Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

NFL teams have been allowed to contact impending
unrestricted free agents since midnight on Saturday, but it’s been relatively
quiet as far as any news is concerned. The Eagles were linked to a few players
over the weekend however, perhaps none who have more name recognition than
Danny Amendola.

Geoff Mosher reports the Eagles are expected to pursue the
St. Louis Rams wide receiver
according to a person with direct knowledge of the
team’s plans. You may recall Amendola spent the summer of ’09 with the Birds at
Lehigh. Mosher has more:

Amendola, 27, spent his past four
seasons with the Rams but won’t be re-signed, according to a Sunday report from
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The former
Texas Tech wide receiver spent about a week on the Eagles’ practice squad in
2009 before the Rams, then coached by Pat Shurmur, signed him.

Shurmur is back with the Eagles as
offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, who has never
coached in the NFL at any level. Amendola’s skill set fits with the up-tempo,
spread offense that Kelly intends to implement.

Amendola has carved out a role as a high-intake slot
receiver, hauling in 196 passes in four seasons, including a personal-best 85
in 2010. He’s not very explosive however, averaging a meager 8.8 yards per
reception to go with seven career touchdowns. Last season was the 27-year-old’s
best overall, catching 63 balls for 666 yards (10.6 YPC) and three scores. He’s
also a capable return specialist, though not flashy.

If the price is right, Amendola could be a good fit, but how
much better than he is than Jason Avant – already under contract for two more
seasons – is debatable. The Rams have basically nobody else to throw the ball
to, so they would often dink and dunk the rock to Amendola, which at 5-11, 183
seems like it would be his ceiling. Plus, he’s had a ton of injuries, so
durability is a concern as well.

For what it’s worth, PhiladelphiaEagles.com mouthpiece Dave
Spadaro said he doesn’t believe the story. Elsewhere…

T Eric Winston

Otherwise the legal tampering window has lacked buzz. The
only report we have of the Eagles actually reaching out to a free agent was last Thursday
after the Kansas City Chiefs released tackle Eric Winston. Les Bowen of the
Daily News wrote on his blog that the Birds were among the first teams to
contact the 29 year old
– but then that’s not tampering since he was no longer part
of the team.

Winston, a third-round pick in ’06, spent the previous six
seasons with the Houston Texans, where had some solid seasons blocking in front of running back Arian Foster. The 29-year-old’s release from the Chiefs appeared to be
financially motivated, so he probably has some tread left on the tires. Were the
Eagles to sign Winston, he could play right tackle while Todd Herremans slides
over to guard. Bowen’s take:

How much sense would he make for
the Eagles? Some. He isn't an all-pro. Given his age, a huge longterm deal
would be excessive. But he could sure take some pressure off the early rounds
of the upcoming draft.

DL Ricky Jean-Francois

The lack of actual information available hasn’t prevented
speculation. Several members of the media suspect defensive lineman Ricky
Jean-Francois’s agent is fielding a lot of calls, with two suitors already tied
to the 49er. The Eagles are thought to be among the teams that could jump into
the RJF fray, especially since VP of player personnel Tom Gamble would have intimate knowledge about the kid.

Jean-Francois, 26, spent four years with San Francisco as a
backup, but teams might like his upside. Bleeding Green Nation did a round-up of what people are saying about RJF, and Zach Berman for the Inquirer also had this to say about
the former seventh-round pick out of LSU.

Among the free agents, pay attention
to San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, who is 26 and has
only five career starts in four years. Jean-Francois, 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds,
is versatile enough to play different spots on the defensive line and excels as
a pass rusher.

OLB James Harrison

Finally, sometimes it’s not teams who court players, but the
other way around. The Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with All-Pro linebacker
James Harrison over the weekend, and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise tells Philly
Mag’s Tim McManus that the fearsome hitter/sack artist would be a good fit
in Philadelphia – although the organization has not contacted him.

Harrison, 35 this May, is clearly a player on the decline as injuries and age have started to catch up with him. He still racked up 15
sacks over the past two seasons despite missing eight games, so there was
a little something left in the tank. While the Birds are clearly in rebuilding
mode, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would overlook Harrison.

Chip Kelly and defensive
coordinator Bill Davis intend on running some version of the 3-4, and certainly
Harrison could assist with that transition. 
But would the Eagles go for a 34-year-old in what many consider a rebuilding
year? Howie Roseman told Birds 24/7 last week that age would not necessarily be
a deterrent if the player helped the greater good.

“There are certain players that no
matter what the age is, they set the right example, they do the right thing. As
you’re building a culture, they help carry that culture forward. That’s
important stuff,” said Roseman.

It seems at this stage of his career, Harrison's antics are probably more trouble than he's worth, especially in this situation. Then again, infusing a bit of attitude into the Eagles' defense probably couldn't be a bad thing.

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Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies are still looking for the real Aaron Nola, but they may have found a useful bat Thursday night.

Aaron Altherr had the kind of season debut he’d dreamed about for the four months he was on the disabled list as he helped the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

Altherr was one of three Phillies to hit home runs on a night when the offense awakened after generating just one run the previous two days in Miami. Altherr, who came off the disabled list earlier in the day after missing four months with a wrist injury that required surgery (see story), drove a two-run homer to left in the fifth inning. Earlier in the game, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph had back-to-back homers to headline a five-run first inning.

Franco leads the team with 19 homers and Joseph, hitting .375 with six homers in his last 17 games, has 14 in just 57 games with the club.

Altherr, who batted fifth behind Franco and Joseph, also had two hard singles in the game.

“He had a really good night in his debut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He provided a spark for us. He added to the offense. So I'm happy for that. It's good to get a win. We scored some runs, finally.”

Altherr was projected to be a starter in the Phillies’ opening day outfield until he suffered the wrist injury in spring training. He spent the last four months in Clearwater, rehabbing and, well, dreaming of a night like this.

“Definitely, especially sitting around thinking about how that first game's going to be being back,” he said. “For it to be like this, it was definitely special and I have to thank the Lord above for getting me back here as fast as He could.

“I was hoping to get a home run in the first game, but I definitely wasn't expecting it. Just hopeful. To have it happen like that was definitely awesome.

“It definitely surprised me a little bit because I hadn't really been driving the ball like I had wanted to down in my rehab stints. I'm just glad to know I've got [the power] in there somewhere.”

The Phillies hit all three of their home runs and scored all their runs against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler. He received a ticket to Triple A after the game.

The Phillies batted around against Wisler and scored five runs in the first inning. That was a welcome cushion for Nola, who desperately needed a win after failing to get one in his previous seven starts. The right-hander did manage to earn his first win since June 5, but it wasn’t exactly pretty. He lasted just five innings and threw a whopping 95 pitches as he continued to experience command issues that have been plaguing him in recent weeks.

Nola gave up eight hits and three runs. He walked three and hit a batter. That’s not Aaron Nola’s game. At least it wasn’t in his first 12 starts this season. He recorded a 2.65 ERA over that span and walked just 15 while striking out 85. He has walked 14 in his last eight starts.

“He's not the same guy,” Mackanin said. “He's just struggling with command once again. He's not dotting his fastball like he normally does. His curveball is erratic. He needs to get back on track.

“Sometimes it's harder to pitch when you have a big lead. You know you don't want to blow it. That can affect a pitcher as well. You have to have that mental toughness either way, whether it's a one-run game or an 8-0 game. You don't want to pitch poorly. There's a tendency, well, you have a five-run lead, should I throw more fastballs and challenge? But it was good to see he got a win. I'm happy for that. That should help him. He just needs to get to where he was. He's not there yet.”

Nola described his outing as “fairly OK,” which was probably right on. He got the win, but overall was not sharp. He allowed three runs in the fifth inning.

“I ran into some jams there,” he said. “I left some balls over the plate for them to hit. They took them the other way. The plan was to try to hit the outside part of the plate and they took it away.

“I feel like I have the command for the most part, but there’s some areas I still need to get better at and work to get better at.”

The Phillies used four relievers to close out the game. Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris pitched well. David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez did not. Gomez allowed three base runners and a run, but still managed to get the save. Hernandez allowed a hit and a pair of two-out walks before giving up an RBI double. A number of scouts from teams looking for bullpen help were on hand. Hernandez and Gomez probably did not help their trade value. Four days before the deadline, starter Jeremy Hellickson is still the Phillie most likely to be dealt.

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale returned from his jersey-trashing suspension and threw six effective innings, but John Lackey outpitched him and Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs to save the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago's rivalry series Thursday night.

Sale (14-4) was greeted with smiles and hugs from his teammates following a five-day ban for tearing up 1976-style uniforms he didn't want to wear before his previous scheduled start. He had command issues, but worked out of trouble while allowing two runs and six hits.

Lackey (8-7) allowed one run in six innings for his first win since June 8. Chapman, in his second appearance since being acquired from the Yankees, struck out two and consistently hit 102 mph in his first save for his new team.

Kris Bryant, who homered against Sale in the All-Star Game, hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the first inning (see full recap). 

Diaz's homer helps Cardinals beat Marlins and Fernandez, 5-4
MIAMI -- Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs against childhood pal Jose Fernandez, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 5-4 Thursday.

Fernandez gave up five runs in five innings and fell to 26-2 at Marlins Park.

Miami's Dee Gordon, the 2015 NL batting and stolen bases champion, returned from an 80-game suspension for failing a drug test and went 0 for 4. Ichiro Suzuki doubled as a pinch hitter in the seventh for Miami and needs two hits for 3,000.

Diaz and Matt Holliday homered in the third inning against Fernandez (12-5), who had never previously given up more than one homer in a home game. His only other loss at Marlins Park came on opening day this year against Detroit.

Michael Wacha (6-7) allowed three runs in six innings, and three relievers completed an eight-hitter. Seung Hwan Oh pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his seventh save (see full recap). 

Familia falters again, Rockies rally for 2-1 win over Mets
NEW YORK -- Mets steady closer Jeurys Familia stumbled for a second straight game, allowing two runs in the ninth inning as the Colorado Rockies beat New York 2-1 Thursday for their seventh win in eight games.

Less than 24 hours after Familia's streak of 52 consecutive regular-season saves was snapped, the right-hander entered in the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead, and couldn't hold it.

Trevor Story had a leadoff single and stole second. After fellow rookie David Dahl walked, Daniel Descalso bunted up the first base line. Mets catcher Rene Rivera watched as the ball spun toward foul territory but it stopped fair, loading the bases with no out.

With one out, Familia (2-3) got pinch-hitter Cristhian Adames to hit a slow grounder to the right side. First baseman James Loney booted the ball and Story scored to make it 1-all. Familia then threw a wild pitch, allowing Dahl to cross the plate with the go-ahead run (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Aaron Nola picked up his first win since June 5 as the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field on Thursday night.

Nola was supported by some strong offense. After scoring just one run in losing the previous two games in Miami, the Phils erupted for five runs in the first inning. They hit three homers in the game.

The Phillies had been winless in Nola’s previous seven starts.

The Phillies are 47-57.

The Braves have the worst record in the majors at 35-67.

Starting pitching report
Despite leaving with a 7-3 lead after five innings, Nola was not particularly sharp. He gave up eight hits (one was a fly ball that was lost in the twilight sky), walked three and hit a batter. He needed 95 pitches to get through the five innings.

Nola is 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 20 starts.

Atlanta’s Matt Wisler gave up seven hits and seven runs in five innings. Five of the runs came in the first inning when the Phillies batted around. Wisler allowed two homers, two singles and walked two in the inning.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez was the first Phillies reliever out of the bullpen. He struggled. But Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez combined to close it out.

Gomez allowed two hits, a walk and a run in the ninth, but earned his 27th save.

At the plate
Aaron Altherr, activated off the disabled list earlier in the day (see story), had a big night in his first game of the season with the big club. He hit the ball hard all night and had three hits, including a two-run homer in the fifth.

Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph hit back-to-back homers in the first inning. Franco’s was a three-run shot. He leads the club with 19 homers. Joseph has 14 homers in 57 games.

Adonis Garcia had two hits and two RBIs for the Braves.

Transaction 
Peter Bourjos was placed on the disabled list and Altherr was activated (see story).

Up next
The series continues Friday night. Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.34) pitches against Atlanta right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-2, 6.17).