Cloyd will start in Halladay's place on Friday


Cloyd will start in Halladay's place on Friday

SAN FRANCISCO – The Phillies will bring up Tyler Cloyd to start in Roy Halladay’s place Friday night in Phoenix.

Cloyd, who turns 26 a week from Thursday, is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley this season. His last start was a good one. He pitched eight walk-free innings against Indianapolis and struck out 10. He allowed just four hits and a run in that game.

In addition the Cloyd, the Phils also considered lefty Adam Morgan for the assignment. On Monday, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. described Cloyd as having “a hot hand.”

Cloyd, a right-hander, made six starts for the Phillies late last season. He went 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA. He allowed eight homers in 33 innings.

It’s not clear how long Cloyd will be with the Phillies. Amaro has admitted that he is looking around baseball for another starter, possibly one that might have an escape clause in a minor-league contract.

Maikel Franco less focused on launch angle and his swing has improved

Maikel Franco less focused on launch angle and his swing has improved

In the time since MLB's Statcast technology emerged in 2015, several new terms have been added to the baseball lexicon. Exit velocity. Launch angle. Route efficiency.

It's given teams and baseball fans new ways to measure a player's worth. But the developments haven't been all positive. One of the new obsessions around the league is with launch angle, which measures the trajectory of a ball after it leaves the bat. Players who have higher launch angles tend to hit more deep flyballs, which is obviously the most likely path of a home run.

As a result, we've seen home runs skyrocket around baseball ... along with strikeouts.

Enter Maikel Franco. You'll recall that when Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke at the end of May, he cited exit velocity and launch angle as reasons why Franco had been a little bit better than his traditional stats indicate. 

Franco has finally come around over the last month, hitting .276/.340/.528 with 11 doubles, seven homers, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts over his last 141 plate appearances. So it was interesting that when manager Pete Mackanin was asked Friday how Franco has been able to finally drive the ball consistently, he brought up Franco's getting away from the launch angle obsession.

"I tell you what: I noticed it in Milwaukee and it just kind of slapped me in the face. He's not upper-cutting the ball," Mackanin said. "He has a nice, level swing. Matt (Stairs) had him shorten his stride and that helped in that regard. But he is working above the ball rather than underneath the ball. 

"There's this trend for hitters to want to lift the ball and they do it wrong. They don't understand the whole concept of getting the ball in the air. And a nice, level swing will get the ball in the air. You hit just under that equator of the ball, that's where you get lift. Anyway, his swing path is really much better.

Mackanin could sense Franco was going to have a big series in Miami.

"Just watching him take BP, I was watching him and I said, 'That's a different swing than I've been watching, even for a couple years,'" Mackanin said. "And to me, it's conducive to success, what he's doing now. And I even told (Bob) McClure before the game in Miami, 'You know what? If he carries BP over to the game, he's going to have a good game.' And he got three hits, hit the home run. So I am kind of cautiously optimistic about this. If he continues to do what he's doing, he's going to have a good second half, I believe."

Then came the question: Are players today too concerned with those kind of metrics? Can it be detrimental to their natural development?

"I think so," Mackanin said. "Somebody was talking to (Daniel) Murphy and Murphy made the comment that there's four infielders and only three outfielders, so he doesn't want to hit ground balls, he wants to get the ball in the air. So players start thinking about launch angle. To them it means swinging up on the ball, which is counterproductive. It's like when you're golfing. If you swing down, you hit the ball up with a nine iron, let the club do the work.

"I was talking to somebody over in Washington and they said Murphy wants to elevate the ball but he does it by hitting the bottom of the ball with a level swing. He looks for the bottom of the ball to hit with a level swing. If you hit the equator it's a line drive. If you hit just under it, you get that backspin. That's what he tries to do. 

"So it is misinterpreted. It's like (Josh) Donaldson came out and said, "When coaches tell you to hit ground balls, don't listen to them. Don't hit them. You've got to elevate the ball.' Well, if you watch Donaldson's swing in action, he doesn't swing up on the ball. He's got a nice level swing."

Right now, so does Franco, and the Phillies badly need this last month to be more than a mirage.

Tonight's lineup: Howie Kendrick back but on the bench, Nick Williams remains 3rd

Tonight's lineup: Howie Kendrick back but on the bench, Nick Williams remains 3rd

The Phillies' 10-game homestand begins tonight, and it's the last chance for trade candidates to boost their value a bit before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Howie Kendrick, the team's most attractive bat, is back from the disabled list but won't start against the Brewers. Daniel Nava could work as a contender's fifth outfielder. He'll start in left and bat fifth.

Not too many surprises in the rest of the lineup. Nick Williams continues to bat third and rightfully so. The recent call-up has a .316 average and .963 OPS through 16 games. No major leaguers have more RBIs since the All-Star break. Read more on Williams' success in today's game notes.

Maikel Franco will bat behind Williams in the cleanup spot. He too is in a strong stretch that extends past the break. He's walked more than he's struck out in the last 32 games, and the patience has brought his average higher than it has been at any point in the last three months.

Odubel Herrera bats seventh for the second straight game. He's been moved up and down the order quite a bit this season, with starts in every hole except cleanup and the pitcher's spot. Herrera led off the final game against the Brewers in Milwaukee Sunday.

Andrew Knapp bats eighth. That makes five starts in the Phillies seven games since the break so far for the switch-hitting catcher.

Aaron Nola is on the hill. He's been good for a 1.78 ERA over his last five starts. The Brewers send out Matt Garza, who threw five innings of one-run ball against the Phils last week.

Here's the full Phillies lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Daniel Nava, LF
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Odubel Herrera, CF
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Aaron Nola, P