Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

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Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

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Cliff Lee was brilliant. Julio Teheran was one pitch better.
 
Lee threw a career-high 128 pitches, struck out 13 and allowed one run in nine gutsy innings, but he was out-dueled Wednesday night by the 23-year-old righty, who scattered three hits in shutting out the Phillies 1-0 at chilly Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The only run of the game came in the top of the fourth, when Braves catcher Evan Gattis smacked an 0-2 fastball just over the left-field wall. It was the second of Gattis’ four hits.
 
“I had to battle,” Lee said. “I had to work a lot with guys on base. I had a good changeup going today that I threw a lot and got a lot of good results out of it. But the pitch to Gattis, I made a mistake.
 
“It was 0-2, he had just fouled off the previous fastball that was in the same spot. He fouled it straight back, he was right on it and I tried to elevate a fastball. It wasn't a bad spot, but it wasn't the spot I was trying to go to -- down and in.

“He's a big strong guy, and he's not swinging easy and when he connects it's usually hit pretty hard. I think a lot of guys hit that same ball with the same trajectory, and it's not going to be a homer. But he's strong enough to get enough behind it to get it out of here. I've just got to make a better pitch. That's the only thing I can do about it."
 
Teheran retired 23 of the first 24 batters he faced, allowing only a fifth-inning infield single to Ryan Howard through 7⅔ innings.
 
He needed only 79 pitches to get through seven innings, then struggled through the final two innings. Jimmy Rollins singled with two outs in the ninth and stole second, but Chase Utley’s sharp grounder to second ended it on Teheran’s 115th pitch.
 
“The cold didn’t bother me,” he said. “When it’s cold, I try to focus even more and not pay attention to the weather.”
 
Teheran is only the sixth pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout against the Phillies in the last eight years. It was his first career complete game.

Teheran (2-1, 1.93) has now allowed only six earned runs and 23 hits in 28 innings this year.

He became only the fifth pitcher to throw a shutout allowing three or fewer hits against the Phillies in the last eight years.
 
The last time the Phils were blanked on three hits or less at home was May 14, 2003, when Curt Schilling, then with the Diamondbacks, two-hit them at the Vet.

“Both pitchers were unbelievable,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Lee was excellent. The homer just got over the fence. Teheran was terrific. He was dominating. He threw a great pitch to Utley to end it.
 
“It was the kind of game you live on every pitch. He deserved to go out in the ninth. It wasn’t a tough decision.”
 
Lee came back out for the ninth despite throwing 114 pitches through eight. He gave up a couple singles, fanned Jason Heyward with one out and second and third, then got B.J. Upton to pop out on his 128th pitch.
 
That’s the most pitches by any Phillies starter since Roy Halladay threw 130 against the Padres in 2011.
 
“I felt like I did what I needed to do, you’ve got to give credit to the opposing pitcher,” Lee said. “We didn’t score, he shut us out, so he was obviously doing something right.”

Lee became the first pitcher in major-league history to lose two games in which he struck out 13 or more batters and allowed one run. Those two games are his last two starts against the Braves -- last Sept. 27 in Atlanta and Wednesday night. In those two games, Lee pitched 17 innings, struck out 26, walked one and lost both.

“All I can worry about is making pitches and throwing strikes, and I can’t worry about the guys behind me making plays,” Lee said. “I assume they’re going to, and I assume we’re going to hit and score runs. Occasionally, you run into a pitcher that’s on top of what he’s doing, like tonight, and he shut us out, and that’s part of the game.
 
“Looking back on it, I made a mistake on the one pitch that cost me a run, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to do a better job than that on an 0-2 count.
 
“I’d rather give up three or four runs and us get the win, but it didn’t happen that way.”
 
Lee has allowed only three earned runs over 22 innings in his last three starts but has only one win to show for it.
 
“He pitched one heck of a game,” Ben Revere said. “I mean, it was phenomenal. Everyone in here is frustrated, just because he pitches so well and gets the loss.
 
“But with that, we know we need to come out and pick him up the next time. It’s just frustrating.”

Lee said it was important for him to come out and pitch the ninth, even though he had already thrown 114 pitches.
 
“I felt strong on the last pitch and I felt strong on the first pitch,” he said. “That’s what you want to do, you want to be a guy that they’re going to let go back out there after you’ve thrown 100-plus pitches and pitch the ninth inning.
 
“That’s what I expect to do, and I’m glad they allow me to do that. That’s what I work in the offseason for and prepare my body to do, so it’s not anything that’s that crazy to me.”

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.