Thursday, November 21, 2019

40-man roster additions made by Phillies

Ahead of the deadline to update the big league 40-man roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 draft, the Phillies made some additions on Wednesday.

Jojo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
In moves that did not catch very many people by surprise, right-handed hurler Mauricio Llovera and left-hander JoJo Romero were added to the 40-man roster.  Righty Garrett Cleavinger was also protected.

Llovera, 23, a Venezuela native, notched a 3-4 record with a 4.55 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 mark in 14 games with Double-A Reading this year.  

Romero, a 4th round draft pick from 2016, posted a 7-9 record with a 5.82 ERA with a 7.4 K/9 mark in 24 games split between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading this year.  In eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League this off-season the 23-year-old recorded a 0.84 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.

Cleavinger, who was acquired by the Phils in the trade that sent Jeremy Helickson to Baltimore in 2017, posted a 3-2 record with a 3.66 ERA and a .172 batting average against in 34 relief appearances last season.

While the Cleavinger move was unexpected, each of these pitchers stand a fair shot at making a splash in the Phillies' bullpen next season.

The Phillies also dealt minor league infielder Curtis Mead to Tampa Bay for lefty reliever Cristopher Sanchez, who was also added to the 40-man roster.

Sanchez, 22, is a Dominican Republic native, who tallied a 4-1 record with two saves, a 2.26 ERA and a .212 batting average against in 24 games at three levels this year.

The transactions leave the Phillies' 40-man roster standing at 39 individuals.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Off-season League Phillies Notes

So you've been wondering about off-season baseball leagues and how Phillies players are doing. Well, except for the Arizona Fall League, which started and ended its schedule earlier than normal this year, there has been very limited action thus far.

Deivy Grullon, image- Jay Floyd
The Dominican Winter League features Deivy Grullon competing for the Aguilas. In just four games, the catcher has posted a .143 average with two RBI.

Roughly 10 days into its schedule, the Venezuelan Winter League hasn't seen any Phillies impact. Catcher Gregori Rivero, who played in the Phils system last year, is 0-for-1 with a walk for Zulia.
The other leagues in Australia and Puerto Rico are set to open their schedules soon.

On Friday night, the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico will get underway. Lefty pitcher Gabriel Cotto is expected to be featured on the Carolina roster while catcher Willie Estrada is included on the Mayaguez roster.

Cotto pitched in the Gulf Coast League this year. Estrada was signed late in the summer as an undrafted free agent. I would expect other players signed with the Phillies to compete in this league as well. Outfielder Jan Hernandez, a PR native, is possible, as he usually sees action here.

The Aussie league will open its schedule next week on the 20th. After at least two years of no U.S. based Phillies making their way to play down under, the ABL will feature several names. Infielder Cole Stobbe, backstop Logan O'Hoppe and outfielder Ben Aklinski are set to join Australia natives Rixon Taylor-Wingrove, Mitchell Edwards and Curtis Mead on the Adelaide Giants (formerly the Bite) roster.

Also set to see action in the ABL is righty hurler Kyle Glogoski, who will compete for Auckland.
Other former Phillies farmhands such Gift Ngoepe and Tim Kennelly are also set to play in the ABL.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@PhoulBallz) or bookmark my Twitter page for daily off-season league updates on the Phillies.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Connor Hinchliffe

Connor Hinchliffe, photo- GoExplorers.com
Right-handed pitcher Connor Hinchliffe performed well after signing with the Phillies as an undrafted free agent this summer.

The La Salle University product debuted with the Phillies' Gulf Coast League West team in late June and notched a 1-1 record, a save, a 1.82 ERA, a .163 batting average against as well as a 1.26 WHIP in 16 appearances (one start).

The six-foot-two 195-pounder began college as a position player, but later switched strictly to working on the mound. Recently, I talked with the 23-year-old Hinchliffe about that change, not getting drafted, his background playing in Phils affiliate facilities, his time in the GCL and plenty more. Read ahead for that interview.


-What can you share about the process of signing with the Phillies? Had they been in touch
ahead of the draft?

Yes, the Phillies had been in touch before the draft. I was seen by the scout from my area, Connor Betbeze, and he invited me to a pre-draft workout a week or so before the draft in Philadelphia. After I threw at the workout, I got to talk to some of the scouting directors and other personnel that attended but still didn’t really know where they stood. I knew they were somewhat interested but wasn’t sure exactly how much.

-Was there any disappointment with not being drafted or was there enough promise of getting a free agent deal that it wasn’t too big of a deal to you?

Every player who has aspirations of professional baseball dreams of getting that call on draft day and seeing your name pop up on the draft tracker, so when that didn’t happen of course there was some disappointment. When the draft came and went I knew there was some promise of a free agent deal with some teams but wasn’t exactly sure how promising that would be. Luckily enough I didn’t have to wait too long when the Phillies called me a day or so after the draft offering me a contract.

-I saw an item in your bio that said you started college as an outfielder. How did the transition to pitching go (was it necessity, was it suggested by a coach) and what was your background on the mound (did you pitch in high school or anything) before the switch?

I actually started out in college as a catcher, then moved to the outfield at the tail end of my freshman year. Sophomore year played primarily outfield with a handful of starts at first base. Junior year primarily outfield again, but actually ended up pitching a little bit that year too but outfield was still my first priority. Then senior year was my first year as a pitcher only, or “PO,” so I was bouncing around all over the field in my career.

The transition to the mound was pretty easy as first actually, because it wasn’t my primary position so not to say that I didn’t care what happened, but I had more of a “here goes nothing” type of attitude.

Then senior year, when I was a PO, was when I got more serious about it since it was my position now and that was what the team needed me to do. It was my coach, Dave Miller, who told me I was going to be a PO and at the time I wasn’t particularly happy about it. He brought me in at the end of my junior year and kept telling me I had a good cutter and could play professionally if I got my velocity up a bit. I remember sitting there thinking “yeah right, coach.” Then I came out in the fall and fully embraced pitching and had a good year so turns out he wasn’t lying. I’m still very close with Coach Miller and can’t thank him enough for seeing that in me and making the switch. My experience pitching before college was little league and I remember I had one varsity start in high school as a freshman and that was it, so not much at all.

-How did competing in college ball prepare you for the minors and pro ball?

College in general prepared me a lot for professional baseball. On the field, balancing a biology major and playing baseball was a hefty commitment so it taught me how to properly manage my time. On the field, learning how to become a catcher at a highly competitive level helped me tremendously on the mound. This probably isn’t the first thing you’d think of and certainly it would be hard to find another pitcher with that answer. I think something I am very good at is putting myself in the mind of the hitter when I’m pitching and knowing what pitches he’s looking for in certain counts. Being a former hitter and catcher, I have years and years of experience being in their shoes facing pitchers so I usually have a good idea of what they’re looking for because I ask myself, “What would I be looking for?” This obviously changes sometimes with different hitters but that’s where I can make an adjustment. Also, I was lucky enough to call my own pitches as a catcher in high school and college, so that was invaluable experience learning hitters, how to sequence them, and reading swings for instant feedback. A lot of pitchers haven’t swung a bat in years so they don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side of the ball and that’s where I think college helped me. I also think college taught me to embrace adversity and be flexible. I think that’s a mindset I can carry with me not only in my baseball career but life as well.

-Did you have friends or any former teammates already signed with the Phillies and did you get any lessons on the organization or its culture ahead of arriving in Clearwater or when you got there?

No, I didn’t have any friends or former teammates that were already with the Phillies. A good friend from back home Travis Blankenhorn was drafted out of high school by the Twins and has been playing in the minors for about 4 years now. He’s given me a good idea of how life in the minors goes. As for the Phillies specifically, I was reporting to Clearwater with no real idea of what to expect in terms of the organization or culture.

-Which coaches or teammates stood out to you as guys you picked up a lot from after joining the Phillies?

As for coaches, I worked every day with my pitching coach Bruce Billings who helped me, and our team, a lot by showing us how to break down film to analyze games. This was the first time in my career ever having video of games so it was awesome to have that resource to learn from. Eric Jagers is coordinator that I used as a valuable resource for weighted ball, slo mo video, and other information. Mike Tampellini is in player development and analytics and I would pick his brain almost every day regarding video and Rhapsodo information.

-Did you get exposure to or time on the field with any rehabbers while in the GCL? What was that like, if you did?

A couple guys that were rehabbing while I was down in Clearwater were David Robertson, Spencer Howard, and Connor Seabold. I’m a type of person that seeks information and experience every single way I can, so picking the brains of other players who are at the level I’m striving for or where I want to be at can only be advantageous.

David Robertson had just got done throwing live BP for the first time since being hurt and I went over to ask him about his cutter, because I throw a cutter. He was nice enough to share some pointers with me. Spencer and Connor are a few of the brightest pitching prospects in the Phillies organization right now so getting to talk to them about pitching, the minors, or anything in general was cool.

-What sort of experiences could you share from the GCL that fans might not expect?

Something fans would not expect from the GCL is the environment. I would assume they probably think even in the GCL we’re playing in stadiums with fans and whatnot. Coming from a small D1 school in Philadelphia, the stands were certainly not packed shoulder to shoulder at our games, especially early in the season when its sub 40 degrees. Looking back I realized that can be used as an advantage for me playing in the GCL because it’s on you to flip that switch into compete mode, the environment isn’t going to do it for you. It is way easier to find that switch when you have packed stands, stadium music, and whatever else but we didn’t have any of that in the GCL. It was on you to focus and, despite no crowd, to find that switch and get into compete mode, which I have been doing for years now coming from a smaller school. If I came from an SEC where every weekend is packed and it’s easier to get juiced up to play, it definitely would be weird playing with no one really there.

-You talked about the cutter. What else is in your pitch repertoire and was there anything added to that menu or anything updated grip or mechanics wise once you joined the Phils?

My pitch repertoire entering the Phillies was a 4s/2s fastball, cutter, curve ball, and change up. Nothing was necessarily added once I got there, but I certainly worked on a few of them, particularly the curve ball and change up. With the curve ball, towards the end of the season I was experimenting with a spiked grip where I had not used that before. This was to get it as more of a 12-6 curve ball than a slider-ish curve ball. I didn’t change the grip of my change up but it was more of becoming more comfortable with it during catch play and throwing it more in bullpens to refine it.

Mechanics wise I had a lot to work on, particularly using my entire body to produce the pitch rather than just using my arm. I am aiming to produce the most biomechanically efficient way to throw the ball, in a repeatable and consistent delivery. That is something I am still working on throughout the off-season.

-You grew up in the Philadelphia region. What early memories do you have of the Phillies and other Philly sports teams or athletes? Did you attend games as a kid?

I grew up about two hours away in Pottsville, PA, which is about 25 minutes from Reading, 35 minutes from Lehigh Valley, and an hour from Williamsport so I’m very familiar with the Phillies affiliates. I’ve been to a bunch of Reading Phillies games, one that sticks out was going to see Stephen Strasburg pitch when he was in AA. I won the district championship my senior year of high school in the IronPigs stadium, which still is one of my best baseball memories. My sophomore year of college I actually started a game in left field at Citizens Bank Park in a championship of a Philadelphia college tournament called the Liberty Bell Classic, which was an awesome experience. Obviously, the Charlie Manuel, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard era sticks out in my mind which was a special group to watch. I was lucky enough to sit next to Mr. Manuel at a GCL game this summer and talk baseball when he was watching our team play.

-Did it mean a lot to you and your family for you to sign with the Phillies?

Honestly, it meant a lot for me and my family to sign professionally with any team, and was very special that it was with the Phillies. I’ve spent the last four years of my life in Philadelphia at La Salle and my cousins go to Villanova, so Philadelphia is a big part of me and my family. Everyone from La Salle and back home are die hard Phillies fans so to play for a team that everyone I know supports is amazing.

-What plans do you have for the off-season? Are you working? Training? Traveling?

My plans for the off season are living in Philadelphia and training at Maplezone Sports Institute until January, then I’m heading out to Driveline in Seattle to do more pitching specific training right before spring training. As for work, I’m doing just about anything I can to make some money before I have to head back. I’m coaching an 11u baseball team, giving personal baseball lessons, landscaping, and a couple other odd jobs to support myself.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Phillies' Realmuto wins Gold Glove Award

For just the third time ever a Phillies catcher has been honored with the Rawlings Gold Glove Award as J.T. Realmuto was named as the National League's top defensive backstop on Sunday.

The award was the first of Realmuto's career.  He joins two-time winner Bob Boone (1978, 1979) and Mike Lieberthal (1999) as Phillies catchers to earn the Gold Glove nod.

The 28-year-old Realmuto caught 43% of base runners trying to steal and sported a .992 fielding percentage during the 2019 campaign.

Originally a 3rd round pick by Miami in 2010, Realmuto was acquired from the Marlins last off-season in a trade that sent pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart as well as catcher Jorge Alfaro last offseason.

His first season as a Phillie was remarkable, as Realmuto was named an All-Star and posted an .820 OPS in 145 games.  Many members of the media and those around the game expect the Phillies to sign the righty hitter to a contract extension this off-season.

This marks the first time since shortstop Jimmy Rollins in 2012 that a Phillie has won the Gold Glove Award.