Williams embracing different role under Eagles' new regime

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Williams embracing different role under Eagles' new regime

He had been with the Eagles for 18 years. He wasn’t sure whether there would be a 19th season.

Ted Williams has been a fixture in Philadelphia for almost two decades, and yet he hasn’t gotten much attention. He served under Ray Rhodes. He served under Andy Reid. He wanted to keep serving the Eagles organization but he wasn’t sure that would happen. When one head coach is fired and someone new replaces him, there tends to be quite a bit of turnover.

Williams, who had been the Eagles’ running backs coach for the last 16 years, wanted to stick around and work with Chip Kelly, but he was also prepared to say goodbye. He was ready for all sorts of scenarios.

“After 18 years, you kind of say to yourself ‘Anything is possible,” Williams said. “Fortunately, I was in a position, in my own mind, to go, stay or do nothing. It worked out in my favor, but I was never at a point where I lost a lot of sleep over it.”

Williams said he’s always felt as though the organization is “pro Ted Williams” and that he would be afforded every opportunity to “interview and make an impression” with Kelly. That’s what happened. Williams, along with Duce Staley, is one of only two coaches from the Reid administration to be retained by Kelly.

“All in all, it’s how you get along with other people that really matters,” Williams said at the NovaCare Complex. “We kind of sold each other in terms of what [Kelly] was looking for and was I able and willing to do what he wanted done. I think we came to a mutual agreement right away that I didn’t have an ego, and I wasn’t one of those individuals who gets older and gets set in his ways.”

That’s probably a good thing, because Williams’ ways are about to change. After what he emphasized was “a long time” as the Eagles’ running backs coach, Williams will serve as the Eagles’ tight ends coach in the Kelly regime.

It’s not an entirely new pursuit for Williams -- though it has been a while since he coached the position. Under Rhodes, Williams coached tight ends for two seasons. As Williams admitted, a lot has changed since then.

In recent seasons, the emergence of players such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham -- along with the continued success of Tony Gonzalez -- has altered how some teams use their tight ends. Williams noted that, during his last stint coaching the position, tight ends weren’t necessarily seen as a potentially dangerous offensive option.

“When I was a tight ends coach, they weren’t so involved in the passing game as they are now,” Williams said. “Even though they’ve evolved to a passing-game tight end, there are still some things we did 16 years ago that they need to learn how to do.”

Brent Celek led the Eagles’ tight ends last year with 57 catches on 87 targets for 684 yards. He also had a touchdown. Williams said he’s still in the process of evaluating the team’s talent at the position -- along with how he can use those players in a forward-thinking approach.

“For me, the process is to ascertain how far the position has come since I coached it,” Williams admitted. “That’s a real process. The things that were done 16, 17 years ago, some of them are not done anymore. Some things that we used to do are done better now. That’s my challenge. To be enthusiastic and energetic about learning new things and processing new things, so I can be a better coach.”

Phillie Phodder: Velasquez pitches Monday, catching dilemma, Herrera to RF?

Phillie Phodder: Velasquez pitches Monday, catching dilemma, Herrera to RF?

SAN FRANCISCO — Several pieces of news emerged before the Phillies played the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night. Let’s get to them:

Velasquez to start Monday
Manager Pete Mackanin announced that Vince Velasquez would return to the starting rotation Monday in Arizona. The team will not add the right-hander to the active roster and make a corresponding roster move until then. Sending Adam Morgan to the minors remains a strong possibility. Morgan has a 6.55 ERA in 11 starts. Velasquez, who has recovered from a mild right biceps strain, is sliding into Morgan’s spot in the rotation. Morgan could be available in the bullpen Sunday.

Ruiz to catch Nola
Cameron Rupp has been behind the plate for every inning that Aaron Nola has thrown in the major leagues.

That will change Sunday when Carlos Ruiz is the catcher for Nola’s 29th big-league start.

“Maybe he’ll snap him out of his little funk,” Mackanin said.

Nola, who turned 23 earlier this month, has hit the first rough patch of his big-league career. He is 0-3 with a 15.83 ERA in his last three starts. He has been knocked out early in all three games, pitching just a total of 9 2/3 innings. In that span, he has allowed 22 hits and 17 earned runs. He has walked seven.

These are very uncharacteristic numbers for Nola, who arrived in the majors 11 months ago and had a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 starts.

Mackanin is hoping the 37-year-old Ruiz can impact Nola the way he’s impacted Jerad Eickhoff in recent starts.

Rupp was behind the plate for 10 of Eickhoff’s first 11 starts this season and the right-hander had a 3.88 ERA in those games.

Ruiz has caught Eickhoff’s last four starts. The pitcher has an ERA of 1.82 in those starts. Overall in five starts with Ruiz behind the plate this season, Eickhoff has a 2.35 ERA. And last year, Ruiz caught two of Eickhoff’s starts that resulted in 14 scoreless innings.

“I think Chooch probably is willing to call more breaking pitches than Rupp for whatever reason,” Mackanin said after Eickhoff’s last start Thursday.

Before Saturday’s game, Mackanin was asked if he believed Ruiz was a better game-caller than Rupp.

“Let’s put it this way, with the years of experience he’s had I’d like to think, yeah, I would say that,” he said. “Rupp’s in a learning process. I’m not going to say he calls a better game than Chooch because Chooch has had a lot of success with a lot of different types of pitchers.”

Mackanin doesn’t want to get into a situation where he has a catching controversy, but …

“That’s the hard part of about this job,” he said. “You have to give up something to get something. Cam offers more offense. However is it more important to guide the young pitcher and bring him along with some veteran experience? Winning games is important, too, for the health of the players, the coaches and the manager, too. We’ve won five games this month.

“It’s a dilemma. Do I play the guys that offer more offense and suffer defensively or …”

Rupp, 27, has had a strong season at the plate. His .773 OPS ranks fifth among big-league catchers. Ruiz has a .644 OPS.

But Mackanin said catching was a defensive position – handling pitchers, blocking balls, throwing out runners and calling a game. He hinted at some frustration with the latter area.

“They have meetings, they have charts (about how to pitch hitters),” Mackanin said. “Sometimes it surprises you. You go over it in a meeting and there’s input back and forth and you get in a game and it’s, “What are you doing? Pitch according to the book we have here.’ Sometimes guys don’t do that.”

Focus on fundementals
The Phillies have made errors, failed to back up bases and had runners picked off bases in recent games. So it was no wonder that they have been on the field more than four hours before game time the last two days working on the small things — everything from holding runners to backing up bases to getting jumps on the bases.

“A reminder that defense is important,” Mackanin said. “We’ve been sloppy in a lot of areas. We’ve failed to back up third two or three times.”

Center fielder Odubel Herrera, who was not in the lineup Saturday night, has been particularly sloppy. He made just five errors in 136 games in center last season. He has seven in 73 games this season. On this trip, he has made two sloppy plays that weren’t ruled errors. Mackanin mentioned both after games.

Interestingly, Herrera took balls in right field off the bat of outfield instructor Juan Samuel before Saturday night’s game. Peter Bourjos, who started in center, could end up getting more time there if Herrera doesn’t improve. Aaron Altherr can also play there. He is expected to return from the disabled list sometime in the second half. Prospect Roman Quinn projects as a difference-making center fielder, but he has had trouble putting together a healthy season and is currently on the DL at Double A Reading.

Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

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Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

CHESTER, Pa. — Roland Alberg continued his scoring run (see story), but it couldn’t cover up for defensive mistakes, as the frustrated Union fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-2, on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

The loss, their second in three games, snaps a 10-game home unbeaten streak for the Union and sinks their record to 7-5-5 on the season and 6-1-2 at home. The Whitecaps move to 7-7-3.

Thing were looking up for the Union early. The hosts opened scoring in the 14th minute with an eye-opening display of skill from Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho, Fabian Herbers and Alberg.

Barnetta began the play upfield off a turnover from Pedro Morales. And after ticky-tac passing at the top of the Whitecaps box, a one-touch delivery eventually found the feet of Herbers on the right side, giving the rookie space to fire off a right-footed volley that decked the upper left corner post.

That’s where Alberg pounced. The red-hot midfielder settled it off a Sebastien Le Toux deflection and easily placed it home for his fifth goal of the season — all of which came in the Union’s last three games.

But the Whitecaps would counter just five-minutes later on one of many Union mistakes. A corner cross into the box slipped through the hands of Andre Blake and onto the head of Andrew Jacobson and in.

The Whitecaps made it 2-1 in the 42nd by catching the Union overcommitted as a result of a Barnetta turnover in the midfield. On the counter, Kekuta Manneh torched Union defender Josh Yaro, cut to the middle and fired off a low shot that cleanly beat Blake. In the 84th minute, Christian Bolanos added the insurance when his shot was deflected in by Keegan Rosenberry.

It was the eighth goal the Union allowed in their last three games.

The Union fought back in stoppage time, when a corner was headed by Walter Restrepo back into the crease where Chris Pontius was waiting to make the finish. However, the match ended seconds after, 3-2.

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

The cousin of Sixers No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was killed in a hit-and-run accident early Saturday morning.

Zachary Simmons, 21, was struck by a black SUV around 3:30 a.m., CBS New York is reported. Ben Simmons confirmed the death of his cousin on Twitter.

Zachary Simmons' mother, Monique Steel, said she was told by police that the driver was going at least 70 miles an hour. She also told CBS2 in New York that her son was out Friday for a friend's birthday and was celebrating the night before with his first cousin, Ben, following the NBA draft.

Investigators are analyzing pieces of the SUV and checking surveillance video in attempt to find the driver.

Ben Simmons, a native of Australia, has roots in New York where his father Dave was born.