So, Cole's Fine. Phils Finish Off Braves

So, Cole's Fine. Phils Finish Off Braves

It didn't take Cole Hamels long to recover from a rough 2011 debut and a
smattering of boos that became the talk of the town for a day (btw,
read this
on Hamels booing Adam Eaton, pretty funny). Cole came out on Sunday
like a man without a damn thing on his mind, and he sawed through the
Atlanta Braves lineup for seven shutout innings. He struck out eight,
walked one, and allowed four hits.
While Hamels wasn't given an abundance of run support (stop me if you've
heard this one before), Shane Victorino led the way as he had all
series, and Cole left the mound with a 2-0 lead. The Phils would add a
third run on a Ryan Howard sacrifice and go on to win the game by a 3-0
count and with it, the first series against the Braves. Rollins'
crossing the plate marked the first run given up by Braves closer Craig
Kimbrel, who actually hadn't even given up a hit or a walk before
Sunday, when he gave up each. [side note: I can't hear Kimbrel's name
without thinking, George Costanza could spell that!]

Victorino hit a sixth inning homer and went 3-4 out of the leadoff
spot, capping a brilliant series in which he was 9-13 with five runs
scored. Each of his three hits came leading off the inning, two of which
resulted in runs scored. A day after coming in to knock a pinch hit
home run, followed by a double, Carlos Ruiz stayed hot with a pair of
hits on Sunday. Derek Lowe kept the Phillies from doing much damage, but
he wasn't quite as good as Hamels on the day.

Hamels had a nasty set of pitches working, particularly his
knee-buckling change-up. Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras picked up the
eighth and ninth, preserving the shutout while allowing just one hit
between them (Madson). Contreras' buckling Dan Uggla for the 2B's second
K of the game was a nice way to finish off the series. Take that, start of the work week. 

The Phils have Monday off before heading to Washington, where Joe
Blanton will open the series against Livan Hernandez and the Nationals.
Oh and Jayson Werth. You may hear that name a few times this week.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.