Monday, April 30, 2018

What's up with those number 1's?

Mickey Moniak with Lakewood last yr, Image- Jay Floyd

Every couple days, usually, someone reaches out to me on Twitter to check up on the number 1 overall selection from the 2016 draft, outfielder Mickey Moniak.  I suppose I am easier to holler at than Ye Olde Google machine for some people, so...

The 19-year-old has struggled throughout the first month of the regular season with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  In 22 games with the Treshers, Moniak sports a .213 batting average with four doubles, five RBI and one stolen base.

The lefty batting California native tallied a .236/.284/.341 slash line with Class A Lakewood last year in his first full season as a pro player. While those stats aren't worrisome, they were not the sort of production that would convince everybody that he had definitely graduated out of the South Atlantic League.

Starting the 2018 campaign at a higher level probably surprised a lot of people.

Most concerning may be the overall lack of power that Moniak has shown to date.  Without just one home run since early July, pitchers aren't afraid to come right at the youngster and they are getting the best of him with considerable frequency.

The assignment with Clearwater is not necessarily a failure yet, but his Florida State League numbers hold, perhaps more time with Lakewood could be valuable to the center fielder who turns 20 years old on May 13th.

Last year's first round draft choice, Adam Haseley, is also with Clearwater and his posted solid numbers there.  The 22-year-old lefty batting Virginia product has posted a .280 batting average with a home run and 12 RBI and three steals through 22 games with the Threshers. 

Cornelius Randolph, the Phils' 1st rounder from 2015, hasn't looked great thus far at the Double-A level.  The 20-year-old lefty hitting outfielder sported a .152 average with a homer and four RBI through 18 games following action on Monday.  He's also striking out in 28.1% of his plate appearances. 

Randolph, like Moniak, didn't convincingly show he had nothing left to prove at his previous level, notching a .250/.338/.402 slash line at Clearwater last season. 

I would expect it's possible the Phils will consider, or are already considering, swapping Randolph and the two-years-older Haseley on their respective rosters sooner than later.

Opening round draft choices from both 2014 (Aaron Nola) and 2013 (J.P. Crawford) have already reached the big leagues with the Phils.  Here's hoping the trio of outfielders they've chosen with their first pick over the past three years iron things out so they can join the big league fraternity too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We know it's early, but are the Phillies championship contenders?

Image- Jay Floyd
Entering action this week, the Phillies resided just ½ game out of first place in the National League East division and confidence in the team among its fan base was growing by the day. With playoff fever consuming local 76ers supporters and Super Bowl dreams fulfilled this year for Eagles Nation, high hopes are abound for the local nine.

A remarkable turnaround, led by a new regime, has fans, media types and baseball insiders alike wondering that the Phillies’ odds of reaching or winning the World Series could be.

This week I gathered feedback from several sports authorities that are familiar with the Phillies, seeking insight on their early impressions and thoughts on the team’s potential for postseason glory. Read on for those remarks.

TV anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, formerly of Comcast SportsNet/NBCSN Philly-


To say the Phillies are off to a good start is an understatement. I thought if they got enough good starting pitching behind Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola that they could be in wild card contention as long as the offense continued to show growth from its young players. If you told me only three of the 11 regulars Gabe Kapler has used would hit over .250 through the first 21 games (including four under .200) I wouldn’t think this team would be .500 let alone within a game of the best record in the National League. But here we are thanks to outstanding pitching from that aforementioned 1-2 punch plus Nick Pivetta, and the ability of Vince Velazquez and Ben Lively to keep the Phils in games.

While this isn’t the second coming of the “Four Aces,” the improvement in pitching has paved the way for a possibility unforeseen at season’s outset. I thought if the Phillies were to make a push, they’d have to slug their way into a Wild Card spot. They’ve responded with dismal generic numbers slashing .230/.325/.372 as a team. That’s...not good. I mean the OBP is good, but hitting .230 (22nd) and slugging under .400 (24th) won’t get it done. Fortunately this team has been at its best when it counts, aka with runners in scoring position. Night and day is how I’d describe a team with the previously mentioned numbers vs. one that ranks 7th in OPS (.837) w/ RISP through 21 games.

We’re watching a team at the 100 M mark of an 800 M race and off to a very strong start. Can they finish in the top 5 of a 15-team race that has already seen a couple of teams (Reds, Marlins) pull up lame? The short answer is yes, because they have the talent to do it. The long answer is they haven’t played the Nationals once yet, that schedule gets ridiculous in June, a 6-1 record in 1-run games is due for regression, and 10 comeback wins over the first 21 games would seem like more than their fair share. But if the pitching keeps this up and Jerad Eickhoff can be closer to his 2016 self than his 2017 self when he returns, things could get interesting. And I’m not talking just as a wild card contender. The Nats will get healthy and they’re still -as Jimmy Rollins might assess- the team to beat in the division. But the longer they can hang around close to the top, the more time Gabe Kapler has to instill in this group that there’s no timeline for when the rebuild is officially over. Instead there is only the present. And the Phils have to feel pretty good about what the future could hold based on what they’ve done well before “hittin’ season” has officially started.

Tony Graham of BlueClaws.com and a former long-time sports reporter with the Asbury Park Press-


While the Phillies surprising start has been a revelation I tend to be more of a realist than optimist.

First an observation - I admit I am a baseball traditionalist and while I see the value of versatility and analytics I just wonder how effectively the lineup will jell with the constant shuffling of positions and personnel.

Granted while it offers depth I think - especially in the case of young players like Kingery and Crawford - they need to play every day to develop.

As for pondering the Phillies’ post season chances:

As long as the starting pitching holds up - beyond Nola and Arrieta - the Phillies could be in the wild card mix.

The bullpen - which I believe has performed above expectations thus far - should be bolstered further with the eventual return of Leiter Jr. and Neshek.

At the plate one has to believe Santana will come around and that the offense overall has yet to hit its stride - whatever that may be. While promising (begin with Hoskins and go com there) it has a ways to go before it challenges -if it ever does - the Howard-Utley-Rollins level.

My overall opinion is that while a nucleus for success is now in its formative stages and the ball club is trending upward it could be more of an “April-May team” in 2018.

It may play over its head for a while this spring/summer though still being at least a year away from legitimate playoff contention when it adds at least one more impact free agent.

WIP radio host Joe Giglio-

I'm not surprised the Phillies are doing well, but I am surprised at how they've gotten there: Pitching, but an inconsistent offense. It'll likely even out, with more runs allowed and scored, but there's a foundation here for success. I like the lineup depth and the bullpen. If Nick Pivetta can continue to pitch at a high level, the rotation has three very formidable starters. It's a fun team that should have a chance at a wild card this year.

Eric Floyd, who previously wrote for PhilliesNation and blogged for University of Pittsburgh athletics-

This past Sunday, in the midst of getting no-hit through four innings, Nick Pivetta let up a 2-run home run to Elias Diaz. If this scenario had occurred any time over the last six seasons, a 2-run deficit would feel almost insurmountable with the assumption that the lead would only balloon from there. Today, however, the 2018 roster has reversed the narrative. This team’s relentless attitude and ability to learn and grow game-by-game sets them apart from those squads that fell apart time and again. This version of the Phillies is looking to prove that the days of collapsing and helplessly tanking are gone and that the future is bright. Based on how they have played this April, I feel comfortable saying that this team could absolutely fulfill their goal for 2018 – making the playoffs.

However, a couple issues. First, I have been guilty of buying into the Phillies’ April hype before. In 2016 when the team finished April 14-10, including a 8-1 stretch to finish the month, I wrote that they would finally secure the first winning record since 2012. Reality said no and the team finished 71-91. Second, since the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Philadelphia has been on a sports-centered tear. The Flyers may have flamed out, but there is tangible excitement surrounding the Sixers’ current playoff run. I would be remiss not to mention that I am viewing the Phillies through intensely green and blue-tinted shades that have me seeing Phillies red in the playoffs. Lastly, the comparison between the Phillies statistical start in 2016 and this past month is startling at first glance. Through 21 games in 2016, the team was hitting .231/.292/.371. Following the 21stgame of the year on Sunday, the team was hitting .230/.325/.372. This team is getting on base more often than two years ago, at least so far, but otherwise it appears similar. The key difference that is going to make this squad a contender this year is the pitching.

The Phillies’ rotation has received deserved praise for their start this season, putting together a 3.01 ERA, good for lowest in the National League. But as a whole, the team’s pitchers have amounted a 3.01 ERA. The 2016 team’s pitching through 21 games? A 4.08 ERA. The addition of Jake Arrieta, the continued dominance of Aaron Nola, and the possibility that some combination of Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ben Lively, and Jared Eickhoff performing at a high level for this team would spell success for the Phillies. When pitchers can work deep into games and as a team keep opposing teams to a 3 runs or less, it becomes much easier for the bats to fight their way back into a game. The lineup will come together and surely improve, especially given the number of young players still adjusting to the major league-level, but make no mistake, pitching will lead this team.

Yes, the schedule so far has been light. Yes, there will be tougher tests to come – especially the final stretch of this home stand against the NL West-leading Diamondbacks and equally surprising Braves. But, if this team keeps operating with the mindset that carried them through the first month, there is a promising summer ahead. Regardless of where the team ultimately ends up this year, this team is already making baseball in Philadelphia fun to watch again.

Tyrone Johnson, producer and host on 97.5 The Fanatic-

I have been impressed by the Phillies pitching early so I think they’ll be in the mix all year, but will not make the postseason. Hoskins is a future MVP in my opinion and my favorite player in the MLB. Kapler will end up being a good manager, but I think the day to day instability both with the lineup and their defense will ultimately cause them to come up short. I also don’t think the Phillies will make a trade deadline move when other contenders will. 

My own thoughts-

Personally, with the team proving in the early going that they can compete, residing just a half game out of the top spot in their division entering action on Tuesday, I am very confident that the 2018 Phillies could make a push into the postseason and threaten to compete in the Fall Classic, if things go right.

Come mid-season, if the team remains in contention, they can become buyers at the trading deadline for the first time in several years. Adding offense to a team that’s currently third in the National League in runs scored or pitching to a team that is second in the league in ERA prior to game action on Wednesday would make this club fully fearsome.

And on the topic of adding production to this already dangerous squad, keep in mind that the Phils’ biggest off-season acquisition (Jake Arrieta was signed during preseason, folks), Carlos Santana, hasn’t busted out of an early season funk yet. A common outlook in baseball is that hitters hit. Big name offensive players with track records like Santana ultimately produce numbers that closely match what’s on the back of their baseball cards or, to speak in non-old guy terms, what’s in the career totals row their Baseball Reference page. Imagine how much fun fans and the Phillies are going to have watching Santana improve his season numbers to the more familiar .806 OPS territory he’s tallied in his eight years in the majors.

Internal additions to the pitching staff are expected come in the form of last year’s Phillies All-Star Pat Neshek, reliever Mark Leiter Jr. and starter Jerad Eickhoff as they recover from their respective ailments which currently have them sidelined. And that doesn’t even factor in exciting righty pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos, who has impressed this season with a 1-0 record, a 1.98 ERA and 22 strike outs compared to five walks in 13 2/3 innings in his first three starts with the Triple-A IronPigs.

Through the first few weeks of the season, the Phillies’ win-loss record is better than I thought it would be and, barring injuries, the team is only going to get better this year. I’d say the possibility of reaching the playoffs is a real thing and the team that is the hottest in October will prove most successful in the end, so a run at a championship isn’t out of the question as the team continues to improve.

If you have an opinion on the Phillies’ chances of reaching the postseason, leave some feedback in the comments section or hit me back on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

PhoulBallz Quotables: Josh Stephen Interview Excerpts

Josh Stephen, image- Jay Floyd
Last week I wrote a feature on Lakewood outfielder Josh Stephen getting off to a hot start this season and using his bonds in the game to his advantage.  

An 11th round draft pick in 2016, the 20-year-old has posted solid numbers (.263/.378/.474 slash line) through 13 games with the BlueClaws.

I talked with Stephen, a six feet tall 185-pound left-handed batter, at length.  Below are some interview excerpts from the California native that didn't make the original piece.


-Speaking on his initial impressions of Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park during the team’s initial homestand…

I think it's a beautiful stadium. I was blown away when I got here with how nice it is. It looks like a big league stadium. The fans come in real nice, a lot of fans, so that's new to me. Last year in Williamsport, we came in with a couple thousand and here to see 5,000 on the board was pretty crazy. It's exciting to play out here.

-Stephen shared some thoughts on his early impressions of playing in the South Atlantic League this season…

Every team in this league going to be tough. Every team that comes out want to win. Every starter that gets thrown at us is going to be a quality starter. Everyone's going to be competing.

-I asked if there were players he watched before turning pro that he might have wanted to emulate…

My favorite baseball player right now is Bryce Harper. Mike Trout (too). I'm an Angels fan. I grew up going to Angels games, so Mike Trout and Garrett Anderson and Torri Hunter was always there, and (Albert) Pujols.  Vladimir Guerrero, I saw him play when I was younger. So, all these guys they went through all the same process as me. They're living the dream now. Some of their careers are over.

-Stephen shared some thoughts on his draft experience…

The draft is probably the craziest day of your life. You get told something over and over again and then it's not official until your name is actually called. Draft day was crazy. A couple things didn't work out as planned, but in the end it all worked out and I got what I wanted. In a later round, I got drafted to the Phillies, which is a great organization. They do a great job taking care of us and making us into better baseball players. So, I mean, that experience was crazy. And then getting shipped off to Philly, signing my first contract and getting down to Florida like that, in the snap of a finger, you're in the (Gulf Coast League), you're starting your pro career. It happens so fast. I look back now and it's going to be coming up on two years pretty soon and it all happens so fast. That's why they always say, "Soak it all in and have a great time." Because I mean it does go by pretty fast.

-He offered some insight on the encouragement offered by a pair of team mates, from his youth and now with the Phillies (Luke Williams and Bailey Falter), after he was selected in 2016 draft…

When my name was called by the Phillies (Luke and Bailey) reached out and told me this is a great organization, they do a great job with developmental, especially with high school kids. They take a lot of high school kids, so that part of it was pretty reassuring that I'm in good hands. I mean just, the great piece of information I got was come out here and compete like it's your last day, don't take anything for granted and just play your ass off.

-In discussing his manager, Pat Borders, from his time with short-season A level Williamsport last season, Stephen described how he would enjoy game footage of a guy whose playing days preceded his own baseball watching days…

Last year we would, as a whole team, we would joke around and look up videos of Pat throwing someone out or getting slid over at home plate and we'd make fun of him and we'd joke around a lot. We'd look up fights or whatever. We'd joke around and have a great time with it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Phillies minor league hot list, 4/22/18


Here is a quick run down of how the Phillies' minor league clubs have fared through the first two weeks or so of the 2018 regular season.


Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (7-7 record, 4th place in International League North Division)-

Mitch Walding with Reading last season, image- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Mitch Walding is off to a strong start for the 'Pigs.  The 25-year-old is batting .300 with four doubles, two home runs, six RBI and and eight walks through 14 games played.  The lefty batter was a 5th round draft selection by the Phils in 2011.

Hurler Enyel De Los Santos, acquired last off-season from San Diego in a trade for Freddy Galvis, has been very solid in the IronPigs' rotation.  Through three starts, the right-hander has tallied a 1-0 record with a 1.98 ERA while striking out 22 and walking five in 13 2/3 innings pitched.

Outfielder Dylan Cozens entered action on Saturday batting .273, but an 0-for-4 night dropped the average to .250.  In 14 games, the lefty masher has two doubles, three homers, nine RBI and five steals.  Cozens was a 2nd round pick in 2012.

Double-A Reading Fightin Phils (6-10 record, last place in the Eastern League Eastern Division)-

Corner infielder Damek Tomscha is leading the club's offense, batting .315 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI in 16 games.  The 26-year-old, who was the Phillies' 11th round draft selection in 2014 out of Auburn, is also among the league leaders in OPS with a .906 mark.

Shortstop Malquin Canelo is doing well in the early going, batting .286 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, five RBI and two steals in 14 contests.  The 23-year-old righty batter is a native of the Dominican Republic.

In three starts, right-hander Harold Arauz has posted a 1-0 record with a 3.38 ERA while striking out 20 and walking six in 16 innings.  Arauz, a Panama native, was acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles trade in 2015.

Reliever Seranthony Dominguez has looked very good for the Fightins, sporting a 1-2 record with a 2.45 ERA while striking out 17 and walking two in 11 innings pitched.  Opponents are batting .200 against the promising Dominican.

Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (4-12 record, last place in Florida State League North Division)-

Last year's 1st round draft pick Adam Haseley leads the team in hits with 16.  Overall in 15 games, the lefty batting 22-year-old OF sports a .254 batting average with a home run, nine RBI and two stolen bases.

Lefty pitcher McKenzie Mills has been the bright spot of the starting staff to date for the Threshers.  The 22-year-old has an 0-1 record with a 3.18 ERA and sports a .227 batting average against. He has struck out 13 and walked none in 17 innings pitched.  Mills was acquired from Washington last season in a trade for Howie Kendrick.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws (8-8 record, 5th place in South Atlantic League Northern Division)- 

Will Stewart (right), image- Jay Floyd
Pitcher Will Stewart has looked strong, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.69 ERA while striking out 12 and walking one in 16 innings over three starts.  The 20-year-old lefty was a 20th round draft pick by the Phils in 2015.

Infielder Nick Maton, a 7th round draft pick last year, has posted a .292 average with two homers and five RBI in 13 games for the BlueClaws.  The lefty batter is 21 years old and primarily plays shortstop.

Outfielder Simon Muzziotti had been a catalyst for the team's offense before landing on the disabled list last week.  The 19-year-old is batting .304 with four doubles, six RBI and two steals in 11 games.  The lefty batters is a native of Venezuela.

Friday, April 20, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood hitting coach Tyler Henson

Tyler Henson, image- Jay Floyd
The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws are off to a fair start, posting a 7-7 record through the first couple weeks of the season.  The guy in charge of the offense (2nd lowest OPS in the South Atlantic League entering action on Friday, with a .636 mark) is former Phillies farm hand Tyler Henson.

A 5th round pick of Baltimore in 2006, Henson, 30, took the field in the Phillies organization from 2013-2015 on the end of a 10-year playing career.

Henson began his coaching tenure in 2016 fresh out of retirement.  Last year, he coached with short-season Class A Williamsport.  During his time in affiliated minor league baseball, Henson posted a .263/.323/.393 slash line.

Last week I talked with Coach Henson about his team's lineup, including outfielders Josh Stephen, Jhailyn Ortiz and Simon Muzziotti, along with infielders Daniel Brito, Cole Stobbe, Jake Scheiner and first baseman Quincy Nieporte, plus more about his transition into coaching.

Read ahead for that full interview. 


-Josh Stephen has gotten off to a solid start for the BlueClaws.  What have you seen from him thus far?

He's in a good spot right now.  He's controlling the zone.  That's what we've been working on with him and really getting good pitches to hit and when he does that he does a good job and finds his way on base.

-Cole Stobbe is a name that I think fans will become familiar with, if they haven't done so already.  What are your thoughts on him?

For me he's just got to continue working and keep doing what he's doing right now.  For me, he's got a chance to play in the big leagues, but right now, he's just got to learn how to play the game the right way and go about his business the right way and I think he has a pretty good chance.

-Looking at the roster and just based on your date of birth, my first thought was, "This guy is still playing age!"  Players can find it easier to relate to a guy that they've seen do it or is closer to their age.  Do you find that to be the case, being able to relate to the players, as a guy closer to their age than some of the other coaches they might run into?

They kind of know-- some of the guys were in the organization my last year here, so they kind of knew me and were around me a little bit.  I just try to keep it loose with them.  We get our work in, but we'll still have fun and don't make it feel like it's a total grind every day.  There's going to be days where we go in the cage and turn the music up and hit and I think keeping them loose like that gives them a chance to succeed every day.

-Are there coaches from the Phillies system that you took a lot from while you played and now use that in your coaching techniques?

Andy Tracy, who is now my boss, he was still the coordinator my last few years here and I learned a lot from him as a player, which I've carried over into the coaching side.  We agree on a lot of things.  Frank Cacciatore, who was in Reading for a long time, I clicked with him as a player.  You know, everybody in this organization goes about it the right way and I have a lot of respect for them.

-Your transition into coaching, was it more difficult than you expected or is it what you imagined it would be?

I knew exactly what I wanted to do once I decided I was done playing, so I was fortunate enough for the Phillies organization to bring me in.  It's such a great system with a lot of good players and it's made my transition pretty easy.  So, it's what I always wanted to do when I was done playing, so I'm thankful for that.

-Back to your team...Jhailyn Ortiz is on this Lakewood roster and is a guy that got a big signing bonus.  Started out a bit cold.  What have you seen from him thus far?

He's young, he's got a lot of growing pains to go through.  And I think a lot of these guys will have that.  And as they go up there's going to be some growing pains.  With Jhailyn, it's just trusting his ability to do what he can do and having the confidence to play on an everyday basis.  And when he does that, he could be the best on the field.

-Is there anyone that started hot or had a hot spring that made some good impressions on you?

Muzziotti, he had a great spring.  He's 18, 19 years old, whatever he is and, you know, his ability to put the bat on the ball in all different zones is very impressive for someone his age.  He's, for me, he's got the hitters' knack to be able to barrel the ball that's up in the zone, down in the zone and he's going to do great things.

-Daniel Brito is a guy that was on this team last year and could be a player that some newer guys can learn from.  Thoughts on him?

He's just got to go about his business the right way here.  He's still young.  He's a solid player, defensively and offensively.  I think whenever the strength kicks in, he's going to take off.

Quincy Nieporte, image- Jay Floyd
-Another new guy on the team, Quincy Neiporte...I know he's an offensive guy the team might need to rely on.  What else can you tell me about him?

He's an older guy, a Florida State kid.  This is the first year I've had him and he's good for some of these younger guys to be around.  He, to me, he is a leader in the clubhouse and I think if he continues what he's doing now, he'll be fine for the rest of the year.

-Jake Scheiner, a 4th round pick from last year, is another guy I wanted to ask you about.
 

Another good guy in the clubhouse.  We've got a lot of good guys in here and he is one that extremely works hard and does everything he needs to do the right way.


-I've heard you use the phrase "go about business the right way" a few times.  Not to trying to pick apart what you're saying, but is there any implication that maybe some individuals that need to do that have something they're not doing the right way behind the scenes or whatever?

I mean, for me going about the business the right way is being a professional, learning to be a professional, learning how to do your cage work the right way, having a purpose with everything you do.  And I think, with such a young group of guys, for me, that's the biggest thing for me to teach these guys.  Don't go in the cage just to hit, go in the with a purpose.  You go in there to work, get your work in and then you don't have to be in there for an hour.  Do it right, you get in and out.  As we all know, 140 games is a long year and some of these guys have never experienced that.  And for me to stress that early cuts down swings in the cage and will help them as a professional.

-Most teams will have a guy that is, not necessarily a clown, but, jokes around and keeps things really fun and loose.  Is it possible, in your mind, for a player to be that guy, but also go about all his business the right way?

Absolutely.  I've played with a lot of guys like that.  Here in the clubhouse; have fun, joke.  But when you've got to get your work in, you go about it and do it the right way.  

-How are the Latin guys on this team with English?  Anybody really outstanding?

Pretty much all of them.  Pretty much all of them in here speak good English. It's easy for me and I'm thankful for that.  The Phillies have a good system to where they get their English classes in, you know, and a lot of them are very advanced.

-Conversely, I know from American players that attended some of the Phillies' fall camps and symposiums, that Spanish classes are mandatory for them to learn.  Are there Americans on this team that are good with Spanish?

There's a few, but it's not as important yet.  But in the Phillies organization we stress getting to know each other's cultures, so a lot of these guys they room with a Latin player, so they get to know the language, the heritage, the culture, everything about them.

-A lot of guys will play abroad and that experience can help in precisely the regard you're referencing there.  Did you ever play in a Latin American league and did that help you?

I did.  I played two year in Venezuela and I loved it.  It's a different environment.  You go there to play winter ball and it's not like it is here, mostly about development.  It's about winning every day and it teaches you how to win.  And it's not that we're not trying to win here, but as a coaching staff, we're about developing players and making them better.  And over there it was "win now or go home!" 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bonds are key to Lakewood OF Stephen's success, future

Josh Stephen, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Off to a hot start in the early going for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, outfielder Josh Stephen has used relationships, new and old, to build a level of comfort in the Phillies’ organization that he hopes will help him achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues.

Hailing from southern California, a hotbed for young baseball talent, Stephen was selected by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2016 draft and joined an organization that included some familiar faces. Even before signing his first professional contract with the Phillies, the six feet tall 185-pound lefty batter had guys that he already considered teammates in the system.

Third base prospect Luke Williams, pitchers Kevin Gowdy and Bailey Falter along with first overall draft pick, outfielder Mickey Moniak are all individuals that Stephen competed with and against in his days playing youth baseball.

“It makes the transition of being drafted as an 18-year-old nice that there's people in the dugout, on the field, in the locker room that I've grown up with, I've known. It's kind of special,” Stephen shared.

After Stephen was drafted, he heard from pals Williams (3rd round, 2015) and Falter (5th round, 2015), who made sure their pal, who was committed to playing collegiate ball at USC, didn’t miss out on the opportunity to take the same path they had chosen out of high school. The pair boasted about the organization being a great place for young players with no college experience to learn and develop. They also told Stephen to play his ass off once he came aboard.

Stephen and Falter, a 6-4 lefty, hailed from the same city, so from the time they were 10 years old they were playing with one another and against one another. Gowdy (2nd round, 2016) would face Stephen in tournaments and showcases.

In a seemingly sly manner, when asked how he fared against those two hurlers in his teens, Stephen talked instead about how much fun it was to compete against them. Perhaps that is telling of those results.

Childhood teammates and opposition aren’t the only connections that Stephen has found beneficial to date in his pro career. Working closely with a pair of veterans that have competed at the highest level of the game has been key, according to the 20-year-old.

Prior to his death last year, two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay worked with the Phillies as a mental skills coach and would often form bonds with minor leaguers who were on the same path that he took after being drafted by the Blue Jays in 1995.

“I was in extended (spring training) last year and I got to work with him quite a bit,” Stephen said. “That was very cool to work with someone that has gone through it. He was drafted as a high schooler. He went through an organization just like me or just like any other kid. So, I mean it was a really cool experience to be able to talk to someone who has been in our shoes and knows what we're going through and be able to help us through our journey.”

He also formed a great bond with Class A short-season Williamsport manager Pat Borders, who was the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1992 and helped the Blue Jays down the Phillies in the 1993 Fall Classic.

Stephen says he got close to Borders and picked up a lot from the man who played 17 seasons in the majors.

“I had a phenomenal time, a great learning experience playing for him,” Stephen stated. “I definitely learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about the game, how to go about stuff as far as like a mental standpoint, how to be a professional and I am very grateful that I got to play for him.“

Another key aspect of familiarity for Stephen is related to the opposition. Having faced many of the same pitchers and organizations at lower short-season levels over the past two summers, the adjustment to the full-season South Atlantic League has been somewhat easy.

“I know how they're going to pitch me. I know how they're going to pitch as a whole, as a team.” Stephen offered.

That comfort level and mindset is prevalent for Stephen, who has posted solid numbers to date. Through 10 games with the BlueClaws, Stephen sports a .321 batting average and has matched his previous career high in homers with two.

Being around big leaguers like new Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta, another Cy Young Award winner, during spring training this year also made a lasting impression with Stephen.

"Two years ago he's pitching in the World Series and you're like, ‘That just seems so far away, so unrealistic!'", Stephen expressed. “I watched this guy on TV in the World Series and two years later, I'm in the box facing him. And he's in the dugout with us, talking to us like we're (equals)."

With his sights set on a dream of reaching the top level of the sport, Stephen aims to use his inspirations and lessons from the bonds he’s formed in his time playing baseball to take steps toward making that happen along with his teammates.

“We go about our business every day and we're just one day closer and one day closer. That's what keeps me motivated.  Doing it together.”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood pitching coach Brad Bergesen

Brad Bergesen, image- Jay Floyd
Joining Class A Lakewood as this team's pitching coach this year is former Orioles and Diamondback pitcher Brad Bergesen.  After wrapping up a 13-year playing career last year, the 32-year-old joined the coaching ranks this past off-season.

Last week I spoke with Bergesen about his young BlueClaws pitching staff including last year's second round draft selection Spencer Howard, starter Will Stewart, who is off to a hot start with a pair of wins and no earned runs allowed in his first two outings, and reliever Kyle Dohy, who has two saves and nine strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings through three games.

Read ahead for that full interview.

-What are you early impressions of this BlueClaws pitching staff thus far?

I'm super excited about this group.  It's a great group, a lot of energy, a lot of guys that like to work and are eager to learn, so I'm very, very excited about this group.

-Will Stewart with a nice pair of outings to open his season. Two big wins.  Are you excited to see that early on?

Oh, absolutely.  You know, it's a great start for him and I'm really pleased with what I've seen thus far.  He's got a great two-seamer, his change up has been a really effective pitch for him.  So, my goal is to help fine tune those and make him as consistent as possible.

-This roster last year had some buzz worthy names, pitching staff wise.  Sixto Sanchez, JoJo Romero, others. Are there guys on this staff that you could see becoming that next wave of pitchers that garner a lot of attention?

You know, I mean I'm not going to predict those things.  All I know is, like I was saying earlier, this is a great staff and I'm really eager to work with these guys and try to get them on to the next level.

-Kyle Dohy is a guy I wanted to ask about.  What are his strengths out there?

Dohy's been outstanding so far for us.  He looks explosive with everything he's been doing.  He's answering the bell in some big situations and shut the door, so I just continue to hope that he progresses in that role and continues to progress with the things that he's been doing, because he's been outstanding so far.

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
-Thoughts on Spencer Howard?

He's a great kid.  Great work ethic.  I'm really excited with what I've seen in spring training and what I've seen up to this point.  And I'm really excited to get out there with him in a couple hours and see what he's featuring tonight.

-With a few different guys getting save opportunities, are there any defined assignments or roles in the bullpen right now?

You know, it's still early.  Guys are going to work themselves into their own positions and their own roles.  How they're pitching dictates that, as it always does in baseball.  And, so, at this level, with them being young, we're going to let them do their thing and see where that takes us.

-Is there anybody that's a long reliever that might be able to slide into a starting spot if that need came up?

Yeah, there's about three guys.  I'll keep that in my back pocket, just in case it ever gets to that and that needs to be a last minute decision.  But, we're got a few guys that could fill that role. 

-Was there anybody on the staff that really stood out during spring training?

Honestly, being new to the organization, I've got no history with these guys, so I got to see everybody about two or three outings.  And at times I was truly impressed with things that I saw from different points of each of their outings.  So, my goal is to bring that out of them, the best that I've seen out of them, and get them to make it where that's their consistent release, their consistent delivery and be able to have consistent outings with the flashes of greatness that I've seen them have. 

-Normally, it would seem at the Class A levels the focus is mainly on the mechanics, those consistencies you speak of and things.  Safe to say that's your goal...

Oh, absolutely.  This is a developmental stage for a lot of guys.  We have a young club here as far as experience goes.  A lot of college guys, but you know for a lot of them this is their first full season.  And that in itself is a big challenge and a big learning process just to be able to handle and withstand playing 140 games.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Fightins RHP Luke Leftwich talks Spring Training, Analytics & Reading's park

Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed reliever Luke Leftwich had a big season out of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers bullpen last year and has opened the 2018 season with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, hoping to have another remarkable campaign.

In his first full season out of the bullpen last year, the Wofford College product posted a 1-6 record, an outstanding 2.70 ERA, a .232 batting average against and an impressive 11.02 K/9 mark in 42 appearances.

To date this year, Leftwich was appeared in three games, notching one save, striking out six and walking one in four hitless innings.

The 23-year-old, who was the Phillies' 7th round draft pick in 2015, is striving to become Major League Baseball's second third-generation pitcher.

Recently, I talked with the California native, about his experience in spring training, moving up to the Double-A level, exposure to the Phillies' new focus on analytics and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How did spring training go for you?

I actually had a really good spring.  It was good to be with pretty much the same group of guys all throughout the whole spring and it was good to gel together as a team.  And I threw pretty well and it was good throwing for (pitching coach Steve) Schrenk. So, it went well.

-Were there any moments in spring training that stand out to you as a noteworthy moment or are there any standout experiences you had in the spring?

Not too much.  I know with the whole new regime coming in with the Phillies, trying to stress analytics and all that, they talked to a bunch of us about what works well for us and how we can use our talents and our skills on the field to, basically, keep making us better, so we worked a lot on making what we're already good at even better.

-Did you have any opponents or at bats during the spring that helped you build confidence or that were memorable for you?

The last hitter I faced in spring training was Bo Bichette and I got to strike him out, so that's a good way to end camp because he's the talk of the town these days.

-All smiles there!  I like that.  There's a guy, Sam Fuld, with the Phils that is in place to help translate unique statistical information that you spoke of into more player-friendly speak.  Is this going to trickle down to the minor league levels a lot?

Yeah, we actually did meet with him in spring training and it was pretty cool, because there's all these stats that a lot of us have never seen before and don't know what they mean and he kind of put them in more baseball terms for us, rather than statistical terms.  And it was pretty cool to kind of see that stuff, what it means and how it can help us.

-Any examples you can think of?

No, not specifically.  It's just a lot of the new statistical terms that all the smart people are saying that we haven't necessarily seen yet.  

-Your impressions of that...do you think the focus on analytics will benefit you guys a lot?

Absolutely!  I think it's one of those things that can't hurt and I think it's only going to help us.  And it's one of those things that it is what you make of it, and if you go in and try and learn from it and use it to your advantage, then it's going to help you.

-Is there anybody in the bullpen that you've bonded with considerably or are very close with?

Me and (Tyler) Gilbert have been together since day one in Williamsport.  We've been throwing partners since literally our first day of mini camp in Clearwater, a week after the draft.  We've kind of gone through this whole journey together.

-So, you guys are rooming together, video game rivals, all of that...?

Well, pretty much all of the above.  We're not rooming together this season.  We definitely do a lot of stuff.  We hang out.  We make music together sometimes.   Do all that kind of stuff, so it's been cool.

-Is there anybody on the roster that's experiencing this terrible wintery spring weather in PA for the first time?

I think there's a few guys that have never quite experienced this before.  I know my roommate, Seth McGarry, he's from Florida, grew up in Bradenton, and he's come up here and playing in snow would be the first time for him.

-You talked about Schrenk.  What are your impressions of him in the early going?

I love him.  He's been great.  He's really good with mentality wise, just how to pitch to people and how we should be on the mound, rather than maybe early on in your careers when maybe you need to work on mechanics and fixing things.  He kind of knows that now that we've made it to this level, we know what we're doing and we need to better our mentality on the mound.

-Coming up to Reading and playing here for the first time, what are your thoughts on that?

I'm excited.  I mean, I've been trying to get here for years and now that I'm here, I'm excited for the challenge and I'm ready to get going.

-Is there anything you've heard about the fans, the town, the facility?

I've heard nothing but great things.  I heard it's a great atmosphere here, the fans love the team, it's a fun nice field to play on.  I'm just really excited to get going.

-You mentioned the field here and it can plan as an offensive park.  What have you heard from guys that have played here before?

It's definitely one of those things that the people that pitched here last year passed down to the guys coming in this year.  Like, "Don't be afraid to attack!  There's going to be some balls that shouldn't get out that end up getting out.  And don't let that discourage you because it's going to happen.  It's part of the game.  Just keep trucking forward."

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fightins Quotables: OF Zach Coppola talks spring training

Zach Coppola, image- Jay Floyd
In an occasional role with the big league Phillies this spring outfield prospect Zach Coppola impressed many.  In 10 games, the 23-year-old lefty batted posted a .273 average with two RBI and three stolen bases.

A 13th round draft selection by the Phils in 2015, Coppola has been a steady moved in the team's developmental ranks over the last couple of season.

Coppola, a .290 career hitter in the minors, could be a valuable contributor in years to come for the Phillies.

Last week, prior to opening the season with Double-A Reading, I talked with Zach about his time around the big club this pre-season.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How would you describe your time around the major league team in spring training?

It was really fun just getting to know those guys, being around them, just seeing how they go about their business. It was cool especially with the new culture going on up there. It was an exciting time.

-With that mention of a new culture, you're referring to a more analytics based focus.  Is that stuff that you think will really help you guys?

Yeah, I think so. I mean with all the video stuff coming in and all the statcast and all that it’s pretty cool to look at. It’s definitely different. I think it’s definitely going to help us look further into more detailed stuff and get to know other people more, get to know ourselves more. So, I think it’s going to be pretty good.

-Down there in the Phillies complex, it's probably easy for a representative from the big league team to come by and present some information.  Do you have any idea yet how meetings might go to review new statistical details during the season?

I’m not entirely sure about that. I know we’ll have our video guy on the road with us this year, so I think that’s pretty cool. That’ll be good to look at the starting pitchers and get tendencies and stuff like that. I’m not entirely sure, in relation to the other stats and stuff like that, I’m not entirely sure how we’ll see those.


-Was there anyone that you picked up a lot from in spring training?

Just being with all the outfielders. You know, like Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams those guys just going about their business in the right way. Seeing how they do their outfield work and Sam Fuld working with the outfield guys, seeing them just talking situations and stuff like that I thought it was really cool just being in the dugout listening to them and (seeing) how they go about their business and stuff.

-Were there any memorable at bats for you during the big league games?

I had one myself, a game-tying two-RBI single which was pretty cool. The crowd was pretty loud, so that was fun. It was against the Pirates. It was just a cool situation, I came in the game in a big situation.

.-The season's starting out for you guys at home.  What are your thoughts on getting out here and playing in front of local Phillies fans?

These fans are some of the best in the league.  Home games are great. Playing on the road is great. You do see a lot of Phillie fans at all sorts of stadiums.  So, it's gonna be fun.

Friday, April 6, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading slugger Damek Tomscha talks winter ball in PR

Damek Tomscha, image- Jay Floyd

Over the winter, Phillies minor leaguer Damek Tomscha dodged the winter weather of the midwest to tackle new challenges and work on his craft. 

In 17 contests with Santurce in Puerto Rico, the 26-year-old righty batter posted a .321 average with a pair of home runs and five RBI.

Tomscha, a 17th round selection by the Phillies in 2014, plays first base, third base and left field.  He has tallied a .282/,372/.417 slash line in four pro seasons to date.

This week prior to opening the season with Double-A Reading, I talked with Tomscha about his experience playing in the Roberto Clemente League.  Read ahead for that full interview.

 

-Do you feel like playing in Puerto Rico was a valuable experience for you?

Yeah, it was unbelievable.  I had a great time, just getting more AB's, facing those older pitchers.  They were pitching more backwards to me, not as much (velocity), but they had good stuff and they threw any pitch in any count, so that helped me out a lot.  Any time you're getting more AB's it's gonna help you out and, for me, I thought it helped me out tremendously to just understand where my swing needed to be for the season and I had those struggles early and I made adjustments quick and that should help me out quite a bit this year.

-Was there anyone down there that rubbed off on you a lot...whether it's a coach or a teammate?

I played with Robert Andino, who played with the Baltimore Orioles.  He helped me out by talking about his (batting practice) routine, just what he's trying to accomplish.  Also, just watching Ivan DeJesus Jr., from the Red Sox, he was fun.  But those were the two main guys.  They're a little bit older than me, so I would try to pick their brains and learn what they were trying to accomplish.  Obviously, they've got some big league time and I'm just trying to learn. 

-You play the same teams often there, so were there any sorts of fun rivalries with Jesmuel Valentin or any other Phillies guys down there?

Nah, nothing too crazy.  Being an American and being an import, you don't know who the big rival is.  And I think Santurce/Mayaguez is the big rivalry, but because the way the league was, you play a lot of day games, so you don't get a lot of the same fans.  But, it was fun to play against them...him, Yacksel Rios, (Jiandido Tromp) and having Jan (Hernandez) on my team too, there were a lot of Phillies out there, which is fun because that's the highest level of baseball down there.  I definitely enjoyed it.

-How does it work with you getting signed or assigned to go down there and play?  Is your agent involved, are the Phillies involved?

My agent helped me out a lot with that.  He called me up in November and said, "We have a spot here.  Do you want to go?  Are you interested?" And I said, "Let's do it!"  It was either me go play for a month in Puerto Rico in January or be in Iowa and be in the snow.  I thought it would help me out and I'm a huge fan now.  I love the culture and I'll try go play there every year if I can. 

-How does it work with the team here?  Do you have to get it cleared with the Phillies before you go?

Not really.  I signed my contract and then I called Andy Tracy to just let him know I was going to go play.  A lot of the Latino players play down in those leagues and they would actually push for you guys to go play in these winter leagues because it is a big help.  Any time you get more AB's, it's going to help you out.

-What did you see recovery wise down there?  I talked to Valentin in the off-season and his family and his area were good, but I'll still see occasional news reports that say some areas are struggling with storm recovery.

Well, I was in the Condado area of San Juan and it was still pretty tough.  I'd walk outside my apartment and go to the grocery store and their intersections, they didn't have-- their lights weren't up.  So, people were just kind of creeping through the intersection and it's a really nice area of San Juan and the power lines are hanging low and you could touch and grab the power lines on the ground.  

Things have gotten better, obviously.  By the time I left in January, the stop lights were up again and running, but it was crazy to see because all the trees were bare and there's buildings that have windows out and there's a lot more work to do for them.  You see a lot of houses with tarps on the roof because the roof was blown off.  It was pretty incredible.  But those guys are really resilient people and they love their island.  They're gonna be fine and they're gonna figure it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018 Phillies home opener schedule & game notes

Image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies kick off their 2018 home schedule on Thursday April 5th at Citizens Bank Park.  Here is a listed schedule of events for the day along with some key statistical notes for the contest.

12:00 PM- Block Party begins.  Presented by Budweiser on Citizens Bank Way, the party features a live band, a Ferris Wheel, Gametrain a Budweiser Macro Bar and samplings from Turkey Hill Dairy, Diet Coke and others. 

12:35 PM- All gates open.  Fans will receive a commemorative knit hat.

12:40 PM- Phillies batting practice.

1:10 PM- Marlin batting practice.

2:26 PM- Phillies lead off walk onto the field, entering the park from the outfield.

2:35 PM- "America the Beautiful" performed by the Philadelphia Boys Choire and Men;s Chorale. 

2:39 PM- Marlins team introduction.

2:44 PM- Phillies team introduction.

2:49 PM- Tribute video & moment of silence for Roy Halladay.

2:51 PM- National Anthem performed by Kane Kalas at his father's statue behind section 141.

2:53 PM- U.S. Navy parachute team, the Leap Frogs, delivering first balls.

3:00 PM- Ceremonial first pitch by Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. 

3:05 PM- PLAY BALL!


Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for the Phillies.  In 12 career home starts, the 25-year-old sports a 4-3 record with a 5.34 ERA and a .263 batting average against.  Pivetta has posted an 8.66 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins.

Left Caleb Smith is slated to start for the Marlins.  He struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings in his season debut against the Cubs last week. 


Cesar Hernandez, the Phils' 27-year-old second baseman, batted .320 at home last year and is a .280 career hitter at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, 25, is a .246 hitter in 46 career games against Miami.  Franco batted .214 in 77 home games last season.

In career 10 games against the Marlins, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins has a .441 average with eight homers and 19 RBI.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading manager Greg Legg addresses the media

Greg Legg, image- Jay Floyd
Tuesday was media day in Reading, with players and the club's manager, Greg Legg, meeting with local reporters for the first time in 2018.

Legg's track record with the Phillies dates back to 1982 when the team drafted him as an infielder in the 22nd round.

With the season opening for Reading on Thursday at home against Erie, Legg spoke about his plans for the roster, impressions of some players and plenty more.

Read ahead for that full interview.


-Sharing thoughts on the strengths of his five starters, Jake Waguespack, Ranger Suarez, JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome and Harold Arauz...

Probably, if you were going to sum up all five of them, probably their competitiveness.  They're all good athletes.  Waguespack, watching him grow, has been a lot of fun for me.  The last game he threw was four innings and he pretty much threw all fastballs in an intra-squad game and he just dominated our hitters, with the extension he's getting.  Suarez was fun.  That was the first taste I ever got to see him and he just attacked everybody and he pitched efficient, he just got after it.  And Romero's ball's moving all over the place.  And Kilome is, we saw him last year, he's got that hook, it's nasty and plus the good fastball.  So, we've got a good group.  Arauz I haven't seen much.  The little bit I saw was like he has a way of getting people out.  All he's done is win so far.  So, this is going to be a great test for 'em all.

-Additional thoughts on Jake Waguespack and his progress in 2017...

He just kept getting better as the year went.  It was unbelievable how far he went from when I saw him the year before.  He was pitching in the bullpen and all of a sudden he was a starter and he just kept going, the fastball's getting better and the extension that he gets and the angle, he's so big and strong, it's nice.

-Providing insight on how many innings he expects starting pitchers to go...

I'm gonna let them- they'll tell us.  If you watch the games, the pitchers tell you or the hitters that they're facing let you know where they're at.  We know it's a long season and it's about the future, so we'll be- I don't want to say the word careful, but they'll tell us when it's time to sit and then wait the next four or five days for their next start.

-Speaking on if the key for this team is the development of the five starting pitchers...

That's a huge key.  We just gotta catch the ball behind them and hope they keep getting better with each outing.  We're talking about they just keep improving.  From the start of this season, where they just left spring training, until the end of the season.  If they keep improving the way they should be, then their development it'll be right on pace.

-Talking about how he expects to use relief pitcher Seranthony Dominguez...

Multiple innings at the beginning.  We'll get him out there one, two-- multiple innings in the beginning, then as time goes on, he's gonna tell us, we'll probably give him a chance at closing some games.  But, at the beginning, we're gonna give him the ball and then I'm gonna sit down and relax and see what happens. I'll take a seat and say, "Go get 'em, kid."

-Feedback on what he saw from Dominguez in spring training...

It's pretty good.  It was exciting to see this spring.  There was one outing where they touched him a little bit.  We didn't make a play, then a guy blooped one, and then a guy hit one hard.  All the other outings, they were in complete command.

-On the topic of how Ranger Suarez was declared the team's opening day starter...

It's kind of the way it fell.  We were playing games and games went on and a guy had maybe a small setback and he didn't make that start, a blister on his finger or whatever and it just fell that way.  There was no rhyme or reason to who got number one, it just went that way.

-Talking about Suarez's spring outings...

Outstanding.  I saw two starts.  Both starts were very pitch efficient, very good athlete.  He got after it and the innings were quick.

-Asked if he's prepared his hurlers for Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, which has a reputation of playing as a hitter's park...

We haven't talked about it yet, as far as the short dimensions and things like that, but there's a lot of those parks in the big leagues now.  Yankee Stadium, our park (Citizens Bank Park) plays very hitter-friendly, so does Cincinnati.  So, you gotta learn to pitch in those ballparks.  So, we haven't talked about it.  I'm sure they talk about it with teammates that are at Triple-A or now in the big leagues.  You know, Reading can be an unforgiving place when you're pitching, but if you strike people out and get ground balls, you don't have to worry about it. 

-Sharing thoughts on what he is looking for from catcher Deivi Grullon...


To keep getting better, communicate, lead.  All the things he's been working on in spring training.  His English continues to grow and get better and as that's gotten better, his leadership qualities have gotten better. 

-On how he plans to use his players offensively...

Each guy's a little bit different.  Coppola; get on base.  Tomscha; hit doubles, drive in runs.  Heiker (Meneses); hit and run a little bit, move the ball.  Martin; add on to your year and hit .250, keep hitting some homers, but cut down on your strike outs.  Each guy's a little different, so you can't treat them as one.

-Speaking on if returning players Kyle Martin, Damek Tomscha and Zach Coppola will be relied on as leaders for younger guy...

Yeah, I think a lot of the burden of the offense should fall on them until Randolph and Hernandez get their feet wet a little bit.  That's kind of the way it should be.  The veterans take over. You've been here, show 'em how it's done and then let those guys feel their way through a little bit and then, hopefully, those guys will move on and the Randolph's and the Hernandez's will take the leadership role in the second half.


C. Randolph, image- Jay Floyd
-Regarding expectations for Cornelius Randolph, a first round draft pick of the Phillies...


I don't expect him to come out in the first month and hit .350 and hit 10 homers and drive in 35 runs.  I expect him to get a taste of what this is and continue to get better as a player and he's got lightening hands.  His hands are quick enough to hit in this league, but it's just...if you can play at Double-A, you can play in the big leagues.  It may take him a few games to get his feet wet and he might get out of the gate good.  I sure hope he does, but I look for him to continue to improve as the year progresses.  

He's got quick hands.  Sometimes he waits a long time till the ball's there and then he's able to barrel the ball.  He's got some good hands.

-Some thoughts on Tomscha...

He's gonna play some first, some third, some left (field).  I expect him to drive in runs and to do what he does, which is to hit.  He's- I want to say he hit over .300 last year and hit a lot of doubles and just be an RBI guy for us and kind of do what he does for us, which is hit.  He's always hit.  


-Feedback on where Randolph could bat in the lineup...

Fifth, sixth, somewhere in there.  Don't want to put him in the three hole or four hole yet.  We'll let him tell us where he's going to hit.  Give him some time to watch the other guys, the guys with a little more experience and then go from there.  

He's 20 years old.  You got to let him become a man.  He's still a young man and as time goes on he'll continue to get better.

-Chatting about himself...

I'm trying to have as much fun as I can.  The older I get, I just want to enjoy the moment a little bit more and kind of realize where you're at with this.  It's supposed to be fun, make it fun for the players in that room and continue to develop and kind of do a little of what we did last year- send guys up and have more guys get to Philly than last year.

-Regarding seeing players he's helped progress through the minors reach the big leagues...

That's the best feeling you get.  Usually, you're sitting in your chair in September, after you've done wife's chores, what she had you do, and you look up and there's a guy that you worked with and now he's in the big leagues.  And usually you're by yourself.  The kids are out doing something, your wife's already in bed and you kind of toast them.  "Cheers to you guys!"  

It's a great feeling.  It's the best we get in our job.

-Sharing thoughts on the new rule in the minors where each extra inning begins with a runner on second base...

The best thing to come out of it is I won't have to call Doug Mansolino at two in the morning and say, "Hey, Manzo.  We need two pitchers!"  And if we need two or three, then the team we took them from needs two or three.  That'll probably be the best thing that comes out of it; less player transactions when you don't want to move a guy and you're just doing it out of necessity.  

We practiced it a little in spring training in our intra-squad games.  You know, put us in those positions and our group wasn't good at moving the runner in those three innings that we did it.  But, as a purist, a guy that's been around as long as I have, I kind of don't like it, but for those reasons that we talked about earlier, where you don't have to keep moving players, in the minor leagues, it might be a good thing.  

-On if he would prefer an inning cap and a tie rule instead of the runner-on-second...

If I get into that, of what I think-- I think there should be no double headers in the minor leagues.  It's a seven-inning game, not a nine-inning game.  And if you play a 2-1 game, you might have a guy that only gets two at bats, versus the four at bats he would have had in a nine-inning game.  That way everybody does everything to get the game in that day.  There'd be no rush to bang it.  So, that's my opinion, and then you just go by winning percentage.  

-Commenting on if he has aspirations of coaching in the big leagues...

I think all of us do.  That's why young showed up at the ballpark back in 1982, my first time in a pro uniform.  I was trying to get to the big leagues.  I won't lose that dream until I hang 'em up.  But right now my biggest dream is to get some of those guys in that room to the big leagues.  


The Double-A Fightin Phils were slated to meet their Triple-A organization mates in the spring's final exhibition game in the evening hours, but the contest was rained out.

Check back in the coming days for more Fightins interviews.