Bastardo draws trade interest, Sandberg praise

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Bastardo draws trade interest, Sandberg praise

Ryne Sandberg has managed the Phillies for almost a year, so by now we know he is not one to blabber on and on about a particular topic.

So it was kind of interesting to hear Sandberg talk so expansively when Antonio Bastardo’s name came up before Tuesday night’s game.

Sandberg praised the left-handed reliever for his effectiveness and durability. It almost sounded like a sales pitch, which was interesting because scouts from Kansas City, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Toronto have been in town for two days now. All those clubs are monitoring the market for relievers. Sources say the Royals are very interested in Phillies relievers (read: Bastardo). The Tigers are keeping an eye on Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon. Pittsburgh and Toronto have also been connected to Bastardo.

Bastardo pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts on Monday night. In 43 2/3 innings this season, he has a 3.30 ERA. (Take out one bad outing June 28 in Atlanta and his ERA is 2.28.) Bastardo has recorded 53 strikeouts and walked 24. He has allowed just 24 hits and has held both left-handed and right-handed hitters to a batting average under .168.

“He’s been very consistent for a long period of time,” Sandberg said. “Just good stuff, mixing his pitches really well, real good location. He’s been equally effective against left-handed and right-handed batters. He’s done a nice job.

“I remember just a couple outings where he struggled. One was walking some guys and the other was trying to close it out in New York (in May.) Since then he’s made some adjustments and stayed with it. He’s really back to where he should be.”

Sandberg kept heaping on the praise.

“His slider is very effective, his changeup is good, his fastball is deceptive,” he said. “He’s in a groove now.

“The other thing about him is he’s very durable. He’s resilient and he likes the ball. That’s huge. We’ve had a couple times when we’ve been short and he’s been the choice guy just because of the way he bounces back. And once again, he was quality, and he allowed the other guys to have a break. So he’s very reliable out there.”

Bastardo, who turns 29 in September, is under control and arbitration eligible for next season. He is making $2 million this season. The Phillies are not in a hurry to move him, but they believe he could bring back some value and they have two developing lefties, Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands, that they believe are ready to carry the load from that side.

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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