Countdown to Clearwater: New faces in camp

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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.

 

Best of MLB: Josh Reddick's big day helps Astros sweep A's

Best of MLB: Josh Reddick's big day helps Astros sweep A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Josh Reddick homered and scored four runs, Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez each went deep and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 12-9 on Thursday.

The major league-leading Astros completed a four-game sweep with their 10th straight victory in Oakland and their 15th win in 16 games against the A's overall. They've won 12 of their last 14 road games. Their 27-8 record away from home is the best in the majors.

Reddick also doubled, tripled and drew a walk, and Marisnick and Gonzalez each drove in three runs.

David Paulino (2-0) struck out six and gave up three runs, seven hits and two walks. The 23-year-old rookie right-hander struck out five of his first six batters in his sixth career start.

Astros center fielder George Springer left with a left hand contusion after being struck by a fastball from Jesse Hahn (3-5) leading off the game. The ball also grazed Springer's left shoulder. Springer is tied for second in the AL with 21 home runs. His status is day-to-day (see full recap).

Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks blast Rockies
DENVER -- Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Owings hit three-run homers, Zack Godley threw well into the eighth inning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Thursday.

Goldschmidt finished with three hits and four RBIs to increase his season total to 64, tops in the majors.

Arizona took two of three in the NL West matchup and is now tied with Colorado for second place in the division behind the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks have won 12 of 14 and are a season-high 19 games above .500.

Godley gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon to lead off the first inning, but shut down the Rockies from there.

Blackmon drew a walk in the third, then Godley erased him with a double-play ball to end the inning. He didn't allow a hit after Nolan Arenado's one-out single in the first and retired 19 of the next 20 batters before Raimel Tapia and Pat Valaika singled and doubled to lead off the eighth.

Godley (3-1) allowed three runs on four hits and struck out eight in seven-plus innings. He also helped himself with an RBI single in the eighth.

The Diamondbacks hit a Colorado rookie pitcher hard for the second straight night. Wednesday they scored 10 runs in the fourth off Jeff Hoffman, and Thursday they battered right-hander Antonio Senzatela (9-3) for nine runs in five innings.

Owings' homer in the third, his ninth, made it 5-1, and Goldschmidt hit his 18th to cap a four-run fourth to make it 9-1 (see full recap).

Knebel sets strikeout mark as Brewers top Pirates
MILWAUKEE -- Corey Knebel broke Arodlis Chapman's modern-era record for most consecutive games by a reliever with a strikeout at a season's start, fanning a batter for the 38th straight game and closing out the Milwaukee Brewers' 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Knebel struck out Josh Bell on a foul tip leading off the ninth. The 25-year-old right-hander retired Elias Diaz and Andrew McCutchen on popouts, finishing a four-hitter for his 12th save in 15 chances.

Chapman had set the mark since 1900 as part of a streak of 49 games for Cincinnati that began in August 2013 and ended the following August.

Travis Shaw drove in three runs with a homer and two doubles, and he came within inches of a second home run.

Chase Anderson (6-2) allowed two runs and two hits in six innings (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Odubel Herrera’s return to the dugout was so slow that home plate umpire Nic Lentz had to clap to speed him along. Herrera obliged, accelerating to an effortless jog until he left Lentz’s sight. Then he went back to a hung head and a crawling pace as he reached the steps. Boos met his ears through it all. 

Herrera was picked off third base by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for the second out of the fourth inning on Thursday. It didn’t matter much as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), guided by Aaron Nola’s the best outing in a long time (see story)

However, Herrera made a base-running blunder at the same spot Wednesday night, when he blew through a Juan Samuel stop sign and was out by a mile at home plate to make the final out in the ninth inning of a tie game. And later on Thursday, while on second during a running count and Maikel Franco behind him at first, Herrera didn’t run on the pitch.

These are mistakes any big-leaguer should avoid. And when he’s the only player a team has signed to a long-term deal, which is supposed to last into a new era that involves winning games, the mistakes sting a bit more. 

“I’m not pleased about it,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. 

Had Wednesday night’s gaffe been avoided, maybe the Phillies could have gone on to win. Thursday’s was more embarrassing than damaging. While displeased, Mackanin, who said he thought about giving Herrera Thursday off, understood what happened this time around.

“He was running contact. And when you’re running contact, you’re susceptible to getting picked off by a catcher, especially with a left-handed hitter up,” Mackanin said. “You have to be aware of that. They’re taught to be aware of that. He just didn’t take that first hard step back. And that deters the catcher from throwing to third base. It happened.” 

The Phillies have been picked off eight times this season. Entering Thursday, only four teams had been picked off more. 

The Phillies own a run scoring percentage (percentage of base runners that eventually score) of 28.0, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. While much of that can be attributed to bad bats, mistakes like Herrera’s are not helping the cause. 

At 25, Herrera is still figuring this whole thing out. But he was the Phillies’ only All-Star last year and is supposed to be a consistent presence in the lineup. 

Andres Blanco, on the opposite end of the spectrum, first saw major-league action in 2004, and should be providing a consistent presence in the Phillies’ clubhouse. Yet on Thursday, starting at second base instead of Howie Kendrick, Blanco made a veteran play on the base paths, which felt like the remedy to Herrera’s mental lapses.

In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs and Blanco on second base, Freddy Galvis grounded a ball up the middle. Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz sent an errant flip to second to get the final out, and Blanco was smart enough to round third and score after the ball got loose in the infield. Mackanin called it a heads-up play. 

“That’s the kind of players you’re looking for, the guys that are going to look for those kinds of things to happen,” Mackanin said, “and they don't assume a play is going to be made and assume they might be able to take an extra base.

“He’s a veteran. I’m glad he paid attention.”