Thursday, December 29, 2011

Galvis Done With Winter Ball

Phillies prospect Freddy Galvis has wrapped up his Venezuelan League season after playing in 47 games for the Aguilas del Zulia. The 22-year-old, who was ranked as the Phillies' 4th best prospect in an August survey of Phillies minor league experts conducted by The Reading Eagle, struggled at times in the off-season league played in his native country.

Overall, the switch-hitting shortstop posted a .249/.308/.333 line with 7 doubles, 4 triples, no homers and 24 RBI.

Galvis, who was signed by the Phillies in 2006 at age 16, picked up the pace late with Zulia, as he sported a .326 batting average with 10 RBI over his final ten contests.

After an abbreviated Venezuelan League effort last off-season that saw Galvis spend an extended stretch working out under the supervision of Phillies personnel at the team's spring training home in Clearwater, FL, Galvis stood out offensively in 2011. Always regarded for his defense, the glovesmith's bat was steadily disregarded, until he delivered career highs in homeruns (8), OPS (.716), doubles (43), triples (5) and stolen bases (23) in 137 games combined at the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Philadelphia developmental system.

Galvis' performance in the clutch was noteworthy as well, as he batted .321 with runners on base and .341 with runners in scoring position for the Aguilas. On the flip side, Galvis posted a .192 batting average with the bases empty.

Mark Parent, who managed Galvis in 2011 with the Double-A Reading Phillies, regularly credited the youngster's solid success this past regular season with the increased importance of his at bats, after moving up toward the top of the batting order. The added pressure of what can be deemed as more crucial at bats seemed to help Galvis to prosper.

Having proven himself to be a key contributor in critical spots, the 5-foot-10-inch 170-pound Galvis must work on improving his output on a more consistent basis in order to take that step to highest level of the sport.

No matter what the splits say, there's no reason to be discouraged with a slick fielding young prospect who has shown tremendous amounts of improvement. The simple fact is that if Galvis can grow as a ballplayer in the coming year at a pace that is similar to what he did in past one, the big leagues will be calling.


Also of note...The home park for the Aguilas was not kind to Galvis. In 23 games at the Luis Aparicio El Grande Stadium, Galvis posted a .212/.261/.282 line, compared to his .283/.349/.380 line in 24 games on the road.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MLB's Biggest PR Problem

The following is a guest post written by friend of this site, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler. A pro baseball broadcaster, Jesse is a life-long sports fan, who calls it like he sees it.


The problem with baseball is not that the games go on for over three hours, or that Tony La Russa and Ron Washington used their entire bullpens in each World Series contest, or that the umpires' strike zones are inconsistent.

It's much more simple than that.

Baseball is my favorite sport. Basketball isn't. Yet this page of the NBA's greatest shots is better than anything baseball can ever produce online. Why? Because it has video links.

Baseball's media department, run by Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) prohibits the sharing of any MLB video away from the official Major League website. It's asinine and counterproductive, and promotion of the game suffers because of it.

If I wanted to show someone why Barry Sanders was so good, I type 'Barry Sanders' into YouTube and a multitude of his highlights come up. Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, same thing.

The greatest dunks? The greatest hockey goals and saves? They're easy to find and share. A non-fan becomes a fan in a heartbeat. "So that's why Pele's the greatest soccer player!" "That's why Wayne Gretzky's the Great One!" Yes, video proof.

Why should someone become a baseball fan? Who was Bill Buckner? What did Kirk Gibson's home run against Dennis Eckersley look like? Why is Ozzie Smith regarded as the greatest defensive shortstop of all time? Baseball has none of this.

I know exactly why Pete Maravich was the man. Where are the highlights of his baseball contemporaries - Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Banks, Gibson, Aaron, etc.? Ken Burns can show video reels of Babe Ruth in his national pastime documentary - why aren't those videos easier accessed by a curious public?

Of all the sports, baseball is most proud of its history... yet, visually, that history is entirely inaccessible to fans, and that's bush league.
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You can read more from Jesse by visiting his blog, The 2-2 Pitch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Phillies Anticipating Winter Classic


The annual NHL Winter Classic is set to be played on Monday, January 2nd and will pit the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers.

Recently, NHL.com writer Adam Kimelman published quotes from a few important Philadelphia basball figures in regards to the upcoming outdoor contest, to be played at the Phillies' home, Citizens Bank Park. He spoke with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., team president David Montgomery and the most tenured player on the team, Jimmy Rollins.


Amaro: "It's pretty cool. It's been pretty neat watching the development, the things that are happening. … I've been watching every single day we walk in. I take a route in through the concourse and check out the progress. It's been neat to watch."

"I'm born and raised here, a big Flyers fan. I was here when the Broad Street Bullies were big-time. I think I was 9 or 10 years old when they were winning. And it's exciting. I've always been a big Flyers fan and a big Paul Holmgren fan. I really love their organization. They've got great people, had a ton of success. Probably been one of most successful franchises we've had here in this city. It's neat to be able to merge the two in some way, shape or form."


Montgomery: "It's probably something we hadn't thought much about until last January when Peter (Luukko, Flyers President) reached out and said it was a possibility. It's an exciting time for us. We're very proud of the facility and we're pleased that after a couple of those venerable places like Wrigley (Field, in Chicago) and Fenway (Park, in Boston) that we're going to be the third baseball facility to host a Winter Classic."


Rollins: "It's nice to see for the fans. For them to be treated to an outdoor game, the way hockey was probably when they were kids growing up playing, just having these unpredictable conditions. Maybe there'll be snowfall that day. It'll be pretty fun."

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Image- Philly.com/Yong Kim

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas on the Farm 2011

It's that time of year that gets you in the mood to be jolly. The biggest of all holidays is loved by all, for many reasons. Phillies prospects are no different. I checked in recently with several minor leaguers to find out what stands out for them as reasons to get excited for Christmas.

Highly ranked lefty pitching prospect and the Phils' #1 draft choice last year, Jesse Biddle (pictured), took part....as did outfielders Brian Gump, Tyson Gillies and another former top draft selection Anthony Hewitt...right-handed hurler Tyler Knigge also offered his thoughts along with slugging first baseman Jim Murphy.

What's your favorite holiday movie?

Jesse Biddle: My favorite movie is easily "Elf" with Will Ferrell because he plays a character perfect for my sense of humor. There is something about the innocent slapstick humor that I find hilarious.

Brian Gump: Probably "Nightmare Before Christmas", I think that counts as a Christmas movie right? It's just a really imaginative movie and is a nice break from the traditional Christmas schmaltz.

Tyson Gillies: I'd have to say Bad Santa. I like Billy Bob Thornton, even in Bad News Bears, he's got a funny sense of humor.

Anthony Hewitt: The Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas.

Tyler Knigge: A Christmas Story because it's definitely a family tradition to watch it every Christmas Eve and it's one of the funniest movies I have ever seen!

Jim Murphy: Bad Santa. My brother and I got tired of watching standard Christmas movies, and wanted something to kinda break the holiday mold. That and Billy Bob Thornton couldn't be a better delinquent Santa.


What is your favorite Christmas song?

Jesse Biddle: I like the Hanson Christmas album. It was something that my family listened to when we were kids and now it's just a family tradition.

Brian Gump: Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas. I've never been much of a Mariah fan, but her version just makes me feel like a cup of hot cocoa.

Tyson Gillies: White Christmas (by The Drifters), probably 'cause of Home Alone, when he's lip syncing in the bathroom. I like that upbeat R&B version. Seriously, it has a catchy tune and I have always enjoyed listening to it.

Anthony Hewitt: Jingle Bells is my favorite. Simple. Classic.

Tyler Knigge: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town because that's when I know Santa is bringing me presents! Haha. Kidding.


What's your favorite food to enjoy at Christmas time?

Biddle: Ham, simply because it's delicious.

Gump: Egg Nog, yes, even if it's not spiked. Can't get enough of it.

Hewitt: My all time favorite holiday food is apple pie!

Murphy: Stuffing, I can't ever get enough of it at Thanksgiving Day dinner, so I ask for another round at Christmas.

Knigge: Spiral Honey Ham!! It's just that good.

Gillies: We always have crab, lobster, shrimp, clams and muscles and everything for Christmas dinner. We already do the turkey for the other holidays, and me being such a big seafood fan, that's what I look forward to every year.


What is the best Christmas tradition that you or your family have?

Biddle: My favorite tradition is going to my uncle's house to meet up with the rest of my extended family for Christmas dinner.

Gump: Being surrounded by my family. That's easily the most important part of Christmas for me...and the crumpled up wrapping paper fight we always have afterwards.

Hewitt: I love just being with family and remembering all the good times.

Murphy: Old James Bond movies on TV. My step-dad loves them and loves to say those cheesy lines over and over it's pretty funny. The Bond girls aren't bad either. My favorite is "The Spy Who Loved Me", with Roger Moore. Against popular opinion, I think he was better than Sean Connery.

Knigge: Going to the movies with my family on Christmas Day.


What is the most memorable Christmas gift you got as a child?

Biddle: My dog that my parents got me for my very first Christmas.

Gump: Oh man, my parents always found a way to make Christmas special for me and my brothers when we were kids and I am very lucky for that. I did get a little mini electric guitar from "Santa" when I was probably 8 or 9. That thing was sweet...unfortunately, I never quite got the hang of it like my dad had hoped I would. Too busy playing baseball, I guess.

Hewitt: My favorite gift as a kid was a remote controlled car.

Murphy: Jeep 4X4 big wheel. I think it started my obsession with Jeeps. I have owned three of them since I turned 16.

Knigge: It was my first glove I ever got. It was a Rawlings Heart of the Hide. 11 3/4 inch glove. Still have it to this day!


From PhoulBallz.com and the players who took part in this survey...we wish you all a terrific holiday season!

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Image assistance credit- Eric Floyd

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Phils Winter League Updates, 12/22/11

Regularly throughout the off-season, we'll take a look at Phillies players who are participating in various winter leagues around the world. As you might suspect, the time has come once again to provide updates on the prospects and big leaguers staying active in foreign professional leagues.

-Wilson Valdez, playing with the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican League, has posted a weak .213/.255/.301 line in 35 games. In addition, Valdez has slugged 2 homers, driven in 18 runs and stolen 6 bases. The 33-year-old infielder batted .249 in 99 games with the big league Phillies in 2011.

-Phillies utility man Michael Martinez has not seen action since December 9th with the Estrellas del Oriente in the Dominican League. Through 19 games, Martinez posted a .113 batting average with just 1 extra base hit, a double. The 29-year-old has been playing shortstop for the Estrellas. Martinez batted .196 in 88 games with the Phillies in his first MLB season in 2011.

-Lefty reliever Juan Perez has performed greatly in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao. Through 26 games Perez has a 0-1 record with 3 saves and a 1.93 ERA. In 28 innings, the 33-year-old has produced a .140 batting average against. With the Phillies in 2011, the veteran reliever appeared in 8 games and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, but is currently a free agent.

-Catcher Sebastian Valle has been appearing as an outfielder and in pinch hitting roles with his hometown Caneros de los Mochis in Mexico. The 21-year-old has 3 HR and 9 RBI as well. Valle, a righty batter, is the Phillies' top non-pitching prospect. In 91 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the 2011 season, Valle batted .284 with 5 HR and 40 RBI en route to earning a nod as a full season All-Star in the Florida State League.

-Right-handed hurler Julio Rodriguez has made six relief appearances for the Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The 21-year-old Rodriguez has posted a 3.52 ERA with no decisions. The 6-foot-4-inch 200-pounder had an outstanding regular season for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2011, going 16-7 with a 2.76 ERA and a .186 batting average against in 27 starts.

-Shortstop Freddy Galvis has begun to pick up the pace lately, posting a .318 batting average in his last 10 games for the Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan league. Galvis sports a .253 average with 7 doubles, 4 triples and 23 RBI in 45 games overall. The switch-hitting 22-year-old has posted a troubling .222 batting average against lefty hurlers in Dominican League play, while hitting .261 against right-handers.

-Righty pitcher Jesus Pirela, a 22-year-old native Venezuelan, is a teammate of Galvis. In 5 relief outings with the Aquilas, Pirela has tallied a 21.21 ERA with a 0-1 record and a .500 opponents batting average. In 17 games with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters in 2011, Pirela went 3-0 with a 4.34 ERA and 31 strike outs in 29 innings.

-Well touted second base prospect Cesar Hernandez has posted a .259 batting average through 36 games with the Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela. The switch-hitting 21-year-old has only two doubles to claim as extra base hits. Hernandez's low success rate on stolen base attempts (caught 3 out of 8 times) is clear evidence of an area of the youngster's game that needs improvement. Hernandez posted a .268/.306/.333 line in 119 games with the High A level Clearwater Threshers during the 2011 regular season.

-Infielder Carlos Rivero is batting .250 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, a HR and 15 RBI through 46 games with the Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. The 23-year-old was claimed by the Phillies last off-season from Cleveland. The Venezuelan born Rivero had a solid 2011 regular season, posting a .270 average with 16 homeruns and 71 RBI in 136 combined games for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

-Reliever Justin Friend, a Rule 5 draft pick of the Phillies last off-season, has appeared in 18 games for the Tiburones de La Guaira in Venezuela. The 25-year-old has posted a 2-0 record with 3 saves and a 3.44 ERA. Friend has struck out 15 and walked 10 in 18 1/3 innings. In 55 combined games with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading during the 2011 regular season, Friend posted a 3-7 record with 28 saves and a 2.75 ERA while striking out 61 and walking 16 batters in 59 innings.

-Swarthmore, PA native RHP Mike McGuire, who pitched with the Clearwater Threshers and the Lakewood BlueClaws in 2011, is now a free agent, but he was the starting pitcher for the World team in the Australian Baseball League All-Star game on Wednesday. The 25-year-old earned the win with 1 scoreless inning of work. As a member of the Canberra Cavalry, McGuire has tallied a 2-2 record with a 1.74 ERA in 7 regular season outings down under.

-Tim Kennelly, a member of the Reading Phillies in 2011, was the starting third baseman for Team Australia in the ABL All-Star game. The 25-year-old who ranks 4th in the league with his .341 batting average, went 0-for-4 in the mid-season exhibition. Kennelly is also a free agent.

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Image- Fox Sports

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wade to Return to Phils in Scouting Role

As reported by several sources on Monday evening, former Phillies general manager Ed Wade is set to return to the Philadelphia organization in the role of a scout.

The 55-year-old, who was fired last month from his position as general manager of the Houston Astros, began his front office career as an intern with the Phillies' public relations department in 1977. After that gig, he worked various positions for multiple big league clubs before he returned to Philadelphia in the capacity of assistant to the general manager in 1989. Wade later became assistant general manager with the Phillies (1995-1998) and, of course, general manager for the team (1998-2005).

During his time at the helm of the Phillies, Wade became notorious for trading away All-Star Curt Schilling. As the top dog in Houston, he helped stack the Phils with All-Star talent by dealing Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence to Philadelphia.

Wade was terminated by the Astros after the team collected a Major League worst total of 56 wins during the 2011 regular season. Wade held the G.M. position with Houston since 2007.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Off-Season Check In: Tyler Knigge

Throughout the autumn and winter months, I'll check in with various Phillies minor league players and inquire about how they try to maintain their baseball acumen during the long, drawn-out off-season. This edition features 12th round draft pick from 2010, right-handed relief pitcher Tyler Knigge. The Idaho native posted a 4-3 record with a 3.32 ERA while striking out 54 batters in 65 innings last season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

The 6-foot-2-inch 215-pound Knigge, who sports a fastball that regularly registered around 94 MPH during the 2011 season, took time recently to answer a couple questions regarding his routine during the off-season to stay in shape and more.


How have you been using your down time to stay active and avoid getting rusty?

The off-season is great. My day to day routine goes something like this...I wake up at five and I go workout (lift for an hour), go home, shower and get ready for work. Be at work by 8 a.m. and work till 5 p.m. After work I go home and change and head to the gym for my 3 mile run. I then head home. Shower again and then start winding down for the night.


I started training October 12th. Took some time off from throwing too, but I'm back at it. Gonna be ready for spring training.


So, you mentioned that you're working during the fall and winter months. Some players hold employment outside of the game, others don't. What can you tell me about the job you have when baseball is not in season?

Yeah, I work a job in the off-season. I work for "Goodwill Industries." I am a Participant Advisor. A long story short- I help people find jobs that have been laid off or are just having a hard time in life. I help them find jobs and help them become more marketable by setting up workshops to help them do things like build their resume, fill out applications, etc.


As always, I appreciate Tyler taking a few moments to answer some questions.

To see other posts in this series, click here and here. Also check back later this week as Tyler Knigge and several other Phillies minor league players offer their thoughts on their favorite things at Christmas, in our annual prospect holiday questionnaire.
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rollins Set to Re-sign with Phillies

Reports on Saturday by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick stated that the a new contract for Jimmy Rollins with the Phillies is imminent. The contract is believed to be for three years with a vesting option for a fourth year.

Rollins' choices became limited as his free agency wore on, and he was said to have been presented with a solid offer from Milwaukee recently, but ultimately it came down to him wanted to stay at home, where he has built a family on and off the field.

CSN's Jim Salisbury reports
that the contract is worth $33-million over three years.

The deal virtually completes general manager Ruben Amaro's to-do list for this off-season as other voids on the roster have been filled with the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton. The return of Rollins solidifies the greatest concern on the roster entering the autumn and winter months, which was, of course, the shortstop position.

In 142 games last season for Philadelphia, Rollins posted a .268 batting average with 16 homers, 63 RBI and 30 stolen bases. The 33-year-old, who has played his entire professional career in the Phillies organization, ranks fourth all-time in team history in regular season hits with 1,866.

Through the majority of his tenure with the Phils, Rollins has served as the club's lead-off man. His numbers in that spot during the 2011 season (.267/.331/.412) were only a slight drop off from the offensive output he has sported in the top spot of the Philadelphia batting order overall in his career (.275/.333/.448), despite wide perception that he has fallen off considerably with the bat over time.

Originally a 2nd round draft choice in 1996, Rollins is a three-time All-Star. He was named Most Valuable Player in the National League in 2007, when the Phillies began their streak of five consecutive NL East division titles.

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Image- ESPN

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Gillies Focused on Bounce Back Year

Ask a child about his Christmas wish list and the tyke might not be quite as excited as Tyson Gillies is when he talks about being on a baseball field on a daily basis. The Phillies' young outfield prospect has spent a great amount of time away from the diamond, as he has suffered repeated injuries over the past two seasons. However, at long last recently, Gillies has been on the field, training at the Phillies' spring training facilities in Clearwater, FL.

"I took a week to ten days off for Thanksgiving and when I came back I started hitting straight away. (I've) been taking fly balls in the outfield and I'll be starting to run again here soon. And basically, I've just been lifting weights, hitting and fielding a little bit. I love being on the field!"

The Canadian born Gillies was acquired by Philadelphia as part of the December 2009 Cliff Lee trade with Seattle, along with pitchers J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont.

Fresh off a stellar campaign with Class A Advanced High Desert in 2009, where he posted a .341 batting average with 9 homeruns, 42 RBI and 44 stolen bases, Gillies joined the Philadelphia organization and seemed fragile, as recurring hamstring issues and a nagging foot injury limited him to just 29 games played with full season clubs over the next two seasons.

The 23-year-old grew healthy as the 2011 regular season came to a close, but the organization didn't wish to rush Gillies back to action too soon, as that was part of the reason his hamstrings acted up multiple times, so he continued to rest and rehab.

In an effort to make up for some missed time, Gillies was assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League this year, where he shared outfield duties with top prospects Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Unfortunately for Gillies, he had a rough go of it during AFL play and batted just .178 with 2 doubles, a HR and 7 RBI in 27 games in the autumn developmental league. The speedster also stole 4 bases without being caught, as he continues to achieve better health in the lower half of his body.

While striving to be pain free and capable of displaying some endurance, Gillies' plans include continuing to work out throughout the entire off-season, with trips home from Clearwater planned strictly for holidays.

"The off-season's been good. I've been going into Brighthouse (Field) and working out every morning. I've been doing things to strengthen my hamstrings and taking care of my foot, to make sure everything gets strong and that I have no setbacks," Gillies stated.

"I'll be spending the whole off-season down here, all the way through. Having missed the past two years, I've been missing baseball a little too much, so I'm likely to take the bat anyway I can."

While there has certainly been some discouragement, Gillies does not fret over the challenges involved with overcoming a string of serious injuries. At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with a significant hearing impairment that left him with 30 percent hearing in one ear and 50 percent in the other and he has been able to overcome the disability throughout his entire life. His patience, learned from those experiences, has helped calm Gillies during frustrating times. He's also able to build confidence, thanks to some votes of confidence from his organization.

The Phillies surprised many people this off-season by adding Gillies to their 40-man roster. The move protected the youngster from being selected by another team in this month's Rule 5 draft, showing that the Phillies continue to be high on Gillies' future. Team general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been clear in the past, stating that he has not soured on Gillies, despite the health problems. Amaro has expressed great confidence in the projected ceiling for Gillies on multiple occasions, admitting that his overall grade might deserve an "incomplete" based on the time Gillies has missed with his varying ailments. That considered, the addition to the 40-man roster is evidence that the organization values the British Columbia native who was once ranked among the top Mariners prospects by varying outlets.

Regarding any high expectations that baseball heads had for for Gillies, and whether that opinion has changed, isn't something that weighs on the mind of the 6-foot-2-inch 190-pounder. If his body permits, Gillies is confident that people will finally see what he can do.

"I know what I am capable of," Gillies said. "I can't wait to play every day and really contribute (for the Phillies organization). I won't be happy until I can be on an active roster and get out there and just play. That is the biggest thing for me right now and I want to get back to where I was."

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Image- Joe Wombough

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phils Sign Free Agent LHP Willis

The Phillies have signed lefty pitcher Dontrelle Willis to a one-year contract reportedly worth $1 million plus incentives. The well-traveled veteran has pitched with the Marlins, D-Backs, Tigers and most recently the Reds.

Early in his career, Willis used his tricky delivery and fierce velocity to rack up solid strike out totals that have dwindled in recent years along with his electric speed.

A former Rookie of the Year Award winner (2003), Willis also finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2005 when he finished the year with a 22-10 record and a 2.63 ERA.

The signing of the two-time All-Star is certainly a risk worth taking, as Willis still has the tools that can make him a key contributor, especially as a situational left-hander out of the bullpen. Having appeared almost exclusively as a starter in his big league career, Willis’ effectiveness at this stage of his career might be better in a role where he is used in shorter stints.

A strength of Willis has continued to be his ability to mow down left-handed hitting opposition. In 2011, Willis held major league lefty hitters to a .127 batting average.

In addition, last season with the Triple-A affiliate of the Reds, Louisville, Willis posted a 5-2 record with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts.

Willis will turn 30 years old in January. He was originally selected by Florida in the 8th round of the 2000 amateurs draft.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that Willis is a life-long friend of free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Through their careers, the two individuals have had a friendly rivalry, especially when Willis pitched for the division rival Marlins while Rollins has spent his entire playing career with the Phillies thus far. Could a chance to be paired with his close pal be a little extra incentive for Rollins to return to Philadelphia? We'll see...

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Image- MiLB.com

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Off-Season Check In: Jim Murphy

Throughout the autumn and winter months, we'll check in with various Phillies minor league players and inquire about how they try to maintain their baseball acumen during the long, drawn-out off-season. This latest installment features the most popular player in Lakewood BlueClaws history Jim Murphy.

A 17th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2008, the Washington state native Murphy has played as high as Class A Advanced Clearwater and has posted a .265 with 47 homeruns and 217 RBI in 420 regular season games during his four years as a professional.

The slugging first baseman injured his left hand in the final week of the regular season and has been rehabbing the injury following surgery. I spoke with Jim about his recovery, his training, helping out with local youth clinics and more. Read ahead to see what he had to say.


I just wanted to check and see how the off-season has been going for you. How has recovery been and how are you staying in shape? Anything specific you like to do?

This off-season was a little different after my hand injury. I was in a splint for a month and then did rehab for a month after a broken hamate bone suffered on August 30th. I finished rehab on November 3rd and made a full recovery with no post-op injuries.

Usually, I will take two weeks off from lifting and running after a season to recover and about two months off from hitting. This year I was forced to take two months off from hitting, so now that December has rolled around, I'm hitting 2-4 times a week and after January it will be more like 4-6 times a week until Spring.


I like to do Cross-Fit for strength training because it is so functional with Olympic lifts for strength. It has a combination that I haven't found anywhere else. I couple that with both distance and sprint workouts to get ready for Spring.



I know you took part in some clinics in Lakewood recently, where you got to work with children on their baseball skills. Do you think coaching is in your future and do the clinics help you prepare for that?

I don't know exactly what my future will hold but I would like to stay in the game in some capacity (after my playing days are over) whether it is coaching or some other type of office position. The clinics are a great way to stay involved in the game and start to learn how to communicate your knowledge of baseball to others.


I know we've talked before about your high level of popularity in Lakewood, based on the big money your game-worn jerseys always draw from the charity auctions and the loyal fan followings, but how much do you genuinely feel that level of love from the fans there and has NJ really become like a true second home for you because of that?

I definitely feel the love from the Lakewood fans. They were amazing to me this year. They show support through buying my jerseys and the mustache following I got. People genuinely seemed to enjoy me being in Lakewood more than any other minor league park. There are popular players in every yard, but I felt something different from Lakewood fans and I will always remember what a great time I had in 2009 and 2011.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Francisco Dealt For Minor League Hurler

The man known to Philadelphia faithful as “Benny Fresh” is heading north of the border, as the Phillies have dealt outfielder Ben Francisco to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league left-handed pitcher Frank Gailey.

Francisco, was acquired by Philadelphia in a July, 2009 trade that initially brought star hurler Cliff Lee to town in exchange for four prospects.

In his time with the Phillies, Francisco batted .260 with 16 HR and 61 RBI in 225 regular season games played. The 30-year-old is likely best known for his homerun in game 3 of the 2011 division series against St. Louis that locked down a win for Philadelphia. In 17 career postseason games, the California native has tallied a .105 batting average.

Gailey, a 26-year-old lefty, was born in Philadelphia and attended West Chester University. In 2011, Gailey split time between Class A Advance Dunedin and Double A New Hampshire. In the Florida State League, Gailey was strong, going 4-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a .168 batting average against in 26 relief outings, earning himself a promotion to the Eastern League. Gailey wasn’t as sharp with the Fisher Cats, as he sported a 1-4 record, a 5.70 ERA and a .286 batting average against in 19 games.

Originally a 23rd round draft choice by the Blue Jays in 2007, Gailey has posted a 2.45 ERA overall in his 5 professional seasons.

The 5-foot-9-inch 190-pounder has never pitched above the Double-A level. He projects to be developmental depth, much the way veteran minor league relievers Justin Friend and Les Walrond were at multiple levels of the organization last season.
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Moose Tracks: Rule 5 Reaction

Earlier this year, former Phillies minor league third baseman Travis "Moose" Mattair made time to take fans along on his return to baseball, after a year off, by checking in with PhoulBallz.com and PhilliesNation.com, giving the fan base an in depth and unique glance into life as a prospect heading to and participating in spring training, occasionally at the big league level. On Thursday, Moose, a native of Washington state, was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the minor league portion of baseball's Rule 5 draft.

As fans might expect, the slick fielding Mattair checked in, to offer his thoughts on that news, for what may possibly be the final edition of his recurring diary feature called Moose Tracks.


I am really excited and really ready to start a new chapter in my baseball career! This is something I didn't expect and now that I know (about it), I'm very happy.

My parents are probably more excited than I am, now that, with Cincinnati, I'll spend spring training in Arizona, which is much closer to them in the northwest than having to go clear across the country to Florida to see me play.

I first learned about being picked from Jiwan James (another Phillies prospect, who was rumored to be a likely target of teams in the Rule 5 draft, but went unselected). He texted me with "Dang, Moose," saying something about getting picked in the Rule 5 draft and going to Cincinnati. I replied back with, "Congratulations!" I was clearly confused, as I thought it was Jiwan that was taken. He replied to set me straight and that's how I found out that the Reds took me.

I spent a lot of time talking on the phone with people, and saying some good byes. I talked at length with Marti Wolever, who is the Phillies' scouting director and I thanked him for the opportunity to play in the organization. I talked with my agents, who are at the winter meetings, but weren't really at the Rule 5 proceedings.

This is just a new chapter for me and I am very excited for what is next.


There is no doubt that we all wish Moose the best as he continues to live his dream of playing professional baseball. He is one of the kindest and most respectful individuals I have had the pleasure of dealing with in baseball and in life in general.

All the best, Moose.
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St. Louis Merchant Proves Point as Pujols Departs


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Thursday that one fan decided to prove a point to his favorite team's departed star.

When news landed that free agent Albert Pujols was leaving the Cardinals to sign a 10-year $254 million contract with the Angels, Paul Russo, who owns a St. Louis based sports apparel chain, decided to give away all remaining merchandise that bared the baseball star's name.

According to the article, Russo had recently discontinued ordering Pujols gear, due to the former league most valuable player's uncertainty to return to the club that he helped win the World Series this year.

From the Post-Dispatch:

Albert Pujols apparel flew off the shelves this morning at the four area Pro Image Sports stores, but only because it was free.

Paul Russo, who owns the St. Louis area franchises, said at about 1:30 p.m. that the Chesterfield Mall store had just about given away its entire stock of about 150 shirts and jerseys that would usually sell for between $14.99 and $129.99. Other area locations gave away a similar amount of Pujols apparel, he said.

The decision by Russo to give the items away, instead of slashing prices and earning a small return for his inventory, was a spur of the moment one, but not a difficult one. As Russo explained, it was to make a point. "It's not about the money, just like Albert said. Except he lied, and we didn't," he stated.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Several Young Phils Plucked in Rule 5 Draft

The 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings are underway in Dallas and while the greatest amount of buzz has surrounded some major free agents like Albert Pujols and Jimmy Rollins, there's a minor portion of the annual event that has drawn some interest as well. The Rule 5 draft took place on Thursday and resulted in relocation for a group of selected prospects.

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft when they are not on their major league organization's 40 man roster and 1) were signed to a contract at age 19 or older and have been in that organization for 4 yrs, OR 2) were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in that organization for 5 years.

Rumors out of the meetings on Wednesday night had Phillies minor league outfielder Jiwan James (pictured) on multiple teams' lists of talented young players who fit that bill.

James, a 22-year-old Florida native, is a converted pitcher who was ranked as the Phillies' tenth best prospect in a survey of a dozen minor league experts conducted by The Reading Eagle this year. He was originally drafted by Philadelphia in the 22nd round of the 2007 amateur draft.

This past season, with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, James sported a .268 batting average with 4 homeruns, 38 RBI, 76 runs and 31 stolen bases in 130 games. James hits quite a bit better from his natural side, the left side, than he does on the other side of the plate (.279/.340/.382 hitting lefty, .240/.293/.315 hitting righty).

However, it was not the man that Phillies fans call “The Real King James” who was on the move. Instead, it was right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who pitched with Class A Lakewood in 2011. With the BlueClaws, Castillo made 21 appearances, 19 as a reliever, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.54 ERA, a .220 batting average against and 46 strike outs in 46 innings pitched.

In his Class A debut in June, Castillo’s fastball velocity ranged from 91-92 MPH, but by mid-August, after working closely with Lakewood pitching coach Steve Schrenk, Castillo’s fastball steadily reached 94-95 MPH.

The 6’1” 170-pounder certainly has some solid upside, but he’s not the sort of fast track prospect who will be ready for the big leagues within the next year. Castillo was signed by the Phillies in December 2006 at age 17.

In the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, third baseman Travis “Moose” Mattair was taken by Cincinnati. Mattair is a former 2nd round draft pick by the Phillies in 2007 that regular readers of PhoulBallz.com and PhilliesNation.com will be familiar with due to his regular player diary series titled Moose Tracks. The Washington state native, who will turn 23-years-old later this month, split time in 2011 between Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater, after taking 2010 off in order to dabble in college basketball.

In addition, the Pirates selected Venezuelan catcher Francisco Diaz, who played for the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters in 2011 and lefty pitcher Andy Loomis was taken by the Orioles, in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Loomis posted a 1.14 ERA in 28 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater.

Individuals selected in the big league portion of the Rule 5 draft must be on the 25-man Major League roster of the team that selects them throughout the entire next season, or be offered back to the team they came from.

The Phillies were inactive and made no selections in all portions of this year’s Rule 5 draft.
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Madson Declines Arbitration


Hopes were high, like always, for Phillies fans on Wednesday, as word trickled out of the Baseball Winter Meetings that there was a chance that Ryan Madson could accept arbitration with the Phillies. The thought of having two top level back-end-of-the-bullpen guys to go along with three elite starting pitchers had folks quite excited. However, at the end of the day, it was not to be.

Madson's chance to join newly signed closer Jonathan Papelbon as well as his former All-Star teammates Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels came and went, as he declined the Phillies' offer prior to the 11:59 PM deadline.

Returning to the Phillies would likely have enabled Madson, who has appeared in more games with the Phillies than any other pitcher not named Roberts or Carlton, to cash in a sizable free agent payday following the 2012 season. However, returning to a set up role in Philadelphia may have hindered his ability to cash in as a closer, a job he rocked well in 2011, as he saved 32 games for the five-time defending National League East division champions.

The right-handed reliever, who was drafted in the 9th round by the Phillies in 1998, has posted a 47-30 record with a 3.59 ERA in 491 regular season games with the Phillies during his 9-year big league career.

While the arbitration offer was certainly a decent fallback plan for the 31-year-old, Madson's agent, the notorious Scott Boras, surely wasn't expected to allow his client to accept a single year deal when there are other suitors who could bulk up Madson's purse over a longer guaranteed stretch.

All told, the arbitration offer presented a rather slim chance to keep a homegrown talent in Philadelphia. Madson's rejection has all but reserved his ticket out of town.

In addition, Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins also declined arbitration offers from the Phillies on Wednesday.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Off-Season Check In: Brian Gump

Throughout the autumn and winter months, we'll check in with various Phillies prospects and inquire about how they try to maintain their baseball acumen during the long, drawn-out off-season. This installment features outfielder Brian Gump, who was a 26th round draft selection in the 2009 draft.

Gump, a lefty hitting 24-year-old California native, has posted a .239 batting average with 9 homeruns and 52 RBI in 178 games during his 3 seasons in the Philadelphia developmental ranks.

Recently, I got in touch with Brian, who has played all three outfield positions during his professional career, to inquire about how he trains during the off-season. Read ahead to check out some good insight from the UC Santa Barbara graduate.


What is your training regimen like during the fall and winter months?

Well, I try and tweak my off-season training a little bit every year. This year, I grew a mustache and it seems to be working quite well.

Seriously though, I recently saw a quote, by Bill Clinton of all people, that sums up the way I approach my training. "The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change".


I try and constantly evolve and tweak what I am doing. This year I have started training with a few of my college teammates that are doing very well with the Rockies right now. They invited me out to do what we call "sand training". After I almost threw up several times on my first day, I knew it was for me. Basically, we run 3 days a week, on sand, with our trainer who sets up different exercises like pulling a 50-pound sled through the sand, running short agility's, various jumps and sprints with weight vests on. It's intense, both physically and mentally. The sand is great because it is so low impact so it really limits the wear and tear on my body, while giving me great resistance at the same time.


On top of the sand training, I lift 4 times a week. This year I decided to not worry as much about putting on body weight and have decided to shift my focus to really building a lot of strength. Years past, I was obviously weight training, but I feel like I had plateaued and was just training to be in great condition and not as much to be stronger than the year before.



How much time do you take off from hitting? Anything new added to the plan this year versus other years?

I don't like to take too much time off from hitting for several reasons, but mostly because I genuinely enjoy hitting and want to work on one thing or another. This might be counter productive, but it's who I am and it's tough to fight it. I think I started hitting very casually, like 1 or 2 times a week, around the start of November. Now we are getting to the time where the hitting and throwing start to slowly ramp up in frequency.


I have made a few small changes, hitting wise. Hendu (roving hitting instructor Steve Henderson) and I had been working for a good part of the year on getting me to finish lower to help me stay through the ball. I had trouble staying consistent with it, but when I was doing a good job with it, things were great and when I wasn't, it showed too. So I have been working hard at getting really consistent with that lower finish, because I got a glimpse of what it can do for me at the plate when I do.


Also, I have tried tweaking my grip and moving the bat into my fingers and relaxing my hands more. Its amazing the difference something so small like that can make in your bat speed and swing.


Check out Brian's blog at this link and follow Brian on Twitter by clicking here.

Brotherly Love, De Fratus Style

Steven De Fratus happens to be related to one of the Phillies' top young relief pitchers, a fellow named Justin.

Steven's nickname for his adoring brother is "J-Bone" and Steven is hoping that moniker will catch on with the Philadelphia faithful some day soon. It's clear that a rookie on the rise with a team already loaded with household names might be in need of a little love from the fan base. Wouldn't it be a fine time to let Justin know that, even in the off-season, the fans are behind him? In addition to that, it's the season of giving. What about providing Steven with a bit of love as well, by kicking the nickname of his choosing into gear by sending Justin a shout out?

If there's any doubt that you want to help Steven achieve a bit of success via insider handle usage, just take a look at how, even months after it happened, the elder De Fratus brother is still taking jabs at Justin in relation to how close he came to surrendering a homerun to Cardinals star Lance Berkman in his big league debut.

As overly used as the phrase has become, "The City of Brotherly Love" is a term that applies, even for the De Fratus siblings, who live clear across the nation in California. Support Steven's cause...send a "Hi, J-Bone" directly to @JustinDeFratus, via Twitter.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BlueClaws Food & Toy Drive This Saturday

It's the holiday season and the time for giving is here. The Lakewood BlueClaws, Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, will host an event this Saturday, December 10th at FirstEnergy Park to collect donations for needy families in the area. The 12th annual Breakfast with Buster food and toy drive, to be held from 9 AM to 11 AM, will feature free bagels and coffee for fans that drop off non-perishable food and new unwrapped toys.

BlueClaws mascot Buster and his close personal friend, Santa Claus, are set to be on hand at FirstEnergy Park to greet fans, as they drop off donations and enjoy their free coffee and bagels, provided by Manhattan Bagel of Brick.

Via a press release from the BlueClaws, team general manager Geoff Brown stated, "Over the last 11 years, the community support for this event has been overwhelming. This year, before you start your Saturday, you can grab a bagel and a cup of coffee and help those less fortunate this holiday season."

All collected items will go to the Salvation Army of Ocean County.

Unable to make it to the ballpark this week? You can visit the Salvation Army website to learn how you can donate on your own time, or check out Toys For Tots on the web to locate your closest donation venue.

Happy holidays to all!

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Report: Phillies Ink Nix for Two Years

According to multiple reports the Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Laynce Nix to a two-year contract. The deal is pending a physical examination.

Originally a 4th round draft choice of the Rangers in 2000, the 31-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder is a career .244 hitter in 9 big league seasons.

Last season with the Washington Nationals, Nix posted a .250 batting average with 16 homeruns and 44 RBI in 124 games. All of Nix's homers and all but one of his RBI came against righty hurlers in 2011.

Nix has posted a .187 average with 2 homeruns and 11 RBI in his career as a pinch hitter. With those numbers in mind, the best suitable plan for Nix may be a platoon in the outfield. Paired with righty hitting John Mayberry Jr.'s .306 average, 8 HR and 21 RBI against left-handed pitchers, Nix's output could fit in perfectly in left field.

In his major league career, Nix has played 229 games in center field, 203 games in left field and 66 games in right field.

In 15 career games at Citizens Bank Park, Nix is 4-for-36 (.111 avg) with just one extra base hit, a double.

Financial details of the contract were not immediately available. Nix earned $700,000 last season with Washington.

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Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 98

Right-handed pitcher Claude Willoughby spent six seasons with the Phillies from 1925-1930. During his tenure with Philadelphia, he posted a 38-56 record, which was reflective of the team's troubles of the time, as the team sported the worst ERA in the big leagues for nine consecutive seasons beginning in 1922. With financial woes during this period, the team often relied on young, unproven arms, with Willoughby and his 5.83 career ERA with the Phils among them.

After winning 21 minor league games in 1924, the Kansas native made his Major League debut late in the following season at age 26. Willoughby started three games as a rookie and won two of them.

In 1926, Willoughby confirmed the trouble with handing the ball to an unproven pitcher over a lengthy stretch, when he led the National League in earned runs allowed with 111 in 47 games (19 starts). As a result of winning just 4 of his starts, Willoughby found himself taking on relief duty for much of the next two years.

Nicknamed "Weeping Willie", Willoughby had the best year of his career in 1929, posting a 15-14 record with a 4.99 ERA and 14 complete games, returning as a mainstay in the Phillies starting rotation. That year he won the team's road opener against the Giants at the Polo Grounds by a score of 3-1, stranding 20 runners on base in the process. The win was emblematic of Willoughby's season, as he constantly allowed a considerable number of base runners, leading the league in walks, despite his winning record.

A year later, Willoughby won only 4 of his 24 starts and tallied a 7.59 overall ERA, which seemed to usher him out of town as the Phillies traded him to Pittsburgh along with Tommy Thevenow for infielder Dick Bartell, who went on to become an All-Star shortstop for Philadelphia.

That year proved alarming to the organization, as the pitching staff posted an all-time team worst 6.71 ERA and Major League records for hits allowed (1,993) and runs allowed (1,199). Willoughby was one of three Phils pitchers with ERA's over 7.50 that year.

With the Pirates, Willoughby appeared in just 9 games before his big league career came to an end.

Willoughby returned to his home town of Buffalo, KS, and resided in that area until his death in 1973.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Caribbean League Updates, 12/1/11

Every so often through the off-season, we'll take a look at Phillies players throughout the various winter leagues. So, the time has come, once again, to review familiar talent in Caribbean leagues. Check out the information that lies ahead.

Catcher Sebastian Valle (pictured) has posted a batting average of .210 through 20 games with his hometown Caneros de los Mochis in Mexico. The 21-year-old has 3 HR and 9 RBI as well. Valle, a righty batter, is the Phillies' top non-pitching prospect. Valle has been playing left field, to avoid adding innings, crouching behind the plate, to his knees. In 91 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the 2011 season, Valle batted .284 with 5 HR and 40 RBI en route to earning a nod as a full season All-Star in the Florida State League.

Right-handed hurler Julio Rodriguez has made two relief appearances for the Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Having not appeared in a game since November 6th, the 21-year-old Rodriguez stands with no decisions and a 6.00 ERA. The 6-foot-4-inch 200-pounder had an outstanding regular season for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2011, going 16-7 with a 2.76 ERA and a .186 batting average against in 27 starts.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis has begun to pick up the pace lately, recording 7 hits in his past 3 games, raising his batting average from .204 to .248 through 31 games for the Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan league. Galvis also has 5 doubles, 3 triples and 14 RBI for the Aguilas. Early reports stated that the 22-year-old would likely complete his winter league assignment by early December, however it is unclear at this time how much more action Galvis, who played on Wednesday, could see in his native Venezuela this off-season.

Righty pitcher Jesus Pirela, a 22-year-old native Venezuelan, is a teammate of Galvis. In 5 relief outings with the Aquilas, Pirela has tallied a 21.21 ERA with a 0-1 record and a .500 opponents batting average. In 17 games with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters in 2011, Pirela went 3-0 with a 4.34 ERA and 31 strike outs in 29 innings.

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has posted a .258 batting average through 30 games (not counting action on Wednesday) with the Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela. The switch-hitting 21-year-old has just one extra base hit to claim, a double. Hernandez posted a .268/.306/.333 line in 119 games with the High A level Clearwater Threshers during the 2011 regular season. Hernandez, signed as a free agent in 2006 at age 16, is a well regarded defender on the fast track upward in the Phils' developmental ranks.

Infielder Carlos Rivero is batting .235 with 7 doubles, a triple, a HR and 11 RBI through 31 games with the Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. The 23-year-old was claimed by the Phillies last off-season from Cleveland. The Venezuelan born Rivero had a solid 2011 regular season, posting a .270 average with 16 homeruns and 71 RBI in 136 combined games for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Lefty pitcher Ervis Manzanillo has made one scoreless relief appearance for the Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela. Manzanillo remains inactive since October 13th. During the 2011 regular season, the 20-year-old Manzanillo had some ups and downs with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, posting an 8-7 record with a 5.02 ERA and a .257 batting average against in 26 games (25 starts).

Reliever Justin Friend, a Rule 5 draft pick of the Phillies last off-season, has appeared in 11 games for the Tiburones de La Guaira in Venezuela. The 25-year-old sports a 2-0 record with 3 saves and a 3.75 ERA. In 55 combined games with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading during the 2011 regular season, Friend went 3-7 with 28 saves and a 2.75 ERA while striking out 61 and walking 16 batters in 59 innings.

Wilson Valdez, playing with the Gigantes del Cibao in the Domican Republic, has posted a weak .211/.247/.329 line in 20 games. The 33-year-old infielder batted .249 in 99 games with the big league Phillies in 2011.

Lefty reliever Juan Perez has looked great in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao. Through 18 games Perez has a 0-1 record with a save and a 0.84 ERA. In 21 1/3 innings, the 33-year-old has produced a .110 batting average against. The veteran reliever appeared in 8 games at the big league level with the Phillies in 2011 and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, but is currently a free agent.

Utility man Michael Martinez has continued his awful effort with the Estrellas del Oriente in the Dominican league. Through 14 games, Martinez has posted a .096 batting average. The 29-year-old has been playing shortstop for the Estrellas. Martinez batted .196 in 88 games with the Phillies in his first MLB season in 2011.

Another free agent, outfielder Rich Thompson, has posted a .265 average with a double and a homerun in 9 games with the Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican League. Thompson was a key contributor throughout the 2011 season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs as he produced a .276 average with 5 HR, 30 RBI and 48 stolen bases in 124 games.

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