Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The offense remains a work in progress, and manager Pete Mackanin believes it's time to get the regulars more work as the Phillies near the end of their second week of spring games.

"Our guys haven't gotten into the swing of it right now," Mackanin said. "They need more at-bats. I've been giving a lot of the at-bats to the younger guys to get a look at them and some of the guys trying to make the team."

One of the regulars Mackanin thinks can get his bat working quickly is Howie Kendrick, who had a bases-loaded two-run single Thursday off Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza.

"Kendrick has been hitting the ball up the middle a lot and not a lot to show for it," Mackanin said. "Today, you could see what he is capable of doing."

The Phillies didn't get a hit until Freddy Galvis' single off Joe Smith with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Logan Moore followed with a single and Smith walked Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez to bring in a run.

The Phillies were able to get only five base hits in the game and Tommy Joseph hit a ninth-inning home run in the Blue Jays' 6-4 win. 

"It was good to see Joseph hit that home run," Mackanin said. "And Kendrick had the big single. Other than that we needed more hits."

Mackanin also credited Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano, who didn't allow a hit and struck out five in three innings.

"Liriano set the tone. He was really tough," Mackanin said. "He looked like he was on his game with his changeup, tailing slider and the fastball."

Asher goes back to sinker
Alec Asher gave up back-to-back doubles to Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales before pitching his way out of trouble in his three-inning stint. 

Mackanin said it was a case of Asher's becoming too enamored with his cutter, and he needed an early visit from pitching coach Bob McClure.

"Asher got cutter-happy in the first inning," Mackanin said. "McClure reminded him that his sinker is his best pitch, he went to that and went unscathed the rest of the way. The first year that he pitched for us, he developed this sinker. That really made a difference for him, and when he came back last year it was obvious his sinker was a real money pitch. A lot of these guys when they learn how to throw a cutter, they get cutter-happy."

Asher gave up one run and six hits with a strikeout and a walk.

Up next
Clay Buchholz will start against Yankees righty Luis Cessa in Clearwater on Friday.

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro, one of the Phillies' most highly regarded prospects, is off to a big start at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
He entered Wednesday night's game hitting .377 (23 for 61) with a 1.003 OPS in his first 15 games. He had a double, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs. Team officials would surely like to see the strikeouts (17) come down and the walks (1) go up, but no one is complaining about the production.
 
"I just looked at his numbers," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's doing very well — knocking the cover off the ball."
 
Alfaro, 23, is widely considered the Phillies' catcher of the future. He's an athletic talent with huge upside. Many scouts believe he could be an All-Star if he puts it all together.
 
Defense is the area where Alfaro needs the most work. Yes, he's got a "howitzer" for an arm, as Mackanin called it, so that doesn't need much work. But there's a lot more to catching than throwing. There's game-calling, receiving and blocking.
 
Alfaro made a cameo with the big club last September and did not impress club officials with his receiving or blocking. Instructors focused on improving those areas in spring training, and Mackanin reports that Alfaro has shown progress in the early season.
 
"We get a complete game report on what everyone does offensively and defensively," Mackanin said. "Apparently he looks very good defensively.
 
"He had some issues defensively. He wasn't getting down enough and he worked on that all spring. He's a big guy and it's a little more difficult for a big guy to get low.
 
"And we wanted him to just be a little more quiet behind the plate, less movement. He had a tendency to be moving while the pitcher was getting ready to pitch. We just want a guy sitting back there nice and quiet with a good target. That might seem pretty elementary, but if you're not concentrating on doing that you might not realize the importance of it.
 
"He's doing well blocking balls. He's doing everything well right now and hitting on top of it, so that's a nice sign."

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Pitcher Clay Buchholz made his first appearance in the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday since having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm last week.  

Many initially believed Buchholz would be out for the remainder of the season -- and he still might be -- but he expressed optimism and believes he can return to the mound in September.

"My goal right now is to let this heal," Buchholz said. "Get it well and if this team keeps playing like they're playing right now, we'll be playing in September, October, so that's my goal."

Buchholz said he wasn't feeling 100 percent leading up to the April 11 game against the New York Mets when manager Pete Mackanin pulled him in the third inning. 

"I told [general manager Matt Klentak] that I was sorry, and the guys in here," Buchholz said. "I was brought here for a reason. I wanted to pitch, I wanted to be good. I guess it's a good thing we have a good farm system here because they've been able to step up and fill in."

Buchholz had a similar issue with the Boston Red Sox in July 2015 and missed the rest of the season. 

In his two starts with the Phillies, Buchholz allowed 10 runs and 19 baserunners over just 7 1/3 innings. 
 
Buchholz, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the season. Given his age and the possibility that he won't return this season, the injury could significantly affect his value heading into the offseason. He's the second-highest paid player on the Phillies' roster at $13.5 million

But Buchholz wants to build the strength in his forearm and continue to pitch in MLB following this season.

"There's a lot of guys that come back," Buchholz said. "I have a lot of buddies that played this game that have come back from major surgeries and played for eight or nine more years. It's all about once I do get healthy, being prepared and building a strong foundation around my muscles."