Ruben Amaro Meets with Phillies Beat Writers Concerning Articles in Sunday's Inquirer Now with video from meeting

Ruben Amaro Meets with Phillies Beat Writers Concerning Articles in Sunday's Inquirer Now with video from meeting

Like many of you, I came across Bob Brookover and Frank Fitzpatrick's articles in Sunday morning's Inquirer on Ryan Howard's rehab down in Clearwater and thought they might cause a stir. Turns out they did.

You can read Brookover's full piece here, but the basics are that he was twice removed from Bright House Field last week, as the Phillies are attempting to keep Howard's workouts media-free. Needless to say, Brookover wasn't happy with the treatment and the article isn't exactly "pro-organization" in its tone.

Fitzpatrick's piece, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic, as it questions the Phillies' rationale for administering a cortisone shot to Howard last September and how that decision may have contributed to the rupture of his Achilles just three weeks later.

On Sunday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. -- who is quoted in Brookover's piece as saying he's "uncomfortable" with having a player's rehab become "a public issue" -- addressed the team's beat writers and denied that the team had endangered Howard's health.

ESPN's Jayson Stark offers these tweets on the media's access to Howard:

As for the cortisone controversy, Amaro firmly denied that the shot and Howard's injury were related.

"I wanted to clear up some of the insinuations regarding a cortisone shot," Amaro said Sunday during Philadelphia's game against Boston [via the AP]. "The cortisone shot was treated for some (other) issue he had. It was not part of the Achilles' injury. We didn't feel it was an issue. That was resolved by the time he had his injury. One thing had nothing to do with the other."

"We're probably one of the most conservative clubs in baseball in administering treatment, and we always want to make sure we have the player's best interest."

Inqy Phils scribe Matt Gelb, an obvious colleague of Brookover and Fitzpatrick, wasn't exactly thrilled with the reaction and pointed out how the Phils could have been out in front of this story, rather than behind it:

Gelb also mentions in a separate tweet that "they," the Phillies, are more upset with the implications in the cortisone story than the access story.

He frames the dispute as the Inquirer merely attempting to report on the rehabilitation of a player who, he reminds us, is owed $125 million.

Much in that same vein, Brookover wrote in his piece:

"If you're willing to put down $20 to $40 a ticket for a ball game and you have an interest in the team, it's not unreasonable to want a firsthand progress report about the Phillies position player making the most money... We're paid to be the eyes of the fans and we have access to the places they cannot go."

This isn't the first time local beat writers have taken issue with a team's front office over access to specific players, but those matters have more involved a certain hockey team. In previous discussions on these issues, many of you have commented that you've been less concerned with the media's perceived slights and more concerned with success on the field/ice/court.

That said, if the Phillies don't have anything to hide, and I'm not saying they do, is it unreasonable to expect reports on the recovery of a star player?

Assuming the Inquirer did offer the Phillies a chance to comment on both articles, the club could have squashed some of this in advance without having to do damage control after the fact.

There's a number of issues at hand here, including some real petty stuff back and forth about the difference between media access during spring training versus rehabilitation stints in-season, but where do you stand on the Phillies controlling the coverage of an injured superstar?

Update: Courtesy CSNPhilly.com, who has it via NBC10's Howard Eskin, this cell phone video of Ruben Amaro addressing reporters at the meeting:

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6½ to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.