Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Threshers Quotables: OF Jiandido Tromp talks recent success

tromp
Tromp, image- Jay Floyd
Clearwater Threshers outfielder Jiandido Tromp has been a key contributor as he helps to lead his team's offense in the chase of a Florida State League playoff berth.

With seven games remaining in the regular season schedule, the Threshers are three games behind division leading Dunedin for the second half North division title.

In 54 games since he was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in June, the 22-year-old Aruba native sports a .242 average with 12 doubles, a triple, nine home runs and 31 RBI.

This week I spoke with the righty batting Tromp about how he's helping make Clearwater great again with his recent success (seven RBI in the last four games), the team's postseason hopes and more. Read ahead for that quick interview.

-You are enjoying some solid success here in August. What do you attribute to the improved offense recently?

Adjustments. Knowing how they're trying to pitch you to get you out, staying more to the middle of the field, 'cause they're more consistent throwing off-speed pitches for strikes, trying to put a good swing on it and, hopefully, it falls for a hit. (Staying) focused on putting up a good AB and also not striking out a bunch has helped me a lot lately.

-Is confidence a big factor for you when you have a good stretch of success?

It is definitely, not really the hits that boost your confidence but the amount of Good AB's that you put together that makes you feel stronger at the plate.

-How happy are you with the season you are having this year, having been promoted from Lakewood about midway through the year?

It's been good to me so far. In instructs last year they taught me some things and told me to work on them this past off-season that, of course, I did and I feel like I've improved in every aspect of the game.

-Is there any feedback you have gotten from coaches or teammates that has really helped you make improvements this summer?

They tell me to just go out there and have fun and that's what I try to do every day even when things aren't going your way or the way you want it to.

-The Threshers are close in the standings for the top spot in the division. Is there a lot of excitement among the team right now in this division title chase?

Yes! Everybody knows that every game right now is big for us so we're trying to do whatever it takes to win them all.

-Do you have a routine that you are sticking to or any superstitions before/during a game?

I like to eat Skittles before a game. I don't know why (laughs).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Minor League Notebook: Injuries and Playoff Races

In the midst of several playoff races, a handful of injuries popped up at multiple levels over the weekend.

Williams, image- Jay Floyd

For Triple-A Lehigh Valley, lefty batting outfielder Nick Williams was struck in the leg by a pitch in the first inning on Saturday and did not take the field in that contest after coming around to score in the frame.

As I reported on Twitter, Williams should return to action soon and a stint on the disabled list won't be required, according to the 22-year-old, who sports a .265 average with 12 homers and 62 RBI in 118 games this season for the IronPigs.
The IronPigs appear to be in line for a Wild Card berth in the International League playoffs as they are four games behind division leading Scranton and 4 1/2 games ahead of third place Rochester with a week's worth of action remaining on the schedule.

For Double-A Reading, center fielder Roman Quinn was placed on the disabled list with a concussion while Andrew Pullin is also out of action with an elbow strain.

The frequently injured Quinn, who missed time this season with an oblique strain and previously suffered a broken wrist as well as a ruptured Achiles tendon, was injured on Friday when a pick off throw at first base hit him in the batting helmet. In 76 games this season, the 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .298 with six home runs, 23 RBI and 34 stolen bases.

Pullin, a lefty hitting outfielder, has been on fire since joining the Fightins in June. The 22-year-old has posted a .346 average with 10 homers and 32 RBI in 46 games with Reading.

The Fightins clinched an Eastern League playoff berth on Saturday, but the team is still battling it out with second place Trenton for the Eastern Division crown and home field advantage in the opening round.

For Class A Advanced Clearwater, right-handed starting pitcher Drew Anderson lasted just 30 pitches in the team's victory on Sunday after injuring his leg on a throw to second base, according to Jim Peyton of PhuturePhillies.com. The severity of the issue is unclear at this time.

In 15 starts combined at two levels this season, the 22-year-old, who missed all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, tallied a 3-4 record with a 2.70 ERA and a 10.02 K/9 mark.

The Threshers are 2 1/2 games behind first place Dunedin, for the second half division title, with a week left in the regular season in the Florida State League.

Class A Lakewood is three games ahead of second place Hagerstown for the second half title in the South Atlantic League's Northern division with six games left. The BlueClaws, winners of nine of their last 10 contests, have been led of late by outfielder Mark Laird. The 23-year-old lefty batter has an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .348 with a home run and 19 RBI in 43 combined games at two levels this year.

For the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, they are ahead of the second place Blue Jays in the Northwest division with four games left, including today.

This year's first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak has cooled off recently, going 6-for-36 (.167 avg) in his last nine games. Overall, the 18-year-old center fielder has a .281 average with a home run and 28 RBI through his first 44 games as a pro.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Report: Catching prospect Alfaro promoted to Phils

On Thursday night, Yahoo Sports reporter Jeff Passan reported that catching prospect Jorge Afaro would be making his way to the big leagues and joining the Phillies, according to a source.

Alfaro, image- Jay Floyd
Alfaro, a 23-year-old righty slugger, posted a .279 average with 13 home runs and 61 RBI in 90 games for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils this season.


The six-foot-two 225-pound Colombian was acquired last summer from Texas as part of the Cole Hamels trade.

An All-Star in the Eastern League this year, Alfaro was the subject of a feature on PhilliesNation just last month.

A teammate of Alfaro's (I will not state who that was) tweeted a remark, quoting Passan's tweet on the topic, confirming the promotion, but later deleted his own congratulatory comment, likely after realizing he should not have done so prior to the organization making the announcement.

The transaction comes on the heels of the Phillies trading long-time backstop Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers on Thursday.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Constantly Injured Roman Quinn Responding Positively with Adaptability

Last week, Roman Quinn threw out three base runners in his first double-A start in right field. Quinn jokingly said to Dusty Wathan, the Reading manager, that the position remains his favorite. Two years ago, Quinn decided to shift to center fielder from shortstop. Currently, he is still in the process of learning the best tactics of playing left and right fields even with the Phillies plan of adding flexibility to his game. Since the rosters might expand come September, Quinn could head to the majors. Even as baseball predictions take note of such changes, by now, the Phillies have two players contesting for the center position.

Wathan expressed that having a player go up there without letting them play on the left or right field is not acceptable. The 23-year-old Quinn succumbed to a strained muscle injury in June just as soon as he had begun to train for the corner outfield positions. He has missed a couple of games in the fourth consecutive season thanks to recurrent injuries and we are still waiting for him to play an entire season in the minor league. Therefore, it is important for him to add some versatility because he could turn out to be a fourth outfielder. According to Quinn, he is comfortable playing in right and left field.

Undoubtedly, Quinn has an exceptional talent when it comes to his speed, which he effectively applies to change the dynamic of the game. Other batters usually capitalize on his presence in the field, especially on the base paths to help them see extra fastballs. However, Quinn’s durability is wanting. He seemed frustrated when he talked about his many injuries, including the strained muscle, torn hip flexor, torn Achilles, and a broken wrist. 

While executing a checked swing on June 4, Quinn strained his oblique, and at the time, he was batting .288. Something popped in the upper section of his rib cage, but he ignored it as minor. He eventually realized he was not okay when started having problems with his runs from first to third. Even though he resumed after 10 days, Quinn’s health had not restored, which made him miss out for nearly two months. While attempting to beat out a bunt last June, Quinn injured his left his, tearing the flexor, and at the time, he was batting .306.

Wathan said Quinn has missed approximately more than one year cumulatively due to injuries. Everyone feels for him because he has struggled to keep himself fit and healthy off the field with the hope that he will not miss out anymore due to injuries. I hope that he will go through this trying phase successfully and come out strong and better because Quinn is still young and somewhat tight. 

Currently, Quinn has already made it to the 40-man roster for the Phillies; therefore, a promotion to the majors in September would not call for any supplementary changes to the roster. Quinn would use this opportunity to display his skills for his team the same way he impressed everyone all through spring training. He would even try out his favorite position in right field and see if his arm wont betray him. Quinn’s definitive goal is reaching the big leagues.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

PN Interview: Threshers SP Shane Watson

Shane Watson, image- Jay Floyd

Righty starter Shane Watson is quietly having a good season. Following a successful first seven starts to his season, the 23-year-old, who was the Phillies' top draft selection in 2012, earned a promotion and has looked solid helping Clearwater push into playoff contention in the second half.

Overall in 20 combined starts for Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater, the six-foot-four 235-pounder sports a 6-7 record with a 3.76 ERA while striking out 88 and walking 38 in 105 1/3 innings through 20 starts.

Watson, who missed two years while recovering from two shoulder surgeries, took time this week to chat about his efforts this season, the Threshers' playoff hopes, his recent stint on the disabled list, his 2015 drug suspension and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-I wanted to ask you about your disabled list stint in July, because you mentioned to me at that time that it was diabetes related. Was there fatigue, or what exactly was the issue that forced that to come up?

Well, what happened was I had a bug bite. Something happened where it got a little swollen and with Type 1 diabetes, me fighting off infection is going to be slower than a normal person who doesn't have diabetes. And that's all it was: precautionary, where my arm feels great and it's just for precautionary reasons, nothing too serious.

It was a bug bite. Something along those lines. I thought it was a spider bite when I first saw it and it kind of just got bigger. And I kind of just went to Mickey Kozak, the trainer, and I said, "I cleaned it and should I do (anything else) with it?" And he said, well, I'll send you to (a doctor) and we'll hopefully see what they say. It wasn't all that-- I just went in for a check up type thing to make sure everything was going good and since I have Type 1, they wanted me to skip a start.

-Where was the bite on you?

The bug bite was on my leg.

-You've had some good success of late, but before we talk about that, the start when you were fresh off the disabled list you went just 2/3 of an inning, was there something in your opinion that was missing that day? What do you think the issue was?

I think it was just me being out a start and I just wasn't in control of my body necessarily. I felt like-- I was just off on the mound. It was hard for me to control the fastball. It was hard for me to, you know, just-- I think that is what you need first and foremost is just control of your fastball because that opens up everything else and that's what I was struggling with.

-Okay. And then, like I mentioned, you've had a good string of success since the All-Star break and you've been going deep into games. What's been the difference for you, when you have been able to put in some good innings and keep your team in games?

Getting ahead of batters. Once you fall behind, that can be two or three extra pitches and doing that twice in an inning can add up. I just think ultimately trusting the catchers (has helped too). And Austin Bossart and Chace Numata have done a really good job this year. Probably the best catchers I've had in-- I was hurt for two years, but I think just getting ahead and trusting my catchers, Chace and Austin.

-You credit the backstops there. How about Threshers pitching coach Aaron Fultz. Has he been a lot of help to you since you've been down there?

Yeah, I was going to say Fultzy! He's been amazing honestly. I had him in Lakewood in 2013 and we became pretty close. You know, he's taught me little things like, just from a big league mindset. Don't give a hitter too much credit. He's still gotta hit and three times out of ten they might get a hit. More often than not, they're going to get out, so he just says to challenge them with your best pitch.

-I know the Threshers are kind of battling for the top spot in your division and fighting for a playoff spot. Is there a lot of buzz among the team with chasing that playoff berth?

Yeah! Everyone wants to win and go for it. In pro ball, usually, guys can go out for themselves. That's just typical minor league baseball- you do what you have to do to move up, but I think this team right now is all playing for each other, playing to win.

-That sounds great. I wanted to ask you about your teammates, because you've got a starting staff that, along with you, they've done great. With Drew Anderson, Elniery Garcia, Luke Leftwich, some other guys. Are you guys supporting each other and learning from each other as the season goes?

Yeah, you know, I think it's kind of funny...Brandon Leibrandt asked me how I throw my curve ball and I told him, "I hold it like this." And I think it's gotten a lot better. It's almost-- He threw one curve ball and (it was so good) I laughed and said "Can you teach me what I just taught you? That was pretty good!" And then I asked Leibrandt about his change up, and he showed me his grip on that.

I think, ultimately, the starters have gone fairly long in games, going five or six (innings) and that helps our bullpen in turn. So, I think that's big for us getting a playoff chance.

-We talked about you having some good success down there. Was there an adjustment period to the Florida State League, once you got down there, whether it was to the competition or the weather?

Definitely, yeah. I was in Lakewood and they have hot times and we go down to North Carolina where it gets pretty humid, but nothing like down here pitching in a day game. My big adjustment was just covering my arm in rosin, so (sweat) wouldn't drip down on the ball. And that's big, especially with my curve ball.

And another adjustment, I think, me not giving the hitters too much credit and trusting that my best pitches are better than their best swings. You know?

-Do you give any thought to the upcoming off-season and 40-man rosters spots with you being Rule 5 eligible? Does that creep into your mind ever?

Uh, yeah, somewhat. To a certain degree it's out of my control what they do, but I'm just trying to-- honestly, my one goal was to finish this year healthy. I've been lucky enough to pitch pretty well too, so...

-So the thought creeps in there, but you try not to focus too much on it.

Yeah, exactly. I'm trying not worry too much about it, but obviously, the thought's always in the back of my head. It would be nice if they did (add me to the 40-man roster), but I'm just trying to pitch and do what I can do, take care of what I can control.

-I wanted to ask you once more about something you've declined comment on in the past. I talked to Skylar Hunter recently about his suspension and I wanted to see if you were at a point where you might talk a bit about your time away from baseball for disciplinary reason.

No-- I mean, honestly, that's something that was just in the past, you know, and like I said before I just want to keep it in the past. It wasn't anything (along the lines) of cheating or anything like that or what people were hinting toward or anything like that. All I'm saying right now is it wasn't on the cheating aspect.

-Understood, man. I got it. Would you say dealing with that helped you with your personal maturation and growing up somewhat?

Yeah. I think that, definitely. Just for two years, not playing, and seeing my best friend J.P. Crawford playing and all those different guys playing and stuff like that, I think it's just me being immature and selfish and not thinking about my future and it was a dumb mistake. That's all it was.

-Going down the stretch here, you talked about wanting to finish the season healthy and we talked about trying to get to the postseason...if the playoffs don't come and you don't get maybe a couple extra outings, do you think you'd get any action in the off-season?

I don't think so. I think with the number of innings I have, I'm at 105 1/3, so I think they're just going to shut me down. I'm not sure though. We haven't really spoken much about it. I'm just trying to focus on finishing this year healthy and whatever happens in the off-season with winter ball or instructs happens.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Series Preview: Dodgers at Phillies, Aug 16-18

Chase Utley, image- Jay Floyd
When the Dodgers (65-52) come to town to take on the Phillies (56-63) in a three-game set, it will mark the return of one of the home organization's most beloved players when Chase Utley makes his first return to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park since last August when he was traded to Los Angeles.
As a member of the Phillies, Utley became a six-time All-Star and helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. Over 13 season with the Phils, the team's 1st round draft pick from 2000 batted .282 with 233 homers and 916 RBI.

Utley will hope to help his current club maintain their lead in the National League Wild Card race when the teams open their series on Tuesday.

Read ahead for a complete rundown on the pitching match ups with loads more stats from this series.

Tuesday, 7:05PM. Kenta Maeda (11-7, 3.31 ERA) vs. Vince Velasquez (8-4, 3.94 ERA). Maeda, a 28-year-old righty, has a 7-2 record with a 3.28 ERA in 11 road starts this season. In five starts since the All-Star break Maeda has a 4.67 ERA. Velasquez has a 4-1 record with a 1.72 ERA in nine home starts this season. Velasquez has a 0-2 record with a 5.65 ERA in his last five starts.

Wednesday, 7:05PM. Scott Kazmir (9-6, 4.44 ERA) vs Jake Thompson (1-1, 8.68 ERA). Kazmir, a 32-year-old left-hander, has a 1-2 record with a 5.91 ERA in four starts against the Phillies. In 10 road starts this season, Kazmir is 5-0 with a 4.88 ERA. Thompson, who will be making his third big league start, earned his first win with the Phillies after allowing three runs over five innings against the Rockies last week. The 22-year-old righty was acquired by the Phils in last summer’s Cole Hamels trade to Texas.

Thursday, 7:05PM. Bud Norris (6-9, 4.26 ERA) vs. Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.82 ERA). In 13 road appearances this season, Norris has a 2-5 record with a 6.14 ERA. In nine career outings against the Phils, the 31-year-old righty has a 1-4 record with a 3.60 ERA. Ryan Howard is 6-for-16 (.375 avg) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in his career against Norris. Eickhoff, a 26-year-old righty, has a 5-5 record with a 3.05 ERA in 12 home starts. In his last four starts, Eickhoff has a 2-1 record with a 3.04 ERA.

Dodgers lead-off man Chase Utley is batting .278 with four homers and 22 RBI in 49 games on the road this season. In 756 regular season games at Citizens Bank Park, the 37-year-old has a .293 batting average with 127 home runs and 460 RBI.

Closer Kenley Jansen has a 3.18 ERA in 18 career games against the Phils. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 6.75 ERA in five games this month.

Rookie shortstop Corey Seager is batting .303 with six homers and 27 RBI in 52 road games this year. The 22-year-old is batting .350 in 23 games since the All-Star break.

Righty reliever Hector Neris has a 2.35 ERA in 60 outings this season. In 14 games since the All-Star break, the 27-year-old has a 0.63 ERA.

First baseman Ryan Howard is batting .367 with five home runs and 13 RBI in 18 games since the All-Star break and has a .917 slugging percentage in seven August games.

Reliever Edubray Ramos sports a 1-0 record with a 0.93 ERA in 10 home outings since joining the Phillies. The 23-year-old right-hander averaged a 9.2 K/9 mark in parts of five season in the minor leagues.

Dodgers team batting avg since All-Star break- .277 (2nd in MLB)
Phillies team batting avg since All-Star break- .229 (27th in MLB)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: Manager Shawn Williams talks BlueClaws


Shawn Williams, image- Jay Floyd
Recently, I sat down with Class A Lakewood BlueClaws manager Shawn Williams to ask about several of his team's rising prospects. Among the topics of discussion were impressive lefty reliever Zach Morris, well regarded backstop Deivi Grullon, outfielder Jose Pujols and several others. Read ahead for that full interview.

-Zach Morris has been so consistent for this team dating back to late April, with an ERA under one during that stretch. What are your thoughts on him?

I mean he’s been outstanding all year. He’s done every single role for us, whether it’s setting up, closing, he’s been huge for us when he’s picked up three or four innings he’s saved out bullpen. All around he’s done an outstanding job to help us and help our bullpen.

-With other guys performing well and moving up, is there something that Zach is missing or needs to be doing to earn a promotion?

I think it’s more that there are a lot of guys doing well up above, so it’s a good thing in our organization that it’s tough to move him. You’ve gotta really—stuff has to happen, but he’s, for me, with the task at hand, he’s done a hell of a job here while he’s been here. He’s making all the other guys around him better. You know and that’s what I think is probably the most important thing. The only thing you can concentrate on is what you’re doing right now and keep having a good year and let everything else take care of itself.

-Among those that have gotten the opportunity to move upward are second baseman Josh Tobias and outfielder Zach Coppola, who moved up to Clearwater in recent weeks. Those guys were pretty big for this team. Thoughts on them?

Those two guys, they were huge for us. Zach was a cat—both were catalysts for us. They made everybody around them better, just doing the little things that help you and obviously, the numbers speak for themselves, but for me it’s all the other intangibles, whether it’s base running, going first to third, the things that dont’ show up in the box score. Those are things that they do that helped us win and it’s well deserved to get moved up, but they both have had outstanding years.

-Another guy that is often credited for doing things that don't show up in the box score is Deivi Grullon. What have you seen with his progress in recent months?

He’s made tremendous progress, especially here lately overall. Whether he’s calling a game, he’s done an outstanding job with the pitching staff. All the catchers have. Whether it’s calling a game, he’s been blocking very well, he’s throwing a lot better, more consistent. So those are the little things that you’re looking at in seeing a player develop. And he definitely has. His at bats have really improved, where pitch recognition- we’re seeing some walks but not only that, he’s had better at bats and you’re seeing good result because of it.

-Jose Pujols is just the third BlueClaws ever with 20 or more home runs in a single season, so he's been impressive there. He's striking out less of late. Have you seen a lot with him progress since mid-season?

Definitely, and it’s not just the power, it’s the, the same as I told you with Grullon, it’s the at bats. For me, I know he can hit and I believe he’s gonna hit. And you’re starting to see hit at bats the last couple weeks where he’s putting together good at bats. It doesn’t matter whether he might be striking out or not, but he’s having good two-strike at bats and laying off breaking balls, he’s getting in better hitting counts, so that’s part of just becoming a better hitters and I guess that’s—for me, maybe the average isn’t there, but he’s making more hard outs here lately and just in general having better at bats.

-Outfielder Mark Laird joined the team recently. What have you seen with him thus far?

He’s been great so far. He’s putting together good at bats in the couples games that he’s been here. I haven’t seen him play a whole bunch other than in instructs and these couple games here. He’s had good at bats and defensively, he’s definitely a ball player that does all the little things too, that we preach about here and he definitely fits in well with our team.

Tyler Gilbert, image- Jay Floyd
-Tyler Gilbert has been really consistent in the starting rotation. Seems like he's a guy that gives you a lot of innings every time out. What have you seen with him?

That’s the biggest thing that he does and he’s been getting a lot better at the year’s gone on and for me he’s been very valuable in the innings. You almost expect at least six out of him every time. Which is just a tribute to him. He takes the mound every time and just he goes out there and challenges hitters and that’s all you can ask. That’s why he is pitching deeply and it seems over the past month and a half that he’s going almost seven or eight every time out, so—especially (in his most recent outing), especially in August, he’s getting stronger as the season goes on, which is nice to see from a guy in his first full year.

-Jose Taveras has gotten some attention in the rotation as well. He had a double-digit strike out game, but his results seem to vary at times. What can you share about him?

For me, I think you’re going to get the same thing every time he takes the mound it’s just a matter of I think some teams have taken a different approach against him where they’re real aggressive early in the count to where maybe the runs you see—maybe he gives up four runs, but overall he throws the ball well because he comes right at you and attacks you. It’s a great way to go about it. He’s thrown the ball well, even since that game where he struck out all those guys. For me, you know what you’re going to get every time out. He attacks the hitters and sometimes maybe they take a different approach where they’re really aggressive on him. But the biggest thing is just staying down in the zone but he’s done an outstanding job.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lakewood's Randolph looking toward post-season

C Randolph, image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies’ top draft pick from 2015, Cornelius “C” Randolph, is back in the swing of things following an injury and is helping to lead the first place Lakewood BlueClaws toward a possible postseason berth.

After missing more than two months with a shoulder/back strain, the 19-year-old outfielder is beginning to heat up on offensive. Entering action on Wednesday, Randolph was batting .290 in nine August games and sported a five game hitting streak.

With their win and the Hagerstown Suns’ (Nationals affiliate) loss on Tuesday night, the BlueClaws took over first place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division, leading the first-half division champions by ½ game.

Randolph points out that he and his teammates are actively paying attention to the standings and the out-of-town scoreboard on a nightly basis.

In 39 games this season with Class A Lakelwood, the five-foot-11 205-pounder is batting .255 with seven doubles, a home run and 13 RBI.

According to his manager, Randolph, who was drafted 10th overall last year, has looked like he’s been a contributor all season long for Lakewood.

“He came right back and maybe the hits weren’t there the first couple of games but his at bats were definitely there. He’s had some good, tough at bats, especially against left-handed pitchers,” BlueClaws skipper Shawn Williams said.

The lefty batting Randolph, asserts that the team is confident as they compete for the top spot in the division with the Hagerstown team that’s already proven worth of the post-season.

“We know if we go out and play how we play, we’re going to get a win,” Randolph said with swagger. “So we just go out there and play every day, do the little things right.”

Doing the little things right could make an impact, but the big things, like pitching and hitting, could be the true determining factors.

The BlueClaws have tallied a solid 3.16 ERA along with an exceptional 11.45 K/9 mark, but are batting just .258 with a .676 OPS in nine games this month. With the pitching staff really delivering of late, it may be up to “C” and his fellow batters to barrel up, make the difference and push the team into the playoffs. He’s up for the challenge.

“100-percent, we want to win it. We want a ring, so we’re trying to go after it,” Randolph said

Hagerstown’s first-half title has them locked into a playoff spot. If they finish in first place again for the second half, the team with the next best overall record in that division would be chosen as the Wild Card entrant to the playoffs. Lakewood, having finished the first half with a 29-40 record, aren’t a real option to make the playoffs as a Wild Card, as other teams would sneak in ahead of them. The 'Claws will need to stay ahead of the pack in order to play beyond the regular season.



Additional nuggets...

-While rehabbing his injury with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, Randolph was able to bond a bit with this year’s 1st round draft selection, Mickey Moniak.

“Two first rounders, so I mean, of course (we bonded),” Randolph stated. “He came in and he’d do what he needed to do. He’s done a great job, so it’s good to see.”

-Randolph found a silver lining with his down time this season.

"Down in Florida I learned a lot of stuff just from watching guys play because I couldn’t be on the field. I was just picking up what guys were doing. If they did this right, if they did this wrong, stuff like that.

"Hanging around GCL club, the rovers came around and I talked to them a lot. I’d just sit with them and watch the games....Just learning different things about the outfield, where I should be on what plays, the first step, how I’m supposed to take and stuff like that," Randolph said.

-Randolph would welcome the opportunity to make up for missed time this year.

"I know I need to get extra AB’s and it’s always time to work, so this is what I do for a living and I mean it’s whatever they say I need to do, I’ll be happy to do it," Randolph stated.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood LHP Zach Morris

Zach Morris, image- Jay Floyd
Entering this week, lefty reliever Zach Morris had allowed just two earned runs over 31 games dating back to April 27th this season for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. Over that stretch, the six-foot-five 245-pounder tallied a 7-1 record with five saves and a 0.43 ERA.

Drafted out of Maryland by the Phillies in the 24th round last year, the 23-year-old has posted an overall record of 12-3 with a 2.33 ERA and seven saves in 54 games thus far as a pro.

This week, I sat down with Zach, who spoke about his tremendous hot streak, his familiar name, his team's chances at reaching the post-season and plenty more. Read ahead for that interview.

-You've been doing very well and have gotten some attention for your efforts out there. Talk about the great stretch of success you had here this season.

It's been fun. Obviously, it's not all me. We've had good defense and the guys, with the defense we have, it's easy. You just know if you go out there and pound the zone, if they hit the ball, ground ball- routine plays get made. It's not all-- I make pitches when I need to, but at the same I have all the trust in the catchers and the pitch calling has been phenomenal and the defense as well. You see guys making diving plays and I mean it's been awesome.

-Other guys have done well and moved upward. Some might be surprised you're still at this level. Is there anything that coaches have shared or that you've been advised by other team personnel on what they want to see from you in order to take that step to the next level?

No, not for the most part. This year, I changed my delivery this year. I've done more what the Phillies want and, obviously, it's paid off a lot.

I like the pitching philosophy here and I mean, it's something different that I've never done until college. And then last when I went down to the (Gulf Coast League), after my first outing, (pitching coordinator) Carlos Arroyo was there and he was helping me and he told me what the Phillies really want and that's doing the extension, staying connected to the rubber and I tried to incorporate it a little bit, but I struggled with it last summer and I worked on it in the off-season and coming in to spring training, everything just started clicking.

-That work in the off-season, who do you pair up with to get that work in and where do you put in that work?

Maryland- I go right to my college. I live about 30 minutes from it and we had a good junior class last year and we had seniors hang around the area, so in the off-season we all live together and we'll lift three or four times a week and when guys need to throw, it's just a text away. It's cool when you're living with all those guys 'cause they're all in other organizations and we all need to get our work in.

-You talked about guys with other teams...is there anyone that you can mention specifically that you worked closely with?

Alex Robinson, he was a fourth round pick to the Twins last year. He's been my throwing partner for three years. I've been throwing with him a lot. And then there were some positions guys, but then there's Kevin Mooney, one of the best closers in Maryland history, he's with the Nationals now. The three of us have been throwing, we throw a lot together.

-With your name, I see it a lot from people on Twitter, there are a lot of jokes and references to the Zach Morris character on the old TV show Saved By the Bell. Are those jokes old or are you still able to enjoy those cracks?

Yeah, I love it. I love that show. It’s probably (among my) top three or four shows of all time. And I was not named after him when I was born. But, just the older I got—when I was young I didn’t watch the show and probably like I guess high school came around and kids were like, “It’s the same name as Zach Morris from that show.” And then in college I would be warming up at different fields and you’d hear the theme song come on. But, I’ve learned to embrace it. It’s been fun.

-Is there a lot of excitement among the pitching staff regarding the standings and the race for a playoff berth?

Yeah, definitely. Obviously, the first half you saw at the beginning, it was a rough starts for us, then we started picking it up at the end and then we've come out in the second half and just come out hot. Just winning makes it more fun and all the guys buying in with each other, it's been awesome. So, we just want to keep things rolling here these next (four) weeks and we'll see what happens.

-Are there any teammates you've been able to bond closely with and pick up a lot from?

All of us, honestly, the whole pitching staff- everyone’s close for the most part. I mean, there’s no problems. Our bullpen is phenomenal. Every guy there I’d do anything for. Some of the guys I just met this year and at the same time I’d do anything for. When we’re out on the road we do everything together. At first it wasn’t kind of like in college where you’ve got everybody playing for each other, but lately, in the second half, we have everyone buying in. It’s kind of like a family, in a way. At the same time it’s pro ball, but we all want each other to succeed and I guess we’re kind of feeding off each other. Seeing everyone have success has been awesome.

-Your transition out of the college ranks and into the pros, was that easier than you expected or pretty much just as you expected it would be?

A little bit of both. I mean, it was-- 'cause in college you're playing for the school and not everybody's going to go onto the next level, so you're playing with, you've got guys that are good enough to play at the pro level and there are others that are going to be good college players, so they know that it kind of ends, so the seniors, you want to go all out for them and you just want to win for them and it means a lot to the school. And then coming to pro ball, starting in the GCL, it's been a good transition, but it's a lot different than college I'll say.

-Outside of the park, whether you're at home or on long bus trips, what are you doing to pass time or have fun?

During the off-season, I fish about every single day. I mean that's what I do, fishing and play baseball. And then on the road, you gotta try to watch Netflix. Hopefully, you don't overuse your data, because road trips without data aren't a lot of fun. But, I don't know, I've probably gone through about three or four different shows this year.

-What's the hot one? Which is the show you'd tell others not to miss?

Game of Thrones. I was so against it until the other guys in the organization were like, "Dude you have to watch it! How do you not watch it?" Eventually one day I just caved and I watched all six seasons in about a four weeks maybe. So, definitely Game of Thrones.

-If you were to get a chance to talk to young players that wanted to play baseball beyond high school, whether that's college or professionally, what feedback or advice would you share with them?

Just make sure you're having fun with it. That's the most important thing. You don't want to do something with your life that you're not having fun with. Baseball has its ups and downs. There's going to be days where you think, "I really hate this sport." But at the end of the day, that's just baseball. It's the only sport where you can fail seven out of ten times and still be a Hall-of-Famer, like they say. But, hust make sure you're having fun with it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Reading's Cozens displays impressive offense

Dylan Cozens, image- Jay Floyd

Following a three homer effort in which he also added a triple on Wednesday, slugging outfielder Dylan Cozens launched a pair of long balls and another triple to help the Double-A Reading Fightins notch their third straight win with a 12-8 victory over Bowie on Thursday.


The remarkable effort was capped off by Cozens' go-ahead grand slam in the 8th inning. It gave the 22-year-old 12 RBI in the two games and 101 RBI on the season.

As if the power numbers weren't enough, the two triples were hits that many other players might have only gotten two bases on and he even stole a base on Wednesday, giving him 18 in 19 attempts this year.

"It was some of the best two days of my life," Cozens said via text message.

The six-foot-six 235-pound lefty batter was the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection in 2012.

Cozens' teammate first baseman Rhys Hoskins kept pace with two homers of his own on Thursday, his 32nd and 33rd to stay one big fly in front of Cozens for the Eastern League lead.

With a month left in the regular season, Cozens and Hoskins have a solid shot at reaching Darin Ruf's Reading team single-season home run record of 38, which Ruf did in 2012.

According to Cozens, he and Hoskins are not actively egging one another on over the record chase. They're just enjoying the team's winning ways and having fun with their teammates.

For those fans calling for an immediate promotion to the next level or higher for Cozens, it's worth noting that his splits against righties and lefties aren't very balanced (.312/.395/.688 vs righties, .204/.286/.387 vs lefties) and the Phils' brass is likely looking for improvements against left-handers before they are convinced the strapping prospect has mastered the Eastern League.

Remarkably, Cozens and Hoskins weren't the only Reading players to mash two home runs in the team's most recent win. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, who was featured on Phillies Nation in recent days, also went deep twice to give him seven round-trippers since earning a promotion to Double-A.

Third baseman Mitch Walding also hit a homer for Reading in his Reading debut. Walding, who was the Florida State League All-Star Home Run Derby champion, batted .280 with 10 homers and 53 RBI in 100 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater this season.

Thursday's win took Reading's record to 74-37, which is best in professional baseball.