2012 All-Star suspended for 25 games

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2012 All-Star suspended for 25 games

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Add catcher to the Philadelphia Phillies' needs this offseason.All-Star Carlos Ruiz was suspended Tuesday for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine. The 33-year-old catcher had a career year in 2012, hitting .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games."I am sincerely regretful for my mistake in taking a prohibited stimulant," Ruiz said in a statement issued by the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I apologize to my teammates, the Phillies organization and the Philadelphia fans. I will serve the imposed 25-game suspension to begin the season and I look forward to returning to the field and working toward bringing a championship back to Philadelphia in 2013."Ruiz will be eligible to participate in spring training, including exhibition games."The Phillies fully support Major League Baseball's drug program," the team said. "We are disappointed by the news of this violation of the program. We will support Carlos in an appropriate manner and move forward to achieve our goal to play championship-caliber baseball in 2013."Erik Kratz will likely begin the 2013 season as Philadelphia's starting catcher while Ruiz serves his suspension. Kratz, a career minor-leaguer, filled in nicely when he finally got a chance after Ruiz went down with a foot injury. Kratz hit .248, but had nine doubles, nine homers and 26 RBIs in only 141 at-bats. Kratz also threw out 45 percent of base-stealers (15 of 33).Still, losing Ruiz hurts a lineup that struggled mightily last year. Ruiz moved up from his usual No. 8 spot and took over for an injured Ryan Howard as the team's cleanup hitter for a chunk of the season. He batted fifth after Howard returned in July.The Phillies, who finished 81-81 after winning five straight NL East titles, have several holes to fill. Only Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are certain regulars. Utley, though, didn't play until late May in 2011 and late June in 2012 because of chronic knee injuries.General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hopes to add a starting center fielder, another starting outfielder and a third baseman either through free agency or trades. Now he'll also need a backup catcher for Kratz for the first month. Brian Schneider served as the team's primary backup the last three seasons, but only batted .212 in 122 games.The Phillies have two top prospects catching in the minors. Sebastian Valle hit .253 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 80 games at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Tommy Joseph, acquired in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco, hit .257 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs for the Giants' and Phillies' Double-A affiliates.Ruiz became the eighth player suspended this year under the major league testing program, the second for amphetamines following Baltimore shortstop Ryan Adams. The eight suspensions are the most since 2007.This had to be Ruiz's second positive test for a stimulant. An initial positive for a stimulant does not trigger a suspension, only that the player must undergo follow-up testing.There have been 102 suspensions this year under the minor league testing program.

First tease of Sixers' new Nike uniforms pops up on Twitter

First tease of Sixers' new Nike uniforms pops up on Twitter

Nike kicks off an 8-year exclusive partnership with the NBA and will be the official provider of all jerseys, shorts, and basically the classic parts of the basketball uniform.

A number of team's have already released what their new jerseys with a Nike swoosh will look like. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings have shared images of their new jerseys.

Chris Heck, the Sixers' Chief Sales and Marketing Officer best known for tweeting images with only a #OnBrand hashtag, shared what appears to be the first look at the new Sixers' gear with a Nike logo.

As you may or may not be aware, Nike is doing away with a traditional "home" and "away" uniform, instead producing four different uniforms for each team that they can choose from. Here's how NBA.com describes it:

Another significant change coming this fall involves adjusting the nomenclature of what were formerly known as “home” and “away” uniforms. Beginning with the 2017-18 season, home teams are not automatically assigned to wear white uniforms, and instead will be allowed to choose which uniform they want to wear for each home game. Visiting teams will then choose a contrasting uniform from their available options.

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

MIAMI -- Nick Williams has been a major-leaguer less than three weeks and his progress has accelerated so swiftly that the Phillies are already trying to pump the breaks.

“I’m not going to say a whole lot about him right now,” manager Pete Mackanin said of his 23-year-old rookie right fielder. “I don’t want to jinx myself.”

Williams, elevated to the three-hole in the batting order on Tuesday, is batting .316 with four doubles, three triples and two homers — including one grand slam — in just 16 games.

In the past six games, Williams has 11 RBIs. And he is one of just four Phillies in more than 100 years to produce multiple RBIs and multiple hits in four straight games, a list that includes Greg Luzinski (1977); Chuck Klein (1932) and Lefty O’Doul (1929).

Williams is also one of just three Phillies with an OPS north of .800. Williams leads the team in OPS at .963. He is followed by Aaron Altherr (.898), who figures to be out multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury; and Howie Kendrick (.879), who is on an injury rehab assignment at Double-A Reading.

Kendrick, who is in the last year of his contract, will likely be gone soon, perhaps by the July 31 trading deadline, if he can prove he is healthy enough to contribute to a playoff contender.

Meanwhile, Altherr and Williams have both played right field this year. Assuming Williams continues to play well, Mackanin will have to sort it out, and, presumably, one of those two players shifts to left.

For now, the Phillies need the quiet Williams to continue making noise with his bat because this is a team that ranks second-to-last in the majors with 365 runs scored.

And that’s after taking two out of three games from the Miami Marlins this week in a breakout offensive performance by the entire team. The Phillies scored 20 runs in the series, their second-best showing in a three-game set all year.

The Phillies had five players come through with multi-hit games in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Marlins. Seven players turned that trick in Wednesday’s 10-3 victory in which the Phillies set a season high with 20 hits (see story).

“Hitting is contagious,” Williams said in advance of Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, which starts a 10-game homestand. “When you see so many guys do it, I always think of it as, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ ”

Mackanin this week talked up Maikel Franco, who has been used as the cleanup batter 38 times this year and has hit fifth and sixth 20 times each.

Franco, according to Mackanin, leveled off his swing in a productive batting-practice session on Tuesday, and the manager predicts a big second half from him.

Perhaps Franco can settle in as the full-time cleanup hitter.

Perhaps Franco can provide quality protection for Williams in the three-hole.

Perhaps this can become a thing, Williams and Franco.

Fact is, age-wise, they are well-positioned to grow together with the Phillies. Franco is 24 — he just seems older because he broke into the majors in 2014 — and Williams is 23.

And although Williams is younger, he seems mature. These thrilling three weeks do not appear to have fazed him. He is not, for example, trying to pull everything.

“Growing up,” said Williams, who is from Galveston, Texas, “I always heard, ‘Hit it where it’s pitched.’

“If (pitchers throw) away, hit it that way. If they come in, pull it. … I just trust my hands.”

At 32-61, the Phillies are miles away from contention, and further still from their 2008 team that won the World Series.

Progress has been slow, but finding some hitters that will strike fear in the hearts and minds of opposing pitchers and managers will be a fine start.

Intentional walks are often a show of respect. Right now, no one on the Phillies has drawn more than four intentional passes.

If you look back at the ’08 Phillies, Ryan Howard was walked intentionally 17 times. Chase Utley was walked intentionally 14 times.

That’s what happens when you hit 48 homers like Howard did that year.

That’s what happens when you hit 41 doubles like Utley did that year.

That’s what happens when you’re dangerous.

The Phillies are hoping that Williams, a former second-round pick and part of the package received from the Texas Rangers in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, can be anywhere near that dangerous one day.

For now, though, Mackanin would prefer less talking and more hitting.

“I just want to watch him continue to play,” Mackanin said, “(continue to) be aggressive at the plate.”