Halladay defends Dubee from Mitch Williams' criticism

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Halladay defends Dubee from Mitch Williams' criticism

Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay strongly defended pitching coach Rich Dubee against the criticisms of Mitch Williams.

“Coming from the mechanical wonder,” Halladay said. "Yeah, I strongly disagree. To come from a guy who's not around, who's not involved. He's not involved in the conversations ... honestly has no idea what's going on. He really doesn't. He has no idea what's going on in the clubhouse, on the field between coaches and players. To make comments like that, it's completely out of line.”

Williams, the former Phillies closer and current MLB Network analyst, ripped Dubee’s work during an interview on 94 WIP on Friday morning.

Williams, known as Wild Thing in his pitching days, criticized Dubee for not recognizing a flaw in Halladay’s delivery. He said the pitching coach, in his ninth season, was not getting through to the pitchers and suggested it was time he be replaced.

“It may be time for a new voice,” Williams told WIP. “It’s not personal. I think these pitchers have to hear something new. What they’re doing right now just isn’t getting it done.”

Williams mentioned a dustup the two men had in spring training after Dubee scolded him for interfering with the team’s pitchers.

“It irritated me,” Williams said of the incident.

According to a source, Williams reached out to pitcher Jake Diekman and offered pitching advice and that didn’t sit well with Dubee.

“Maybe I hurt his feelings with the dustup, but I don't know,” Dubee said. “Mitch has got a chance. He can apply to 30 teams (to be a pitching coach). You know? I've got no comment to that. Maybe he got upset because I spoke to him about getting involved in our pitching, where I don't think he belongs. Maybe he's upset at that. But I don't think other people belong in our pitching. Again, like I said, he's got a chance to submit a resume.”

In the radio interview, Williams claimed he taught Kyle Kendrick the changeup, a pitch that has helped the right-hander immensely as he has gone 10-4 with 2.43 ERA in his last 16 starts dating to August.

Kendrick laughed about that.

“I taught myself,” he said. “If anyone taught me it was (former Triple A teammate) Justin Lehr. He showed me some things, and he learned it from Tim Hudson.”

Halladay joined the Phillies in 2010 and won the NL Cy Young Award. He finished second in the voting in 2011 before struggling with injuries in 2012. This season, Halladay has been inconsistent. He is 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA in six starts.

Halladay turns 36 this month. While some observers have made a point to say Halladay’s best days are behind him, Dubee’s support of the veteran pitcher has never wavered.

On Friday, Halladay returned that support.

“When I first came over here, Rich Dubee taught me a changeup,” Halladay said. “If I hadn't had that I wouldn't have had the success I've had over here. Especially dealing with the injuries I've dealt with, -- if I didn't have that pitch, if I didn't have him working with me, I really would have been in a lot of trouble. In my opinion, it's a statement that I feel like [Williams] needs to make amends for. I really do. There's very few pitching coaches that I respect more than Rich Dubee.

“Watching Kyle Kendrick, the stuff that he's learned, the way he's grown, is because of Rich Dubee and it's because of his work ethic and the way he goes about things. It really does upset me. It upsets me that guys outside of our group of guys that don't understand what's going on here make comments like that. Hopefully, it's something he'll learn from. I'm not sure if that's the case, but he couldn't be further from the truth. And I don't think it's the first time he's been a little off base.”

Halladay was asked about the other times Williams “has been a little off base.”

"I've heard him criticize a lot of guys for mechanics," Halladay said. "For a guy who's never been a pitching coach, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't go and look at any player in the major leagues and say, ‘Well, he should do it this way.’ I just don't understand where that comes from. I really don't. There's no one way to do things. To think that you know the one way to do it is a little bit arrogant. I really just feel he's wrong on this one. I'm sure he's not a bad guy. I'm sure he's trying to do the best he can at his job, but I really feel like he was kind of off the mark on this one."

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

The addition of outfielder Michael Saunders doesn't suddenly make the Phillies an NL contender, but coupled with the trade for Howie Kendrick, the Phils' projected lineup is much deeper and more well-rounded than it was at this time last year.

By adding two capable corner outfield bats, the lineup has been lengthened, and it's unlikely you'll see someone like Freddy Galvis in the five-hole much in 2017.

The Saunders signing is not yet official, but assuming it goes through, the Phils' lineup could look like this on opening day:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Howie Kendrick, LF 
3. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF (L)
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS (S)

Considering the Phillies started Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos in the outfield corners last opening day, this is a huge upgrade even if Kendrick and Saunders are not huge names. 

Phillies leftfielders hit .212/.284/.332 last season. Unless Kendrick forgets how to hit overnight, he won't come close to those numbers. Phillies rightfielders had eight home runs in 637 plate appearances last season. Give Saunders that many PAs and you're likely looking at 27 to 30 homers.

Before last season, Kendrick hit between .279 and .322 every year from 2006 to 2015. Having a guy who can hit .290 with a .330-plus on-base percentage in the two-hole is a big deal, especially if he's hitting between Hernandez (.371 OBP last season) and Herrera (.361 OBP). You can foresee plenty of scenarios where, if that's the 1-2-3, Herrera comes up with runners on the corners in the first inning.

Saunders is another 20-plus home run bat. When you look through the Phillies' lineup, there are potentially five of those. Plus, don't sleep on the improvement Herrera made in that department last season, almost doubling his HR total from eight to 15.

The balance of left-handed and right-handed bats will make the Phillies more difficult to pitch to. It was important that the outfield bat they added was left-handed, because if not you'd be looking at an extremely right-handed heavy middle of the order.

Also, don't underestimate the impact of adding two veteran hitters who have had success in the majors. Franco could use all the additional advice he can get. Herrera, too, is at an impressionable age. Might Franco be less likely to give away an at-bat, as he did so many times in 2016, with someone like Kendrick there to greet him at the top step of the dugout? That question may sound silly, but the entire environment changes when you add a respected veteran leader to a clubhouse filled with kids.

This is not to say the Phillies will have a top-five offense in 2017. They'll still likely be toward the bottom-half or bottom-third of the National League, but as of right now this isn't the NL's worst lineup like it was for the majority of last season. The Reds and Padres have worse lineups, and you could add the Brewers and Pirates to that list if Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen are traded.

Pete Mackanin has called for more offense and more lineup flexibility and he's gotten it, even though it doesn't involve real star power. Kendrick's ability to also play first base and second base could allow Aaron Altherr to get some playing time in an outfield corner when Hernandez or Joseph sits. 

The only real casualty of the Saunders signing is Roman Quinn, who Mackanin confirmed Tuesday night would likely spend the year at Triple A. Quinn showed some flashes late last season and is an exciting player, but it would have been risky to rely on him as a starting outfielder in 2017 given he's never even reached 400 plate appearances in a season. 

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”