matters to them.  They don't care what the exit velocity was or angles or WAR stats.  All that matters is end of the game, did you score more runs that the other team?  And that's the way I approach the game.  I loved it.

-How about in spring training?

There were veteran guys like (Chris) Coghlan, (Daniel) Nava, Howie (Kendrick), (Michael) Saunders.  Just seeing the way they go about their business.  It's not necessarily talking one on one, it's just being around them, in the mornings seeing how they go about getting ready for a game, how they approach the game, things like that.  You definitely pick up on things.  Try to be a sponge in spring training and soak up as much as you can.

-After having statistical success and showing what you can do in big league camp do you have more confidence you will reach that level during the regular season?

Yeah, for sure...
At the end of the day, it's baseball.  Whether you're in GCL, big leagues, Lakewood, Clearwater, it doesn't matter.  It's the same game I've been playing all my life and I feel like I can play it anywhere.  I'm just waiting for the opportunity.  

-What are your feelings on this group of IronPigs this season?

I think last year kind of showed other teams and fans what our upper levels are about.  Reading won so many games and Lehigh won a lot of games and that's pretty much the same players that are here.  So, everyone here knows how to play winning baseball and knows how to go out there and we expect to win.  When we play a game, there's a difference between going out there and hoping and expecting to win..   When we play, we think we're going to beat anyone and that's a good way to approach the game.
That's the way to learn how to play winning baseball and I think that's the most underrated (thing) that baseball players don't know how to do or know how to do.  I think that's going to help the big league club in a couple years for sure.

-On that topic, winning, with guys that have been at the top level, did any Phillies coaches make a big impression on you this spring?

Working with Matt (Stairs) and Pete (Mackanin) and Larry (Bowa) and all those guys, it was great.  They just reiterated what I've been doing.  They just say, "Keep doing what you're doing."  I like to keep it fun.  I like to keep it loose.  I like to keep the game pretty simple.  I'm a big see ball, hit ball guy and they like that.  They said keep doing what you're doing and wait for your opportunity and hopefully one comes around.

-Former Phillie Charlie Hayes is with this IronPigs club for a couple months till the short-season Gulf Coast League gets started.  He's been to the pinnacle Have you been working with him a lot?

We worked with him in spring a lot, just being around the team.  Nothing pretty much mechanically, just teaching the game, knowing how to play the game, what to do in certain situations, which is my favorite part of the game.  I'm not a big elbow up, elbow down, twist-- all that stuff.  It's just literally pretty much baseball IQ, just know how to play the game.  And he's that way too.  And I think just being around him I think that just helps out our ball club staying more loose.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Phillies are rich with talent at second base

Well stocked for the future at the second base position, the Phillies have a collection of talented players enjoying success at several levels.

It’s, as they say, a good problem to have.

According to the Phillies’ director of player development Joe Jordan the collection of talent at a key position is something the Phillies’ brass has discussed considerably.

Cesar Hernandez, image- Jay Floyd
At the top level, Cesar Hernandez, has become the Phillies’ most consistent offensive performer this season. The 26-year-old could be in line for his first big league All-Star nod if his exceptional efforts continue.

Through 21 games this season, heading into action on Saturday, Hernandez has tallied a .318 batting average with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases. Hernandez mashed just six homers last season in 155 games played with the Phillies. His surge in power and a solid ability to drive the ball has been attributed to a quality workout program last off-season, which reportedly saw the talented Venezuelan add 15 pounds of muscle to his typical middle infielder frame, as well as a refined swing following a benching last summer.

Jordan describes Hernandez as “a guy who's really morphed into a terrific looking major league player”.

Behind Hernandez, though, is a crop of excellent prospects that are garnering a lot of attention throughout the Phils’ developmental ranks.

In Triple-A, Jesmuel Valentin, who had a terrific exhibition campaign in the Grapefruit League, continues to impress. The 22-year-old is batting .271 with three doubles, a homer and six RBI through 18 games for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Versatile in the field, the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin can also play shortstop and third base along with the outfield as well.

“Valentin's a hell of a good baseball player and I think that, he's a switch-hitter, he had a really good (spring training) and was under strong consideration to make the big league club out of spring training,” Jordan said.

Valentin tallied a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI in 21 spring games with the big league team this spring. He was acquired from the Dodgers in 2014 as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade after he had been a supplementary 1st round draft choice of Los Angeles in 2012.

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
At Double-A Reading Scott Kingery, the Phillies’ 2nd round draft selection from 2015 has displayed a boost in power as well. Through 17 games with the Fightin Phils, the 23-year-old has notched three doubles, a triple and six home runs while driving in 17 and swiping four bags.

In spring training, the righty hitter batted .286 with a double, two homers and three RBI with a steal in 10 games.

“I think that Kingery showed very well (in spring training also),” Jordan stated. “He's got catalyst potential, a hard-nosed player, you know, maybe a 70 runner, premium defense.”

That assessment is gleaming. But the organization and Jordan aren’t done yet. High hopes surround one more second base prospect at a lower level.

With Lakewood in the Class A South Atlantic League, Daniel Brito, a 19-year-old Venezuelan, has swiftly become that team’s offensive jewel. From the lead-off spot, the young lefty batter sports a .333 average with two doubles, three home runs and five stolen bases through 22 games.

“Brito, you know, honestly, five years from now, he might be the best hitter of the bunch,” Jordan suggested.

All of this depth translates to wealth for the Phillies. An abundance of valuable players at a critical position up the middle can help the organization in more ways than one.

With a crowded scene, the Phils could potentially use some of these options to fill some other essential spots.

“I think those decisions are made, you know, at the appropriate time,” Jordan explained. “If we have players playing good they're either going to help us or help get something we need. That's reality. That's professional baseball.”

Jordan stressed, however, that his job is player development and that entails maximizing the abilities of everyone and getting each of them ready for what’s ahead.

Maximize away, Mr. Jordan and staff. Maximize away.

Friday, April 28, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks Phillies Prospects

Occasionally, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan takes time to chat with me about the organization's rising prospects and he was generous once again this week to offer his insight.  With some top names like J.P. Crawford and Dylan Cozens struggling out of the gate and other well-regarded prospects like Nick Pivetta and the talented pitchers at Class A and High-A doing great jobs, Jordan discussed those players as well as first round draft picks outfielder Cornelius Randolph and RHP Shane Watson. Outfielders Jose Pujols and Andrew Pullin, lefty pitcher Austin Davis and others were also among the topics. Read ahead for all the exclusive comments.

Franklyn Kilome, image- Jay Floyd
-Joe, thus far this season the Threshers pitching staff was been excellent, with great ERA's at 2.28 or under from Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras, Alberto Tirado, Seranthony Dominguez and company. How pleased are you with the production from this group?

They're off to a great start.  You know, I just couldn't be happier.  I don't know that we could.  I just think as a group the guys are feeding off of each other.  I mean, it's a good group.  There's a lot of talent, obviously, on that club.  Both in the bullpen and in the rotation.  I just think that they got off to a good start and it's feeding itself right now.  You go down the rotation whether it's Dominguez, Kilome gave up a run last night in the first and went seven (innings), that's all he gave up.  I think a lot of the guys are just pounding the strike zone.  We have our nights were we have big strike out numbers, but for the most part the walks have been very, very low, if at all, so the pitching staff is-- I don't know.  Hell, they're doing just about as good as you could be doing three weeks in. 

-I know some of those guys have gotten plenty of attention at times.  Kilome is well regarded, Taveras had some big strike out games last year with Lakewood, Tirado has some great velocity.  Is there a guy there who hasn't gotten that attention yet that is doing a lot to change that?

I think internally we've seen Taveras really good.  We've seen Kilome, obviously.  Cole Irvin making the jump from the draft and Williamsport last summer to there, I think he's been very steady, kind of what we thought.  He knows what he's doing, knows who he is, pitches to his strengths.  I think he's answered the challenge pretty well.  Tirado I really like.  I don't think he's trying throw 100 (MPH) every night.  He's starting to develop his pitchability.  Dominguez has as good of stuff as anyone there and on the nights that he commands his fastball and has his second pitch, (opponents) have a really hard time dealing with him.  You know, (Blake) Quinn last year he pitched out of the bullpen because he had a lot of innings before the draft and he's been steady.  They're different.  They're a different group.  They all have different strengths.  But I think they're feeding off each other.

-Austin Davis has been great out of that Threshers  bullpen after missing a bunch of time last year.  Seems that he's fully healthy and I saw something that his velocity is up.  Is that the case and what are your thoughts on him right now?

Well, he had some back issues to start the season last year and missed almost half the summer.  But, Austin, his stuff is up.  It's a full grade more fastball than we saw last summer.  His breaking ball and his command of his second pitches has been better.  Discussed during spring training the possibility of him making the Reading rotation, but we felt like Clearwater to start (the season).  So, we'll see how it goes.  Yeah, I think everything you said is accurate.  His stuff is up and he looks healthy.  That's good.  That's kind of what we wanted. 

I think Gilbert going from the rotation in Lakewood, his stuff is up as well.  He's been pretty steady.  (Luke) Leftwich has been really good out of the bullpen, as is (Jake) Waguespack and (Jeff) Singer.  You know, I mean, really it's-- you've got 12, 13 guys there that are really pushing each other and no one wants to get outdone and so far, so good.

-Jose Pujols is striking out a lot, approaching half of his at bats ending that way, with the Threshers.  His manager there, Shawn Williams, had him last year in Lakewood and would cite to me during the year that Jose's pitch recognition was improving, but the numbers don't show that right now.

Well, I think he's got a lot of ability.  I think, not having seen him firsthand yet-- I'm heading there next week-- sounds like he's getting himself out a lot, which means he's expanding the strike zone.  I think that's the thing he did second half of the summer last year.  He basically started swinging at better pitches, so, you know.  April, hitters, he's not the only one doing stuff like that, so he's just got to come back and do what he did the second half of the summer last year.  Swing at good pitches, make them throw strikes.  And if he can do that, he'll calm the strike outs down, hopefully.

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
-As you mentioned maybe there are other guys not having great Aprils, a pair of guys with the IronPigs are struggling in that lineup with J.P. Crawford slumping and Dylan Cozens hitting for a low average thus far (.109 and .118 averages respectively heading into action on Friday).  Some fans are in a panic, but I'm sure the organization is confident the numbers will bounce back for those guys.  What are your thoughts on the early lack of success for those two players?

They're both off to bad starts.  Sounds like the work's been good, but they've had three bad weeks, so I think everyone goes through this through the course of the summer.  Hopefully, their's is going to be the first month and they'll put together four good months behind it.  I don't feel different about either guy.  I think they're both going to hit.  They're both going to be good players, but obviously they haven't had good Aprils up until this point.  What they need to do-- again, I've seen them.  I've seen them firsthand and what's happened has happened.  They've got about three, four days at the end of this month to get ready for May.  They can't change the last three weeks, but they can learn from it and they have three or four games to build some momentum for May and we'll forget all about April if they have good, strong Mays.

-A guy that has had a strong April is Andrew Pullin at Double-A (.358 avg, 5 HR, 14 RBI in 16 games).  It seems like all he does is hit since he got there last year.  He's been remarkable and a big part of the Reading lineup.  Can you talk about him a bit and maybe what his secret is?

Well, he can hit.  Bottom line.  He's got a fast, short swing and he can hit a good fastball.  He can hit a big fastball.  He's just developing as a hitter.  If he uses the left-center gap to the right field line, he's going to be a complete hitter.  He really, really is.  And if he can just stay in the center of the field enough to keep through the baseball-- you know, but I don't know what else he can do.  He's off to another good start, building off of another good year last year.  So, he's healthy.  His arm's strong, he's getting stronger.  Coming back from an elbow injury.  So, it's all good news so far and I like what I'm seeing.  I'm here with the club right now.

-Continuing with the Reading questions then since you're with that club, is there anything going on with Temple product Matt Hockenberry?  He hasn't gotten in a lot of games out of the Fightins' bullpen this year.

Well, he's gotten off to a rough start and right now we're going with some other guys.  And he's trying to get some things worked out so we can get him back in there.  But he's just one of the guys that got off to a rough start and right now we've got some other guys in front of him.

-Shane Watson was excited to open the season at Double-A.  Maybe the result thus far hasn't been as he has wanted it or as the team has wanted it, but could you share some thoughts on his production?

Well, I can't reference all of his outings, but he's done some good things.  I mean, I think that with what he's gone through, he may have been a little surprised that we put that on him to start, but he's capable and I wouldn't say that (his) April has been a disappointment in any way, to me.  Get some warm weather up here and he's going to build a little more arm strength, get loosened out.  I think Shane's going to have a good summer.  So, I've been happy with what he's been doing.  I got to talk to him the last few days and I think he feels good about where he's at and what's in front of him the next four months and the rest of the summer.

Nick Piveetta, image- Jay Floyd
-Nick Pivetta's been exceptional for the Triple-A IronPigs so far and is getting some attention for it.  Has an ERA under 1.00 through three starts.  What have you seen from Nick thus far this season?

He's just growing as a pitcher in every phase.  He's calm.  Very, very confident.  I think he really has realized that he can execute his delivery.  That his stuff and his weapons are very good.  He's got total trust right now in himself and what he's doing.  All that being said, he's off to a great start, so it's really no more complicated than that.  He's executing about three above average major league pitches and Triple-A hitters have had a hard time. 

-I know that (righty hurler) Victor Arano is dealing with some arm setbacks and stuff.  Are there any guys rehabbing down in Florida that you can share progress details on?

Well, I think Arano is getting closer.  I think our expectation is sometime in June to have him up and running.  And John Richy is close. He's throwing, I think he's up to three innings now, so he's very close to getting back and getting going.  You know, I mean (Arquimedes) Gamboa should be down there no longer than 10 days.  We're being very conservative and cautious with his hamstring, but he's feeling good and we're starting to ramp up his activities.  We need to get him back to Lakewood, where he was off to a very good start.  We have some guys coming back.  It's not a deep list down there, but we have some guys down there that are pretty talented just trying to come back and get ready to play. 

-At 19, Cornelius Randolph is rather young at the High-A level with Clearwater (.230 average in 17 games, had 3 HR and a double in first five games this year, no extra-base hits since then).  I know you mentioned that you haven't seen the Threshers yet, but what have you heard on him thus far in 2017?

I've heard good things.  I think that Cornelius is, for me, it's April, it's High-A at a young age.  He's done fine.  He's been engaged.  He hit some home runs early.  I think he's probably struck out a little more than I would like, but I think the plate discipline, the strike zone awareness is still there.  He's done fine.  I think, you know, he's going to have a good summer and the first month is almost over.  I've have no issues at all with what has happened with him down there.

-We talked about how gleaming the Threshers' pitching staff has been.  I think the BlueClaws have had similar success out of some of their starters with names like Ranger Suarez, Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero, Nick Fanti and Sixto Sanchez all doing some good things. How about that group so far?

It's a very exciting group!  I mean, it's talented, they're different.  There's power right-handers, there's left-handers with good arms with breaking balls-- you know, it's a good group.  And it's young.  It's exciting for me that we've got the group there that we have and we've got some guys in Clearwater in extended (spring training)that  will be looking for a similar opportunity sometime here soon.  I think it's been really good.  I'm very, very happy.

-You mentioned guys in extended and I definitely wanted to touch on that before I let you go.  Could a pair of guys like Kevin Gowdy or Cole Stobbe out of last year's draft see time with Lakewood this year, or are there other names you would drop as possibilities to get time with the BlueClaws?

Well, yeah, I mean both guys are going to be good options at some point in time.  I think, you know, if you talk to the guys down there, Cole has been very good.  Has swung the bat well, continues to develop at third base.  Gowdy, pretty much the same.  Both guys were good enough to make the Lakewood club out of spring training. We're managing innings on Gowdy.  We've got a number we're going to get him to this summer and it's easier to do it with him starting down there.  But, if nothing happens, he go to Williamsport and so will Cole.  If we decide that it's better for them to jump to Lakewood before that, then that's what we'll do.  We'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

IronPigs Quotables: LHP Hoby Milner

Hoby Milner, image- Jay Floyd
As a Rule 5 draft pick, lefty reliever Hoby Milner got plenty of exposure in big league spring training this year, but an imperfect exhibition campaign along with limited room on the Indians' roster resulted in the 26-year-old coming back to the team that drafted him (7th round, 2012).

With Cleveland in the Cactus League, Milner allowed seven earned runs in seven innings over seven appearances while striking out nine and walking three. 

After the Indians decided they could not keep Milner around, he rejoined the Phillies, where he was assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to open the regular season. 

Earlier this month, I spoke with Milner, who spoke on his experience with Cleveland and coming back to the Phils.  Read ahead for that interview.

-What can you share about your whirlwind off-season and spring after being selected in the Rule 5 draft, going to the Indians and then coming back to the Phillies?

I thought it was a great experience, a great opportunity.  It was a win-win for me.  They picked me and I was going to get the opportunity in big league camp.  They signed Boone Logan in the off-season after they Rule Fived me and, basically, I would have had to have been perfect to get an opportunity there and things just didn't fall into place for me to stay there, so I'm back. 

-Was it a surprise to any members of the team that you were coming back or did the Phillies guys have a heads up?

I talked to a couple of the guys.  Said, "I'm coming back.  I'll be there tomorrow." And I'm pretty sure that most people knew I was coming back at that point.  Yeah, 'cause I went to big league camp.  Fortunately the Phillies were like, "Hey, we want you to come to big league camp so you can get to know the staff and let them see you a couple times."

-You mentioned win-win, so overall you're happy with the exposure you got and the time you spent with the big clubs this spring.  Do you feel like you've developed more?

Yeah, definitely.  I feel like I've got more confidence.  I got to pitch in big league camp all spring and it was fine and just I thought it was good exposure.  The teams that are all out in Arizona, I got to pitch against team I've never faced ever in the minor leagues.  So, it was good.

-Is there anybody that you picked up a lot from in big league camp out there?

You know, not really.  I think the only guy who throws close to how I throw was Andrew Miller and he was at the (World Baseball) Classic the whole time, so I really didn't get to talk to him.  I really just watched how that clubhouse went about their business and they had a lot of veteran guys in that clubhouse and they all seemed to know what they were doing, so I learned a lot that way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

BlueClaws Quotables: Manager Marty Malloy Talks

Marty Malloy, image- Jay Floyd
During their opening home stand recently I had the opportunity to chat with new skipper of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws Marty Malloy. 

The 45-year-old spent time as a player in the big leagues with the Braves and Marlins.  Since he retired from playing, Malloy, the 12th manager in BlueClaws history, has managed the Astros' Gulf Coast League team for the past three seasons.

Among the topics Malloy touches on are highly ranked prospects such as starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez and outfielder Mickey Moniak.  He also speaks on the leadership of some returning players, the crowds in Lakewood and more.  Read ahead for those quotes.

-I asked about his early impressions on Sixto Sanchez as well as Mickey Moniak...

It's a great impression what they've done.  You know, I'm very fortunate, lucky if you will, to have two guys of that caliber at that age at this level on this team.  And what they do bring to the table, it can only rub off in a good way for other kids that are here to go along this journey as well.

-I asked about returning players Harold Arauz, Zach Morris, Cord Sandberg and if they could be leaders toward guys wearing the Lakewood uniform for the first time...

It's so early in the season I don't think we have truly reached that point yet.  I kind of think behind the scenes is where this has happened, as far as what to expect, what to look for.  Rather it was it Hagerstown or it was in Kannapolis now leading up to (the team coming home).  Just for them to be able to share their past and what they've seen in this league for all these new guys that didn't know what to expect and what was going to take place.

-Speaking on his early impressions of Lakewood...

Unbelievable!  I've played in a lot of stadiums, including in the big leagues, and this stadium in a lot of ways reminds me of Louisville, Kentucky when I was in Triple-A.  One of my favorite places of all time. walk into this stadium, after coming off the road, to see this, is for the South Atlantic League I don't think you can beat it. 

-Additional thoughts on Sandberg...

He's somebody that has been in the trenches, that's had success, that's had failure, has been through the leagues, has been through the bus rides, just little things that he can share and be a positive influence on a day to day basis.  And, you know, a position player or a pitcher, so to speak, may be having a bad day or when everything's just not right and he's been through some ups and downs, so the fact that he can share experience from this league with these kids can only help.

He's got off to a good start, which we would have expected, but just to have his presence in there when times may not be going good, you know what you're going to get out of him.  It's, obviously, a good thing for the team.

-A few words on what fans can expect of pitcher Adonis Medina...

A power arm.  Got a good mix.  He's going to be consistently in the strike zone with a power arm.