Angry exit: Hamels clearly peeved after latest loss

slideshow-052013-phillies-hamels-uspresswire.jpg

Angry exit: Hamels clearly peeved after latest loss

BOX SCORE

MIAMI – The frustration has finally caught up with Cole Hamels.

No other conclusion could be drawn after the pitcher made an angry beeline out of the visiting clubhouse after suffering his seventh loss of the season in a game in which he pitched very well Monday night.

“Nope,” Hamels told reporters as he stomped toward the door after the lowly Miami Marlins beat the Phillies, 5-1 (see Instant Replay).

Hamels had a right to be ticked off.

He struck out 10 batters and walked none in six innings of two-run ball. Why only six innings? Because manager Charlie Manuel, desperate for a run, any run, had to lift Hamels at 89 pitches for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. The move failed to produce the tying run, which was not surprising because the Phillies seldom score when Hamels pitches.

“Ten Ks and no walks and we only put up one run,” said Domonic Brown. “That’s very tough on me and I’m pretty sure it’s tough on everyone else in here. We’ve just got to do a better job.”

The Phils have scored just 20 runs in the 62 2/3 innings that Hamels has pitched this season. In Hamels’ last eight starts, the Phils have scored just 13 runs while he has been in the game.

This has left Hamels with a 1-7 record. The Phillies are 1-9 in his 10 starts.

Now, Hamels has to take some of the blame for that record. He’s had a few poor starts this season. But this wasn’t one of them. He had his best fastball of the season. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels was “electric.”

In the absence of the pitcher, Dubee was asked about Hamels’ apparent frustration. Interestingly, Dubee said Hamels had been experiencing some frustration but the pitching coach said he did not see any Monday night.

“Actually this was a nice breakthrough for him,” Dubee said. “His stuff was electric tonight. He was 93 to 95.

“He’d been a little tense [in previous starts]. There’s a lot of things going on. He’s an accountable guy. He’s got the new contract. Roy [Halladay] going down. That puts a little burden on him. Not winning games. It’s weighed on him. But I thought tonight he was exceptional.”

Dubee said he did not know why Hamels would not speak with reporters after the game, but he did allude to the run-support issue when he mentioned that “tight games” had weighed on Hamels.

“Again, I think today was a big breakthrough,” Dubee said. “I think you saw electric stuff. I think it got to the point where instead of pitching away from bats and worrying about not getting runs, he got back into the mode of attacking hitters. No walks, one three-ball count. That’s Cole Hamels’ style.”

Moments before Hamels left the clubhouse in a huff, Manuel said he was concerned about the pitcher’s mindset in the wake of mounting losses and little run support.

“Yeah, I’m worried about that,” Manuel said. “I think Cole expects to be the big pitcher on our team and he expects to win and it’s hard not to get upset when you … He pitched good tonight. But at the same time, he needs some runs.

“He needs to pitch with a lead some time and have room to breathe and room if he makes a mistake. Yeah, that’s a concern of mine. I don’t know what we’re going to do about it.”

Facing the worst team and the worst offense in the National League, Hamels allowed single runs in the first and sixth innings.

That was two too many with Alex Sanabia (3-6) tying up the Phillies’ bats like so many pitchers before him.

The Phils got one run back on Brown’s solo homer in the second inning, but that was it for the night. Adding insult to injury, Chad Qualls, the man who contributed to a number of blown Phillies’ leads last year, got the final three outs for the Marlins.

The Phillies (21-24) have been held to two or fewer runs in 18 of 45 games -- 40 percent of their schedule.

Chances of a breakout Tuesday night are not good as the Phils will face right-hander Jose Fernandez. In two starts against the Phils this season, Fernandez has pitched 13 shutout innings and allowed just three hits. He has registered 14 strikeouts and walked just three.

“It’s May,” Brown said. “Time to get going. It has to start tomorrow. That’s a tough guy we’re facing. We’ve got to hit some balls hard.”

The Marlins have the NL’s worst record at 13-32. Four of their wins have come against the Phillies.

“Against us they score,” Manuel lamented.

Nola, bench, the kids and more: A half-dozen issues to watch as Phillies get set to play games

Nola, bench, the kids and more: A half-dozen issues to watch as Phillies get set to play games

CLEARWATER, Fla. — For the first time since Oct. 2 when Ryan Howard tipped his cap and Hector Neris retired Kevin Plawecki on a ground ball to third base to give them a 5-2 win over the New York Mets, the Phillies will play a game on Thursday afternoon.

They will host the University of Tampa for the third straight year in an exhibition game at Spectrum Field. The Spartans are 7-2 and ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II.

Manager Pete Mackanin will take the opportunity to look at a number of minor-league prospects in his starting lineup on Thursday. Minor-league right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. will start for the Phillies.

The Phillies will play a number of their projected regular players in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees in Tampa.

As the games get going, the evaluations and decision-making process ramps up for Mackanin, the coaching staff and the front office.

Let’s take a look at the six biggest storylines that will unfold over the course of the Grapefruit League season:

Aaron Nola
So far, so good for the right-hander who missed the last two months of the 2016 season with an elbow injury. He says he is completely healthy and his early-camp bullpen sessions have gone smoothly.

But game action will bring a rise in intensity and a truer gauge of Nola’s health. He is expected to make his first start sometime next week.

“I'm real anxious to see Nola pitch,” manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday. “We all know what he's capable of doing when he's healthy. Right now, he appears to be and says he is 100 percent. My only concern for him is as we go along into the season, if it's going to come back to haunt him. Right now, I'm real pleased at the way he's throwing and the way he looks. He feels very confident.”

Nola has no limits, but ...

“We will have to keep a close eye on him,” Mackanin said. “All the pitchers, actually. Especially him. I know how good he can be. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch. Hopefully, every outing he has, he won't show any signs of it. That's the only thing I'm concerned about, that thing coming back.”

The bullpen
Mackanin opened camp by saying that Jeanmar Gomez was his closer — “at this point.”

Like all pitchers, Gomez will need some time and innings to get into a spring rhythm. Serious evaluation of him probably won’t happen until later in the spring. If he pitches well, he will most likely seize the closer job that he lost last September. If he struggles, he could end up forfeiting the closer gig to Hector Neris or Joaquin Benoit and move into a setup role, where he had success in 2015 and could be an asset because of his ability to pitch multiple innings. For the record, Gomez says he will be happy in whatever role Mackanin asks him to fill.

Other roles are open in the bullpen. In particular, Mackanin is looking for at least one lefty and ideally two. Joely Rodriguez probably has the inside track for one lefty spot because he’s on the 40-man roster. Adam Morgan will get starter’s innings in camp, but he could end up in the bullpen. Veterans Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett, both in camp on minor-league contracts, will each get a serious look to make the club.

Hitting approach
The Phillies were last in the majors in runs (610) and second-to-last in batting average (.240) and on-base percentage (.301) in 2016.

New hitting coach Matt Stairs is trying to improve the team’s on-base skills by stressing a gap-to-gap approach and not giving away at-bats. In other words, have a plan before the at-bat, key on a particular zone early in the count and don’t expand until there are two strikes.

Turning these hitters into a group that works counts, grinds out at-bats and gets on base won’t happen overnight, but Mackanin would like to see some progress in exhibition play.

“It takes a while for all of it to settle in,” Mackanin said. “When you hit a certain way your whole life or your thought process is a certain way your whole life, it's hard to make changes because you're out of your comfort zone. The important thing is for the players to buy into what Matt Stairs is selling. If they do that, I think we're going to improve.”

The bench
Barring injury, the starting eight position jobs are settled, but there is intrigue on the bench. Outfielder Aaron Altherr and infielder Andres Blanco appear to be locks and it’s difficult to imagine infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan not making the club. There are others in the mix, including veteran Daniel Nava.

The most intriguing bench question is who will be the backup catcher? Prospect Andrew Knapp will get a long look both behind the plate and at first base as he bids to win a reserve role at both positions. Big-league veterans Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan are also vying for the role of backup catcher.

A roster sleeper?
Last year, little known outfielder Cedric Hunter hit his way onto the opening day roster.

Will there be a repeat this spring?

Keep an eye on Brock Stassi and Andrew Pullin. Both are in camp as non-roster players. Both swing from the left side, have strong minor-league hitting resumes and could be very much in play if the Phils want to add a bat off the bench.

Pullin is a corner outfielder with a short, quick stroke that will remind you of Jim Eisenreich. Stassi has a good bat and could bring some versatility with his ability to play first base and outfield.

The kids
It’s always fun to look at the next wave of potential Phillies early in the Grapefruit League season. Outfielder Roman Quinn was one of the most exciting players in camp last year and he’s primed for another good showing before heading off to Triple A finishing school.

Top prospect J.P. Crawford will get a lot of looks at shortstop before heading to minor-league camp, and it will be fun to watch the power bats of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens; they combined for 78 homers at Double A last season.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams, both heading into important seasons at Triple A, will get playing time, commencing with starting assignments on Thursday.

Phillies prospect Victor Arano out at least a month with elbow injury

Phillies prospect Victor Arano out at least a month with elbow injury

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies received some good and bad news on pitcher Victor Arano.

He was diagnosed with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Surgery was not prescribed, which is good news.

The bad news, he’s been shut down for at least a month.

Arano’s injury was treated with a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection.

The 22-year-old from Mexico said he first started feeling some tenderness in the elbow during a stint in the Arizona Fall League. He experienced some swelling in the elbow after reporting to camp earlier this month.

Arano is an intriguing prospect. He was acquired from the Dodgers as part of the package for starter Roberto Hernandez in August 2014. He impressed team officials in spring training 2015 and really took a big step forward after moving to the bullpen last season. He pitched 79⅔ innings in 46 games at Single A Clearwater and Double A Reading and recorded a 2.26 ERA while striking out 95 and walking just 19.

Arano’s stuff has been compared to that of Edubray Ramos, who jumped from Double A to Triple A to the majors last season.

The injury means Arano will have to start the season on the disabled list.

In other health news, pitcher Jake Thompson graduated to a bullpen mound on Wednesday. He had been slowed by a sore wrist but is fine now. Thompson proved that by winning the longest drive at Tuesday’s annual team golf outing.

Thompson lines up to open the season at Triple A.