Confident De Fratus ready to return to majors

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Confident De Fratus ready to return to majors

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- For a ballplayer, there can be no worse feeling than being demoted to the minors. But for Justin De Fratus, a righty who figured to have a role in the Phillies’ bullpen this season, being sent back to the minors was particularly tough.

With his hard slider and above-average fastball, De Fratus was ready to step into a meaningful role for Ryne Sandberg with the Phillies. The problem was Sandberg didn’t seem to trust De Fratus, using his just four times during the first month of the season.

“The season did not go how I planned and it did not go how the Phillies planned,” De Fratus said.

De Fratus, 26, didn’t give Sandberg much reason to go to him. In five innings in the big leagues, the right-hander allowed four runs on a pair of homers. One of those long balls came in an April 12 game against Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins with the Phillies clinging to a narrow, two-run lead in the seventh inning.

That was De Fratus’ last game in the majors. It was also when he was forced to take a bit of personal inventory.  

“The answer I give is I never lost any confidence,” De Fratus said after Lehigh Valley’s 7-1 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday at Coca-Cola Park. “The thing was I had more confidence this year than any other year.”

There was no reason why De Fratus shouldn’t have felt confident. In parts of three seasons in the big leagues, De Fratus posted a 3.67 ERA in 76 games with 53 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings. A hard thrower, De Fratus sometimes struggled with his command, issuing 33 walks. However, he was good at keeping the ball in the park, allowing just three homers and holding the opposition to a .236 batting average.

With those numbers it was easy to be optimistic about De Fratus holding down a significant role in the Phils’ 'pen. But when Sandberg didn’t use De Fratus in certain situations, one had to wonder how the pitcher was dealing with issue.

De Fratus figured out quickly that he was a mess mechanically.

“I was just lost mechanically,” De Fratus said. “I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening.”

The problem was De Fratus was watching and copying other pitchers. But what worked for others didn’t always work for him.

“I was watching too much of other pitchers, and you see pitchers do well and you try to emulate it and sometimes you forget what you do well,” De Fratus said. “Some of those things were unintentionally implemented and I got out of whack. I had to stop trying to be someone else and do what comes naturally. Once I came to that realization, it’s been back on track.”

Regaining his confidence as well as perspective about the demotion was a task the pitcher jumped into headfirst. His first order of business was to dig up video of his good outings to study how he pitched when things were going well. The idea, De Fratus said, was to get those performances “burned in my head.”

If De Fratus was lost when he was sent down, he found himself pretty quickly. In 12 games for Lehigh Valley, De Fratus has a 2.05 ERA with three saves, four holds and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings. Better yet, he’s allowed just three walks and is riding a six-game, seven-inning scoreless streak in which he’s given up just two hits and no walks.

He’s ready to get back to Philadelphia.

“Mentally I have a better understanding of what it takes to pitch [in the majors] and it’s just something I just had to go back and do some self reflection on my career and find some answers,” he said.

Still, even though the Phillies have the second-worst bullpen ERA in the National League, De Fratus isn’t campaigning to get his old job back. He’ll be back when the time is right.

“No one wants to be sent down, but I feel I’m ready and I’m back to a good spot mechanically,” De Fratus said.

Instant Replay: Roman Quinn injured as Phillies lose 7-6

Instant Replay: Roman Quinn injured as Phillies lose 7-6

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – The Phillies blew a six-run lead and suffered a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
 
The Phillies also lost promising rookie outfielder Roman Quinn to a left oblique strain. Quinn had two singles and a double in his first three at-bats of the game as he helped the Phillies build a 6-0 lead. He struck out in the fifth inning then exited the game an inning later.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
The start of the game was delayed 31 minutes by rain. The game was delayed again for one hour and 53 minutes at the start of the fifth inning.
 
Starting pitching report
Jerad Eickhoff sailed through the first four innings on one hit, no walks and five strikeouts. The only hit he allowed was a solo homer to Freddie Freeman in the fourth. Eickhoff was up 6-1 when the rains came and ended his night.
 
Eickhoff has made 32 starts and recorded a 3.72 ERA. He has pitched 191 1/3 innings.
 
Eickhoff has one more start left. That will come in Sunday’s season finale.
 
Braves right-hander Julio Teheran was hit hard. He gave up 10 hits and six runs in four innings. One of the hits was a first-inning grand slam by Ryan Howard.
 
Bullpen report
The Phillies’ bullpen was tagged for six runs. It has an ERA of 8.03 this month.
 
At the plate
Howard’s grand slam was his second this season and 15th of his career. He is second on the team with 24 homers. He has 52 homrers and 154 RBIs in 182 career games against the Braves.
 
Freeman’s solo homer against Eickhoff extended his hitting streak to 29 games.
 
Tyler Flowers had a three-run home run to lead the Braves' four-run sixth.
 
The Braves came all the way back with a pair of runs in the eighth. Mallex Smith drove in the tying run and Emilio Bonafacio knocked in the go-ahead run. Both of the hits came against David Hernandez, who took the loss. Leftfielder Darin Ruf failed to make a play on a double by Flowers to the warning track. The ball was catchable. The play aided the Braves’ comeback.
 
ICYMI
Pete Mackanin will take his plea for a hitter to the front office Friday (see story).
 
Pitching plans
With Jake Thompson skipping his final start, the Phillies will have to use their bullpen to get through either Friday or Saturday’s game. Mackanin indicated that he may use the bullpen Friday night against the Mets and go with Alec Asher in Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised game. Eickhoff is scheduled to pitch the season finale on Sunday.
 
Up next
The series continues Wednesday night with lefty Adam Morgan (2-10, 5.57) opposing Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (8-5. 4.41).

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

Friend texted worries about boating with Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Friend texted worries about boating with Marlins' Jose Fernandez

MIAMI -- Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was a patron at a Miami River bar and restaurant the same night he and two friends were killed in a boat crash, a spokeswoman for the establishment confirmed Tuesday.

A friend of one of the victims said he warned him against the post-midnight trip, and Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna said he and at least two other teammates turned down invitations to go and tried to discourage Fernandez from going out.

American Social Bar & Kitchen spokeswoman Dana Rhoden said in an email that Fernandez was there before the accident. The statement did not say whether Fernandez had been drinking or what time he left.

The bar is along the Miami River in the city's downtown section and allows boats to dock alongside.

Fernandez, 24, died when the boat he owned slammed at high speed into a rock jetty early Sunday just off South Beach, investigators say. Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero also died.

A friend of Rivero's, Will Bernal, said they texted each other shortly after midnight, before the trio pushed off. Bernal posted the messages on social media.

"Yo please be careful bro," Bernal texted at 12:07 a.m.

"I will bro," Rivero said.

"Try to keep him close to shore if you go out," Bernal wrote back.

"Trust me," Rivero wrote, "it's not my time yet."

Bernal then asked Rivero to turn on his "find iPhone" application and to "keep Jose cool."

Ozuna, perhaps Fernandez's closest friend on the team, said all of the players knew Fernandez planned to go out on the boat that night.

"It was a bad decision for him," Ozuna said. "He heard everybody say, `No, go back to your house and take it easy.' Then you wake up and see the news."

Fernandez apparently had concerns he might be late to the ballpark for Sunday's 1:10 p.m. game, because he asked Ozuna for a wake-up call.

"He said, `If I'm not here by 10, call me,'" Ozuna said.

The Marlins announced a public viewing will be held Wednesday at a Miami church, preceded by a funeral procession scheduled to start at 2:16 p.m. outside the team's downtown ballpark. Fernandez wore No. 16 on his jersey.

A private funeral will be held Thursday for the Fernandez family and Marlins players and personnel.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating. Spokesman Rob Klepper said in an interview Tuesday that there's no timetable, and "we will provide a complete and thorough investigative report."

The 32-foot boat named "Kaught Looking" -- the "K" is backwards, signifying a strikeout when the batter does not swing -- will be thoroughly checked for clues as to why the accident occurred, authorities said. Miami-Dade County prosecutors have obtained search warrants for wildlife commission investigators seeking access to the vessel, said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the state attorney's office.

"As you know, FWC has a duty to investigate fatal boating accidents like this one," Griffith said in an email. "Since the incident involved a single boat and there were no survivors, there can be no criminal prosecution derived from the FWC investigation."

Klepper said the wildlife commission has no record of any previous citation or warning involving the boat, Fernandez or the other two men who died. Normally vessel stops are not documented unless a warning or citation is issued, he added.

The Miami-Dade County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results that might determine if Fernandez or the other two victims were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Klepper said that report would be part of the wildlife commission's completed investigation. Authorities previously said no evidence of alcohol or drugs was found at the crash scene.

On Capitol Hill, Florida's U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, introduced a resolution Tuesday honoring Fernandez for his journey from communist Cuba to Major League Baseball stardom and his contributions to the community.

The resolution notes that Fernandez was jailed in Cuba after an unsuccessful attempt to defect and once saved his mother from drowning after she fell from a boat off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

"He risked his life escaping tyranny in Cuba to seek liberty and opportunity in America," Rubio, also a Cuban-American, said in a news release.

Meanwhile, a beachgoer found a bag containing four baseballs signed by the Marlins pitcher, WSVN-TV reported.

The station reported a black bag containing Jose Fernandez's checkbook and four autographed baseballs apparently washed ashore on Miami Beach not far from the accident site.

Ocean Rescue Division Chief Vincent Canosa said the bag was given to a lifeguard and that it apparently came from the boat.

Enormously popular in Miami's large Cuban-American community, Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2013 and became a two-time All-Star. He had been scheduled to pitch Monday night against the New York Mets, a game that instead became a tribute to him and remembrance of his life.