Tuesday, July 31, 2018

RHP Howard taking strides with Class A Lakewood

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
Compared to some of his Lakewood BlueClaws teammates starting pitcher Spencer Howard may not be having an exceptionally remarkable campaign, but he’s starting to show enough progress to get both the Phillies and fans excited.

On a pitching staff that leads the Class A South Atlantic League in earned run average with a 2.81 ERA through action played on Sunday, a hurler with a personal ERA of 4.50, as Howard has, might normally not be all that noteworthy. That could especially be the case when a pair of his teammates, Will Stewart and David Parkinson, rank first and third in the league in ERA respectively. But the Phillies second round draft choice from 2017, Howard, feels that he’s made the right amount of progress and is proud of what his teammates are accomplishing.

The environment is enjoyable and fortifying for all of the BlueClaws’ promising young pitchers. They're supportive of one another and they each push the next man with friendly competition. There's no selfishness and there's nobody hoping to be the only one performing well in order to stand out.

"Throughout this organization with the staffs that I’ve been on, it seems to be a trend," Howard shared following his most recent start. "I don’t know if the Phillies just purposely go for good people, or whatever, but overall it’s just good-ass dudes playing some baseball. It’s a lot of fun."

Lakewood's pitching staff overall leads all of minor league baseball with 20 shutouts.

The right-hander, who is listed at six-feet-three and 205 pounds, has tallied a 6-7 record with an outstanding 11.6 K/9 mark and a .238 batting average against through 17 Sally League starts to date this season.

Howard’s production has seen some ups (1.89 ERA in four April starts) and downs (8.79 ERA in four May starts) this season. He attributes the arduous path to occasional mechanical flaws and he feels comfortable with knowing that he's aware of how to right the ship when it goes off course. And even when he’s not able to adjust in an immediate fashion, he’s taking lessons along the way to ensure each outing has a silver lining.

“When I feel confident in my mechanics then everything’s there,” Howard said. “It’s been a consistency thing for me, just trying to get to that comfortable place on the mound. There’s been a few outings where I haven’t felt that good, but I managed to just battle through it.”

While the California native works to enhance the evenness of his mechanics, the Phillies have stressed the importance for Howard to build a solid base and develop a better understanding of pitch sequences.

Once that foundation is firmly in place the fast track may not be far off for the product of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"When it comes together, and for me it's going to come together not too far down the road, maybe the second half of his progression to the big leagues is going to go a little bit quicker than maybe the first half," said Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan.

Howard made his professional debut within about a month of being selected with the 45th overall pick last year.  In nine starts with Class A short-season Williamsport Howard posted a 1-1 record with a 4.45 ERA and a .214 batting average against.  

His pitch repertoire features a fastball that frequently reached 97 and 98 miles per hour in his most recent outing in which he struck out 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings. He’s also equipped with an exceptional cutter that resembles a slider, a curveball that features good break and a change up that fools batter frequently.  Each pitch can come off as what insiders would call plus offerings.

“It’s fun to watch him start to put all those pitches together in one outing,” Lakewood pitching coach Brad Bergesen stated “Earlier in the year I’d see him have one of the four, or two of the four or three of the four sometimes, but his last few outings he’s been a lot more consistent with his feel of four pitches.”

With noticeable progress and a bright future ahead, Howard and the Phillies are excited to see what happens when the base, his mechanics and the aresenal become unrelenting.


“It's got a chance to happen big,” said Jordan.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan

Joe Jordan, image- Jay Floyd
On Sunday, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan took some time to talk with me about plenty of prospects throughout the Phils developmental levels.

Topics discussed include injury updates for several hurlers including Jose Taveras, Nick Fanti, Bailey Falter and a critical note on Triple-A reliever Brandon Leibrandt.  Also mentioned are outfielders Jhailyn Ortiz and Jose Pujols, catcher Deivi Grullon, Lakewood starters Will Stewart and David Parkinson as well as impressive Double-A reliever Kyle Dohy along with Triple-A reliever Tyler Gilbert.

Read onward for much of my interview with Joe and check back in the coming days for his thoughts on some other names that are worthy of interest. 


-Kyle Dohy's graduated out of Lakewood and Clearwater, landing in Reading.  He's started to get some attention, after he was a 16th round draft pick and pitched in short-season Class A last year.  Can you talk about his season and how impressive that's been?

Well, I think it speaks for itself that it's been a phenomenal year for him.  You know, you just-- he is a power pitcher from the left side out of the bullpen and he's got three pitches to get good hitters out with.  And I just think from a velocity to an execution standpoint with his fastball, if he establishes his fastball then it opens up the whole plate for his other two pitches and that's, for me, what he's been able to do.  And he's been phenomenal.  Again, he's got three plus pitches.  You have the ability to-- he's got a pretty good arsenal to draw from.

-Has he been the biggest eye-catcher in the system this year?  Has there been anybody else that's really made a name for himself the way Kyle has this year?

I think that he's definitely, if not the biggest surprise, (he's) one of them.  Just because it's a pretty ascent to Double-A out of last year's draft.  So, yeah, it'd be hard to argue with that.

-What are his offerings and his strengths? 

It's a hard curveball behind a well above average fastball at times and then a change up.   You know, he's got three pitches that he can go after both left and right handed hitters with.  That's why he's done what he's done.  He's just been really, really good.

-For Lakewood both Will Stewart and David Parkinson are lefty starters that have been quite impressive.  I think people have been expecting those guys to come back down to Earth with their statistics, but they haven't and have been strong all year.  What can you share about those guys?

Well, Will, for me, the first three months of the summer was as good as anybody we had in our system on the mound, as far as starting pitching.  And he's just gotten stronger as he's added strength and understanding to how his delivery's supposed to work.  It's a power sinker with a plus change up and an improving breaking ball, so it's been-- we're kind of managing his innings right now.  We've got a target we want to try to get him to at the end of the year, but he's really, really taken a huge step forward. 

And David, for me, can pitch with pretty much anyone in our system.  It's fastball, curveball, slider, change up, really good feel for sequences.  He gets a lot of swings and misses on an 89 to 92 mile an hour fastball, but it's because he knows when he executes it, he can throw his fastball.  He's got a really good feel for how to sequence a hitter and, so I've been really impressed with him this year.  Again, based on last summer, you know last summer was our first time to see him and I think he's really-- we've had a lot of guys that have just taken big steps forward, so both these guys are two of them.

-Also on that list of guys to take significant strides is likely Tyler Gilbert.  How about him?

Yeah, I think it's just more of the same.  Late last summer in Clearwater he started playing around with a cutter grip.  And it was a pitch that I think he took to really quickly.  We saw it late last summer and he went and pitched in the fall league, went and brought that pitch forward.  I think he's gotten more comfortable and familiar with the bull pen role and how to prepare and how to get ready.  His fastball's up a grade.  His cutter is good.  He's got a change up and a breaking ball.  He's really just grown for me, as a pitcher, and understanding what he has and how to use it.

-How has Deivi Grullon impressed you this year?  He wins the Eastern League home run derby, he's hitting for more power.  (His manager) Greg Legg is happy with his progress, mentioning he's improved his English.  What have you seen from him?

Well, I think what you just said from Legger.  I think he's gotten better in every aspect of his game.  He's really-- I think the coolest thing about Grullon's development is he has really taken ownership of his staff.  I think he has taken ownership of running the pre- and post-game meetings.  I think he really understands now, more than ever, the importance of the role of the catcher to be a leader, to understand pitchers' strengths and pitch off of those.  So, offensively, listen, he just keeps getting better.  But there's not one part of his game that he hasn't come forward on.  We've had him since he was 16 years old.  It's been really cool to watch.


Jhailyn Ortiz, image- Jay Floyd
-Speaking of a guy signed at 16, Jhailyn Ortiz has been a pretty consistent RBI guy in the middle of the BlueClaws' lineup.  Talk about him a bit.

Well, I think Jhailyn's getting exactly what he needs and he's getting experience.  Listen, no one has more ability.  He's a very energetic young guy.  I love what he's doing.  As soon as he gets a little better understanding of the strike zone and how guys are trying to pitch him, this guy's gonna go fast.  I think experience is what he needs, that's what he's getting.  He's got everything you need, every ingredient- every physical ingredient- you need to be a fantastic player one of these days. 

-A guy I ask you about every time we talk is Jose Pujols.  He showed a lot of power a couple years ago at Lakewood, seemed to struggle at Clearwater last year and now this year he seems to have figured out that league.  Is he where you were hoping for this year?

Well, I think he falls into the same category as to what we were talking about with Dohy.  A guy that had a really, really tough go last year and I think what Jose's done is make adjustments with being  over aggressive, take what the game gives you, understand how you're being pitched to.  He's just been terrific to watch.  It's really rewarding for all of us because obviously we lived through the struggles of last year with him.  And I'm proud of him.  I'm proud of him for-- he's the one that's made the adjustments, but he's a pretty damn good player right now. 

-Yeah, absolutely.  He's been outstanding there.  I wanted to ask about some guys that are situated down in Clearwater, rehabbing with various injuries.  Nick Fanti's a guy that's missed time this year with a lower back strain.  Is he going to throw with a team again this year?

Well, that's our hope.  He's getting better.  It's, you know, he's just dealt with some physical stuff that's kept him sidelined, obviously.  I think he's improving, getting ready to start throwing, his throwing progression.  We'll get him out before the year is up.

-J.D. Hammer's a guy, coming into this season, I think people were excited to see and they haven't seen him.  Any feedback for him?

Yeah, I think we're gonna see him sometime in August.  We'll be able to recapture some innings for him sometime this fall or winter.  So, you know, it's been more of the same, just dealt with some injuries, but we're gonna get to see him in August.  

-Continuing with a list of pitchers I'm hoping to ask about Brandon Leibrandt has missed time after a tremendous start for Lehigh Valley.  What's his current status?

Well, Brandon Leibrandt had UCL (Tommy John) surgery, so he's at home kind of recuperating right now, but he'll be rehabbing this fall and winter and pretty much all of '19.

-A couple other injured pitchers worth checking in on are Jose Taveras and Bailey Falter.

Falter's gonna-- I think he's throwing his last rehab outing maybe, I'm guessing the 31st or the 1st.  And then he'll be back with Clearwater.  And Taveras, he's throwing.  We gotta get him built up.  But he'll be pitching in August. 

-Taveras's injury- is it a recurrence of his initial spell on the DL?

It was more of- it was really nothing structural, it was he was lacking some strength and he dealt with a little shoulder tendonitis and when he came back he just wasn't physically as ready as we felt like he was, so we wanted to back off.  He's fine.  He's throwing.  We just wanted to get him built up and he'll be pitching in August.

-So I know that Trevor Bettencourt was a guy that was maybe put on the disabled list as a precaution, when he was missing some of the velocity he showed last year and it sounds like something similar with Taveras.  Is that the normal path, if there's a guy and he lacks strength and there's evidence like that, with radar gun readings, to set them aside and see if you can work it out?

Yeah.  I think what we did with Trevor was very prudent.  And he will be with a club, hopefully, this week some time.  He's doing really good.  I saw him down in Clearwater last week.

-And, Joe, I know you prefer to talk about the healthy guys, so Cole Irvin has progressed at a nice pace since he was drafted two years ago and is an All-Star for that  Triple-A IronPigs team.  What are your thoughts on Cole Irvin's season?

He's had a great year.  Hell, there's no other way to slice it up.  He's had a terrific year and in previous seasons he may have already been in the big leagues.  Right now, we've got a pretty good rotation in the big leagues and a pretty good group in Triple-A, so he just needs to keep doing what he's doing. 

-I want to ask about one more guy.  Ranger Suarez has enjoyed some success this year at Double-A and Triple-A.  He gets a big league start to make his major league debut this past week and, hopefully, that's the first of many.  Can you share some thoughts on Ranger?

Well, I mean, Ranger's been terrific.  I thought he did a good job in his debut.  You know, the beauty of Ranger Suarez is he knows exactly who he is.  He knows himself, he knows what pitches he's got.  He's gonna go do what he does and I thought that's what he did in Cincinnati.  I think that he's had a good year and he's got a lot of pitching left to do.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Speedy OF Quinn headed back to the big leagues

Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Multiple reports on Friday have the Phillies promoting often injured outfielder Roman Quinn to fill a spot on the team's major league roster.  The addition will give the club an elite defender and a switch-hitting contributor that is a stolen base threat that can get in pitchers' heads . 

The Phillies' 2nd round draft pick in 2011 has posted a .305 average with a pair of homers, 11 RBI and 14 steals in 28 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year.  He's been working his way back of late, following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right hand.

Starting with his first full season in professional baseball in 2013, the center-fielder and sometimes-shortstop, Quinn, has played in 378 games throughout the Phillies organization. During those five and a half seasons, the 25-year-old has spent 405 total regular season days out of action with injuries that, in addition to this year's ailment, range from a broken wrist to a torn muscle and from a ruptured Achilles tendon to and oblique strain.

Those tallies of days count his team's scheduled opening day through the last day of the minor league regular season, which is Labor Day each year.  The total amount of days injured increases to 432 by figuring that he could have been with the big league team to wrap up the 2017 campaign and that season lasts another three to four weeks. The calculations do not count time spent in off-season leagues.

Having more days sidelined than actually on the field really proves the narrative about Quinn as seen in the embedded tweet below.


Here's hoping Quinn can stay healthy and help the first place Phillies (58-44) continue to succeed.

PhoulBallz Interview: Catching prospect Logan O'Hoppe excerpts

Earlier this week I posted an article about the impact that Gulf Coast League Phillies catcher Logan O'Hoppe is making in his first professional campaign. 

The 18-year-old righty batter sports a .500 average with three doubles, a triple, a home run and eight RBI through 15 games played with the Phils' West team in the rookie level GCL.

In quotes that didn't make the article, the 23rd round draft selection from this year shared insight on guidance from his pitching coach Matt Hockenberry, already knowing some Phillies farm hands before signing with the organization and more.  Read ahead for those excerpts.

-On the topic of what coach Matt Hockenberry has helped him with...

It hasn’t been really anything specific to be honest with you.  It’s just been sequencing different hitters as far as with pitches and just controlling the game behind the plate.  Just overall I can tell he’s helped me a lot and I mean still there’s a whole lot of room for improvement.  I’ve been here for a month, but I’ve probably learned more from him than I did in a long time back in New York.  

-He offered thoughts on how he thinks amateur ball prepared him for the minor leagues...

My high school coaches were really big with helping me and setting me up to not be too overwhelmed down here.  My head coach’s name was Casey McKay and his dad was the assistance coach, Ronnie McKay.  And then Ronnie was actually a coach in the White Sox organization a couple years back, so he had first-hand experience at what it was like.  Just mentally prepare myself.  I knew it was all going to be new, but just getting ready for what it would be like- I think those two guys helped me most back in amateur baseball.  As far as baseball itself, they obviously taught me a lot too, but with how pure the game was it was something that I never took for granted. 

-Speaking on if he knew what to expect with the Phillies organization...


I had an idea because of Kyle Young and Nick Fanti, the guys from Long Island that got drafted in years past, so I had an idea from talking to them and seeing what it was about but I was going into it with an open mind.  I had a little bit of an idea of what to expect…but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how everything down here.  It’s so well run and we’re so well taken care of.  

-On if the Phillies drafting him was a surprise...

I knew after day two of the draft maybe we had a shot with the Phillies.  It was between the Phillies and one other team, so I did have an idea.  Looking back, I’m so happy it was.

-Sharing thoughts on the support he gets from friends and family...

I’m really blessed to have the support back home.  My parents are my two biggest supporters.  Everyone else too.  Family and friends and cousins...it’s been a little overwhelming to see just how much they’ve been there.  I knew they were going to be supportive and I knew I was going to miss them, but I didn’t think it would be as much as it is.  I’m kind of interested to go home to see what it is like, because I miss them a lot and just to see their reactions to how things go, it’s going to be fun to see and I’m looking forward to it.  

-On adjusting to life so far from home and being independent...

I told my parents that I haven’t been too homesick down here.  I just love the whole—everything about it.  Being an adult down here, being on your own and making sure that you get everything done yourself is what I'm enjoying the most down here, I think. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

GCL hurler Brown dazzles with 16 strike out effort

What a day it was for Ben Brown. The right-handed pitcher showed why he’s considered a standout on the Gulf Coast League Phillies West team in a 5-0 victory over the Tigers East team on Tuesday afternoon in Lakeland, FL.  In six innings of work, the 18-year-old Brown looked dominant, holding the opposition to two singles and a walk while recording 16 strike outs.

“Ben Brown to me has been my most consistent starter,” said GCL West pitching coach Matt Hockenberry. “He has been a guy that he’s a leader on the field. He gets outs. He gets quick outs. He pitches to contact. He’s just a guy that’s going to be exciting to watch in the future.”

Contact wasn’t truly on the docket for Brown on Tuesday, though, as he missed a ton of bats. 

The Phillies’ 33rd round draft selection last June, Brown sports a 3-0 record with a 1.80 ERA and a .193 batting average against and a 13.5 K/9 mark in six appearances (five starts) for the GCL West team.

Brown, whose repertoire features a (usually) 92-94 MPH fastball, a curve ball and a change up, recalls having similarly strong outings in high school, but doesn't think whiffing opponents was his claim to fame before today.

"Since I got down here, the strike outs haven't really been there," Brown stated.  "Of course, the hitters are better (here) than on Long Island, NY.  But, you learn how to read swings a little bit better, the more you're down here, and eventually, like how I was pitching today, I was able to get some reads on the swings and I was able to put you away."

As remarkable as his stat line seems, the humble Brown refrains from taking much credit, dishing nods to Hockenberry as well as his battery mate Logan O'Hoppe.  He acknowledges the backstop for calling a good game and sticking with their game plan.  The coach receives accolades for countless aspects of the young pitcher's development and progress.

The props go both ways, however.

O’Hoppe, the Phils’ 23rd round draft pick this year, is having a remarkable campaign as well.  He's batting .500 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and eight RBI through 15 contests.  He credits his roommate and fellow Long Island, NY native, Brown, with helping him stay focused.

“Ben’s helped me a lot. If I needed to talk about home of anything I could talk to him and he, obviously, would understand ‘cause we’re from 10 minutes away from each other at home,” O’Hoppe said. “He helped me a lot with keeping my head on straight with my work down here and not missing home too much.”

It’s been a noteworthy year to date for the six-foot-six 210-pound Brown.  During extended spring training, prior to the GCL regular season getting started, Brown made an appearance in an intra-squad exhibition and faced big league infielder J.P. Crawford, while the Phils’ 1st round pick from 2013 was rehabbing an injury. Brown was tagged for a home run and a walk by the nearly five years elder Crawford, but Brown also struck him out and views the experience as a significant learning experience on his road to bigger things on the baseball diamond.

"It's a blessing to face guys like that, because it's ultimately how you get better at pitching is learning how to pitch against those big guys," Brown said.  "That's eventually your goal is to pitch against those guys everyday."

Monday, July 23, 2018

Young catcher O'Hoppe making a splash in rookie ball

Fresh out of the MLB first year player draft catcher Logan O'Hoppe (pronounced oh-HOP-y) is just about a month into his professional playing career, but he’s already making some pretty big impressions.

O’Hoppe, the Phillies’ 23rd round draft selection this year, is assigned to the Rookie level Gulf Coast League and spends time behind the dish for the Phillies’ West team (they also field an East team while there was previously a single GCL club in prior seasons). Through 13 games, the 18-year-old Long Island, NY native sports a lofty .500 batting average with three doubles and six runs driven in.

While he's paying offensive dividends in the early going, it's his work with the team's pitching staff that's helping O'Hoppe build a meaningful reputation.

Phillies West pitching coach Matt Hockenberry cites the six-foot-two 185-pounder's skill set and mindset as reasons to be excited about the Phillies’ first high school catcher signed since 2010 (Chace Numata).

“He is an unbelievable human being,” Hockenberry said of O’Hoppe in a recent phone interview. “He’s a new draft guy, a guy that you have to just let do his thing and he is ridiculously intelligent behind home plate. He’s got all the tools that I think in my mind lead to a long, successful career. He’s got the body, he’s got the durability, his receiving is unbelievable.”

Hockenberry, a Temple University product who is roughly a year removed from his own playing career, values the way O’Hoppe works hard and trusts his own gut. The first-year coach also raves about the youngster's already outstanding defense, something he was praised for on his way to becoming his conference's player of the year this spring at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School.  There, he batted .511 and notched a .662 on-base percentage in the regular season.

A true student of the game, O'Hoppe is taking advantage of every opportunity and values the work place vibe that the organization has instilled around the Phils minor league complex in Clearwater, FL.

“It’s a different world down here and I’m enjoying it a lot,” O’Hoppe shared. “I always dreamed to just go to a field every day to have everything I needed to prepare for the game and recover from the game and to do well. They’re so bought-in to everything you’re doing and as long as you get your work done and do it the right way, I feel like there’s no way you can’t be in a good spot to succeed.”

O’Hoppe describes himself as a stereotypical New York kid that grew up loving the Yankees and Derek Jeter. But it was a meeting with Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher as a child that helped him fit the bill of what he views as an exemplary ball player.

Swisher’s grandmother, who had a big part in raising him as a young man, passed away after he had started his big league career. O’Hoppe lost his paternal grandmother at a much younger age. During a family trip to see the Yankees in spring training, a not-quite-teenage O’Hoppe chose to seek advice from a big leaguer that had dealt with similar heart ache.

“I asked him a question about how he dealt with that, ‘cause it was a little tough for my family and I. He always had some impact on me,” said O’Hoppe.

That influence helps to further define the type of ball player and the sort of person O’Hoppe is. On or away from the ball field, his goal is to make an impact on each person he meets, whether conversing socially or talking with a fan seeking an autograph.  He wants each individual he encounters to remember the meeting. He expects that of himself.

Speaking of expectations, his noteworthy output to open his first professional campaign was not an outcome that he anticipated, however.

"I didn’t expect this at all. I thought I was going to hit under .100 to be honest with you," O'Hoppe admitted. "I told my parents before I headed down here, 'I may get the bat blown out of my hands.'"

But despite any doubts in himself, he says the support he gets back at home from his family and friends is huge and has been a motivator while he adjusts to his new life eight states away.

On the developmental path, O’Hoppe has a long way to go and much to learn.  He's got a general focus for how he aims toward making similar impressions as he ascends the baseball ranks.

"A big thing that everyone knows throughout professional baseball is to just stay consistent," O'Hoppe said.  "Hopefully, I’ll stay in my routine and do things that work for me so I can continue to get better and keep getting opportunities."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Phillies minor league hot list: 7/19/18

Here we go with a rundown of top performers of late throughout the Phillies minor league levels.  Statistics and standings are current through games on Wednesday. 

Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (57-38, 1st place in the International League North Division)-

Joey Meneses, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Joey Meneses continues with his strong efforts for the 'Pigs.  Among the league leaders in batting with a .304 mark, the 26-year-old Mexico native has 17 home runs and 55 RBI through 87 games.  The righty batter was a free agent signing over the off-season.

Left-handed starting pitcher Cole Irvin continues to rank among the top three in ERA this season in the International League with his 2.73 mark.  Through 18 starts, the 24-year-old is holding opponents to a .233 batting average while posting an 8-3 record and a 7.5 K/9 mark.

Since he was signed as a free agent this month, infielder Ryan Goins has tallied a .300 average with three doubles, a homer and two RBI.   The 30-year-old veteran was a 4th round draft pick of Toronto in 2009.

Double-A Reading Fightin Phils (44-51, 5th place in the Eastern League's Eastern Division)-

Outfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies opening round draft choice last year, has performed very well since his promotion to Reading last week.  The 22-year-old is batting .350 with two doubles, a pair of home runs and three RBI seven games.  The lefty hitting Haseley put together a .300/.343/.415 slash line in 79 games with Clearwater this season.

First baseman Austin Listi has enjoyed success at both Clearwater and Reading this year as well.  In 27 games since his promotion to the Fightins, the 24-year-old right-handed hitter sports a .311 average with four homers and 19 RBI.  Lisit was the Phillies' 17th round draft pick last year.

JoJo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty hurler JoJo Romero has been outstanding since shaking off a rough start this season.  The 21-year-old California native has notched 7-3 record along with a 3.01 ERA in 14 starts since April.  In four April starts, Romero was 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA.  Overall this season, Romero, the Phillies' 4th round pick in 2016, has an 8.4 K/9 mark.

Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (15-11 in 2nd half, 3rd place in Florida State League North Division)-

Outfielder Mickey Moniak has had a noteworthy week.  The 20-year-old has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, launched a homer in back-to-back games and had his first multi-walk game of the season when he was issued three free passes on Wednesday.  The three walks increased his season total by 33%.

Infielder Grenny Cumana has been hot since returning from injury.  The righty batting 22-year-old has posted a .370 batting average with five home runs, two homers and 10 RBI through 27 games with the Threshers.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws (16-9 in 2nd half, already clinch first half division title and playoff berth, in South Atlantic League North Division)-

Outfielder Matt Vierling is off to a solid start in his pro career.  After debuting with the short-season Williamsport team, the 21-year-old righty batter tallied a .420 average in 12 games there.  He was soon promoted to Lakewood, where in 13 contests, Vierling is batting .289 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI.  Vierling was the Phillies' 5th round draft pick out of Notre Dame this year.

In 16 games this month, outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz has picked up the offense.  The 19-year-old is batting .298 with four homers and 16 RBI through 16 games in July.  The right-handed hitting Ortiz is a native of the Dominican Republic.

Will Stewart, image- Jay Floyd
Starting pitchers Will Stewart and David Parkinson rank 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the Sally League in ERA. Stewart, a 21-year-old lefty, is 7-0 with a 1.28 ERA and a .207 batting average against in 15 starts.  Parkinson, a 22-year-old lefty, sports a 7-1 record with a 1.64 ERA and a .208 batting average against. 

Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters (12-19, 5th place in New York-Penn League Pinckney Division)-

Lefty reliever Keylan Killgore sports some remarkable stats through four pro outings.  Since he was drafted in the 17th round this year, the Wichita State product has posted a 1.93 ERA and a .161 batting average against while striking out 13 and walking just two in 9 1/3 innings for the Cutters.

Through five starts, lefty hurler Jhordany Mezquita has notched a 1-0 record with a 2.74 ERA while holding opponents to a .229 batting average against.  The 20-year-old Dominican Republic native has struck out 25 while walking eight in 23 innings pitched to date.

Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies (East team is 14-9, 1st place in Northeast Division...West team is 13-10, 2nd place in Northwest Division)-

Shortstop Jake Holmes leads the Phillies East team in batting, sporting a .338 average.  In 21 games, the 20-year-old righty hitter has notched four doubles, a triple, two homers and 18 RBI.  Holmes was an 11th round draft selection last year.

Luis Garcia leads the Phillies West team and is among the league leaders in batting with a .353 average.  In 16 games, the 17-year-old shortstop had laced six doubles and driven in 16 runs as well.  Garcia is a switch-hitting native of the Dominican Republic.  

Righty hurler Ben Brown has looked very solid for the Phillies West team, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 29 and walking 11 over 24 innings in five outings (four starts).  The 18-year-old was a 33rd round draft pick last year.

Monday, July 16, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Pirates 3b prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes

Ke'Bryan Hayes, image- Jay Floyd
Pirates prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes has become a hot name among rising baseball prospects.  Fresh off a Double-A Eastern League All-Star appearance the son of former Phillies and Yankees third baseman Charlie Hayes slammed a home run in Sunday's MLB All-Star Futures Game.

With the Altoona Curve this season, the righty batting Hayes sports a .293 average with 21 doubles, six triples, four homers and 21 RBI in 74 games.

He was a first round draft selection of Pittsburgh in 2016. 

Last week at the Eastern League All-Star festivities, along with Trentonian reporter Kyle Franko, I spoke with the 21-year-old who also plays third base.  We talked with Ke'Bryan about the influence of his father and his brother Tyree, who pitched in the Reds system, what the All-Star nods mean to him, his biggest goal and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-Do you feel like you were building toward this All-Star moment with the season you've had?

I mean, I was kind of just trying to go out each and everyday to do what I can to help my team win and if I'm able to make it and represent my team, then I'm happy that I'm able to be here.

-I was talking with Craig Biggio's son on the other side of the field and he was commenting on his early baseball memories.  Are there standout baseball memories from your youth that stuck with you?

Yeah, just definitely seeing-- all of it whenever I look back.  Seeing how far I came and where I started, my first select team and it just brings back nostalgia moments.

-Did you attend your dad's games as a youngster or are you not even old enough to remember those playing days of your dad?

I was four when my dad retired, so I don't remember anything.

-Is that weird though, 'cause you'll see guys that play for coaches that are in reporters' memories as guys we watched, but there are players on their teams that have no recollection of the coaches' playing days.  Do you go back and watch footage of your dad with him and stuff like that?

Yeah, I definitely look.  He has a bunch of video and when I was younger I would watch a lot of video from whenever he played, so it's awesome to be able to see.  And he always had stories for me and my brothers.  They were older than me, so they got to experience, like, all that in the clubhouse and they tell me all the stories of all the great players he played with.

-I talked to your dad last year...and he was really proud of you and talked about staying home and not returning to baseball until the last child was out of the house, then getting back to his second career in baseball as a coach.  What does his support mean to you?

Yeah, he's always been there for me.  Just, always having him as an outlet, him and my brother, 'cause they've already been through it, I think it's a great advantage that I have, to have them in my corner.

-Do you ever talk about how much the game has changed from when he played to what it is now?

Every now and then he'll talk about how much bigger and stronger guys are getting and he can't believe guys like Stanton, Judge- how far they're hitting the ball and stuff like that. 

-You've got the Futures Game coming up.  What did that say to you when you found out you were selected for that?

Man, I was just super surprised, 'cause I had just found out I was coming to this and the Futures Game is something that I've been watching the past few years and it's something that I wanted to play (in), but I wasn't even thinking about it.  And when my manager told me I was going, I was at a loss for words.  I couldn't believe it.

-Is there anybody that you're looking forward to playing with today that you normally compete against?

It's awesome to play with all the best guys from the league and just ask them questions and just get to watch them play and get to hand out with them.

-Are there any bumps in the road or hurdles you've run into over the past couple years that stick out to you as key learning moments?

Yeah, two years ago I had a broken rib injury and I was out for a while and that was the first time in my life that I've ever been hurt for so long and not able to play and it just made me put things in perspective of how lucky I am to be able to be able to play this game.  So, it just helped me work even harder whenever I came back from that.

-Your family has local ties with your dad playing in both Philly and New York.  Is it cool for you to be playing in this area and in a Yankees affiliate stadium?

Oh, yeah definitely.  With him playing in a World Series and he caught the last out with the Yankees.  Yeah, it's awesome to be able to play.  A lot of people telling me how he was one of their favorite players growing up.

-Is that staff here that have been telling you that?

Some of the fans here, some of the staff too.

-So, what team did you grow up as a fan of?

I was a Yankees fan growing up.  I little bit of the Astros.  I used to go to a couple of the games with some friends and stuff.  But I was a Yankees fan.

-Did you grow up collecting memorabilia or collecting cards?

Yeah, my older brother has balls from Jeter, Griffey, A-Rod, a whole bunch of stuff.  I used to collect cards a little bit.  I'd get the little packs and stuff at the store, but I wasn't that huge on it.

-Did your dad have any collection of mementos from his career?

Yeah, he has the last out ball and the World Series ring up in the movie theater room.  So, he has quite a bit of memorabilia.

-All on display in a prominent fashion?

Yeah, like in a case.

-Did you ever find yourself admiring or taking a moment to look at those items and think about having something like that of your own some day?

Oh, yeah.  Definitely.  I gotta be better than my dad.  I'm going to be better than my dad one day.  That's my goal.

-I hope that's his goal too.

Yes, sir.  He wants me to be.

Friday, July 13, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Former player & current coach Keoni De Renne

Keoni De Renne played 11 seasons in professional baseball.  Since 2012 he's been a coach with the Pirates organization.

In his playing days, the University of Arizona product spent time in the Yankees, Braves, Phillies and Red Sox organizations in addition to playing independent ball.  The Hawaii native was a switch hitter that was listed at five-feet-seven, 170 pounds.

This week, De Renne was in Trenton, NJ for the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game, representing the Altoona Curve as part of the Western Division coaching staff.  I chatted it up with the native of Hawaii about his whirlwind 2010 season when he went through 13 different transactions within the Phillies' system, his path to coaching, relating to his players, facing a highly touted Stephen Strasburg in the minors and plenty more.

It's been some time since I posted audio of an interview, and since this discussion is a bit of a throwback, you can check out the recording as well as a handsome image of Keoni and me in the media player below.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Green follows up All-Star appearance with promotion to Triple-A

Zach Green, image- Jay Floyd
In the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, four Reading players represented the Phillies in the contest played at Trenton's ARM & HAMMER Park. 

Catcher Deivi Grullon, who won the EL's All-Star Home Run Derby on Tuesday, first baseman/third baseman Zach Green and outfielder Jan Hernandez were all in the starting lineup.  Grullon and Hernandez each homered while Green went 0-for-2.

Relief pitcher Edgar Garcia was charged with three earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

The contest was tied at four runs apiece after nine innings, so to decide the game, each team selected one batter to face off in a hitting challenge.  In a two minute window, the players would accumulate points for balls in play or balls launched as home runs.  Green, representing the Eastern Division was bested by Pirates prospect Will Craig, the Western Division's representative, in the unique tie breaking overtime round. 

In the Triple-A All-Star Game, played in Columbus, OH, the Pacific Coast League defeated the International League 12-7. Lehigh Valley pitcher Cole Irvin started for IL, pitching a scoreless inning, striking out two and surrendering two hits.  First baseman/OF Joey Meneses laced two hits in three at bats.

On Thursday, it was announced that Green would be promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  Corner infielder Damek Tomscha is reportedly headed back to Reading, where he played earlier this season, from Lehigh Valley.

Green, 24, was the Phillies' 3rd round draft selection in 2012.  In 77 games this year, the righty batter posted a .296 average with 17 homers and 53 RBI.

Tomscha, a 26-year-old righty batter, tallied a .196 batting average with two homers and eight RBI in 26 games for the IronPigs.  He was the Phils' 17th round draft pick in 2014.

In other moves between the Phillies' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates...hurler Ranfi Casimiro goes to Reading with catcher Nick Rickles and pitcher Jake Waguespack going up to Lehigh Valley.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Phils prospect Haseley ready for move to Double-A

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
A tap on the shoulder from the skipper while sitting at your locker after a game can usually mean you did something wrong on the field and a talking to is in order.  For Adam Haseley on Monday night, it was a little bit of a better meeting than what initially may have crossed his mind.

The Phillies' first round draft selection (8th overall) from last year was informed after Clearwater's contest on the road at nearby Dunedin by manager Shawn Williams that he had earned a promotion to Double-A Reading.  There was relief and joy all at once.

Through 79 games in the Class A Advanced Florida State League this season, the 22-year-old lefty batter posted a .300 average with 13 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 38 RBI and seven stolen bases.

The production is exciting to see for many, as Haseley, a University of Virginia product, struggled out of the gate this season, sporting a .222 average after two weeks of the season.  Since then, he's batting .315 and has looked comfortable at the plate in his first full season of professional baseball.

"I think it was just kind of getting adjusted to the league," Haseley stated during a phone interview on Wednesday.  "I think that takes time."

Haseley also asserted working closely with Phillies roving hitting coordinator Andy Tracy and Threshers hitting coach John Mizerock, to iron out some mechanical or approach concerns, was beneficial to the strides he has taken during his 2018 campaign.

Prior to the season, Haseley didn't quite envision a move or a promotion.  He chose to take a simpler approach.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't really have any level goals," Haseley shared.  "I just wanted to one; get better and two; continue working on the stuff that I had been working on in the off-season.  I think I did both of those things in Clearwater and I hope to continue them in Reading."

With Reading off for the Eastern League's All-Star break, Haseley was able to move his belongings back to his native Orlando, then plan his travel to Pennsylvania.  A relaxed path that most players that are promoted, and needed by their new team with urgency, don't get.

In recent weeks Reading has added a pair of other Threshers, first baseman Austin Listi and pitcher Connor Seabold.  Both of those players lived with Haseley in Clearwater, so his addition to the Fightin Phils roster completes a trifecta of roommates moving north for some summer baseball.

Another Threshers teammate of Haseley is 2016 first overall draft selection Mickey Moniak, who hasn't been able to shake offensive difficulties the way Haseley has.  Through 70 games, the 20-year-old sports a .240 average with two homers and 32 RBI.  The elder first rounder remains confident in the left-handed hitting Moniak, who is one of the league's youngest batters.

"I think for the last month and a half maybe two months now I think he's really swinging (the bat) a lot better," Haseley said of his good friend.  "He's just so young.  It's kind of hard at that age that he's at that level.  I think he's performing better and better as the weeks go by."

On his new home park, Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, Haseley has already heard about the venue's reputation of being a place that can be advantageous to hitters.  He's looking forward to upgrading from finger taps to the Fightins' fist so he can test the waters in the Eastern League and face some better competition.

"The arms are going to be that much better, so with some guys saying the ball travels a little bit better, it's kind of give and take of whatever side you want to look at.  But, I'm excited to get there and get going." 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reading backstop Grullon wins EL Home Run Derby

Grullon celebrates his HR Derby win, (nice) image- Jay Floyd
TRENTON, NJ-- Dangle a championship belt, a butt load of pork roll and $500 in front of  Deivi Grullon and there is no stopping him.

The All-Star catcher for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils launched longball after longball and convincingly won the Eastern League Home Run Derby on Tuesday night.

Eight participants would each have a four-minute turn to hit as many homers as they could and the top two totals would advance to a championship round.

Grullon, a 22-year-old righty batting Phillies prospect topped all hitters in the opening round, slugging 14 round trippers, some of which peppered the highway, Route 29, beyond the left field foul pole and one of which traveled as far south as Bordentown, as the host Trenton Thunder PA announcer Matt Hillman asserted, from ARM & HAMMER Park.

Rockies outfield prospect Sam Hilliard would face Grullon for the prize money, title belt and delicious meat product, all courtesy of event sponsor Case's Pork Roll.

Hilliard stepped to the plate first, slugging nine homers in a four-minute title round.  Those appeared to be enough to win, until Grullon heated up midway through his turn.  He would collect 11 homers in the round off of Trenton bullpen coach Luis Dorante to grab the derby crown.

Grullon, who looked a bit drained following the triumph on a humid and sticky night, stated that he pulled from his late father to top the other seven competitors.

"My energy is from my father." Grullon explained.  "I was blessed at the moment.  I mean I expect a lot of energy here with all the players, but this is for my father.  And I'm tired, but I won this honor."

In 54 games with Reading this season, Grullon sports a .287 batting average with a career high tying 12 homers and 40 RBI.



Phils prospect Haseley promoted to Double-A Reading

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
TRENTON, NJ-- The Phillies 2017 first round draft selection Adam Haseley is on his way to join the Double-A Reading roster following the Eastern League All-Star break, per a source.

The 22-year-old lefty batting outfielder tallied a .300 average with 13 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 38 RBI and seven stolen bases in 79 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers this season.

To date, since turning pro last year, the Virginia product sports a .294/348/.411 slash line in 137 professional games at three levels.

Haseley was the 8th overall pick in last year's MLB amateur draft.

Reading, at 41-47, is in 5th place, 8 1/2 games out of first place in the Eastern League's Eastern Division.  They will open the second half of their season on Thursday at home when they host Bowie at 7:15 PM.


Monday, July 9, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs All-Star SP Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin, image- Jay Floyd
Selected as one of three IronPigs' All-Star representatives, lefty pitcher Cole Irvin has enjoyed a remarkable season in the International League.  

Through 17 starts, the 24-year-old sports an 8-3 record with a 2.89 ERA and a .239 batting average against for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. 

A 5th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2016 out of Oregon, Irvin has enjoyed a swift rise through the organization's developmental ranks.

He'll represent the IronPigs in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Tuesday night, July 10th.

Recently, I talked with Irvin about being named an All-Star, his progress this year and his team.  Read ahead for that complete interview. 

-You've enjoyed a remarkable season to date.  What does the All-Star nod mean to you?

It's always cool to represent your team for an All-Star Game, an All-Star appearance, and you know being this close to the big leagues, you'd almost take a call up to the big leagues over an All-Star appearance, but it's a cool accolade.  It's a cool event.  I'm excited that I get to represent not just the IronPigs, but also the Phillies as well.  It's gonna be a really good time.  I'm really excited.

-You get to go with a pair of teammates, with Joey Meneses and Enyel De Los Santos voted in as starters for the game.  Does it make it more fun to be going with those guys?

Oh, absolutely.  It's gonna help my Spanish a little bit because they're both, you know, very, very fluent in Spanish.  (laughs)  But it's gonna be a good time.  I'm excited to spend a little bit more time with De Los Santos and Meneses.  And I'm just really excited to get to know them a little bit more. I'm pretty sure that their girlfriends are going.  So, you get to know them a little more off the field at events like these.  So it's going to be really cool to get to bond with them.

-Where's the game set to be played?

It's in Columbus, Ohio.

-Have you guys played there?

We have not played there yet.  I've been in Columbus, been to the stadium and stuff when I was a freshman at Oregon when we went to Ohio State.  So, I'm familiar with the ballpark, I'm familiar with everything that Columbus has.  So, I'm excited to get back there for everything Columbus has and get to see some friends I have up in that area.

-This season, you've been great, doesn't seem like there was any adjustment period to the level.  What can you share on the ease with which you've seemed to handle the competition?

I think I've got to give a lot of credit to (Nick) Rickles and (Logan) Moore and (Matt) McBride for catching me.  They call really good games.  I'm the one that has to execute the pitch in the end, but they're smart guys.  They're smart catchers and they know the guys in this league.  So, it just kind of helps to have guys in your corner helping you out and to be able to execute those pitches is a lot harder than it looks.  So, I've been fortunate on that end.  But, I've got to give all the credit to the catchers because they're keeping me composed out there.

-If somebody wanted to give you some of the credit, what's been working for you?  Is there a go-to pitch that's really helped you in key spots this year?

No, I mean I've always believed that every pitch you have should be a weapon and should be an out pitch.  So, I've just been able to throw a little bit more strikes this year.  I think I've thrown in some outings where I've given up a little more runs, I think I've thrown more strikes.  Maybe over 70-percent, which is really high for a pitcher, so it's just throwing strikes and limiting walks and limiting the time that runners are on base and just kind of managing the game and I've just had a really solid stretch of games where I've felt like I've managed things very well.  And it's a credit to our team with a lot of veteran experience kind of keeping me composed out there too. 

-You talked earlier about being close to the big leagues.  Not that the topic weighs on you, but when you are this close to the big leagues and there are names called for promotions, are there moments when you're on edge about it?

No, not really because that's all the work you gotta do to get there.  So, the guys that get called up have proven their worth and proven their abilities at this level.  And, really, they're your teammates, so you're rooting for them and you hope on the flip side that they're rooting for you as well.  And on the chance that a guy gets called up, it's always an awesome feeling in the clubhouse.  Whether that's myself or any other guy on this team, it's fun when a guy gets his name called. 

-I talked to you last year around the same point of the season and you were all smiles that day.  You're still smiling now.  I love it.  Since we've talked last, who has helped your progress or helped you learn a lot?

I think a lot of guys on this team have left a good impression.  Kind of how you should be with your teammates and stuff.  We've got Trevor Plouffe, Collin Cowgill, Danny Espinosa just joined us.  You know, Matt McBride.  There's a lot of guys that have been around the league for a while and it's just been really fun to interact with them and there's just some really good chemistry among the guys.  So, honestly, I feel like the whole team, I feel like there's been a really big kinda push for me.  It's fun to come to the ballpark when you've got a good group of guys around you having fun.

-Was there any one in spring training, a big leaguer that you got time with, that you learned from?

I mean I spent a little time in big league camp.  You learn from everyone.  I think (Jerad) Eickhoff was the bigger guy that I spoke to the most.  (Aaron) Nola as well.  It's just been a learning experience being with guys here.  More so because they're my teammates.  

-Were there any moments this season or even last season that was sort of a misstep that could have resulted in a learning experience?

I've kind of just kept my head in the dirt this year and just played.  I haven't had too much bad experiences, but I just really like playing with this team, so I'm just going to keep my head down and work my butt off and play for these guys that I have around me.  And when my name is called, I'll do that same thing in Philly.

-What's the best thing about this place, these fans, this facility in Lehigh Valley?

They're fun.  They come with energy every night.  It's just a fun time to be around.  We've got a really good team with the big club and we've got a really good team here.  So, any piece can fit.  It's just a matter of time.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

De Los Santos to join Phillies rotation

De Los Santos, image- Jay Floyd
Right-hander Enyel De Los Santos continues to make headlines.  Following recent announcements that he was elected to start the Triple-A All-Star Game and that he was selected to be part of the MLB All-Star Futures Game World roster next week, the Phillies will upend both of those things by adding the 22-year-old to their starting rotation.

Teased on Twitter by De Los Santos's gurlfriend Melissa and confirmed by IronPigs beat writer Tom Housenick, the promising prospect is on his way to join a first place Phillies club.

Per the Housenick report, De Los Santos will start against the Mets at New York's Citi Field instead of at Huntington Park in Columbus, OH at the Triple-A exhibition.

Through 16 starts this season, De Los Santos sports a 9-3 record, with 1.89 ERA and a .210 BAA with 87K, 31BB in 95 1/3 IP.

The Dominican Republic native was acquired last off-season from San Diego in a trade for shortstop Freddy Galvis.

The Phillies have a need for an extra hurler with a double header (make up of an April 2nd rain out) slated in New York for Monday using up two of the team's pitchers.

Friday, July 6, 2018

De Los Santos to represent Phillies at Futures Game

De Los Santos, image- Jay Floyd
The rosters for the 2018 MLB All-Star Futures Game were released on Friday and this year's lone Phillies representative is slated to be Triple-A All-Star pitcher Enyel De Los Santos.

De Los Santos, 22, has been remarkable all season long with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, posting a 9-3 record with a league leading 1.83 ERA and an 8.2 K/9 mark through 16 starts. 

The six-foot-three 175-pound right-hander was acquired last off-season from San Diego in a trade for Freddy Galvis.

The Dominican native was named to the World roster, which will be managed by David Ortiz with Francisco Cordero acting as the squad's pitching coach. 

The game is set for Sunday, July 15th and will be played at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

In recent years, individuals that played in or attended the All-Star Futures Game have been permitted to skip their league's All-Star events in order to get some time off over the break.  The Futures event, however, typically occurs in the same week, before minor league All-Star Games.  The Triple-A All-Star Game is prior to the Futures Game, taking place on the previous Wednesday.  It's unclear if De Los Santos, who was voted in as the International League team's starting pitcher, will make the Triple-A All-Star trip to Columbus, OH, but the Phillies will likely prefer him to pass on one of these exhibitions. 

Last year the Phillies were represented in the Futures Game by current big league contributors Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs catcher Nick Rickles

Nick Rickles, image- Jay Floyd
Backstop Nick Rickles has been a key contributor this season for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, not only at the plate, but also by helping to lead a promising pitching staff.

Through 42 games, the 28-year-old righty hitter sports a .239 average with five home runs and 16 RBI.

In his pro career, Rickles has played in the Athletics and Nationals organizations.  He joined the Phillies last season as part of a trade from the Nats.

Last week I talked with Rickles about a pair of IronPigs All-Star hurlers, being a new father, his hockey fandom, a particular big name NBA standout and more.  Read ahead for that full interview...


-Hey, how's fatherhood for ya?

So far so good.  Sleep's kind of a reward at this point, but at the same time it's all new, so there's really no patterns.  She's five months old now.  You know, my wife's been the back bone for sure.  She's definitely taken the lead in (parenting), which allows me to focus on the field.

-Are your wife and daughter staying around here, in Allentown, with you so you can be with them as much as possible?

Yeah, they're up here now for the rest of the year.  Originally, we weren't going to do it.  But just, it didn't take.  I was getting the pictures every day and I wanted to be there, then obviously, my wife wants me around for the help too so she can get sleep when she can.  So, yeah, they're gonna be up here in Lehigh Valley for the rest of the year.

-Cool.  You've got a Golden Knights hat on.  Are you a full supporter?

Yeah!  I've got a jersey made for them.  "Vegas Born" on the back for their slogan..  Unfortunately, it didn't get in till after the Stanley Cup was over.  But, it's cool seeing how much love and support Vegas has given them and how much they've given Vegas.  Especially, with the times we dealt with over the off-season, so we're looking forward to next year.

-Is that home for you?

Yeah, I've lived out there for two years. My wife's lived out there he whole life.  I'll be back there again this off-season.

-Great.  You've enjoyed some nice success here with the IronPigs this season.  Can you share some thoughts on your season thus far and International League competition?

It's been great.  I spent some time here last year, after some time with the Nationals the year before that and baseball is baseball, no matter where you're at.  The team we're on has been phenomenal this year.  We have a great club with great coaches.  So, I'm looking forward to seeing how the second half ends up.

-I got to see you a little bit with Reading last year and you switched organization mid-season, then changed staffs with the promotion from there to here.  How swiftly are you able to adapt to or learn a new system, a new staff...that sort of thing?

Spring training kind of gets you ready for that.  You go in there with 50-plus guys in the clubhouse and you've got to get to know everybody pretty quick.  And being around-- and I've been around since 2011-- so I knew Harold Martinez and a few of the other guys from playing against them, so once I got in the clubhouse, we just kind of hit the ground running and went from there.  Thankfully, I was able to come up to Lehigh Valley at the end of the year last year.

-I talked to Cole Irvin and he's had a great season.  He was giving so much credit for his success to both you and Logan Moore, his catchers.  What does that mean to you to have an All-Star crediting you with his results?

He's so well prepared that it takes a lot off of our shoulders.  So, going in to a game, we have what our preparation would be and then he has his.  So when you put those two preparations together, it allows us to hit it off and you can see the success is transitioning onto the field as well.

-Cool.  You've got a couple new guys joining the team this week with Ranger Suarez and Tyler Gilbert joining the IronPigs' pitching staff.  Is it easy for you when guys come up to build a rapport after having some familiarity from spring training?

Yeah, especially in spring training, you know, they do a few different groups where we have different guys rotate in.  Even if it's one time, being able to catch a guy's bullpen you have a pretty good idea of what his stuff looks like and it's good that (they're) able to join us halfway through the year. 

-Enyel De Los Santos is another All-Star on this team.  He's been remarkable on the mound for this team all season.  What can you share about him?

His pace has been great.  He's got four pitches that he can command and throw at any time and that's huge.  We always talk about being in rhythm.  He doesn't shake off very much.  Same with game-planning.  We've been on the same page so much that we kind of just roll through innings.  It helps keep his pitch count down low, helps keep him fresh.  And as you can see, same as Cole, being an All-Star, the success has really translated on the field as well.  

-You mention game-planning and I've seen heat maps in the dugouts and things like that.  What's the difference, if any, this year with the new regime up above versus what you saw here last year?

You know, really, just understanding the shifts and how to pitch to them.   It's been great, but we had very similar information at this level provided to us last year and I think being able to spend a full year in this organization and seeing how spring training is run has really helped me understand what they're trying to do with the pitchers and how they want to call a game.  And (Dave Lundquist), our pitching coach, has been really, really great with communicating with us what he wants to see on a daily basis and we've been able to execute that on the field.  

-How does this place compare to other venues, other facilities, other fan bases that you've played in front of or played at?

This, you know, honestly this is probably one of my favorite places that I've played at in the minor leagues.  The fans are great.  They do great promotions.  And our G.M. really has a great idea of what we need as players to be able to succeed on the field.  And even tonight- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it doesn't matter.  We get a pretty good (crowd), which is great for us to come to the park to play in front of.

-You mention promotions and the promotion tonight involves "hashtagging" LeBron James and trying to recruit him to join the IronPigs as a free agent.  What position do you think LeBron could has success with on the baseball field?

I have to go with first base.  He's so tall, he'd be a great target to throw to.  Maybe even get on the mound a little bit.  Having that kind of presence out there might intimidate a few guys.  I've never seen him throw a baseball, but I've seen him throw a basketball from one end of the court to the other to Dwyane Wade so I'm sure he'd be able to do it.

-Have you ever seen him play?

Yeah, I saw him play in Miami when he was there with Dwyane Wade and then when we were on the road this year, we saw him play there in the playoffs in Boston against the Celtics...

-You were one of the guys there...

Yeah, me Cole, Dean (Anna) and (Dylan) Cozens, we all ended up going to the game, which was awesome.  So we got to see him play there too.

-Dylan Cozens kind of got some attention online, posting video of himself trolling Boston fans.  Philly fans aren't the most fond of Boston after the Celtics knocked the 76ers out of the playoffs, so Cozens got some love from that.  Were you doing a little of that?

Being a little out of my element,, I wasn't really a fan of either team, so I really didn't rooting for any of them.  But, to comment on Dylan, he's more of an instigator than anything else, so he does like LeBron, so I'll give him the credit there, but once he gets into the center of attention, he is a funny guy.  He likes to think he's funny also.  So, seeing him in that atmosphere was pretty entertaining for us and obviously for some of the Cavs fans, as you can see in some of the videos.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

OF Sandberg retires from baseball

Cord Sandberg, image- Jay Floyd
Following the organization's announcement that Double-A outfielder Cord Sandberg retired from baseball on Tuesday, the 23-year-old teased via a pair of social media posts that he's ready to pursue a dream in another sport.

Sandberg, who was a well regarded quarterback in high school and was committed to Mississippi State prior to being selected by the Phillies in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft, posted images of himself on the gridiron playing quarterback.



The lefty batting Florida native was hitting .231 with three homers and 11 RBI through 54 games with Reading this year. In his pro career Sandberg sported a .243/.298/.348 slash line.

If the Twitter and Instagram teases prove true, he'll be the third Phillies prospect in recent years to leave the game of baseball behind to try a go at college football. Outfielder Kyrell Hudson, a 3rd rounder in 2009, and pitcher Mitch Gueller, a supplementary 1st round selection in 2012, have also taken the same route.