Justin De Fratus May Soon Overtake Phillippe Aumont

Justin De Fratus May Soon Overtake Phillippe Aumont

By the second out of the eighth inning yesterday, Antonio Bastardo had hit a wall, Mike Adams was likely unavailable, Chad Durbin wasn't a fit for the circumstances and Jeremy Horst wasn't a righty.

Due up with men on first and third and one out was Indians surprise slugger Mark Reynolds, who hit .301 with a 1.019 OPS and ML-leading eight home runs in the first month -- also a righty.

In other words, this was clearly Phillippe Aumont's spot. At least it used to be.

Instead, Justin De Fratus entered, as he did on Sunday, the very first day he was called up.

Aumont hasn't thrown since May 9.

If that seems like a clear intimation of the organization's feelings on the two, that's because it likely is.

The Phillies can play wait and see until May 21, when the rotation must expand back to five starters. But with four relievers (Durbin, Bastardo, Adams, Papelbon) due guaranteed money and only three of (Bastardo, Horst and Raul Valdes) throwing left-handed, it stands to reason that the table is set for Aumont to be optioned.

Especially since the 25-year-old De Fratus was so effective. He popped up Reynolds on two pitches, helping the Phillies carry a then two-run lead to Jonathan Papelbon to return the favor two weeks to the day that the Indians laid on a 48-hour walloping in Cleveland. The night of his 2013 debut, De Fratus gassed Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the ninth to send a tie game to extras of a road trip-wrapping win, setting the table for last night.

It's only two appearances, but it's twice that De Fratus has done what's expected: get outs.

You can't say the same about Aumont. Though he's punched a 2.45 ERA this year, he's been charged with three losses in 13 outings. Bastardo had only two more in 65 appearances during his train wrecky 2012. Worse, with as many walks (7) as strikeouts so far, Aumont's yet to be able to demonstrate he can consistently command his 97 m.p.h. heat, which, it stands to reason, is the only reason he's here.

De Fratus, meanwhile, does seem to have a handle on his 94-96 m.p.h. fastball, which would replace Aumont as second on the relief staff, the owners of the second-slowest average fastball velocity in baseball. This year's samples are too small for comparison. But last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the De Fratus struck out 9.14 per nine for a 7.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. De Fratus, frankly, is exactly what this bullpen needs.

If not for an elbow strain (which, as he put it jokingly to me, was caused by being "young and stupid" with his offseason throwing program in 2012 and trying to ratchet it up before he was ready, as opposed to some serious problem caused by acute stress or shoddy mechanics), De Fratus may have already been here.

Though the way it's looking now, De Fratus may be here to stay.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

usa-villanova.jpg
USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

051916_curtin_on_dc_united_webrefframe_1.jpg

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

052316_mcleod_on_bradford_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691412035744.jpg

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.