Extras: How Did Thad Young Do This Season?

Extras: How Did Thad Young Do This Season?

So who's responsible for the new Ryan Howard at the dish? Turns out the Phillies slugger worked on his hitting with Barry Bonds over the winter. Say what you want about Bonds, the man, but the hitter (even before the roids) was always great. Howard has moved closer to the plate and he's showing more discipline in the early goings. The result: he's off to a torrid pace, while striking out only four times these first seven games. [Philly.com]

Speaking of Bonds, while the future Hall of Famer has been out of baseball for the past three seasons, is it possible he's searching for a way back... as a coach? [San Francisco Chronicle]

Photo by Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

In other baseball news, the Mets have quickly found themselves in the NL East basement after the first week (2-4). ESPN's Ian O'Connor asked Johan Santana after Sunday's loss to the Nationals whether the ace regretted joining New York three years ago. He probably should, but they paid him an awful lot of money to land there. [ESPN]

And across leagues, are some Tampa Bay Rays fans finally requesting they put an end to the cowbell? They're getting letters from potential ticket buyers who are refusing to attend games due to the disturbance. As long as the Rays aren't in the World Series this year, I suppose it doesn't really concern us either way. [St. Petersburg Times via Deadspin]

An open letter to Phillies fans about their treatment of Cole Hamels, who was booed after allowing a home run against Josh Willingham in the second inning yesterday. Despite his 2-0 start, people are quickly jumping on Cole for two mediocre outings so far. Maybe we should give the guy some space though. We're not that far removed from his World Series MVP performance, folks. [Crashburn Alley]

Former Flyers right winger Rick Tocchet was fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning in just his second season. After taking over 16 games into the '08-'09 campaign, Tampa finished 19-33-14 under Tocchet, and this season improved to 34-36-12. Obviously we're not close to the situation down there, but it seems unfair based on the amount of improvement over a short period of time. Maybe they want to make a closer evaluation of that roster. [Sporting News]

Reminder: the Eagles actually won 11 games last season, though it's hard to tell based on reactions alone. When reviewing the holes on the current roster, it turns out they aren't necessarily all that gaping. Two points I would disagree on though: one, Patterson and Bunkley's weakness as pass rushers creates more of a need for a rusher opposite Trent Cole, and two, I'm not prepared to write off a playoff team's Super Bowl chances in April just because they are young. [Iggles Blog]

At halftime of the Sixers 107-105 loss, their final home game of the season and much anticipated Fan Appreciation Night, Ed Snider spoke on the condition of the Sixers, telling reporters the future is still bright. The owner was non-committal about head coach Eddie Jordan's future, however he did single out a player who disappointed. “I feel like we regressed this year and a lot of players regressed, Thaddeus Young and others." I actually don't disagree one bit.
[Dei Tales]

Random thought: the Sixers ought to consider moving Fan Appreciation Night from the final home game of the year. The club just finished 27-53, their worst result since '96-'97. Aside from being plain awful to watch, when this club is not post-season bound, it lends an air of unpredictability to the event. Look no further than the infamous Fan Night in 2005, when Chris Webber and Allen Iverson couldn't be bothered to show up on time.

I can think of at least one day that would've been better suited for the promotion this season: the first home game, when this team still had a future.

Photo by Issac Baldizon / Getty Images

Phillies manager Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

Phillies manager Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
 
Don’t worry about the role.
 
Just pitch.
 
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.”

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA – Sophomore transfer Eric Paschall scored a team-high 19 points – including five dunks – and Kris Jenkins added 15, as No. 2 Villanova pulled away late to beat No. 23 Creighton, 79-63, and clinch the 2017 Big East Conference regular-season title outright.

Paschall, starting during Darryll Reynolds’ injury absence, shot 8 for 12 from the field and added six rebounds.

Creighton’s last lead was 45-43 six minutes into the second half, but a Paschall slam and Jenkins’ first three after five misses sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 59-49 lead with 8 ½ minutes left. Creighton got no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Paschall’s career high is a 31-point game for Fordham against NYIT on Nov. 14, 2014.

Villanova again struggled from three-point range but had tremendous success attacking the basket, especially in the second half of the final game at the Pavilion for two years.

The Wildcats shot just 17 percent from three (3 for 18) but 69 percent from 2 (24 for 35) and repeatedly got to the foul line in the second half, when they were 14 for 18.

Jenkins again struggled from three (1 for 7) yet still finished with 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Josh Hart shot 7 for 11 for 16 points and added seven rebounds and three assists.

Villanova opened a streaky first half by taking a 7-0 lead, but Creighton hit four straight threes in less than two minutes and led by three. Villanova then went on a 17-2 run and led by as many as 10 points before Creighton finished the half on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 33.

There were seven lead changes in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Villanova finally pulled away and outscored Creighton 36-18 over the last 14 minutes.

Mikal Bridges added 11 points and eight rebounds for Villanova, while Jalen Brunson had nine points and three assists.

Freshman Dante DiVincenzo came off the bench to contribute nine points and four rebounds for Villanova.

What it means
Villanova improved to 27-3 overall and 14-3 in the Big East, clinching the conference title outright. Entering play Saturday, only Villanova or Butler was in position to win the conference title, with Villanova holding a magic number of one.

Villanova, which lost to Butler on Wednesday, has now won 12 straight games immediately following losses (15 if you carry over to the next year).

The Wildcats last lost consecutive games at the end of the 2012-2013 season, when they fell to Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals and to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Creighton fell to 22-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big East. The Bluejays are 4-6 since an 18-1 start.

Stat of the day
Marcus Foster had 25 points and eight assists, becoming the first player with 25 points and five assists against Villanova since Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds (and five steals) in a 93-72 win over Villanova on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

Turning point 
Villanova led by one at 48-47 when Jenkins finally buried a three for a four-point lead.

Moving out
This was Villanova’s last game at the Pavilion for about 20 months. Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year while renovations are made to the Pavilion.

Villanova is 293-62 all-time at the Pavilion, which opened in 1985. That includes a 131-12 mark since the start of the 2004-2005 season.

By the numbers
Khyri Thomas scored 17 points for the Bluejays … Creighton was 7 for 14 from three in the first half but 4 for 13 in the second half ... Villanova has won six straight against Creighton since a 101-80 loss in February of 2014 when Doug McDermott scored 39 … Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fifth straight game with a rib injury.  

What's next
Villanova has a week off before facing Georgetown at the Verizon Center in Washington at noon Saturday. Georgetown is 14-15 overall and 5-11 in the Big East.