Well, thank the lord that at long last, the Philadelphia Phillies' losing streak is over. After dropping the first game in their interleague series against the Seattle Mariners, the Fightins battled back last night and reversed their fortunes against one of the best pitchers in baseball, knocking Felix Hernandez around to the tune of three runs in seven innings (which is about as much as anyone knocks around Felix Hernandez, I suppose), while Vance Worley and the bullpen did what they needed to do to keep a subpar Seattle offense in check. Now Cole Hamels takes the hill with a chance to win the series and fully represent, not just for the city of Philadelphia, but for the entire National League. (Hey, if we don't, who will?)
Opposing the Phillies today will be...a Mariners pitcher who is not Michael Piñeda or Felix Hernandez. It doesn't terribly matter which after those two, but technically speaking, this dude's name is Justin Vargas, a lefty with a 4-4 record and a 4.13 ERA. Vargas has a career 9.45 ERA in three games against Philly, which is a good thing, but considering that the last time he faced Philly (in 2006 with the Marlins) we still had Mike Lieberthal, David Bell and Abraham Nuñez on the roster, perhaps not a terribly meaningful statistic. More interesting are the recent stats of our guy cole, who at 9-2 has the chance to become the majors' first ten-game winner this year, sticking it to teammate and fellow nine-game-winner Roy Halladay. Plus, if he gets 18 strikeouts today, he can overtake Doc for the league lead in K's as well, Dream big, Cole.
4:10 first pitch from Safeco Field. “It was a good game," said Uncle Cholly about the team's W last night. "We beat a good pitcher. That definitely builds confidence, an aura, laughter. There’s a good feeling.” We like all those things. More for Fathers' Day, I say.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
Don’t worry about the role.
That’s Adam Morgan’s mindset this spring.
“I’m just trying to show whoever needs to see it that I can be an asset to this team,” the left-hander said after his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Saturday (see story). “I’m just keeping it simple that way. I’m not trying to go out for that fifth (starting) spot. If the fifth spot opens up, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want to put me in the bullpen, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want me to be the backup catcher, I’ll be the backup catcher.”
The Phillies have plenty of candidates for backup catcher.
And the top five spots in their starting rotation, barring an unforeseen development, are accounted for.
But there is a way for Morgan to make this team.
“He’s definitely a bullpen candidate,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
Mackanin is on record as saying he’d like to have two lefties in what likely will be a seven-man bullpen. It might not work out that way, but that would be Mackanin’s preference.
Morgan is one of what appears to be four candidates along with Joely Rodriguez, Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett. Ramos and Burnett are experienced major-league veterans in camp on minor-league contracts. Rodriguez is the only pure lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Morgan, of course, is on the 40-man roster, but he’s mainly been a starter in his career.
There’s a long way to go in spring training and it would not be surprising to see general manager Matt Klentak add to the list of lefty relief candidates with some type of pickup before the end of camp.
But for now, it’s just these four.
Morgan, who turns 27 on Monday, started and pitched two scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday and will likely continue to have his innings stretched out throughout the Grapefruit League season, just in case he’s needed as a starter.
Ramos and Rodriguez both pitched an inning Saturday. Ramos allowed a hit and a run. Rodriguez had a clean inning. Burnett was tagged for two hits and two runs on Friday.
Morgan made 21 starts for the Phillies last season. He also made two relief appearances and finished the season with a 6.04 ERA. He was sent to Triple A in July and returned in mid-August. He made nine starts after returning and pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs in four of them.
During his time in Triple A, Morgan started throwing a two-seam fastball or sinker. He’s continued to throw it this spring and believes it will help him.
“I learned to trust the two-seamer last year and that’s what I hope to keep moving forward with,” he said.
Will it take him to the Phillies’ bullpen?
He hopes so. He got a taste of relieving last season and liked it.
“Oh, yeah, I loved it,” he said. “Every time the phone rang down there, I was on high alert. It was awesome. It’s a rush.
“But wherever I land, I land. I’d be willing to play anywhere on this team.”