Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

By Matt Hammond

Two starts in, all was well for Tyler Cloyd. He’d punched back-to-back quality starts in his debut appearances with the Phillies in 2012, for a more-than-reputable 1-1 mark and 2.77 ERA. He’d struck out 14 and walked only 2. By all appearances, Cloyd was, at the very least, serviceable.

Then came start No. 3, what 2013 rookie Jonathan Pettibone will face tonight.

Cloyd was unloaded on by the 98-loss Colorado Rockies for four runs in four innings, taking all his damage in the third. He surrendered four straight hits with two outs. He lasted only 76 pitches.

For the rest of the way, Cloyd’s first-two-start luster was gone. He lasted only three innings his next time out, against the 107-loss Houston Astros, serving as many runs as he tossed frames in that one, too. After seeming bounce-back start against the Mets, Cloyd again buckled, for six runs in five innings to the Washington Nationals. Just like that, Cloyd’s ERA flirted with 5.00.

The same befell then-rookie starter Antonio Bastardo in 2009. Two starts in, he had a 2.45 ERA and struck out nine to two walks. His next time out, the Boston Red Sox smashed him for five runs (four earned) in one inning. After essentially the same unfolded in Tampa two starts later – Bastardo was mauled for six runs in 3 2/3 innings – he was optioned to Triple-A to begin polishing his relief game.

The sample is hardly enough for conclusions. But the fact is, of the four starters to debut for the Phillies since 2007 before Pettibone, two stumbled in their third start after being viable through their first two. The others, Vance Worley and J.A. Happ, were already relegated to the ‘pen by then.

Did they hit a wall? Get figured out? Tough to say.

But Pettibone has hardly fared like they did. His 4.35 ERA ranks 11th of 17 rookie starters this year. His opp BA (.317) is second-worst. Though his BABIP, .379, is also highest, it’s partly because he can’t miss a bat; opponents have the best contact rate on Pettibone (88.9%) than they do any other rookie starter. He’s gotten all but a hardly sustainable 4.5% of his strikes on swings, the lowest among rooks. His first-pitch strike percentage? Worst of the lot. He’s also served the third-most HR/9.

Pettibone’s yet to last more than 5 1/3, despite getting 13 more pitches of leash in start No. 2. The Phillies have won both his starts. Pettibone has also averaged 6.35 runs of support in them. 

Pettibone does get Miami tonight, which has plated three or more runs in only 12 of 29 games so far. But his next scheduled starts are vs. the World Champion Giants and 20 runs in two games Indians.

This is less about circumstantial anecdotes than the fact that, while Pettibone’s been OK, he’s yet to be great. And even early “goodness” can fade fast. So if Pettibone begins to slack tonight, or in 5 or 10 days, and if the alternatives’ arms have been stretched, the organization might be best served turning to Adam Morgan or Ethan Martin – or one and then the other – until John Lannan’s return.

Because as well and nice as it’s been, Pettibone in the rotation could get ugly fast.

Jackie Robinson's historic Dodgers contract on display in Philadelphia

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Jackie Robinson's historic Dodgers contract on display in Philadelphia

A piece of modern baseball history will be on display in Philadelphia for the next couple of weeks.

The original contract Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947 that allowed him to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball will be featured at the National Constitution Center from May 26 until June 5.

Mikalai Kontilia, CEO of Collectors Cafe, the company loaning the contract to the Constitution Center, brought both the Dodgers document and the contract Robinson signed with the minor league Montreal Royals in October 1945 to The Comcast Network's Breakfast on Broad show on Tuesday morning.

"What's amazing is, these contracts, finally, after 60-some odd years, have been unearthed, discovered and the American people can finally see the Jackie Robinson contracts," Kontilia said.

The Dodgers contract plays an important role in American history, and not just in terms of sport. Many people point to then-Dodgers owner Branch Rickey signing Robinson as a starting point in the American civil rights movement.

Kontilia said a historic documentarian appraised the contracts at a value of $36 million.

For more on the contracts, check out the video above.

Jim Schwartz on missing Fletcher Cox: 'He’ll catch up'

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Jim Schwartz on missing Fletcher Cox: 'He’ll catch up'

As the Eagles kicked off their second round of voluntary OTAs on Tuesday morning at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s best player was still MIA.
 
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is staying away from the team as he awaits a long-term contract extension for big money. He hasn’t been at any of the team’s voluntary workouts this spring and the first mandatory date isn’t until June 7.
 
As the Eagles install a new defense, how much is Cox missing?
 
“It’s voluntary, so you can only do so much,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday afternoon in a near-30-minute press conference. “Fletch was drafted in a scheme similar to this. He’ll catch up. But I’m sure there will be some carryover for him. I assume he’s a fast learner and I assume he’ll pick things up quickly.”
 
Without Cox on Tuesday, veteran free agent pickup Mike Martin worked with the first-team defense at tackle next to Bennie Logan. Last week, at the first open OTA practice, Taylor Hart filled in for Cox.
 
When asked if he has spoken with Cox since taking the job, Schwartz declined to comment, saying he prefers to keep private conversations with players private.
 
And by the third consecutive Cox question – this one about how Cox will eventually fit into his defense – the veteran NFL coach was ready to move on.
 
“Why don’t we do this: that’s probably enough Fletcher Cox speak,” Schwartz said. “Let’s just talk about the guys that are here. I really can’t comment on the guys that aren’t here. I haven’t had any experience with those guys. So anything I’d say would really be hypothetical, to tell you the truth.
 
“I did look, as the whole defensive staff did, we evaluated last year, what guys did. And he certainly had an impressive year last year. And we think that scheme-wise and technique-wise, what we’re going to do is going to fit him very well.”

Flyers Stay or Go Part 3: Brandon Manning to Michael Raffl

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 3: Brandon Manning to Michael Raffl

In the third of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Part 1 and Part 2 can be found by clicking the links. Today, we begin with Brandon Manning.

Brandon Manning
2015-16 stats: 56 GP, 1 G, 6 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: I don’t see Manning as a long-term fit here — he’s a restricted free agent — but he showed enough this past season to stick around another year. If a prospect beats him out in training camp, so be it. If not, he’s a good placemat until one of them is ready to take the reins.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Manning, an inexpensive pending restricted free agent, will be back next season. Is he a long-term answer on the Flyers’ blue line? I can’t say he is, but Ron Hextall liked his growth and the soon-to-be 26-year-old is capable enough to keep a defensive spot warm before the prospects arrive.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Manning isn’t in the category of one of those guys to build around. In fact, he’ll already be 26 in just over a week. But Manning was very good in his third-pair role alongside Radko Gudas late last season and proved he can stick. He’s a RFA, but proved he should be back, at least in the short term. He’ll be fine again in the same role or valuable NHL-ready depth if someone ahead of him is hurt or fails to play well enough to stay in the lineup. Odds are he’s with the big club in some capacity when the season begins.

Verdict: STAY

Steve Mason
2015-16 stats: 23-19-10, 2.51, .918 SV%; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.1 mm cap hit

Dougherty: We touched on this two weeks ago. Mason is the starting goalie, though Michal Neuvirth will push him even more than he did this season come September. But that’s OK. Mason led the Flyers to the playoffs with terrific goaltending down the stretch before running out of gas. There’s no reason to move him this summer. Some teams envy the Flyers’ goalie situation. I’m sure if you call the Dallas Stars, they’ll tell you the same thing.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: I’ve said I believe the Flyers would benefit greatly from trading one of their two No. 1 goalies before they can become unrestricted free agents following the 2016-17 season. I feel Mason has a better chance than Michal Neuvirth at sticking in Philadelphia down the road. The man who carried the Flyers’ torch into the playoffs is more proven and less injury-prone.
 
Verdict
: STAY

Paone: As Tom and Jordan mentioned, we tackled the goalie question in an End to End last week. I mentioned there I am of the belief that the Flyers don’t have a No. 1 goalie, nor do they have a No. 2 goalie. They have two very good goaltenders whom they have the utmost confidence in when either is between the pipes on a given night.  And they’ll need both again next season as both have had injury issues. Some will only remember how Mason’s season ended with a thud in the playoffs against Washington and not how he put the Flyers on his back down the stretch and led them to the playoffs. And that’s just not fair. But Mason will be back. Now’s not the time to move either goalie, especially when Mason and Michal Neuvirth’s contracts are both up after next season. Let the goalie prospects, specifically Anthony Stolarz in Lehigh Valley, get some more seasoning and reassess the situation at the end of next season.

Verdict: STAY

Colin McDonald
2015-16 stats: 5 GP, 1 G, 0 A; Contract: Signed through 2017-18, $637,500 cap hit

Dougherty: McDonald proved himself to be a very valuable AHL player last season. He played a few games during the regular season with the Flyers, and a couple in the playoffs. I really liked the energy he brought and wouldn’t hate to see him on the NHL roster. But they need scoring, and he’s really just another role player. He signed an extension mid-season, so he’ll head back to Lehigh Valley.

Verdict: GO

Hall: McDonald had a leadership impact at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and served the Flyers as a reliable insurance policy. His experience is valuable within the organization, but much more so with the Phantoms full-time, being available for the Flyers when needed.
 
Verdict
: GO

Paone: Depth is so valuable, not just at the NHL level, but throughout the entire organization. And depth player is the category McDonald, a veteran forward, falls into. He’s a guy with a physical edge who can be called up at a moment’s notice and fill almost any role that’s asked of him. Don’t expect him to make the big club out of camp, barring injuries or anything else unforeseen. So that’s why I’ll say go. But don’t be surprised if he’s among the first names on the call-up list during season.

Verdict: GO

Evgeny Medvedev
2015-16 stats: 45 GP, 4 G, 9 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: I like Medvedev’s game, but he didn’t work out. Hextall brought him over from Russia on a one-year deal and while I’ve seen some say it’s Hextall’s worst move as GM, it was not a bad move.  Overall, Medvedev wasn’t a killer on the ice. In fact, he didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but when he did, it would be a big one and lead to Hakstol benching him. He’s a puck-moving defenseman and NHL teams need them. His legal troubles could be a deterrent for teams, though. If he wants to continue playing in North America, he'll have to look elsewhere.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Medvedev brought an intriguing offensive game but struggled in his own zone. To be frank, though, there’s no way he returns. Medvedev turns 34 in August, will be an unrestricted free agent and faces legal trouble following an arrest shortly after the Flyers’ playoff exit.
 
Verdict: GO

Paone: Ron Hextall took a no-risk flier (no pun intended, I promise – I just couldn’t think of a better word) on the 33-year-old Russian defenseman last summer. And while Medvedev showed flashes at certain points, his lack of playing time at the end of the season was telling that the marriage just wasn’t going to work out. Getting his cap hit off the books puts a nice chunk of change in the Flyers’ pocket. Plus, his recent legal issues certainly don’t help his cause of returning to Philadelphia. He just seems ticketed for a return home to Russia and the KHL.

Verdict: GO

Michal Neuvirth
2015-16 stats: 18-8-4, 2.27, .924 SV%; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $1.625 mm cap hit

Dougherty: See above. Neither goaltender is leaving. A Mason-Neuvirth tandem puts the Flyers in good hands. Both have injury history, too, so keeping both makes a ton of sense. Neuvirth was signed here last summer to push Mason and give the Flyers a solid backup. He proved to be far more than that. As noted above, he’ll push Mason even harder this season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Neuvirth carries solid trade stock and will be a nice card for the Flyers to play up until the deadline. I could see Hextall pulling off a surprising move this offseason but, more than likely, the Flyers will have both their goalies entering the 2016-17 season.
 
Verdict
: STAY

Paone: Neuvirth played extremely well last season when healthy. He was sterling in his three playoff starts. But healthy is the key word there as his troubling career arc of not being able to stay healthy at key moments continued. But he’ll be back. Why? See that Mason part above. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Verdict: STAY

Michael Raffl
2015-16 stats: 82 GP, 13 G, 18 A; Contract: Signed through 2019-20, $2.35 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Raffl isn’t going anywhere. He signed an extension before the trade deadline last season, as Hextall decided extending Raffl made more sense than moving him. He’s well-liked in the room and has enough skill to move up-and-down the lineup. He’s a keeper.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Raffl is coming off a quietly good season in which he was the only Flyer to play all 82 regular-season games while compiling a plus-9 rating, best among the team’s regulars. And, of course, he signed an extension, so he’s here to stay.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: This is an easy one as Raffl, recently a pending unrestricted free agent, signed a three-year extension just prior to the trade deadline. The question isn’t whether he stays. It’s where he plays. If  history is any indication, there might not be a rock-solid answer to that as Raffl has moved from wing to center and line to line numerous times. He’s like the Flyers’ version of a Swiss Army Knife.

Verdict: STAY