Former mates rave about Mike Trout: 'You'll see something amazing just about every day'

Former mates rave about Mike Trout: 'You'll see something amazing just about every day'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- As the Phillies build for a better day and team officials promise that, yes, they will spend big dollars on top talent once they have a winning foundation in place, images of Mike Trout hitting in the middle of the order and running down balls at Citizens Bank Park fill the imagination.

Phillies fans have a natural obsession with baseball's best player. He grew up just down the road in Millville, New Jersey and still lives there in the offseason. He grew up a Phillies fan and as a teen was in the parking lot tailgating with friends the night the Phils won the World Series in 2008. His love of the Eagles is well documented. He and Carson Wentz are buds.

Go ahead and admit it. You fantasize about one day hearing Dan Baker bellow, "Batting third and playing center field for the Phillies, Mike Trout."

For Howie Kendrick and Cesar Ramos, two new Phillies players, Trout is not some fantasy off in the distance. They were both teammates of the young superstar during their time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They had a nightly front row seat in witnessing Trout's greatness, and they are here to tell you it's as good as you see on the TV highlights and on the stat sheets.

Maybe even better.

"Mike's awesome," said Kendrick, who played with Trout in Anaheim from 2011 to 2014. "He's the best player in the game of baseball, and I don't think there's even a question about that. You ask everyone in this locker room or around the league and they will tell you that's the guy.

"I have so much respect for Mike not only for what he does on the field but for the person he is. He is so down to earth. And for a guy of that status that says a lot. He's great with his family. He treated my kids so well around the locker room. He's great with the fans. He's been the same guy since Day 1."

At 25, Trout already has played five full seasons in the majors. He has won the American League MVP award twice and finished second each of the other three seasons, twice to Miguel Cabrera and once to Josh Donaldson. He has been an American League All-Star all five seasons and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012.

"You'll see something amazing just about every day out of him," said Kendrick, who joined the Phillies in a November trade with the Dodgers and will play left field for the club. "That's just who he is."

Ramos, a lefty reliever, signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies in January and is a candidate to win a spot in the team's bullpen. He spent the 2015 season with the Angels and had a 2.92 ERA in 65 games.

Ramos has been exposed to greatness in his baseball career. He played with Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki at Long Beach State University. In fact, the three were roommates and high picks in the draft; Tulowitzki and Ramos went seventh and 35th overall, respectively, in 2005, and Longoria went third overall in 2006. Tulowitzki and Longoria have eight All-Star games and four Gold Gloves between them.

No glimpse of greatness resonates with Ramos more than the season he spent as Trout's teammate.

"As a person and a player he's everything you'd want," Ramos said. "He's unbelievable to watch. They don't build them like that. He's a great teammate.

"The coolest thing was to watch him play every day. And every single day it's the same player -- talent, effort, everything is full speed. Groundball to short, it's bang-bang … watching him climb the wall -- incredible."

A simple Internet search reveals highlights of Trout climbing the outfield wall like Spiderman in baseball pants to rob home runs.

There was the one on J.J. Hardy in Baltimore in 2012 when even a disbelieving Trout sneaked a glance at the video board to make sure it was real.

And then there was the one in Anaheim on Seattle's Jesus Montero in 2015. Trout's body rose halfway above the wall to snatch that one.

"That's out Number 1," the gushing broadcaster shouted.

"He should get four or five outs for that play," the color man raved.

Ramos doesn't need to watch the video. He saw the real thing up close.

"Montero hit the ball 15 feet over the wall and Mike climbs the wall and is waiting for it," Ramos said. "We were in the bullpen watching it and no one was surprised."

Trout is signed for four more seasons at more than $120 million. Barring an extension, he will hit the free-agent market after the 2020 season. He will be just 29.

If Trout hits the market, you can be sure the Phillies will be connected to him. They've already been mentioned as a potential landing spot if the Angels ever decided to trade Trout. It would take a mother lode of talent to get him. But he might just be worth it.

"He’s just a freak of nature," Ramos said.

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies showed a little power in their 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

Tommy Joseph provided some of it.

Vince Velasquez provided a lot of it.

Joseph crushed a two-run home run to left field and also lined a double off the center-field wall on his way to a four-hit game. The double came off his bat at 109 miles per hour. The homer was his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, Velasquez showed off his big fastball in striking out seven Blue Jays over five innings of work. Vinny Velo's final pitch of the night was a 97-mph dart past a swinging Jose Bautista.

"That pitch felt really good coming out of my hand," Velasquez said. "Sometimes my fastball slips a little bit and I yank it, but this one I got right behind and threw it right through the catcher."

Velasquez actually struck out the side in that fifth inning against three pretty good hitters in Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.

"That last inning, he really let it go," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pitch economy remains an area that Velasquez needs to improve on. He threw 87 pitches. But he was pleased with the way he attacked hitters in that final inning of work.

"I didn't attack in one inning," he said. "But in that last inning, I stopped fiddling around and trusted my stuff. I need to do that the whole time."

Velasquez gave up just one run, a homer to Martin. He allowed five hits and walked two.

Velasquez had a busy night. He drove home a run with a ground out against Aaron Sanchez. He also walked against Sanchez and scored a run on a dash home from third base after Freddy Galvis got hung up between first and second. Galvis waved Velasquez home. After crossing home plate, Velasquez, rather humorously, almost ran into the netted backstop.

"I just had momentum. I got excited," he said. "As soon as I saw Tulo (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) make eye contact with Freddy, I booked it. He's going to think, 'Pitchers can't run,' so I showed off my athleticism."

After the outing, Velasquez pronounced himself ready for the regular season.

"I'm good to go," he said.

He made five Grapefruit League starts and gave up eight runs in 19 2/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 25.

"It's been a strong, healthy, successful spring training," he said.

Velasquez will likely start the home opener on April 7. He will need to get some work in this weekend. The Phillies leave Florida on Friday. He could stay behind for a day and pitch at the minor-league complex if needed.

Offense clicks
The Phillies had 12 hits. They had 15 in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays again on Tuesday night. That game will be in Clearwater. Aaron Nola will start against Marco Estrada.

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old, he would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.