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.

 

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The dew on the infield grass had barely dried when Andrew Knapp was marched out to the firing squad at Phillies camp early Sunday morning.
 
He took his position at first base and looked across the diamond where Phillies instructors Doug Mansolino, Chris Truby and Larry Bowa were lined up at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively. Armed with fungo bats and a dozens baseballs each, the trio of sharpshooters proceeded to smash bullet one- and two-hoppers at Knapp, who was tasked with pulling them out of the dirt to complete the putout.
 
“Good job,” shouted Bowa, a tough grader when it comes to infield work, as Knapp finished up the hellacious early-morning drill.
 
Knapp is a catcher by trade, but he will continue these intense individual sessions at first base throughout the spring — in addition to his regular defensive work behind the plate.
 
A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Knapp was the Phillies’ second-round selection in the 2013 draft. He’s getting a lot attention in this camp because he has a shot to make the club as a reserve player. The Phils are in need of a backup catcher and a backup first baseman and Knapp, in big-league camp for the second time, is trying to show he can handle both assignments in one package.
 
“Last year it was more of a happy-to-be-here thing,” he said. “I was just trying to pick as many brains as I could and take in as much knowledge as I could.
 
“But this year it’s more of a let’s-go-win-a-job kind of deal.”
 
General manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin first floated the idea of carrying Knapp as a two-position reserve at the winter meetings.
 
Of course, it came with a lot of qualifiers. Knapp is still considered a developing player and team decision-makers would have to consider what impact a reserve role would have on his development. Also, the prototypical backup catcher in the majors is a plus defender who has experience handling a big-league pitching staff. Knapp has never played in the majors and his defense is considered a work in progress. Later in the winter, the Phillies signed two big-league veteran catchers (Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan) to minor-league deals and they are very much in the mix for the job.
 
“I kind of understand there’s a definite value in having a veteran guy as a backup, but I think I can do the job on the field,” Knapp said.
 
A potential separator for Knapp could be his bat and his versatility if he can continue to develop it. He is not a novice at first base. He played there as a sophomore at the University of California. Knapp also has this going for him: He’s on the 40-man roster and with so many young prospects on it and the probable need to add an outfielder like Chris Coghlan later in camp, that could work in Knapp’s favor.
 
Another factor that could held Knapp’s chances: The Phillies’ development blueprint calls for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro to get the bulk of the playing time at first base and catcher, respectively, at Triple A.
 
“You’d like to see him get 500 at-bats, but it’s not a perfect world,” Bowa said. “Our Triple A team is loaded. He might find himself in the same role at Triple A. if that’s the case, it might be best if he came here if he swings the bat like he can and he can provide versatility.
 
“A guy like him can give you some options and flexibility. When you face the Mets and they have three stud right-handers throwing 95, it might be nice to have a guy like that to give (first baseman) Tommy Joseph a blow.”
 
Knapp had a brilliant season with the bat at Double A in 2015. He hit .360 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS in 55 games, earning him the franchise’s Paul Owens Award as minor-league player of the year.
 
Knapp tapered off at Triple A last season. He hit .266 with eight homers, 46 RBIs and a .719 OPS over a full season. Knapp’s day last summer typically started with defensive work at 1:30 in the afternoon.
 
“I would get my hitting in, but I don’t think there was as much of a focus on it as there was the year before,” he said. “I do think last year I took a real step forward defensively, especially in the second half of the year. I kind of had a tough first half, but the second half I really honed in on the defensive part, blocking and throwing mostly, just kind of keeping everything in front and shutting down the running game.”

A lot of eyes will be on Knapp when the exhibition games start next week.
 
“We need to find out if he’s capable of doing it,” Mackanin said. “Catching is a defensive-oriented position. We need good defense. We need good game calling, a catcher who can handle pitchers, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at from a guy like Knapp as well as the other guys. We’re going to take a good long look at that.
 
“He’s definitely in the mix. I want to play him a lot to see him. We all want to see what he can do offensively and defensively. From what I’ve been told he’s shown a lot of improvement and we’re going to look for that. We’re looking for the 25 best men. There’s a good chance he might be one of them.”
 
Knapp is determined to show that he is.
 
“It’s open for someone to go take it and I want to be that guy,” he said.

Roman Quinn hopes new offseason plan results in that elusive healthy season

Roman Quinn hopes new offseason plan results in that elusive healthy season

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Roman Quinn’s bio covers a wide range of body parts. There’s the Achilles tendon, as in torn, the quad, as in torn, and the oblique, as in strained. Twice. The word concussion also appears in there.
 
Sick and tired of having things go ‘pop’ in his body, Quinn decided to try something new after last season.
 
In early November, he rented an apartment “two minutes” from the Phillies’ spring-training facility and for three-plus months worked under the supervision of Paul Fournier, the team’s strength and conditioning guru.
 
“Paul and I worked five days a week,” Quinn said Saturday. “Strength. Flexibility. It was something I wanted to do because in the past I was doing something wrong in the offseason. I was ready for the season but I ended up getting leg injuries. Paul put together a plan to get my body right and he was there the whole time to tell me if I was doing something wrong. I’m going to carry it into the season.”
 
Quinn, 23, made a solid showing in a big-league cameo with the Phillies in September. In 15 games, he had a .373 on-base percentage and showed off a big arm in the outfield. Alas, he did not play in the final five games of the season after injuring his oblique for a second time.
 
Quinn’s play in September fueled speculation that he would be in the Phillies’ opening day outfield this season. Even manager Pete Mackanin said there was a good chance it could happen. But that late-season oblique injury served as one last reminder of Quinn’s inability to stay healthy and the Phillies ended up bringing in two outfielders, Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, this offseason.
 
Kendrick and Saunders were added first and foremost to provide some veteran impact and offense in the lineup. But you have to believe Phillies officials might have stopped at one veteran bat or brought in a semi-regular player to share time with Quinn if Quinn’s health history wasn’t such an issue. He’s never stayed on the field for a full season.
 
“If that was the case I can definitely see where they’re coming from,” Quinn said. “I know I need to play a full season and be healthy and prove that I can play 160-something games.”
 
Saunders’ signing last month pretty much made it official: Quinn will open the season in center field for Triple A Lehigh Valley. Quinn said he was not disappointed by that. He applauded the signing of Saunders.
 
“I think it was a good team decision,” he said. “He’s a really good player and he’s going to provide a lot for this team.
 
“Those things are out of my control. All I can do is go out and compete and play my heart out.
 
“I’ve never played at Triple A. If I do end up in Triple A, I’m going to make the most of it and play hard and compete like I have throughout my time in the minor leagues.”
 
When Quinn is healthy and on the field, he is a dynamic player, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound switch-hitter with gap power and blazing speed. He has 159 stolen bases in 356 minor-league games since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft and passing on a scholarship to Florida State to sign with the Phils.
 
Quinn has the arm to play any outfield position. He showed that September 14 when he gunned down Sean Rodriguez at the plate in the ninth inning to help preserve a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Philadelphia. The throw registered 96 mph on MLB.com Statcast.
 
96.
 
The Phillies have one starting pitcher — Vince Velasquez — who throws that hard.
 
“It was a pretty cool feeling,” Quinn said.
 
In high school, Quinn was often used as a closer. He said he hit 94 mph on the radar gun back then.
 
Though Quinn is ticketed for Triple A, Phillies management is eager to see him play in Grapefruit League games. He was arguably the most exciting player on the field during his time in big-league camp last year.
 
“What we saw in September was a really exciting player with a lot of promise who has a chance to be an impactful big leaguer,” general manger Matt Klentak said. “But we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for Roman developmentally. He’s never had an at-bat at the Triple A level and we don’t believe some additional time in the minor leagues will stunt his development.”
 
At Lehigh Valley, Quinn will be flanked by Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams in a prospect-studded outfield. All three could be in Philadelphia at some point this season.
 
“If I do end up at Triple A, we’re going to have a pretty stacked team,” Quinn said. “It will be exciting because we all could be knocking on the door of the big leagues.
 
“I know just getting that little taste last year made me feel like it was somewhere I belong. I’m hungry.”