Frandsen felt blindsided by ending with Phillies

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Frandsen felt blindsided by ending with Phillies

Kevin Frandsen will never forget his three years in the Phillies organization.

“I was excited and lucky to be a Phillie,” he said. “I got an opportunity to make it back up to the big leagues and play really well for them.”

Frandsen will never forget the way it all ended, either, with his being released from the 40-man roster during the final days of spring training in March.

“Blindside,” he said. “I was like the ball boy on the sideline that got run over by someone.”

Frandsen, 31, turned down a chance to stay in the Phillies’ organization and go to Triple A because he believed he’d proven himself to be a major-league player. The move was risky as the veteran utility infielder forfeited the $900,000 the Phillies still owed him.

The risk proved to be worth it when Frandsen signed with the Washington Nationals shortly before opening day. He was back at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night for the start of a three-game series.

“I was pissed,” said Frandsen, looking back at the Phillies’ decision. “I earned my way to being on the bench, to being a vital part over there. That’s what I thought and that’s the feeling I have and I’m going to go with it.”

Frandsen made it clear that he believed the front office made the call to let him go. At the time, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he needed roster flexibility. Phillies management was looking to improve the team’s defense off the bench and looking for someone who could play shortstop as Freddy Galvis recovered from an infection that landed him on the disabled list. Frandsen plays second, third, first base and outfield.

“I don’t care what it was on timing and circumstance,” Frandsen said. “I earned my way. I earned my right to have that contract. I went about it the right way to be on that team over there. It didn’t happen.”

Frandsen, who led the majors with 14 pinch hits for the Phillies in 2013, has found happiness in Washington.

“We’re four games over .500 here, and I’m loving that,” he said. “I’m loving winning.”

Frandsen is contributing. He came into Friday night’s game 11 for 38 with two RBIs. He has appeared in 10 games and made seven starts in left field. He always told the Phillies he could play outfield, but never did with the club.

Had the Phillies kept Frandsen, he might have been a candidate for time at third base. Phillies third basemen hit just .160 in April.

“I think I could have helped (at third) last year,” Frandsen said. “I never got an opportunity.”

Frandsen remains a big supporter of Cody Asche, who started at third for the Phillies on Friday night.

“Cody is awesome,” Frandsen said. “He wants to be good. He is good. He prepares to be good. It’s just a matter of time.”

Frandsen could not hide a sheepish grin when asked whether he’d circled the trip to Philadelphia when he joined the Nationals before opening day. There’s no question he’d like to make a point during his visit and or in subsequent meetings with his old team this season.

“It was a great time in Phladelphia,” he said. “And now I’m grateful and excited to be a National.”

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."