Monday, July 28, 2014

BlueClaws Quotables: Imhof, Legg and Lancaster

In this round of exclusive quotes from the Class A Lakewood locker room, I talked with this year's second round draft pick Matt Imhof about working with a new catcher after joining the BlueClaws recently, his boost in social networking popularity after being selected by the Phillies and plenty more.

Also, I spoke with Lakewood manager Greg Legg about the progress of outfielder Dylan Cozens as well as the contributions of "the Andrews", Andrew Pullin and Andrew Knapp. Pitching coach Les Lancaster shared some thoughts on righty hurler Ranfi Casimiro as well.

From my interview with Imhof (check out the feature by clicking HERE, if you missed it) the 20-year-old talked about his surge in online followers after he was drafted-

I got a lot of text messages. I think I got 400 (new) followers on Twitter in about an hour.  It was awesome. It kind of takes a while to set in. You go to bed and you don't really feel any different and then the next day, you're like, "Wow. A lot just happened in the past 24 hours." So, it was a lot to get used to, but it was an awesome experience and I definitely got some more followers on Twitter and Instagram.

Imhof commented on if there was any adjustment period needed when working with a new battery mate-

Knapp did a great job for me. We knew each other a little before. He kind of knew was I was about. He put down the right fingers, I just wasn't executing the pitches the way I wanted to. I kept falling behind, giving them good hitters counts. If you're not going to locate the fastball, then with hitters counts, they're going to take advantage and that's what they did.

Imhof shared details on his pitch repertoire-

Fastball, curve ball, change up. My out pitch has always been my fastball. It's my best pitch. The second one is my slider. It's what I used all college, I was fastball-slider. I call it a slider, I call it a curve ball, it's the same pitch. There's kind of a slurvy break. And then the change up I've been developing. I probably threw it 15 times against Kannapolis, which is the most I've ever thrown a change up in a game, so it's definitely a transition for me.

I asked Imhof when he realized that pitching professionally might be in his future-

Probably the beginning of my sophomore year. My freshman year was just about getting used to college baseball, then I had a really good fall heading into my sophomore year, and my pitching coach pulled me aside and said, "Hey, you really have a good opportunity here." And that was the first time anyone told me they could see me playing professional baseball. And then from there, I put together a really good sophomore year and happened to make Team USA and then it kind of took off.

Imhof spoke of players he looked up to as a child-

I always idolized Randy Johnson. I liked the way he attacked it like that with that bad-ass attitude of, "My stuff's better than you. I'm going to throw it at you!'" I also was a big Andy Pettitte guy. Those two lefties kind of are who I looked up to.


Dylan Cozens, Image- Jay Floyd
Greg Legg offered his thoughts on the 20-year-old lefty batting Cozens who sports a .248/304./418 slash line with 18 steals through 102 games this year-

Cozens has been playing great. Hopefully, he keeps it up for the next 38 or so games. It's been fun to watch him. A lot better at bats, the concentration's there. He's been driving the ball to all fields. A lot of great things.

Legg on Pullin and Knapp, who have been steady producers for the BlueClaws-

Pullin's been real, real steady. A couple hits here and there. His defense has really improved. Knapp comes to play every day. It's good to see him catching and we're gonna catch him two games in a row, then probably DH him or sit him a game. He's been swinging the bat pretty well for us from both sides and he's been catching pretty good too.

Lancaster on right-hander Casimiro (2-9, 5.53 ERA in 20 games), who has a 1.82 ERA in six day games while sporting a 7.19 ERA in 14 night games-

The majority of the games we play are gonna be at night, so he's just not making his pitches. Been leaving them over the plate. He'll go through a period where he'll show you something real, then one or two innings in the game, something happens and he just can't make adjustments to limit the damage.

I asked specifically if there's anything to Casimiro's success in day games while he's struggled more at night-

It's just luck of the draw and everything. You know, it's him being more consistent.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tommy John surgery just part of the game for prospect Mecias

Yoel Mecias, Image- Jay Floyd
As prevalent as reconstructive elbow surgery has become for baseball players, it just comes with the territory, if you ask Phillies lefty pitching prospect Yoel Mecias.

The Venezuela native was an All-Star last year for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws when the team hosted the South Atlantic League's annual showcase of its top players.

As a 19-year-old Mecias was impressive, posting a 4-3 record with a 3.79 ERA with 70 strike outs in 57 innings through 13 outings (11 starts) in 2013 for the 'Claws, prior to being sidelined with an elbow issue that resulted in Tommy John surgery.

As a rising prospect that had begun garnering plenty of attention throughout the Sally League, Mecias was disappointed to have his breakout campaign cut short, but he didn't let the negative feeling settle in too deeply.

"In the beginning the injury was hard on me, but I knew it was all mental. I just tried to take that away. For me, I just had to be patient and just work. It's part of the game," Mecias stated with the help of Lakewood hitting coach Lino Connell, who translated the youngster's thoughts.

Mecias returned to the mound, facing opposing batters in under a year when he made his season debut last month with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. In four starts in the GCL, the six-foot-two 160-pounder sported a 0-1 record with a 4.76 ERA while striking out 10 and walking eight in 17 innings.

According to Mecias, the rehab process is in the past and he's working on getting the rest of his body back to where it was prior to the injury.

"I'm not concerned with the elbow anymore. I feel great. I'm just working hard to get 100-percent in shape overall," Mecias declared.

He's looked sharper since returning to Lakewood, tallying a 1-0 record while allowing a lone run, which was earned, on four hits in 10 innings of work while striking out eight and walking three.

The club's pitching coach, former big league hurler Les Lancaster, has been pleased with the output the resilient Mecias has put forth in two outings since joining the BlueClaws.

"He's just coming off the surgery and everything, but (he) looks good. He's getting stronger each time out," Lancaster said with a bit of pride in Mecias' progress.

The Phillies will watch Mecias, who was inked by Venezuelan scout Jesus Mendez in December, 2010, closely and have mandated per-outing caps on his activity, in order to be cautious with his workload.

"He's gonna go five innings or 80 pitches, which ever one comes first. Last time was five (innings)/80 (pitches), the second time was five (innings)/68 (pitches), so he's done a good job," Lancaster stated.

Phillies fans looking for a bright spot within the system of late should look no farther than Mecias' recent progress.

Ranked highly among Phillies prospects, the athletic looking Mecias throws a fastball that was regularly clocked in the low-90's prior to the injury and a plus change up. He continues to work on his breaking pitch, a slider, which needs some improvement according to coaches.

With things now on the right path for Mecias, he's ready to help the BlueClaws down the stretch for the remainder of the season and has already been prepared for what's next.

"They already told me that I'll go to instructs, so be ready to pitch more after the season," Mecias asserted.

Mecias also said he would possibly pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League if the Phillies allow it, but that may not be likely. A full off-season of rest should be on the agenda for the promising young pitcher before he becomes he buzz of the organization next year.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Second round pick Imhof prepared for transition to minors

MattImhof
Matt Imhof, Image- MiLB.com
When lefty pitcher Matt Imhof was drafted by the Phillies with the 47th overall pick this year, it came as a surprise to the young hurler. The transition to the professional ranks isn't something that has surprised the 20-year-old though, as he feels he knew exactly what to expect.

The Cal Poly product took time after the draft to wrap up his final exams, then headed straight to Philadelphia to sign with the Phils, who weren't really on his personal radar as a team that might select him in the draft until minutes before the pick was announced.

"We were watching from the first pick and I got a call from my advisor at, like, pick 45 and he said, 'The Phillies are going to pick you at 47.' I got that call and let my family know and pick 47 came up and my name flashed across the screen and everyone stood up and screamed and my dad knocked a chair over," an excited Imhof explained.

"There was a level of surprise. I didn't really know who was going to take me, but I hadn't really talked to the Phillies especially leading up to the draft. I had talked to them early, kind of in the fall. They kind of left me alone. Not that they didn't want me or anything, I just didn't know. And it just happened to be that and they said they were hot on me from the beginning. It was just one of those things where they were playing their cards close and it worked out," Imhof added.

The six-foot-five 220-pounder posted a 10-4 record with a 2.45 ERA and an 11.24 K/9 mark in 15 starts this year in his junior season for the Mustangs. He wrapped up his college career sporting an 18-7 record with a 2.68 ERA in 48 games.

Imhof feels strongly that his time at Cal Poly prepared him for what was ahead.

"College was huge for me- the best three years of my life," Imhof said this week after joining the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. "The coaches there kind of developed me into the player that I am today. And, you know, playing at that level of competition, playing in regionals, playing against Cal State Fullerton and some of these really good teams really helps you prepared for the good talent that you're going to face in professional baseball."

Praised throughout his scholastic days as being a hurler with excellent command of the strike zone, Imhof expects to have some hiccups along his path to the big leagues, as he anticipates that, like all minor leaguers, he'll have plenty to learn and adjustments to make, no matter what kind of success he enjoyed through his collegiate career.

"They were messing with the grip on my breaking pitch," an eager-to-learn Imhof stated, describing some of the small tweaks he's been working on with the help of his professional coaches. "Just small things right now. Holding it tighter, changing the finger position, stuff like that."

Imhof, who throws a fastball that tops out at 94 MPH, a slider-curve hybrid and a developing change up, is poised to progress at a steady pace through the developmental ranks. He has already pitched at three levels of the Phillies' system since his pro debut in the rookie level Gulf Coast League less than a month ago.

Through five starts in the minors, the California native sports a 1-0 record with a 1.50 ERA while striking out 16 and walking six in 18 innings. The win was a rain shortened complete game shutout with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters on July 13th that earned him New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week honors.

The changeover from college ball to the pros was definitely something that Imhof was prepared for mentally.

"It was about what I expected," said Imhof. "I knew- I mean, all these guys here are the best college hitters. They get drafted, then they come here and they're the six or seven-hole hitters. So, I knew it was going to be a level up in competition, but I just try to do what I do and that's establish my fastball.

The rate of progression is very likely on pause for now, according to Lakewood pitching coach Les Lancaster, who expects Imhof to remain with the BlueClaws through the remainder of the season, after allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits in three innings of work in his full-season level debut last Saturday.

"I think he's gonna help us out," Lancaster stated. "He just had a rough outing the other day. But I liked what I saw. I think he's going to compete and keep us in games and give us a chance."

Lancaster also added that, despite his workload through 15 starts in his college season, Imhof was not being held to a specific pitch count or innings limit at this stage.

The rough initial appearance with Lakewood was not discouraging for the youngster as he is a smart pitcher who recognizes his own mistakes and realizes what improvements need to be made.

Having already experienced a small dip in velocity during what will turn into the longest baseball season of his playing career, potential for fatigue is not of great concern to Imhof, who feels comfortable and confident as he tries to impress while kicking off his promising career.

"I expect to finish strong. My body feels good, my arm feels good. There's not really anything lagging as far as that. The biggest transition was for me was to go from pitching every seven days to pitching every five now, but we're on a six-man rotation with off days, so I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal for me."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Minor League Notes: Henson, Franco, Fox, Mecias, Others Heat Up

We're back with another rundown of top performers from the Phillies' developmental ranks, with some less than stellar performers mixed in for good measure.


Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs...

Tyler Henson with coach Mickey Morandini
Infielder Tyler Henson is batting .448 with a home run and eight RBI over his last 10 games played. In 90 games this season, the 26-year-old sports a .282 average with six homers and 36 RBI.

3B/1B Maikel Franco has tallied a .365 batting average with nine doubles, two triples, a homer and 15 RBI in 15 games played this month. Franco went 0-for-2 in last week's All-Star Futures Game. The 21-year-old Dominican has a .236/.286/.370 overall slash line in 96 contests this season.

Tyler Knigge let up 10 earned runs over five innings (18.00 ERA) in his most recent four games with the Pigs. The troublesome stretch earned Knigge a demotion back to Double-A Reading this weekend. The 25-year-old sported a 2.69 ERA in his first 11 Triple-A appearances.

Double-A Reading Fightins...

Outfielder Aaron Altherr is 11-for-30 (.367 avg) with five extra base hits over his last nine games. Altherr, a righty batter, has a .255/.309/.416 slash line in 78 games with Reading. The 23-year-old was the Phillies' 9th round draft choice in 2009.

Corner infielder Jake Fox has hit 10 home runs while batting .333 and driving in 31 runs in 34 games with Reading. The righty hitter, who turned 32 years old on Sunday, played in Mexico prior to signing with the Phillies last month.

Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers...

Right-handed hurler Mark Leiter Jr. pitched a complete game shutout on Sunday, striking out eight and walking none in the process. In four games since joining the Threshers, the 23-year-old has a 2-1 record with a 3.46 ERA. The NJIT product was a 22nd round pick in last year's draft.

In eight games since his promotion to Clearwater, lefty reliever Cody Forsythe has posted a 1-0 record along with a 0.75 ERA while striking out 16 and walking none in 12 innings. The 23-year-old was an All-Star with the Class A BlueClaws earlier this season. Forsythe was the Phils' 25th round pick in last year's draft.

Outfielder Roman Quinn had a big day last Thursday, when he notched three hits and drove in five runs, but has posted a .132 average in his last 10 games. The 21-year-old was the Phils' 2nd round draft pick in 2011.  In 48 games this year, Quinn, who missed time following off-season Achilles tendon surgery, is batting .237 with three home runs, 19 RBI and 11 steals.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws...

Yoel Mecias, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty pitcher Yoel Mecias threw five shutout innings while striking out seven and walking three in his return to the Lakewood staff last week. An All-Star with the BlueClaws last year, the 20-year-old Venezuelan, was shutdown last June, after it was discovered that he required Tommy John surgery.

Outfielder Dylan Cozens is 10-for-24 (.417 avg) with a double, two homers and four RBI in his last six games. Overall in 96 games, the 20-year-old is batting .249 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI. Cozens was drafted in the 2nd round in 2012.

Outfielder Larry Greene Jr. is 1-for-23 (.043 avg) in his last seven games. The lefty-hitting 21-year-old, who was drafted in the 1st round and touted for his power in 2011, has not slugged a home run since August 3rd of last season. Greene, who missed time with a wrist ailment this year, has a .184/.264/.264 slash line in 36 games this season.

Short season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters...

Third baseman Jan Hernandez is 2-for-24 (.083 avg) in his last seven games. The 19-year-old righty batter has posted a .172/.252/.338 slash line in 45 combined games with Lakewood and Williamsport this season. Hernandez was the Phillies' 3rd round pick last year.

Friday, July 18, 2014

BlueClaws Quotables: Andrew Knapp on his success at the plate

Last weekend I spoke with catcher Andrew Knapp, who has been one of the most steady bats in the Class A Lakewood lineup for the second half of the South Atlantic League season.

Knapp, at the time, was at the tail end of a 15-game hitting streak, and a stretch in which he hit safely in 19 of 20 games.

The switch-hitting backstop had Tommy John surgery over the off-season and began playing defense about four weeks ago, when the BlueClaws returned from the All-Star break. Prior to that, Knapp had strictly been used as a designated hitter this season.

Through 40 games with Lakewood, the six-foot-one 190-pounder has posted a .270 average along with four home runs and 16 RBI.

Knapp, who was a 2nd round draft pick by the Phillies last year, spoke with me about his recent success at the plate, how the comfort that comes with playing both side of the game helps him as well as some members of the pitching staff he gets to guide.

-On the topic of his recent hot streak...

I haven't really thought about it much. I've just been trying to go out and do the same thing every day. I feel pretty good at the plate. I think getting behind the dish has helped with that. It's taken a little pressure off my offense, just being able to go out there and hit and not have to worry about doing so much because I'm DH'ing, I get to help the team defensively, so that helps a lot.

-Speaking about the comfort level he feels-

I mean, it's really hard to DH every day and when I'm finally getting back behind the plate, getting to be able to focus on some defense, it takes pressure off the offense. And I think, you know, I've been focusing on my defense a lot, so when I go to the plate, I'm just trying to see a good pitch and hit it, so I'm not doing too much at the plate.

-Talking about the pitching staff in Lakewood-

We've got a good staff here. Everybody's been pitching well. I think Tyler Viza's been doing really well. He's a young guy. He's 19-years-old and he's pitching here against some pretty good hitters. I think Jon Prosinski goes out every time, he's around the zone, he gets ground balls. I mean, for the most part we've got a lot of guys that are going after hitters and I'm just happy to be back there working with these guys.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

PNTV: All-Star Edition and Maikel Franco Interview

While big leaguers and the top two levels of the minors were on their All-Star breaks, the Phillies Nation crew continued their season.  In the 17th edition of this season's PNTV, Pat and Corey discuss the MLB All-Star rosters and nominate their mid-season award winners.  Meanwhile, Jay caught up with top prospect Maikel Franco, who pledged to the Phillies fan base that his offense was about to turn around.  Former Phils hurler Tommy Greene also joins the crew for his weekly coaching segment.  Natalie and Ryann also appear with fan questions.

Check out this week's episode in the media player below and catch new episodes each week at 6PM on The Comcast Network with replays throughout the week on TCN and Comcast Sportsnet.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PhoulBallz Interview: Temple Product RHP Matt Hockenberry

Matt Hockenberry, Image- BlueClaws.com
Selected in the 9th round on this year's amateur draft, Temple University product Matt Hockenberry was ready for the challenge of pitching in the professional ranks. Never one to back down from a challenge, the 22-year-old has been focused on proving himself worthy of being a day two pick.

Thus far in eight games in the minors, the six-foot-three 220-pound righty has tallied a 1-0 record with a save and a 3.95 ERA with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and with Class A Lakewood.

I talked with Matt over the weekend. The Hanover, PA native shared his extensive thoughts on his draft experience, adjusting to the professional ranks, the support he's gotten, learning to throw a change up from Cole Hamels and plenty more.

Read ahead for that full interview.

-The Phils drafted you in the 9th round just about a month ago. What was your draft experience like? How were you tracking it?

I was tracking it on my phone and I was at my girlfriend's house because I didn't have cable at my apartment, 'cause everybody had moved out and everything. So, it was pretty nerve-racking because I didn't really have an idea of what round I was going to go in. I had heard potential for free agent signing if nothing happened in the draft.

After we were down in Clearwater for the AAC Tournament with Temple, when I was down there, I got a private invite from Paul Murphy, I think he's the scouting director, and he sent it to my head coach and then my coach relayed it to me. It was the Saturday before the draft started, I went to Citizens Bank Park and I unleashed the beast. I tried to show them everything that I had to try to put on a major league uniform.

While the draft was going on, I still had no idea what round I was going in. I watched the entire first round with the giant hopes, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. Then day two came around and...I wear number 32 all the time, so when pick number 232 came up for the Phillies, I thought, "Let's go! Here's my chance! This is it!" And then it was a high school kid from Tennessee that I met down in Clearwater.

Then the ninth round came up and I almost didn't watch it, but I was watching it on my phone and the Phillies' clock was running out, so I refreshed my feed and nothing had still popped up and I'm thinking, "Oh my God. Hurry up!"

The next thing you know, my name pops up- "Matt Hockenberry right-handed pitcher Temple University". I lost my mind.

-Having those local ties, with college, I know Twitter and whole Phillies fan base went pretty hot for you for a bit. What was that reaction like for you?

I tried my hardest to favorite, retweet, answer everybody that was getting at me through Twitter, through Instagram. Even my phone, I had 17 voice mails, 32 missed calls. At the end of the day, I was texting people so much, telling them, "Thank you so much for supporting me." At the end of the day, I still had close to 100 messages that I hadn't read.

I put out on Twitter, "Everybody, hang in there. I'm getting blown up here. I will get back to you." But, yeah, I mean, I'm a big Twitter guy.

The support that I'm getting, I never thought was there. If you think about it, I've got 87 years of Temple baseball history, after they cut the program, that are following me. With Derek Peterson and Ben White, who are also Temple alumni guys, playing for other organizations. And just the entire city of Philadelphia. I didn't realize how many people in Philly really follow the whole Temple program. And then now that I'm with the neighboring big team, that fan base just kind of carried right over. I don't think this would be as big a story as it is if I were to go to some other organization. Maybe it would be, because the whole Temple program ending and things like that, but the fact that the Phillies saw something in me, as they're right down on the other side of Broad Street, gives some spice to the story.

-You mentioned the Temple program. The news of the elimination of baseball at the school was a big story this year. What does it mean to you to come out of that last team ever and go pro?

It's, honestly, my motivation. When the administration told me, my teammates and my coaches that we couldn't compete in the American Athletic Conference, I mean, we put together an unbelievable season. We didn't go out with the style that we wanted to, we won 16 games the entire year, but we won the ones that mattered, which were the ones in conference that they said we couldn't win. With the program having 87 years of history and that being wiped out from the record books, that's what's really motivating me to push myself to the max.

I love Lakewood. This is a phenomenal place with a phenomenal coaching staff with phenomenal players, but my scout told me, "Don't stay anywhere too long. You want to keep moving up the ranks." When I do any type of conditioning, lifting, throwing a baseball, I just have that little thing in the back of mind that the administration said that I couldn't do it and look at me now! I'm not where I (ultimately) want to be, but they didn't think I could be. And on top of that the 87 years history is just one of those things that keeps me motivated the entire time because those people want to see me go higher and higher and higher and take that Temple baseball the whole way to the top.

-We've acknowledged the adult aged ties to Philadelphia. Did you grow up as a Phillies fan?

I grew up as a Pirates fan because my entire family is from western Pennsylvania. And they're die hard Pirates fans. I've never owned anything besides Pirates attire and I actually tweeted on the day I got drafted that it's time to retire the Pirates cap because now the Phillies are paying me to wear the "P", not the Pirates.

-So, how does that work with the family? I've talked to guys that have come through Lakewood, like Phillies pitcher David Buchanan, who grew up as a Braves fan, about turning his family and friends toward his new side, which can be hard. How are things going with getting friends and family on board with the Phillies?

Well, they're gonna root for the Phillies no matter, just because I'm a part of that family now, but it's one of those things where, going to Temple for four years, I lived in Philadelphia. And when you're in Philadelphia when you turn on any sports channel it's normally the Phillies. Whereas at my house, I turn on any channel it's the Pirates. So, I didn't learn to be a Phillies fan, but my senior year of high school I got the opportunity to work out with Cole Hamels and I mean, that's my Phillies background and now I'm playing on the same field he used to. I mean, that's kind of ironic. He taught me my change up.

Besides that, A.J. Burnett has always been one of my favorite pitchers to watch, partly because he used to be a Pirate and now I got the chance to throw off of Citizens Bank Park's bullpen mound, where he warms up. So, that's kind of special.

I love the city of Philadelphia. I think they've got a great fan base. I think this organization is making the right moves. I've gotten a lot of questions, you know, "How is it different from being a starter in college to being a reliever in the bullpen?" My only answer is, "The Phillies are my boss. Whatever they want me to do, I'm gonna go out there and try to do it to the best of my ability."

They're giving me the change to throw at the end of ballgames, so I'm going to go out there and do that with as much flair and finesse as I can and, you know, get the job done.

-You mentioned spending time with Cole and learning the change up. Where'd that take place and how did that happen?

My high school coach has this really small indoor facility that he uses for his guys to work out in the winter and we can go in there and throw off a mound. It's got a batting cage with one of those pitching machines that throws, literally, every pitch. So, the Hamels Foundation was doing one of those camps and you pay a certain amount and all of the money goes to their causes. And I'm pretty sure Heidi Hamels had e-mailed my coach requesting to use the facility for this camp and he had to tell her, "Sorry, it's not big enough." And he helped them find the place that was big enough.

So, I'm pretty sure the way the story goes is that Cole Hamels told my head coach to see if he had any prospects for college ball or the draft to send them over for the workout and this is a camp for 10 to 12-year-olds and, you know, I'm sitting there, 18-years-old, kind of in awe of it. He was a really nice guy. I got to meet his wife. I got to meet a lot of other guys who were his teammates. I think some of them were in the minors, some of them were in the majors, but he was the main focus.

But, yeah, he literally just showed me the grip and ever since then, I just played catch with it all throughout college and now it's one of my better pitches.

-How much time did he spend with you to have such a result or impact on your career?

Because I was older...he played catch with the younger kids, but I'm the one that had questions, because I was trying to take my game to the next level. I had already committed to Temple University at the time. This was in the winter. We probably spent a solid three hours together. And it was like we were having just normal conversations, I was asking him questions like how do you hold your change up and things like that. I mean, he showed me and that stuck.

When you're a high school kid, taking advice from a major leaguer, you're going to take that into consideration. I just think it's ironic that now I'm a part of the Phillies organization and, hopefully, now I'll use that change up to get up to the major league level.

-You've got some good numbers. Do you think your transition to the pro's has been what you expected?

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect, because I had never done this before. When I got down to the GCL, I didn't know what to expect because there were guys coming in from all over the place. There were free agents. There were international signs. There were draft guys. I was told I was going to Williamsport, so after I didn't go to Williamsport, I was a little discouraged. I thought I was going there. I was ready to get out of Florida, because it's so hot down there. Carlos Arroyo pulled me aside, he's the pitching coordinator, and he said, "Hang tight. We just want to watch you throw more." Him and I worked on some mechanical things with my lower half and I was working on it really hard and the next thing I know I pitched in one game, I had five (strike outs) in 2 2/3 innings and I'm getting the call to come to Lakewood.

Now, I'm doing the same things I was doing down there and I'm having some success. My first outing was a little bit of a transition. I gave up five runs in one inning in Greensboro, NC, right after I got off the plane. So, one- I didn't have my legs under me, and two- I was so excited to be playing for Lakewood that I had the jitters. I was on the mound, probably almost balking, because my legs were twitching and what not. But after that inning, that was a big wake up call and I knew I had to keep working really hard and I think the last five outings that I've had I kept the ball down in the zone, kept runners from scoring, just trying to do the job that the Phillies assign me to the best of my ability.

-What is the full pitch repertoire for you?

Two-seam and four-seam fastball, change up, slider and a curve ball.

I throw a lot of pitches. I think right now I'm struggling with the off-speed command because, like I said, in college, I was a starter, so I was able to get a feel for all my pitches in the bullpen before the game and now, I'm throwing 12, 13, 14 pitches that are pretty much all fastball to get loose in the bullpen before my eight on the field before we get the game started again.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crawford & Franco play on national stage in Futures Game

JP Crawford, Image- Jay Floyd
Two Phillies prospects participated in this weekend's 16th annual MLB All-Star Futures Game.

In Team USA's 3-2 victory over Team World on Sunday, shortstop J.P. Crawford went 1-for-2 with a single and a stolen base for the winners. Third baseman Maikel Franco went 0-for-2, including a fly out with a runner on base for the final out of the game for the losing squad. The contest was nationally televised.

Crawford has tallied a .235 average with four homers and eight RBI in 21 games since he was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater. The lefty batting 19-year-old was an All-Star this season with Class A Lakewood, sporting a .295/.398/.405 slash line in 60 games in the South Atlantic League.

Scouts are very high on Crawford's skills and it's likely he'll begin popping up near the top of national prospect rankings before long.

Franco, began the season with some struggles, but has heated up as of late. After pledging to fans in a recent interview that can be seen on this week's Phillies Nation TV (new episodes air each Tuesday at 6 PM on The Comcast Network) that he was about to turn things around offensively, the 21-year-old has posted a .390/.419/.707 slash line in nine games this month.

Overall this season, Franco is batting .230 with six home runs and 42 RBI in 87 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The MVP of the Futures Game was Texas prospect Joey Gallo, who mashed a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give his team a lead that they wouldn't surrender.

Gallo is batting .307 with 31 home runs and 73 RBI in 85 games this season at Class A Advanced and Double-A.

The 21-year-old was selected by the Rangers 39th overall in 2012, the pick immediately before the Phillies' turn in that draft. The Phils drafted right-handed hurler Shane Watson, who is still sidelined following off-season shoulder surgery.

Former Player Proposes Marriage on the Field in Lakewood

Three's a crowd, Buster...Image- Jay Floyd
For one New Jersey couple a unique meeting at the ballpark led to a new meaning for the term baseball diamond.

Brian Parker spotted the woman of his dreams from the bullpen bench at Lakewood, NJ's FirstEnergy Park on July 9th, 2010. The right-handed reliever for the Orioles affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds wasn't summoned to pitch that night, but it didn't stop him from getting up and going through his usual warm up and stretching routines to inch closer to a young blonde Brick Township native that he felt drawn toward.

"I was acting like I was staying hot, but really I was just trying to talk to her," Parker, a 19th round draft choice by Baltimore in 2007, stated. "I ended up putting my (phone) number on a baseball and we decided to hang out and throughout that whole next year it was back and forth trips between the both of us."

The lady that caught Parker's eye was Kristin VanDeventer, who was enjoying a group outing with her church group, family and friends that night.

Parker, a native of Washington state, would soon move eastward to be closer to VanDeventer.

"We actually did have a long distance relationship. We did see each other a couple times throughout that year. I flew out and met his family in Oregon and after that first year, he actually came out to live with me in New Jersey and we've been living together every since," the dazzled VanDeventer said just minutes after she experienced the surprise of her life.

With Parker's former team, the Shorebirds, visiting, the Lakewood BlueClaws helped to put together a remarkable surprise marriage proposal.

Four years after the couple met at FirstEnergy Park, Kristin's same church group was planning another outing to see a BlueClaws game. VanDeventer was selected as the group's leader and was assigned the duty of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday night's contest.

Parker, who no longer plays organized ball, after three seasons in affiliated baseball and three years with the independent Newark Bears, was disguised in full catchers' gear, including a chest protector once worn by Phillies star Carlos Ruiz.

Nervousness rushed through Parker's body as he was kept out of site from VanDeventer in the opposite end of the home dugout from where she stood on the field, preparing for her pitching task. Every little possible concern and oversight went through his mind.

"What if she recognizes my sneakers? I should have brought spikes," Parker restlessly muttered.

"I'm more nervous now than I was when I pitched on that mound," he shared with a pair of BlueClaws players.

"There she is in the white sunglasses," he gushed, ducking behind players and team personnel.

The entire BlueClaws roster and staff knew what was about to take place and many of them were anxious for the landmark life event that was about to take place.

"I did it in a restaurant with no one watching and I was very nervous. I can't imagine what he's going through," 2010 first round draft pick Larry Greene Jr. said.

"This guy's got some (guts)," Lakewood manager Greg Legg exclaimed.

On the field, Parker caught a strike tossed by the unsuspecting VanDeventer, who was quickly distracted by the on-field announcer. Parker stood from his crouching position, approached the love of his life and took a knee before her and thousands of witnesses. He popped the question. The answer was an overwhelmed "yes".

A pair of familiar faces from the Delmarva side were able to witness the amazing encounter unfold. Ryan Minor, Delmarva's manager, coached Parker in his playing days and current Shorebirds hitting coach Paco Figueroa was once a teammate of Parker. Neither man recognized the incognito prospective groom until after his mask came off

Credit was given to VanDeventer's mother, Mary, the keeper of the original phone number baseball, for assisting with the planning of the group outing and other sneaky details involved with the marriage proposal.

Thanks to some family friends, everything was caught on video and Parker was fitted with a microphone to record audio of the big moment.

"It was one of those dreams I had," Parker shared about where the plan began. "I thought it was romantic and would make it special for her. And since we met here four years ago, I figured this was the only place we could do it, here, on our anniversary. I figured it would be perfect that way."

No doubt, it was.  While he spoke about all that had happened, Parker's new fiancee stood nearby beaming and gleaming with some fresh jewelry on her left hand.

The Shorebirds defeated the BlueClaws by a score of 9-8. There's no firm word from the couple on which team they were rooting for, as, clearly, they both felt like winners regardless of whatever happened on the field after they exited it that night..

Saturday, July 12, 2014

BlueClaws Quotables: Pitching Coach Les Lancaster Speaks on Lakewood Staff

Prior to Class A Lakewood's home contest against Delmarva on Friday, I talked with pitching coach Les Lancaster about several hurlers on the BlueClaws' pitching staff.

Lancaster, who pitched seven season in the majors with the Cubs, Tigers and Cardinals, joined the Phillies as a coach in 2011 after managing in the independent leagues for 11 seasons.

Pitchers discussed by Lancaster were right-hander Yacksel Rios, who sports a 2-0 record with a 3.52 ERA and a .198 batting average against in six starts since joining the 'Claws' rotation, 19-year-old Tyler Viza and his progress this season, Temple product Matt Hockenberry, last year's 24th round pick righy Will Morris, injured starter Drew Anderson, righty closer Ulises Joaquin and the returning 2013 BlueClaws All-Star Yoel Mecias, who is fresh off Tommy John surgery.

Read ahead for Lancaster's comments on the listed topics.

Yacksel Rios-

Yacksel Rios, Image- Jay Floyd
Yeah, Yacksel, I had him last year in Williamsport. He was a starter for me. Started out this year in the 'pen, of course, and we wanted him to work on his secondary pitches. Mainly his slider. So, we decided to put him in the rotation where he'll have some more opportunities and he's really done a great job for us. You know, hitters don't get too good of swing off of him, he hides the ball well. Plus fastball with movement, good change up and the slider's coming along, so, as long as he can contribute and keep throwing those, he has a chance.

Tyler Viza-

Well, he started out the season real good and everything. He's a strike thrower, he comes right at you and everything. He kind of got away from his pitching style...kind of went in a slump, you know, didn't get late in the game...but now, we've got him back on track. The main thing is pitching inside. He's pitching inside more and he throws strikes and we're developing the slider as well. And he's come a long way since midseason.

Matt Hockenberry-

Yeah, Matt, I mean, he's a bulldozer. He comes right at you with everything he's got. He's got four pitches. He throws strikes. We're watching his innings and pitch counts, because he pitched a lot in college and everything, so that's the reason why he's out in the 'pen right now. He'll be a one-to-three inning guy for us. He's done a great job. We've put him in some tough situations and he was able to handle it.

Will Morris-

Yeah, Will, he's definitely given us some quality innings. He's another strike thrower that we count on. Little bit average, below average fastball, but a plus change up, which is really what we call a Bugs Bunny change up, 'cause he just pulls the string on it and that's been a big key for him. Anytime a pitcher can throw strikes with his fastball and command his secondary pitch like that, especially his change up, he has success.

On pitchers' abilities to increase velocity as they progress through the system and if he thinks Morris could be a guy that could add some ticks on the radar gun-

Oh yeah, I think so. I think some of these pitchers here, they haven't reached their potential yet. They're gonna get stronger and everything. And their mechanics are going to improve. They're going to get stronger. Arm delivery and everything and when that happens, something clicks. Whenever it clicks it clicks. Mario Hollands is another example. I mean, he was an 88 to 90 guy and all of a sudden he's 95, 96. I mean, just when it clicks, it clicks and if they can run with it, great things will happen for him.

Drew Anderson-

Well, he just had a little strain in his elbow. He's just starting to throw and everything. You know, they won't rush him back. He's a real prospect for us. Another young kid, fastball's coming along. It was a lot higher than it was last year. I had him last year and it probably jumped up three of four miles an hour this year. His mechanics are getting him back with a consistent arm delivery. And, you know, (he's) somebody that we take high stock in, so they won't rush him.

Depending on how he's doing in his throwing program and if he has any setbacks or not and how much they want to push him, he'll either stay in the GCL and pitch down there or send him out once he's ready. We'll just have to wait and see.

Ulises Joaquin-

He's been a great big surprise for us. Started the season good. Went in that slump a little bit. I think his confidence was a little too high and it brought him down to Earth a little bit and I went and had a long talk with him and, I mean, now he's a total different pitcher. He's throwing strikes consistent
with all his different pitches and everything. Plus fastball, plus change, plus slider. You know, I figure it's just a matter of time before he's gonna get his change to go to Clearwater.


Yoel Mecias-

He's going to start for us. He'll make his first start for us on Tuesday.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Knigge wisely and patiently progressing through the minors

TylerKnigge
Tyler Knigge, Image- Jay Floyd
Being one step away from the big leagues is a scenario that applies to many prospects. For Lehigh Valley reliever Tyler Knigge, what's ahead isn't as important as where he is right now.

A solid outlook and firm understanding of the business have helped Knigge patiently develop his abilities in the minors. With a bit more time, he'll be able to reach the top level of the sport he has played for as long as he can recall.

Since his promotion to the Triple-A level last month, the 25-year-old righty hurler has been one of the IronPigs' most reliable contributors, sporting a 1-1 record with a 3.66 ERA while striking out 17 and walking only one in 19 2/3 innings.

As the set up man with Double-A Reading earlier this season, Knigge notched a 3-0 record with three saves and a 2.12 ERA in 17 contests, to earn a promotion.

A deeper trust in his offerings has been the difference this season for the six-foot-four 215-pounder. Knigge, who was a 12th round draft choice of the Phillies in 2010 out of Lewis & Clark State College, throws a fastball that most often clocks in the mid-90's and mixes in his slider as well as a change up to keep the opposition guessing.

Knigge was a Florida State League All-Star in 2012, when he dominated, holding opponents to a .168 batting average while tallying a 0.60 ERA as well as a 9.07 K/9 mark in 34 appearance. When he moved up to the Double-A Eastern League, things didn't come as easily.

"When I was in Clearwater, you know, I've always had a pretty good fastball and in Clearwater, they had a hard time handling it," Knigge stated. "Then, every level you move up they'll start turning on 95-96. I think last year the balancing factor was that I have to learn to pitch instead of just throw. I learned that the hard way in 2013, giving up a few bombs here and there."

The focused Knigge credits his father Kent, a former college pitcher and current youth baseball coach, with setting him on the right path and providing guidance even from afar.

"He's always there waiting for my phone call after every outing," Knigge explained. "He's been my base, my building block since I was just a little tiny kid. But, my dad has always been there to give me that final push. It doesn't matter if it's Triple-A or tee ball, he's always been there for me."

His proximity to the majors is acknowledged by Knigge's pitching coach Ray Burris, who preaches a "develop first to win later" mentality.

"Knigge, he's coming fast and he's putting himself on the radar," Burris said.

"TK has a lot of ability," Burris added. "The thing he's learning is where his strengths are and where his weaknesses are and how he approaches that day in and day out. The thing that he's done well since he's been here is attack the strike zone.

The Idaho native was on the radar a couple years back as well, when he appeared in multiple games for the Phillies in spring training. This year, there were no opportunities to impress the higher ups on the preseason stage. That apparent dip in status didn't impact Knigge's focus in a negative manner, however. He spun it in a positive way.

"I think the biggest thing I've learned is that they have a plan. Whether that matches up with what my plan is, I mean, it's not up to me. It's up to them and it's my job to sway them in the direction that I want to go. I wasn't discouraged or anything like that. It was more motivation. I need to work harder, I need to improve. I need to show them that I belong and I think I've done a pretty good job of it so far, but I've got to keep it up," Knigge said.

As sensible as Knigge's outlook is, he's still got big goals. He's just taking his career one step at a time, proving himself at each level along the way.

"Obviously, my ultimate dream is to pitch in the big leagues. But, when it comes to that, you can't get too far ahead of yourself. Being too far ahead of yourself can be detrimental and I think, in my head, I'm focused on the here and the now."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trio of Fightins honored as Eastern League All-Stars

Three players will represent Reading in the Double-A Eastern League's All-Star Game later this month in Curve, PA. Infielders Carlos Alonso and Albert Cartwright along with lefty hurler Hoby Milner were honored and will participate in the annual event on July 15-16.

Carlos Alonso, Image- Jay Floyd
Alonso, a minor league Gold Glove winner last season, is batting .271 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 77 games this year. The 26-year-old University of Delaware product was a 32nd round pick by the Phillies in 2010.

Cartwright, who also dabbles in the outfield, sports a .257 average with three home runs, 12 RBI and 15 steals in 71 games this year. The 26-year-old was also an All-Star last season with Reading.

Milner sports a 5-5 record with a 4.55 ERA and a .252 batting average against in 16 starts. The 23-year-old University of Texas product was a 7th round draft choice in 2012 by the Phillies.

The Altoona Curve, an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will host the 2014 Eastern League All-Star Stop, which will feature the Ghostman Games & Hitting Challenge on July 15 before the All-Star Clash on July 16 at 7 P.M. to wrap up the two days of festivities.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Minor League Notes: Franco Leads List of Players Heating Up

Here's a quick stroll through the Phillies' developmental ranks, reviewing some hot and cold performers of late.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs-

MaikelFranco
Maikel Franco, Image- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Maikel Franco has collected nine hits in three games played this month, batting .529 with two doubles, a triple and a homer during those few games. The 21-year-old righty batter sports a .226/.280/.351 line through 81 games this season.  Franco entered this season widely ranked as the Phillies' top prospect.  Tune into this week's Phillies Nation TV, Tuesday at 6 P.M.on The Comcast Network, for an exclusive interview with the young Dominican.

OF Grady Sizemore has looked great since joining the Phils' organization. The 31-year-old lefty batter has hit safely in all seven games played with the 'Pigs heading into Sunday. He is batting .303 with a home run and an RBI.

Newly signed right-handed pitcher Jason Marquis has allowed one earned run in 18 innings of work in three starts (two with Lehigh Valley) while striking out 19 and walking three. The 35-year-old has 14 big league seasons under his belt.

Outfielder/first baseman Darin Ruf, who was activated on Sunday for the IronPigs, went 3-for-23 (.130 avg) with two walks and two RBI in six rehab games with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies last week.

Outfielder Cam Perkins is 4-for-30 (.133 avg) over his past nine games entering action on Sunday. Overall, since his promotion to Triple-A, the 23-year-old Purdue product has tallied a .198 average with three doubles, two triples and six RBI in 27 games.

Double-A Reading Fightins-

Outfielder Kelly Dugan is 11-for-28 (.393 avg) with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI over his last eight games. The 23-year-old was a second round pick by the Phillies in 2009. Through 28 games this year, Dugan sports a .292/.382/.438 line.

Last season's Paul Owens Award winner, RHP Severino Gonzalez is 1-7 with a 5.52 ERA and a 6.90 K/9 mark over his last 10 starts entering Sunday. Last season at three levels the 21-year-old Panama native was 7-5 with a 2.00 ERA and a 10.82 K/9 mark in 25 games.

Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers-

Outfielder Roman Quinn is 10-for-32 (.313 avg) with a double, a homer, five RBI and two steals in his last eight games. Overall in 36 games this season, Quinn has a .259/.338/.333 slash line. The 21-year-old was the Phillies' 2nd round pick in 2011.

Since his promotion to Clearwater, shortstop J.P. Crawford has posted a .233 average with a double, two home runs and five RBI in 15 games. Crawford, last year's top draft pick by the Phillies, posted a .295/.398/.405 slash line in 60 games with Class A Lakewood earlier this season.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws-

Second baseman Andrew Pullin is batting .345 since the start of June after sporting a .232 average through the end of May. The Phils' 5th round draft pick from 2012 is batting .277 with six home runs and 37 RBI through 81 games this season.

Catcher Andrew Knapp enters action on Sunday with a nine-game hitting streak. Through 29 games with the BlueClaws, the 22-year-old Cal product is batting .287 with four home runs and 15 RBI. Knapp was the Phils' 2nd round pick last year.

Outfielder Larry Greene Jr. is 2-for-24 (.083 avg) with one RBI over his last eight games. In 26 games with the 'Claws this season, the 21-year-old is batting .194 with no homers and seven RBI. Greene was the Phils' 1st round pick in 2011.

Short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters-

Outfielder/designated hitter Matt Shortall went 0-for-4 on Saturday, but prior to that he had hit safely in all nine professional games he had played. The 23-year-old is batting .350 with two doubles, a triple, three homers and RBI in 10 games. Shortall was a 10th round pick out of the University of Texas this year.

Righty hurler Mitch Gueller had the best start of his career on Independence Day, throwing seven scoreless frames while striking out five and walking none. Gueller was selected by the Phils in the supplementary round (54th overall) in 2012. Through four starts this year, the 20-year-old has a 2-1 record with a 3.15 ERA while striking out 12 and walking 11 in 20 innings.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reliever Martin focused on return to big leagues

EthanMartin3
Ethan Martin, Image- Jay Floyd
Two weeks between outings last month was not wasted by righty hurler Ethan Martin. Sitting in the Phillies' bullpen allowed the 25-year-old plenty of time to watch and learn.

As the Phillies' long man for a short stretch in June, the 25-year-old appeared in two games. He then waited for a chance to take the mound and face live competition once again, working on the side and staying prepared.

The Phillies' starting pitchers averaged nearly seven innings per outing over the 15 games that occured from when Martin, a right-hander, last appeared in a big league game on June 7th till when he was reassigned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on June 23rd.

The club's bullpen mainstays, namely Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mario Hollands, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus, tallied a 0.62 ERA in that same time frame, covering 30 total appearances.

There was nowhere for Martin, who the Phillies acquired in the 2012 Shane Victorino trade with the Dodgers, to fit in as a reliever with all that success.

"They said, 'We gotta get you in and right now, everybody (else) is on fire.'", Martin explained about how he was approached by coaches in regards to his recent demotion. "It's understandable. I had to come back down here and work on some stuff and get back in the grove."

In four innings of work at the major league level this season. Martin allowed two earned runs on one hit while walking three and striking out four.

During his down time as a member of the Phillies' roster in June, Martin kept his eyes, ears and his mind open, trying to absorb as much as possible from the talented pitchers around him.

"You listen to what they do or watch what they do and talk to them. I mean, they're there for a reason. They're getting paid and they've been there for years for a reason. So, obviously, they know how to do it. Yeah, I try to figure out what they're doing and see what helps them and take that try to fit it into (my) game," Martin said.

One pitcher that Martin looked up to and sought out for insight and assistance was righty Kyle Kendrick. The veteran 29-year-old has steadily been a versatile hurler over the years since he debuted with the Phillies in 2007, switching back and forth from the starting rotation to the bullpen multiple times. Preparation and mindset were among the main lessons Martin picked up from Kendrick, taking on methods from the elder pitcher's bullpen days. Side work. Stretching routine. Mental groundwork.

The Georgia native, Martin, pitched predominantly as a starter until last year, when it was clear that his velocity would decline and production suffered with the more pitches he threw (details on that here and here).

Entering the 2014 campaign, Martin, who was the Dodgers' 1st round draft selection (15th overall) in 2008, had started 101 of his 137 career professional appearances.

"It's obviously a different role than I've been doing the last few years, but I feel like I can handle it, without a doubt. I just have to take time and try to figure out that process of what I have to do day in and day out to be able to perform and throw zeroes every time," Martin asserted.

Martin feels healthy now, but was placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder after his initial Grapefruit League appearance this spring. He missed nearly two months.

Lehigh Valley skipper Dave Brundage is confident in Martin's future as a bullpen contributor and feels he's not far from helping the big club.

"He's still working on (the transition to relieving) and, obviously, coming off the arm soreness and not having his velocity is a little bit different. He's a little bit perplexed, but he's definitely gaining on it and gaining a little bit more arm strength each outing," Brundage said.

Prior to his promotion to the big leagues this year, Martin sported a 1.69 ERA through eight appearances with Lehigh Valley. Since rejoining the IronPigs last month, Martin has allowed 11 earned runs in five innings (19.80 ERA) while walking eight and striking out three in four games.

To climb back up to the big leagues, Martin is focusing on repeating his release point and pounding the strike zone.

"I just gotta bare down and keep going. It's pretty frustrating for me right now. The results are frustrating. I just gotta get the feeling back on the mound. It's just going to take progress and get it back."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

IronPigs Quotables: Coaching Staff Comments on Pitchers

This past weekend I spoke with the coaching staff in Lehigh Valley about several players on the Triple-A IronPigs roster. Check out what skipper Dave Brundage and pitching coach Ray Burris had to say about several hurlers on their team's roster.

JasonMarquis2
Jason Marquis, Image- Jay Floyd
-Brundage on the game plan going forward for RHP Jason Marquis, who has allowed one earned run in 11 innings over two starts in the minors since the Phillies signed him this month.

I don't know. You're talking to the wrong guy. If I was the G.M., or if I was the big league manager, maybe I'd have a different answer. We're gonna run him out there every 5th day and we'll see what we have. I'm sure (the Phillies) were watching they have a pretty good idea of what they got to see. His stuff was a little bit better than what I thought. Then again, he's just been pitching down in extended spring. (Friday) he gets to come up, in front of a bigger crowd and with some adrenaline and he certainly showed he was pretty sharp.

-Burris commented on RHP Ethan Martin, who was recently demoted back to Lehigh Valley after allowing two earned runs in four innings with the big league club this season-

He just wants to pitch. And now, you've got to go out there and pitch and get your confidence back, get your rhythm back, get your consistency back. It's all part of process. And with him, it's understanding what he has to do to control the strike zone. Not command it, but control it. Down in the strike zone. And that's what we've been working on.

-Burris spoke about righty reliever Phillippe Aumont, who had two weak outings for the Phillies earlier this month, but has been reliable with the IronPigs for the most part, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.74 ERA and a 10.42 K/9 in 23 games.

Phillippe has been very consistent this year repeating his delivery. That was the one thing we worked on at the beginning of the year- finding a formula he could use to repeat his delivery. And if he can do that, and throw strikes, that's the name of the game. Now, the results, you're gonna get hit. And, as a pitcher, you have to understand that. I'm out there to put the ball in play and trust my defense. So, it's just a matter of being consistent and putting the ball in the strike zone and using the bottom of the strike zone to get you the outs and put the ball in play. And with that, it's a matter of knowing that that's my job. Trust it and go out there and have fun with it.

-Burris shared thoughts on what Aumont focuses on to keep the walks in check, after struggling with control throughout his career.

That comes with knowing I can throw the ball in the strike zone. My strikes are in my delivery. If I understand how to execute my delivery and repeat it on a consistent basis, I don't have to worry about throwing the ball in the strike zone.

-Burris spoke about Brad Lincoln, who began the season on the big league roster and was a 1st round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2006. Lincoln is 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 11 starts for the IronPigs.

Brad is coming along very well. He's made some adjustments in his approach to his game. And that's what we brought to his attention early, when he came down. But he's gravitated to that. He's a pitcher now. He understands that and now he's having fun even more so than he's realized. And the fact that he was a maximum effort guy and he's worked on taking something off. Learn how to back off, add, back off, add. And he's gravitated to that very well.

-Lastly, I asked Burris which pitchers on the roster that haven't been in the majors this year could help the big club.

In my opinion, all of them could be at the big league level. I don't make that decision when they go or if they go, but that's just the way I approach my job.