Angry exit: Hamels clearly peeved after latest loss

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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.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens stopped by the winter meetings on Monday and left with a little something extra in his wallet.

Cozens was honored with the Joe Bauman Award, given annually to minor league baseball’s home run king. The award came with an $8,000 check — $200 for each homer he hit in 2016.

“That will make shopping this holiday season a lot easier,” Cozens joked.

Cozens, a left-handed-hitting rightfielder, hit .276 with 40 home runs and 125 RBIs for the Double A Reading Fightin Phils. He was named Eastern League MVP. During his acceptance speech at Monday’s awards luncheon, Cozens thanked his Reading teammate, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, for pushing him to his power heights. Hoskins also had a huge season with the bat. He hit 38 homers and had 116 RBIs on his way to becoming the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year. Night after night in Reading, Cozens and Hoskins staged a friendly power competition. At the end of the season, they shared the Paul Owens Award, given annually to the Phillies’ minor-league player of the year.

Cozens, 22, recently finished a 25-game hitch in the Dominican winter league. Despite hitting just .165 for the Aguilas club, he had four home runs — all against lefty pitching, which has been a nemesis.

Cozens, a 6-6, 250-pound behemoth, made some off-the-field news in the DR when he was involved in a pregame fight with teammate Boog Powell, a Seattle Mariners prospect. Cozens downplayed the incident.

“Just a little boys-being-boys type thing,” he said. “I feel like it was blown out of proportion like almost everything is these days. But, after it happened we became good friends. It was more the level of respect there and I’d say we’re still friends, so it’s good.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the incident was in the past and would have no long-range ramifications for Cozens.

“There is no concern,” Klentak said. “Dylan is an intense kid and he plays the game really hard. That is a good thing. If you’ve watched that, you can see that in his at-bats and when he runs the bases and is running around in the outfield. That’s just his style of play. That aggressive nature at times can boil over. You hope that it doesn’t boil over into altercations with teammates. But we have no long-term concerns with that at all.”

Cozens was recently added to the 40-man roster and will be in big-league spring training camp. Though he projects to open the 2017 season at Triple A, he’s conceding nothing.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to get better, turn some heads and make people notice and hopefully get called up as soon as possible,” he said. 

Plate discipline and strike-zone management are the areas in which Cozens needs the most improvement. He struck out 186 times and walked 61 times in 134 games in 2016. Phillies officials would like to see the strikeouts come down.
 
“I’m learning how to take my walks more often, having better strike-zone judgment, maybe not chase after as many pitches,” Cozens said. “I want to be aggressive, but if they don’t want to pitch to me, just take a walk. I feel like I did not do a good job of that and it’s something I can improve on next year.”