Galvis flashes versatility in Phillies' victory

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Galvis flashes versatility in Phillies' victory

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Interim manager Ryne Sandberg has made it clear that he intends on giving the Phillies’ up-and-comers a chance to show what they can do.

Lately, Sandberg has been rewarded for his faith in the kids.

In the 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, it was Freddy Galvis’ turn to deliver for Sandberg and the Phillies as they won their fourth game out of the last five (see Instant Replay).

Galvis went 3 for 3 with a solo homer, a double and he scored a pair of runs. Playing second base in order to give Chase Utley the night off against left-handed pitcher Eric Stults, Galvis also added a pair of RBIs. One came on home run in the fifth to get the Phillies on the board and the other RBI came on a safety squeeze in the eighth to give an insurance run to starter Cliff Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon.

That’s versatility. Actually, the approach at the plate when Sandberg put on the squeeze play required much more focus than the swing Galvis put on his homer.

“Yeah, I think it’s a little tough sometimes,” Galvis said. “You try to think too much when you have something like that. You try to put the ball in play. I got a good pitch right in the middle and thank God it worked out.”

Though the numbers don’t pop off the stat page, Galvis has worked out in a lot of different ways for the Phillies this season. Signed and developed as a shortstop out of Venezuela, Galvis has played second and third base and left field for the Phillies. And after playing 580 of his 586 minor-league games as a shortstop, Galvis was the 2012 Opening Day second baseman with just 16 of his 112 big-league games at his natural position.

Perhaps if Galvis is going to make it in the big leagues, it’s going to be as a do-it-all utility type of player. It helps that Galvis is a switch-hitter at the plate, too.

“That’s his game -- situational guy,” Sandberg said. “He handles the bat. Good hit-and-run guy. A safety squeeze right there. He battled the pitcher good on outside soft stuff. He’s a thinking guy at home plate. He’s thinking with the pitcher. He got an inside fastball and turned on that with the short stroke for the home run. Those are the type of things Freddy can do.”

Galvis’ homer tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth. He also led off the seventh with a double down the left-field line and came around to score the go-ahead run after the Phillies manufactured some offense.

With no outs and two on in the seventh, Sandberg kept Lee in to drop a sacrifice bunt in a situation that typically calls for a pinch hitter. But with the Phils’ lefty cruising with a four-hitter through seven innings with eight strikeouts and 89 pitches, Sandberg wanted to get at least one more inning from Lee.

The successful bunt made it look like a smart move.

“I was glad Ryno let me stay in there to do that,” said Lee, who improved to 13-6 after going eight innings for the fourth time in the last six starts. “That was big. A lot of times you get pinch-hit for right there. I was glad he had enough faith in me to get the bunt down and execute, then go back out there in the eighth to put a zero up. That was good. I enjoyed that.”

Lee’s bunt set the table for Cesar Hernandez to ward off a fourth straight strikeout and drive home the go-ahead run with a soft ground out. An inning later, after Carlos Ruiz led off the eighth with a single and Darin Ruf walked before a ground out put runners at the corners, Galvis dropped the safety squeeze for the important insurance run.

A homer from the right side of the plate and a squeeze bunt from the left -- yes, that’s versatility.

“He was an excellent bunter in both directions,” Sandberg said. “He handled the bat from both sides. That's his game.”

The Phillies will try to take the series from the Padres on Thursday night when Roy Halladay (3-4, 7.19) pitches against right-hander Tyler Ross (3-7, 2.79).

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's 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 up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.