Cameron Rupp catches a foul ball during his MLB debut for the Phillies, an 8-2 loss to the Padres. (AP)
Ryne Sandberg continues to look at all the players on the Phillies' roster and some in new roles.
Tuesday night’s game against San Diego saw catcher Cameron Rupp make his major-league debut and pitcher Ethan Martin make his maiden voyage as a reliever.
Though the Phillies were beaten badly in an 8-2 loss to the Padres (see Instant Replay), Rupp and Martin provided some interesting and entertaining storylines.
Rupp, a burly 24-year-old from Texas, received an interesting compliment for his work behind the plate, and he somewhat hilariously had his first big-league hit in the eighth inning.
Martin, a power arm who had trouble throwing strikes as a starter, made his big-league relief debut and dazzled. He got three outs on 10 pitches -- all strikes -- in the sixth inning.
Rupp and Martin are two of a number of youngsters who are being evaluated for future work as the Phillies wind down what will be their first losing season since 2002. Third baseman Cody Asche is another young player that management is taking a look at. He has impressed since arriving in late July. On Tuesday night, he belted his fifth home run in 112 at-bats. It came against hard-throwing Padres’ right-hander Andrew Cashner, who allowed just two runs over 7 2/3 innings.
The Phillies ended up with seven hits (to San Diego’s 13), but entered the eighth inning with just two against Cashner. In addition to the weak showing at the plate, the Phils did not get a good outing from starter Tyler Cloyd, who allowed nine hits and seven runs in four-plus innings.
“My pitches were up,” Cloyd said. “I made a lot of mistakes. I needed to throw more off-speed stuff. They were on my fastball and slider all night. I just didn’t execute. I got off the game plan. I didn’t throw enough off-speed stuff and stayed on the plate too much.”
Cloyd’s early exit allowed the Phils to get a look at Martin out of the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has been used as a starter since joining the Phils’ organization in a trade with the Dodgers last summer, but his skill-set might play better out of the bullpen.
It certainly did in this game.
“He made a very good showing,” Sandberg said. “He kept the ball down in the zone well.”
Rupp was a third-round pick of the Phillies out of the University of Texas in 2010. He entered spring training ranked behind Tommy Joseph on the team’s list of catching prospects, but got a chance to play at Triple A when Joseph could not make it back from a concussion suffered in May. Rupp showed enough at the plate and behind it to earn a September promotion.
Though he struck out in his first two at-bats of the game, he earned a nice compliment from an unusual source. In the ninth inning, home plate umpire Mark Wegner wandered over to the Phillies’ dugout -- these things happen in a blowout -- and told Sandberg how impressed he was with Rupp’s work behind the plate.
“The umpire said that was the best visibility and framing of pitches he’d seen all season,” Sandberg said. “It was pretty cool. With (Rupp’s) posture, he gets a little rounded. I can see where the umpire would see the ball very well coming in. That was a pretty good compliment. Pretty impressive.”
Rupp said he’d never received a compliment like that from an umpire.
“That makes me feel good,” he said. “You want to give the umpire the best look and give him a chance to call a strike for the pitcher, so that’s something I pride myself in.”
Rupp’s parents, Kevin and Kathi, came in from Dallas for the weekend. Their son did not play. Kevin flew home after Sunday’s game -- Kathi stayed -- and returned to Philadelphia in time for Tuesday’s game when he heard his son would start. (Cameron had gotten a heads-up Sunday night.)
The Comcast SportsNet broadcast showed Rupp’s proud parents several times during the game, including after he beat out a slow roller to third for his first big-league hit. As Rupp reached the bag, he tripped and rolled to the ground. Up in the stands, his father laughed hysterically.
“Exactly the way I drew it up,” Rupp said of his less-than-majestic first big-league hit. “I’m sure I’m not going to hear the end of it for a while.
“But I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a dream come true to play in a major-league game.”
Rupp will have the last laugh on his father when his parents return to Texas on a 6:30 a.m. flight Wednesday.
He’s sleeping in.
“They can take a cab to the airport,” he said.