Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Phillies prospect Bohm earns promotion to Clearwater

Alec Bohm, image- Jay Floyd
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Big news out of the Phillies' developmental ranks on Tuesday as one of the organization's top prospects, Alec Bohm, was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater after a scorching April in the Sally League.

Through 22 games this season with Class A Lakewood, the 22-year-old righty hitter touted a .367 average with nine doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI.

Many people, fans and insiders alike, were surprised when Bohm opened the 2019 campaign at that level.  Bohm, who is listed at six-foot-five 225 pounds, was not among that group.

"I really had no expectation as where to go (to start the season)", said Bohm.  "When it came down to it, where ever they told me to go, that's where I was going."

With assignments and promotions far away from his line of thinking, Bohm was most excited for getting a taste of the full-season grind, heading into the season.

During his brief time thus far in the Phillies system, Bohm asserts that the organization has made positive impressions on him, citing a great level of satisfaction with the developmental personnel and the front office.

"They really take the time to get to know you and help develop you as a player, not just have these little cookie cutter (ideas) of what they think each player should be. They develop each player differently," Bohm stated.

On the diamond, Bohm, who was the third overall pick in last year's draft, hasn't had a tough time adjusting to the professional game to date.  According to the Wichita State University product, the culture is where he's had to make the most adjustments.

"I didn't expect as much Spanish, I guess," Bohm said.  "It's been fun coming into it, picking up things."

Bohm, who has played both third base and first base this season with the 'Claws, says he paired up with another well regarded Phillies prospect, Lakewood middle infielder Luis Garcia, and the two have tried to teach one another something in their native tongue each and every day this season. 

He'll need to find a new study buddy with the Threshers.

Bohm is in Clearwater's lineup for his Florida State League debut on Tuesday night.

Other promotions from around the system on Tuesday saw infielder Jose Gomez, who was acquired from Colorado in the 2017 Pat Neshek trade, moving from Clearwater to Double-A Reading.  Also moving from Lakewood to Clearwater is righty pitcher Colton Eastman, a 4th round pick last year. Lefty pitcher Manuel Silva, 20, will fill a void on the Lakewood roster.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Interview Excerpts: Phils pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
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Recently, I wrote a feature on talented righty hurler Kevin Gowdy's recovery from an elbow injury and mental hurdles.  Not featured in that piece are the interview excerpts below.

Through four starts with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 21-year-old sports a 1.84 ERA with no decisions, a .140 batting average against while striking out 13 and walking 13 in 14 2/3 innings pitched.

Read ahead for my exclusive quotes from Kevin.


-Speaking on his and the team's excitement level for the new season...

We’re really stoked.  It’s a really fun team with really good, really athletic team and we should be able to swing it a little bit and it’s gonna be a really fun year.

-On the group of guys he bonded greatly with during the rehab process...

It was Grant Dyer, who was here a couple years ago and Trevor Bettencourt, J.D. Hammer, Nick Fanti, a good amount of guys.  That was the main core of who I hung out with.  We really just got super close during that time, ‘cause everyone was going through something and you’re going to have a lot of bad days in rehab.  You’re going to have them in life, but when you’re having a bad day, someone will come pick you up.  I definitely formed some really close bonds and relationships with those guys.

-Offering thoughts on his backstops with Lakewood, Abrahan Gutierrez and Rafael Marchan...

I definitely have really good relationships with both and they’re both good pitch callers and they’re always working hard for you.  You have the confidence in them to throw a two strike breaking ball in the dirt or anything like that.  It’s easy to get on the same page with them and they’re always working hard for you.  We definitely have a lot of trust in them.

-Commenting on his pitching coach, former Phillies minor leaguer and Temple hurler, Matt Hockenberry...


He’s awesome.  I think him being in the game so recently, it’s easy to relate to him and he’s just always fired up to get guys better.  He comes to the park every day with a fired up attitude and he’s just ready to go.  There’s always something with him.  You can go up to him and ask him if he wants to watch video or let’s look at these charts or let’s work on my breaking ball and he always wants to help, even if it’s just playing catch with you.  He’s great.  I love working with him. 

-Talking about if he feels improvements to his mental toughness as a result of the difficult recovery path and thinking of moving on from baseball...

By far, for sure.  It’ll test you, for sure.  There were times I didn’t even want to play baseball anymore.  Just so frustrated with rehab and so over it, I guess.  I just wanted to do something else or go to school or go do something and I’m really happy I stuck with it.  I don’t think I would ever (have quit), but I’m really happy I stuck with it and everything’s good now.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Patreon Exclusive: LHP Bailey Falter answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

This month I sat down with Phillies left-handed pitching prospect Bailey Falter and asked him to share his thoughts on breakfast cereals, his favorite athlete, profanity, hip hop royalty and plenty more.

The 22-year-old was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2015.  Falter, a California native, sports a 1-1 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP through three starts in the Eastern League this season.

It's three minutes of fun with the Double-A Reading hurler.  Check out this Patreon exclusive by clicking here!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood skipper Mike Micucci

Mike Micucci, image- Jay Floyd
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This season Mike Micucci took over as the 13th manager of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

A draft pick of the Cubs in 1994, Micucci played six season in the professional ranks and has been coaching or working in the developmental ranks virtually since that time.

Recently, I sat down with the BlueClaws' new skipper to get to know him a bit.  He chatted about his local ties, his family and several of his players, including last year's Phillies first round draft pick Alec Bohm.  Read ahead for that interview.

-Firstly, I want to ask you about Alec Bohm.  Some people are surprised he landed at this level, on this roster.  What have you seen from him?

I mean honestly, we had talked a little bit. He basically showed up to our group on the last day of spring training. So, we haven’t even seen much of him. Obviously, we’ve heard a lot about him, read a lot about him. Basically, after a week, he lives up to everything you’ve heard. He’s very athletic. Kind of a student of the game. Very good at bats. There’s big time power in there with the upside. So, he’s obviously everything you would look for in a player.

-Do you think you would you be included in the group of people, including fans, media types and others, that were surprised Bohm was assigned to Lakewood?

Yeah, I would. But I’ve seen other things happens as well, so it doesn’t shock me. I’ve seen other organizations do similar type things with guys. But, for me, one of the things we talk about is you’re playing where you’re playing and you’re starting where you’re starting, but for the most part just go out and do your job and play well and you’ll be where you’re supposed to be. Whether that’s here or whether that’s in Clearwater or whether he ends the season in Double-A, you know, so we’ll see.

-What’s your coaching background before here and how do you land with the Phillies at this level?

So, that’s a pretty long list. I started with the Cubs as a player and then got into coaching fairly young over there after playing for seven years. Was a hitting coach. After there, went to Texas with the Rangers to manage. Managed in their system for four years, then moved to field coordinator with Texas in ’10 and ’11, when we went to the World Series. From there we left to go to the Angels to be a field coordinator-- I managed my first year there, then moved to field coordinator for three. From there to Seattle to be director or coordinator of instructional or whatever it is. You know, I really wanted to get back into managing, get back to being with younger players. I enjoy being with younger players. I enjoy being with the Latin players and the overall foundation of developing.

I knew Matt Klentak from when we were with the Angels together, so I kind of just reached out to him and Josh (Bonifay) called me and this opportunity landed, which, honestly is interesting because I moved away from this area about nine years ago to go to Texas. But we found a nice area in Texas to raise our family, around Dallas, a city called Frisco, Texas and we moved there. But it’s kind of funny because I grew up in North Jersey, went to Montclaire State, my wife and I got married and we lived in Manahawkin. Yeah, so this is like a home run, both from a professional standpoint to be with the Phillies and be with a great ownership group and being here in New Jersey. Back in New Jersey, where I have some roots.


-What’s the family situation? How many children do you have?

I have two kids. Yeah, married. My wife, (we’re) going on 19 years. My daughter Isabella’s 12. My son Andrew will be nine in May.

-How are they with the career movement and the job taking you all around?

It’s tough. Fortunately, my wife’s a teacher. So, they come out in the summer. They’re excited about that. They’re gonna see grandma and grandpa, all their cousins, aunts and uncles and stuff. So, it’ll be a really nice summer from that standpoint there. So, then the off-season’s nice. You’re around all the time there. And then there’s really probably that three-month window from when spring training starts to the time they get out of school that makes it tough, but they get a week off for spring break, so they were able to come out for spring training. The Phillies give us time off and we try to match it up to kind of put it in the middle, so it’s like four weeks or five weeks and then I’ll take my vacation and go home and see them and then (afterward) it’s another four weeks and then they come out for the summer. So, we always try to break it up where we never go more than four or five weeks apart.

They kind of know how to do it. The coordinator job’s a little different, ‘cause you're going to all the affiliates and then you get to go home. But they’re looking forward to it.

-Some members of the roster come back for a repeat with Lakewood.  Will you look for those types of individuals to take some leadership roles?

Yeah, I mean I think I try not to look at what happened last year or where guys played last year. I don’t want to have sort of a preconceived notion of what to expect. I want to come in and, from speaking with the staff as well, have kind of a blank canvas. But, yeah, if you look in the club house I think you have your pockets of leaders. Some of the returners and you have some of the younger guys, when you look at (Luis) Garcia and (Jonathan) Guzman. Those guys play in the middle and you see they have, like, leadership skills and leadership abilities, with the language barrier, amongst their group and their peers. We definitely see them doing it and we encourage them to kind of stand out and do it a little bit more. Obviously, I think Marchan behind the plate (is doing it too). And then the pitchers. I think there’s little pockets of leaders and something I think is also our job, is trying to show them how to play the game and what we consider the Phillie way, but also to learn how to be leaders, both in the clubhouse, on and off the field.

-I meant to ask earlier...how are your skills with Espanol?

Very limited. But the understanding of the culture is very good because I spent a lot of time in the Dominican at the academies and in the country. The understanding of what they’re going through…I think I make up for it in those other areas, what I lack in the actual interpretation. That’s why we always have somebody on staff that can really do that stuff.

-Your backstops, Rafael Marchan and Abrahan Gutierrez, what do you see from those two thus far?

I tell you what, that’s an impressive group. Both from the ages that they are and the level that they’re playing at. But not only their physical skills, but also, they’re both really smart and they have that grasp of the calling the game, the working with the pitcher, the game planning and stuff like that. So, big upside on both of those guys. I think it’s a nice problem to have.

-Do you have any pitchers assigned or targeted for specific roles out in the bullpen?

No. We don’t…it’s something that we don’t really—it’s not a philosophy of ours to have a setup/closer type of guy. It’s more trying to get guys to pitch in different situations. So, sometimes they will pitch in the back end. Sometimes that pitcher will pitch in the middle. But, basically, you’re looking for high leverage situations, get out, then you’re looking for to put everybody through that experience. Then somebody will come to the forefront of who’s the guy that pitched in the highest leverage situation and that could happen in the 7th inning. That could happen in the 9th. That could happen in the 5th. So, we’ll look to it more like that. And we also are going with more of a tandem type pitching staff, so we’ll see a lot more like a four-inning, one-inning type, where two guys will eat up the majority of the game.

-Back to your coaching staff, Christian Marrero I covered as a player. Matt (Hockenberry), same thing. Can you share some thoughts on your staff?

Yeah, they’re young, passionate, intelligent. They’re a great group to be around. I really enjoy the difference and I believe, also, that my experience can kind of help them as well. So, they’re good. They pepper me with questions. I know Josh (Bonifay) has really talked a lot about helping that group out. It’s a great place to be because not only are we trying to develop players, but develop young coaches as well.

-I talked to Matt last season, mainly about players, but I was also interested in his progress as a coach and he just seemed really hungry and passionate about it and I know he takes great pride in (being fluent with Spanish).

He’s impressed me a lot. Like, all of a sudden it just kind of rattles out of there and it’s pretty cool to see. It’s awesome.

-Thanks for all the time.  Before I let you go, I want to ask about Cole Stobbe. He was here last year and didn’t get to enjoy the success that this team had last year (going to the postseason). Are you hoping for big things from him? Do you see it coming?

Well, right now what we’re doing, is, as you can see, our team needs to be pretty versatile. You’ve got the two young guys in the middle (Jonathan Guzman and Luis Garcia), which need to move around, so you’ll see them flipping back and forth. Alec (Bohm) will play third base, but he’s also gonna play first base. Stobbe will play third base. He’s also gonna play first base.  He's also gonna play the outfield, he'll be in either of the corner positions.  We really believe deeply in the versatility.  That's kind of what we're focusing on right now is getting him to where he's comfortable on the field.  Any time you're putting somebody in a new spot, there's all those things that are going on in their head, but yeah, we're excited for him.  I've been focused mostly on the defensive stuff and getting him up to speed with some of the things he's gonna do.  I we just feel like at times, you just throw somebody over at first base.  First base can be a pretty tough position to play, from all the footwork standpoint, to just being around the bag, making sure you're protected.  Number one sometimes those throws go up the line, you see guys reaching across.  Obviously, he's in a position where he feels comfortable to make some plays there.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Phils prospect Gowdy enjoying success following elbow surgery

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Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- After battling setbacks, both physical and mental, for the past two seasons pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy is back on the mound, competing in full-season baseball for the first time.

The Phillies selected the right-handed California native in the second round of the 2016 draft.  Difficulties with his health held him to just nine professional regular season innings until this month.

After appearing in four games with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2016, Gowdy was assigned to extended spring training to open the 2017 season.  While there, the six-foot-four 170-pounder encountered some tightness in his right elbow.  Initially, the discomfort didn't strike Gowdy as serious pain, so he pitched through it.  The tightness soon became unbearable agony that he could no longer ignore.  Magnetic imaging was prescribed and it was determined that the hurler was facing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm.  Tommy John surgery was required.

Recovery would go normally.  He dealt with shoulder soreness, which is said to be typical for those recovering from the procedure.  Later, when he began to throw sliders, the faced a strain of his flexor tendon.  The familiar discomfort instilled fear in the youngster.

"When my elbow would come back like this," Gowdy said while gesturing a throwing motion, "I would feel that same pain and I don’t think I slept two nights in a row because I was so close to being fully cleared."

The reservations were there all along as it wasn't just the physical hindrances that Gowdy had to battle through.  There were also impediments between his ears that presented challenges.

"About eight or nine months into the rehab I had kind of a mental break(down)," Gowdy explained.  "They started saying you can start throwing the ball hard again and something in my mind just wouldn’t let me do that."

Gowdy would work closely with Hannah Huesman, the Phillies' mental skills coach.  Various mental exercises, including one that required Gowdy to sing while pitching, would help the talented youngster get past his hang ups.

He also bonded with former Phillies great and two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.  The veteran maintained an affiliation with the organization, working with young players on the mental side of the game, until the day he passed away.  The two were close.

"We worked together a lot on staying positive, ‘cause when my elbow started getting tired or hurting, my outings weren’t going that great, so I was really frustrated with that and he just always believed in me, always supported me and you wouldn’t know you were talking to Roy Halladay.  He, every day, would come in with a smile and just wanted to help every day, no matter what it was," Gowdy shared.

Feelings of depression were also a factor for Gowdy during the difficult recovery process.  With bumps along the way, while being forced to watch peers take strides, get healthy or earn promotions, he describes times when he thought of quitting baseball.  Gowdy chose to take on hobbies in order to give himself other things to focus on. One of those was learning to play guitar. Taking inspiration from an Eagles concert he attended, Gowdy sought out a teacher to educate him on the ways of the musical axe the very next day.  According to the 21-year-old, he's gotten quite good with the instrument.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws manager Mike Micucci, in his first season with the Phillies organization after previously playing and coaching in the Cubs system, then later managing and working as a field coordinator in the Rangers system and Angels as well as working in the developmental ranks with the Mariners, is quite happy for his talented hurler.

"It's good to see him get out of the (spring training and rehab) complex," said Micucci.  "He seems to be in a good place mentally, which generally when guys have spent a year or two with the injury bug, that's the biggest hurdle to get over."

Thus far in three starts this season for the 'Claws, Gowdy, who signed for a reported $3.1 million, sports a 2.79 ERA with no decisions and held the opposition to a .147 batting average against.

In his second outing, an effort at home against Delmarva (Orioles affiliate) on Monday, Gowdy walked the first three batters he faced, but would bounce back to retire the next 12 batters in order, striking out seven of those opponents.  He notched four innings of work without allowing a run or a hit. 

The success, Gowdy feels, is a welcome bonus.  However, he's got a different overall focus this year.  His main objective is to avoid any sort of backslide toward the injured list.  

"My goal is to stay healthy and have fun and just keep getting better each time out," said Gowdy.  "(But aside from) the results, I’d say I feel lucky to be back on the mound and being able to pitch again."

Improving on the physical side, of course, was critical for Gowdy to return to the mound and develop further.  But the strides he took with his mental toughness and positive outlook are the areas where he feels he may have improved the most.  The late Halladay would be proud.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Dylan Cozens answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Dylan Cozens, image- Jay Floyd
Exclusively for Patrons, I've got a brand new interview with Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs masher Dylan Cozens....

Slugging Phillies OF prospect, Cozens, sat down with me this week to answer nine silly-ass questions.

Check out the audio of my interview with the 24-year-old lefty batter to hear his thoughts on junk food, animals, super powers and plenty more.

Please help to support the coverage this web site offers by becoming a patron over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz!  Last year I lost money to keep the site running and providing exclusive news, player features as well as updates that Phillies fans can't get any place else.  As a perk for becoming a patron, you will have access to content that won't be offered otherwise. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Moniak ready for next challenge at Double-A

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The struggles that faced talented outfield prospect Mickey Moniak seem to be a thing of the past.

Taken with the first overall draft pick by the Phillies in 2016, the expectations have always been high for the talented prospect, but the organization and the player himself are more confident than ever that Moniak's future is bright.

Moniak has known since the start of spring training that he would open the 2019 campaign in the Double-A Eastern League with Reading when their season starts on Thursday night.  A meeting with Phils general manager Matt Klentak, team manager Gabe Kapler, director of player development Josh Bonifay and outfield coordinator Andy Abad was the setting where the 20-year-old learned that the Phillies feel he has nothing left to prove in Class A Advanced.

Last year with Clearwater, Moniak struggled out of the gate, batting .213 in 22 April games, but he bounced back the rest of the way, batting .285 through the remainder of the campaign.  Over the long haul of the season, the lefty hitter sported a .270 average with 28 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 55 RBI in 114 games.

The year prior, in 2017 at Class A Lakewood, Moniak performed well on offense early in the season and cooled off considerably as the season went on, tallying a .721 first half OPS to go with a .525 second half OPS.  The strife wasn't something that Moniak would allow to impact his approach

"There was really no panic going, just knowing how fast a season can go down or go up," Moniak said.  "So, I kind of just trusted myself.  And there was a point where I stopped listening to outside sources, articles stuff like that and the negative stuff and just looked forward to playing baseball everyday and just took my time and had some fun again."

Moniak's manager with Reading, Shawn Williams, also managed him last season with the Threshers, so he got to see the adjustments and the improved results from Moniak up close.

"His at bats got way better, which in turn showed in his results," Williams shared.  "He was huge for us down the stretch.  He drove in a bunch of big runs.  He's really matured and grown up and he's just going to get better the more he plays."

The development that Moniak showed after turning a corner in 2018 had him seeing more pitches, improving his strike out to walk ratio by a considerable amount and notching a .333 batting average over his final 32 games with Clearwater.

Additionally, Moniak has added muscle to his six-foot-two frame, weighing in at over 200 pounds these days, which is approximately 30 pounds heavier than when he signed as a pro.

Moniak will be part of a Fightin Phils starting outfield that includes two other Phillies first round draft picks.  The trio, which includes Adam Haseley (2017) and Cornelius Randolph (2015), have bonded during their time in the organization.  With something so rare as three top draft picks making up the full outfield on the same team (Williams doesn't think it has happened before) drawing some attention, each of the three are focused on the entire team, getting wins and competing in the EL.

Reading opens its season on the road in Portland then heads to New Hampshire for a three-game set before the team begins the home schedule against Richmond on Friday, April 12th.  Moniak is already excited to see how his offensive efforts fare at Baseballtown's FirstEnergy Stadium.

"Going through the Phillies system, you always hear about Reading and how hitter friendly it is.  Going in there you can't really change your game though.  You've got to just play your game," Moniak asserted.  "I've talked to people whose advice is, 'If you try to hit home runs, you're not going to hit home runs.'  So, I'm just looking to go in there and play my game and carry over what I did last season."

He's already translated his success last year into a solid spring, Williams said.  During the Grapefruit League season, Moniak went 4-for-20 (.200 avg) in 11 exhibition games before joining his teammates in minor league camp.

According to Moniak, he was welcomed into the Phillies' locker room and had a high comfort level from the start.  Part of that was thanks to another first overall draft pick that signed with the Phils during spring.  Star right fielder Bryce Harper took Moniak under his wing once he joined the team.

"I talked to Bryce a lot and he pulled me aside and went out of his way to talk to me, which shows what kind of person he is," Moniak stated.  "He really cares about the team and the whole organization as a whole.  He's really focused on winning and trying to back guys up and have guys' backs.

"The main thing he stressed to me was he wants me to be comfortable.  He wants all the young guys to be comfortable in the club house and that the whole team's got our backs and, you know, just for us to go out and play the best that we can day in and day out."

Moniak feels the time spent around the big leaguers this spring will benefit his future, as he was able to see first-hand what it takes to compete at the top level of the sport.

The organization is more certain than ever that his impact will be felt in the majors.

"His ceiling," Williams said, "There's no ceiling, 'cause he gets so much better every year."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Reading drops Lehigh Valley in final preseason tune up

Mickey Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
ALLENTOWN, PA-- Double-A Reading batted around in the opening frame, plating five runs against Triple-A Lehigh Valley starter Drew Anderson and never looked back, dropping the host team by a score of 7-3 in the annual Rt. 222 Showcase exhibition.

Right fielder Adam Haseley led off the first with a double and came around to score on a single by center fielder Mickey Moniak.  Shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa also drove in two with a key hit in the first.

Anderson would calm down following the shaky start, looking in control and retiring 10 in a row and recording four K's as he completed four innings of work.

Reading starting pitcher Mauricio "MoYo" Llovera surrendered a pair of runs in the second inning on an error and a run scoring single by Shane Robinson.

Left fielder Cornelius Randolph notched three hits on the night, including an RBI double.

The Fightins lead the all-time exhibition series six games to four.

The IronPigs will open their season at home on Thursday when they host Rochester with Jerad Eickhoff taking the hill.

The remainder of Lehigh Valley's six-man pitching rotation will feature, in order, Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, Drew Anderson and lastly JoJo Romero.

Reading opens the regular season on the road, as they visit Portland to open a four-game series starting Thursday.  Ramon Rosso will get the start on the mound in the opener.

Per Fightins manager Shawn Williams, the opening day starter was slated to be Connor Seabold, but he is sidelined with an injury for, at least, the first turn through the rotation. Reading's pitching rotation will be rounded out by, in order, Adonis Medina, David Parkinson, Llovera and Bailey Falter. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview Excerpts: Reading LHP Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown, image- Jay Floyd
Aaron Brown was a two-way player at Pepperdine, standing out both as an outfielder as well as a pitcher.  The Phillies' 3rd round draft selection in 2014 was slated to play exclusively on the offensive side after signing that year.  But, after reaching the Double-A level as an offensive player and seeing his batting average come in under .225, he was switched back to the pitching role in 2017.

Combined at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading last year, Brown posted a 3-6 record with a 4.90 ERA, a .271 batting average against along with an 8.8 K/9 mark in 46 total appearances.

Entering his second full season as a professional pitcher, the 26-year-old will open the 2019 campaign back with Reading, where he ended last season. 

Brown appeared in four games this spring with the major league Phillies, surrendering one earned run on two hits while striking out three and walking none in 2 2/3 innings of work.

This week I chatted with Brown about his time around the big league Phillies, working with J.T. Realmuto, his favorite thing about playing in Reading as well as recent rule changes that will impact pitchers among other things. Some excerpts from our talk are shared below, but you can check out the complete interview at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.


-The assignment for you to open the season is back with Reading in Double-A.  Is that as you expected?

No, I think it was as expected.  I came up here the end of last season, for the second half, threw the ball pretty well.  You know, it was a good experience for me and I know there's probably a little bit more work to get done here and go from there.  But it was pretty well expected to start here again.  Our Triple-A squad is stacked right now, so (there's) not a lot of room for guys to move up there quite yet.  But, yeah, I'm excited to be back here.  It's going to be a fun season and I'm just ready to get after it.

-Cool.  So, spring training must have been exciting for you, as you spent plenty of time around the big league team.  What was that time like for you this spring, pitching for the big league team?

I'll tell you what, man, it was amazing.  It was such a good opportunity, just a blessing to be able to do it here and there and help them win some ballgames.  I just loved every second of it.  I love a challenge and it was definitely that, when it came to facing big league hitters and just kind of see where I was at, how my stuff played in the zone and I can't complain about anything.  It was all really good.  A lot of positive feedback (from coaches).  And just a huge opportunity that I think I really took advantage of.

-I talked to one of the lower level players, Ben Brown, last week and he was sharing some thoughts that even in the lower levels they can feel the change of atmosphere within the organization with all the changes of player personnel and the vibe that is turning around.  Having been around it, but still in the minors, what are your perceptions of that?

Yeah.  I mean, definitely.  There's definitely a change in atmosphere.  You look at our team up there and you just see a roster of guys that go out there to win and not just to play.  And when our fan base knows that and they know the kind of players we have on the team and the kind of energy we're going to bring every single day-- the big leaguers are going to bring every single day, like that makes them excited.  So, all of spring training, the atmosphere was just full of energy and excitement.  Even though they were just spring games, when someone hits a home run, the place just erupted.  And the fans love it and they love how much we want to win every single day.  So, I can definitely say that the atmosphere was definitely different this year.

-It's easy to forget or not realize that this would be your fourth time with Reading, as you had two turns as an outfielder and not your second time there as a pitcher.  With all that time playing there, what are some of your favorite things about Baseballtown?

Oh, man, just the crowds we bring in.  We get awesome crowds here and the fan base is amazing and we love putting on a show for them each and every night.  So, that's one of the biggest things about playing in Reading is it IS Baseballtown and the people out here love their baseball, love their Phillies and that makes it exciting for the players to show up every season and be ready to go because we know we're going to have great people there every night that are ready to watch some good baseball.

-The Reading vs. Lehigh Valley exhibition is coming up on Tuesday.  Any thoughts?

Yeah, we'll be out there.  We play Lehigh and we head to Portland to start the regular season right after the game.  It's gonna be a fun game and that team is pretty stacked, honestly, so we'll see what happens, but it should be a lot of fun and we're excited to head up to Portland right after and start the season.

-Are there any bragging rights on the line in a game like that or is it still just focus on getting ready and getting reps in?

Not that I know of, man.  I was only part of (it once), but from what I remember it was pretty fun and guys were just getting their work in, taking advantage of that last minute to fine tune some things and getting ready for game one of the season. 


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