Thursday, September 11, 2014

PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 70: Adam Loewen, Dave Lundquist & Colton Murray Interviews

It's Episode 70 and the guys are joined by pitcher Adam Loewen who participates in the inaugural edition of the new segment, "Nine Silly-ass Questions".  The episode also features exclusive interviews with Reading pitching coach Dave Lundquist and Double-A reliever Colton Murray.  Jay and Tug also chat about 2014 season highlights including Kenny Giles, Maikel Franco, Willians Astudillo and Hoby Milner while other topics include Kyle Kendrick as well as the Paul Owens Awards won by Luis Garcia and J.P. Crawford.

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, September 3, 2014

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey talks prospects

Rob Ducey, image- Tug Haines
Prior to the end of the minor league season on Monday, I spent some time with Double-A Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey about several of his players' progress this season.

Ducey, who played in the big leagues with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Mariners, Expos and Angels, joined the Phillies organization as a coach this year.

The former outfielder spoke about the Phillies' collection of rising young outfielders including Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan, Cameron Perkins and Peter Lavin. He also offered insight on talented infielder Carlos Alonso. Read ahead for that full interview.

-Aaron Altherr has an exciting year with time spent at the big league level. What are your thoughts on Altherr's season?

Well, he's obviously in the development part of his career and is trying to iron some things out mechanically, mentally, things that young players go through while they're trying to establish themselves as professional players. I see worlds of opportunity for him going forward. He's got tremendous athleticism, he's got a very good aptitude to work with and he's really good to be around.

-Zach Collier didn't have a great season, but got considerably hot in early August. He's a guy that people had high expectations for, based on being an early round draft pick. What can you share with me about Zach's progress?

Obviously, this being my first year here, I didn't have an opportunity to see him prior to this year, but he's come a long way with the understanding of what he needs to do to prepare to play the game and get ready and compete at this level and, hopefully, at a level higher.

-I've spoken with guys on the team and often times they'll cite Carlos Alonso as a guy that's an exemplary player who really works hard. It may be hard for you, as a coach, to judge or speak on a guy's ceiling, but what do you think about Alonso's future?

Carlos is a grinder. He goes out and plays the game the right way. He's a true professional on and off the field. He goes at it the right way and it wouldn't surprise me that he ends up playing in the big leagues for a long, long time because of the way he goes about it. You know, when you talk about tools, you don't really need to talk about tools with him. He's a baseball player and he knows how to play, he knows how to win, (has) tremendous influence as far as in the clubhouse and with his teammates. It's been really fun to be with him this year, because of all of that.

-I spoke with (Reading manager) Dusty Wathan a couple weeks ago about Kelly Dugan's progress this year, and despite his injuries this year and the power numbers being down for him, Dusty asserted that Kelly was a better and smarter hitter than he was last year. Clearly, you weren't around last year, but what progress have you seen from him from spring training to the time his season ended (with a late season foot injury)?

I think that he developed a bit more understanding of his swing and the angle and path of his bat coming through the hitting zone. He hit a lot of top spin balls and even balls, line drives he would hit, had over-spin and trying to correct that was- for me, the focus of working with him this year was trying to get his ball to have a truer flight and we accomplished that. He hit the ball the other way. He pulled the ball, with truer spin, so in his regard I think we had a very successful season.

-Cam Perkins performed great for you guys this year prior to moving up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where his numbers took a dip. Obviously, he deserved to make that jump, but do you think the lack of production there can be discouraging for him?

Well, I think it's discouraging for anyone, any athlete to go to another level and to feel like you have somewhat control of what's going on then all of a sudden it spirals downward. You know, Triple-A is a different beast. It's a different animal. Then you go, you know, obviously the major league level and it's that much harder. You know, guys know how to pitch. They add and subtract. They find a weakness and they exploit it. And he's got tremendous hand-eye coordination. He's got a really good frame. He's gonna hit for some power and, but he was able to put the bat on the ball while he was here and he reminded me of a young Dale Murphy and I just think that he was very, very good hitting ability.

-Lastly, are there any other players that came through this club this season that made a big impression as having a bright future?

Peter Lavin has had a really, really good year for us and he started in Clearwater. He's a guy, again, that wouldn't surprise me if he ended up on a big league roster as a fourth outfielder. He can run, hit, throw. He's a left-handed hitter. He's got a little bit of power. He goes about it the right way and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he ended up with some big league time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Six others to join Franco as Phils roster expands

Maikel Franco, image- Jay Floyd
As was widely reported on Monday, the Phillies are slated to promote third baseman/first baseman Maikel Franco to the big leagues with the expansion of rosters in September.

The right-handed hitting Franco, who turned 22-years-old last week, pledged in an interview for Phillies Nation's television program in late June that he was about to turn on the offense and he came through on that promise. After sporting a .209 average with 22 extra base hits in 78 games through the end of June, the Dominican Republic native tallied a .324 average with 31 extra base hits in the 55 games that followed for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Also joining Franco among players moving from the IronPigs to the majors are relievers Mike Adams, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Luis Garcia, utility man Cesar Hernandez, catcher Cameron Rupp and outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr.

The righty Adams had been rehabbing an injured throwing shoulder after being sidelined in early June. The 36-year-old allowed an earned run in three innings of work over three appearances with the Pigs dating back to last Tuesday.

Gonzalez, a Cuba native, made news last year when he was signed to a three-year contract worth $12 million last year. The 27-year-old, who has been steadily clocked in the mid-90's with his fastball this year, pitched at three levels of the developmental ranks this season. In 31 games, Gonzalez posted a combined 0-4 record with seven saves and a 3.11 ERA while striking out 54 batters and walking 26 over 46 1/3 innings.

Garcia was a beast for the IronPigs this season, posting a 2-1 record with 22 saves, a 0.96 ERA and a 10.03 K/9 mark. The 27-year-old right-hander appeared in four games with the Phillies earlier this season, but allowed eight earned run in 5 2/3 innings (12.71 ERA).

Hernandez, who also spent some time in the big leagues this season, batted .225 with a .556 OPS in 52 games with the Phillies this season. Additionally, the 24-year-old switch hitter put together a .290 average with a .751 OPS in 66 minor league contests at two levels this season.

Rupp, the Phillies' third round draft pick from 2010, batted .165 with six homers and 19 RBI in 56 games for Lehigh Valley this season. The 25-year-old has posted a .211 average with eight RBI in 21 big league games.

Gwynn was with the Phillies through much of the season before being designated for assignment in July. In 20 games with Lehigh Valley, the 31-year-old batted .290 with a home run and seven RBI.

The group is expected to join the Phillies as they continue their series in Atlanta on Tuesday.

MLB rosters expand from a 25-man maximum to the entire 40-man roster on September 1st. The minor league regular season ended on Monday.

Monday, September 1, 2014

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Colton Murray

Colton Murray, image- Tug Haines
This season right-hander Colton Murray made some solid impressions, earning his way to Double-A and solidifying himself as a key piece at the back end of the club's bullpen.

A 13th round pick from 2011, Murray had spent time with the big league club in spring training each of the previous two seasons prior to this year. Following a 2013 campaign in which he tallied a 5-7 record with 11 saves and a 5.07 ERA in 47 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers. Those efforts were not enough to earn an invitation back to big league spring training this year. However, with the numbers he posted this season, the 24-year-old Murray is likely a lock to be among pitchers showing up early to big league camp next year.

Following 11 appearances while posting a 2.04 ERA with Clearwater this year, Murray, whose fastball is regularly clocked around 95 MPH, was promoted to Double-A Reading where he sported a 1-5 record with six saves, a 2.29 ERA and a 9.15 K/9 mark.

This weekend, I spoke with Colton about his season, his relationship with former teammate Kenny Giles and more. Read ahead for that interview.

-You've had a really nice season. What's your level of satisfaction with your 2014 campaign?

I'm really satisfied with it. I mean, I feel like I had a really good year. I feel like I had a complete turnaround of last year and I feel like I've shown the organization who I am and what I have to offer.

-You've spent some time with the big league club in spring training in previous seasons. How do you feel like that time spent there around some of the big league veterans might help you in the long run?

It was a lot of fun and it's a great experience for guys like me just to be around those guys and be able to speak to them. Being in the bullpen, you're just able to talk a lot to the guys and get inside their heads a little bit. It's great seeing (Jake) Diekman and stuff and talking to him.

-I spoke with pitching coach Dave Lundquist about you recently and he described you as possessing desirable or exemplary qualities for a reliever. When your coaches have that level of confidence in you, what does that mean to you?

It's a little bit of a confidence booster, but it's the words that are said from him to me that mean the most, not what he tells reporters or whatever. But, more so, just the advice he gives me, not just the compliments. More so, learning from what he has to say and going off all that.

-Aside from Lundy and Diekman, are there any other guys in the Phillies organization that have helped you or made solid impressions on you?

The biggest impression is the guy I talk to everyday, (Kenny) Giles. I talk to him all the time, so just hearing from him and his experiences up there is different than from anybody else that I could talk to, 'cause I've been with him since day one. He was my instructs roommate and stuff like that so, I've learned a lot from him.

-Is your repertoire anything like his, with the fastball/slider combo?

I'm fastball, curve ball, and now a slider, cutter, two-seam. Whatever. I throw a lot more pitches. He's got crazy velocity, with his slider it's a 92 mile per house freakin' curve ball half the time. I tried to teach him a change up by sending him pictures. We were in Erie and he asked me for a change up grip and I had to send him pictures of my grip. Obviously, he's not throwing a change up, up there, but you know...our repertoires aren't the same, but our attitudes on the mound- definitely.

-Kenny's a guy that gets a kick out of his high velocity. You've got some great velocity yourself. Is that something you find yourself getting pumped up for?

I'm more of a fuel by aggression guy. The more tense I am on the mound, the better I pitch. My reactions aren't going to be different than most. I like seeing the batter react to the pitch. Like, out of frustration. All that does is make me kind of smirk and I realize I have them, if they start doing stuff like that.

-Were there any pitchers you looked up to prior to turning pro that you liked a lot or wanted to emulate?

No, not really. The guys I remember throwing growing up are always the wrong guys. The guys I remember are, like, John Rocker. Just the intimidation factor that he gave out on the mound. Even before he reached the mound. obviously, his sprint. I was a big fan of the Royals and I was always sad seeing our guys go. Every player that was good went to another team, so I got frustrated.

-So, who were you into as a youngster? Beltran?

Carlos Beltran. He was my first rookie card, my first signed bat. I followed him till he left then I was pretty much done. Lima time came around, but...