Potential Halladay Replacement Struggling In His Own Right

Potential Halladay Replacement Struggling In His Own Right

The last time a Phillies starter was headed for the shelf, Adam Morgan made for an impractical fill-in. By the time John Lannan was officially DL’d the morning of Apr. 18, the prized 23-year-old lefty was already five innings deep into his scheduled start for the IronPigs that afternoon. So if Morgan was going to be the one to get the ball for Lannan’s next turn, he’d have had to do it on short rest.

The organization opted against it.

With Roy Halladay likely headed to the DL with what he and GM Ruben Amaro described yesterday as “discomfort” in his throwing shoulder, and with Morgan’s throwing schedule making for a seamless switch, there are grounds for a different kind of uneasiness.

Morgan didn’t look too good yesterday either and hasn’t in a while.

Morgan was lit up for four runs in four innings on Sunday against Indianapolis – incidentally, the Triple-A affiliate of the team that blasted Halladay for eight runs in 3 2/3 in his second-to-last time out, the Cleveland Indians. The 140-character scouting report:

After surrendering no more than two runs in any of his first three starts (1.42 ERA), Morgan’s been served four runs in each of the three since (6.89 ERA).

On paper, the alternatives aren’t exactly enticing either. Ethan Martin, ranked 76th on MLB.com’s pre-2013 top 100 prospect list (Morgan was No. 92 on Keith Law’s list), has surrendered 14 earned in 13 innings over his three most recent times out. Martin’s next scheduled turn is tomorrow, so the organization could give him a reduced load then to make him available for May 10 in Arizona.

Obviously, minor league performance – both good and bad – doesn’t always translate.

Tyler Cloyd was crushed for a 4.91 ERA in six starts with the Phillies last year after going 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA at Triple-A and grabbing International League MVP honors. And though he was mushed for 10 earned in 9 1/3 innings through two starts at Lehigh Valley this year, Jonathan Pettibone has been pretty serviceable for the varsity team, going 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts, all Phillies wins.

Morgan’s probably the ideal option, not only because of the timing and his pedigree, but also because of how he manned up on Mar. 22 – the last time Halladay had to be plucked from the rotation, in spring training. With little notice, Morgan dealt the Braves 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

But as bad as Halladay’s been, due to injury or whatever else, you’d have to think anyone the Phillies throw on Friday will at this point be an upgrade – if only because he’ll likely be able to last in games and preserve the bullpen so the team can be competitive for the rest of the series.

Just know: if you’re sifting through minor league box scores for hope, you’re not likely to find it.

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

STOCKTON, N.J. — Joel Embiid awoke Tuesday morning and was still feeling ill from a cold and virus he has been battling since last Friday. He had been coughing, experiencing a bloody nose and even vomiting, but all those symptoms could not stop him from a day he has been eyeing for over two years: his first NBA practice.

Embiid had stayed back in Philadelphia on Monday night while the Sixers traveled to training camp at Stockton University in South Jersey. On Tuesday, he decided to leave the city and join the team on campus.

“I woke up this morning and I was like, ‘I waited too long for this time, so I’ve got to go and try to do some work in there,’” Embiid said.

Embiid had been sidelined by foot injuries since the Sixers drafted him third overall in 2014. Tuesday marked his first NBA practice, and he is eyeing his first preseason game next Tuesday against the Celtics.

Embiid was not expected to be part of training camp Tuesday because of his illness. He surprised the team when he arrived while practice was underway. The Sixers' medical staff cleared him before he took the court.

“He forced himself into practice today,” head coach Brett Brown said. “He said, ‘I feel good, I want to go.’ With the time that he has put in the last few years, he meant it. You respected that instruction.”

Embiid is following a minutes restriction during training camp, which currently is 25 minutes for the morning session and 20 minutes for the evening session. His previous physical restrictions have been lifted and the team is monitoring him for workload and time on the court.

“I step back and figure out how do I want to spend my money?” Brown said. “If we’ve got X amount of time, where do I feel like he can make the most improvement? Where do I feel like he’s going to have the best chance to get on the court and play minutes, as we expect against the Celtics?”

Tuesday morning’s session focused on the defensive end. While Embiid had trouble breathing at points and tired quickly, he made an effort to give 100 percent on the court. The only lags in Embiid’s game Brown noticed were attributed to his illness, not because of his foot.

“I don’t think he’s missed a beat from a great month of September,” Brown said.

The Sixers sensed the enthusiasm from Embiid. Regardless of his restrictions, his energy was felt among the team.

“When he did get in, he played well,” Ben Simmons said. “He’s a big inside presence. He got a lot of boards and crashed the offensive glass.”

Added Jahlil Okafor: "He’s excited to be here. Obviously, he’s had a couple tough years with his injuries that he couldn’t control. But he’s finally here and he’s taking advantage of that."

The Sixers will hold training camp through Friday at Stockton University. Embiid is looking to push past any symptoms to be on the court as much as he can.

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Silence is golden.

It's a phrase uttered often by parents and teachers. It can also be an effective phrase when dealing with negotiations.

I'm not revealing a big secret by saying the Sixers have a logjam in their frontcourt. At some point, something has to give.

Nerlens Noel, a key component of the aforementioned logjam, doubled down on his quotes from over the weekend about the Sixers' "silly" frontcourt situation.

"I don't see a way it can work," Noel said on Monday. "It's just a logjam. You have three young, talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night."

Uh-oh.

Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that teams have been trying to "poach" a big man off him. He's been adamant in saying that he's not shopping any of his bigs. For leverage purposes, that's wise.

Any leverage Colangelo may have accrued through his media tour this summer took a hit. With the health of Joel Embiid still a question mark, it's important that the Sixers take a wait-and-see approach to their situation. Noel may have just put a damper on that plan.

I'm not advocating for the trade of Noel and keeping Jahlil Okafor. In fact, I've said that if Embiid proves he's healthy, I'd move both Noel and Okafor if the value was appropriate.

There can be arguments made for keeping Noel over the other two centers. His athleticism and rim protection skills fit Brett Brown's system and the way the NBA is trending. And it's important to note that Noel isn't wrong. It won't benefit him to take a cut in minutes. It won't help Okafor either. It's not the most pleasant situation to be sure. He has every right to be unhappy, but getting the media involved doesn't benefit Noel or the Sixers.

Anyone in any job should have the right to speak out if they feel they're being slighted, but sometimes you have to "play the game." If Noel were a poker player, he just revealed his hand. He should've shown up, said the right things and allowed Colangelo to negotiate a deal.

The best parallel is what the Eagles and Sam Bradford went through this offseason. Bradford was unhappy the Eagles traded valuable draft picks to acquire Carson Wentz. Understandable, but when he threw his rattle down and sat out part of camp, it helped nobody. The Broncos tried to lowball Howie Roseman, figuring Roseman had no leverage with Bradford's intent to get traded out of town. Roseman stood his ground and the Eagles were able to hold the Vikings hostage when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.

It's not something you hope for by any means, but these things happen. Players get hurt and teams are left scrambling to find a replacement. Take a look at the Chris Bosh situation with the Miami Heat. Bosh, who's had a tremendous career, will likely never play again because of issues with blood clots. The Heat are likely not a match for the Sixers given defensive-minded center Hassan Whiteside's new contract, but the point is that you never know what will happen between now and opening night.

For Bradford, it was resolved just a week before the season started. If Noel follows suit with Bradford, perhaps there will be a similar solution.

"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around. It's just a tough situation. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner."

Well, Nerlens, you said too much already.