Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Asche Promoted to the Bigs, Young's Future in Question

Cody Asche with Reading in 2012
Prior to the start of the Phillies' home series against San Francisco on Tuesday, the Phils announced the promotion of fast rising prospect Cody Asche. The 23-year-old third baseman was the Phillies' 4th round draft choice out of the University of Nebraska in 2011 and has been on the ascent through the minors ever since.

Through 104 games with the IronPgs this season, Asche, who represented Lehigh Valley in the Triple-A All-Star Game earlier this month, is batting .295 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI. Last year, the six-foot-one 180-pounder posted a .324 average with 12 home runs and 72 RBI in 130 combined games with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. In his draft year, the lefty batting youngster broke into the pro ranks with short-season A level Williamsport as a second baseman, although Asche played third base throughout college.

It's unclear exactly how much playing time Asche could get with the Phillies, as the team still has seven-time All-Star Michael Young on its roster, although trade rumors related to Young have been a hot topic around baseball of late. The 36-year-old Young is batting .277 with seven home runs and 32 RBI this season for the Phils. 

To hear the latest PhoulBallz Podcast, which features Cody Asche as a special call-in guest talking about his progress, his future and his baseball card collection as a kid, click HERE.

Minors Rundown: Asche, Biddle, Hanson, Charles, GCL

Cody Asche, photo- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Cody Asche has been on a torrid pace of late. Asche, a University of Nebraska product, is showing more and more that he's ready for a bigger challenge. The 23-year-old lefty batter has gone 14-for-33 (.424 avg) along with three doubles, five homers and 12 RBI in his last eight contests with the IronPigs.

Overall this season, Asche, who represented Lehigh Valley in the Triple-A All-Star Game earlier this month, is batting .295 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI in 104 games.

On the latest edition of the PhoulBallz Podcast, Asche was featured as a call-in guest. When asked when he'll feel ready for the bigger challenge of the major leagues, he said the following:

"Whenever (the Phillies) tell me. That's when I feel like I'm ready. There's a lot of guys in this organization that are really smart and they know what they're doing and they've been through this before with many players, so, you know, I 100-percent trust what they have in store for me and what they have planned for me. So, until they call me and say, 'Hey, you're ready! Let's go do it.', then I'm gonna keep working hard to be the best player I can be."

Lefty pitching prospect Jesse Biddle has had a pair of considerably poor outings in a row for Double-A Reading. On July 23rd, against Binghamton, the Phillies 1st round draft pick from 2010 allowed four earned runs while lasting just 2/3 of an inning. His next time out, against New Britain on Sunday, the 21-year-old surrendered five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. The rough stretch has raised Biddle's season ERA from 3.19 to 3.89.

Class A Lakewood right-hander Nic Hanson has been exceptional since coming off the disabled list with a groin issue. The six-foot-seven 210-pounder has posted a 1-1 record and a 0.72 ERA while striking out 16 and walking two in his last four starts. Overall this season, last year's 16th round draft pick has a 2-2 record with a 2.38 ERA and 7.13 K/9 mark in 16 outings, including a rehab appearance with the Gulf Coast League team.

Also for Lakewood, first baseman Art Charles has had a hot week, going 10-for-26 (.385 avg) with four doubles, two triples and a home run along with 11 RBI over his last six games. Charles locked up a 4-3 win for the BlueClaws against Greenville on Sunday, as he mashed a two-run walk off triple with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning.  The 22-year-old left-handed hitter was acquired from Toronto during the preseason for pitcher Michael Schwimer.

In the rookie level Gulf Coast League, outfielder Wilmer Oberto and this year's first round draft pick shortstop J.P. Crawford rank 1st and 3rd in the league in OPS respectively, with 1.010 and .938 marks. The 20-year-old Oberto, a lefty hitter, has multiple hits in three of his last four games, while the 18-year-old Crawford, also a lefty batter, has swiped four bases in his last three contests.

Monday, July 29, 2013

BlueClaws Quotables: Morandini, Fultz, Carmona, Greene Speak

Prior to Lakewood's 4-3 walk-off victory over Greenville on Sunday, I spoke with a couple of the team's coaches and a pair of players. Manager Mickey Morandini shared his thoughts on several of his players, while pitching coach Aaron Fultz talked about how big confidence is for pitchers and injured hurler Yoel Mecias. Corner infielder Willie Carmona and outfielder Larry Greene Jr. each discussed their improvements at the plate.

Read ahead for all the exclusive quotes straight from Lakewood.


Mickey Morandini...

On guys like Mitch Walding, Chace Numata and Art Charles having trouble keeping their batting averages in respectable ranges-

I mean, the averages aren't good overall. Take Willie (Carmona) out of the mix, I mean, throughout the lineup the averages aren't where they want them to be. In Art's defense, he's hit a lot of balls hard, right at people, so I don't think his average is truly reflective of how he's hit. The other guys are pretty much where they should be, based on what they've done, but, you know, I think their goal is to get to that .250 mark. If they can get to that .250 mark, I think it'll be a successful season for most of them.


On Carmona and his progress at the plate of late-

Yeah, early in the year he was taking a lot of pitches and wasn't very aggressive in the strike zone. We talked to him numerous times about being more aggressive and being a run producer. And about early May, mid-May, he started being more aggressive in the strike zone and started having success with it. And now, heck, he's squaring up to at least two balls a game, driving balls, driving in runs, hitting some home runs. Obviously, he's been a big part in the middle of our offense.


On the upcoming returns of injured BlueClaws Shane Watson (shoulder soreness) and Roman Quinn (broken wrist)-

I don't know about Watson. I don't know what their plans are for him. I haven't heard anything on Shane. I know he's progressing well, I think he's gonna be fine. He's probably gonna do some pitching here in August. That's pretty much all I know. 

With Quinn, we're still kind of up in the air. The hope is he can start doing some baseball related things really soon here. But, they're gonna be real cautious with him, I think. In a perfect world, he'd play the last two weeks as long as he's 100%. If he's not, they'll probably just shut him down and get him ready for instructional league.

I think (Quinn)'s been on the field, but he can't catch with (his glove) hand yet. So, I think they've been working on his throwing a little bit, getting his throwing arm in shape, but he has not been able to do anything with his left hand other than strengthening exercises and things like that.


Willie Carmona...

On his hot two months, as he was batting .347 in June and July heading into action on Sunday-

I'm just riding the wave, I guess. I mean, things started to turn around fast and I've just tried to stay consistent, or as consistent as I can at least.


On if he expected this type of production out of himself last year, when he was drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round-

I've always been a highly confident person. I've always expected the most out of me. So, when I look at numbers like that, to me, it's like that's what I'm supposed to do. That's what I work so hard to do. So, I mean, they are inflated. You can't hit like that your whole life, I mean, you try to at least.


On who has been the biggest help to him, since turning pro-

Without a doubt, (Lakewood hitting coach) Greg Legg. Even when I was struggling, he would always help me. And he would always work on my mechanics and always helped me work on my approach and it's really paying off.


On what the best thing about playing in Lakewood is-

The best thing is- great stadium and great fans. We travel around the Sally League and we, without a doubt, have the best stadium and the best fans. Hands down.


Aaron Fultz...

On how confidence can be really key for pitchers-

For a pitcher, it sounds kinda weird to say, but the more confidence you have, the more you're going to finish your pitch and believe in it. And it just gives you that little extra finish and that finish can be the difference between getting the ball two inches above the knees or two inches below the knees. And above the knees (can be) a double or a home runs and below the knees, it's a ground ball. This game, hitting's the same way, but pitching- confidence it 95% of it, because at this level, most of them have the stuff, it's just being able to repeat it and the confidence makes it easier to do that.


On if there are pitchers (aside from Nic Hanson, who has shown great improvements) that have displayed a solid increas in their confidence levels-

There's several. (Jeb) Stefan's one that pops out. 'Cause, you know, I had a lot of these guys last year (with Williamsport), and just seeing the growth from last year to this year is a big difference.


On the progress and future for lefty Yoel Mecias, who required Tommy John surgery in June after representing the BlueClaws in the SAL All-Star Game-

Yeah, that was pretty disappointing to see him go down. To me, he's (going to be) a big league starter. He's got the arm. Great change up. Big league change up now. His breaking ball needs a lot of work, but he's still 20 years old. So, he really impressed me a lot. I didn't get to see him last year, but what I was this year, was really good.


Larry Greene Jr...

On his average (prior to Sunday's game) sitting at .285 in the second half, which is considerably higher than his .182 mark prior to the All-Star Break-

I'm just keeping my focus up and staying on my grind every day. I mean, just working really hard in the cage and taking what I do in the cage into the game. And it's just been working so far.


On how pleased he is with the improvements he's made with his batting average this season-

I'm really pleased, but it can always get better. So, there's a lot of work to be done and the season's not over yet, so I mean I've got a lot of work to do and I'm just trying to do it right now.


On if he expects to play in the fall instructional league-

Maybe, maybe not. But, um, I think I should. I think it would help me out with my game a little more. If it happens, it happens. If not, I'll just work my butt off in the off-season.


On what the best thing about playing in Lakewood is-

It is (the fans). I mean, I play the game for the kids. It's fun for them and they look up to us and I just try to do my best for them and I like talking to them. They're little stars, so it's really nice here and it's good fans.

Friday, July 26, 2013

PhoulBallz Podcast 34: Cody Asche Calls In, Re-signing Utley, Should Phils Sell?

On the 34th edition of the PhoulBallz Podcast Tug and I are joined by Phils 3rd base prospect Cody Asche, who chats about his success in the minors and potentially changing positions to reach the big leagues.  We also talk about Tug's professional advancements, reports of the Phillies re-signing Chase Utley, Steve Susdorf's major league debut and plenty more.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

PN Roundtable: Re-sign Chase Utley?

Chase Utley, image- Joe Wombough
Over at PhilliesNation.com, we fielded the topic of the Phillies' potentially re-signing Chase Utley, as a report from CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury popped up on Thursday stating the team had begun negotiating with the five-time All-Star on a new deal.


Rumors started flying this morning that the Phillies might be nearing a contract extension with Chase Utley. Is this a wise move for the organization? What combination of years-and-dollars would you be comfortable with the Phillies offering Utley?
Rumors started flying this morning that the Phillies might be nearing a contract extension with Chase Utley. Is this a wise move for the organization? What combination of years-and-dollars would you be comfortable with the Phillies offering Utley?

My answer: It will take me exactly two words to explain why re-signing Chase Utley is a bad idea for the Phillies. Cesar Hernandez. The Phils have a 23-year-old Venezuelan born Triple-A All-Star who is ready for the big leagues at Chase Utley’s position. Hernandez, who is batting .310 with two homers and 29 steals in 86 games for Lehigh Valley this year, has the skills and ability to be a starter at the big league level.

The Phillies can’t hold on to all of their aging stars. With Ryan Howard locked in with an unmovable contract and Jimmy Rollins slated to be around at a fair price, it’s the Utleys and the Ruiz’s that will allow the Phils to trim some payroll while getting younger and improving for the future.


To read the full entry with several answers from our other Phillies Nation writers, click here.

Susdorf Called Up, Brown to Disabled List

Steve Susdorf, image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies have selected the contract of outfielder Steve Susdorf to fill a void on the big league roster left by outfielder Domonic Brown, who was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list.

Through 70 games this year with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the lefty batting California native is batting .335 with 13 doubles, a triple, a home run and 25 RBI.  In six pro seasons, the 6-foot-1 190-pounder has posted a .304 average along with an .802 OPS.

The 27-year-old Susdorf, who has 196 minor league games under his belt in left field, 159 games in right field and 20 games at first base, was the Phils' 19th round draft selection in 2009 out of Fresno State.

In 2011, the Susdorf spoke exclusively with PhoulBallz.com about how he looked up to 13-time All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. and how he admired Chase Utley in an interview that can be heard by clicking here.

Brown, the Phillies' All-Star left fielder, was injured on a diving play in the outfield in Tuesday's contest at St. Louis.

In order to clear room on the team's 40-man roster, the Phillies placed LHP Jeremy Horst on the 60-day disabled list.

In a separate move, the Phillies also announced the released of pitcher Carlos Zambrano on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

PhoulBallz Q&A: Kelly Dugan on Adjusting to Double-A

Kelly Dugan, image- Jay Floyd
This season, outfielder Kelly Dugan has shown why the Phillies once selected him with their top draft choice (2nd round, 2009).  Earlier this season, the California native tallied a .318 average along with 10 homers and 36 RBI in 56 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  Since being promoted to Double-A Reading, the 22-year-old lefty hitter has posted a .274 average with four doubles, a home run and three RBI in 16 games.

In the past Dugan was held back by injuries, but now the youngster is finally excelling in the Phillies' developmental ranks and fully looks like he belongs at the upper levels of the minors.

Recently, Kelly shared some thoughts on transitioning to the Eastern League, having some friends and family checking out his Double-A debut and more.


- I know you had some family in Trenton for your first weekend in Double-A.  Talk a bit about who was there.

Aw, yeah, my dad (movie director Dennis Dugan) and Richard and Beverly Kline (Richard played Larry on TV's Three's Company).  They're friends.  They live in New Jersey, in Orange, so they were just (there) visiting. 


- Was the visit impromptu?  Or was dad planning to be in Florida and changed plans after you were promoted?

No, they were in New York.  They were gonna go hang out over there for a while and they just- it was about an hour drive and they just happened to be over there, so they came down.


- You've had some good offensive success in the early going since joining the Double-A Reading team.  What can you share about that?

Just trying to get good pitches to hit and the pitching, obviously the quality (of that) is a step above, so that means you have to be more disciplined and keep doing what you're doing.


- I know in one of your first couple games in Trenton, you had a fielding error in the outfield.  Obviously, that's going to happen at every level, but is there a greater level of disappointment the higher you go?

No, there's no level of disappointment.  Those things are gonna happen, like you said.  And, you know, you just work on everything you work on in the field.  I take my defense seriously and it's just one of those things.  The grass is really thick here, so I just went after it right away.  I thought I was going to get the guy out at home and, so you don't even think about it.  I just happened and it hit the grass and just sticks like the rough.  If you look at it, the grass here is a lot thicker than the Florida grass.  So, it is what it is. I've got to just work on it. 


- You've got guys on the roster with Reading that you've teamed with before...even guys like Maikel Franco and Colby Shreve this year in Clearwater.  Does having familiar teammates make the transition to a new team or new level easier?

Yeah, I know most of the guys, so I was comfortable right away.  You know, I know most of them.  Some new, but from spring training, I know most of the guys. It's a good group of guys and I'm just excited to be here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Phils 3B Prospect Maikel Franco Video Footage

Phillies third base prospect Maikel Franco has been tearing through the competition at multiple levels this year to the tune of a .322 average along with 21 home runs and 70 RBI through 92 combined games with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading.

The 20-year-old Dominican represented the Phils in the MLB Futures Games last week and is one of the organization's fastest rising prospects.

In reviewing some video clips I shot recently, when Reading visited Trenton, I pooled some footage of Maikel together and that video, featuring some batting practice and a fly out against Thunder hurler Zach Nuding, is in the media player below.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekly Minors Round Up: The Hot List

It's summer and in this scorching July weather, we're focusing solely on the players who've been hot lately in this round of Phillies minor league notes.


Triple-A Lehigh Valley-

Newly minted center fielder and All-Star second baseman Cesar Hernandez is batting .338 along with four doubles, a triple and seven RBI in 17 July games.  The 23-year-old switch hitter appeared in nine games with the big league Phils earlier this season, going 7-for-28 (.250 avg) during that stint.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis has tallied a .375 average with five doubles, a homer and seven RBI in his last 10 games for the IronPigs.  The 23-year-old sported a .207 average in 54 games with the Phillies earlier this season.

Double-A Reading-

In his past eight games, outfielder Kelly Dugan is batting .344 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI.  The 22-year-old lefty hitter has posted a .305/.380/.500 combined line in 70 games at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Reading this season.  Dugan was the Phils' 2nd round draft selection in 2009.

Since posting a 4.09 ERA in nine May appearances, righty reliever Mike Nesseth has allowed just one earned run in 20 1/3 innings (0.44 ERA) in 17 outings.  The 25-year-old University of Nebraska product is pitching in just his third pro season, after he dealt with elbow surgery in his draft year, 2010.

Despite his 0-for-4 effort on Sunday, third baseman Maikel Franco is batting .370 and sports a .970 OPS in 26 games since his promotion to the Double-A level.   The 20-year-old Dominican began the season with Clearwater, where he posted a .299/.349/.576 line in 65 games.


Class A Advanced Clearwater- 

Former big league infielder Matt Tolbert, who began the season on Lehigh Valley's disabled list, is healthy and batting .447 through 11 games with the Threshers.  The 31-year-old went 6-for-12 in four rehab games with the GCL Phillies earlier this month as well.  Tolbert was signed as a minor league free agent last off-season and should be promoted to Reading or Lehigh Valley any day now.

Outfielder Jiwan James is 9-for-30 (.300 avg) with a double, a triple, two RBI and two steals in his last nine games.  The 24-year-old was activated from the disabled list this month after having knee surgery earlier this year.


Class A Lakewood-

Outfielder Larry Greene Jr. is batting .343 with three doubles and three RBI in his last 10 games.  The 20-year-old was the Phillies' 1st round draft pick in 2011.  Overall, the lefty batting youngster has posted a .240 average with two home runs and 23 RBI in 76 games for the BlueClaws.

Righty starter Nic Hanson has allowed two earned runs in 19 innings (0.95 ERA) over three starts since returning from the disabled list (groin strain) this month.  The 21-year-old was the Phillies' 16th round draft choice last year out of Golden West College. 


Short-season Class A Williamsport-

Catcher Gabriel Lino is 14-for-38 (.368 avg) with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI in his last nine games.  In 28 games with the Crosscutters, the 20-year-old is batting .323 with four homers and 23 RBI.

Outfielder Jiandido Tromp is batting .375 with four doubles, a triple and four RBI in his last 10 games.  The 19-year-old Aruba native is batting .300 overall in 20 games this season.


Gulf Coast League Phillies- 

Through 17 games, 20-year-old outfielder Wilmer Oberto is batting .344 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs and 26 RBI.  The lefty batting Venezuelan was signed by the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 17.

J.P. Crawford, this year's 1st round draft pick, leads the GCL in batting with a .391 mark.  The 18-year-old shortstop also has three doubles, a triple and four steals in 17 games.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

LHP Prospect Johnson Proving to be a Great Gamble

Jay Johnson's promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last week was something that at least three other big league organizations thought could never happen.  Now, as he ascends to the top in the Phillies' developmental ranks, the left-handed reliever is just a step from the big leagues and has proved many people wrong.

Drafted twice, Johnson was turned away by the Orioles and Blue Jays, after being selected by those teams in 2009 and 2010 respectively, due to concerns raised with his elbow during physical examinations.  In both instances, the team and player had come to terms on a financial agreement, but the offers were rescinded following the discovery of bone spurs and loose chips in his joint.

The following year the New Brunswick, Canada native worked out for the Mariners at their spring training home in Arizona.  It had reached the point where Johnson was no longer concerned with a monetary agreement, but he instead was willing to sign for much less.  He simply wanted the chance to wear a pro uniform.

"I went out with the Mariners to just try and play and I said, 'I just want to play.  Just let me get a jersey,'" Johnson explained in a recent interview.  "They failed my physical and I wasn't even asking for anything then."

After that third letdown Johnson's college coach, Brian Kubicek, who greatly wanted to see Johnson succeed as a professional, made a phone call to an old friend, Phillies senior advisor to the general manager Pat Gillick.  Before long, Johnson threw in front of a Phils scout in Arizona and was so impressive that he was flown to Clearwater to pitch for a collection of organizational brass.  Soon, despite any concerns over his health the Phillies took somewhat of a risk and a contract was on the table.  Johnson became a pro at long last.

According to Johnson, disappointment was never a factor, as he stayed confident that he'd get his shot to stand atop a professional mound one day.

"I was still playing in between, 'cause I was still going to school in 2009 and 2010 and I always knew that I was capable of playing, so it wasn't a matter of (feeling discouraged), it was just a matter of when somebody was gonna give me a chance to play.  I was never too worried about it.  Somebody was gonna let me play," Johnson said.

As a pro, the six-foot-two 210-pounder has improved each season.  In 2011, Johnson made his minor league debut with Class A Lakewood, posting a 1-5 record along with five saves with a 2.94 ERA while averaging a strike out an inning.  The following year, Johnson tallied a combined 2-1 record with a 4.24 ERA in 33 outings at three levels.  This season, Johnson looks sharper than ever, posting a 2-2 record with three saves, a 2.65 ERA along with an 11.09 K/9 mark.

While the amount of free passes that he issues (six walks per nine innings for his career) is a bit of a concern, Johnson, who was on Team Canada's World Baseball Classic roster this year, could be lefty specialist in the making, as he has held left-handed batters to a .203 batting average against for his career. 

With Reading this year, the 23-year-old tallied a 1.76 ERA after a tough April to earn his promotion.  Johnson credits Fightin Phillies manager Dusty Wathan with helping him achieve success this year by using him in the most ideal spots.  He also feels that building a good rapport with his backstops is a big contributor to how he's excelled in the minors.

"Last year, I got to live with Steven Lerud, he was my roommate.  And this year's it's been John Suomi (who) I go to talk to.  I just try to find a catcher, especially a veteran one, and I just try to pick his brain as much as I possibly can," Johnson said.

The youngster made his Triple-A debut on Friday in a very Jay Johnson-like effort, throwing a scoreless frame while striking out two and walking one.

Just one level away from the big show, Johnson plans to use his snowballed confidence to continue to mow down opponents and defy the odds.  

"I say this all the time: hitters get hot, it's the same, pitchers get hot too and you just gotta stay even keeled and just go about your business and try to be the same."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

PhoulBallz Podcast 33: All-Stars, Cesar's Move, A-Rod & 2009 Draft Class

On the latest episode of the PhoulBallz Podcast, Jay and Tug discuss what you love...baseball!  Topics on the show include the Phillies' All-Star performances including Cody Asche in the Triple-A game, Cesar Hernandez's move to the outfield, Alex Rodriguez's rehab in Reading as well as Kyrell Hudson and the 2009 Phils draft class.  Don't miss this joint.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

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


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PhoulBallz Interview: 1st Round Draft Pick JP Crawford

JP Crawford, screencap- MLB Network
Currently ranking third in the Gulf Coast League in batting with a .372 average, 18-year-old J.P. Crawford is proving that he was certainly ready for professional baseball when the Phillies selected him with their 1st round pick (16th overall) last month.

In 13 minor league games thus far, the lefty batting shortstop from California has also drilled two doubles, a triple and scored seven runs while swiping four bags in seven chances.

Crawford posted great numbers at Lakewood High School, batting .432 in 25 games during his senior season this year and is the all-time leader in hits and runs scored at a school that also produced former Phillies 1st round draft pick Travis d'Arnaud.  Additionally, another Lakewood High product, Crawford's teammate from tee ball through their teens Shane Watson, who is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury in Florida, was taken in the 1st round by the Phillies last year.

With strong defensive skills to go along with his offense, Crawford, the cousin of big leaguer Carl Crawford, is highly touted and is a very exciting prospect.

This week, J.P. took some time to chat on the phone from Clearwater.  Among the topics of discussion were his transition to the pros, his draft experience, a visit to Philadelphia to sign his contract and much more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- J.P., Take me through your draft experience.  I wanted to get your thoughts on the whole process and how did you celebrate once you were drafted?

Before, during the school year, that was the only thing I was looking forward to.  It was super fast too, in a way.  When we got to New York, time flew by and all of a sudden we were in the room.  When they called my name it was unbelievable.  I had never had an experience like that.  And after, we didn't really do anything.  It was pretty late.


- For that trip to the draft, who was there with you?  Was it a lot of family?  Were there friends there along with you?

My whole family went and then my aunt and my grandpa.  My best friend and his family went there too. 

My parents were the only ones right there with me.  Everyone else was out there in the (studio's) outfield and, like, in the stands area.


- After the draft, a week or two goes by, you finished up with school and then you took the trip across the country to Philadelphia to sign your first pro contract.  What were your impressions of Philadelphia, whether it was the team, the area, the fans?

They made me feel right at home.  All the pro people, coming into the clubhouse, I talked to everybody like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and they're good people.  They made me feel really comfortable.  And I know all the fans are, like, die hard baseball fans, so I like that too.


- I know you're pretty tight with last year's top Phils draft pick Shane Watson, as you guys go back to youth ball.  Did Shane give you any advice between the time you were drafted and when you signed that contract?

Yeah, he was telling me stuff, just the standard stuff, like don't say anything dumb on the social media, 'cause that can hurt you.  He just said to get ready for the minor leagues, 'cause it's a grind.


- So, now speaking of that, after last week I know you were leading the Gulf Coast League in batting and the transition to the pros seems to have come easily for you thus far.  Has going from the high school game to the minor leagues been what you expected, maybe a little bit of an easier transition that you expected?

I mean, I thought it was going to be a much harder transition, but I am feeling comfortable with my teammates and stuff and I've just been having fun lately.  That's the big key.


- I know upon breaking into the pro ranks the coaches can be really big in helping guys to adjust.  How helpful have the coaches been in helping you adapt to everything?

They've been really helpful.  If I have any questions, they know the game, they've all played before.  They know what they're doing.  They all know what they're talking about, so I never hesitate to go to them.


- Has anybody been more of a help than others for you, as you've transitioned into the new professional side of this game?  Whether it's a coach, a rehabbing player, or Shane...is there anyone that's made a really good impact on you to help you?

Yeah, Shane's with me right now, in my room actually!  And then Jiwan James, he was in here rehabbing a little bit ago and he's been really good, talking to me and helping me with stuff.


- What are your thoughts on the life, as a pro, away from the game....the schedule, the grind of it all?  What can you tell me about the overall life?

The life takes some getting used to.  You play every day and you're out there and you're just all tired.  And you've just got to get used to it, that's about it.  It's more mental than anything. 


- If you were going to scout yourself, what type of evaluation would you give?

I would say that I'm a good defender and I run well and I can swing a little bit too.  (I) just hit line drives, gap to gap.  And I play hard every inning.


- I don't know if you realize this, but you were taken with the Phillies' highest draft pick in more than 10 years.  When you're a high pick, with high expectations and people might describe you as a potential fast-track type prospect, how would you feel about that?

That's just more motivation for me just to prove it to them.  I'm worth their first pick, so I've got to work my way up there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hudson Leaves Threshers to Pursue Football

Kyrell Hudson, photo- Jay Floyd
Multiple sources have confirmed that outfielder Kyrell Hudson has taken a leave of absence from the Phillies organization to pursue college football.

The speedy 22-year-old was selected by the Phils in 3rd round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft out of Evergreen High School (Washington state).  In parts of five seasons in the pro baseball ranks, Hudson tallied a .224 average with 34 doubles, five triples, three home runs, 66 RBI and 72 stolen bases.  Hudson played as high as Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he batted just .202 in 50 games this season.

Hudson is set to attend junior college in California to restart his career on the gridiron.  As a high schooler, Hudson played quarterback and was a kick returner.

The 6-foot-1 180-pounder was committed to Oregon State as a two-sport athlete out of high school before he signed with the Phillies.

Another Phils prospect, third baseman Travis Mattair, went on the retired list in 2010 in order to pursue his love of another sport, basketball.  At that time, Mattair spent the entire summer with the Boise State men’s hoops squad, but would inevitably return to the diamond and was scooped up from the Phillies by Cincinnati in the 2011 Rule 5 draft.

Of the Phillies' first 20 draft selections in 2009 just six players remain in the organization and only three of those, OF Kelly Dugan, RHP Brody Colvin and 1B/OF Darin Ruf, are playing above A level ball.

PNTV Interview: Mickey Morandini at the Celebrity Hitting Challenge

Recently, Phillies Nation TV headed out to the Class A South Atlantic League All-Star events in Lakewood, NJ to attend the Celebrity Hitting Challenge that was hosted at FirstEnergy Park by the BlueClaws. The "Clawstar Spectacular", as it was called, featured the likes of former players Matt Stairs and Dwight Gooden along with comedian Artie Lange, who were all featured in interviews on a recent edition of our program.

All the footage we collect can't always make the final edit of the show, so there are often clips or interviews we don't use. Among the material that ended up on the cutting room floor from the Celebrity Hitting Challenge was a one-on-one interview with former Phillies All-Star second baseman Mickey Morandini.  In the interview, Mickey, who is now the manager for the BlueClaws, discussed the event, the reactions he gets from fans, looking forward to the 1993 Phillies reunion coming up next month and plenty more.

Check out the media player below for that interview and don't forget to watch new episodes of Phillies Nation TV each Tuesday at 6 PM on The Comcast Network with replays running throughout the week on TCN and Comcast SportsNet.

To see the full June 25th episode of PNTV featuring interviews with Stairs, Gooden and Lange, click here.

Last week's episode featuring my analysis on several different prospects can be viewed by here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Minors Wrap Up: Updates on Asche, Franco, Biddle, Crawford and More

From all throughout the Phillies' developmental ranks, here's our weekly rundown of top performers and those players that have struggled recently.


Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs-

Who's hot...

Cody Asche, image- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Cody Asche had four multi-hit games over a five-game stretch last week, including a 5-for-5 effort against Pawtucket on Wednesday.  The 23-year-old International League All-Star is batting .288 with 10 homers and 56 RBI in 93 games this season.  Asche was the Phils' 4th round draft choice in 2011.

The IronPigs' other All-Star, second baseman Cesar Hernandez, is batting .333 with three doubles, a triple and five RBI in 13 contests this month.  Due to the Phillies' void in center field, as Ben Revere suffered a broken foot over the weekend, Hernandez will not participate in the IL All-Star events, instead, he's been assigned to Double-A Reading to get extra work in the outfield in case the Phils choose to call him up for the second half.  Hernandez has played six total games in the outfield as a pro.  The 23-year-old Venezuelan is batting .306 with 27 steals in 81 games at Triple-A this year. 

Who's not...

First baseman/outfielder/DH Josh Fields is batting just .148 in 10 games this month.  The 30-year-old veteran is sporting a .306 overall average with four homers 33 RBI in 74 games this season with the IronPigs.  Fields was signed as a minor league free agent last November.

Lefty pitcher Tom Cochran didn't make it through the first inning, in his latest start, allowing five earned runs in 2/3 of an innings against Syracuse on Saturday.  The 30-year-old is 3-5 with 5.62 ERA in 14 starts with Lehigh Valley this season.


Double-A Reading Fightins-

Who's hot...

Lefty reliever Jay Johnson is sporting a 1.88 ERA in 28 appearances since April.  The 23-year-old Canadian was signed as a minor league free agent by the Phillies in March of 2011 after he was drafted each of the previous two years and didn't sign due to his failure to pass team physical examinations with the Orioles and Blue Jays.  Johnson is 1-2 with three saves and a 2.80 ERA in 36 games this year with Reading.

Maikel Franco, image- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Maikel Franco is batting .392 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 19 games since he was promoted to Reading from Class A Advanced Clearwater.  Franco went 0-for-2 in Sunday's MLB All-Star Futures Game in New York and even struck out once when he faced his Reading teammate Jesse Biddle.

Who's not...

Jesse Biddle has not won in his last nine starts and has a 4.21 ERA over that stretch.  Despite that troublesome winless streak, the 21-year-old tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Sunday's Futures Game.  Overall this season, the Philadelphia native has a 3-9 record along with a 3.33 ERA and a .202 batting average against.  Biddle was the Phils' first round draft selection in 2010.

Right-handed reliever Hector Neris has posted an ERA of 18.69 in four appearances this month, allowing nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.  Overall, the 24-year-old Dominican has a 3-4 record with a 5.37 ERA in 27 games (eight starts).


Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers-

Who's hot...

Third baseman Harold Martinez is batting .276 in 16 games since the Florida State League All-Star break.  The 23-year-old University of Miami product was the Phillies' 2nd round draft pick in 2011.  The righty hitting Martinez sports a .227 average with one home run and 10 RBI in 50 games with the Threshers this year.

Lefty starting pitcher Mario Hollands has a 1.06 ERA in his last six games.  In 14 games (10 starts) for Clearwater, the 24-year-old has a 4-1 record and a 1.56 ERA.  Hollands was drafted in the 10th round by the Phillies in 2010 out of UC Santa Barbara.

Who's not...

Logan Moore, image- Jay Floyd
Catcher Logan Moore is batting .093 in his last 10 games for the Threshers.  The 22-year-old Colorado native was the Phils' 9th round draft choice in 2011.  Moore is batting .177 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 60 games this year.

Right-handed starter Perci Garner has a 5.77 ERA in seven starts since the end of May.  In his first 10 starts, the 25-year-old had a 2.75 ERA.  Garner was the Phillies' 2nd round draft pick in 2010.


Class A Lakewood BlueClaws-

Who's hot...

Outfielder Jonathan Roof is batting .394 with two homers and 12 RBI in nine games since being moved from Clearwater to Lakewood.  The 24-year-old played as high as Triple-A in the Padres system last year.  Roof batted .282 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 43 games earlier this season with Clearwater.

Outfielder Larry Greene Jr. has posted a .333 average with five doubles, a home run and three RBI in his last 10 games.  Greene, the Phillies' top draft pick from 2011, is batting .231 with two homers and 21 RBI in 70 games this year.  The 20-year-old began this season in extended spring training.

Right-handed pitcher Severino Gonzalez is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts since joining Lakewood's rotation from the Clearwater bullpen.  The 20-year-old Panama native has struck out 64 batters while walking just six opponents in 48 2/3 combined innings at two levels this season.

Who's not...

First baseman Art Charles is 1-for-18 (.056 avg) in his last six games.  In 80 games, the 22-year-old has a .233 batting average with eight homers and 43 RBI.  The lefty hitting Charles was acquired from Toronto for Michael Schwimer during spring training this year.


Short-season A level Williamsport Crosscutters-

Who's hot...

Gabriel Lino, image- Jay Floyd
Catcher Gabriel Lino is 11-for-31 (.355 avg) in his last nine games.  The 20-year-old righty batter is hitting .301 with two homers and 17 RBI in 23 games for the 'Cutters.  Lino was acquired as part of last year's Jim Thome trade, from Baltimore.

Who's not...

Outfielder Dylan Cozens is 6-for-33 (.182 avg) over his last nine games.  The 19-year-old was the Phils' 2nd round draft choice last year out of Chaparral High School in Arizona.


Gulf Coast League Phillies-

Who's hot...

This year's first round pick J.P. Crawford is leading the GCL with a .395 batting average through the first 11 games of his pro career.  The lefty batting shortstop was taken 16th overall by the Phillies out of Lakewood High School in California.

Who's not...

Jose Pujols, a 17-year-old outfielder, sports a .163 average with one home run and three RBI in 13 games.  The Dominican native was signed by the Phillies last July and participated in the Florida Instructional League, following the minor league regular season.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Franco Excited to Represent Phils in Futures Game

Maikel Franco, image- Jay Floyd
You likely won't find a happier minor leaguer than Phillies third base prospect Maikel Franco. The Dominican born 20-year-old is having a tremendous season, has started to become a house hold name and will represent the Phils in Sunday's MLB All-Star Futures Game.  With all that in mind, Franco's ready to put forth his best efforts on a big stage but is still in amazement, at times, of his own output.

Signed by the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 17, Franco has steadily been climbing the developmental ladder ever since, making an impact last season with Class A Lakewood where he started off at somewhat of a slow pace.  The youngster batted .207 with six homers, 27 RBI and a .607 OPS before he turned things up after the South Atlantic League All-Star break. In the second half of 2012, Franco really showed what he can do, as he posted a .346 average with eight home runs, 57 RBI, and a .925 OPS.

Franco, who had never before played in cold weather, cites an adjustment period last year to playing in the northeast in April and May, where the weather is far different from the Dominican Republic and Florida where he had spent those months each year until his appointment to man the hot corner for the BlueClaws last season.

This season, though, Franco has already surpassed last year's home run total, mashing 21 big flies thus far at two levels in 2013.

"That's amazing.  I'm so happy.  Unbelievable.  But I've been consistent here.  I had 14 home runs and now I've got (more than) 20 already, I'm so excited and so happy," Franco said with a proud expression. 

Overall in 84 combined games with Class A Advance Clearwater and Double-A Reading, the 6-foot-1 185-pounder has tallied a .321 average with a .958 OPS.

Of his progress and the recognition of playing in Sunday's nationally televised prospect exhibition (ESPN2 at 2PM EST, live from New York's Citi Field), Franco beams and can't hold back a sizable grin across his youthful mug.

"I feel good. I feel excited because (I) play all the time and practice hard, so I want the fans and the coaches to think about good things for me," Franco excitedly said. "So, I just play hard and it's great if good things come for me."

Franco is slated to serve as the designated hitter for the World Team, a slot he'll gladly accept, despite taking great pride in his defense and feeling that's an equal part of his skill set.

"I give a lot of focus on (that side of my game) because I need my defense too, because I play an important position- third base. I'm focused in, twice. I want to get help every way I can and get better (all around)," Franco stated.

Franco will be joined by Reading Fightins teammate Jesse Biddle, who is ranked as PhilliesNation's top Phillies prospect for 2013.

Biddle, 21, has a 3-9 record with a 3.33 ERA and a .202 batting average against in 18 starts this season.


Watson on the shelf...


Last season's top draft selection by the Phils, Shane Watson, is slated to miss about a month, as he was placed on the disabled list this week with shoulder soreness. The 19-year-old righty had posted a 4-6 record along with a 4.75 ERA and a .230 batting average against in 16 starts for Lakewood this season prior to the injury.

Watson was slated to head to the Phillies' spring training facility in Florida on Sunday to begin a rehab program.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

PhoulBallz Q&A: RHP Prospect Mike Nesseth

After a troublesome beginning (5.71 ERA in 10 games) to 2013 with Class-A Advanced Clearwater, righty reliever Mike Nesseth is having a strong campaign with Double-A Reading this year, posting a 1-1 record with three saves, a 1.96 ERA and a .204 batting average against. With teammate Kyle Simon sidelined with an injury, Nesseth, who stands 6-foot-5 and is listed as weighing 210 pounds, took over the closer role and has been very solid for the Fightins.

The Minnesota native was drafted in the 17th round in 2010, while already recovering from Tommy John surgery.  After a somewhat delayed start to his pro career, Nesseth entered this season with a 3.07 ERA in 53 professional games over three seasons.

I spoke with Mike recently about his change of roles within the bullpen, his boost in velocity, players he looked up to as a youngster and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- Mike, you've landed in the closer role here for Reading recently.  What can you tell me about being the guy the coaches selected to take on that new spot in the 'pen?

I don't try to think of it as much of a closing role, obviously I'm pitching the late innings.  I'll try not to think much of it, between the 7th, 8th and 9th (innings), you still want to do the same things.  Be aggressive, attack the strike zone, execute your pitches.  Obviously, in the 9th inning, depending on the situation, your lead, the batter that's up, there's a few scenarios you'll pitch differently, but otherwise, that's the only difference there is pitching in the 9th inning, I guess.  Otherwise, I'll just stick to what I try to do and that's attack the strike zone, throw strikes, get ahead and try not to walk guys and let them put the ball in play.


- The back innings roles are spots reserves for dependable guys.  Does that help your outlook when, clearly, the coaches have a lot of confidence in you to hand over key relief duties to you?

Yeah, it definitely gives me confidence that they feel that way.  It's a very streaky, streaky game and just like hitters, pitchers; we're gonna have our ups and downs.  We're gonna have our hot streaks.  You know, we just hope our good streaks outweigh the low streaks.  Obviously, I think any of the guys in the bullpen at any time can do the type of things I'm doing.  It's just, right now, that's where I'm at.  It's good to see that they have that confidence in me, so it does give me confidence.


- You had somewhat of a slow start to your career, as you dealt with injuries and a surgery.  Talk about going from that tough beginning to your pro career, dealing with that elbow injury to getting to where you are.

Yeah, it's been- definitely, it was a slow start.  I knew in 2010 I wouldn't even pick up a baseball until maybe late that fall and that was just to start throwing...and I would maybe face hitters in 2011, in spring.  So, it was a long process and I'm very young.  I mean, I'm not young, but I'm young in my professional career, like I haven't pitched (much).  This is my second full season this year and a lot of guys are way past that, at least three, in their third full season.  So, I'm still learning stuff and it gave me a lot of confidence to know that after I'm all healthy, I can get back out there and get back to where I was pre-surgery. 


- I know you've got a teammate, Colby Shreve, who went through Tommy John surgery during his draft year in 2008.  He was in need of surgery at the time of the draft, but he was still selected pretty high, in the 6th round.  Take me through the timeline for you.  Where did your surgery fall compared to the draft and were you selected where you thought you'd go?

My surgery was about six weeks before the draft.  That- I definitely wasn't (drafted) where I expected to be or even where I wanted to be.  I wasn't even close to that.  But, after the surgery I was just so happy to get a chance to play professional ball, you know, and not have to go out with an injury...where the success rate of that injury is pretty good if you have the right surgery and stuff.  So, I was really happy to get back out there and at least have a chance to play professional ball.


- I mentioned Shreve dealing with that same thing.  Was there any kind of communication between you two when you joined the Phillies to help you through your situation?

Yeah, I talked to him- I met him in my first spring training, actually, and that's when I started to get to know him a little bit better and I talked to him about what he went through and stuff like that and now I've played with him for part of two years.  And I lived with him when I was down in Clearwater, so we've definitely gotten closer and, you know, we have a common theme to our professional careers, so I definitely learned some stuff from him and what he went through.


- Your fastball lately has clocked in the mid-90's.  Last year, with Lakewood, I don't recall you throwing as hard.  Have there been any changes to improve your velocity?  And what's the repertoire right now?

You know, from when I was in Lakewood, I did- I increase it a little bit.  You know, when I went down to Clearwater after a little bit in Lakewood, I was consistently more 94/95.  For the most part, if you get the right rest, maybe if you get an extra day, or for some reason you get two days rest, you feel really good out there.  If you get a couple back-to-back days, you might feel a little tired out there.  

It's just fastball, slider, change up and it feels good.  My arm feels really strong right now.  It's this time of the year, you're kind of hitting your peak and you want to be able to ride your peak out and now have too many huge dips and peaks and valleys, I guess.


- I recall speaking with Jake Diekman a couple years back after noticing a similar spike in velocity from between when I saw him with Lakewood versus when I saw him again with Reading.  He described a change of arm angle helping the fastball speed.  Did you do something like that to get that boost in velocity?

Yeah, that definitely makes a difference.  In college, I dropped down my arm slot a lot and my velocity increased by, like, eight miles an hour, just because my shoulder was more free down there and I could get a lot more whip on it and action on it.  Then, when I signed- that was probably the reason I got injured, was part of my delivery, so we really changed it, moved it over the top, but now that I've played, I've kind of found my natural arm slot again, which is lower than when (the Phillies) changed it.  It's more natural and that's what they want.  They just want your natural arm slot and want you to feel good, feel free, so you're not fighting through when you're throwing a pitch.


- It's possible that based on the output, your position in this Reading bullpen and your velocity perhaps it's not too long before people start mentioning your name as a guy that is a potential contributor for that big league pitching staff.  What would that type of feedback mean to you?  And how do you feel about your potential for that?

I mean, obviously, I'd feel good about it.  It would just give me more confidence.  At the same time, I'm not gonna change anything.  I'm just gonna go out there and do the same stuff that I'm trying to do every outing and every pitch I'm out there.  It's kind of a short stint right now, so, you know, I've just gotta be consistent with it and just keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best and hope I, someday, can contribute up there.  Obviously, that's the number one goal, is to get up there.  For me, to get in that bullpen and get into those late innings, that's my number one goal.


- Last thing for you, what players did you most admire, growing up and what was appealing about them?

I was a big Randy Johnson guy when I was growing up.  I just liked his, just his attitude up there on the mound.  He was a big lanky guy, kind of like me.  He was lefty, obviously, but when I was in college I kind of just thought I was the right-handed version of him, just a little bit.  He really slung it in there and I would really drop down, side arm, low three-quarters, just like him but from the right side.  I also liked A.J. Burnett.  I kind of developed some of my mechanics from him too.  His deception, his delivery.  Those are two of the guys that I try to base my delivery off of a little bit, who I looked up to and wanted to have their careers too.

Friday, July 12, 2013

PhoulBallz Podcast 32: Biddle and Wright Interviews

On the 32nd edition of the PhoulBallz Podcast, Double-A Reading starting left-handed pitchers Jesse Biddle and Austin Wright took some time to take part in exclusive interviews.  Additionally, Tug and I talk about 2012 first round draft pick Shane Watson's DL stint, third base prospect Cody Asche's Triple-A success, Kelly Dugan earning a promotion to the Double-A level and Jarred Cosart making his big league debut with the Astros along with a bit of WWE chatter. 

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

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

Lakewood Trio Combines for No-hitter

In his fourth start of the season, Class A Lakewood right-hander Jeb Stefan tossed six innings to start off what would result in the BlueClaws' fourth no-hitter in team history, in a 1-0 victory over the Rome Braves at home on Thursday. Along with Stefan, Dominican righty Ramon Oviedo tossed two perfect frames while right-hander Chris Burgess wrapped up the historic feat with a hitless ninth.

Stefan, 23, was the Phillies' 22nd round draft choice last year out of Louisiana Tech University. In 26 games (four starts), the 6-foot-4 225 pounder has a 3-4 record along with 3.78 ERA and a .228 batting average against.

Ramon Oviedo, photo- Jay Floyd
The 22-year-old Oviedo, who had a 1-7 record along with a 9.15 ERA in nine appearances for Lakewood last season, struck out four Braves in his 2013 BlueClaws debut.

Burgess was a 26th round draft selection this year our of Oklahoma Christian. The 22-year-old transferred from Oklahoma University last year and quickly became a standout performer on the OC pitching staff, going 7-0 with nine saves and a 1.54 ERA while giving up just one extra-base hit in 22 appearances for the Eagles.

Lakewood took a 1-0 lead in 4th inning when 17-year-old outfielder Carlos Tocci plated Jonathan Roof on a sacrifice fly. That score held till Burgess notched the final out. The win was Lakewood's fifth straight.

Lakewood's other no-no's include Keith Bucktrot's seven-inning effort on April 12, 2001, Gavin Floyd's 1-0 nine-inning loss on July 24, 2002, as well as another combined effort from Carlos Carrasco, who went seven innings, and Andrew Barb, who locked down the last two frames of a 2-1 win, on Aug. 13. 2006.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

PNTV: Talking 3rd Base and Catching Prospects

On this week's edition of PhilliesNation TV, I appeared on set with Pat and Corey to chat about several aspects of the Phils' developmental ranks, mainly focused on the third base and catching positions. I addressed the positional conflict that Cody Asche and Maikel Franco might be faced with (which I also wrote about here) as well as exciting backstops Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph

To see the full episode, click here, but you can view clips of the topics mentioned above in the media players below. New episodes of PhilliesNation TV debut each Tuesday at 6 PM on The Comcast Network and replay throughout the week on TCN as well as Comcast SportsNet.




Wednesday, July 10, 2013

RIP Chase That Golden Thunder

Condolences to the entire Trenton Thunder family, as they lost their internationally loved bat dog Chase That Golden Thunder on Tuesday.

The handsome golden retriever made his debut with the Double-A Yankees affiliate in 2002, and went on to entertain countless numbers of baseball fans in the years that followed. Chase had been featured on CNN, the YES Network, ESPN and Japanese television.

The dog's passing came just four days after he was honored in a retirement ceremony at Trenton's Arm & Hammer Park, which was attended by Chase's son and successor Derby along with other blood relations, including multiple grandchildren of the veteran bat retriever.

Chase had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He was 13 years old.

Please see the video player below to view the Thunder's loving tribute video to Chase, which features him in action and visiting the big leagues at Yankee Stadium.

Four Reading Fightins Set for EL All-Star Game

Jesse Biddle, image- Jay Floyd
The Double-A Reading Fightins will have four representatives in Wednesday's Eastern League All-Star Game, which is set to be played in New Britain, CT. Starting pitchers Jesse Biddle and Seth Rosin will be joined by second baseman Albert Cartwright and first baseman Jim Murphy to make up the foursome of Phillies talents in the annual exhibition.

Making their first career All-Star appearances are Cartwright and Rosin, while Biddle and Murphy are each being honored for the second time. Biddle was an All-Star in the Class A Advanced Florida State League last year. Murphy represented Lakewood in the 2011 Class A South Atlantic League game.

The contest will feature loads of top talent from around the EL and Biddle, who has a 3-8 record along with a 3.08 ERA and a league leading 102 strike outs through 17 starts this season, is honored to be listed among that collection of players.

"To be mentioned with the players I'm playing with is unbelievable," Biddle said. "It means a lot to me."

The 21-year-old lefty hurler won't pitch in the EL All-Star contest, as the Phillies prefer to reserve him for a different showcase.  Biddle, along with Reading third baseman Maikel Franco, will participate in the MLB All-Star Futures Game this upcoming Sunday in New York City.

"The Double-A All-Star team, there's some good players in that. It's future big leaguers. The Futures Game is obviously a big deal and it's something that I grew up watching. So, I really wanted to (be in that). Those were two goals that I set for myself going into the year," Biddle declared.

Rosin, 24, was added to the roster late, as an injury replacement. The right-hander, who was acquired from San Francisco in last summer's Hunter Pence deal, is in his first full season as a starter and has tallied a 6-4 record and a 4.13 ERA in 18 games this season. Rosin was a 4th round draft choice by San Francisco in 2010.

The Fightins placed a pitch count on Rosin in his latest start against Trenton on Monday afternoon, to ensure that he'd be able to pitch in the All-Star Game. Rosin threw three innings, allowing one run, for the no decision.

"I wanted to keep going, but Lundy (Fightins pitching coach Dave Lundquist) and the rest of them wanted me to showcase what Reading has to offer in the All-Star Game, since Biddle's not gonna throw," Rosin stated. "It was nice to be chosen to be that representative."

Cartwright, who grew up in the Bahamas, admired All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal as a youngster, since Braves games broadcast on Superstation TBS were his only exposure to televised baseball. At the age of 16, Cartwright moved to the United States to attend high school and to be able to put himself on display for scouts. The 25-year-old was selected by the Astros in the 2007 draft out of college and was later dealt to the Phillies in exchange for left-handed reliever Sergio Escalona.

Thus far in 2013, Cartwright is batting .254 with seven home runs, 27 RBI and 15 steals through 78 games.

Murphy, 27, is tied for second in the EL in homers with 15 and ranks among the top ten in hits, RBI as well as OPS. The righty batting slugger was the Phillies' 17th round draft selection in 2008 out of Washington State University.

Before heading north toward Connecticut, the group of four Fightins got their All-Star break started on Monday night by attending the major league Phillies' 3-2 victory over the Nationals, watching the game from the suite level and dreaming of achieving bigger goals.

Former Phillies pitching prospect Trevor May, who played for Reading last year, will be among the host Rock Cats' six All-Stars. May was dealt to Minnesota last off-season, along with Vance Worley, for outfielder Ben Revere.

Wednesday night's game will get under way at 7:05 PM at New Britain Stadium. Reading's second half begins on Thursday with a four-game series at home against New Hampshire.