Who Are These Guys? Meet Your 2013 Philadelphia Phillies

Who Are These Guys? Meet Your 2013 Philadelphia Phillies

With an estimated $159 million in payroll, the
Phillies have the third-most expensive ball club in Major League Baseball this
year. They also have 15 players who weren’t on the Opening Day roster in 2012,
whether it was because they were on the disabled list, in the minors, or
playing for another team at the time. In this primer we draw the curtain on the
25 players who made the club in ‘13, check in on some stats from spring
training, and even take a peek at who might be next in line.

Starting pitchers (5)

Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan, Cliff
Lee

Trending up? Think
Hamels is ready for to make the first Opening Day start of his big league
career? King Cole enjoyed his best spring ever, allowing two earned runs over
19 innings while opposing batters hit for a .172 average in Grapefruit League
action. He’s never been more comfortable, the contract situation taken care of,
his standing as the franchise ace cemented. What’s more, at 29 years of age it
appears Hamels’ best days are still ahead of him.

Trending down? Maybe
Halladay will be just fine, but you can probably forget about ever seeing the Doc
of old again. His decline began right on time last year, while this spring
brought with it more questions than answers. The Phils will be fine as long as
Roy is healthy and his stuff effective enough to keep them close in a majority of
his starts. However, despite Kyle Kendrick’s steady improvement, they might be
in trouble if KK winds up being the staff’s true number three.

Up their sleeve:
Tyler Cloyd got the call late last season, although he isn’t generally considered
one of the organization’s top prospects. Right-handers Jonathan Pettibone and
Ethan Martin – ranked four and six in the Phillies’ system according to
Baseball America – are also on the 40-man roster. Whichever one of the three is
performing the best could find themselves in the show in the event of an
injury, or possibly even if the back end of the rotation were to struggle.

Outlook: Doc is
the key. Unless Kendrick can continue to build on his strong finish to 2012 (7-3,
2.43 over final 10 starts), the starting pitching is only as sound as Halladay
is.

Relievers (7)

Mike Adams,
Phillippe Aumont, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst, Jonathan Papelbon Raul Valdes

All set(up): Last season the Phillies lost 12
games in which they took a lead into the eighth inning. Had they won even
two-thirds of those, the Fightins would have been in the playoffs. Well, that
shouldn’t be a problem anymore. Setup man extraordinaire Mike Adams was signed
in the offseason to plug that leak, and he looks poised to deliver. Adams
allowed only four hits and one run in nine innings of work this spring, so it
should be safe to say fewer games will be slipping away.

Cliff finally produces: When Aumont got the call this past
August, he became the first prospect from the Cliff Lee trade to Seattle to reach
the show. So far the hard-throwing righty is panning out nicely, entering his first
full season in the bigs coming off one of the best springs in Philly’s bullpen.
Of their seven relievers, only Adams had better than Aumont’s 3.24 ERA, who
also struck out seven over 8.1 frames. If anything should happen to Adams or
Papelbon, this 24 year old might have the stuff to fill their roles.

Outlook: There’s a good chance the bullpen
transforms from weakness into strength. They can’t be any worse than 2012, that’s
for sure.

Catchers (2)

Erik Kratz,
Humberto Quintero

Help is on the way: Kratz and Quintero only have to hold
down the fort for about a month or so until Carlos Ruiz can return from his
25-game suspension. Think about it as a short stint on the disabled list. Kratz
looked more than capable of filling in for Chooch when he was hurting last summer,
so the Fightins should be fine until May. Question is which Ruiz returns: the
power-hitting catcher from 2012, or the meek bat with no extra base hits in 26
at bats this Spring?

Outlook: Chooch will be fine. Kratz is
adequate until then.

Infielders (6)

Kevin
Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Michael Young

Healthy as a horse: It was probably nothing short of
delusional to take playoff expectations for the Phillies into 2012 when they
were without the two biggest horses in their lineup for half the season. Both Utley
and Howard returned for spring training looking healthy and rejuvenated, combining
to appear in 52 Grapefruit games and bashing 12 home runs. Howard also posted a
.322 average. Make no mistake, their presence is a game changer.

Stopgap at third: There was a surprising amount of
backlash to the Michael Young acquisition, but even if the 36 year old puts up
2012 numbers, he’s an upgrade over what the Phils had at third base. The
seven-time All Star hasn’t looked too bad protecting Howard, driving in 16 RBI
this spring. Defense might be the biggest concern, but Young made some nice
plays over at the hot corner as well. Either way it’s likely just a one-year
rental, and a damn good one if he can hit .300 again.

Outlook: The core may be getting up there in
age, but these guys are All Stars and MVPs. There should be enough pop left in
this group to make a run.

Outfielders (5)

Domonic
Brown, Ender Inciarte, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, Ben Revere

Springing into action: Would the real Dom Brown please stand
up? Once considered one of the top prospects in baseball, there were plenty of folks
who were ready to give up on the 25 year old even though he’s had the
equivalent of a season’s worth of at bats in the Majors. Dom has been on a tear
this spring though, leading the Phillies in hits and runs while also tying for
the clubhouse lead in homers and RBI. He solidified his spot, but will success follow
him into the regular season?

Ben Revere’s ride: Will Jimmy Rollins finally get
overtaken for the leadoff spot? If anybody is going to do it, this is the guy.
Revere may not hit home runs ever (seriously, ever), he showed what he brings
to the table this spring, getting on base then wreaking havoc. He was second to
Brown in hits with 29, posted a .368 OBP, plus stole 10 bags. If J-Roll is
hitting number two all season as he will on Opening Day, there’s a good chance he could be driving Revere home with
some frequency.

The season is Young: It remains to be seen how much help
Delmon Young will provide this year. He starts the season on the disabled list
after undergoing microfracture surgery on his ankle over the winter, and will
have to find his groove without the benefit of a full spring training. As
unpopular as the 2012 ALCS MVP is, Young is a right-handed bat with the
potential to hit 20 bombs, which can definitely be an asset. The only question is
whose roster spot will he take once he is ready?

Ruf time of it: There were high hopes for Darin Ruf
to make the roster this year, but he didn’t have the impact the team was
hoping. Ruf hit .246 with just two home runs this spring, and perhaps more to
his detriment was some spotty play out in left field to put it kindly.
Clearwater this time of year can be a tough place to learn the position. Either
way, he just wasn’t ready. That said, we probably haven’t heard the last of “Babe”
Ruf in 2013.

Outlook: There’s a lot riding on Brown to
finally live up to his billing this year. If he’s up to the task, this group of
outfielders can make the leap from ordinary to mighty.

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Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.