Friday, November 30, 2012

Howard's Surprise Trip to the Hall

Last week Phillies slugger Ryan Howard celebrated his 33rd birthday and thanks to his fiance Krystle Campbell, it was a memorable one.  Unbeknownst to Howard, his lady contacted the National Baseball Hall of Fame and planned a surprise visit for the pair to Cooperstown.

Although, it was the former All-Star and league most valuable player's very first trip to the Hall of Fame, Howard has been a part of multiple displays at the museum in recent years, having donated a jersey from his 2006 MVP season and the bat he used to mash two home runs in game 4 of the 2008 World Series.  Each of those items are currently on display among a Phillies exhibit.

Howard, who was photographed checking out one of Babe Ruth's barnstorming jerseys from the 1920's, along with Campbell, told the Hall's director of communications Craig Muder, “Every kid wants to grow up to play baseball, then to win the World Series and some day make the Hall of Fame.  Just to see my bat and jersey – to see all the history here – it’s awesome.”

The Cooperstown trip served as a nice prelude the couple's upcoming early-December wedding.

This year, Howard has displayed his fandom of baseball quite a bit, as he attended the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby back in July, sitting among the crowd in Kansas City.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fans Will Support Chooch, But Legacy Now Tainted

By now, you've heard about the drug suspension imposed upon Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz earlier this week.  Following a second positive test for amphetamines, the 33-year-old Panama native will miss the first 25 games of the 2013 regular season.

Following the news, Ruiz issued a statement to apologize to his team as well as the fans.  The Phillies also went public, stating that they were disappointed, but would continue to support their player.  Both of those are typical and were expected.  Also a sure thing are Philadelphia baseball fans' reactions to Ruiz upon his return.  The man they call "Chooch" is an individual that has accomplished a great amount while wearing Phils' red.  The "home grown" player has caught no-hitters.  He has become an All-Star.  He helped lock down a World Series championship and five consecutive division titles.  Philly faithful will absolutely continue to have their guy's back when he gets back on the field.

Not too long ago, reliever J.C. Romero, who notched two wins in the 2008 World Series for the Phillies, consumed a banned substance in the form of a supplement purchased from a vitamin chain store, due to an oversight by the manufacturer.  He was subsequently suspended for 50 games.  Upon his return, fans happily welcomed Romero back.  But, as quickly as Romero became a solid bullpen arm, his production fell off and the adoration of the Citizens Bank Park crowds was no longer there.  Romero became just another guy who took something he wasn't supposed to and had some success with it.  While Romero came and went, he's no Chooch, who was probably a guy that could never do any wrong in the eyes of Phillies fans.

Fans will swoon in late April when Ruiz suits up to play.  There is no question about that.  But what about when the day comes that Ruiz is done being an excellent on-field contributor?

On a recent edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast, I asserted how strongly I felt about Ruiz's place in organization history, stating that "Chooch is going to be on that Phillies Wall of Fame one day and it's going to be one of the most deserving guys ever."  I added, "Aside from the guys that are in the (Baseball) Hall of Fame, like Whitey Ashburn and Mike Schmidt, Grover Cleveland Alexander, I think Chooch is going to be one of the most deserving guys added to that wall ever."

I may need to take that back.  I stand among the lifelong integrity-focused baseball fans and esteem oriented media types who assert that players who used performance enhancing drugs should not be presented with historical honors or have their names placed among the greatest of all time.  Even if such a distinction is team specific, that same outlook should hold true.

Adderall, the drug which presented the problem for Ruiz, is a substance that many big leaguers are granted somewhat of a pass for, as part of the Therapeutic Use Exemption in Major League Baseball's drug policy.  There are many dozens of big leaguers currently using the drug.  Ruiz was not among those that did it legally.  I fear this off-field error will be damaging to Ruiz's legacy, which previously seemed to be among the most elite in the team's history.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekly Off-season League Updates, 11/25/12

It's another edition of our weekly off-season league updates.  Check it out, as we take a tour around the globe for a look at Phillies talents participating in various autumn and winter league action.  

Mexican League-

Catcher Sebastian Valle (pictured, left) is batting .214 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 17 games with Los Mochis.  The righty hitting Valle, 22, was an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League in 2012 prior to earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Venezuelan League-

Darin Ruf wrapped up his time with the La Guaira last week. The 26-year-old Creighton product posted a .258 batting average with 10 HR and 27 RBI in 32 games for the Tiburones. Ruf, a 20th round draft choice from 2009, made his big league debut with the Phillies in September and batted .333 with two doubles, a triple and three home runs in 12 games.

Righty reliever Justin Friend has a 3-1 record along with one save and a 5.19 ERA in 20 outings for La Guaira. Friend, 26, was an All-Star closer for Double-A Reading in the Eastern League in 2012.

Michael Cisco has tallied a 3-1 record with a 5.14 ERA in 16 games (one start) with La Guaira. Cisco put together a 5-3 record with three saves and a 1.80 ERA in 40 combined outings with Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year. The 25-year-old right-hander was a 36th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2008.

J.C. Ramirez is 2-0 with a 7.71 ERA through seven relief outings for La Guaira. The 24-year-old righty pitched exclusively as a reliever in the Phillies system this year, sporting a 3-4 record with a 4.01 ERA and a .230 batting average against in 45 games at Double-A and Triple A.

Freddy Galvis has a .314 batting average with five doubles, two triples, two home runs and 20 RBI in 35 games played for Zulia. Galvis’ splits vs. righties in the VZ League- .340/.374/.574. Galvis vs. lefties in the VZ League- .261/.286/.304.  The 23-year-old switch-hitter left Zulia's game against La Guaira after 1 1/2 innings on Friday for undisclosed reasons and did not play on Saturday.

Cesar Hernandez (pictured, right) is batting .238 with two doubles, two triples and a homer along with seven RBI in 24 contests for Margarita. Additionally, Hernandez’s 10 stolen bases are tied for the league lead. A second baseman, Hernandez was an All-Star with Reading this year prior to earning a promotion to Triple-A. The switch-hitting 22-year-old posted a .291/.329/.404 line in 133 combined regular season games in 2012.

Also with Margarita, shortstop Edgar Duran is batting .299 with five doubles, one homer and eight RBI in 26 games. Duran, a 21-year-old switch-hitter should see time next year with Double-A Reading after posting improved offensive numbers (OPS at Class A Advanced Clearwater was 88 points higher this year than his mark in Class A Lakewood in 2011).

Manaure Martinez, a 20-year-old righty has a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA and a .321 batting average against in six relief outings for Aragua. Martinez, who hasn't appeared in a game since October 27th, spent time during the 2012 regular season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

Yoel Mecias, a left-hander hurler, has appeared in one game, recording a scoreless 1/3 of an inning for Aragua. The 20-year-old was signed by the Phillies in December 2010 and made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies (0-2, 2.16 ERA in 14 games) this year.

First baseman Cody Overbeck is batting .118 with one RBI through five games. The 26-year-old Overbeck, who was the Phils' 9th round draft pick in 2008, posted a .716 OPS in 133 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year.

Infielder Andres Blanco, who played in 120 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year, is batting .167 with a double, a triple and four RBI in 19 games for Magallanes. Blanco, 28, has not appeared in a game since November 4th.

Dominican League-

Infielder Michael Martinez has posted a .121 average with a double and six RBI in 12 games for Oriente.  The 30-year-old Martinez appeared in 45 games while batting .171 with the big league Phillies in 2012.

Righty hitting outfielder Leandro Castro is batting .217 with no extra base hits and two RBI in 18 games with Oriente.  Castro, 23, batted .287 with 10 homers and 71 RBI in 133 games and was an All-Star for Double-A Reading this year.

Lisalverto Bonilla (pictured, left) is sporting a 1-4 record with one save and an 8.71 ERA in 11 relief appearances for Escogido. The 22-year-old righty posted a 1.55 ERA in 31 combined relief appearances with Clearwater and Reading during the 2012 regular season, but injured himself while horsing around at the MLB All-Star Futures Game festivities in July, then missed the remainder of the regular season.

Righty pitcher Juan Morillo has a 3.18 ERA and no decisions in five relief outings for Escogido.  Morillo, a 29-year-old, pitched for both Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2012, posting a combined 1-2 record with a 5.34 ERA and a poor 67/55 strike out to walk ratio in 40 appearances.

Right-hander Hector Neris had one rough outing for Este in which he surrendered three earned runs in 2/3 inning.  That poor effort has Neris' ERA sitting at 9.00 through four appearances.  The 23-year-old righty posted a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in 50 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater this year.

Lefty hurler Raul Valdes has posted a 0-1 record with a 4.91 ERA while striking out 12 and walking four in 11 innings pitched for Este.  Valdes, who turns 35 years old this week, had a 2.90 ERA in 27 games with the Phillies this year.

Catcher Steven Lerud is 5-for-13 (.385 avg) with a home run and three RBI in six games for Este.  Lerud, 28, was 2-for-10 in three big league games with the Phillies this year.

Third baseman Maikel Franco has appeared in only one game for Cibao, striking out in his lone at bat. The 20-year-old slugger batted .280 while slugging 14 home runs and driving in 84 runs with Class A Lakewood during the 2012 regular season.

Right-hander Juan Sosa has allowed three earned runs in two innings (13.50 ERA) of work for Licey.  The 23-year-old had a 5-7 record with four saves and a 4.26 ERA in 46 games (five starts) for Clearwater this year.

Puerto Rican League-

Julio Rodriguez (pictured, right) has a 1-0 record with a 3.18 ERA in three games for Carolina.  The 22-year-old has also struck out six and walked none in 5 2/3 innings.  In 29 games (22 starts) for Reading in 2012, Rodriguez was 7-7 with a 4.23 ERA and 9.13 K/9.

Australian League-

Tim Kennelly has posted a .250 average with a double and two RBI in four games as an offensive player for Perth.  Meanwhile, the 26-year-old has allowed three earned runs in two innings of work (13.50 ERA) on the mound.  

With Brisbane, infielder Carlos Alonso is batting .143 with no extra base hits and one RBI in eight games.  The 24-year-old University of Delaware product was the Phils' 32nd round draft pick in 2010.

Catcher Liam Bedford is 1-for-13 (.077 avg) with an RBI in six games for his hometown Melbourne Aces. The 19-year-old was signed by the Phillies in May of 2011 and batted .130 in 19 games with the Gulf Coast League team during the 2012 season.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

News & Notes: 40-man Additions, Developmental Coaches

Jon Pettibone took great strides in 2012
On Tuesday, several additions to the 40-man roster were announced by the Phillies, as outfielder Zach Collier as well as pitchers Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone, and Ethan Martin were all added.

Collier, was a supplementary round draft choice by the Phillies in 2008. The lefty hitting California native performed extremely well in the recently wrapped up Arizona Fall League. To read my interview with Zach from last weekend, which includes more info on the 22-year-old, click here.

May, a righty hurler, had an up-and-down 2012 after entering the regular season ranked by many outlets as the Phillies’ top prospect. May posted a 10-13 overall record along with a 4.87 ERA and a 9.09 K/9 mark with Double-A Reading this year. The 23-year-old was a 4th round draft pick in 2008.

Pettibone had a strong 2012 campaign following a troubling start that saw him post a 1-3 record and a 4.78 ERA in his first six outings. In the 13 starts which followed that difficult stretch, Pettibone tallied an 8-4 record with a 2.74 ERA. The 22-year-old was then promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in July, where he went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in seven starts for the IronPigs, down the stretch. Pettibone was a 3rd round draft selection in 2008.

Martin was acquired from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino deal this past July. The 23-year-old was excellent for Double-A Reading for their Eastern League playoff push, posting a 5-0 record with a 3.18 ERA and a .206 batting average against in seven starts.

Additionally, minor league coaching assignments were announced for the upcoming 2013 season.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley will have Dave Brundage as its manager, as was previously unveiled by the organization. Sal Rende will be the IronPigs’ hitting coach for the third straight season and Ray Burris, who previously coached in the Detroit system, will be the pitching coach.

Double-A Reading will have Dusty Wathan as the skipper for the second straight year, while frank Cacciatore returns as hitting coach and Dave Lundquist, will serve as pitching coach after four seasons with Clearwater.. 

Class A Advanced Clearwater will again be managed by former big leaguer Chris Truby, while John Mizerock, who has big league coaching experience with the Royals, will serve as hitting coach and Bob Milacki will be the club’s pitching coach.

At Class A Lakewood, former Phillies All-Star second baseman Mickey Morandini will return as the manager, while Greg Legg will be back as the hitting coach. Former big league reliever Aaron Fultz has been promoted to Lakewood’s pitching coach after spending his first season as a pro coach with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

The manager at short-season A level Williamsport is yet to be announced.  The club's previous manager Andy Tracy has replaced Steve Henderson, who was promoted to the big league coaching staff, as the organization's roving minor league hitting instructor.  Les Lancaster and Lino Connell, who were with Lakewood in 2012, will round out the Crosscutters' coaching staff.

The staff of the Gulf Coast League Phillies will be made up of Roly deArmas as manager, Steve Schrenk as pitching coach, along with Ramon Henderson and Rafael DeLima rounding out the group.  This upcoming season will mark deArmas' tenth year as skipper of the GCL Phils.

In other news, former Phillies prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar have been added to the 40-man roster by the Astros.  The righty hurler Cosart was sent to Houston in the Hunter Pence trade, while Villar, a shortstop, was part of the package that got Roy Oswalt in return.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekly Off-season League Updates, 11/19/12

It's another edition of our weekly off-season league updates.  Check it out, as we take a tour around the globe for a look at Phillies talents participating in various autumn and winter league action. 

Venezuelan League-

Outfielder Tyson Gillies (pictured, left) is done playing with the Lara team, after just 13 games, as his contract is up.  The 24-year-old had two separate stints in which he missed time in Venezuela, due to ailments, at least one of which was a hamstring issue, something Gillies has dealt with on a recurring basis since the Phillies acquired him in 2009.  The British Columbia native posted a .294 average with two doubles, one triple and four RBI with the Cardenales.

Darin Ruf slugged his Venezuelan League leading 10th home run of the season on Sunday.  Ruf, playing mostly left field, has posted a .943 OPS and his 27 RBI are also tops in the league (tie).  Combined with his minor league leading total of 38 homers and his three in the big leagues this year, Ruf has mashed 51 big flies in 2012. 

Justin Friend notched his first save in the Venezuelan League this week for La Guaira.  Through 19 appearances, the righty reliever has posted a 3-1 record with one save and a 4.32 ERA.  Friend, 26, was an All-Star in the Eastern League for Double-A Reading in 2012.

In 13 outings for La Guaira, Michael Cisco has a 3-1 record with a 4.91 ERA.  The 25-year-old was a 35th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2008.

J.C. Ramirez hasn't pitched since November 7th and sports a 10.80 ERA with a .400 batting average against in five relief outings for La Guaira.  The right-hander was acquired along with Gillies and pitcher Phillippe Aumont in December, 2009 from the Mariners for Cliff Lee.

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez is batting .219 with two doubles, two triples and a homer with four RBI and 10 steals in 20 games for Margarita.  The switch-hitting 22-year-old was an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League before earning a promotion to Triple-A in 2012.

Also with Margarita, shortstop Edgar Duran is batting .308 with five doubles, a home run and eight RBI in 23 games.  The 21-year-old spent the 2012 regular season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, posting a .253 average with seven homers and 49 RBI in 121 games.

Freddy Galvis has tallied a .317 average with five doubles, two triples, four homers and 14 RBI in 31 games for Zulia.  The 23-year-old has been playing strictly shortstop in Venezuela.

20-year-old hurler Manaure Martinez has a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA while walking four and striking out four in six relief outings for Aragua.  Martinez, who hasn't appeared in a game since October 27th, spent time during the 2012 regular season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

Lefty-hurler Yoel Mecias has appeared in one game, recording a scoreless 1/3 of an inning for Aragua.  The 20-year-old was signed by the Phillies in December 2010 and made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies (0-2, 2.16 ERA in 14 games) this year.

Also with Aragua, first baseman Cody Overbeck (pictured, right) is batting .118 with one RBI through five games.   The 26-year-old Overbeck, who was the Phils' 9th round draft pick in 2008, posted a .716 OPS in 133 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year.

Infielder Andres Blanco who played in 120 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year, is batting .167 with a double, a triple and four RBI in 19 games for Magallanes.  Blanco, 28, was recently re-signed by the Phillies.

Mexican League-

Catcher Sebastian Valle missed a little more than a week of action this month, for undisclosed reasons, and has had a tough time heating up since returning to action.  In five November contests, the 22-year-old has just one hit in 16 at bats, dropping his season average to .191.  Valle also has two doubles, two homers and seven RBI in a 14 games for Los Mochis.

Dominican League-

Outfielder Leandro Castro has posted a .211 average with two RBI and a stolen base in 16 games for Oriente.  The right-handed hitting Castro, 23, batted .287 with 10 homers and 71 RBI in 133 games and was an All-Star for Reading in the Double-A Eastern League this year.

Infielder Michael Martinez is batting .080 with a double and four RBI in eight games for Oriente.  The switch-hitting Martinez appeared in 45 games with the big league Phillies in 2012.

Right-handed pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla is 0-3 with one save and a 6.75 ERA in nine games with Escogido.  The 22-year-old posted a 1.55 ERA in 31 combined relief appearances with Clearwater and Reading during the 2012 regular season, but injured himself while horsing around at the MLB All-Star Futures Game festivities in July, then missed the remainder of the regular season.

Juan Morillo has a 3.18 ERA and no decisions in five relief outings for Escogido.  Morillo, a 29-year-old right-hander, pitched for both Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2012, posting a combined 1-2 record with a 5.34 ERA and a poor 67/55 strike out to walk ratio in 40 appearances.

Righty pitcher Hector Neris (pictured, left) had one rough outing for Este in which he surrendered three earned runs in 2/3 inning.  That poor effort has Neris' ERA sitting at 9.00 through four appearances.  The 23-year-old righty posted a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in 50 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater this year.

Lefty pitcher Raul Valdes is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three games with Este.  Valdes had a 2.90 ERA in 27 games with the Phillies this year.

Catcher Steven Lerud made his Dominican debut this past week.  In two games with Este, Lerud, who was 2-for-10 in three big league games for the Phillies this year, has one hit in four at bats.

Third baseman Maikel Franco has appeared in only one game for Cibao, striking out in his only at bat. The 20-year-old slugger batted .280 while slugging 14 home runs and driving in 84 runs with Class A Lakewood during the 2012 regular season.

Juan Sosa allowed three earned runs in an inning of work in his lone appearance for Licey.  The 23-year-old right-hander had a 5-7 record with four saves and a 4.26 ERA in 46 games (five starts) for Clearwater this year.

Australian League-

19-year-old catcher Liam Bedford is 0-for-7 thus far through four games for Melbourne.  Bedford, a native to Australia, was signed by the Phillies in May of 2011 and batted .130 in 19 games with the Gulf Coast League team during the 2012 season.

Tim Kennelly is batting .250 with a double and two RBI in four games as an offensive player, while he has allowed three earned runs in two innings pitched on the mound. 

Infielder Carlos Alonso (pictured, right), a University of Delaware product, is 3-for-17 (.176 avg) through five games with the Brisbane Bandits.  The 24-year-old California native was the Phils' 32nd round draft pick in 2010.

Puerto Rican League (AKA- the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League)-

Julio Rodriguez is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA and a .158 batting average against in three games for Carolina.  Additionally, the 22-year-old has struck out six and walked none in 5 2/3 innings.  In 29 games (22 starts) for Reading in 2012, Rodriguez was 7-7 with a 4.23 ERA and 9.13 K/9.

Arizona Fall League (season ended with Peoria winning the championship on Sat.)-

Outfielder Zach Collier had a very successful AFL season for Peoria, as he posted a .371 average with four doubles, three triples, 10 RBI and three steals in 19 games.

Cody Asche sported a .281 average with 11 doubles, a home run and 12 RBI in 24 games with Peoria.  Asche, a 22-year-old third baseman, became one of the Phillies' fastest rising prospects in 2012, as he batted .324 with 12 homers and 72 RBI in 130 combined games at Clearwater and Reading.

Catcher Tommy Joseph never heated up after missing time in the AFL due to the flu.  The 21-year-old closed out his AFL season with two multi-hit games, to bring his batting average with Peoria up to .204 in 14 games.  Joseph was acquired from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade.

Righty reliever Colby Shreve went 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA with six strike outs and five walks in 10 innings for Peoria.  Shreve was the Phillies' 6th round draft choice in 2008.

The remaining Phillies prospects on the Peoria roster, Jay Johnson, a left-handed pitcher, along with Kyle Simon and Tyler Knigge, who are both righty hurlers, combined to post a 9.30 ERA in 26 total outings.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

PhoulBallz Interview: Zach Collier, AFL Edition

On Saturday, the Peoria Javelinas won the Arizona Fall League championship in a winner-take-all one-game match up with Salt River, following a season in which the club posted a league-best 19-13 record.

Peoria, which was made up of prospect from the Phillies, Reds, Twins, Padres and Mariners, featured many highly regarded prospects. Phils minor league outfielder Zach Collier was among them and was a certainly key contributor all throughout the five-week long season. In 19 games, the 22-year-old California native posted a .371 batting average with four doubles, three triples, 10 RBI and three steals.

Collier, who began the 2012 regular season serving a 50-game suspension following a positive test for a banned substance in 2011, has had a slow rise in the developmental ranks after he was selected by the Phillies in the supplemental first round on the 2008 draft out of Chino Hills High School (CA). Along with missing time this year, Collier sat out the entire 2010 season following an injury to the hamate bone in his right hand, a left quadriceps issue and surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right wrist.

This past week, prior to the AFL title game, I had the opportunity to interview Zach about his time in the AFL, bouncing back from the suspension, his manager Dusty Wathan, his future and plenty more.

- I think this is something I asked you about in 2011, after your injuries, but, coming off your suspension and time missed in 2012, did you feel a greater sense of urgency to make an impact and post some solid offensive numbers?

I felt the need to perform well, of course, but I didn't want to put pressure on myself like I have in the past.

- You performed extremely well in the Arizona Fall League for the Javelinas. Is the competition there what you expected and what do you attribute to your excellent output?

Thank you. The competition was at a very high level and everyone here in the AFL is gifted. It was a blessing to be here and my mindset was to absorb as much as possible and compete the way that I know I can and focus.

- Plenty of players move up to the majors very quickly after participating in the AFL. After setbacks with your developmental time during your career, does being there, in Arizona with many top tier prospects, make you feel closer to the big leagues?

Yes, I have yet to see Double-A pitching until now and I like what I've seen so far. Every pitcher (in the AFL) is a prospect and I feel I have done very well. In my mind, the bigs are not far away at all.

- Presumably, you would begin the season next year with the Double-A Reading team. What do you hear from your AFL teammates and other friends about playing ball in Reading?

They all love it and really enjoyed the experience. As fun as it would be to play there, I don't plan on spending very much time there...

- Dusty Wathan, your manager in the AFL, is Reading's manager now and managed you with Lakewood a few years ago. What can you tell me about playing for Dusty?

Dusty is a great manager, hands down. In my opinion it's super important for players to feel comfortable with the manager and know that he is about making his players better. He does just that. His vibe in the club house and on the field makes it fun and easy to go out and compete daily.

- With the AFL title game on Saturday...how important is that contest, after weeks of hard work?

To me this is huge! I want to win...as always. But, I love this game and the feelings I get. Saturday will be a great day. We grind hard on the daily to get where we are. It will be a great reward to walk away champions of the AFL.

- Coming off a successful 2012, what are your goals for next year?

BIG LEAGUES!
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Superstitions in the Minors: Prominent and Prolific

Phils hurler Tyler Cloyd relies on superstitions
Baseball players are known for being some of the quirkiest of all athletes and, as such, they typically seem to be the most superstitious.

Many people feel that superstitions and sports go hand in hand. The habits and things players believe can bring good luck or serve up bad luck are embedded deeply in the game of baseball.

Some of the best known player activities based on bringing a positive vibe include kooky actions like Turk Wendell's oral habits, which involved the former Cubs, Mets, Phillies and Rockies hurler chewing black licorice while he pitched and brushing his teeth between innings. Some players are big believers in physical routines, like the manner in which Mike Sweeney would enter the batter's box, touching his helmet and face multiple times, or how Nomar Garciaparra would unfasten and readjust his batting gloves between each pitch.

The superstitions that are widely known are those that belong to big leaguers, but there are surely guys in the developmental ranks that have rituals which are just as remarkable.

Most players will simply stick to recurrent methods. Pitcher Ethan Martin, acquired by the Phillies from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino trade, keeps a focus on drinking the same amount of water or sports drink between innings.

Kelly Dugan, the Phils' top draft choice in 2009, focuses on his warm ups and pregame hitting program.

Matt Campbell, the Phillies' 24th round draft pick in 2011, listens to the same playlist of rock tunes to get himself in the right frame of mind and generally prefers to not be clean-shaven on a day he might pitch.

Other players, like Nationals prospect Cutter Dykstra, who describes himself as very superstitious, exhibit a rotating preference of good luck charms, insisting that his actions vary from week to week.  Dykstra often considers the food he consumes among the measures he takes to ensure agreeable production.

"If something works and I've eaten something, you better believe I'm eating it again the next day, if I had a good night. If I didn't, I would stay away from that for a while," Cutter, the son of former big league All-Star Lenny Dykstra, said during a stop in Lakewood, NJ this year. "The clubby here, Tommy, was actually my dad's clubby with the Mets and he asked me what I wanted before the game and I said, 'Tom, whatever's got knocks in it.' So, he's going to surprise me."

Some routines are more pensive. Reliever Ryan Duke, the Phillies' 25th round draft selection out of the University of Oklahoma in 2011, performs a habitual tribute to his late father, prior to every appearance. According to the 24-year-old righty, it is a means of including his dad and knowing that he's watching.

"I just draw a cross on the back of the mound and write a 1-7 on either side of it and my dad's initials underneath it, because he passed away two years ago, so it's a little reminder. And I've got his initials on my cleats, so it's kind of like a shout out thing to my dad," Duke said of the homage.

Along the same lines, highly ranked Red Sox pitching prospect Matt Barnes, a 1st round pick in 2011, makes the sign of the cross on his chest before he takes the mound each inning. The 22-year-old began making the symbol years ago, at a time when he grandfather was ill, and continues to do so each time out, asking his late grandfather to look over him while he's on the mound.

Blue Jays lefty reliever Aaron Loup, who began his 2012 campaign with Double-A New Hampshire, has also sustained a tribute to his grandfather dating back to childhood. The Tulane product, sticks by a motto as a means to keep his grandfather, who coached Loup as a youngster, close and to help his own mental gait.

"There was one thing my grandpa used to tell me all the time and, I guess, it stuck. It was 'LLTC', which stood for location, location, total concentration. I write that underneath the bill of my hat and it's basically what I just go by, when I'm out there on the mound," Loup stated.

Other rituals are less praise or belief based and are instead more quirky. Left-handed pitcher Ethan Stewart, the Phils' 47th round draft pick in 2010, may top the list of unorthodox habits, as the British Columbia native is unable to pitch a ball that he hasn't acquired in a particular manner.

"When I pick up a ball, on the mound, I've got to pick it up through my legs," Stewart declared during an interview this past season. "I switched balls when I pitched the other day and, when I got it (from the umpire), I had to drop it and pick it back up through my legs real quick."

Phillies rookie hurler Tyler Cloyd, who spent much of his 2012 season in the minors, gets a massage from his wife, a professional massage therapist, the night before each start.  In addition to that quality physical routine, Cloyd seems to have developed a physical dependency with one of his other habits and has a piece of good luck clothing.

"I don't know why, it's something I have to do...I always have to pitch with gum in my mouth," Cloyd stated.  "I can't pitch without gum in my mouth. It's weird. I get headaches (if I don't have gum). And I always like to wear the same under (garments) and everything like that. It's always cleaned between starts, of course. There's a couple superstitions in there that I just can't kick."

Infielder Ryan Goins, the Blue Jays' 4th round draft choice from 2009, is another player who's stuck on gum.

"I always chew three pieces of Trident Layers. I'm not gonna lie to you. I like the green apple and pineapple flavor. That's something that I do. I don't know why. I started it last year and it worked out. I kept hitting, so I wanted to keep doing it. The first couple games this year, I didn't chew it and I didn't hit well. So, finally, I got some gum and we're back on the train again," Goins said, admitting that he'll stick with the same gum, even after the flavor has worn out.

Some of the eccentric routines are considerably more common. Phillies minor league pitcher Julio Rodriguez, like so many other players, refuses to step on a foul line, as he enters or exits the field of play. The Puerto Rican born 22-year-old says he must always hop over the line with his left foot.

Toronto pitching prospect Justin Nicolino, a 2nd round draft choice in 2010, wears a rubber band on his right wrist and is compelled to shower and dress at the same time and same manner every start, dressing from left to right.

With plenty of players, such as Phillies rookie first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf, who led all of minor league baseball with 38 home runs in 2012, not buying into luck or positivity brought by habits, a lot of individuals simply feel that what works one day may not help the next day.

Former big league catcher and current manager of Toronto's Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, Sal Fasano, didn't have any habits or routines at all during his playing days. Fasano, a career backup behind the plate, opposed luck and relied on obvious indicators to prepare for a game.

"I really wasn't very superstitious," Fasano stated. "It's easier (to have those) when you play every day, and I didn't play every day. I knew if the sun was out, I was playing, so that's the only superstition I had."

Regarding those that do rely on routines to get by, fans will continually wonder if they really help. Not all of the methods that players utilize to have success will have positive results each and every time out there. What matters a considerable deal in baseball is a player's cerebral approach, so if a little superstition results in a sharpened or enhanced focus, it is beneficial and certainly does work.

Baseball has always been loaded with "head-case" types, so it's no surprise that the number of players that devote considerable amounts of effort to activities that might deliver good fortune seemingly outweigh those that don't do so.  Superstitions are easily a behind-the-scenes aspect of baseball that makes the game that much more interesting for players and fans alike.

Monday, November 12, 2012

PhoulBallz Interview: Tyler Knigge, AFL Edition

Through 10 outings with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, righty reliever Tyler Knigge has posted a 1-1 record with a 7.50 ERA, while striking out 10 batters and walking five over 12 innings.

Knigge, a 12th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2010, took great strides during the regular season, as he tallied a 4-1 record, nine saves and a 0.60 ERA in 34 outings for Class A Advanced Clearwater, en route to becoming a Florida State League All-Star.  He then earned a promotion to Double A, where he tallied a 2.92 ERA with no decisions and two saves in 21 appearances.  Additionally, Knigge, who sports a fastball that has been clocked at 97 MPH, averaged 9.09 K/9 at the two levels this season.

This week, Tyler offered his thoughts on his troublesome AFL stats, his close relationship with top Phils prospect Jesse Biddle, his intentions for the near future and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- Taking a look at your stats out there, through 8 games, your ERA sits at 10.00. What would you attribute the difficult stretch there to, compared to your tremendous regular season with the Threshers and R-Phils?

After coming off the season I had, I was ready for the AFL. When I got here, I quickly realized that these hitters are the best of the best. I can't just beat them all with my fastball. They can hit a 97 mph heater no problem. I'm having to learn to pitch my slider in fastball counts and keep the hitters off balance.

Going through my struggles here is only going to push me harder than ever before. I will rise to the occasion and push myself harder. This experience will not be wasted, but it will be used more as a knowledge base builder to reach my ultimate goal which is the big leagues.


- Are you working on anything new? Mechanics or pitch wise?

My time here is for me to focus more on my slider and make it a big league plus pitch. I have seen great improvement on it in terms of control and movement.


- How did you find out you were selected to play in the AFL and what kind of honor is it to be chosen?

I was just sitting in the locker room in Reading and after one of our games, (manager) Dusty (Wathan) came up to me and said, "Congratulations, you've been selected to pitch in the AFL." It's the biggest honor I've received in professional baseball and I'm honored to be representing, what I consider the best baseball team in Major League Baseball. I want to represent them in the most professional manner possible.


- Would you have pitched in another off-season league, if you didn't go to the AFL?

It was a possibility. When (minor league pitching coordinator) Gorm (Heimueller) and I sat down together, we had talked about it. But I'm glad to be here now.


- There are plenty of Arizona Fall League graduates that move on to the big leagues. Does playing there make you feel any closer to your ultimate goal of pitching in the majors?

Without a doubt it does. Like I said earlier, these hitters are the best of the best. If I want to be the best, I have to beat them. This is prep for the big leagues and I feel I'm getting much needed experience to compete at the highest level.


- You always speak highly of your coaches and teammates. Who has been the biggest help to you during your pro career?

Hands down Jesse Biddle. He's always someone I can bounce things off of. We have a great friendship that allows us to keep each other in check. We are always pushing one another. Along with that, every coach I've had has helped me in some way, whether it be mentally or physically.


-I know you spent last off-season working a job, helping people find work. What are your plans for your off-season this year?

No job this year. Pure baseball. Pure devotion. I expect to play at Citizens Bank Park next year, there's only one way to get there. Work harder than anyone, be better prepared, get stronger. That is I my plan this off-season- become the best.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekly Off-season League Updates, 11/11/12

Once again it's time for the weekly off-season league updates.  Check it out, as we take a tour around the globe for a look at Phillies talents participating in various autumn and winter action.  Statistics are current, through action played on Saturday.
 
Venezuelan League-



Freddy Galvis (pictured, left) has a .315 average with four doubles, one triple and three homers while driving in nine runs in 24 contests for Zulia.  Despite recent reports that Galvis, who turns 23-years-old this week, could be a possible solution to the Phillies' vacancy problem at third base, the switch-hitter has played shortstop exclusively in the Venezuelan League. 

Tyson Gillies returned to action on Saturday, after sitting out due to undisclosed reasons over the past two weeks.  The outfielder, who has dealt with a steady string of injuries since he was acquired from Seattle in 2009, missed nine days earlier in the Venezuelan League season with a hamstring issue.  In eight games for Lara, the 24-year-old Gillies is batting .367 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI.

Darin Ruf, playing mostly left field lately after mixing in some first base and designated hitter in the early going, is batting .244 with nine home runs and 24 RBI in 25 games for La Guaira.  Ruf is not expected to play for the entire Venezuelan League season, which runs through December 30th, but he should continue action into December.

Relief pitcher Justin Friend is 3-1 with a 1.25 ERA and a .182 batting average against in 15 relief outings for La Guaira.  During the 2012 regular season, the righty sported a combined 4-1 record with 25 saves and a 1.33 ERA with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Michael Cisco has a 2-1 record with a 4.40 ERA in nine outings (one start) for La Guaira.  The 25-year-old was a 35th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2008.

Also with La Guaira, J.C. Ramirez has a 1-0 record, a 10.80 ERA and a .400 batting average against in five relief outings.  The 25-year-old tallied a 3-4 record with a 4.01 ERA in 45 combined relief appearances at Double-A and Triple-A this year.

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has posted a .214 batting average with two doubles, a triple and a home run while driving in two runs in 7 games for Margarita.  The switch-hitting 22-year-old was an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League before earning a promotion to Triple-A in 2012.

Edgar Duran has a .320 average with three doubles, a homer and eight RBI in 18 games for Margarita. The 21-year-old shortstop spent the 2012 regular season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, posting a .253 average with seven homers and 49 RBI in 121 games.

Right-handed hurler Manaure Martinez has a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA while walking four and striking out four in six relief outings for Aragua.  The 20-year-old spent time during the 2012 regular season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

First baseman Cody Overbeck made his Venezuelan League debut last week and is 2-for-11 (.182 avg) in three games with Aragua thus far.  The 26-year-old Overbeck, who was the Phils' 9th round draft pick in 2008, posted a .716 OPS in 133 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year.

Lefty pitcher Yoel Mecias has appeared in one game, recording a scoreless 1/3 of an inning for Aragua.  The 20-year-old was signed by the Phillies in December 2010 and made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies (0-2, 2.16 ERA in 14 games) this year.

Infielder Andres Blanco, who played in 120 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year, is batting .167 with a double, a triple and four RBI in 19 games for Magallanes.  Blanco, 28, was recently re-signed by the Phillies.

Dominican League-

Right-hander Lisalverto Bonilla (pictured, right) has a 0-2 record with one save and an 8.53 ERA in seven relief outings for Escogido thus far.  The 22-year-old posted a 1.55 ERA in 31 combined games with Clearwater and Reading during the 2012 regular season, but injured himself while horsing around at the MLB All-Star Futures Game festivities in July, then missed the remainder of the regular season.

Outfielder Leandro Castro has a .188 average with no extra base hits and an RBI in 12 games for Oriente.  The right-handed hitting Castro, 23, batted .287 with 10 homers and 71 RBI in 133 games and was an All-Star for Reading in the Double-A Eastern League this year. 

Infielder Michael Martinez is 1-for-11 (.091 avg) in three games for Oriente.  Martinez has played in 133 total games for the big league Phillies in the past two seasons.

Third baseman Maikel Franco has appeared in one game for Cibao, striking out in his only at bat. The 20-year-old slugger batted .280 while slugging 14 home runs and driving in 84 runs with Class A Lakewood during the 2012 regular season.

Hector Neris has not been scored upon in three relief outings for Este.  The 23-year-old righty posted a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in 50 games for High-A Clearwater this year.

Also with Este, lefty Raul Valdes, who had a 2.90 ERA in 27 games with the Phillies this year, has allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched (3.00 ERA). Valdes will turn 35-years-old later this month.

Juan Morillo has no decisions and a 3.86 ERA while striking out six and walking three through four outings for Escogido.  The right-hander, originally signed as a minor league free agent in May 2011, was reportedly re-signed by the Phillies in recent days.

Juan Sosa allowed three earned runs in an inning of work thus far for Licey.  The 23-year-old right-hander had a 5-7 record with four saves and a 4.26 ERA in 46 games (five starts) for Clearwater this year.

Mexican League-

Catcher Sebastian Valle is batting .235 with two doubles and two home runs while driving in seven runs in ten games for Los Mochis.  Valle, 22, was the Phillies' top ranked positional prospect by many outlets, headed into the 2012 season.

Australian League-

Infielder Carlos Alonso is officially 0-for-11 through three games for the Brisbane Bandits.  The team, however, points out that a questionable scoring decision in Saturday's contest against Sydney could have easily been recorded as a suicide squeeze which would have credited Alonso, a University of Delaware product, with a sacrifice (not an at bat) and an RBI, instead of reaching on an error.  Alonso was the Phils' 32nd round draft choice in 2010.

Tim Kennelly is 3-for-10 with a double and two RBI as a hitter for the two-time defending champion Perth Heat. On the mound, Kennelly has tossed one inning, during which he walked two, allowed an unearned run and struck out the side.

Liam Bedford is 0-for-5 in three games as a member of the Melbourne Aces.  The 19-year-old catcher batted .130 with no extra base hits and four RBI in 19 games for the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2012.

Puerto Rican League-

Right-hander Julio Rodriguez (pictured, left) picked up a win with two scoreless innings of work for Carolina in the second game of their season this past week.  Moved from Reading's starting rotation to the bullpen in August, the 22-year-old sported a 4.40 ERA in seven relief efforts during the 2012 regular season.

Arizona Fall League (all Phils talent plays with Peoria)-

Tommy Joseph is batting .178 with a double and four RBI through 13 games.  The 21-year-old Joseph was acquired from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade this year.

Third baseman Cody Asche is batting .280 with 10 doubles, a home run and 11 RBI in 21 games.  Asche, 22, was the Phillies' 4th round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Nebraska.

Outfielder Zach Collier is batting .339 with four doubles, three triples and eight RBI while stealing three bases in 17 games.  Collier, 22, was the Phils' supplementary round draft pick (34th overall) in 2008.

Righty reliever Tyler Knigge has a 1-1 record and a 9.00 ERA through nine contests.  Knigge, the Phils' 12th round draft choice in 2010, has struck out nine while walking five in ten innings pitched.

Colby Shreve, a right-hander, is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in nine relief outings.  Shreve has struck out six and walked five batters in 10 innings pitched.  Shreve was the Phillies' 6th round draft selection in 2008.

In five starts, righty hurler Kyle Simon has a 2-2 record with a 9.00 ERA and a .382 batting average against.  Simon, 22, was acquired from Baltimore in the Jim Thome trade, back in June.

Lefty Jay Johnson has no decisions and a 9.82 ERA in 10 relief outings.  The 22-year-old Canadian spent some time on the disabled list this year with a shoulder ailment, but posted a 2-1 record with a 4.24 ERA in 33 combined contests at three levels.

Check back throughout the off-season for player updates and exclusive interviews.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast Episode 17

Once again, we're back with another edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast.  On episode 17, Tug and I talk about tons of topics, including big league free agents, Cody Asche, Tommy Joseph, Darin Ruf and other Phillies talents in the Arizona Fall League and other off-season leagues, the World Series, the Triple-A IronPigs' new manager, the rebranding of the Double-A Reading team, the MiLBY awards, pro wrestling as well as plenty more.

Check out the media player below to hear the full episode, or download it by clicking HERE.

You can also check out previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Odds & Ends: Reading's Rumored Name, MiLB Free Agents

Some noteworthy bits of news popped up today, topped by the revelation that the Phillies' Double-A club in Reading, which recently announced an upcoming name change, will reportedly be known as the Fightin's.  Rumors circulated online, early Tuesday, and a post by Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.net confirmed that the Reading team registered some telling domain names, which included ReadingFightins.com, FightinsBaseball.com and ReadingFightinPhillies.com.

This proposed new name is not bad, especially since, in recent days, fans seemed greatly displeased over the team doing away with the Phillies name after using it for 46 years.  Simply using a different form of the previous nickname allows the club to avoid getting too far away from something that so many baseball fans throughout region have grown up with as well as the heritage that local fans love and appreciate.

Using "The Fightin's" does seem silly, however, as Reading's main focus in changing the nickname of the team was to develop their own identity.  Going with a variation of the name and brand they've been affiliated with for nearly five decades does not accomplish such a feat. 

Additionally, BaseballAmerica released their list of minor league free agents on Tuesday.  The tabulation of Phillies minor league free agents includes just one player drafted by the organization, namely outfielder D'Arby Myers (pictured) a 4th round selection in 2006.  Myers, who helped Reading reach the Eastern League playoffs in 2012, is a cousin of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal.  Another pair of free agents, infielder Harold Garcia and right-handed hurler Drew Naylor, were foreign-born amateur signees by the Phillies in 2004.

The remaining list of free agents largely includes players that were veteran minor league free agent signings at a previous time.  Key names among those no longer under contract with the Phillies include infielders Tug Hulett and Miguel Abreu, catcher John Suomi, pitcher Scott Elarton and outfielder Michael Spidale.

To view the full list for all teams, click here.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Reading Abandons Heritage, New Team Name Coming

Reading, also known as Baseballtown, will no longer call its team the Phillies

As you read here first last week, the Phillies' Double-A club in Reading, PA will undergo a full rebranding, which will include a full name change, the team confirmed on Sunday.

The Reading franchise will announce the new nickname, logos and uniforms at an event to be held at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday, November 17th at 12:30 PM.

The upcoming change will end the team's run of 46 years as the Phillies. While Reading will continue its long-standing affiliation with the big league team from Philadelphia, the rebranding will occur in an effort for Baseballtown to develop its own identity. 

News of the team dumping the Phillies name, in favor of the unknown, was met with displeasure from the public, as fans expressed their shock online.

Personally, this was a massive surprise and I was rather disappointed when I learned of the switch last week.  Targeting a new, individual identity at the expense of the one that generations have grown to love certainly presents a difficult situation.  Representatives from Reading's front office must have expected some consumer backlash, but the team seems confident that the public will appreciate and connect with the new nickname.

Early impressions by some who feel the club is abandoning the most appealing qualities of the sport and some of its teams, those qualities being tradition and history, aren't very far off.  Not only have many people in the area always cheered for the Philadelphia Phillies, but they've grown up rooting on the R-Phils as well.  This team has been a part of Phillies heritage for nearly five decades.

I will assert that if Reading allowed its fans to vote on a team name, the way other clubs have done at times, that would unquestionably deliver an overwhelming opinion to stick by the Phillies name.

Discussions on mediums like Twitter and Facebook have delivered ideas for the new nickname, with humorous options like the Rainbows joining more serious concepts with railroad themes.  Join the conversation by offering your thoughts and suggestions in our comments section.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekly Off-season League Updates, 11/4/12

It's time for another edition of our off-season league updates. Each week, we'll take a tour around the globe for a look at Phillies talents participating in various autumn and winter action.

Arizona Fall League (all Phillies talent plays for Peoria)-

Catching prospect Tommy Joseph (pictured left) is batting .152 with a double and an RBI in 10 games. The 21-year-old participated in Saturday's AFL Rising Stars Game, and went 1-for-2 in the contest.  Joseph was acquired by the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade last July.

Third baseman Cody Asche also played in the Rising Stars Game, going 0-for-2.  The 22-year-old has posted a .271 average with seven doubles, a homer and seven RBI through 17 games in the AFL. The University of Nebraska product was the Phils’ 4th round draft pick last year.

Outfielder Zach Collier has tallied a .295 batting average with three doubles, two triples and seven RBI through 13 games. The lefty hitting Collier was a supplemental round draft choice in 2008 out of high school. Collier, who began the regular season serving a suspension for banned substances, posted a .269/.333/.399 line in 78 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2012.

Kyle Simon, has a 2-2 record with a 9.00 ERA through five starts. The righty, who was acquired in the Jim Thome trade from Baltimore, posted a 1.36 ERA through 20 regular season appearances after joining the Phillies organization in 2012.

Left-handed reliever Jay Johnson has no decisions and a 12.00 ERA in eight appearances thus far. The 22-year-old Canadian spent some time on the disabled list this season with a shoulder ailment, but posted a 2-1 record with a 4.24 ERA in 33 combined contests at three levels.

Righty Tyler Knigge is sporting a 7.88 ERA with no wins and a loss in seven appearances. Knigge has walked four and struck out seven in that time as well. The 24-year-old was a 12th round draft pick by the Phillies out of Lewis & Clark State College in 2010.

Right-hander Colby Shreve has a 0-1 record with a 4.50 ERA in nine outings.  The 24-year-old College of Southern Nevada product has tallied a 3.54 ERA with a 7.24 K/9 mark in three regular seasons as a pro since he was selected by the Phillies in the 6th round of the 2008 draft.

Former Phillies prospect Travis Mattair joined Peoria this week, replacing Cincinnati's Donald Lutz, who suffered a broken finger.  "Moose", taken by the Reds in last year's Rule 5 draft, is 4-for-8 through his first three games.  Normally a third baseman, Mattair manned first base for the Javelinas in one game thus far.

Mexican League-

Sebastian Valle (pictured right) is batting .235 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 10 contests for Los Mochis. Valle has played some outfield in the Mexican League the past couple years, to prevent extra wear and tear on his knees, but the 22-year-old has strictly played catcher thus far this season.

Venezuelan League-

Shortstop Freddy Galvis is batting .342 with four doubles, a triple and three home runs through 20 games with Zulia. The switch-hitter is batting .396 from the left side.

Infielder Harold Garcia has been playing some third base for Zulia, but hasn't seen game action since October 20th. The 26-year-old is 4-for-12 with a double and a triple through five contests.  Garcia has missed significant time in each of the past two seasons with injuries.

Outfielder Tyson Gillies, who has been out of action with an undisclosed ailment since October 26th (his second stretch of time missed in this league), is batting.385 with a double, a triple and two RBI in seven games for Lara.  Plagued by injuries since he was acquired from Seattle in 2009, Gillies' recurring hamstring issues are generally a safe bet when trying to figure out why he's on the shelf.

For La Guaira, Justin Friend has a 3-1 record with a 1.80 ERA and a .200 batting average against in 11 relief outings. Additionally, Friend has struck out 10 and walked five in 10 innings pitched. The right-hander, was a minor league Rule 5 selection by the Phillies, from Oakland, in 2010.

Another Phils hurler made his debut for La Guaira last week, as right-hander J.C. Ramirez appeared in two games, notching a win with a scoreless frame against Zulia, then allowing an earned run in 2/3 of an inning versus Aragua.  Ramirez, who was acquired along with Gillies and Phillippe Aumont from the Mariners for Cliff Lee, tallied a 3-4 record with a 4.01 ERA in 45 combined relief appearances at Double-A and Triple-A this year.

Also pitching for La Guaira, Michael Cisco had a rough outing this past week, allowing five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings during his most recent effort.  Cisco, 25, now sports a 1-1 record and a 5.00 ERA through six games.  The right-hander was a 35th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2008 and is the grandson of former Phils pitching coach Galen Cisco

Through 19 games, Darin Ruf (pictured left) has posted a .250 batting average with two doubles, nine home runs and 18 RBI for La Guaira. The 26-year-old righty slugger's HR and RBI marks are tops in the league. Ruf, the Phils' 20th round draft selection in 2009, mashed a club record 38 homers for Double-A Reading and was an Eastern League All-Star in 2012. Ruf has been playing left field and first base while getting some at bats as a designated hitter for La Guaira as well.

Eastern League All-Star second baseman Cesar Hernandez is batting .196 with two doubles, a triple and a home run in 15 games for Margarita. The 22-year-old switch hitter has also stolen a league leading seven bases.

Infielder Edgar Duran is batting .289 with three doubles, a homer and three RBI in 14 games for Margarita. Following off-season finger surgery last year, the 21-year-old defensive wiz spent the 2012 regular season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, posting a .253 average with seven homers and 49 RBI in 121 games.

20-year-old righty Manaure Martinez has a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA in six relief appearances for Aragua. The 6-foot-1 155-pound Martinez spent time during the 2012 regular season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

Left-hander Yoel Mecias has appeared in one game, recording a scoreless 1/3 of an inning for Aragua.  The 20-year-old was signed by the Phillies in December 2010 and made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies (0-2, 2.16 ERA in 14 games) this year.

Dominican League-

Outfielder Leandro Castro (pictured right) is 2-for-10 with one RBI and a stolen base through seven games with Oriente. The right-handed hitting Castro, 23, batted .287 with 10 homers and 71 RBI in 133 games and was an All-Star for Reading in the Double-A Eastern League this year. 

Hector Neris, a right-handed pitcher, has not allowed a run in two relief outings for Este.  The 23-year-old posted a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in 50 games for Clearwater this year.

Third baseman Maikel Franco has appeared in one game for Cibao, striking out in his only at bat. The 20-year-old batted .280 while slugging 14 home runs and driving in 84 runs with Class A Lakewood during the 2012 regular season.

Righty hurler Lisalverto Bonilla has struggled for Escogido. Through five appearances, Bonilla has allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings (14.73 ERA).  The 22-year-old posted a 1.55 ERA in 31 games at two levels during the 2012 regular season, but injured himself while horsing around at the MLB All-Star Futures Game festivities in July and missed the remainder of the regular season.

Australian Baseball League-

Playing first base, Tim Kennelly is 3-for-10 with a double and two RBI for the two-time defending champion Perth Heat. As a pitcher, Kennelly has tossed one inning, during which he walked two, allowed an unearned run and struck out the side.

Infielder Jeremy Barnes has gone 2-for-9 with two walks in three games for Canberra.  In 48 games at three levels of the Phillies developmental ranks this year, Barnes, a Notre Dame graduate, posted a .170 batting average.

Check back throughout the off-season for updates and interviews.

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