Helton denies tagging Rollins in Phillies' loss

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Helton denies tagging Rollins in Phillies' loss

BOX SCORE

In three of the five games Ryne Sandberg has managed for the Phillies, the offense has produced just three hits.

Obviously, all three of those games ended up being losses.

Tuesday night’s three-hitter resulted in a 5-3 loss to end a modest two-game winning streak for the Phillies (see Instant Replay), but maybe if Jimmy Rollins was able to get one hit the result would have been different.

With two on and two outs in the seventh inning, Rollins ripped a 1-2 pitch from reliever Rex Brothers down the third-base line that seemed to be rolling to the corner for a two-run double. Even when third baseman Nolan Arenado made a sensational diving stab to keep the ball in the infield, it looked like Rollins had a single at the very least.

But along with the great stop, Arenado also made a great throw. With his momentum carrying him into foul ground, Arenado made a strong, one-hop throw that pulled Gold Glove first baseman Todd Helton off the bag. With a quick downward swipe, Helton made what replays seemed to show a whiff on the tag to get Rollins at first. Still, first-base umpire Jim Wolf called Rollins out.

Apparently, Helton sold the tag well enough to fool both Wolf and Rollins. That’s because afterwards, Helton says he never touched Rollins.

“I didn’t tag him,” Helton said of the bang-bang play. “I tried to, but I didn’t tag him.”

That admission differed from Rollins’ reaction and his explanation to Sandberg. After running past first base -- and never touching it -- Rollins did not argue the call. It seemed as if everyone in the ballpark thought he was safe but him. And because Rollins did not react other than to wait for someone to bring him his glove and cap before taking his position in the field, first-base coach Wally Joyner didn’t argue the call.

Neither did Sandberg.

“It looked like a close play at first, but J-Roll felt some contact over there, he felt like a tag was applied,” Sandberg said.

“That was the biggest thing, Jimmy had no argument. He told me later he felt something over there on his back. From my angle, I just saw a throw that was slightly up the line with a swipe tag. I based it on Jimmy’s reaction.”

Had Rollins beat the throw, the bases would have been loaded with two outs and Carlos Ruiz at the plate. Or if Arenado’s glove had been an inch lower or higher, the game could have been tied with Ruiz at the plate.

“That was a game-saving play,” Sandberg said. “Two men on and a possible double, who knows?”

That was the Phillies’ best chance to score, and that even includes the three runs in the third inning when they got two singles, a walk and an error by Helton to rally to within two runs. But Rockies’ lefty Jorge de la Rosa held the Phillies in check on three hits and three walks into the seventh, making the five early runs stand up.

Nevertheless, spot starter Tyler Cloyd gave the Phillies a chance despite allowing three in the first highlighted by a long homer from Troy Tulowitzki and one in each of the second and third innings. After the second inning, Cloyd retired 13 of the final 16 he faced and had just two three-ball counts.

“I was just trying to do too much, trying to be too fine,” Cloyd said. “Mechanics wore down a little bit. Later on, I settled down and started trusting that my stuff was going to go where I wanted it to go.”

Sandberg lauded Cloyd for pitching through six innings after such a shaky start. However, Sandberg explained, starting pitching sets the tone for the game and with five runs before the bottom of the third, the hitters were at a disadvantage.

Then again, starting pitching has put the Phillies at a disadvantage a lot during the second-half swoon. Since the All-Star break, the Phillies’ starters are 6-17 with a major-league worst 5.79 ERA. The next closest team, Toronto, is nearly a full run a game better than the Phils’ starters with a 4.82 ERA since the break.

“Starting pitching really sets the tone for the game and letting the offense do the things,” Sandberg said. “When the pitcher can put up some early zeroes, I think the offense feels better about that. And then the offense can work on getting some runs on the board. But we needed some innings out of Cloyd and he put the three zeros up there at the end, which helped the bullpen and it gave us a chance to come back. We were still in the game for the last three or four innings.”

The series continues on Wednesday night when Cliff Lee (10-6, 3.19) faces right-hander Juan Nicasio (7-6, 4.94). Lee goes into the game searching for his first win since July 5.

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies got the good health they were looking for from Aaron Nola this spring.

But the overall results weren't so good.

Nola struggled in his sixth and final Grapefruit League start Tuesday night. He was roughed up for seven hits, including two home runs, and five runs and did not make it out of the second inning in the Phillies' 10-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Nola finished the Grapefruit League portion of his spring with an ERA of 8.38 after giving up 18 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He gave up 28 hits, walked seven and struck out 23.

"People say it's spring training but nobody wants to go out there and give up runs," Nola said.

While he wasn't happy with the numbers he put up in camp, Nola was pleased with his health. He missed the final two months of last season with an elbow strain. He said that is completely behind him.

"I feel good," he said. "The ball is coming out of my hand really good.

"Tonight was the best I've felt all spring. I just left some balls up and they took some good swings. It was a tough night."

Manager Pete Mackanin weighed in on Nola's spring.

"One thing I like is that his velocity is way up," Mackanin said. "I think his arm is healthy and that's good to see more than anything.

"He hasn't shown the command that makes him a good pitcher, but I think that will get there."

Nola gave up home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Melvin Upton Jr.

Nola lines up to pitch the fifth game of the regular season a week from Saturday in Philadelphia.

He only threw 51 pitches Tuesday night so he has room for a good bullpen session and another start before that outing. The start will come at the minor-league complex on Sunday. He will then join the team in Cincinnati for Monday's season opener.

Murray injured
Reliever Colton Murray ran his scoreless string to 10 1/3 innings before allowing a two-run homer in his third inning of work. Murray left the game with what looked like a lower back injury. He fell to the ground in pain after throwing a pitch. Earlier in the day, Murray was told that he would open the season in Triple A.

Minor matters 
Infielder Cole Stobbe, 19, the Phillies' third-round pick in last year's draft, and 18-year-old righty Sixto Sanchez were named winners of the Bill Giles and Larry Rojas awards for their standout work in minor-league camp. Both are among the organization's most highly touted young prospects.

Up next
The Phillies will split the squad and play two games on Wednesday. One team will go to Lakeland to play the Tigers. The other will go to Bradenton to face the Pirates.

The battle for one of the final spots in the bullpen will take center stage as Luis Garcia starts in Lakeland and Joely Rodriguez in Bradenton.

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Busy, busy day of roster moves in Phillies camp.

Let's try to put it all in perspective.

First, the facts:

Veteran infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan was released from his minor-league contract.

Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later or cash.

Infielder Pedro Florimon and relief pitchers Cesar Ramos, Hoby Milner, Pat Venditte and Colton Murray were all informed that they will not make the opening-day roster, but they remain in big-league camp as non-roster invitees.

OK, what does it all mean?

Let's start on the position-player side. The starting eight is set, but there are still openings to fill on the bench before the team's charter flight lifts off from Tampa International Airport early Friday evening.

Barring something unforeseen, infielder Andres Blanco, outfielder Aaron Altherr and catcher Andrew Knapp will all make the 25-man roster. That leaves two openings on the bench.

Coghlan, a former National League Rookie of the Year and member of last year's World Series-winning Chicago Cubs team, asked for his release after the club raised the possibility of him signing an advance consent form. Advanced consent gives a team more control of a player and also allows a team to release a player with no further financial commitment up to 45 days into the season. Coghlan decided to move on, as was his contractual right, and is expected to land with another club.

Coghlan's departure reduced the field of candidates for the two bench jobs to three -- Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin.

All signs point to lefty-hitting first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi being rewarded for his excellent spring with a spot on the roster. The 27-year-old from the Sacramento area, the team's 33rd-round draft pick in 2011, has never played in the majors.

With Stassi looking good, the final spot on the bench is down to Nava and Valentin. They are two very different players. Nava is 34 and has five years of big-league service time. He is in camp on a minor-league deal, essentially looking to keep his career alive. Valentin, on the other hand, is 22 and very much a prospect. The team must decide if it wants to go with the veteran outfielder or the young second baseman for the final spot on the bench.

"With the way Stassi, Nava and Valentin are playing right now, one way or another we're going to be making tough decisions on the bench," general manager Matt Klentak said.

With Asher off the 40-man roster, the Phillies have the space to add Stassi.

They would need to create one more spot, probably by waiving a player, if they want to keep Nava.

Valentin is already on the 40-man roster so the team would not have to lose a player to keep him, but doing that would cost the young player the development opportunity that would come with regular at-bats in Triple A.

"I'm not opposed to starting that way if he wins the job and that's how we open," Klentak said of Valentin. "If we concluded after a few weeks that playing time just isn't there and we need to send him back down and get somebody else up, we can do that. That's the beauty of roster flexibility and having players on the big-league club with options. We can make those decisions in real time throughout the year."

So let's move on to the bullpen.

Five spots are set with Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek.

It's likely that the team will go with seven relievers. That means there are two open spots with three candidates -- Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez and Luis Garica -- still standing. All three are on the 40-man roster, so that makes the personnel mechanics a little easier. 

The team probably needs a long reliever and Morgan profiles as that guy.

Rodriguez and Garcia are both scheduled to pitch in separate games on Wednesday, so their performances will be worth watching, though Klentak said not all roster decisions are based on spring performance. 

Garcia has had a number of chances in the majors the last four seasons. He has recently added a splitter and team officials are intrigued by that, so he has remained in the mix.

There is a slim chance the team could carry all three of these relievers and go with an eight-man bullpen and a short bench, but that would be tough to do in the National League. When the decisions are made, look for a five-man bench and a seven-man bullpen.

But, remember, things can change quickly on a 25-man roster once the season begins. Ender Inciarte was on the Phillies' opening-day roster in 2013 and gone a day later. Cedric Hunter was there last year and gone two weeks later.

"We have to make sure we're disciplined to the notion that the end of spring training is not a finish line," Klentak said. "The end of spring training is the starting line for a long major-league season. Whatever we can do to preserve as many assets and players and different possibilities as we can, we need to factor that in as we're making out our opening-day roster."