Blue Jays 7, Phillies 5: Ambidextrous pitcher offers a highlight

Blue Jays 7, Phillies 5: Ambidextrous pitcher offers a highlight


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- St. Patrick's Day is always a festive affair at Camp Clearwater. The Phillies wear green jerseys and caps and fans pack the place and have a few cold ones under the hot sun.

The third-largest crowd in the 14-year history of Spectrum Field -- 11,173 -- came out for Friday's quasi-holiday matchup between the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. Phillies fans did not see a win -- the Jays prevailed, 7-5 -- but there was some entertainment.

Howie Kendrick and Aaron Altherr both went deep and Pat Venditte, the ambidextrous reliever (see story), made his Phillies debut and struck out the side in the ninth inning. He struck out two batters from the right side and one from the left.

"He's really fun to watch," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I like the way he threw. He mixed it up from both sides. I guess he's going to go in and ice both his arms now.

"If he continues to be effective, he'll be in the mix."

Venditte has pitched in the majors with Oakland, Seattle and Toronto. He was pleased with his Phillies debut.

"When you get to a new team, you definitely want to start on the right foot and fill up the strike zone," he said. "It was nice to do that."

Nola builds up
Aaron Nola continued to show good arm strength in his fourth start of the spring. He worked 4 2/3 innings and threw four-seam fastballs early, hitting 94 mph on the stadium radar gun.

Nola threw more two-seamers (sinkers) in later innings, and his changeup looked good.

"He threw a lot of good changeups," Mackanin said. "And the velocity was important to me. The command will come next. Once he gets to the point where he's commanding his pitches, he's going to be back to where he's supposed to be."

Nola struck out four, but his command was off and he allowed four walks.

"The walks hurt me, obviously," he said. "Four walks and I think they all scored. Walks are never a good thing, but other than that my body felt good.

"I feel like I'm almost where I need to be going into the season. A few more outings and I think I'll be good to go for the season."

"Keep on staying healthy, that's my main focus right now," added the right-hander, who missed the final two months of last season with an elbow injury.

Ben Lively, an 18-game winner in the minors last season, had a rough outing. He allowed four hits, including a grand slam, and a walk over 2 1/3 innings. Lively was optioned to Triple-A after the game. The Phillies are high on him and he will be part of the Lehigh Valley rotation to open the season.

Earlier in the day, the Phils sent three top prospects, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams, to Triple-A (see story).

They left with instructions.

"I like all of them," Mackanin said. "They need to go [to minor-league camp] and get consistent at-bats and get off to a quick start.

"We told all of them, 'Make us call you up. Do well enough to force our hand.'"

Up next
The Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phillies against Tyler Glasnow.

MLB Notes: Tigers star Miguel Cabrera could return soon from back stiffness

MLB Notes: Tigers star Miguel Cabrera could return soon from back stiffness

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera could soon return to the lineup after being sidelined by back stiffness.

Cabrera has been out since leaving the Dominican Republic's game last Saturday in the World Baseball Classic.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said Cabrera might play Friday against Atlanta.

"Just not going to rush it," Ausmus said before Wednesday's game against Toronto. "There's no reason to rush it. He's got plenty of at-bats. We'll see how he is on Friday."

Cabrera hit .316 with 38 homers and 108 RBIs last season.

Outfielder J.D. Martinez, who sprained his right foot making a shoestring catch Saturday, is scheduled to be re-examined Friday.

Martinez hit .307 last year with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Blue Jays: Bautista says he is over lower back stiffness
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista says the lower back stiffness that prevented him from playing for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic last weekend is no longer an issue.

Bautista was in the original lineup for Wednesday's spring training game against Detroit. But with an off-day Thursday, it was determined to have him play Friday instead.

"I'm feeling great," Bautista said. "I talked to the staff and it makes no sense to just kind of crank it up. Just take a day off."

Bautista is hopeful that his strong start, hitting .563 with two homers and six RBIs in six games before leaving for the WBC, will continue.

"I'm seeing the ball well and feeling good at the plate," Bautista said. "Just excited to be back in the swing of things with the guys, and looking forward to getting ready for the season” (see full story).

Twins: May has Tommy John surgery
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Trevor May has undergone Tommy John elbow surgery that will keep him off the mound this season.

The Twins announced on Wednesday that the replacement of May's torn ulnar collateral ligament was successful. The 27-year-old was transitioning back to starting, following a move to the bullpen halfway through the 2015 season.

With May's injury and their release on Tuesday of veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, the Twins are down to Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey and Adalberto Mejia in the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation.

May was placed on the 60-day disabled list, making room for the Twins to add left-hander Craig Breslow to the 40-man roster. The 36-year-old Breslow is among the finalists for a middle relief role.

Cardinals: Martinez to pitch on opening night
JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals have picked Carlos Martinez to start on opening night against the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told Martinez about the choice before he pitched Wednesday in an exhibition game against Washington.

The Cardinals host the NL Central rival Cubs on April 2.

Adam Wainwright had started the past four openers for the Cardinals. Matheny said Wainwright took the news well about Martinez getting the assignment this year.

The 25-year-old Martinez was an All-Star in 2015. He went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA last year.

Yankees 7, Phillies 3: Long balls hurt Vince Velasquez; Daniel Nava auditions at first base

Yankees 7, Phillies 3: Long balls hurt Vince Velasquez; Daniel Nava auditions at first base


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pete Mackanin got right to the point after this one.

"Well, I wish Joe Girardi didn't bring Bird along," he said after the Phillies' 7-3 loss to the Yankees. "It would have been a different ballgame if he didn't show up."

Mackanin was referring to Greg Bird, the Yankees first baseman and owner of a sweet lefty swing that has produced six home runs this spring, including a pair on Wednesday.

Both of the home runs came on down-and-in fastballs from Vince Velasquez. On one of them, Velasquez missed his spot badly.

"Velasquez pitched better than what he gave up," Mackanin said. "He had a good fastball. He got his pitch count up and he got through six innings. We're happy about that."

Velasquez lines up to pitch the home opener on April 7.

Nava auditions at first 
Daniel Nava, fighting to make the club as a non-roster player, played the entire game at first base. He had a walk, drove in a run and made a nifty play with the glove at first.

The Phillies have a serious roster crunch. If Andrew Knapp makes the club as the backup catcher -- a strong possibility because he is already on the 40-man roster -- then Nava could be battling with Chris Coghlan and Brock Stassi for one of the final two spots on the bench. Nava and Stassi are similar in that they both play first base and outfield, so it could come down to one or the other. Both have swung the bat well this spring (see 25-man roster projection).

"I could go out there and do everything right and they could go in a different direction, and I could do everything wrong and they could want me," Nava said. "I've been in this spot numerous times so I'm just trying to control things that I can control. That's a classic cliché or phrase, but there's a reason it's a phrase because there's a lot of truth to it. I just don't look into that stuff because it's out of my control.

"They could go a lot of different ways and that's actually good because it's so far out of your control you can't worry about it.

"We have a bunch of guys here who are good players. We'll see what happens."

Up next
The Phillies host the Twins on Thursday (1:05 p.m./TCN). Aaron Nola will start.