Matchday 6: Union Look to Put Together a Winning Streak

Matchday 6: Union Look to Put Together a Winning Streak

The Union, fresh off picking up its first three points of the season, travel west to face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center (10:30PM/The Comcast Network). In the last pregame post I wrote that the Union needed to pick a style of play and stick with it. Well, with consecutive shutouts it certainly looks like Peter Nowak has opted to focus his attention on the bolstering the defensive third.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the current shutout streak is the fact that the Union held Columbus scoreless without Danny Califf and with rookie Raymon Gaddis making his first career MLS start. Sheanon Williams, who shifted to center back in place of the injured Califf, was at a physical disadvantage against the taller Crew forwards, but managed to hold his own. Gaddis was shaky, but the rookie possesses enough pace to overcome the bulk of his miscues. Hopefully his MLS debut jitters are behind him and he can settle down and play a more composed game. 
The offense remains a work in progress. The lone Union goal against Columbus came on a Gabriel Gomez penalty kick. Freddy Adu, who played his best game in a Union kit, served a dangerous ball into the box, which was handled by Eric Gehrig. Gomez converted a cheeky chip right down the middle for the lone goal of the game. Scoring from the run of play has been a major challenge for the U - as they've scored a single goal (Lionard Pajoy against Colorado) without the benefit of a whistle stopping play.
With that being said, there were some positive signs last week. Brian Carroll returned to his customary lone holding midfielder role. The move freed Gomez up to be more positive in his play. Whereas in previous weeks you'd rarely see Gomez cross the center circle - against Columbus the Panamanian pushed forward towards the edge of the Crew penalty area. The move opened things up for the Union, and allowed Gomez to contribute to the attack.
Another positive development was the play of Adu. Freddy was confident and aggressive on the ball. You saw him take on defenders and perform the sort of multiple step-overs your accustomed to seeing him unleash when wearing a US uniform. I am still not quite sure why Nowak took him off so early last week, but Adu was by far the most dangerous Union player.
Chivas enters the game in fifth place in the Western Conference (3-3). Strangely, the Goats are 0-3 at home and 3-0 on the road. Something will have to give tonight as the Union has yet to pick up a road point. Former Union man Alejandro Moreno is still plugging away in MLS. Moreno is one of four Chivas players to score so far this season.
Juan Pablo Angel, who was so dangerous when wearing a New York Red Bull shirt, is available for selection tonight by Chivas manager Robin Fraser. Angel has missed time with a concussion, but if chosen by Fraser could present a challenge for a Union back line who will be without Danny Califf for a second consecutive week.
Chivas is not a particularly high scoring team - scoring four goals in six games - so it's not out of the question for the Union to earn a point, or three, despite traveling cross country for the match.
Lineup I'd Like to See: Zak MacMath, Gaddis, Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Carroll, Keon Daniel, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan, Adu and Pajoy.
Final Score Prediction: The Union earn its first road point of the season with a 1-1 draw.

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

To no surprise, Andrew Bogut is not part of the process.

The veteran big man, acquired in the Nerlens Noel trade last week, was waived by the Sixers on Monday night.

The Vertical's Shams Charania and ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news of both parties agreeing to a contract buyout.

Bogut was included in the Sixers-Mavericks deal that sent Noel to Dallas in exchange for the 32-year-old center, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first-round pick (which will likely turn into two second-round picks).

Bogut will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Per a report Sunday by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Bogut was set on joining Clevelend once a contract buyout with the Sixers was finalized. Bogut will have discussions with the Cavaliers, Spurs, Celtics and Rockets before making his decision, according to Stein's report.

Bogut played 26 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.