Freddy Galvis' base-running gaffe caused owner John Middleton to send an email

Freddy Galvis' base-running gaffe caused owner John Middleton to send an email

Wondering how hands-on Phillies owner John Middleton is?

Enough so that when Freddy Galvis failed to run out a pop up that Jose Reyes dropped on Tuesday night, reaching first base instead of second, Middleton fired off an email to his top two baseball men: team president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak.

"I was upset and I emailed Andy and Matt and I said, 'I'd like to understand what's happening here,'" Middleton said Thursday morning on 94 WIP's Morning Show.

The lack of hustle was a rare occurrence for Galvis, who was probably frustrated that he popped up and didn't expect the ball to veer so far back into fair territory.

"I thought Pete (Mackanin) did a really good job of explaining it," Middleton continued. "One time is one thing, two times is different, three times is different still. But I'm perfectly OK with where Pete came out on that."

There was a lot of talk about rebuilding timelines and Middleton's willingness to spend to put together a contending team when the time is right. These are comments he's made several times since stepping out as the face of ownership as the rebuild began, including in a three-part interview last fall with CSN's Jim Salisbury.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from Angelo Cataldi's interview with Middleton:

When did he know it was time to rebuild?
Middleton said he was ready to turn the page after the 2012 season, when the Phillies went 81-81. With Ryan Howard injured, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino traded away and Roy Halladay on the decline, Middleton was realistic about the Phillies' inability to seriously contend.

His farewell to Howard
The famous story is that after the Phillies' 2009 World Series loss to the Yankees, Middleton said to Howard, "I want my (bleeping) trophy back."

It came up again on Howard's last afternoon as a Phillie.

"Ryan, I'm still ticked off we don't have our [bleeping] trophy back," Middleton said to him.

He pays attention to Fangraphs' minor-league rankings
"I don't know if you know this but Fangraphs has rated us on their KATOH system as tied with the Yankees for the most (minor-league) players with a grade of 40 or better," Middleton said on WIP.

(A grade of 40 means refers to a projectable major-league player -- a bench bat, middle reliever, spot starter.)

Middleton is pleased with that ranking and cited advice he was once given about building quantity in the farm system -- that if one of every three of your prospects pans out you're doing your job, and if one of every two does you're ahead of the curve.

On the comparison Jimmy Rollins made of him to George Steinbrenner
"I love the comparison. ... I'm as obsessed with winning as he was."

Does Middleton ever get impatient?
"As long as I'm track and on schedule -- and I think we are -- then I can be patient. But if I don't see that progress that's when I get impatient very quickly."

Where are the Phillies in their path back to contention?
"We're in Year 3 and I think we're on track. I like to think we're on the shorter end of that spectrum -- four or five years as opposed to six or seven."

On spending big
"Whatever we can't develop internally, you have to be able to trade and sign free agents. And we have the money to do it. Look, we had the number two, three, four payroll in baseball for like four years, maybe five. We're going to be there again. Philadelphia's a big market and we're going to operate it like it's a big market.

"The way we budget in our organization isn't that we create a financial budget and say to Matt and Andy and say, 'Here's your number, do the best you can.' We look at them and say, 'Your job is to tell us what's the best team that you can put on the field at this particular time given where we are in our cycle and where you want us to be a year or two or three from now. And then you tell us how much that's going to cost us.

"The only reason professional sports teams exist -- I shouldn't say the only reason, but the most important reason -- is to win. And if you're not aiming to win then you really don't belong owning a sports team in my opinion.

"I'm intent on winning. We're going to get that trophy back somehow or I'm going to die trying."

Aaron Nola's best start of the season has Phillies confident he's locking in

Aaron Nola's best start of the season has Phillies confident he's locking in

BOX SCORE

When Aaron Nola pitches like he did Thursday, there aren't too many teams capable of beating him.

Nola was locked in against the Cardinals in the Phillies' 5-1 win, allowing just one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts (see Instant Replay). His first seven innings were scoreless and his pitch count was at just 89, so he had the chance for his first-ever complete game and the Phillies' first of the season.

But Paul DeJong greeted Nola in the eighth with a solo homer, and after a one-out walk to Matt Carpenter, Nola's day was done. He left to a loud ovation from Phillies fans who have been waiting a long time to see this guy again.

"Well that's the Nola we all have come to know and love," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was outstanding today. ... He was painting on both sides of the plate. Real good curveball. Threw a lot of good changeups. I think he got tired in that eighth inning, but it was great to see him rebound from the struggles he's been going through."

Nola had elite command of his two-seam fastball and curveball on this day. Five of his eight strikeouts were looking as he continuously froze Cardinals hitters with two-seamers that started outside and darted back over the outside corner. Everything was low in the zone. The curveball was sharp and biting with late life and St. Louis' hitters kept swinging over top of it.

This was the Nola worth drafting in the first round. This was the Nola who can legitimately be a top-of-the-rotation arm.

"I know what I'm capable of and I know what I can do and today was me," Nola said. "I felt confident in all my pitches today and commanding all my pitches when I wanted to. It was all good in those areas.

"I always try to visualize [success]. I know what I'm capable of doing and what pitches I can command, it's just those days where you feel really good about it and you're really confident about executing to both sides of the plate."

Last year during spring training, Mackanin compared Nola's skill set to that of a pitcher he managed in 1985 in the Class A Midwest League. That pitcher was Greg Maddux. 

"I'll just say this and I probably shouldn't, but I'm just gonna say it: Aaron Nola reminds me a bit of [Maddux]," Mackanin said last February.

"He shows no fear, he's very confident in his abilities and he has the uncanny ability to locate his fastball down in the zone on both sides of the plate. And he really believes in himself."

On Thursday, Nola fit every piece of that description. And just like Nick Pivetta built confidence with his nine-strikeout performance last week against the Red Sox that carried over into a 10-K night against the Cardinals (see story), this has a chance to be a real building block for Nola.

Throwing first-pitch strikes to 18 of 24 hitters will get you a long way.

"He got ahead of almost every hitter I guarantee you, he was strike one," catcher Cameron Rupp said.  

"And when you do that, that opens up so many doors with your pitch sequence, being able to pitch and get in on guys, maybe throw a purpose pitch for a ball, maybe they swing and you're 0-2 and that opens up the outer half even bigger. He threw strikes, he pounded the zone, and when you do that, you're going to have so much success. 

"That's what he did his first year-and-a-half up here. He got away from locating his pitches and the injuries, I'm sure, didn't help, but he attacked the zone and did a great job for us. ... When you do that, the sky is the limit, and he showed that today."

Conflicting messages, real concern over usage restrictions for Pat Neshek

Conflicting messages, real concern over usage restrictions for Pat Neshek

Phillies reliever Pat Neshek is having a tremendous, All-Star season, but the restrictions on his usage have become a real concern.

Neshek, who has a 0.63 ERA and 30 scoreless appearances out of 31, induced an inning-ending double play Thursday to get the Phillies to the ninth with a two-run lead. He threw just five pitches in the 5-1 win (see Instant Replay).

But even if the Phillies didn't tack on two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, Neshek was not going back out for a save situation in the ninth, Mackanin said.

"I asked him to go back out," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He said he would rather not, he didn't feel like he had it. 

"I would have liked to have sent him back out, obviously, because he's been so effective. However, we've got a good thing going there and if he can only pitch one inning for us, I'll take it. 

"He's been that good and I don't want to disrupt that. That's one area that I don't have to worry about. So, I did ask if he could go back out, he just thought it was better that he didn't."

Moments later, Neshek said he was not asked to go back out for the ninth.

It's the second straight day there have been conflicting messages when it comes to Neshek's availability. Wednesday night, when the Phillies blew a five-run lead and allowed runs in both the eighth and ninth innings as Neshek stayed in the bullpen, Mackanin said that Neshek had told him earlier he was unavailable. But then Neshek said that he was the one told he'd have the day off.

Whichever order of operations has actually occurred the last two games, these restrictions on Neshek's usage are affecting the Phillies late in games and they're sure to have an impact on his trade value as well.

The trade value is the more important thing here long-term because the Phillies are 25 games under .500. Neshek and Howie Kendrick are their two best trade assets, but if you're a contending team, why give up anything of substance for a half-season of Neshek if you don't even know if you can send him out two games in a row?

"He gave me the off day when I showed up," Neshek said Thursday about the middle game of the series. "I don’t know. You guys (the media) are making a big deal out of it."

Did he feel better Thursday?

"Yeah," he said. "I went out there and got the double play.

"We’ve been used a lot this week. I was kind of hoping that I might get a day today. But I understand the state of the bullpen. You have to suck it up and go out there."

Neshek has been used five times in the last seven days, so he does have a point, he has been used a lot. That's the byproduct of being your team's most reliable reliever.

At this stage, Neshek is a safe bet to be the Phillies' All-Star representative, especially because he'd serve an actual purpose in the All-Star Game as a right-handed specialist capable of retiring the best of the best.

"It could happen," he said. "There’s a couple other guys. It’s going to come down to who Joe Maddon wants for his bench. Is it going to be an extra pitcher? Is it going to be an extra hitter? They usually don’t stick with middle relief guys. Yeah, I have the numbers. But the All-Star Game is kind of a hairy thing if you’re not the star guy, if you’re not the save guy. It’s going to come down to do we need a pitcher or do we need a hitter.

"It’s really tough to make it as a middle reliever. It’s hard to get excited about anything that hasn’t happened yet."