Countdown to Clearwater: New faces in camp

slideshow-020713-phillies-trio-ap.jpg

Countdown to Clearwater: New faces in camp

The Phillies open spring training Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla. In advance of the first workout and the countdown to opening day, we take a daily look at the top storylines facing this club in camp.

Part 1: Health
Today: New faces

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are still here. Fan favorite Carlos Ruiz will serve a 25-game suspension at the outset of the season, but he’ll be in uniform, eligible to play, during camp and the exhibition season.

You might not need a scorecard to tell the players in Camp Clearwater, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new faces. In today’s installment of the Countdown to Clearwater, we take a quick look at some of the newcomers.

Starting pitchers
John Lannan: The 28-year-old lefty from Long Island spent the first six years of his big-league career with Washington so he’s quite familiar with the Phillies. Painfully familiar, in fact. In 19 starts against the Phils, Lannan went 3-13 with a 5.53 ERA. Against everybody else, Lannan was 39-39 with a 3.80 ERA in 115 starts. In Washington, he reached 30 starts and had a sub-4.00 ERA three times. At $2.5 million, he seems to fit well as this club’s No. 5 starter.

Rodrigo Lopez: The veteran righthander will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He is expected to provide organizational depth, much as he did in 2009 when he made five starts for the club.

Aaron Cook: A longtime major leaguer trying to hang on will be in camp on a minor-league deal.

Relief pitchers
Mike Adams: One of the best setup men in the game, he comes in on a two-year, $12 million deal (with an option for a third year) and should waterproof the leaky eighth inning. He could be the team’s most impactful newcomer.

Chad Durbin: He could be another key piece in the makeover of what was a shaky bullpen in 2012. The veteran righthander can be used for an important out against a right-handed hitter in the middle innings, can work multiple innings and late in the game. He can also be a mentor to some of the talented young relief arms the Phils have on the way. For $1.1 million, a solid addition.

Juan Cruz: The veteran righthander has lots of experience but often has trouble throwing strikes. He gets a look as a non-roster invitee.

Zach Miner: The veteran righthander with big-league experience will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009 and had Tommy John surgery in 2010.

Infielders
Michael Young: This guy hit .300 seven times, made seven all-star teams and won a batting title during a 12-year run with Texas. He became a spare part with the Rangers, and the Phillies were happy to acquire him for a pair of relievers -- with the Rangers picking up $10 million of his $16 million salary. At 36, Young will try to prove he still has a potent bat after struggling at the plate in 2012. He’s one year removed from leading the American League with 218 hits and hitting .338 with 106 RBIs, so he’s a good gamble. The big question is can the range-challenged Young succeed at third base, a position he hasn’t played regularly since 2010.

Yuniesky Betancourt: The veteran big-league shortstop signed a minor-league deal late in the offseason. He will get some looks as Jimmy Rollins plays in the World Baseball Classic but is likely to provide Triple A depth.

Josh Fields: A former top third base prospect with the White Sox, he will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He hit .322 with Triple A Albuquerque last season and is expected to provide depth at Lehigh Valley this season.

Catcher
Humberto Quintero: A nonroster invitee, he has made 353 starts behind the plate in the majors. He will push for a big-league job as the Phils look for early-season help while Ruiz serves his suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Outfielders
Ben Revere: He wasn’t the Phils’ first choice to play center field (he was more like their fourth or fifth), but he’s the guy that comes over from Minnesota for pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May. Revere, 24, can chase down balls with the best of them, but he doesn’t throw well, doesn’t walk a lot and doesn’t hit for power. At least he’s smart enough to try to keep the ball out of the air and use his speed. “Even my mom gets mad at me when I hit pop flies,” he said shortly after joining the Phils.

Delmon Young: He’s had trouble staying in shape and out of trouble, but at 27, he says he’s ready to maximize the potential that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft. The Phils have just $750,000 invested in him, so he’s a solid gamble. Young had offseason ankle surgery and might not play in exhibition games until mid-March. His opening day status is iffy, but the Phils hope he can play right field and drive in some runs in the middle of the order shortly after.

Jermaine Mitchell: Formerly one of the A’s top prospects, he will get a look on a minor-league deal and should provide depth at Triple A.

Joe Mather: The Versatile outfielder can also play some at the corner infield spots. He appeared in 103 games for the Cubs last season and hit just .209. He comes to camp on a minor-league deal and is expected to provide Triple A depth.

Ender Inciarte: The Phillies love to take chances on Rule 5 players (witness Shane Victorino, Michael Martinez, David Herndon). The speedy Inciarte is this year’s guy, plucked from the Arizona system.

Coaches
Ryne Sandberg: The team’s new third base coach, a Hall of Fame second baseman, may also be the club’s next manager.

Steve Henderson: Former Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach moves up from the Phils’ minor-league system to become the team’s new hitting coach.

Wally Joyner: Assistant hitting coaches are all the rage in the majors and the Phils now have one in the former sweet-swinging first baseman. Joyner, 50, graduated from the same Atlanta-area high school as Domonic Brown.

Rod Nichols: The new bullpen coach groomed many Phillies pitchers in the minors and will be a valuable addition as a crop of homegrown relievers ascends to the majors.

 

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola has not had a great spring.

But in the big picture, well, maybe he has.

Nola was one of the Phillies' biggest and most important question marks coming into camp. He had missed the final two months of the 2016 season because of an elbow injury. All he needed to do this spring to be in the starting rotation was show that he was healthy.

He's done that.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and threw 82 pitches in his fifth start of the spring on Thursday. He gave up six hits, including a two-run homer, walked one and struck out six.

He's up to 17 2/3 innings for the spring -- without an elbow issue.

"I'm over that," Nola said after the game. "My elbow feels really good. I haven't had any pain or problems with it. I don't even think about it throwing or in games.

"Everything has been very positive. My body is healthy."

Nola, who lines up to fill the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation, hasn't had good results this spring. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs. But, again, the Phillies were only looking for good health.

"He's been working on his changeup," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Today, he threw more changeups than I've ever seen him throw. The changeup he threw for the home run, he admitted, 'I would never throw that pitch in a game.' But he's working on it, trying to get it going for him, and I think it's going to be a good pitch for him. 

"He really pitched better than the result he got. He had a lot of work with his changeup, which is important. He was as sharp as we've seen him."

Coming into camp, Mackanin was concerned about Nola's health.

"I'm less concerned right now," the manager said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind. But it's good to see 92, 93, 94 (mph) coming out of his hand, which is important. Once he regains that command, and he showed real good command of his fastball down in the zone today, he's going to be back to where he was -- with even maybe a little more velocity. We'll see. But the changeup is going to help him. I'm very encouraged."

The game
The Phillies lost, 4-2, to the Twins.

The Phils had 10 hits, two by Odubel Herrera, who homered.

Andrew Knapp, pushing to make the club, started behind the plate and had a double.

The Phillies were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Phils' bullpen -- Sean Burnett, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- accounted for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Up next
The Phils play the Yankees in Tampa on Friday. Jeremy Hellickson will start against CC Sabathia.

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- An impromptu homage to Dallas Green broke out on the field at the Phillies' spring training home Thursday morning.

Larry Bowa, who played for Green on the 1980 World Series championship team, was there.

So was Charlie Manuel, the only other manager other than Green to lead a Phillies team to a World Series title.

They told tales of Green's tough exterior and warm heart.

Bowa even shed a tear.

A couple of hours later, there were a few more tears in the stands as the team honored Green with a moment of silence the day after he died at 82.

Green's old jersey, No. 46, hung in the dugout for the Phillies-Twins game.

"It was tough last night," Bowa said. "I just couldn't believe it. This guy meant the world to us. We don't win a World Series without Dallas. It doesn't matter if we've got 10 Pete Roses, we don't win a World Series without Dallas. 

"He taught me a lot about being mentally tough and giving everything you have, every pitch, nine innings. Never quit. He was a guy that told our team, 'Look in the mirror. You're not as good as you think you are.' He said, 'Anybody can win divisions, go win a World Series. Put a ring on somebody's finger.'"

The Phillies had great talent in the late 1970s but always came one step short of the World Series. Green came in late in the 1979 season and was a stun gun to a complacent team. A year later, they were World Series champions.

"He said, 'I don't care what you did yesterday. What can you do today to help the Phillies win?' He got everybody's attention," Bowa said. "Yeah, we had a lot of give and take, screaming. I think everybody respected him. That's the bottom line. Eventually, when you get done playing, you realize how important he was to the Phillies in 1980."

Bowa was a critic of Green's in the lead up to the World Series. He recalled the give and take with the manager, which wasn't always sugar and spice and everything nice.

After one particularly poor game, Green left his office door open as he spoke with reporters. During the interview session, Green loudly questioned the team's desire and said the group was not as good as it thought it was. The players in the clubhouse heard it all because Green wanted them to -- and, of course, because his voice naturally boomed.

After Green's session with the media that night, a reporter approached Bowa and asked if he'd heard Green's loud commentary.

Of course, Bowa had heard it.

And he was fired up.

"Go ask Dallas how many games he won in the big leagues," Bowa told the writer, poking at Green's modest 20-22 record as a big-league pitcher.

When the writer informed Green of Bowa's barb, Green responded with a loud, "Touche, Bo. Touche."

"He wanted you to hear things," Bowa said.

That was one of his ways of challenging people. And he really liked to challenge players. It was his way of inspiring and separating the weak from the strong.

Manuel compared that to one of his former managers, Billy Martin.

"He was like a Billy Martin kind of guy," Manuel said. "He'll tell you what he expects out of you, but at the same time, he'll tell you that you can't do something. That's a big challenge to you. When you show him that you can do it, that's when he's on your side and he thinks the world of you. That's the time you become his guy."

Manuel became Green's guy after the two had a public spat in 2006. In a radio interview, Green, then a member of the team's front office, had criticized the way Manuel's Phillies were playing. In particular, he said the team lacked fundamentals. Manuel was furious that a member of the front office would criticize him publicly. A month or so later, as the Phillies rallied themselves into wild-card contention, Manuel and Green came face to face on the field before a game at Citizens Bank Park.

Manuel unloaded on Green.

And Green took his medicine.

From that confrontation, respect and understanding grew. Manuel and Green became great friends and frequent dinner partners. A few years later, Green admitted to a reporter that he was wrong for scuffing Manuel and he thanked Manuel for showing him that there are other ways to run a team than just the way he did it.

"I showed him," Manuel said. "When I look back, maybe he was testing me. But I understood him and I think at the end he felt he understood me."

On the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Manuel and Green, members of an elite, two-man club, sat in Manuel's office and reflected.

"He was very happy," Manuel said. "Him and I had a few drinks of VO. I think I outdrank him, really. But, of course, when he won back in 1980 he would have outdrank me.

"Everything about it was good. He was just as happy as I was and I can't tell you how happy I was.

"He was always around and he definitely pulled for the Phillies day in and day out.

"Baseball's going to miss Dallas Green.

"I'm going to miss him."