Monday, January 31, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #13 Phillippe Aumont- RHP

Phillippe Aumont, the second prospect acquired from the Mariners for pitcher Cliff Lee last off-season to appear on this countdown, is back in a position more comfortable to him after experiencing some hiccups in his progress during the 2010 season. Upon joining the Phillies organization, higher ups decided to move the young reliever into a starting role. Aumont struggled as a starting pitcher during his first season in the Philadelphia system, but remains a talented pitcher worthy of consideration as an excellent prospect.

A first round draft choice (11th overall) by Seattle in the 2007 amateur draft, Aumont was a highly regarded hurler when he was traded to Philadelphia in 2009.

In 2008, his first season as a professional, Aumont appeared in 15 games, 8 of which were starts, posting a 4-4 record with a 2.75 ERA and 50 strike outs in 55 2/3 innings in the Class A Midwest League. The following season, Aumont appeared exclusively as a reliever in High A and Double A, going 2-6 with a 3.88 ERA, 16 saves and 59 strike outs in 51 innings. Both seasons were shortened by injuries as he landed on the disabled list twice in 2008 with elbow soreness and missed time in 2009 after breaking his hand when he punched a wall following a blown save.

Also in 2009, Aumont pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, retiring MLB All-stars David Wright, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson, in order, to escape a jam in a game against Team USA.

In Aumont's first season with the Phillies organization, he went 1-6 with a 7.43 ERA as a 21-year-old in 11 starts with Double A Reading, before being demoted to High A Clearwater, where he improved his numbers a bit, going 2-5 with a 4.48 ERA. With Clearwater, 10 of Aumont's 16 appearances were as a starter.

The silver lining of Aumont's bust of a season in 2010, when he posted a 3-11 record and a 5.68 ERA in 27 combined games between two levels, was that he pitched more innings that season (122) than he had in his previous two seasons (106 2/3) as a professional. That gave Aumont plenty of time to work on his pitches and provided the Phillies with significant opportunities to see their highly touted prospect in action. Philadelphia's clear decision to return the Quebec native, Aumont, to the bullpen was a direct product of his struggles, so if he achieves success at higher levels as a reliever, the rough 2010 season will have been well worth it.

The 6'7", 255 pound right-hander certainly has the size that could intimidate opposing hitters. He has a pitch repertoire that includes a 4-seam fastball that is regularly clocked in the mid-to-high 90's and a plus "slurve" that has very good movement. Aumont also mixes in a change up that rounds out his arsenal of weapons. However, if Aumont sticks to a relief role, it is likely that he could focus on using his two best pitches exclusively, as he wouldn't regularly face batters more than once a game. Some of Major League Baseball's best closers are solid examples of success with a two-pitch selection.

Thanks to Aumont, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., fans were introduced to brand new baseball speak after the 2010 regular season, when Amaro told me, of Aumont, "We don't judge (his) abilities necessarily by performance, but (instead) by progress and he's still a young kid. Prospects sometimes take a long time. The pudding has not been made yet, so it's really a matter of time for (him) to continue to develop. We still believe in him to be a fine prospect."

So, consider Aumont "a pudding prospect", whose consistency hasn't quite developed yet, but is capable of becoming a gratifying home made treat, once given the proper allotment of time to refine.

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Photo- DelCo Times

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 87

After the 1965 season, the Phillies acquired first baseman Bill White from the Cardinals in an effort to solidify a sluggish offense that batted just .250 with a .697 OPS the previous season. In the deal, the Phillies sent catcher Pat Corrales, pitcher Art Mahaffey and outfielder Alex Johnson to St. Louis for White, catcher Bob Uecker and shortstop Dick Groat.

White had broken into the Majors at age 22 with the New York Giants in 1956. In his rookie season, White posted solid numbers, batting .256, slugging 22 homers, driving in 56 runs and stealing 15 bases in 138 games.

Following the Giants' move to San Francisco, White was traded to St. Louis in a 4-player deal. Bill White went on to be named to the National League All-star team in each of his first three seasons with the Cardinals.

In 1962, White began a string of three consecutive seasons in which he accomplished the rare feat of batting over .300 while driving in 100 or more runs, including the 1964 season, when he finished third in NL Most Valuable Player voting, behind Philadelphia's Johnny Callison and the winner, his teammate, Ken Boyer. That year, White batted .303, mashed 21 homers, drove in 102 runs and scored 92 times.

Later, as a member of the Phillies in 1966, White would win a Gold Glove Award. To this day, he is still the only first baseman in team history to score that honor. He also came up big at the plate to help the Phillies, adding some left-handed power to Richie Allen's pop from the right side. That season, White hit 22 homeruns and drove in 103 runs to go along with his .276 batting average.

White's offensive prowess and defensive excellence made him one of the most complete first basemen in Phillies history.

Unfortunately for White, he tore his Achilles tendon playing racquetball over the 1966-1967 off-season. That kept him out of action for a portion of the 1967 season and limited him to pinch hitting action once he returned from the injury.

White lasted through the 1968 season with the Phillies, but he never fully rebounded from the injury and his offensive production was minimal.

Just prior to the 1969 season, White returned to St. Louis in a deal for utility man Jim Hutto and infielder Jerry Buchek. That would be his final season as a player, however, as he retired after playing in just 49 games in 1969.

In 1970, White would turn to broadcasting full time. During his playing days in both St. Louis and Philadelphia, White hosted sports programs on the radio. White later joined the Yankees broadcasting team after legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell heard White doing play-by-play for a college basketball game and recommended him for the assignment in New York. He would call games with Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer throughout the 70's and 80's.

In 1989, Bill White was named as the President of the National League, becoming the highest ranking black executive in all of major professional sports. However, by 1994, White left his position, openly stating his frustration level working with team owners.

Today, White resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and stays connected to baseball by serving on committees for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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Friday, January 28, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #14 Domingo Santana- OF

In March, 2009, Domingo Santana was signed as a 16-year-old free agent out of the Dominican Republic. At the time, the Yankees were also interested in Santana and it took a $330,000 signing bonus to lock down the youngster.

At 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighing around 205 pounds, Santana possesses one of those athletic and projectable frames that the Phillies organization loves.

Santana, primarily a right fielder with a very good arm, made his professional debut as a member of the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2009 and posted great numbers. In 37 games, Santana batted .288, slugged 6 homers, drove in 28 runs and posted an .897 OPS. His homerun total in 118 at bats, at age 16, was extremely impressive, especially considering the rest of the GCL Phillies roster mashed only 11 homers in 1,744 at bats. Members of the media and scouts alike saw elite power potential in the well regarded teenage phenom.

In 2010, the right-handed hitting Santana started the season as a 17-year-old with Class A Lakewood. He struggled a great deal there, batting .182 in 49 games with 76 strike outs in 165 at bats. Santana was moved to short-season Williamsport, once their season began in June, despite having spent many hours working one on one with Lakewood hitting coach Greg Legg in the BlueClaws' batting cages. His offensive production improved a bit as a member of the Crosscutters (.237 avg. in 54 games), but Santana's overall OPS, combined at the two levels, was 234 points lower than it was the previous year in the lower GCL.

Santana is one of many young hitters who needs to develop pitch recognition. His high strike out totals are evidence that he is guessing what is coming out of the pitcher's hand far too often. If he continues hitting fastballs well and learns to react to the off-speed pitches, letting the bad ones go, opposing pitchers will be in deep trouble.

Regarded as an outfielder with solid range, Santana's speed on the bases hasn't been anything to boast about quite yet in his young career. In two seasons in the minors, Santana has stolen 12 bases and has been caught 11 times. Although, as he matures, Santana could surely develop as more of a thief on the bases. The athleticism and quickness is there for Santana to add base running to his arsenal of dangerous weapons, it will be a matter of developing his instincts.

One game against the Yankees affiliate Charleston, in May, stands out as evidence of Santana's underdeveloped aptitude. In the 8th inning of a close match up in which the BlueClaws trailed 2-0 at home, Domingo led off with a double and moved to third when catcher Torre Langley singled. Jonathan Villar followed with a dribbler back to pitcher Ronny Marte, who fired to the shortstop at second base, ahead of Langley. The relay throw to first base was in time to erase Villar for the second out, but Santana, who was never looked back to third by Marte, had frozen and broke late toward home plate, and was gunned down to complete a stunning 1-6-3-2 triple play, with the top of the order due up. The score stayed the same and Lakewood dropped the matinee pitchers' duel.

Coaches don't feel that Santana's occasional lapses in judgement or questionable stolen base percentage are defining. The fundamentals can be taught and often, at the lower levels of the minors, first base coaches are reserve players, not actual coaches trying to help the runners steal bags. However, as players move up, they will have access to members of the staff who actively aid in scouting a pitcher or catcher in order to take advantage on the bases.

According to 2010 Lakewood manager Mark Parent, "When (Santana) matures and decides to put in the work and learns to compete everyday in my opinion he could become one of the really good prospects in the Phillies organization. It really is up to him how good he will become."

In a nutshell, Santana is a "toolsy" outfielder that has physical strength which already stands out and has the potential to make a big impact at higher levels. If he continues to progress as a hitter and develops on the bases, the Majors should easily be in his future.

Expect Santana to return to Lakewood in 2011, as the BlueClaws will try to lock down a three-peat of South Atlantic League titles under new manager Chris Truby, who managed Santana with Williamsport last year.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dan Baker Speaks with PhoulBallz, Part 2

This week I spoke with the voice of Philadelphia sports, Dan Baker, who is, of course, the public address announcer for the Phillies and the Eagles. The interview was lengthy and was split into multiple segments.

In this second portion of the interview, Dan Baker speaks about his family's close connections with his work, meeting fans and more. Use the media player below to listen to part 2 of my interview with Dan Baker. To listen to part 1 of this interview, click here.



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ProspectNation 2011: #15 JC Ramirez- RHP

Righty hurler JC Ramirez was one of three prospects acquired from Seattle last off-season in the trade for Cliff Lee. While some critics suggest that the trio of farm hands did not necessarily impress (Ramirez posted a 5.45 ERA at Double A, Phillippe Aumont struggled greatly at Double A when he was converted to a starting pitcher and Tyson Gillies was sidelined with a leg injury much of the season), Ramirez showed flashes of exceptional talent and displayed reason to believe he can mature into the talent that the Phillies were hopeful for when they acquired him.

One example of what Ramirez can do was an extremely impressive complete game loss, on the road, to the eventual Eastern Division champion Trenton Thunder in which he struck out 9 and walked none while allowing just 3 earned runs that were scored on two defensive miscues by his teammates.

With a two-seam fastball that regularly reaches the mid-90's, a slider with excellent control, and a respectable change up that he uses to keep batters honest, Ramirez has tools that continue to impress. The Phillies encouraged Ramirez to throw his change up more frequently in order to put together a big league repertoire, so he spent much of the season focused on improving that pitch.

The 6'3", 225 pound Ramirez, who was a catcher before he became a pitcher in his youth, joined the Phillies organization with a career ERA of 4.78 in 82 games as a pro.

Combined at two levels of the Phillies system in 2010, Ramirez posted a 7-7 record with a 4.82 ERA and 115 strike outs in 142 innings pitched, over 24 starts. In addition, Ramirez held opponents to a .277 batting average.

After going 4-3 with a 4.05 ERA as a member of the High A Clearwater staff, Ramirez was promoted to Double A Reading in June. As a member of the Reading Phillies, Ramirez's overall numbers weren't great (3-4, 5.45 ERA, .291 BAA), but take away his two worst outings with the R-Phils and the stats look considerably better (3-4, 4.48 ERA, .272 BAA).

Ramirez, the product of a Cuban father and a Nicaraguan mother, had surgery just after the 2010 season ended, to repair torn cartilage in his hip. His recovery is reportedly moving along and Ramirez is expected to be active once minor leaguers report to spring training.

In a July interview, Ramirez told me, with a laugh, that when the 2010 season began he wanted to show the people of Philadelphia that their team acquired the guy that could replace Cliff Lee. However, now that Cliff Lee has returned to the Phillies organization, after signing as a free agent this off-season, Ramirez's future won't involve replacing Lee, but instead he will find an even more difficult task ahead...trying to break into the same pitching staff as Lee.

If the 22-year-old Ramirez can continue to mature, avoid those occasional disastrous outings and fully heal from his off-season procedure, he could certainly be a prospect that moves up the ranks quickly in 2011 with an arrival time in the Majors not far away.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Charlie Manuel: "Tickle My Fantasy"

If you missed it, Philies manager Charlie Manuel sat down with WIP hosts Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow this week and in response to a question, Charlie mistakenly used the phrase "tickle my fantasy" instead of "tickle my fancy".

Check out the media player below for a little fun with Charlie's unique quote.



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Dan Baker Speaks with PhoulBallz, Part 1

This week I spoke with the voice of Philadelphia sports, Dan Baker, who is, of course, the public address announcer at Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. The interview was lengthy and will be featured here in multiple parts.

In the first portion, Dan Baker speaks about getting his start in professional sports, including time as a substitute ring announcer for the World Wrestling Federation, as well as how he spends his time between professional sports seasons.

Use the media player below to listen to part 1 of my interview with Dan Baker and check back in the coming days for additional exclusive comments from Dan.



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Monday, January 24, 2011

Moose Tracks, Vol. 3

Phillies minor league third baseman Moose Mattair checked in, once again, to give readers an inside look at his journey back to baseball, after taking a year off to try his hand at Division I college basketball.

Moose and his cousin Eric drove together from Washington state and stopped in central Florida to move Moose into his temporary Winter/Spring residence before wrapping up their bonding with a few days in Miami. Moose is now back in the Clearwater area and phoned in with a report on his past week, or so, in Florida. To read Moose's previous diary entries click here and here.


Miami is an awesome place...just a fabulous place. The weather was beautiful. I got a nice sunburn, which prevented me from getting the tattoo that I originally planned to get on the trip. I wanted to add on to the cross that I have on my back, but I was just too sunburned that I couldn't get it. We went around the city and took in the beach and went to a couple different spots. It was a load of fun, but that place is quite expensive and my cousin and I weren't looking to spent everything there, so we came back (to the Clearwater area) a day early. Miami is definitely a spot that I'll go back to, for sure.

My cousin Eric headed back to Washington on Sunday morning really early. He's home, safe and sound. He had to get up for work today around 4:30. He ended up getting his tattoo, while he was down here with me. He flew back. There was no way you'd get him to ride in a car any longer than we did for the trip down here.

Initially, when I got to central Florida to move in and work out a couple days last week, I hit in the cage and did some pretty intense workouts with our trainer Shawn Fcasni in Clearwater. Tuesday was upper body day and Wednesday was lower body. Shawn has us doing this new workout routine from Japan that the speed skaters used to do over there to add bulk and endurance to their muscles as fast as they possibly can. It took a toll on me. It's a different workout and got me pretty sore for the week in Miami.

Overall, it was great to see everyone when I got there and give them all a hug...some of my best friends that I haven't seen in a long time. Plus with Shawn Fcasni and all the head honchos and everybody, it was fun to see them and it seemed like they were excited to see me, which made me feel more than welcomed back and I was just really thrilled.

It's just great to be back and it's phenomenal to see everyone. I am glad to get back into a baseball routine and I am confident I'll be playing baseball for a long while and it's so good to be back. I look forward to spring training and the season as well. I feel like good things are in my future.

It's great to see the work ethics of some of these guys that are ahead of me, like the Halladays, the Howards, the Browns...it's great to be here working out with them, because you get to see what kind of work you have to put in, in order to be great. I'm really soaking that in and really trying to imitate what they're doing because that's what you have to do to be great, is what they're doing, and that's what I want to be- great.

I'm so glad that I've come down early. I am planning to go five days a week, so starting today I'll be there Monday through Friday until spring training officially begins.

As far as my routine, I went to the ballpark today around 9:30 and hit off a tee by myself for a little while and then had a full-on lifting workout and then took a little break. Then about 1, I took batting practice with Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown and Anthony Hewitt. Howard took time afterward and talked to all three of us, for what must have been 45 minutes, about mental preparation and thinking positive. I learned more in that hour than I've learned in a long, long time in baseball. In that situation, you're so intent and focus on someone that you've looked up to and that is ahead of you, when they're speaking, that you soak everything up that they're saying. It was an awesome experience.

It's a lot of fun. It sounds like I'll be doing more of that, which is very exciting, and then soon I'll start working on some fielding. It's a full day at the ballpark, I couldn't ask for more. If I'm not at the ballpark, I'm not doing very much, so it's good thing to be there and getting my work in.

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ProspectNation 2011: #16 Scott Mathieson- RHP


Scott Mathieson has been a name that has intrigued Phillies fans for several years. A 17th round draft pick in the 2002 amateur draft, out of Vancouver, BC, the right-handed Mathieson rose through the Phillies minor league ranks as a starting pitcher and made his Major League debut with Philadelphia in June, 2006.

That season, Mathieson was on the opening day roster for the Double A Reading Phillies. In 19 starts, Mathieson posted a 10-3 record with a 3.40 ERA and 99 strike outs in 92 2/3 innings pitched. Those efforts earned him a promotion to Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre where he went 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA and 36 strike outs in 34 1/3 innings. With such solid stats, the Phillies rewarded Mathieson with another promotion.

The 6-feet-3, 200-pounder stepped up another level but didn't have the same results, allowing opponents to hit .312 and going 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in 9 games, 8 of which were starts, with Philadelphia. By September that season, however, he was sidelined with a torn elbow ligament and required Tommy John surgery.

With some bad luck, Mathieson, who represented the Phillies in the MLB Futures Game in 2005, became a rare case in the currently rather common world of big time elbow surgery, when he required an ulnar nerve transposition procedure following 7 rehab outings in August of 2007. By the start of the following season, Mathieson needed to go under the knife for a third time, with a second Tommy John surgery. All together, his rehabilitation process was considerably long, due to his recurring arm trouble.

On the comeback trail, Mathieson pitched at three levels of the Phillies' system in 2009 and dominated. Combined between time spent with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, High A level Clearwater and Double A Reading, Mathieson posted a 4-0 record with an ERA of 0.84 and struck out 34 batters while allowing only one HR in 32 innings pitched. Mathieson followed up his exceptional 2009 regular season with a solid collection of outings in the Arizona Fall League.

As he continued climbing back toward the Majors, exclusively as a reliever, Mathieson's fastball range was clocked in the high 90's, which is well up from the 92-93 MPH that he used to average when he initially broke into big leagues.

In 2010, Mathieson, whose pitching repertoire also includes a good slider and a change up that Ryan Madson helped him improve last spring, shined for the Phils' Triple A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In 55 games there, he posted a 3-6 record with a 2.80 ERA and 26 saves in 54 games while holding opponents to a .212 batting average.

With the exceptional efforts in the minors and improved velocity, the Phillies recalled Mathieson to the big club in June last season. In a mop-up assignment during an interleague game against Minnesota, Mathieson had a rough outing that got him designated for assignment shortly after. However, the former ace for the Team Canada World Baseball Classic team remained a Phillie and returned to the active roster as a September call up. Mathieson had one more MLB outing in 2010, a 1 2/3 inning appearance against the Brewers in which he allowed an unearned run.

Despite the ups and downs that Mathieson has dealt with, he remains a hurler that could contribute for the Phillies, in a relief role, in the near future.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Take it to the Bank

The following is a post from ballpark aficionado Kurt Smith. Kurt, a New Jersey resident, is the creator of Ballpark E-Guides, a series of baseball venue reviews that provide extremely detailed rundowns of various MLB facilities.

From time to time, Kurt expects to join PhoulBallz.com to talk about professional baseball, its cathedrals and whatever else might be on his mind.

Right now, though, check out information from Kurt about his excellent downloadable booklet of everything there is to know about Citizens Bank Park.


Currently I live in Turnersville, NJ, just a 20-minute drive from the sports complex in South Philadelphia. I saw plenty of Phillies games, Flyers games, and concerts at the Vet and at the Spectrum. And I had no truck with any of it then. But I will say it looks a heck of a lot nicer now. Especially Citizens Bank Park.

The idea for writing a guide to the Major League ballparks came to me while lying in bed one night. I thought about my frequent trips to Camden Yards (I’m a displaced Orioles fan), how I had a favorite parking spot, a favorite outside hot dog vendor, saving money buying T-shirts and peanuts outside, and how knowing these things made the experience more enjoyable, and how it would make a great book.

But instead of Baltimore, I decided Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park would be a good test chapter, partly because it’s so close, but also partly because, for some reason, outside vendors are nowhere near as prevalent at CBP. So I knew it would be a challenge.

Researching Citizens Bank Park resulted in the beginning of a series of recurring kick-myself-in-the-head moments. I didn’t know about better parking, the discounts on food, the savings on group tickets, the NovaCare parking lot, the chili at Harry The K’s, the Schmitter, Campo’s, McFadden’s, the Taxi Crab, using the SEPTA train (I had never done that), and even using a different exit off of the interstate to spare myself traffic.

When I attend a Phillies game now, I know to save money using the Broad Street Line if I’m by myself. But bringing a crew I know exactly where to park and get back on the road in no time. I’m not much of a drinker, but if I were, I know how to get a beer for less than half price. If not, I can get a soda for free. I know how to avoid the lines for things like Chickie’s & Pete’s crabfries. And to bring mustard packets for the less expensive soft pretzel outside.

Not only is it easier for me to go to a Phillies game now, I’ve learned to experience all of the extra touches, like the Schmitter sandwich. And I was surprised at all I had been missing, too.

The only thing I love more than going to a ballgame is going to a different city to see a ballgame. And now my second favorite thing is twice as nice. A better ballgame experience for less money; well worth all of the time.

Unfortunately, writing a book of all of the ballparks including all of this insider information would take so long that it would be obsolete at the time of its release. So instead, I turned it into PDF-format downloadable guides for each individual ballpark—under the fairly obvious name of
Ballpark E-Guides. And I’ve included everything I’ve learned about Citizens Bank Park in the Citizens Bank Park E-Guide. If you were like me and just getting tickets and parking in the lot and getting a hot dog, you will be surprised at how much you did not know—and how much time, money, and aggravation you could save. I certainly was.

If you love the home of the Phillies as much as I do,
try downloading a Citizens Bank Park E-Guide for just $5. It will pay for itself in many ways…and you can take it to the Bank!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #17 Julio Rodriguez

Righty hurler Julio Rodriguez shot up the Phillies' prospect rankings over the past year. Drafted in the 8th round of the 2008 amateur draft as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico, Rodriguez has developed both physically and as a player during his time in the Phillies' system.

After an unsuccessful professional debut in 2008 with the Gulf Coast League Phillies (12.19 ERA in 7 games), Rodriguez returned to the GCL in 2009 and showed improvement along with some added muscle. In 11 games (8 starts) that season, Rodriguez posted a 1-2 record with a 3.08 ERA and a .197 batting average against.

As a 19-year-old, Rodriguez began the 2010 season in extended spring training, before making his Class A debut with Lakewood in late May, when he made a spot start in place of an injured Jonathan Pettibone. In his first BlueClaws appearance against the Hagerstown Suns, Rodriguez showed glimpses of things to come as he struck out the side in both the 2nd and 3rd innings before being relieved in the 4th. Despite lacking blazing speed on his fastball (J-Rod's fastball regularly peeked in the low 90's during the 2010 regular season), his strike out totals were extremely impressive.

Rodriguez capitalized on keeping opposing batters guessing with his solid off-speed pitches. He racked up 126 K’s in 96 1/3 innings at two levels in 2010. Rodriguez has a strong curveball that dives away from right-handed batters and a solid change up that will improve as his advances through the minors.

The 6'4", 200 pound Rodriguez is versatile, as shown by his ability to perform strong in both relief and starting roles during time with Lakewood and short season Williamsport, where he spent roughly five weeks from mid June into late July, in 2010. Combined at both levels, Rodriguez posted an overall win-loss record of 7-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 20 games (12 starts).

Lakewood's 2010 manager Mark Parent, who will manage Double A Reading in 2011, said of Rodriguez late last season, "He’s done nothing but impress us. In any role...long relief, starting, I’m very impressed with him."

Rodriguez was named the Phillies minor league pitcher of the month in August, when he recorded a 1-1 record with a 1.17 ERA in 6 games (2 starts). That month, he struck out 38 opponents in 23 innings while holding batters to a .160 batting average. Julio also celebrated his 20th birthday in August.

After helping Lakewood win a second consecutive South Atlantic League championship, Rodriguez pitched for his native Puerto Rico in the Pan-American qualifying tournament and continued his excellent year by posting a 3-1 record and a 2.00 ERA in 11 games for the Gigantes of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

From what I've heard, the Phillies prefer Rodriguez as a starting pitcher, which is why he was moved out of the bullpen to join Lakewood's rotation as they pushed toward their postseason.

Due to his age and the quantity of other starting pitchers that are likely to be assigned to High-A Level Clearwater this coming season, Rodriguez could return to Lakewood in 2011, but is certainly considered a rising star within the Phillies organization.

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This piece was also featured on PhilliesNation.com.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #18 Michael Schwimer RHP

Phillies right-handed pitching prospect Michael Schwimer had a tremendous season at two levels of the system in 2010 and is on the list of talented young relievers that the Phillies have at the higher levels of their farm system.

After making his pro debut with short season Williamsport and posting a 1.96 ERA in 22 relief outings in 2008, Schwimer skipped Class A Lakewood and began his 2009 season at High-A Clearwater, where he went 2-1 with 20 saves and a 2.85 ERA in 48 games. He earned a promotion to Reading of the Double A Eastern League by season's end.

The Virginia native began the 2010 season back with Reading where he posted a 5-3 record with 11 saves and a 3.60 ERA in 32 games. As a member of the R-Phils, Schwimer recorded 58 strike outs and 14 walks in 40 innings. After a July promotion to Triple A Lehigh Valley, Schwimer continued posting remarkable numbers, going 2-2 with a 1.35 ERA while striking out 18 batters and walking 7 in 20 innings.

The 24-year-old Schwimer has a bit of a reputation as a whiff artist, racking up loads of strikeouts all throughout his minor league career. In three professional seasons, Schwimer has struck out 227 batters in 166 innings.

A 14th round draft selection in 2008 out of the University of Virginia, Schwimer throws a fastball that ranges in the low 90's, a very deceiving change up and what is regarded as a plus slider.

Schwimer, who stands 6'8", focused heavily on improving his consistency this past season after being told by the Phillies organization that it was where he'd need to progress if he wished to become a Major League pitcher. In 48 relief outings in 2010, he held opponents scoreless 36 times and allowed multiple runs in an appearance just three times. That sounds about as consistent as it gets for a minor league reliever.

With virtually nothing left to prove in the minors, it will be up to the 2010 Eastern League mid-season All-star, Schwimer, to capitalize on his shot in Major League camp this spring. He'll turn 25 years old before the Phillies play their first Grapefruit League game this year.

Projection-wise, you can look for Schwimer to be a bullpen contributor at the Major League level. His physical size and downward throwing angle are to his advantage, even if his velocity is not overly impressive.
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Sportsdome Excerpt- Cancer Girl Hates David Wright

Comedy Central's new program Onion Sportsdome is a program that features fictional news stories with humorous twists. This week's episode included the tale of a young female cancer patient that loves the Phillies and hates rival third baseman David Wright.

Highlights of the clip include the young girl heckling Wright with an inquiry about his close relationship with a teammate and her wish that Wright would suffer with the same illness that she has.

The following mediocre quality video is part of a comedy program and includes some mature and objectionable content, so please consider that before viewing it or offering feedback about it.


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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moose Tracks, Vol. 2

Phillies minor league third baseman Moose Mattair checked in once again on Monday night to submit another diary entry, detailing his road trip from Washington State to Clearwater, Florida. Moose is returning to baseball after taking a year off to dabble in Division I college basketball.

On the road with Moose is his cousin Eric, who shared time behind the wheel and is helping with the move, as well as serving as a boisterous companion.

Check out what Moose had to say below and check back for more in the coming days.


We stayed in Dallas, Texas on Saturday night. We went out, there, and had a good time. It was an experience. We got to meet some southern belles and just had a good time there in Texas. We took some taxis around to see the city and watched the Seahawks/Bears game. Even though the Seahawks lost, it was still a good time.

Then after watching football we drove from Dallas to Baton Rouge, Louisiana yesterday. We dealt with heavy rain the entire way. We drove for about 9 hours and it just absolutely downpoured the whole time. We got caught up in some traffic, but made it in last night kind of late. We got up this morning primed and ready to finish the cross country trip. We got in at about 9:30 to (Anthony) Gose's house and got our stuff unloaded and went to Olive Garden and had a good dinner to celebrate the drive and now we're just tired as we could ever be. That's for sure.

We were doing the math and we drove just under 3,200 miles, and it took us 53 hours of driving, we went through 12 states and spent about $230 in gas.

Upon my arrival, Anthony Gose and Travis d'Arnaud are actually out in Arizona. Gose's wife was here and she gave us a key to their place, then she took off for Orlando. Those guys get back here on the 29th and I pretty much have free run of the house till they get here at the end of the month. It's a beautiful house that's actually in Holiday, Florida. It's a gorgeous house and I wouldn't expect anything less from Anthony Gose, who is a top notch dude, for sure.

I haven't seen any of the Phillies guys yet. I am actually going in to work out at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater (on Tuesday). I talked to Sean, our strength and conditioning guy, and he said there are some pitchers down here for a mini camp, I don't know exactly what it is. I can't wait, something I look forward to the most is walking in, seeing my teammates after the long time off and getting those big hugs.

I plan to work out there on Wednesday as well.

After that, we are going to take our trip to Miami. The Heat are playing the Raptors on Saturday and we're going to try to get to that game. My cousin and I are also going to each get a tattoo while we're down there, but the information about that can not be disclosed at this time. We will just check out Miami and the southern part of Florida, while we have the opportunity (this coming weekend).


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Monday, January 17, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #19 Aaron Altherr

After splitting his second season of professional baseball with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Williamsport Crosscutters, outfielder Aaron Altherr is already turning heads and moving up the Phillies prospect rankings at a fast pace. A 9th round selection in the 2009 draft, the 20-year-old Altherr is known to be a contact hitter.

The righty hitting Altherr debuted with the Gulf Coast League Phillies after signing his first professional contract in 2009 and batted .214 with 1 HR, 11 RBI and 6 steals in 28 games. In 1 less game played in the GCL this past season, Altherr showed improvement and posted a .304 batting average with 1 HR, 15 RBI and 10 steals. He was promoted to Williamsport on July 22nd.

With the short season Class A Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League, Altherr continued a strong season with a .287 average, 7 doubles, 3 triples, 10 RBI and 2 steals in 28 games. Altherr made such a strong impression that he was named one of the NYPL's top 20 prospects by Baseball America. Additionally, Baseball America listed him among the top 10 prospects in the Gulf Coast League following his near even split for the season between the two leagues. Altherr began his year in extended spring training.

As a young hitter, Altherr struggled with pitch recognition and focused greatly, in 2010, on his need to hit opposing pitchers' change ups. His improvements were clear in his statistics, as the season went on. In the GCL, Altherr struck out 22 times and reached via walk only 3 times. After his promotion, Altherr struck out just 13 times and increased his walks to 8.

At 6'5", 180 pounds, Altherr is regarded as one of several raw, but extremely athletic, outfielders that the Phillies have collected in the annual amateur draft over the past few years. A key to Altherr's game, much like the other unseasoned talent, is that he has athleticism that can not be taught.

Altherr, who was born in Germany, played shortstop and was a premiere pitcher at Agua Fria High School in Arizona, but was moved to the outfield once he began his career in the Phillies organization.

Expect to see the man with the projected high ceiling, Altherr, suit up for A Level Lakewood in the coming season, as he will attempt to help the BlueClaws chase a third straight South Atlantic League championship.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moose Tracks, Vol. 1

This week, Phillies minor league third baseman and Lakewood BlueClaws fan favorite Travis "Moose" Mattair will be checking in to log diaries from the road, as he starts his cross country journey back to baseball, after taking a year off to dabble in Division I college basketball.

Moose's trip began with terrible news, but with the blessing of his family to not delay his expedition, he trucked on. In this entry, Moose talks about his family, traveling from Washington state, rooming in Florida with an old BlueClaws teammate and the NFL Playoffs. Check back for more from Moose in the coming days.


18 hours on the road yesterday. We began at 4:15 yesterday morning and it started off as a really rough morning for us. I am with my cousin, Eric, and we found out our uncle actually passed away yesterday morning. He's been dealing with and fighting cancer everywhere in his body. We found out last January that he had it. It's just very unfortunate that he ended up passing away, yesterday. It's better off now. He was just fightin' and fightin' and fightin' and now he's looking down on us. So, it's a good thing that he's up there and he's our guardian angel on our way. But it was definitely tough, having him pass away and leaving my parents and seeing my mom in tears when I was leaving. It was a tough way to leave.

My cousin Eric is a carpenter, he's just coming along and we were planning to make a trip out of this and going to see Miami. And he's coming along to help be get moved all the way down there. We left around 4:15...but it was nothing that energy drinks can't fix.

We're in Kansas right now. We stopped at Boise on the way and saw my old roommates from when I was there at Boise State and we went into the house. We also went on the football field to see the blue turf and took some pictures there. We had planned to stop in Denver, but we went a little bit further to Limon, Colorado. And plan to stop in Dallas, Texas. We have about another 10 hours till we get to Dallas and we're going to stop there and recharge and see what Texas is all about. Then we're going to spend the day there Sunday and check out the Seahawks game at a bar or something. After that, we're going to finish up with 19 hours to Clearwater from there.

We are going and going, with minimal stops, till our teeth our floating to even go to the bathroom. We're trying to get to each destination as fast as we can. Each of us are driving 350-400 miles each, and then we switch. We're trying to get down to Clearwater as fast as we can so I can get my stuff moved in to Anthony Gose's place, where Travis d'Arnaud will be staying as well, and then I'm going to show Eric around Clearwater and then we'll hit Miami. Eric's never been to Florida, so it should be a good time seeing everything down there.

As far as the Seahawks, it was the Wednesday before the last game and I went to lunch with my cousin Hailey and she said, "I want to go to the game." And I told her, "No way I'm going," because I had plans. Well then a half hour later I was buying tickets for the Seahawks/Saints game, so me, Hailey, my brother and my friend Meghan, we all went to the Saints game and it was so much fun. When Marshawn Lynch scored that touchdown that put them ahead, it was unreal! It was a heck of a weekend to turn into a huge Seahawks fan. I've always followed them, but never been a BIG fan. But it's times like this that can draw you in more. I think they have a shot to advance. If Hasselbeck shows up, it'll be awesome. I'm feeling good about it. Anything can happen when you make the playoffs. Next week, a .500 team could be hosting a playoff game against Green Bay.

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ProspectNation 2011: #20 Mike Stutes

Oregon State product Mike Stutes is a righty hurler that has been impressive throughout his minor league career with the Phillies. Stutes, who stands 6'1" and weighs 185 pounds, was in Philadelphia for two days this week, as the Phillies hosted several prospects for team seminars at Citizens Bank Park.

Formerly a starter, Stutes moved to the bullpen in 2010. Stutes earned a promotion in June after posting a 3-0 record and a 3.79 ERA in 25 games as a member of the Double A Reading Phillies. After moving to Triple A Lehigh Valley, Stutes stayed sharp, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA, while holding opponents to a .200 batting average in 28 outings for the IronPigs.

Prior to 2010, Stutes looked solid as a starter. In 2009, Stutes became one of two pitchers, along with Vance Worley, to accomplish the rare feat of beginning the season with Double A Reading the year after he was drafted. They were the first Phillies hurlers to do that since Randy Wolf in 1998.

As a starter with the R-Phils in '09, Stutes went 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 27 games.

Last year, the Phillies were open about their preference for Stutes as a pitcher. Based on his body type and pitch repertoire, coaches and higher-ups saw Stutes' future as a reliever. With a fastball that touches 95mph and a strong curveball, Stutes possesses strength and a resilient arm. All of that translated well into being a reliever that could regularly throw on consecutive days.

Stutes, now 24 years old, is not known as a dominant strike out pitcher, but he did punch out 79 batters in 76 1/3 innings at two levels last season, which is impressive.

In spring training last year, Stutes recorded a save while allowing 1 earned run in 2 innings with 3 strike outs and 1 walk, as a member of the big league Phils. This year he is expected to get another shot to show off his talents with the big club in Grapefruit League action.

As a member of the OSU Beavers, Stutes won the College World Series in 2006 and 2007 then was selected in the 11th round of the 2008 amateur draft by the Phillies, who went on the win the MLB World Series, making Stutes, who is used to pitching is huge games on a big stage, an apparent lucky charm.

Stutes is one home grown prospect that the Phillies expect big things from, going forward. With only one relief pitcher (Jose Contreras) under contract after this upcoming season, the Phillies will need pitchers like Stutes to take strides and show they can contribute at the Major League level. If space on the roster opens up due to injury or trade, or if Stutes has an excellent spring, he could see action while rocking Phillies red pinstripes in 2011.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Aumont Headed Back to Bullpen

Phillies prospect Phillippe Aumont will return to a relief role going forward. As reported by the Inquirer's Matt Gelb on Thursday, the Phillies plan to restore the righty Aumont to the role in which he enjoyed the most success in his career.

A first round pick in the 2007 draft, Aumont was a prized prospect acquired in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners last off-season. Aumont posted a 2-6 record with 16 saves, a 3.88 ERA and 59 strike outs in 51 relief innings at two levels of the Mariners system in 2009. However, after coming over to the Phillies, the organization chose to move Aumont, who stands 6'7", into a starting role, and he was not nearly as effective. As a member of the Double A Reading Phillies staff, Aumont struggled, going 1-6 with a 7.43 ERA in 11 starts. By June, the Phillies demoted Aumont to High A Clearwater, where he initially pitched in relief and improved somewhat, posting a 2-5 record with a 4.48 ERA in 16 games (10 starts).

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., speaking about Aumont's downturn in an exclusive interview, stated, "He was very young, coming into a new organization. Aumont...going back to starting again and getting a feel to being a starting pitcher again, he had some of his struggles, but we still view (him) as a high level prospect.

"Aumont obviously didn't have a good start to the season and we pushed him back to Clearwater and he had some great games, but was not very consistent. His consistency and his delivery are still things he needs to iron out."

Aumont was 21 years old for the entire 2010 season and it is apparent that starting him as high as Double A was a mistake from the start.

The piece from Gelb includes quotes from Phillies assistant general manager in charge of player development Chuck LaMar who pins blame, for Aumont's decline, on the organization.
That's where he's comfortable. We wanted to start him last year and we did. His results weren't very good. But we put him in that position. I felt bad sometimes for the kid. He wants to relieve. He feels comfortable relieving. That's what he did in Seattle.
In 2008, his first season as a professional, in the Class A Midwest League, the Quebec native Aumont appeared in 15 games, 8 of which were starts, and had a 4-4 record with a 2.75 ERA. All of his 44 appearances in 2009 were in relief.

Aumont will report to minor league camp this spring instead of starting off in Major League camp, like he did last year. Returning to the capacity in which he is most comfortable, while being able to get in a routine and building off of it should benefit Aumont greatly.

According to Amaro, "We don't judge (his) abilities necessarily by performance, but (instead) by progress and he's still a young kid. Prospects sometimes take a long time. The pudding has not been made yet, so it's really a matter of time for (him) to continue to develop. We still believe in him to be a fine prospect."
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #21 Jonathan Pettibone

Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Pettibone, a third round selection in the 2008 amateur draft by the Phillies, was a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws club that won a second consecutive South Atlantic League championship on 2010. As a member of the Class A 'Claws, Pettibone was a force on the team's starting staff. In 24 games (23 starts) he posted a record of 8-6 with a 3.49 ERA.

Pettibone is an aggressive pitcher who steadily focuses on attacking the strike zone and trusts his defense to get outs behind him. His pitch repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball that was clocked at 94mph during the playoffs in September, a change up and a curve ball.

The California native, Pettibone, improved his velocity this past season by working closely with pitching coach Steve Schrenk to adjust his mechanics and extension. His results on the mound became increasingly solid as the 2010 season progressed and he opened many eyes within the organization and outside of it, as teams made their interest in the 6'5" 200 pounder known to the Phillies. After posting a 5.04 ERA in 12 games through the end of June, Pettibone served up a 2.37 ERA over his final 12 appearances of the regular season.

In the postseason, Pettibone continued to shine brightly. He hurled a gem in Lakewood's first round playoff series against the Hickory Crawdads, striking out 9 batters in 7 innings, while allowing just 1 hit against the Texas Rangers affiliate. He also notched the win that clinched the SAL championship for the BlueClaws, with a 5 strike out, 1 walk, 2 earned run performance in 5 innings against Boston affiliate, the Greenville Drive.

Previously, Pettibone spent the 2009 season with the short season Williamsport Crosscutters. While there, Pettibone went 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA while striking out 36 batters in 35 1/3 innings, over 9 games.

Going forward as a member of a stacked group of young starting pitchers ready to make a move into the High A Level Clearwater starting rotation next season, Pettibone will have some serious competition for one of those spots from guys like Trevor May, Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Colby Shreve and Nick Hernandez.

Former Major League catcher Mark Parent, who managed Pettibone with Lakewood in 2010, describes the lanky pitcher as a guy who seems to have a lot left in the tank at the end of his outings.

Headed forward, Pettibone certainly remains a young hurler that Phillies fans should be excited about and looking forward to becoming more familiar with, as he ascends toward the Major Leagues.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #22 Mike Zagurski

With a track record of Major League experience, Mike Zagurski continues to be the virtual understudy for the Phillies' lefty relievers. Zagurski's primary role in his career, when healthy, has been as an occasional substitute for the big club's bull pen.

The Nebraska native, Zagurski, made his debut with the Phillies in May 2007 and was sidelined with an elbow injury by August that year, which required Tommy John Surgery and kept him out for the entire 2008 season. Teamed with Kyle Drabek, who underwent the same procedure, during rehab and their time at Reading in 2009, Zagurski is credited with helping the former Phillies prospect to mature as a ballplayer. Drabek was, of course, dealt to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay trade in December, 2009.

In October, 2008, the Phillies invited Zagurski, and another rehab partner, Scott Mathieson, to be guests at game 5 of the World Series. That historic night was something that really got under Mike's skin and gave him even more drive to get back to the Major Leagues. It allowed him to see, up close and in person, the type of action and excitement he was missing. The World Series clincher is steadily on Mike's mind as he strives to be successful and get noticed.

With a steady work ethic, Zagurski, who will turn 27-years-old this month, grinded hard throughout his 2009 campaign positioning himself to make a return to the big leagues. Combined at High A Clearwater and Double A Reading that year, Zagurski went 3-4 with 8 saves and a 3.38 ERA.

His commitment paid off, as Zagurski earned a call to don red pinstripes once again, this past season. In 52 relief outings with the Triple A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in 2010, Zagurski, who married his fiance Lauren this off-season, posted a 2-3 record with 3 saves, a 3.27 ERA and struck out 71 opponents in 52 1/3 innings.

However, once called up, Zagurski struggled, with a 10.29 ERA and a .320 batting average against. On a positive note, Zagurski struck out 11 batters in just 7 innings of action. Mike had two separate tough outings, in which he allowed 3 earned runs. Those efforts resulted in inflated numbers during his minimal MLB time last season. The strike out numbers show he has still some potential to compete at the highest level, if he can simply avoid the mistakes that result in those large outbursts by the opposing offense.

Zagurski is an individual that has serious goals and will work hard to achieve them. He remains a hard throwing lefty hurler with the potential to contribute out of the 'pen, when given the chance.

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Interview with New Phils Farm Hand Albert Cartwright

Courtesy of Dave Gershman, author of the MLBlog SPANdemonium and contributor to another site that I write for known as 1BlueJaysWay.com, here is a recent interview with the Phillies' newly acquired minor league second baseman Albert Cartwright.


Talk about the transition from class High A Lancaster to Double A Corpus Christi and what adjustments you had to make.

Lancaster was a good league with a lot of good pitchers, but I thought when I got to Corpus the pitcher had a better plan and didn't stray away from it until you made the adjustment yourself.


Describe what you think is the biggest part of your game and how you can improve upon it.

The biggest part of my game is my speed, so I try to work it into my game the best that I can, meaning; taking the extra base, bunt, tagging up when necessary. Anyway I can make the defense uncomfortable that's how I try to play this game of baseball.


You set the Cal League record for most triples in a game. Whats a record you'd like to break at the Major League level?

Setting a Cali League record is a big accomplishment that I cherish dearly and my biggest concern is to help a team win at the Major League level. But if any record stands out at me it's the stolen base record.


What were some of the highlights of the 2010 season for you?

Two highlights that stand out to me from 2010 are the game I set the record for most triples and the game I hit my first career walk off base hit.
I can remember coming to the plate my third at bat wondering if I'm going to get anything to hit and after I hit another triple- hearing the cheers from the crowd. My biggest accomplishment of 2010 is hitting a walk off to win the game bottom of the 9th at home. Walking to the plate telling myself just get a good pitch over the plate and sure enough, I got a curveball down the middle.


What are some things you're doing this off-season to prepare you for Spring Training and the upcoming season?

Preparing myself mentally and physically to endure the the long brutal season ahead of me. Pushing yourself in the gym and putting time on the field and in the batting cages. Putting in time gets me ready for the season.


You were drafted in the 36th round and are now one of the Astros better prospects. Describe the journey it's been all the way from Polk College to where you are now and did you have to turn many heads after getting drafted much later than most?

Getting drafted in later rounds is definitely harder. You don't get the chance or opportunities a early round pick would get, so it puts more pressure on you to perform. But I would say once you go out and do what you got to do, on and off the field, your chance will come where you can show your talent now once you get your chance to show what you can do, you have to run with it. And I think with the opportunities I got I turned a few heads. Polk Community College baseball program, led by former head coach Joe Arnold and assistant coach Brian Kraft, got me prepared and helped shape my overall game to take it to the next level. And by listening to the Houston Astros coaching staff and putting everything together, it helped mold my game to what it is now.


Who are some of your biggest idols and do you ever seek help from current Astros?

My biggest idols I would say is my mother Patricia Cartwright and my father Albert Cartwright. I learned early in my life, just by watching them go out and handle their business waking up early in the morning before the sunrise in the morning just to provide for me and my brother Cyril and sister Amanda. My parents did what it takes just to make sure that we had anything they didn't have as a child and I commend them for that. The past two seasons I had the the opportunity to have the same manager Tom Lawless, who I look up to and who helps me out with my overall game, from hitting to defense


Toughest pitcher you've faced in college and in the minors?

Toughest pitcher that I faced in my short career I would say is Matt Latos, when I was as at Polk and he was at Broward Community College.


When going through the draft process, which team were you hoping would draft you, and was the signing process somewhat hard or lengthy?

During the draft process, it was more of a "wait to see who will take me" more than "I hope a certain team...". The signing process was a bit lengthy, but nothing too bad. I was leaning more on going back to school than signing in '07, so after a week or two after being selected by the Astros, I had a conversation with my dad and after that, I decided I'll sign with the Houston Astros.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Escalona Dealt to Philly-West For 2nd Baseman Cartwright

Recently DFA'd lefty relief pitcher Sergio Escalona was dealt to the Houston Astros on Monday for minor league infielder Albert Cartwright (pictured). The trade saw yet another acquisition of talent with a track record in the Phillies organization by former Philadelphia general manager, and current guy in charge of the Astros organization, Ed Wade.

Cartwright, a 5-feet-10-inch 180 pound right-handed batter, was selected by Houston in the 36th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Last season, in 127 combined games at High A level Lancaster and Double Corpus Christi, Cartwright posted a .294 batting average with 10 homers, 31 steals and 87 runs scored. Much of that production was compiled with the Class High A Jethawks. As a member of the Double A Hooks, Cartwright produced a low .561 OPS in 140 at bats. Cartwright, 23, committed 29 errors in 116 games as a second baseman in 2010.

The 26-year-old Escalona, who went 4-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 50 games in relief for the Double A Reading Phillies in 2010, was moved by the Phillies to make room for recently re-signed reliever JC Romero on the team's 40-man roster. Wade was, of course, the GM in Philadelphia when Escalona was signed as an amateur free agent out of his native Venezuela in 2004.

The list for Houston's recent players and team personnel with Phillies ties is long and includes individuals such as Brett Myers, Geoff Geary, Chris Coste, Mike Bourn, Pedro Feliz, Jason Michaels, "Jay" Happ as well as manager Brad Mills.

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So Close, Yet So Far Away- By Phils Prospect Jake Borup

The following is a PhoulBallz.com exclusive guest post by Phillies pitching prospect Jake Borup. From time to time, Jake, who was selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Phillies out of Arizona State University, will join us to share his thoughts on his life as minor leaguer. To check out my previous interview with Jake, click here.


It’s January 10th, and spring training is less than 2 months away. It feels like yesterday I was in Williamsport with guys like Eric Pettis, Garret Claypool, Cameron Rupp, and now as the season approaches I’m excited to get back to Clearwater and be around baseball again. It’s been almost four months since I was last around a clubhouse, a field, or any sort of baseball. My life for the past few months has consisted of working part-time at a nearby golf course, golfing, hanging out with family, and enjoying college football and the NBA (Go Suns). And with a great deal of anticipation, I can say that I’m ready for baseball season to start already!

That being said, I still feel like I have a ton to get done. Everyone knows that Spring Training, especially for minor league guys, is a huge competition. For me, I look at it as a competition against myself. I need to be in the best possible shape I can be, so that I can perform and prove that I can pitch. Many of you might not know, but I threw close to 160 innings together with ASU and Williamsport last year. That is 152 more innings that I had the previous year. Needless to say, I needed a long break to let my arm recover from the burdens of a long year. My plan was to start throwing on December 16th, 2010, but after further evaluation I decided it would be best to wait ‘til after the new year to start throwing. This past week was the first time since October 16th that I threw a baseball. I definitely have a long way to go. If I stick to my daily schedule then I should be good to go by spring training. The best words of advice I have ever received regarding baseball… “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. As spring training approaches, that is how I’m treating it. I treat every day as a small stepping stone to get me to where I wanna be.

I am very excited to head out to Clearwater and get things going. I got a little taste during the Florida Instructional League in the fall and I enjoyed every second of it. I feel like I have learned so much over the past year and am excited to learn so much more from not only big league guys, but minor league guys who have been around for a while. Pitching is my life. There is no greater feeling than toying with a batter and knowing that you are in control of the at bat. I look forward to building upon my short year last year with the Crosscutters and hope all the fans will enjoy watching me pitch. If any of you want to get in touch with me, follow me on twitter @JakeBorup or submit them here. I enjoy responding to questions and if you have one feel free to ask. Talk to you guys soon. Go Phillies!
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 86

Art Mahaffey was a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1960-1965. Signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in 1956, he made his Major League debut at the age of 22, after four seasons in the minors.

Upon his arrival in the Majors, midway through the 1960 season, Mahaffey, a 6-feet-1-inch right-hander, swiftly made quite an impact with the Phillies. In his first MLB game, on July 30th, 1960, Mahaffey was used in relief against the Cardinals. He pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning and then allowed two runners (Bill White and Curt Flood, who each reached on singles) in the final frame, both of which he picked off. Mahaffey pitched again the next day and picked off Jim Marshall of the Giants, successfully erasing the first three men that scored base hits against him in the Majors.

In 14 games (12 starts) that season, Mahaffey posted a 7-3 record, including 5 complete games and a shutout, with a 2.31 ERA. Mahaffey finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, behind the Dodgers' Frank Howard and Phils teammate Pancho Herrera.

In 1961, after losing his first start 2-0, despite allowing just three hits, Mahaffey bounced back in overpowering fashion. On April 23rd, in a home game against the Cubs, Mahaffey set the Phillies record by striking out 17 batters en route to a 6-0 victory over Chicago. Unfortunately for the Phillies, it was one of very few highlights that year, as the disappointing franchise lost 107 games.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Mahaffey pitched better than his 11-19 record would indicate, that season. He made the NL All-star team, even though he led the league in losses. Mahaffey stayed hot late into that season, tossing a one-hitter against the Cubs in August. Mahaffey followed that up with a 3-0 shutout of the Braves in his very next outing.

The 1962 season would bring another All-star nod for Mahaffey. In 41 appearances that year, 39 of which were starts, Mahaffey posted a 19-14 record with a 3.94 ERA and threw a career high 274 innings. His 20 complete games were second most in the Majors, behind Warren Spahn's 22. On August 2nd that year, in a game against the Mets at the Polo Grounds, Mahaffey accomplished a rare feat. En route to a 9-4 complete game victory, Mahaffey struck out 12 batters and laced a grand slam in the third inning. No Major League pitcher since has struck out that many in the same game he notched a homer with the bases loaded.

Mahaffey had a rough season in 1963, as the high work load seemed to take its toll on the righty hurler. Mahaffey only won 7 of his 26 games, while earning a solid 3.99 ERA. Mahaffey would have a winning record once again in 1964, when he went 12-9 with an ERA of 4.52.

Mahaffey was with the club during the famed 1964 Phillies collapse, in which they had a 6 1/2 game lead in the pennant race with 12 games left and lost 10 straight match ups to finish in second place. Mahaffey started two games during the losing streak.

By the following season, Mahaffey's ERA became bloated (6.21) and his win total was emaciated (2), as he pitched mostly in relief.

Following the 1965 season, Mahaffey was traded to the Cardinals along with Pat Corrales and Alex Johnson for shortstop Dick Groat, catcher Bob Uecker and first baseman Bill White, who was, of course, the same Bill White that Mahaffey picked off in his Major League debut.

Mahaffey would throw 35 innings for the Cards, before being traded to the Mets, but he never played for New York.

Today, Mahaffey resides in Allentown, PA.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #23 Cody Overbeck

Slugging third baseman Cody Overbeck made a considerable impact in the Phillies system during the 2010 season . Overbeck, listed at 6'1" and 205 pounds, is a native of Tennessee and attended the University of Mississippi, prior to joining the Phillies organization after his junior season.

Overbeck was named a Florida State League All-star in 2010, as a member of the High-A Level Clearwater Threshers. In fact, the day before the All-star break, the righty hitting Overbeck, who hit .302 with 11 HR and 41 RBI in 58 games with Clearwater, was called into the office of his manager Dusty Wathan and told to pack his bags prior to departing, as he was being promoted to Double A Reading.

As a member of the Reading Phillies, Overbeck continued his strong season, after a bit of a slow start, mashing 13 more homers, driving in 41 and posting a .255 average in 78 games.

Combined at the two levels last season, Overbeck posted a slash line of .276/.354/.490 (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage), which was a serious improvement over his 2009 statistics. In 96 games with Clearwater 2009, Overbeck's line was an unimpressive .230/.282/.399. Overbeck attributed his improvements this season to working closely with Clearwater hitting coach Kevin Jordan and Reading hitting coach Frank Cacciatore. Overbeck is a hitter whose focus is to get in a rhythm and stay there as long as possible.

A 9th round draft selection in 2008, Overbeck skipped over Class A Lakewood, after beginning his professional career with the short season Williamsport Crosscutters when he signed with the Phillies.

Not regarded as a speedy player, Overbeck has just 1 stolen base in his 2 1/2 seasons as a pro. Defensively, he has solid instincts at the hot corner, which make up for any lack of range.

The 24-year-old Overbeck may begin the 2011 season back with Reading and could very well be a player on the fast track upward in the Phillies' prospect rankings.
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #24 Leandro Castro

Leandro Castro was a key offensive cog for the South Atlantic League champion Lakewood BlueClaws during the 2010 season. A solid young talent, who played well throughout the entire season and led the 'Claws with 81 RBI, Castro, an outfielder, impressed fans, media and scouts alike.

A right-handed hitter, standing 5'11" with a 180 pound build, Castro will be 21-years-old until mid-June. Castro is an individual that plays ball the right way both on offense and defense, who rarely gives away at bats and seldom makes a mistake on the bases or on defense.

Castro, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed by the Phillies as a 17-year-old free agent in 2007. He batted .257 in his longest season as a pro in 2010. Castro had previously never played more than 88 games in a single season and fatigue seemed to be a small factor, as his batting average dropped toward the end of the season (.219 avg. after July, .270 avg. until that point).

With plus speed, Castro could surely improve as a base stealer and should start with picking his spots a bit better. His success rate of 62.8% (22 steals in 35 attempts) in 2010 was certainly not ideal. As he moves up the ranks and has more coaches at his disposal, Castro should learn to read pitchers better as well. Keep in mind, at A Level ball, the first base coach is often a bench player there to fill the void, not necessarily there to assist the runners.

A bit of a free swinger, Castro struck out 92 times in 502 plate appearances in 2010, which is 16.5% of the time. His pitch recognition and contact ability saw improvement last season, as his strike out frequency in 2009, in time split between Williamsport and Lakewood, was 18.2 % of his plate appearances.

Castro's bat has some power potential. With 27 doubles, 9 triples and 10 HR in 124 regular season games as a member of the BlueClaws in 2010, his slugging percentage (.406) was the lowest in any of his professional seasons thus far. But as his ability to recognize pitches continues to develop and his strength increases, the capacity to drive balls should come along also.

Known to be a well-liked guy within the clubhouse, Castro, who spent much of his 2010 season playing leftfield for the 'Claws, is an apparent leader for other Spanish speaking teammates. Add to that his tendencies to display flash and flair, and Castro could very well be one of the more fun Phillies prospects to watch as he attempts to ascend toward the big leagues.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ProspectNation 2011: #25 Kelly Dugan

Kelly Dugan was taken with the 75th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft by the Phillies out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA. A switch hitting outfielder, Dugan was committed to Pepperdine prior to the draft that year, but surprisingly signed quickly with the Phillies.

Dugan (6'3", 195 pounds) projects as a power hitter, despite showing minimal power in limited playing time thus far in his minor league career. Since signing with the Phillies, he has just 1 homerun in 73 games played.

This past year, Dugan suffered a freak injury, when he was hit in the leg with a batted ball during batting practice in June, shortly after making his season debut with short-season Williamsport. His shin became infected and he developed a staph infection that required draining. Dugan was put on antibiotics and it was August before he healed and returned to action.

In his injury shortened season, Dugan posted a .366 average with a .981 OPS in 28 games with Williamsport and the Gulf Coast League Phillies. While those stats were surely the product of a small sample size, they are a step upward from his 2009 production, when he debuted, fresh out of high school, in the GCL and batted .233 with a .597 OPS in 45 games.

Local fans can expect to see Dugan in a Lakewood BlueClaws uniform in 2011. It will be interesting to see how the now 20-year-old Dugan can adapt to, and progress in, what should be his first full season of professional baseball.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

ProspectNation: Phillies Farm Hand Ranking Prelude

This post was featured as part of PhilliesNation.com's annual Top 25 Phillies Prospects countdown.


Now that the first 75, or so, days since the Phillies' 2010 journey ended have flown by and as we begin the painfully slow crawl of the 40-something days until spring training, PhilliesNation.com will deliver its 2011 top 25 Phillies prospects list, in count down fashion.

Gradually, over the coming week that lead to the dawn of a fresh campaign, with hopes higher than Lawrence Taylor while surfing online personal ads, we will be unveiling prospect rankings with reviews of all the players that our readers should be familiar with.

These rankings will not include Domonic Brown, Vance Worley or Antonio Bastardo, as each of those players spent considerable amounts of time with the Major League club last year. Those individuals all project to make the big league roster in the coming season as well.

In addition, some remarkably talented young players did not make the cut simply because other individuals ranked higher. Included in the group that fell short of making this year's top 25 list are slick fielding shortstop Freddy Galvis, former top draft picks Anthony Hewitt and Joe Savery, outfielder Zach Collier, righty hurler Colby Shreve, former member of the Phillies' bullpen Sergio Escalona, 2010 draft bargain pitcher Eric Pettis, lefty hurler Nick Hernandez and the last man trimmed from the list, RHP Josh Zeid.

Galvis, a superior defensive shortstop once regarded as a prospect with the tools necessary to develop into a big leaguer, seems to have stalled on the offensive front. He posted a paltry .233 batting average and a dismal .586 OPS in 138 games at Double A Reading in 2010. In 21 games with the Navegantes in the Venezuelan Winter League, Galvis, who was signed out of Venezuela as a free agent in 2006, posted a .188 average with just one extra base hit, a triple. Galvis no longer seems worthy of high prospect praise despite his top tier glove and excellent range.

Hewitt struggled quite a bit at the plate in 2010 while with Class A Lakewood. Hewitt switched to the outfield this year, after beginning his professional career as an infielder. In 116 games with Lakewood, Hewitt posted the following splits- .202/.243/.327. Those are certainly not numbers expected from a former first round draft pick at the age of 21, playing in a league where much of the talent was younger than he was. The Phillies have plenty invested in Hewitt, who signed for around $1.4 million, so he will get every chance to succeed.

Savery, a 2007 first round draft selection out of Rice, is likely to make a transition to being an everyday player after spending time as a designated hitter late in the 2010 season. Savery, a lefty who was named a Double Eastern League All-star in 2009, posted a 28-31 record with a 4.29 ERA in four seasons as a starting pitcher in the Phillies' organization. As a hitter in 2010, Savery batted .348 with 3 doubles, 1 HR and 6 RBI in 23 games.

Collier, a compensatory first round pick in 2008, experienced a wrist injury that cost him his entire 2010 season. With Lakewood in 2009, Collier, listed at 6'2", 185 pounds, struggled (.218/.275/.319) and was demoted to Williamsport for a stretch of the season. The lefty hitting Collier, who turned 20 in September, will likely return to Lakewood for the 2011 season where he hopes to prove that he is ready to progress.

Shreve, a right-hander, is a solid prospect who has the potential to soar upward in the Phillies prospect rankings in the 2011 season. Shreve, who turns 23-years-old this week, was a sixth round draft pick in 2008, but suffered an elbow injury during his college season that required Tommy John surgery. The Phillies thought so highly of Shreve, that they still drafted him quite high, despite the injury status. While recovering, Shreve missed the entire 2009 season and made his professional debut as a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws in 2010, going 7-5 with a 3.95 ERA. Shreve, whose repertoire is fastball, change up, curveball, is expected to pitch at High-A Clearwater in 2011.

Escalona, formerly a situational left-hander out of the big league Phillies' bullpen has fallen off as a well-regarded prospect for the organization. As a member of the Double A Reading Phillies in 2010, Escalona had a 4-8 record, with 10 saves, and a 3.81 ERA. Those are surely respectable numbers, but in a season during which he turned 26-years-old, the club wished to see more strength in key relief situations from Escalona, who blew several saves with Reading.

Pettis shined as a late round steal in the 2010 amateur draft. The 6'2", 200 pound right-hander was taken in the 35th round out of UC Irvine and performed extremely well with the short season Williamsport Crosscutters before joining Lakewood for the postseason. In regular season action, Pettis posted an 8-0 record and a 1.37 ERA while striking out 67 batters in 59 innings as both a starter and reliever. Pettis' arsenal includes a 2-seam fastball, a change up and a slider that he feels is his best asset. Look for Pettis to lead the BlueClaws' charge for a third straight SAL championship in 2011.

Lefty hurler Nick Hernandez was a guy who was among my top prospects during the 2010 season, but he has fallen out of consideration at this time...not for any doing of his own, but simply because others have shined brighter in the time that has since passed. Hernandez suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during the 2010 season, after being named to the mid-season South Atlantic League All-star team as a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws. In 8 starts prior to the injury, Hernandez, whose uncle Angel is a MLB umpire, went 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA and a .192 batting average against. Hernandez experienced setbacks while rehabbing with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, and his season was cut short to allow proper healing. With a jam packed list of potential starting pitchers ready to go at High-A level Clearwater next season, Hernandez, who spent a month at instructional ball following the 2010 postseason, could be back with Lakewood to begin the season.

The fact that much of Zeid's success occurred at the Class A Level at the age of 23 kept him from making the list. As a member of the South Atlantic League champion Lakewood BlueClaws in 2010, Zeid earned Phillies minor league pitcher of the month honors in April when, as the team's closer, he posted a 2-0 record with 2 saves while allowing no earned runs in 9 outings. He was also honored as a mid-season SAL All-star in 2010. The Phillies' developmental staff likes Zeid, who combined to start 16 games in 2010 between Lakewood and the Arizona Fall League, better as a reliever than a starter. Zeid struggled with his slider at times during the 2010 campaign, but he worked hard to improve his results, using it as a key weapon to put his mark on Lakewood's title run. His repertoire also includes a fastball and a split-change hybrid known as a fosh. Zeid, a 10th round draft choice in 2009, could skip over High-A Level Clearwater completely and join the Double A Reading staff out of spring training.

In the coming weeks, check back with PhilliesNation.com regularly as we unveil our list of top 25 ranked prospects within the Philadelphia organization, one by one. The future is certainly bright.

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