Chip Kelly: 'It's an exciting time, a sad time'

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Chip Kelly: 'It's an exciting time, a sad time'

Chip Kelly said the decision to leave the University of Oregon to become head coach of the Eagles was a difficult one but said hes looking forward to the challenge of coaching in the NFL.

It's a very difficult decision for me," Kelly said Wednesday morning. It took so long to make it just because the people here are special.

Kelly spoke at Mahlon Sweet Airport in rural Lane County outside Eugene, Ore., in an interview with TV station KEZI-TV before his flight to Philadelphia took off.

The challenge obviously is exciting for me, but it's an exciting time and it's a sad time -- saying goodbye to people you love and respect, he said. And I wanted to make sure I talked to my players and did it in the right fashion and talked to our staff. I feel like I did.

The Cessna Citation X private jet chartered by the Eagles was scheduled to arrive at Northeast Philadelphia Airport at about 7:22 p.m. Wednesday. Kelly will meet with the media Thursday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.

Kelly, one of 11 coaches the Eagles interviewed for their head coaching vacancy, shocked Oregon officials when he changed his mind after initially telling them he was returning to coach the Ducks after meeting with the Browns, Bills and Eagles following the teams Fiesta Bowl win.

Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens released a statement thanking Kelly for his six years of service, the last four as head coach.

I want to thank Chip for his leadership and commitment to building on the Oregon Football foundation of excellence, the statement read.

We have enjoyed incredible success over the past four years. I have great respect for Chip, consider him a friend and wish him the best of luck in the NFL. Oregon Athletics has executed two successful head coach transitions in the past 18 years and each time we continued our ascent. We are focused on identifying a leader who is the right fit to guide Oregon Football.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Vince Velasquez strong in return from DL to help Phillies blank Diamondbacks

Vince Velasquez strong in return from DL to help Phillies blank Diamondbacks

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX – From the effort and his physical presence, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez could have not have asked for much more.

Coming off the disabled list with a right biceps strain, Velasquez looked like he did not miss a beat from his high-level performances earlier this season during Monday's 8-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay)

After one rehab start at Double A Reading on June 22, and not facing major-league competition since he started June 8 against the Cubs, Velasquez lasted five strong innings. When he reached a pitch count of 76, manager Pete Mackanin took no further liberties.

In helping to dominate the Diamondbacks before 22,567 in Chase Field Monday night, Velasquez raised his season mark to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to a 3.38.

“My goal was to throw at least five innings and get the W,” Velasquez said. “I was OK with stopping at 76 pitches, and have full confidence in the recovery. This was a good start and something to build on and grow.”

Before Velasquez’s start Monday night, Mackanin said the right-hander was not on a short leash. The pregame forecast was 90 pitches, and Mackanin hoped for five or six innings. Velasquez reached the five-inning mark but only hit the mid-70s on his pitch count as he allowed five hits and walked none while striking out seven hitters. That was the most Velasquez fanned since he struck out 10 Marlins at home on May 17.

While Velasquez was pounding the strike zone and stayed ahead of the hitters, Mackanin said one of the key plays in this one took place early. With the score deadlocked, Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura led off the third with a single. Michael Bourn then lined out to center and after making the catch, Obubel Herrera fired to first and caught Segura in a double play. Paul Goldschmidt followed with a single, but Velasquez reached back to strike out Jake Lamb.

“When the ball was hit, the runner was going,” Herrera said of the double play. “After I caught it, I thought I had a chance to get him.”

If Herrera was smart with his glove and arm, his bat was lethal. Sparking a season-high 16-hit attack, Herrera matched a club high in hits with a 4-for-5 night. The four hits were achieved three other times this season, and the last was by Cesar Hernandez on June 23 against the Twins.

The Phillies broke open a scoreless tie with a two-spot in the sixth and set another season mark with six runs in the seventh. Previously, their season best was a five-run inning on June 5 against the Brewers. 

Run-producing singles from Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp in the sixth gave Velasquez all he needed. In the seventh, Herrera drove in a pair with single, Franko singled in a pair and Hernandez knocked in two with a single.

“On this trip we’re swinging the bats very well,” Mackanin said. “We started off slowly against (Arizona starter Robbie Ray), but picked it up. It was good to see the offense come alive, and we’re playing everyone tough.”

With a 3-for-5 night, Peter Bourjos, whom Mackanin claims is one of the hottest hitters currently in baseball, raised his season average to .259. After Monday’s game, Bourjos has a seven-game hitting (14 for 27, .519), and is hitting .458 (22 for 48) in his last 18 games.

While Bourjos continued his scorching run at the plate, first baseman and Phoenix native Tommy Joseph had a rough night in front of his hometown fans.

Though he now lives in Destin, Fla. because his finance is in the military, Joseph, who went to Horizon High School in Phoenix, drew cheers each time he stepped to the plate.

In facing Arizona starter Robbie Ray three times, Joseph fanned three times and left four runners on base. In the first inning, Joseph struck out looking with runners on first and second. He struck out swinging to end the third inning. Plus, in the fourth, he fanned with runners on second and third and one out.

In the seventh, Joseph encountered Arizona righty Jake Barrett. The two had faced each other playing for the Arizona state high school championship in 2009. This time, Barrett fanned Joseph on three pitches, and the third one was a nasty slider down and away.

Joseph flied out to center field in the ninth to cap an 0-for-5 performance.

The series continues on Tuesday when Jerad Eickhoff (5-9, 3.36 ERA) opposes Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.61 ERA).

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Diamondbacks 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Diamondbacks 0

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX — For a rotation in flux, Vince Velasquez clearly gave the Phillies the kind of result he delivered earlier in the season on Monday night.

Coming off the disabled list and facing major-league competition for the first time since he went against the Cubs on June 8, Velasquez appeared in total control during the Phillies' 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks. 

Powered by two runs in the sixth and a six-spot in the seventh, the Phillies avenged the embarrassment of the recent Arizona sweep at Citizens Bank Park with the victory before 22,567 at Chase Field Monday night.

Starting pitching report
Pounding the strike zone constantly in the mid-90s, Velasquez easily fulfilled manager Pete Mackanin’s expectations.

The right-hander from Montclair, California, lasted five strong innings. He allowed five hits, walked none and fanned seven hitters. That’s the most Velasquez struck out since he fanned 10 Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on May 17.

For the game, Arizona managed seven hits against Velasquez and relievers Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Severino Gonzalez. The shutout was the ninth this season by the Phillies' pitching staff.

At the plate
Run-producing singles from Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp in the sixth snapped a scoreless tie. Sending 11 hitters to the plate in the seventh, the Phillies added six in that inning. The key hits were a two-run double from Franco and Odubel Herrera singled in a pair, each with no outs. Later in the frame, Freddy Galvis slapped a single with the bases loaded for two more off reliever Josh Collmenter.

In total, the Phillies collected a season-high 16 hits.

Remember me?
Acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles deal last Dec, 12, Velasquez saw the Diamondbacks with the Astros in the last series of the 2015 season at Chase Field. Despite the starter pitching just one inning and allowing a run out of the bullpen at that time, Velasquez did leave a calling card.

“[Velasquez] is a dominant pitcher," Arizona manager Chip Hale said prior to Monday's series opener. “His fastball is particularly effective coming into left-handed hitters. We’ll see how he does coming off the DL.”

Velasquez did just fine, as he improved his record to 6-2 on the season with the win.

Moving to the bullpen
Mackanin's assessment of moving left-hander Adam Morgan to the bullpen was that it serves two purposes.

First, the club had to make room in the starting rotation for Velasquez, who was coming off the disabled list. Plus, Brett Oberholtzer, the remaining lefty in the bullpen, was not putting up electrifying numbers. In 18 appearances this season, Oberholtzer, coming into Monday’s game with the Diamondbacks, was 2-1 with a 5.35 ERA and had allowed 23 runs in 38 2/3 innings.

All of which puts a premium on Morgan to produce quality appearances and fill important roles. Going forward, Mackanin envisions Morgan pitching in certain situations and against certain hitters, while, at the same time, giving the club length in subsequent days.

Prior to his demotion to the bullpen after Sunday’s game in San Francisco, Morgan was 1-6 in 11 starts with a 6.55 ERA. Now, Morgan’s move gives Mackanin a certain degree of flexibility with a reliever he now believes is capable of getting hitters out.

“[Morgan] is the kind of guy who can give you three innings,” Mackanin said. “He has a really good slider and, physically, that carries success.”

Mackanin explained that he would give Velasquez a long leash in the game, but also that he wouldn't hesitate to go to the 'pen early, perhaps in favor of Morgan. Instead, Mackanin went to Ramos as the first one out of the bullpen Monday night.

A different team
When the Diamondbacks swept the Phillies earlier this month at Citizens Bank Park, the numbers were alarming.

That four-game defeat represented the Phillies’ first home series loss to Arizona since 2007. In those four games, the Phillies were outscored by 17 runs (22-5), and the Diamondbacks smashed 10 home runs to only one by the Phillies. That was a solo shot by Herrera off of Zack Greinke during the first inning of the series' second game.

Then, the Phillies dropped road series to the Twins and Giants, and now have lost 12 straight series dating back to May 20. That’s when they took two of three from the Marlins at home.

From the Diamondbacks' perspective, Hale said he expected a much different Phillies team for the three now in the desert.

“It was a tough series for them back in Philly,” Hale said. “Everything they tried to do did not work. Now, they have a different club, and we’ll have to play good baseball. We will not beat them by just showing up.”

Is it hot or what?
When the Phillies completed their three-game set against the Giants in San Francisco over the past weekend, the weather was ideal.

For the finale Sunday afternoon, skies were crystal blue, bright sunshine enveloped the Bay Area and temperatures reached into the mid-70s. Now, the Phillies appear stuck in the searing heat of the desert, and the game-time temperature Monday night was 108 degrees. From May through September, the roof to Chase Field is closed, and the temperature inside remains constant around 80 degrees.

“Once it gets over 103, it’s just mad,” Mackanin said before Monday’s game. “People like to stay inside and listen to their air-conditioner.”

When the Diamondbacks were in Philly last weekend, temps in the greater Phoenix area hit the upper-110s. 

Forecast for the remaining two games of the current series, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, are predicted to reach 110.

Elsewhere ...
Mackanin said Carlos Ruiz will catch right-hander Jerad Eickhoff Tuesday night. In his last start, Eickhoff defeated the Twins, but in that recent series in Philly against Arizona, he lost, 4-1, on June 18 to Greinke.

With the selection of Ruiz behind the plate, Mackanin indicated there could be additional work for the veteran back-stopper, and said, “I’d like give [Ruiz] more playing time than I have.”

Up next
The series with Arizona continues Tuesday at 9:40 p.m. That’s when the Diamondbacks' Greinke (10-3, 3.61 ERA), who is 7-0 and has a 2.18 ERA in his last eight starts, faces Eickhoff (5-9, 3.36 ERA). For the Wednesday matinee at 3:40 p.m., look for the Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley (3-3, 4.50) taking on right Zach Elfin (0-2, 6.28).

After a day off Thursday, the Phillies return home for a six-game homestand that features three with the Kansas City Royals and three with the Atlanta Braves.

With Hall of Fame election, it all comes 'full circle' for Eric Lindros

With Hall of Fame election, it all comes 'full circle' for Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros’ career did not come with a storybook ending.

Concussions and injuries authored the final chapter of his playing days.

But on Monday afternoon, No. 88 “got his day,” as Ron Hextall put it.

In many ways, this was Lindros’ storybook finish.

“I haven’t stopped smiling,” Lindros said.

Lindros on Monday was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class (see story).

A rare breed of size and skill, Lindros quickly became an NHL star with the Flyers and now finishes as one.

“It kind of feels full circle if you can understand that," Lindros said, via conference call. 

That feeling especially resonates when he laces 'em up at 43 years old.

"I play hockey a couple times a week just to try to fit in the jeans, and to have this honor right here at the end of things when my game is certainly on the downslope," Lindros said with a laugh, "it’s a great feeling, a great honor and I’m super happy.”

Sergei Makarov, Rogie Vachon and Pat Quinn join Lindros as the 2016 group.

“I would like to thank the selection committee, things are just starting to sink in and I’m certainly honored to be a part of this class,” Lindros said. “Congratulations to Rogie, Sergei and Pat Quinn’s family. It’s a real special honor.”

Lindros, an owner of 372 career goals, 493 assists and 865 points, won the 1994-95 Hart Memorial Trophy, joining Bobby Clarke as the only Flyers players to ever take home the MVP award.

Ironically, Lindros and Clarke clashed as player and general manager, respectively.

It led to a breakup on not-so-good terms.

“When it’s all said and done, everyone wanted to win,” Lindros said. “That was the main focus.”

However, the past is now the past for both. Clarke pushed for Lindros’ Hall of Fame bid and the latter was grateful.

“Certainly there were some times of friction,” Lindros said, “but to have Bob’s voice in support, next to so many, I’ve got to thank them.”

Flyers GM Hextall played with Lindros and saw the uniqueness firsthand.

“It was terrific being on his team,” Hextall said. “The package of skill and size and aggressiveness, he’s got a big shot. I think at the time, he was the hardest guy in the league to defend.”

Team president Paul Holmgren said you don’t see many like Lindros, still to this day.

“Eric had a shortened career due to injuries but the impact he had on the game was phenomenal,” Holmgren said. “We are all still looking for 6-5, 245-pound guys who can skate and play a skilled and physical game like Eric could. 

“This is great news for the Flyers organization and great news for Eric Lindros and his family. I’m very happy for him.”

Hextall admitted he still wonders what would have been if Lindros stayed healthy to close his career.

“He probably was in [the Hall of Fame] a couple years ago, right, if he didn’t have the injuries,” Hextall said. “Injuries happen but I can say this, when Eric played with us, he was clearly one of the most dominant players in the league at the time and probably one of the most dominant ever.”

And it all came full circle.

Lindros got his day.