Friday, March 30, 2012

South Jersey's Rice and Others Released By Phils

On the heels of a string of cuts this week, the Phillies released three more players from minor league camp on Friday, including outfielders Bill Rice (pictured) and Brent Clevlen as well as catcher Jeff Lanning.

Rice, a native of Sewell, NJ, was signed by the Phillies following a tryout at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park in June, 2010. Always a standout at every amateur level he has played, Rice's lifelong dream of competing as a professional was achieved when the team he grew up cheering for offered him a contract.

Last year, in 46 combined games with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 5-foot-11-inch 185-pounder sported a .296 batting average with 1 HR, 13 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

After watching several teammates receive similar news in recent weeks, the lefty hitting speedster was stunned to learn he was being released early Friday.

Speaking exclusively with PhoulBallz.com's Jay Floyd, Rice expressed his greatest appreciation for the Philadelphia organization.

"The Phillies helped me out in so many ways, in the game of baseball and life as well," Rice said. "I've learned so much these past couple years and have all of my coaches and people in the organization to thank for that, along with the chance to do what I love and getting a shot at professional baseball."

With no plans on giving up on continuing to live his dream, the 23-year-old Rice feels his pro career is nowhere near finished.

"I feel they made a mistake in releasing me but it is a business and I can't hold that against them. I wish all the guys in the organization much success, but I do plan to take this opportunity to prove them wrong," Rice stated.

With a clear emotional investment that predates his contractual ties with the organization that gave him a shot, Rice also expressed an undying attachment to the club that had just parted ways with him.

"It's hard to get released, especially from the team you rooted for your entire life, but I have always been a Phillies fan and as short as my time was with them, I will forever be a Phillie at heart," Rice confessed.

Clevlen was signed by the Phillies after being released by the Braves and the Reds organizations at separate points last season. The 28-year-old was a 2nd round draft choice of Detroit back in 2002 and has played in 59 combined big league games with the Tigers and Braves.

Lanning was signed in 2010 after being released by the Twins organization. The 24-year-old was an 8th round draft selection of Minnesota in 2008. In 43 games last year with Class A Lakewood, Lanning posted a .260 average with 8 doubles, 5 HR and 12 RBI.

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Rizzotti Traded to Twins

News out of Phillies camp on Friday detailed a not-so-surprising event going down. Matt Rizzotti, who has long been held back in the Philadelphia organization, was dealt to the Minnesota Twins for cash considerations.

The 26-year-old first baseman was steadily blocked at the highest level of the system by former National League Most Valuable Player and All-Star Ryan Howard. Rizzotti, a power hitter with often-critiqued defense, had improved his overall game and strived to improve his conditioning in recent years, only to be removed from the Phillies’ 40-man roster and more-or-less demoted back to Double-A Reading in 2011 after making his Triple-A debut in 2010.

Selected in the 6th round of the 2007 MLB amateur draft, Rizzotti often dominated minor league pitching in his minor league career, slugging 66 homeruns and driving in 231 runs while batting .292 in five pro seasons.

In the Minnesota organization, Rizzotti will have an improved shot at reaching the big leagues, as American League designated hitter rules would allow him another position to potentially occupy. That more favorable circumstances mean an increased chance to impact some of the best online sports books as well.

In the meantime, if Rizzotti is not filling a roster spot with the Twins, it is likely that he'll be competing for their Triple-A club, the Rochester Red Wings, who play in the International League, which is the same league that the Phillies' Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs play in. Rochester visits Lehigh Valley on April 14th and 15th.

To hear an interview I did with Matt last year, in which he answered fan questions, click HERE.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Training Check In: LHP Mario Hollands

Lefty pitching prospect Mario Hollands took great strides in 2011 with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. After beginning the year as the club's opening day starting pitcher, Hollands, a 10th round draft choice by the Phillies in 2010, went through some difficult times and was moved to the bullpen, where he flourished.

In 15 starts in the South Atlantic League, the California native posted a 4-4 record with a 4.64 ERA and a .306 batting average against. In 13 relief appearances, Hollands performed considerably better, going 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a .205 batting average against.

Hollands, 23, took some time this week to chat about spring training, the stress of the steady wave of player cuts in camp and more. Read on for my check in with Mario.


How would you assess spring training to date? What have you taken from these past few weeks?

I'm really happy it's almost over. It's a long road for everyone. But besides that, with all the changes in personnel, I'm happy to come out with a job.

And I've been able to work on different pitches and just being able to improve them. Fine tuning some pitches before the season starts....just the little things that I'm able to work on each day has really helped out.



You mentioned being happy to still have your job. With guys who seemed to have a firm lock on their spot, like Eric Pettis, getting cut, it really seems like almost anyone could go at any time. I spoke with Brian Gump, a player that was released last week by the Phillies, and he described entering the facilities each day as "a walk of death", as guys are unsure if they'll be requested to go talk with the brass and receive bad news. How stressful is it for players to walk into that on a daily basis?

That "walk of death", as Gump called it, is easily the scariest thing I've ever faced, or anything I've come across. It's so intimidating and the walk is so far and you can see (the coaches) ahead of you and for 45 second (as you walk), you don't know if they're going to ask you to come off to the side or if you're going to get to just keep walking by them. It's absolutely terrifying. I'd have to say that applies for everyone. From first rounders to recently drafted kids, it's the worst thing. It just makes for a horrible morning. It actually just turns into horrible days because (when guys are cut), you have to say your goodbyes to all these guys that you might not see again maybe, ever, or for a long time. It's just a horrible time of the year and I think...there's still one more cut and everyone's just dreading that morning.


What are your expectations for yourself early this season and then later in the year?

Early on I just really want to establish myself in the bullpen. Of course, I just want to get off to a really good start and hopefully that just translates to more success throughout the season.

Everyone really wants to end (the season) at a level higher than where they started (the season). I think that's everyone's main goal, but I just want to continue to pitch well and get better as a reliever because I haven't been doing it that long.



In relation to that, I know last year you began the season as Lakewood's opening day starting pitcher and you moved to the bullpen just before mid-season. How would you describe your transition over the last 12 months?

I think relieving and starting are just really different and actually, well, I've had time to focus on relieving, but prior to that I had always been a starter. It's just a much easier transition, coming from college- starting in Williamsport, starting in Lakewood, including opening day, it's been a different transition for me. You don't have to worry as much. There's a lot of- I can't say stress- but you don't have that same pressure.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Way and Pettis Released by Phillies

The Phillies continued their trimming of the masses in minor league camp Wednesday morning by releasing another group of players. Among those who were let go was lefty pitcher Matthew Way. Right-handed hurler Eric Pettis (pictured) was also among those cut.

Way was often injured during his time in the Philadelphia organization. In three seasons as a pro, including 2011 in which he did not pitch, Way posted a 13-9 record with a 3.22 ERA in 31 games (30 starts). The 24-year-old was a 5th round draft choice in 2009, out of Washington State.

Pettis stormed onto the pro scene as a 35th round draft selection in 2010, going 8-0 with 7 saves and a 1.37 ERA in 20 outings (5 starts) and becoming a NY-Penn League All-Star with the Williamsport Crosscutters that year before joining Class A Lakewood for their playoff push. Last season, Pettis, now 23-years-old, continued his success, tallying a 2-3 record with 5 saves and a 2.84 ERA in 47 combined relief appearances with Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater. The release of Pettis is rather surprising, as many thought he was a solid option to contribute as a reliever at higher levels.

As more names of released players become available, we'll have that information right here.

**UPDATE, 12:10 PM**

A source in Clearwater has also confirmed that the following players have been released by the Phillies: catcher Nolan Clark, catcher Chabriel Pizarro, right-handed pitcher Cody Fick, outfielder Luis Amaro and righty hurler Leonel Bastidas.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Diekman Among Three Sent Down

Today the Phillies announced that a trio of players, who have been in big league camp, were sent down to the minors. Right-handed hurler Scott Elarton and Brian Sanches were trimmed from the roster along with impressive lefty reliever Jake Diekman.

Elarton, who has pitched previously in the Majors with the Astros, Rockies, Indians and Royals, did not perform very well this spring, as he posted a 0-1 record with a 5.02 ERA in 5 outings (2 starts). Expect the 36-year-old veteran to hold down a spot in the starting rotation for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs as the 2012 regular season begins.

Sanches, who had a previous stint with Philadelphia from 2006 to 2007 and is fresh off three solid seasons with the Marlins, allowed 5 runs in 7 innings pitched in Grapefruit League play this spring. The 33-year-old will add veteran depth to Lehigh Valley’s relief corp.

Diekman, 25, remains a terrific option as a lefty in the bullpen when the need arises this season. Sporting a fastball that reaches 95 MPH, an improving slider and a deceiving change up, the Nebraska native has rocked a 0.55 ERA with 23 strike outs and 7 walks in 16 combined relief outings in the Arizona Fall League and Major League spring training this year.

More cuts are on the way in the coming days as the Phillies roster is whittled down to the necessary requirement of 25 players for opening day next week.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast: Episode 3

As we do each week, Tug Haines and I bring you another new edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast! The latest edition features a big time Twitter focus with a lot of Latin flavor, as we talk about potential Phils' opening day second baseman Freddy Galvis, another Chooch story and Ruben Amaro Jr's impact on acquiring foreign born players. We also have some fun with several team personnel's social networking accounts and there's plenty more.

Check out the player below, to listen or download the show. And don't miss our previous two episodes.



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Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Phils Farm Hands Released

For the second consecutive week, you can read breaking news of Phillies' minor league cuts here on PhoulBallz.com first. Early Sunday morning, the following players were informed that the Phillies no longer required their services: Luis Unda, Ian Durham, Paul Cusick, Chase Johnson, Juary Gomez and Rye Davis.

Unda (pictured, right), a 22-year-old infielder had been signed by the Phillies in 2008 and played as high as Class A Lakewood, where he went 0-for-8 in 3 games played last season. The Venezuelan native was a member of the Phils' championship Gulf Coast League team in 2010.

Durham, 23, was a 28th round draft choice in 2011. The righty pitcher went 1-0 with a 3.62 ERA and 2 saves in 18 appearances for the Gulf Coast League Phillies last year.

Cusick, a 23-year-old right-hander, was also selected in last year's draft. In 18 combined appearances (1 start) with the GCL team and Williamsport in 2011, the University of Penn product went 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA.

Johnson (pictured), a righty reliever that was selected in the 21st round of the 2009 draft, had a respectable season with Class A Lakewood in 2011 (4-6 record, 4.31 ERA, .268 batting average against). As the closer for short-season Williamsport in 2010, Johnson was a New York-Penn League All-Star. Johnson will turn 24 years old next month.

Gomez, a native of Venezuela, had a very good campaign last year for Williamsport, as the team's closer. In 28 relief appearances, Gomez went 4-1 with 10 saves and a 2.84 ERA. The right-hander was signed by the Phillies back in 2008. Gomes turns 22-years-old in May.

Davis, a Western Kentucky grad, was also signed as a non-drafted free agent last year. In 17 combined relief outings with the GCL team and Lakewood, he posted a 1-1 record with 2 saves and a 2.33 ERA. Davis turned 23 years old over the off-season.

If more news becomes available on players released from Phils' camp, you can read about it right here.

**Update, Monday 3/25-**PhoulBallz.com has also learned that five other players have been released from Phillies' minor league camp. Three pitchers and two others were among the cuts.

Fabian Cota and Rob Cooper, both southpaws, and Jack Van Leur were casualties of the latest round of cuts. In addition infielder Geancarlo Mendez and first baseman Michael Marshall have been let go as well.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nick Hernandez Interview Excerpts

Earlier this week, I ran a feature on lefty hurler Nick Hernandez, who is recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder. Hernandez, an All-Star with Class A Lakewood in 2010, has been relatively out of action since May of that season with repeated shoulder issues. Aside from his four rehab outings with the GCL Phillies in 2010, in which he struggled, Hernandez has posted tremendous professional numbers with an 11-2 record and a 2.25 ERA in 23 starts.

I spoke with Nick, a 12th round draft choice of Philadelphia in 2009, about several subjects related to his down time and recovery. Here are some questions and answers that didn’t appear in the previous story about this promising young pitcher.


Where would you rate your health right now and what are you working on until you can throw from a mound?

Health wise, I feel I'm about 80-85 percent right now. I still have some arm strength and stamina to build up in my shoulder but that will come within the next month or so.


Since you’re not game-ready yet, what is your routine typically like right now?

I come to the field, do my shoulder exercises and then go out and throw with the guys when they go out. After throwing, I usually have some manual therapy on my shoulder/scapula area and then do some kind of a workout, whether it be upper body or lower body.


Rehab can be very routine with excersises and rest. Was there anything unique about the rehab process for you after the surgery?

I wouldn't say there was anything unique about it. The only thing I could compare it to is a roller coaster ride. It is the toughest thing I've ever done in life both mentally and physically. Everyday working on something that is your career is a grind and during rehab you have way too much time to think about things, but finding new hobbies was a way for me to kind of escape from it.


Is there anybody within the organization that was extra supportive or that served as a motivator during your down time?

Definitely. Some of the guys have definitely been extremely helpful. The training staff has been incredible during the entire process, and then players within the organization have pushed me to find different things to get me better. Two guys especially have really been helpful and that's Mike Nesseth & Jonathan Pettibone. They've pushed me during spring training especially and have always told me that I'll be on a mound again, even when I've had days that I've thought there was no way I'd ever pitch again. And I'm very thankful for them and everyone who has helped me.


It certainly seems like it has been a very long road for you to get this close to full health. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the full process of your injury and the rehab?

I just wanted to also thank Jack Curtis and Dickie Noles, especially during this time. During an injury and rehab process, your mind thinks way too much and they have both helped me out significantly with the mental part of baseball and life in general. Thanks for taking time to ask me some questions and, hopefully, I'll be seeing you and the fans soon.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

The J-Bone Zone, Vol. 5: Recovery, Twitter, Injured Stars

You know him, you adore him and Justin De Fratus is back in the J-Bone Zone. The right-handed reliever joins PhoulBallz.com once again, from Clearwater, FL to offer his thoughts from inside Phillies spring training.

The 24-year-old reliever went 6-3 with 15 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strike outs in 75 1/3 innings in his time with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year before making his big league debut in September and holding opponents to a .083 batting average in 5 appearances. Heading forward, De Fratus, an 11th round draft choice in 2007, hopes to be an impact contributor in the Phillies bullpen for years to come.

In the latest edition of The J-Bone Zone, Justin talks about his recovery from his elbow ailment, hunger for game action, Twitter and more. Read ahead for another edition of The J-Bone Zone.

On the progression of his elbow, which kept him out of action with soreness for weeks at the outset of spring training...

Everything's going well. I think the plan is to throw off the mound next week. I think we're shooting for the middle of the week to make that happen. I looked at the schedule the other day and I've forgotten exactly when it is, but I know it was the middle of the week. Everything's going well. Obviously, we're not going to start out with a 40 pitch bullpen, but I am just going to keep taking it slowly and allow my arm to get in shape. We're not rushing anything and we're just going to listen to my arm and that'll be the thing that tells us when I'm ready.


On the level of soreness he experiences after throwing now, compared to at similar stages in other pre-seasons...

I think I'm right where I should be. You know, there may be a little more soreness than there has been in the past, but I am getting older. I know I'm not old, by any means, but your body- there's different ways that your body responds. And I'm very familiar with where I am now and I see no cause for concern. I'm in a good spot right now.


On his lack of pitching in games making him more hungry for competition...

Oh my gosh. I want to be out there so badly. That's really the only tough part about this rehab, is that I'm not able to go out there and compete with my teammates and against other teams. I want to be out there. I want a chance to earn a job. But right now, that's not in the cards for me and that's the most frustrating part. I want to be out there and I want to compete, but I can't.

I have some catching up to do, but I'll wait for the time to be right before I decide that I'm going to get after it.


On how he views Twitter (follow Justin on Twitter by clicking here) and if it's a way for some guys to build up their own brand...

For me it's something I use to bond with fans. In itself, it's a way to help build your name or your brand, but that's something that can build on its own too. If I'm just doing it to bond with fans then my brand is going to build itself. I do it to just have. I'm trying to get people to just know who I am, as a person, without it being too close, like we do here.

Everybody wants to know what it's like to be a professional athlete and think, "I wonder what that guy's like." So, it's kind of a cool thing for people to get to know me in that way. I just have a good time with it.


On if the injuries to a pair of big Phillies' stars can change the vibe around the clubhouse...

I haven't noticed anything different or any change. To be a professional athlete you have to understand that there's always going to be adversity. So, the guys who can ignore it the best are the ones who succeed. These kinds of things, when they happen- obviously, you'd rather they not happen, but- you know what? The season's still going to start. So, you can either dwell on it or you can get over it and play. And the way our guys are, they're winners. So, what are they going to do? They're going to get over it and play.

Chase (Utley) and Ryan Howard- they're going to be ready when they're ready. And when they are, they're going to dominate like they always do. There's no sense of panic in the clubhouse at all. We have plenty of guys to win ball games.


Check back in the coming weeks for more from Justin De Fratus.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Health is the Focus for LHP Prospect Hernandez

After undergoing shoulder surgery last April, lefty pitcher Nick Hernandez has been striving to get healthy so that he can continue living his dream of playing professional baseball. A 12th round draft selection in 2009 out of the University of Tennessee by the Phillies, Hernandez expects to return to the mound soon after being out of action for a lengthy stretch.

Hernandez, the nephew of Major League umpire Angel Hernandez and the son of former Brewers 1st round draft pick Nick (father is Nicolas, son is Nicholas) Hernandez, became an All-Star in the South Atlantic League with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in 2010 by posting a 3-1 record with a 1.61 ERA while striking out 52 and walking just 8 in 56 innings pitched in 2010. Following his tremendous start that year, Hernandez began experiencing discomfort in his throwing shoulder and was shut down for much of the remainder of the season. He rehabbed that year, making four starts with the Gulf Coast League Phillies but experienced a setback and did not return to action until the Florida Instructional League that autumn.

After being diagnosed with another labrum issue last April, rest and rehab were clearly not enough to get Hernandez back to full health, so surgery was required. Hernandez, a Hialeah, FL resident, has been recovering ever since.

With a self-described 80-85% health in his shoulder right now, Hernandez has progressed to a throwing program at 120-feet distance and has not begun pitching from a mound yet. The lengthy rehab process is not discouraging to the 23-year-old, however he is extremely determined to return to game action. Beyond that, Hernandez doesn’t quite have any goals yet.

“It’s been a long road with a couple of setbacks during the process, but I think the last setback was my final hurdle,” Hernandez said. “Right now my only goal is to get completely healthy. I can’t have pitching goals because, right now, pitching in games is still some ways away for me.”

The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound Hernandez will begin throwing full bullpen sessions in early April, coinciding with the first week of extended spring training. A return to game action should come in the form of extended spring training outings in Florida, in late April or early May. If everything goes well, Hernandez expects to join a full season roster by the minor league All-Star break in June.

Missing as much time as he has, Hernandez has found it difficult to muster internal drive, at times. Competition is often what pushes a player and once that is taken away, a guy on the sidelines might struggle to progress forward. Hernandez found other motivators to keep things moving both mentally and physically.

“Competition is always something that has driven me to get better and with that being taken away, you have to find other things that motivate you. Like watching guys you’ve played with continue to get better and guys that have been in rehab with you getting out on the field again. You crave for the competition again and when my opportunity comes, to compete again, I have to take complete advantage of it,” Hernandez stated.

A starter for the entirety of his professional career, a change could be in store for the youngster. Regarding what role he will have going forward, Hernandez declared specifics on that were unclear.

“They haven’t really discussed anything about starting or relieving once I am pitching again,” Hernandez said. “To be honest with you, I’m not even thinking about that. I just want to get back on the mound again. It’s been way too long!”

And while it's not yet known exactly which team Hernandez could be assigned to this year, what is certain is that with almost two years of stifled competitive energy pent up, a healthy Nick Hernandez has the potential to be a force once again in the Phillies' developmental ranks in 2012.

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Image- Williamsport Crosscutters

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Schwimer, Aumont Among Those Sent to Minor League Camp

On Tuesday, the Phillies reassigned right-handed hurlers Phillippe Aumont and Michael Schwimer to minor league camp. Aumont was recently ranked 4th on the PhilliesNation.com Top 25 Prospects Countdown, while Schwimer came in at number 13.

Aumont, who sports a high-90's fastball, struggled a bit with his command this spring and notched a 4.50 ERA with no decisions while walking 4 and striking out 4 in 4 innings of work in Grapefruit League play. Aumont is 23-year-old.

In 4 exhibition appearances, the 26-year-old Schwimer posted a 1-0 record with a 3.86 ERA while walking 5 and striking out 1 in 4 2/3 innings.

It is very likely that these two promising relievers will be back with the big club in the near future. While the opening day roster is likely to include 12 pitchers, it's very common for teams to utilize up to about 10 more hurlers as injuries arise throughout a season. Both men would be expected to begin the regular season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Additionally, lefties Jeremy Horst and David Purcey were reassigned. Opposing batters hit .412 off of Horst this spring, while Purcey held opponents to a .189 clip.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast: Episode 2

Need some more minor league information in your life? Jay Floyd and Tug Haines have you covered. On a weekly basis, we will be focusing our brand new podcast on the developmental side of the Phillies organization. Check us out each week as we bring you news and details on all the top Philadelphia prospects as well as insider stories that you can't get anywhere else.

On this week's edition, Tug and I spoke about the recovery of a few ailing prospects, Zach Collier's suspension and his presence in spring training, promotional giveaway highlights throughout the organization's affiliates, some cool stuff about Carlos Ruiz's ice cream connection and more. We also have a fun announcement for Twitter savy and media focused Phils fans as well.

Click HERE to check out episode 2 of the PhoulBallz minor league podcast.

Gump Speaks on Getting Dumped by Phils

If you missed it on Sunday, I detailed the Phillies' initial wave of minor league player releases. Among the individuals that Philadelphia parted ways with was outfielder Brian Gump, who was a 26th round draft selection in 2009 out of UC Santa Barbara.

I had the opportunity to speak with Brian on Sunday and he agreed to allow a glance inside the process of getting released, his time with the Phillies and other things. Read ahead for that exclusive content.


What is the process of getting released like? How does everything go down?

The process is what the players refer to as "the walk of death". In the early (morning), when we are all arriving at the complex, there is usually a coach or two waiting outside the front office to pluck players away and send them to the office to sign their release papers and talk with the brass. It is an unsettling feeling for almost all the players as you approach the front and have to walk past the coaches to get into the locker room, not knowing if they are going to ask you to come with them.


Is getting released a surprise at all and how is this sinking in?

It was a bit of surprise, but the organization has quite a log jam of older talent across the board in the AA and AAA levels that creates a bit of a glass ceiling for everyone outside of the "top prospect" category, so it wasn't totally out of the blue for me. They had a lot of guys in camp and obviously cannot keep every one.

I want to stress how heartfelt they were when they spoke with me and told me how hard of a decision it was for them and how much respect everyone in the organization has for me, that really meant a lot to me that I had made a good impression and that all my hard work had not gone unnoticed. It truly makes it easier to stomach.

I also appreciate that they thought enough of me to let go of me early enough to possibly land with another organization if I am so lucky to have that opportunity. They made it clear that they think highly of my skills as a ball player and highly of me as a person and that it was just a bad circumstance of me not getting the opportunities on the field I needed to continue to develop because of all the prospects we have at my position.

I think there are many guys who get released and are crushed because they know its not only over, but they know they could have worked harder. I am proud to be able to walk away from the Phillies with my head held high, knowing that I worked as hard as any body and prepared myself as well as I could. I showed up a better player each year, it was just unfortunate circumstances of a numbers game and the business of baseball that caused it to not work out.


Clearly your time with the Phillies will always be memorable for you. Can you just share some thoughts on that and perhaps which team personnel helped you the most during your tenure in the Philadelphia organization?

My time with the Phillies was awesome. It truly is a class organization that not only cares deeply about its players, but about its fans too. We are a family and from top to bottom there is a family atmosphere. I wish them nothing but the best and am holding out hope that one day I will return to the organization either on the field or in the front office.

As for coaches and personnel who helped me out, it's not really fair to pick or choose one or two. There are honestly too many good coaches and instructors that took their time out to instruct me, answer questions and offer advice to single any out. Even the ones I wasn't as close with were still helpful and very open to helping make myself, or any other player that seeks out their knowledge, better.


Already, Gump has begun the process of moving on. With a solid skill set and his mind on any option available, including possibly a switch to pitching, Gump has been in touch with other organizations to see if there might be interest in his services. To follow his journey in baseball as it moves forward, be sure to check out Brian Gump's personal blog by clicking here.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Phillies Release First Wave of Minor Leaguers

Sunday morning, the Phillies began trimming some players they deemed expendable from minor league camp. Outfielder Brian Gump (pictured, center, celebrating Lakewood's 2010 South Atlantic League championship with coach Greg Legg and Kyle Lafrenz), who posted a .239 average with 9 HR and 52 RBI in his three professional seasons, was among the collection of players that Philadelphia parted ways with.

Gump, a 26th round draft selection in 2009 out of UC Santa Barbara, worked hard this past off-season to increase his strength and stamina. Often used as an extra man, Gump entered spring training this year with a focus on showing the Phillies that he was deserving of a shot as an everyday player.

On his personal blog today, Gump wrote, "Adversity breeds greatness, so I've got to battle on and see where this takes me."

The 24-year-old earned the nickname "The Jewelry Man" as he put together a nice collection of rings by winning three championships (one with the Gulf Coast League team, two with Lakewood) during his tenure with the Phillies.

Philadelphia also released Australian-born infielder Alan Schoenberger, who was signed by the Phillies back in 2006 and posted a combined .190 batting average with Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater last season. Also released by the Phillies were lefty hurler Ryan Feierabend (10-8, 5.39 ERA in 28 games with the Triple-A IronPigs last year), right-handed pitcher Jesus Pirela who pitched with short-season Williamsport last season, and Kasey Kiker, a lefty hurler, who was signed by the organization as a free agent last month.

If more news becomes available about released players, you can read all about it, right here, on PhoulBallz.com.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ex-Phils Prospects MLB Exhibition Stat Review

In recent seasons, plenty of well-regarded prospects have been traded by the Phillies to acquire established MLB talent and other key contributors. Many of those minor leaguers have been spending time with their respective clubs' big league teams this spring training. Here's a glance at how many of those former Phils' farm hands have done thus far in the exhibition season.


Jonathan Singleton, 1B, traded to Houston in 2011 as part of the Hunter Pence deal- 9 games, 4-for-10 (.400 avg.), 1 double, 3 runs scored.

Jonathan Villar, SS, traded to Houston in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt deal- 4 games, 0-for-2, with 2 walks.

Anthony Gose, OF, traded to Houston in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt deal (subsequently flipped to Toronto)- 11 games, 4-for-15 (.267 avg), 1 double, 1 RBI.

Travis d'Arnaud, traded to Toronto in 2009 as part of the Roy Halladay deal- 7 games, 3-for-15 (.200 avg), 2 doubles, 1 HR, 4 RBI.

Kyle Drabek, traded to Toronto in the 2009 Roy Halladay deal- 2 games, 1-0 record, 3 ER, 3 IP (9.00 ERA).

Michael Taylor, traded to Toronto in the 2009 Roy Halladay deal (subsequently flipped to Oakland)- 9 games, 4-for-18 (.222 avg), no extra base hits, 2 runs, 1 RBI.

Jason Donald, SS, traded to Cleveland in the 2009 Cliff Lee deal- 7 games, 4-for-17 (.235 avg), 1 run, 1 double.

Lou Marson, C, traded to Cleveland in the 2009 Cliff Lee deal- 6 games, 5-for-11 (.455 avg), 3 runs, 2 RBI, 3 walks.

Carlos Carrasco, RHP, included in the Cleveland/Cliff Lee trade, is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Josh Outman, LHP, traded to Oakland in the 2008 Joe Blanton deal (now with Colorado)- 2 games, 0-1 record, 5 ER, 5 IP (9.00 ERA).

Adrian Cardenas, IF, traded to Oakland in the 2008 Joe Blanton deal (now with Chi Cubs)- 8 games, 2-for-12 (.167 avg), 2 runs, 1 double, 1 triple, 3 RBI.

Greg Golson, OF, traded to Texas for John Mayberry Jr. in 2008- 9 games, 0-for-8.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast is Here

In a world clearly in need of more podcasts, PhoulBallz.com brings you a brand new internet radio show. Featuring yours truly, PhilliesNation.com minor league insider Jay Floyd, and The Casual Fan himself, Tug Haines of TheFightins.com fame, we'll be delivering content focused on the Phillies' developmental system throughout the season.

After some mutual interest and some encouragement from some fellow Phillies blog big-timers, Tug and I decided to get together to put together a program that we will be delivering to you on a regular basis.

In the opening edition of the podcast, we reviewed my recently wrapped up 2012 Phillies prospect countdown and dug into some well-known prospects like Matt Rizzotti, Sebastian Valle and more

Check out the audio BY CLICKING HERE and let us know what you think!

The J-Bone Zone, Vol 4: Elbow Status, PN Ranking, Hazing

You know him, you adore him and Justin De Fratus is back in the J-Bone Zone. The righty reliever joins PhoulBallz.com live and direct, once again, from Clearwater, FL to offer his thoughts from inside Phillies spring training.

The 24-year-old reliever went 6-3 with 15 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strike outs in 75 1/3 innings in his time with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year before making his big league debut in September and holding opponents to a .083 batting average in 5 appearances. Heading forward, De Fratus, an 11th round draft choice in 2007, hopes to be an impact contributor in the Phillies bullpen for years to come.

In the latest edition of The J-Bone Zone, Justin talks about the status of his elbow, what being ranked highly on prospect lists means to him, the team's mentality on hazing younger players and more. Read ahead for another edition of The J-Bone Zone.


On the status of his improving elbow, which was sore and kept him out of action for a few weeks (Justin began a throwing program a week ago)...

So far, everything feels good. I went out there (on Monday) and did 60 throws and it was fine. It's hard though, because I want to throw and I really want to get after it, but each time I gotta realize that my goal is to get healthy and not run into the same problem again, so I'm taking it slowly. I didn't have a long toss program (earlier in spring) because of the elbow soreness, so this is going to be my off-season throwing, pretty much.


On how soon he could see game action and the potential for this set back to have a lasting effect on his season...

I am not sure of exactly when I could pitch in a game. It's really going to be based off of how I feel and communication with Scott Sheridan, the trainer. Right now it's kind of a day-to-day thing. Realistically, I would say, for me getting on the mound I would say- a couple weeks.

I don't think this will have any effect on my full season. I'm not going to get back into games till I'm ready, so we're not going to take a gamble and make me go before I'm ready. It wasn't anything major. Once I go, I'll be healthy, so I don't think this will effect my season at all.


On the recognition of being ranking #5 for the past two years on PhilliesNation.com's prospect rankings...

It's an honor, I'm not going to lie, it's definitely cool, but it's something more for my family and friends. They really enjoy seeing that kind of stuff about me. Obviously, my goal isn't to be ranked on a prospect list, it's to help the Major League team. It's definitely cool to see that people are taking note of my work, but the ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues and stay there and help that team win and bring a championship to Philadelphia.


On how long he has dreamed of being a professional baseball player...

This is all I've ever wanted to do, as long as I can remember. I mean I played soccer for one year and I hated it. I tried other sports, basketball- I hated it. Baseball is all I've ever wanted to do and I've been fortunate enough, and God has blessed me with talent, and so far I've had enough health and gotten enough breaks that I've been able to succeed this far in baseball. So, it's something that I've always wanted to do. Nothing else ever even crossed my mind for a career path.


On the absence of hazing of young players in spring training...

There's not much of anything like that. There's a lot of youngsters up in camp right now, including myself. The veteran guys are really cool. And in talking with a couple of them, I asked them specifically about, "You guys don't really give anybody a hard time here. What's the deal with that?" And the answer I got was, "Well, the way we look at it is that you guys are a part of the team and we want you as comfortable as possible because if you're comfortable, you play well and you help us win."

So, the goal with our team is to win. And the veteran guys are not going to waste time on hazing guys. They're all about business and they want to make us as comfortable as possible so that we feel we're a part of the team and we can play up to our potential.

Now, regarding the once-a-year rookie hazing that goes on with the Phillies each September, above everything else, that's really about making us part of the team too. It's really your initiation and that's welcomed by every rookie. It's a badge of honor, is what it is. It's just like that pink back pack...you want to wear it. You don't look at it as hazing. You think, "This is the way it is. This is how baseball is. This is part of the game." And as weird as it sounds, I wanted to be in that little dominatrix outfit. That means I'm there!

Check back throughout the preseason for more exclusive content from Justin De Fratus.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #1 RHP Trevor May

Trevor MayWith a massively impressive campaign in 2011 for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, right-handed starting pitcher Trevor May locked down his spot as Philadelphia's top prospect and is on the fast track toward the big leagues.

He is the reigning Paul Owens Award winner, given to the top pitcher and player in the Phillies' developmental system each year. In 27 starts with the Threshers in 2011, May posted a 10-8 record with a 3.63 ERA, while striking out a Florida State League leading 208 batters in 151 1/3 innings. He also held opposing hitters to a .221 average.

The Phillies' 4th round draft pick from 2008, May earned the win in the 50th annual Florida State League All-Star Game at Bright House Field last year. He also was twice named FSL Pitcher of the Week and earned Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month honors for June.

After signing with Philadelphia, May helped lead the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies to a championship in 2008. In 5 regular season games in the GCL, May went 1-1 and had a 3.75 ERA.

The right-handed May began the 2009 season in extended spring training then was later assigned to Class A Lakewood and quickly began garnering recognition as a fast rising prospect. May cruised through the South Atlantic League competition with a 4-1 record and a 2.56 ERA in 15 starts that year. He then added to his trophy case by earning another championship ring and leading the 'Claws to the SAL title.

After beginning his 2010 campaign with Class A Advanced Clearwater, May, who perspires heavily, struggled with his grip in the Florida humidity and had great difficulty throwing strikes. The inability to adjust to the weather resulted in an uncharacteristically high 61 walked batters in 70 innings. Overall with Clearwater, May posted a 5-5 record with a 5.01 ERA in 16 games, 14 of which were starts.

The Phillies demoted May to Lakewood, where he quickly bounced back and received a boost in his confidence, returning to excellent form. Back with the BlueClaws, in 11 regular season games, May went 7-3 with a 2.91 ERA.

A return to the Florida State League in 2011 seemingly presented no great challenge for May, who is among the toughest of the tough, both mentally and physically. His focus on always trying to be a step ahead of opposing batters is something that helps May dominate while his conditioning is tremendous and clearly helps him, as he often has gas left in his tank at the end of his outings.

The 6-foot-5-inch 215-pounder's pitch repertoire consists of a heavy fastball that steadily reaches the mid-90's, a sharp curveball and a change up that has come along quite a bit since May began throwing it in 2009. Coaches have tried to get May to mix up his pitches, by using each pitch in any given count.

Regardless, May continues to have a reputation as a power pitcher, as his strikeout rates have stayed high throughout his four professional seasons. Prior to 2011, May's K/9 rate was an impressive 11.55 and he improved over that mark by posting a rate of 12.37 in 2011.

The 22-year-old dabbles in DJ'ing but has his full focus on a career in the big leagues. Expect May to begin the 2012 season with the Double-A Reading Phillies, and provided he takes the necessary steps to dominate another level, it won't be long before the "baby ace" is joining the rotation that includes established stars like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
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Our 2012 prospect countdown index can be found HERE.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Phils Moving Ramirez to Pen

Word out of spring training today (via a Matt Gelb tweet) is that the Phillies have decided to move righty pitching prospect J.C. Ramirez to a relief role. The native of Nicaragua was part of the trio of players that Philadelphia required from Seattle in return for Cliff Lee in December, 2009.

Ranked as the Phillies' number 20 prospect recently by PhilliesNation.com, Ramirez spent last season with the Double-A Reading Phillies, where he got off to a scorching hot start in April, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.03 ERA and a .187 batting average against in 4 starts. As the season moved on, that output fizzled, however. Ramirez finished the reglar season with an 11-13 record, an ERA of 4.50 and .258 batting average against in 26 starts for the R-Phils. After the Eastern League All-Star break, Ramirez was rather awful on the mound, tallying a 5.92 ERA and a .305 BAA in 10 outings.

At this stage, the Phillies feel the 23-year-old Ramirez, who struggled with his command in the latter portion of last season, has a brighter future out of the bullpen, where he will be able to see additional action and work on his pitches more often. The 2012 season will be very telling for Ramirez with his new role. Expect him to get another dose of Double-A experience with Reading this year.

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Spring Training Check In: RHP Tyler Knigge

Tyler Knigge, a 12th round draft pick by the Phillies from 2010, has been an impressive relief pitcher during his time with the organization. Sporting a fastball that resides in the mid-90's, a knuckle curve that he learned from his father, a change up and sinker, Knigge feels that he is equipped to take on all comers, as he ascends toward the big leagues. A competitive guy, Knigge challenges opposing batters with his stuff and isn't afraid to take the ball in any situation.

Last year, the 6-foot-4-inch 215-pound right-hander had an impressive campaign with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in his first full professional season. In 43 relief outings, Knigge posted a 4-3 record with 4 saves and a 3.32 ERA with a .243 batting average against.

Recently, I spoke with Tyler, 23, from the Phillies' spring home in Clearwater, FL. He talked about a speech by the Phils' GM, arriving spring training considerably early and more. Read ahead for Tyler Knigge's spring training check in.


On the potential to follow his manager from Lakewood last year (and for his 1 game stint with short-season Williamsport in 2010), former Major Leaguer Chris Truby, up one level to Class A Advanced Clearwater this season...

I really hope I get the chance to do that. I love playing for Truby, he's been a great coach. Playing for him has been a great experience for me, especially because he has the big league experience and everything. I'm able to learn a lot from him and my expectation is, obviously, to keep moving up and being able to play under the same manager for two years in a row could be a great advantage for me and it's definitely something I am looking forward to.


On reporting to spring training early and what advantages that could provide for him going forward...

Being from Idaho and being in the cold weather and everything...it's a lot different being able to go down early. My first spring training, I didn't have the opportunity to go down early, but this year I had the opportunity to come down about 18 days early and work out and get into the warm weather and really become acclimated, which really helped me to loosen my arm up and I was able to get into the- we have a new conditioning coach, and I was able to get into the conditioning program and that has really helped me out preparing for the spring training aspect.


On his closely knit family's avid fandom for his pitching career and them paying him visits from their home state of Idaho...

My parents are actually here in Florida right now. They had the opportunity to take a little bit of time off work and witness spring training, which not all players' families get to experience. And even better yet, they get to come down and watch the Phillies, the best team in Major League Baseball. The first plan is for them to visit here for spring training and then, as the season continues on, I'm sure they'll make another visit to come watch me play.


On the most appealing thing about Clearwater...

The weather is definitely one of the better aspects of playing in Florida. It's definitely better to pitch in the heat. Being a pitcher, I would say, especially me, I like being able to feel loose, and get comfortable on the mound. My first year in professional ball, I played with the rookie ball team, here in Clearwater and, so, I'm used to the weather. It's something that I enjoy pitching in.


On whether or not the humidity in Florida has ever been bothersome toward his game, like it can be for other hurlers...

The first year I was here, in the GCL, I did have some trouble finding grip on the ball, but baseball gods were so kind as to bless us with this little invention called rosin. And I had never used it before, being from Idaho, where any heat that you get is dry, and I never had a need for it until I got to Florida. About two appearances into my professional career, I decided, "Well, throwing a 94 mile an hour fastball halfway up the screen behind home plate isn't gonna get me real far." With issues holding onto the ball, after a while I decided to use some rosin and I haven't had any problems, since I started using that.


On Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. speaking with a large group of minor league players this past week...

One of the big things that he talked to us about, that really spoke to me the most, was that he was in our same position at one point in his professional career. One thing that he talked about was being in our shoes and he understands what it takes to be a big leaguer and what it takes to strive and go through the minor leagues and especially all the long seasons of a minor leaguer. I think that having a general manager that knows that and understands is something that speaks to me the most. He brought that up and I took some time to reflect on that. And I realized that this is what I want to do and I am ready to do whatever it takes and make whatever sacrifices it will take to get to the big leagues.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #2 Catcher Sebastian Valle

Righty hitting catcher Sebastian Valle has emerged as one of Philadelphia’s top offensive prospects. Using his quick bat and strong catching abilities the 21-year-old has built a reputation as a dangerous hitter and a leader for his pitching staff.

Since signing as a free agent with the Phillies at the age of 16, Valle has improved steadily in every aspect of his game. A smart hitter with power, Valle really shines behind the plate. Pitchers who have thrown to Valle cite his maturity and focus as qualities that help him stand out in leagues where talent is abundant.

The Mexico native made his pro debut in 2007 as a member of the Phils' Dominican Summer League team. In 54 games, Valle batted .284 and rocked an .802 OPS.

In 2008, Valle played for the Gulf Coast League Phillies, where he batted .281, hit 2 homers and drove in 18 runs in 48 games. There, he helped guide the GCL Phils' pitching staff to a league championship.

The following year, Valle, a 6-foot-1-inch 200-pounder, split time between Class A Lakewood and short-season A level Williamsport. In 50 games for the Williamsport Crosscutters, Valle shined, posting a .307 average with 6 homeruns and 40 RBI. In addition, Valle sported an .866 OPS with the ‘Cutters. The production wasn't quite the same as a member the Lakewood BlueClaws that year, however, as Valle struggled for playing time behind eventual Roy Halladay trade chip Travis d'Arnaud. In 45 games for the eventual South Atlantic League champion BlueClaws, Valle batted .223 with 1 HR, 15 RBI and a .644 OPS.

The 2010 season presented a chance to play more with Lakewood and Valle produced very solid numbers, as one of the leaders of the team's offense. Valle began the year a bit slow, notching just a single homerun in his first 40 games. Once he heated up, though, Valle hit 8 homeruns over the next 18 games and kept it going through the remainder of the year. In 117 regular season games, Valle posted a .255 batting average, while slamming a team leading 16 homers and driving in 74 runs to help his club lock down its second consecutive SAL title.

With Class A Advanced Clearwater, in 2011, Valle posted a .284 batting average with 5 homers and 40 RBI. Valle played in just 91 games, as he was held back with some injuries last year. Dealing with a sprained thumb, among other ailments, made it difficult for Valle to swing at his best and drive the ball.

Leading a group of minor league All-Star hurlers know as the Phils’ “Baby Aces”, Valle was honored as an All-Star himself last year with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers. His terrific rapport with his staff and knowledge of each pitcher's strengths enables Valle to guide them toward bigger and better things.

Already a steadily sought after prospect, Valle projects to be a big league catcher and has displayed considerably more power and consistency with the bat than current Phils backstop Carlos Ruiz did at the same levels during his climb up the developmental ladder. In addition, Valle is doing those things at a younger age than Ruiz was in those same leagues.

An aggressive batter, Valle has a low walk rate that is quite noticeable and he must become more selective while batting. Phillies coaches have surely addressed this with the youngster. Surprisingly, Valle has walked twice in three Grapefruit League games with the big league club this spring.

Defensively, Valle has developed greatly and has impressed former big league catchers Mark Parent and Dusty Wathan, who have managed Valle with Lakewood and Clearwater respectively in each of the past two seasons.

Heading into 2012, Valle is expected to begin his season with Double-A Reading, where he will attempt to help himself and his pitchers continue to grow on the baseball field.
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #3 LHP Jesse Biddle

Left-handed starting pitcher Jesse Biddle redefines homegrown talent. Born and bred as a Phillies fan in the Philadelphia region, the youngster’s dreams came true in 2010, when he was selected 27th overall in that year’s amateur draft. Biddle wasted no time signing his first professional contract and quickly made his minor league debut, beginning his ascent toward donning the home uniform of the team he cheered on from the seats of Citizens Bank Park all throughout his teenage years.

The graduate of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia combined to sport a 4-1 record with a 3.92 ERA and a .241 batting average against in 12 starts with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Williamsport Crosscutters in 2010.

In 2011, Biddle became an All-Star in the South Atlantic League with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. As the team's most dependable starter through much of the year, Biddle posted a 7-8 record with a 2.98 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) and struck out 124 batters in 133 innings pitched. In addition, he held opponents to a .219 batting average.

Biddle seems to improve down the stretch, as the 6-foot-4-inch 225-pounder rocked a 2.61 ERA in three Class-A short-season starts after his August, 2010 promotion from the GCL. He also wrapped up his 2011 campaign with a stellar stretch in which he tallied a 1.91 ERA over his final 12 outings.

What's even more impressive about how Biddle finished his 2011 season is that he began the year with a 0-4 record and a 5.91 ERA through his opening 5 starts. Adjustments were key for Biddle, who worked closely with pitching coach Steve Schrenk to develop a better approach against SAL hitters.

Confident in his own abilities and control, Biddle maintains a tight focus on the tasks at hand on a frequent basis, even on off days. There is not a day that passes in which Biddle hasn't done homework in some fashion to learn a bit more about the game of baseball. Biddle also has a great frame of mind and realizes that achievements and promotions won't be handed to him and that he has much work ahead at all times.

The 20-year-old left his final 2011 regular season start with a knee ailment that was described as a tightening of the joint. Rest and rehab worked well as Biddle spent time this off-season in the Florida Instructional League and is now raring to go, at full health, for the upcoming campaign.

Armed with a four-seam fastball that was regularly clocked around 92 MPH throughout the 2011 season, a strong curveball and a developing change up, Biddle is expected to move up a level to the Class-A Advanced Clearwater Threshers this year, where he'll join new Threshers skipper Chris Truby, who has managed the Biddle in Williamsport and Lakewood.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Garcia Again Has Knee Surgery

Infield prospect Harold Garcia will miss much of the season for the second consecutive year as the Venezuela native underwent micro fracture surgery on his right knee. The 25-year-old is reportedly expected to miss 4-6 months.

After spending so time this past off-season in the Venezuelan Winter League, Garcia reported to spring training with high hopes for a healthy year, but recurring discomfort resulted in further examination of his knee and it was decided to further repair his troubling joint.

Garcia had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee early in the 2011 season, after he began the year with Double-A Reading. It was a tough break for Garcia, whom the Phillies had grown very high on after a tremendous 2010 campaign.

This marks the third straight year that Garcia will miss considerable time with a significant injury, as he began the 2010 season on the disabled list with a left hamate fracture. However, that ailment didn't stop the 5-foot-11 190-pounder from putting together a Class-A Advanced Florida State League record 37-game hitting streak that season.

Primarily a second baseman in his pro career, Garcia, PhilliesNation.com's #17 ranked prospect, has also dabbled in third base and shortstop.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #4 RHP Phillippe Aumont

Righty hurler Phillippe Aumont is the third prospect that the Phillies acquired in the December 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle to appear on this countdown. Upon joining the Phillies, organizational brass chose to switch the young reliever into a starting pitcher. Aumont would go on to struggle in that role, during his first season in the Philadelphia system, but has since gotten himself back on track in the bullpen, where he is most comfortable.

A first round draft choice (11th overall) by Seattle in 2007, Aumont was a highly regarded hurler when he was traded to Philadelphia. In two seasons in the Mariners' system, Aumont tallied a 6-10 record, a 3.29 ERA and 18 saves in 59 games (8 starts). He also represented Seattle in the 2008 MLB All-Star Futures Game, although he did not appear in the exhibition.

In 2009, Aumont, who was a member of the Junior National Team for Canada in his teen years, pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. In one WBC outing, Aumont would retire MLB All-Stars David Wright, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson, in order, to escape a jam in a game against Team USA.

A native of Quebec, Aumont began his first season in the Phillies organization with Double-A Reading, in 2010, and posted a 1-6 record with an awful 7.43 ERA in 11 starts before being demoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater, where things began to look up. The Phillies would eventually move Aumont back to his more familiar role as a reliever.

Locked into a relief spot in 2011, Aumont shined, holding opponents to a .216 batting average and posting a 2-5 record, a 2.68 ERA and 7 saves in 43 games for Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. A power pitcher, Aumont saw his strike out numbers soar last season, as he averaged 13.08 K's per 9 innings last year.

Aumont, 23, is an imposing figure that overpowers the competition not just physically, but with his intensity as well. The 6-foot-7-inch 255-pounder sports a four-seam fastball that is regularly clocked from 96-98 MPH. Aumont's repertoire also includes a strong curveball, a sinker and an impressive split, all of which give him the type of focus and swagger that should translate well as he continues to ascend up the developmental ladder.

Along with the Phillies in big league spring training this year, Aumont, who thrives on pressure in crucial situations, will get the opportunity to turn heads as he is sure to capitalize on chances to face some big league competition and show how aggressive and fierce he can be.

Expect Aumont, who was added to the Phillies' 40-man roster this past off-season, to make his Major League debut during the 2012 season. With the goods to become a key contributor at the back end of the Phillies' bullpen, Aumont could be setting up for closer Jonathan Papelbon before too long.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The J-Bone Zone, Vol. 3: Recovery, Hyatt & Fans

Right-handed relief pitcher Justin De Fratus, known to his brother Steven and those close to him as "J-Bone", joins us live and direct, once again, from Clearwater, FL to offer his thoughts from inside Phillies spring training.

The 24-year-old reliever went 6-3 with 15 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strike outs in 75 1/3 innings in his time with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year before making his big league debut in September and holding opponents to a .083 batting average in 5 appearances. Heading forward, De Fratus, an 11th round draft choice in 2007, hopes to be an impact contributor in the Phillies bullpen for years to come.

In the latest edition of The J-Bone Zone, Justin updates the status of his elbow, discusses his teammate Austin Hyatt's chances this year as well as bonding with Phillies fans and more. Read ahead for another edition of The J-Bone Zone.


On the status of his ailing elbow that has kept him sidelined for much of spring training and if there's a time frame for game action-

The arm is doing well. As far as getting some game action, I don't know. It's kind of hard to tell, you've got to let your body tell you when you're game ready and what not. I'm going to start throwing Monday, and that's when I'll begin my throwing program and we'll see how (my elbow) responds to everything. That will really help decide how quickly everything goes.


On what he does on games days, after completing his daily work outs, since he's not pitching-

I stay and watch every game. I get all my work outs done in the morning and all my activities with the team. I've been doing a lot of leg workouts and stuff, trying to keep my lower half strong. Now, when the game starts, I go out to the bullpen and just hang out and watch the game.


On other pitchers that are, more or less, on the verge of making the big league roster-

It's too early to tell (if anyone is standing out), but from what I have seen, all the guys are throwing well. Everybody's looking good and there might even be a little sleeper here in Austin Hyatt. I would not be surprised if he got a little time (with the major league club) this year. The guy can pitch, flat out. I think that is somebody that people would want to look out for.


On the Phillies' annual Bill Giles honorary golf outing that coaches, players, executives and broadcasters all took part in this past week-

I couldn't golf, because of the arm, so I just sat out. But I was there and I rode around in a golf cart. I acted as Hyatt's caddy. I don't know anything about golf, so it was just kind of a joke. I was just out there watching everyone else play. It was a lot of fun. It seems like a great bonding experience with everybody, which is very valuable.


On what he enjoys most about spring training in Clearwater-

I just really enjoy the enthusiasm from the fans around here. They travel so far to come down here and it's cool to see. It's kind of good to get to be able to talk to them a little bit because there are a lot of fans, but there aren't too many, so that it's overwhelming. But, I get to talk to some fans every morning. That's something I really enjoy, is getting to sign some stuff for the fans when I walk in and getting to chat with them. That's one of my favorite parts.

Check back throughout the preseason for more exclusive content from Justin De Fratus.
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