Thursday, January 9, 2014

Phillies Notebook: Broadcaster Changes, Spring Invites, Minor Coaching Changes

A news release from the Phillies on Wednesday addressed upcoming changes to the team's broadcast staff, which features the removal of Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews from the television "airwaves".

Wheeler and "Sarge" were often mocked by fans, with the former being hated by viewers while the latter was a beloved character chock full of catchphrases and neat hats.

The Phillies' statement:
As the longest-tenured member of the Phillies broadcasting team, Chris Wheeler will return to his club roots after stepping down from his role as a Phillies broadcaster. With 37 years of broadcasting experience, combined with his front office background where he began his Phillies career, ‘Wheels’ will take on a new role allowing the organization to continue to benefit from his knowledge, experience and dedication to the game. Additionally, Gary Matthews will continue to work with the Phillies bringing his exceptional background as a major league ballplayer, broadcaster and commentator to new roles at the Phillies.
According to reports, the radio broadcast team of Scott Franzke, Larry Andersen and Jim Jackson will remain untouched.

News also came out on Wednesday that five minor leaguers will be invited to big league spring training, Lefty hurlers Jesse Biddle and Mario Hollands, third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Kenny Giles as well as catcher Sebastian Valle will all get time with the big league club.

Biddle was the Phillies' top prospect going into last season. With Double-A Reading in 2013, the 22-year-old posted a 5-14 record with a 3.64 ERA along with a .210 batting average against and a 10.02 K/9 mark. Biddle was the Phillies' first round draft choice (27th overall) in 2010.

Franco, who represented the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Futures Game alongside Biddle last summer, was the organization's breakout star in 2013, crushing 31 homers and driving in 103 runs in 134 games combined at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Franco has spent time playing 1st and 3rd base this off-season in the Dominican Winter League, where he batted .226 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 47 regular season games.

Hollands has been a versatile hurler, pitching effectively in relief and as a starter at several levels of the Phils' developmental ranks throughout his pro career since he was drafted in the 10th round out of UC Santa Barbara in 2010. Hollands sported a 7-3 record along with a 2.86 ERA in 27 games at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading last season. Hollands tallied a 2.45 ERA in eight Venezuelan Winter League outings this off-season.

Giles has made a name for himself with his triple-digit fastball and impressive slider. Primed to be a strong back-end bullpen arm, Giles performed very well in the Arizona Fall League, where, aside from one bad outing, he held opponents scoreless while striking out 16 batters in 10 1/3 innings. Giles missed time last season with two separate oblique strains and sported a 2-2 record with six saves, a 6.23 ERA and an 11.92 K/9 mark in 24 games while trying to stay healthy for High A Clearwater.

Valle, who was previously a highly ranked prospect for the Phillies, hasn't progressed at the desired rate offensively, so the Phillies recently removed the 23-year-old from their 40-man roster. Valle batted .203 with 12 homers and 41 RBI in 98 games at the Double-A level last year. In 46 regular season games in the Mexican Winter League this off-season, Valle batted .304 with three home runs and 15 RBI for his hometown Los Mochis club.

The Phillies also announced some coaching changes at the developmental levels as last season's Class A Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini will become a coach with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, while last season's hitting coach for Lakewood, Greg Legg, will become that team's new skipper. Morandini, a former Phillies All-Star second baseman, began his pro coaching career as manager of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters in 2011 and was the skipper at Lakewood the past two years.  Legg was the BlueClaws' inaugural manager when the club debuted in 2001.

Additionally, Chris Truby, who was the manager of the Clearwater Threshers each of the past two seasons, is set to become the organization's minor league infield coordinator. Truby played in the majors with Houston, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Montreal.

Doug Mansolino, the Phils' previous minor league infield coordinator, will replace Mike Compton was the minor league field coordinator. Mansolino has coached 29 seasons in the pros, including years in the majors with the White Sox, Milwaukee, Detroit and Houston.

Ramon Henderson, who has spent 28 years with the Phillies as a player (1982-1989), a minor league manager and coach (1991-1997, 2009, 2013) as well as a major league coach (1998-2008), will take over as the manager of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers. Henderson, who played in the minors as a 2nd and 3rd baseman, was the Phillies' bullpen coach for 11 years and he previously managed the team's Dominican Instructional League and Class A Martinsville.

Also, former Phillies outfielder Rob Ducey will join the staff at Double-A Reading as the team's hitting coach. The 48-year-old previously coached and scouted for several organizations, most recently with Arizona.

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