The Opposite of Upside: Phillies Tap Tyler Cloyd as Roy Halladay's Friday Replacement

The Opposite of Upside: Phillies Tap Tyler Cloyd as Roy Halladay's Friday Replacement

Tyler Cloyd dealt eight innings of one-run ball and fanned 10 Indiana Indians his last time out at Lehigh Valley. Two days later, more highly-regarded prospect Adam Morgan was crushed for four runs in as many frames.

Maybe there’s more to the Phillies decision to tap Cloyd over Morgan as Roy Halladay’s replacement in the rotation for Friday in Arizona than "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

Either way, the merits are flimsy.

Cloyd pitched as good as he (or anyone) could have at Triple-A last year, going 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA en route to International League MVP honors. Yet he was still battered like a fish stick with the varsity team, for a 4.91 ERA in six starts.

What happens this time, when he's got 5.40 ERA stuff in the minors?

At 25 years old and after five years in the system, Cloyd is what he is: a soft-thrower who to needs to induce ground balls – exactly what he couldn’t do in the majors last year. After forcing grounders on 44.4% of balls in play at Triple-A, Cloyd's GB% fell 12 percentage points.

And Cloyd fly balls leave the yard: he served more home runs (8) than he made starts, and had a 17.0 home run-to-fly ball rate. Yet this is the guy you want to debut at Chase Field, described by scouts as such:

"The thin desert air in Phoenix is also conducive to power hitters, as balls will travel a great distance in the air, even when the park's retractable roof is engaged to cut down on the desert heat."

Bronson Arroyo can be effective with Cloyd's 86.7 m.p.h. fastball, which if it qualified would’ve ranked fourth-slowest in the majors last year. Cloyd has yet to prove he can be. Why the need to find out?

However they've looked for 30 seconds on this road trip, the future of the Phillies, who own baseball's third-eldest roster and have $50 million coming off the books at year’s end ($20 million of it Halladay’s), is coming fast.

Unless they’re trying to shelter Morgan to shield his trade value for July (which would be absurd, because even if buying at the deadline is an option, a home-grown left-handed top prospect shouldn't be on the table for anyone other than Giancarlo Stanton, which, yeah, isn't happening) there’s no reason to not give him the ball now.

There’s minimal risk. The Phillies couldn’t possibly get worse production than they did from Halladay. And here, Morgan isn’t being anointed – he’s being used as spackle.

This is how you ease in Keith Law's pre-2013 No. 92 prospect: at first, in a pinch. You know, like the one the Phillies were the last time Halladay had to be plucked from the rotation, in spring training, when Morgan with little notice manned up against the Braves for 4 2/3 of one-run ball.

Today makes three weeks to the day since Charlie Manuel said it could be 6-8 weeks until the Phillies get John Lannan back. If Morgan wilts, they could still turn to Cloyd for the next two to four starts. But if Morgan pitches like Jonathan Pettibone, the Phillies could, believe it or not, have consistency from top to bottom in their rotation for the first time all year.

That’s the upside.

Someone explain to me the down?

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

The Sixers (22-36) host the NBA-best Golden State Warriors (49-9) at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Bummer at the buzzer
Apparently one good last-second shot deserves another.

The Sixers stormed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks on Saturday. Jahlil Okafor capped off his monster night with what appeared to be the game-winner at the time when he scored in the lane with nine seconds remaining.

That was until Carmelo Anthony drained a clutch jumper over Robert Covington with 0.3 ticks left on the clock to give the Knicks a 110-109 victory. Call it payback for T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beater against New York last month.

While the Sixers didn't get the win, they had to be pleased with some of the efforts they received on the second night of a back-to-back set. 

Okafor finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Dario Saric added 19 points and 15 boards.

2. So much splashing
The Sixers will need those type of performances and then some if they hope to keep up with this potent Warriors team.

In case you've been lost at sea since the summer, former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted Oklahoma City for Golden State in free agency to turn the "Splash Brothers" of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into an entire splash family.

Already dominant offensively, the Warriors have been even better this season with Durant. They rank No. 1 in a slew of offensive categories, including points per game (118.2), field goal percentage (50.0), assists per game (31.0), fastbreak points per game (23.5), offensive rating (114.1) and true shooting percentage (60.4).

If that weren't enough, Durant's length has also impacted the Warriors' defense too. They are first in the league in steals (9.6), blocks (6.7) and points off turnovers (19.2) per game.

Simply put, the Warriors are scary good. 

3. The wild card
Every family has that one person that you're just not sure about at times. They can make gatherings the best night ever or a downright miserable experience.

Enter Draymond Green. 

Green has been on the miserable side of the Warriors' gatherings lately. He shot 1 of 10 for five points and was benched for long stretches in Golden State's win over Brooklyn on Saturday. In the game prior to that against the L.A. Clippers, he picked up a technical foul, trash talked Paul Pierce and went to his preferred kick move on Blake Griffin.

Overall, Green has been his usual solid self on the court. He's averaging 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists a night while providing lockdown defense.

The Sixers are fully aware of Green's versatility. The veteran forward averaged a triple-double against them in the two meetings last season with 11.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

It will be interesting to see Green lock horns all game with the surging Saric.

4. Injuries
Joel Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

The Warriors have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost six straight games to the Warriors.

• With their 112-95 win over the Nets on Saturday, the Warriors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. It marked the earliest a team has clinched a postseason spot since the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

• Covington is averaging 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in February.

• Thompson averaged 36.0 points on 54.7 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point range against the Sixers last season.

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning was suspended two games for his illegal hit to Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel during Saturday's 4-2 loss in the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field.
 
Manning's shoulder made contact with Guentzel's head.
 
Manning wasn't surprised and even admitted to reporters that he fully expected "one or two" games because he hit a player who didn't have control of the puck yet.
 
Strangely, there was no penalty on the play for interference, yet the NHL's explanation on Monday afternoon specifically cited "interference" as the reason for the suspension.
 
This is Manning's first NHL suspension.
 
The hearing was conducted on the phone Monday with Stephane Quintal, senior vice-president of NHL Player Safety. Manning will forfeit $10,833.34 in salary.
 
"It was late," Manning said of the hit. "He didn't touch the puck after it hit his skate. Which I thought he was going to do. They do their whole breakdown by time frame."
 
Manning said he caught Guentzel's shoulder first, then his head "on the follow through" because Guentzel is shorter than him.  The 6-foot-1 Manning has two inches on Guentzel.
 
Guentzel, who had two assists in the game, was not injured.
 
"Looking at it, [the hit] is a little late," Manning admitted. "I thought he was going to touch the puck. Usually, when a puck hits your skate, you pick it up, and he kinda left it ... The hard part is, there was no penalty called on it."
 
Manning said he had to make a hit or face an odd-man rush.
 
"There were two players there and if I don't play my guy there, it’s a 3-on-1 the other way," he said. "You're giving up scoring chances. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt. He finished the game and that's always the good thing."
 
Mark Streit, sitting on the bench at the time, said he saw the hit and was shocked at the suspension.
 
"It was a great hit," Streit said. "You look at the replay and everything looks different. You can slow down every hit and talk about it. I guess it was a little late …"
 
Manning's suspension likely means Michael Del Zotto will play against Colorado on Tuesday.
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Manning has been a "solid piece" for the club this season.
 
"He brings that physical edge, he's been reliable, and he's been a staple for our lineup," Hakstol said. "That's a hole we'll have to fill over next couple of games here."
 
Manning will also miss Thursday's game against Florida.