The Evster and Enrico head over to the Frozen Four

The Evster and Enrico head over to the Frozen Four

Late Thursday afternoon, Enrico scored two free tickets to the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center. Knowing I'm a huge hockey fan -- and have literally never had plans on a weeknight -- he asked me to tag along. The following is a minute by minute report of what took place.

Pregame: We are coming at you LIVE from the Wells Fargo Center -- or at least Enrico is -- I am currently hopping on the subway at 5:05pm because I'm an actual person with an actual job and not some laissez-faire blogger who can just take off in the middle of the day to watch a hockey game. Seriously, who starts a game at 5pm? Joining me on the subway platform are a whole lotta white people dressed in their favorite schools' sweaters as well as one ticket scalper who is wearing a black and gold Adidas track jacket and matching black and gold shell tops. He is BY FAR the coolest person waiting at this subway station and is also really, really drunk.

Tonight's first matchup features five-time national champion Boston College, winners of three of the last five NCAA tournaments, and alma-mater of the world's biggest dorfburger, Sammy Davis Enrico Campitelli Jr. Other notable alums include: Mike Mamula, John Kerry and Elisabeth Hasslebeck's husband. Their opponent tonight: the Union College Union, an actual school that I'm not making up. Union is located in action-packed Schenectady, New York, has a student body of 2,100 big ones and offers a major in Post-It notes. Notable alums include Chester A. Arthur (who you may know as the 21st President of THE UNITED STATES), my wife's Aunt Lena, and no one else ever. Clearly I'm pulling for them to beat big bad BC.

1st Period: I finally arrive at the arena just as the first period is ending and meet Enrico in the concourse to get the scoop on what I've missed. BC is up 1-0 thanks to a goal by South Jersey's own, Johnny Gaudreau, who Enrico tells me is nicknamed Johnny Hockey. I have no idea if Enrico's messing with me or not, but I will obviously be calling him Johnny Hockey for the duration of this post.

Tiring of listening to Enrico talk about the various cold and sinus medications he's currently taking, I approach a Union fan wearing a "Bodie" jersey to ask who the hell Bodie is. I figured it had to be his son because why else would a grown man wear a college kid's jersey, but the kind, older gentleman tells me that Bodie's his favorite player and an absolute "dynamo" on the ice. This piques my interest so Enrico and I hurry back to our seats for the start of the 2nd period.

19:57 left in the 2nd -- Three seconds into the game, a BC player falls while trying to skate backwards. I'm beginning to think that this might be the shittiest sporting event I've ever attended.

19:06 left in the 2nd -- Bodie gets the puck for the first time, shimmies by one defender and lets rip the lamest, sorriest wrist shot I've ever seen. The BC goalie catches it without hardly moving, the closest thing I've seen to Cliff Lee's basket catch in that World Series vs. the Yankees. I'm honestly embarrassed for that old man.

17:21 left in the 2nd -- GOAL! Ohhhhhh baby! Union ties it up as my main man Bodie Miller blasts one into the net! Holy Boldie! After almost two minutes of end to end action, Grandpa's favorite player lets fly an absolute rocket that the BC goalie didn't even see. We're all tied now, 1-1, and Enrico is not happy! The public address announcer then tells us that Bodie's first name is MATT, something that I was not expecting, nor will I be calling him.

15:54 left in the 2nd -- As the game goes back and forth, I ask Enrico if he played college hockey, would he wear a caged mask or a see-through visor? Enrico  says he doesn't know, which I find to be a totally unacceptable answer, so I keep probing him and say, "Duuuude, stop being such a Boston College bro and answer the question," and finally Enrico says "the see-through ones because they look cooler," proving that Enrico has no idea how cool cages are. I then tell Enrico that I'd worry about the see through ones getting all fogged up but before I can finish my sentence I notice that he's checking Instagram and not even coming close to paying attention to me. I pray for 16 more Union goals before the next intermission.

12:10 left in the 2nd -- Enrico tells me that Johnny Hockey leads all college players in points this year and is "probably gonna win the Hobey Baker award, that's the trophy they give to the top college player." So I tell Enrico, "I know what the goddamn Hobey Baker award is," and he quickly responds by telling me to, "Go F yourself."

A quick google search reveals that Hobey Baker was born in BALA CYNWYD, PENNSYLVANIA -- bet ya didn't know THAT! -- the same hometown as the dopest blogger on The 700 Level. We also learn that Baker died in an airplane crash during World War I, at the way too young age of 26. This makes us sad, but not that sad because we got free tickets to a hockey game and that makes us better than other people.

10:30 left in the 2nd -- Ohhhhhhh, Johnny! Johnny Hockeyballs shimmies his way past two defenders but then gets too cute as he tries to give it up on a 2 v. 1. This leads me to think about Johnny guest starring on Too Cute: Kittens!, my wife's favorite show on Animal Planet, and one that I highly recommend watching. They're too cute!

9:15 left in the 2nd -- DO NOT BLINK FOLKS 'CUZ YOU JUST MIGHT MISS SOMETHIN. And just like that Union is BACK IN COMMAND. A guy named Daniel Champion or something makes it 2-1, Union. Unfortunately, I did blink and missed the whole thing. Actually, I was watching kids dance on the jumbotron, but whatever, if it's any consolation, Enrico missed it too, once again checking out pictures of chicks on Instagram.

4:07 left in the 2nd -- BOOM BABY! GOAL BC, 2-2! This time it's a defenseman, #6 to be exact, but I have no idea what his name is because this is literally the first college hockey game I have ever been to.

When in doubt, Rico, what do you do? "Put it on net," my blogging editor says, because we are the two smartest hockey fans in the world. What a ballgame!

Hockey game!

2nd Intermission -- All knotted at 2, it's time to take a stroll around the WFC and buy a $7 slice of pizza from Lorenzo's. As we walk around, I try to take secret snappers of a bunch of unsuspecting fans.

Here are some of my best:

Bjugstad??? That can't be a real name. Also that visor is incredible. I have no idea what Mr. and Mrs. Bjugstad were looking at by the way. I think it was a funnel cake stand.

Not sure if you can tell, but these grown men are wearing eagle hats with beaks on them. The dude on the left, who is also wearing a flag cape totally caught me taking a secret snapper and was like, "Heyyyyyyyy," but I just kept walking away really fast and I don't think he really cared anyway I mean he was wearing a hat with a beak on it.

 

This is just a dorf I saw earlier in the day outside City Hall.

Start of the 3rd period -- Deadlocked at 2 apiece, Enrico and I settled back into our seats for the final session. Enrico was a nervous wreck at this point, living and dying with every shift despite the fact that he had not seen one BC hockey game in the last four years.

17:15 left in the 3rd -- Okay, a guy just got blasted in the head and I was the only person who started screaming. He seems to be fine, he's currently trying to smash another guy's brain into the boards, but if I were him I would go straight to the bench and call my mother.

15:00 left in the 3rd -- Penalty on somebody! I have never understood what is legal in this sport and what is not, but the referee is putting his wrists together in an X formation and signaling that something just happened. I think it was probably Boarding, but Enrico disagrees and thinks it's Cross Checking. I tell him that's ridiculous and he agrees and changes his guess to Interference. He's correct! Two minutes for Interference on BC.

13:29 left in the 3rd -- GOAL FOR UNION! 3-2 in favor of the underdogs! The goal was scored by the same guy as the last one and the Union fans are going crazy. MANY of them are also wearing visors and they keep chanting, "Let's go U! Let's go U! Let's go U" which sounds a lot like Michigan's "Let's go blue!" chant. Whatever, these guys deserve to go bonkers. This is literally the only good thing that has ever come out of Schencekedeitdy besides A GODDAMN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and Aunt Lena's potato latkes.

13:11 left in the 3rd -- OH NOW WE'VE GOT SOME BOARDING. Some guy on Union just smashed a guy into the boards and the BC player is DOWN on the ice. A nearby Union fan screams, "Get up you faker!" and I am not making that up. Enrico is calling for a 5-minute major and the PA announcer comes over the loud speaker and tells us there's a game misconduct! Wowzers! Plus a 5-minute power play for the Eagles!

E-A-G-L-wait I'm rooting for Union.

9:08 left in the 3rd -- Three minutes into the power play and BC cannot get it going. Plus, I now realize that their big guy, #12, a guy who I've been calling "Bates" aka "Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey" all game long is actually named "Hayes."

8:07 left in the 3rd -- GOAL, UNION! Holey moley, only five seconds after they killed off the power play, some dude on Union goes one on one with the keeper, gets stoned, then his teammate puts back the rebound to put them up 4-2! Enrico is devastated! BC calls timeout! The Union fans are going berserker as "Party rock is in the housssse tonighttttttttttt" blasts from the loud speakers. This song is so stupid/amazing. This could be the best night of my life.

4:14 left in the 3rd -- It's looking bleak for BC. The Union crowd continue to dominate the Wells Fargo Center. This is like a home game for Union, like UCONN at the Garden, but nothing like that because the arena is half empty and Shabazz Napier is not STRAIGHT OKIE DOAKIN' FOOLS ALL NIGHT.

2:12 left in the 3rd -- BC has pulled their goalie and Bodie is talking trash to all of the BC players during a stoppage. He kinda seems like a major prick. Plus, all of the lovable Union fans are starting to get really annoying with this "Let's go U!" stuff. I'm pretty much ready to start pulling for BC.

1:45 left in the 3rd -- GOAL, BC! "We ain't dead yet!" screams my trusty editor, right after some dude shoots a laser into the top shelf netting part of the net where the shelf would be if they decided to build a shelf in that net. 4-3 Union. Do you believe in Miracle Whip?!

1:09 left in the 3rd -- It's a GOALNADO, folks! This time, Union pop one in, off of an easy rebound into an open net. You can kiss the Eagles goodbye, it's 5-3 and Enrico looks salty.

:17 left in the 3rd -- OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Another goal, this time for BC and we're back to a one-goal game. 5-4. Could turn out to be meaningless, but it was another top shelf wristaroo.

HORNNNNNNNNNN!!

It's all over! It. Is. All. Over.

Despite a last second shot on net, Union College -- an actual place -- pulls off the major upset over the Boston College Campitellis. They will now advance to play the winner of the Minnesota-North Dakota game, which will get going in a half hour, and I will no way in hell be blogging about.

Three long hours later -- Game 2 was a total snooze fest, but did feature a GOPHER ON ICE and SPINNING CHEERLEADERS.

No goals were scored until 4 minutes left in the final period, but then Minnesota scored two come-from-behind goals including a LEGIT BUZZER BEATER to send them into the finals. In all my years of watching college hockey, I have never seen a more incredible ending to a game.

Even more incredible because now I can go home and go to sleep.

Prediction for the Final -- Minnesota 18, Union 3, Enrico 0.

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

In the final installment of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Today, we begin with R.J. Umberger.

R.J. Umberger
2015-16 stats: 39 GP, 2 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.6 mm cap hit

Dougherty: At the end-of-the-season media availability, Umberger said he expects to be bought out. And he will, unless general manager Ron Hextall can work some magic. He’s a goner.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Umberger expects to be bought out. It seems imminent at this point. Either way, the Flyers need to move on from Umberger.

Verdict: GO

Paone: To his credit, Umberger was a total pro as he went through his immense struggles this season. But to say the writing is on the wall for Umberger in Philadelphia is an understatement. It's like he sees a skywriter spelling it out in the clouds above him everywhere he goes. He even said himself that he expects the final year of his contract to be bought out sooner rather than later. His premonition will come true and the Flyers will take the $1.6 million cap hit that comes with it for next season.

Verdict: GO

Chris VandeVelde
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 2 G, 12 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $712,500 cap hit

Dougherty: VandeVelde is a Dave Hakstol disciple. He played for him at North Dakota and he played for him here. He was a cog on the fourth line, playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White all season long. But while VandeVelde kills penalties, he doesn’t do anything else. He has no offensive ability and, simply stated, is an AHL player playing in the NHL. The Flyers want to add scoring and to do that, someone has to go. And VandeVelde should be that guy.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Debating a fourth-liner’s status shouldn’t be one of the harder decisions, but it is in this case. That’s because Dave Hakstol adored his final unit of VandeVelde, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. However, the Flyers need better depth and VandeVelde is super cheap, so sending him to the AHL to clear a roster spot wouldn’t be a stomach-churning move. With a tiny cap hit, even an offseason trade is conceivable.

Verdict: GO

Paone: This is a tougher call than one would think for a role player of VandeVelde's ilk. On one hand, he, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare formed one of the most effective fourth lines in the entire league this season and an effective fourth line can be such a valuable weapon in today's NHL. There's chemistry there that you shouldn't want to mess with. On the other hand, VandeVelde is probably the most expendable and interchangeable of that trio. And with the Flyers needing as many roster spots as they can create, another younger and more effective player may be able to fit in there (Scott Laughton to start, possibly). That's why I lean toward saying VandeVelde won't be with the big club to start the season, despite his longstanding ties to Dave Hakstol. Roster spots are becoming more and more valuable in Philadelphia.

Verdict: GO

Jakub Voracek
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 44 A; Contract: Signed through 2023-24, $8.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: This is a no-brainer. He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer, and that kicks in July 1. He had confidence issues this season and battled injury, but there’s nothing of concern there. He should be healthy and back to his productive self next season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Obviously, this isn’t really a question. What is, though, are Voracek’s health and rebound.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: It's no secret the Flyers' star winger struggled with both production and injury this season, a year removed from his spectacular 81-point campaign that earned him a massive eight-year, $66 million extension. That extension just so happens to kick in this year, by the way. You're crazy if you don't think a motivated Voracek will be back in orange and black next season.

Verdict: STAY

Jordan Weal
2015-16 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Weal was basically a throw-in in the Vinny Lecavalier trade. Los Angeles didn’t want him because there was no room for him on its NHL roster, but the Kings would have lost him for nothing had they placed him on waivers. He came to Philly and didn’t do anything to impress. He’s a restricted free agent. He’ll probably get qualified, but shouldn’t. Let him go.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Ron Hextall knows a lot about Weal. The 24-year-old was often the first player on the ice for extra work before practice. I think there was more than one reason why Weal was included in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings. I say he’s back at a minimum rate but will head to the minors.

Verdict: GO

Paone: What exactly is Weal capable of at the NHL level? That's a really good question and one we don't have an answer to considering his lack of playing time with in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia this season. His injury after becoming a Flyer did him no favors, either. As I mentioned above when talking about VandeVelde, roster spots in Philadelphia are becoming more and more precious as the influx of talented prospects begins. Weal is really going to have to prove himself during camp to earn one of those spots. But, for right now, starting the season with the big club is a hazy picture for him.

Verdict: GO

Ryan White
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 5 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: White is everything the Flyers thought Zac Rinaldo would be. He brings energy, he’s physical and he can even score. He displayed the ability to play on the power play, which is a plus with a player in a fourth-line role. White should be back at least for another season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: White epitomizes what you want. He cares more about the Flyers than money. He’s a terrific teammate willing to do anything. And he’s understanding more and more how to score ugly. A perfect fourth-liner for the Flyers who will be re-signed.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: You want to talk about an almost-perfect fit? That's what White has been with the Flyers over the last season and a half. In 107 games as a Flyer, White has recorded 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. In his first five seasons in the league with Montreal, the 28-year-old forward had just five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 117 games. Even in a mostly fourth-line role, he's made an impact to the point he's earned Hakstol's trust enough to be the net-front presence on the Flyers' second power-play unit. He's a UFA who'll be due a bit of a raise, but White just meshes way too well to not bring back. He knows it, too, saying in his end-of-season media availability that money is necessarily the determining factor in negotiations with the Flyers. He'll be back in his familiar roles next season.

Verdict: STAY

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

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USA Today Sports

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.

Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.

It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.

Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.

Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.

“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.

Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.

“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”

There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.

Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.

“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”

Miss you and your dirt, Chase.

>>After The Slide, Chase Utley returns to New York prepared to face the vitriol of Mets fans [L.A. Times]

 

Future Phillies Report: Power from Alfaro, Cozens; Crawford settles in at AAA

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Tug Haines, Don Holohan/Reading Fightin Phils

Future Phillies Report: Power from Alfaro, Cozens; Crawford settles in at AAA

J.P. Crawford is settling in at Triple A, Jorge Alfaro and Dylan Cozens continue to show power, and Zach Eflin threw seven more shutout innings for the IronPigs.

All of that and more in this week's Future Phillies Report:

C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
The home run Alfaro hit Monday in Reading was such a no-doubter that Erie centerfielder JaCoby Jones didn't even turn around. Alfaro's blast landed on the top of the hill in center at FirstEnergy Stadium, his third of the season.

The hard-hitting catcher continues to impress at Double A. He's gone 11 for 29 (.379) with a homer and five RBIs since our last check-up, posting four multi-hit games in his last seven. Alfaro is up to .353 on the season with an .897 OPS that would be higher if he had walked more than twice on the year. 

Alfaro has never been the most patient hitter. He has one goal at the plate and that's to do damage, and so far this season he's been Reading's top run producer. Alfaro has 11 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs in 24 games.

He also continues to stand out behind the plate. Alfaro has thrown out three more base-stealers over the last week to make him 8 for 18 on the season.

Alfaro finds himself in a tricky situation. He's hitting enough to warrant a call-up to Triple A, but the Phillies aren't going to promote him and create a logjam behind the plate at Lehigh Valley with Andrew Knapp. And even if Knapp may eventually have to switch positions, it's in the Phils' best interest to keep developing both players as catchers in the meantime.

Instead, look for Alfaro to stay at Double A, where the Phillies will hope he can stay healthy and build confidence by continuing to torch Eastern League pitching.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
Six games into his Triple A career, the Phillies' top prospect is 6 for 20 (.300) and has walked four times. Of course he has. Crawford's walked nearly once a game this season, with 34 in 42 games, one every 5.6 plate appearances.

He's converted all 20 defensive chances in his first week with the IronPigs.

Crawford earned the promotion last Friday after hitting .265 with a .398 on-base percentage for Double A Reading. This is his last stop before the majors, which Crawford figures to get a taste of this September. From there, you could see him battle for the Phillies' opening day shortstop job next spring.

Crawford has been batting second for the IronPigs, a lineup spot he figures to occupy once he sticks in the majors. Crawford doesn't have a ton of speed, but his ability to work counts, make contact and reach base at a high clip make him a prototypical No. 2 hitter.

He's faced some solid pitching prospects so far at Triple A. Crawford went 3 for 4 Friday in a game started by lefty Henry Owens (Red Sox). Earlier in the series against Pawtucket he faced left-handers Eduardo Rodriguez and Roenis Elias (Red Sox). Crawford went 1 for 2 with two walks over the weekend against Toledo's Daniel Norris (Tigers). 

RHP Zach Eflin (AAA)
Ho-hum, another dominant start from the Phillies' 22-year-old right-hander speeding toward The Show. Seven more shutout innings from Eflin Tuesday at Pawtucket improved him to 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts. He's struck out 45 and walked eight in 52⅔ innings and held his opponents to a .182 batting average. 

Lefties are hitting just .191 against Eflin with one extra-base hit in 71 plate appearances. In fact, he's allowed just seven extra-base hits all season, or one every 28.3 plate appearances. 

Eflin's 0.80 WHIP leads the International League.

The 6-6 sinkerballer just continues to go deep into games and pitch low-stress innings. In his last three starts, Eflin has pitched 21 innings and allowed one run on just 10 hits. He's walked one batter each game and struck out 17. He's been very efficient, averaging 14.7 pitches per inning.

Eflin is six months younger than Aaron Nola, who debuted with the Phillies last season a month after turning 22. Eflin could follow suit this summer. If he keeps rattling off performances like this, he could eventually crack the Phillies' rotation. A spot would open if a pitcher is injured, if Jeremy Hellickson is traded, if Adam Morgan struggles or if the Phillies limit Vince Velasquez's innings.

RHP Jake Thompson (AAA)
Thompson gave up three home runs last Friday and another on Thursday, but all were solos. He followed an eight-inning, three-run, eight-strikeout performance last Friday by allowing three runs in 5⅔ innings Thursday.

After allowing 13 earned runs in his first four starts, Thompson has given up just seven in his last five. He has a 1.93 ERA and a .193 opponents' batting average over that span, and his groundball rate has risen from 35 percent to 48 percent.

The homers Thompson allowed last Friday were to Casey McGehee, Tyler Collins and Chad Huffman. The one he allowed Thursday was to Rusney Castillo. All have played in the big leagues at some point.

Thompson was not sharp early on Thursday but eventually settled in, as he did last week, jamming lefties in and utilizing a two-seam fastball that broke down and in to righties.

In nine starts with Lehigh Valley, Thompson is 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.7 walks.

RHP Mark Appel (AAA)
Though Appel was having some early-season success in his first year in the Phillies' system, the number of men he was putting on base and stranding foretold some eventual regression and that's been the case his last four starts. Appel recorded just two outs on Sunday before exiting for Lehigh Valley.

Appel's velocity was down to the 88 to 90 mph range, which is problematic given the relative flatness of his fastball. If he's sitting in that range he is going to get hit around, period. 

The trouble began when he walked Anthony Gose on a full count to start the game. Dixon Machado followed with a double down the left-field line on a high, 88 mph fastball. After a groundout, Appel hung a curveball that was nearly hit out of the park by Huffman for an RBI double. Three of the next four batters reached and Appel was removed for Severino Gonzalez, having allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning. 

There was just nothing special about Appel's stuff. His velocity early in games had been 93 to 95 mph, which helped him avoid allowing any runs in the first inning prior to last weekend. But if you were to just arrive at the ballpark Sunday and watch Appel without knowing his name, you'd have never guessed he was a former first overall pick. Is it fair to mention his draft status after each start? Probably not, but that's part of the deal when you get taken first overall and make all that money before reaching the bigs. Appel is aware of that and doesn't fight it — he's learned to accept it.

Through eight starts with Lehigh Valley, Appel is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, and he's trending in the wrong direction. Let's put it this way: It's no fluke that he's put 60 men on base in 38⅓ innings.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams went 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in a 15-inning game for the IronPigs earlier in the week but has hit in all five games since, going 8 for 18 with three doubles and a homer. Good to see him finally striking the ball with authority. Prior to the last four nights, Williams had just one extra-base hit in his previous 33 plate appearances.

The 22-year-old is hitting .276/.311/.428 this season with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs, 20 RBIs, eight walks and 38 strikeouts. 

He's holding his own against righties, batting .295 with an .807 OPS, but the left-handed hitting Williams was just 8 for 44 (.182) with one walk and 14 K's against lefties prior to Thursday. That continued a theme from last year, when Williams hit .330 against righties and .210 against lefties.

That's why his game Thursday was so promising. Williams went 3 for 3 with a double, a walk and a hit by pitch, reaching base five times against three different left-handers.

OF Dylan Cozens (AA)
From Williams we go to Cozens, who will not stop crushing the baseball. Since having his 11-game hit streak snapped last Thursday, Cozens has gone 6 for 23 (.261) with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in his last six games. 

The season numbers for the giant lefty are startling: 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .938 OPS in 45 games. Cozens leads the Eastern League in homers and slugging percentage (.587) and is second in doubles and OPS.

Cozens is just 21, but he's powering himself up to Triple A. His success is adding intrigue to the Phillies' future outfield picture.

C Andrew Knapp (AAA)
Knapp is settling back in after a two-week slump, going 6 for 17 with three doubles and a homer in his last five games. The homer came against Tigers lefty prospect Matt Boyd, who went to Detroit from Toronto along with Norris in last summer's David Price trade.

It's pretty apparent that Knapp is going to hit his way up at some point. He has a hit in 12 of his last 13 games, and over the last two seasons is batting .321 with a .574 slugging percentage and 77 RBIs in 90 games combined between Double A and Triple A. 

Knapp is working every day behind the plate to get better defensively. Reading manager Dusty Wathan has said his blocking has improved faster than his throwing. Base stealers are 15 for 18 this season against Knapp, who had Tommy John surgery in 2013.

RHPs Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta (AA)
Lively, the 24-year-old pitcher the Phillies acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, followed up his 12-strikeout effort with a quality start and win on Sunday. He allowed three runs on four hits over six innings to improve to 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA. He's struck out 49 batters in 53 innings and allowed just one home run.

Pivetta, 23, is 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA in nine starts for Reading with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Lively and Pivetta, who was acquired from the Nationals last summer for Jonathan Papelbon, have flown under the radar the first two months because of how many other top prospects the Phils have acquired. But they add to the organization's list of capable young right-handed pitchers.

At some point in the next few years, some of these guys could be shifted to the bullpen. The Phillies won't have enough room in the rotation if most or all of their right-handers pan out.