Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

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Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – Ryan Howard lingered in the clubhouse after most of his teammates had already showered and headed for the team bus. He wore a look of despair on his face as he sat in front of his locker and recounted his role in the Phillies’ 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

“I take full responsibility,” he said. “I’ve got to be better than that.”

Howard was involved in two ugly plays -- one at the plate, one in the field -- that pointed the Phillies toward the loss.

First, he killed a rally in the fifth inning when he swung at a 3-0 sinker off the plate from Zack Greinke and bounced into a 1-6-3 double play with two men on base.

Later, Howard failed to make a play on a routine bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Dodgers’ turned that miscue into the go-ahead run as they scored twice in the inning against rookie Justin De Fratus to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

“Those are two plays, two key moments that changed the flow of the game,” Howard said. “It sucks. I’m upset I didn’t make that play. I slipped and I cost my team the game.

“And on the 3-0 pitch -- I have to make a better swing. Those are two things I had control over in the game and I didn’t get it done. (Jonathan) Pettibone threw well and Chase (Utley) swung the bat well. I have to do a better job.”

The look on Howard’s face after the game showed just how much the loss hurt.

The Phillies are struggling to remain on the periphery of the race in the NL East. They battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to take the lead on a home run by Utley in the seventh. The comeback came against one of the best pitchers in the game in Greinke. This is a game the Phils have to win.

Instead, they are 38-42, 7½ games back in the NL East and 2-2 on this road trip. They have blown late leads in both losses.

Pitching 40 miles from his hometown of Yorba Linda, with several dozen family and friends in the stands, the 22-year-old Pettibone fought some nerves early. He allowed three hits and three runs in the first inning, but just one hit and no runs over the next five innings to keep his team in the game until Utley’s go-ahead homer in the seventh.

The Phils had tied the game on RBI singles by Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the fifth and had a chance to do more damage when Howard showed zero plate discipline in swinging at a 3-0 sinker off the plate and bouncing into a rally-killing double play.

Howard is in an 0-for-16 skid. He was 0 for 14 when he came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out in that inning.

Manager Charlie Manuel loves to give his hitters the green light on 3-0.

“He’s kind of automatic,” Manuel said of Howard. “He’s been hitting 3-0 since he was in Double A. At the same time, he knows we want him to get a good ball to hit.

“He’s earned the right over the years to hit 3-0. He’s got to do a better job at it, though.”

Utley’s homer in the seventh put Pettibone in line for a win. Manuel went to Justin De Fratus to protect the lead in the bottom of the inning. He allowed a killer leadoff walk to A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers then put a second man on base when Howard muffed Uribe’s bunt. The runners moved up on a bunt and De Fratus walked Hanley Ramirez intentionally. De Fratus then struck out Skip Schumaker for the second out.

That brought up the most dangerous hitter on the planet -- Dodgers’ rookie masher Yasiel Puig.

De Fratus got ahead of Puig with two sliders, then went back to the pitch at 0-2. The pitch was off the plate, but not far enough. Puig hooked it to left for a two-run single. On 0-2, De Fratus can’t give Puig a pitch to hit. He did and it cost the Phillies.

“I didn’t think it was a bad pitch,” De Fratus said. “But I wanted to bounce it and get it in the dirt and I didn’t.”

Manuel thought the pitch was too good.

“I thought he could have expanded the zone even more,” he said.

These are the growing pains that a young bullpen must endure. They are the growing pains that may ultimately derail the Phils’ chances of getting into contention.

A player like Howard, however, should be long past growing pains. He said this was his loss and there was no arguing that.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
 
Don’t worry about the role.
 
Just pitch.
 
That’s Adam Morgan’s mindset this spring.
 
“I’m just trying to show whoever needs to see it that I can be an asset to this team,” the left-hander said after his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Saturday (see story). “I’m just keeping it simple that way. I’m not trying to go out for that fifth (starting) spot. If the fifth spot opens up, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want to put me in the bullpen, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want me to be the backup catcher, I’ll be the backup catcher.”
 
The Phillies have plenty of candidates for backup catcher.
 
And the top five spots in their starting rotation, barring an unforeseen development, are accounted for.
 
But there is a way for Morgan to make this team.
 
“He’s definitely a bullpen candidate,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin is on record as saying he’d like to have two lefties in what likely will be a seven-man bullpen. It might not work out that way, but that would be Mackanin’s preference.
 
Morgan is one of what appears to be four candidates along with Joely Rodriguez, Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett. Ramos and Burnett are experienced major-league veterans in camp on minor-league contracts. Rodriguez is the only pure lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Morgan, of course, is on the 40-man roster, but he’s mainly been a starter in his career.

There’s a long way to go in spring training and it would not be surprising to see general manager Matt Klentak add to the list of lefty relief candidates with some type of pickup before the end of camp.
 
But for now, it’s just these four.
 
Morgan, who turns 27 on Monday, started and pitched two scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday and will likely continue to have his innings stretched out throughout the Grapefruit League season, just in case he’s needed as a starter.

Ramos and Rodriguez both pitched an inning Saturday. Ramos allowed a hit and a run. Rodriguez had a clean inning. Burnett was tagged for two hits and two runs on Friday.
 
Morgan made 21 starts for the Phillies last season. He also made two relief appearances and finished the season with a 6.04 ERA. He was sent to Triple A in July and returned in mid-August. He made nine starts after returning and pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs in four of them.
 
During his time in Triple A, Morgan started throwing a two-seam fastball or sinker. He’s continued to throw it this spring and believes it will help him.
 
“I learned to trust the two-seamer last year and that’s what I hope to keep moving forward with,” he said.
 
Will it take him to the Phillies’ bullpen?
 
He hopes so. He got a taste of relieving last season and liked it.
 
“Oh, yeah, I loved it,” he said. “Every time the phone rang down there, I was on high alert. It was awesome. It’s a rush.
 
“But wherever I land, I land. I’d be willing to play anywhere on this team.”

Phillies 6, Yankees 5: Maikel Franco, Rhys Hoskins, Brock Stassi shine with bats

Phillies 6, Yankees 5: Maikel Franco, Rhys Hoskins, Brock Stassi shine with bats

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pete Mackanin assembled what will probably end up being his opening day lineup for Saturday’s spring home opener against the Yankees.

He liked what he saw.

Especially from cleanup man Maikel Franco.

Franco’s big challenge in becoming a more complete player is to improve his selectivity at the plate. The 24-year-old third baseman looked pretty good in that area in three at-bats.

Franco fell behind 0-2 in his first at-bat then battled back to a full count before popping out in the second inning.

He smacked a homer to left on a 2-2 slider in the fourth and then in the sixth, he stroked a first-pitch gapper to left-center that went for an inside-the-park homer. The ball got stuck under the padding on the outfield wall and the umpire did not rule it a ground-rule double.

“Hey, you see my speed?” the not-so-fleet-footed Franco said with a laugh after coming out of the game. “It’s like Cesar’s (Hernandez) speed.”

Mackanin liked the totality of Franco’s at-bats, not just the results.

“He had two long, deep-count at-bats,” Mackanin said. “He worked the count deep and that was good to see.”

There are many miles to go before opening day, and Franco still has many miles to cover before he’s the complete player he wants to be and the selective hitter the front office wants to build around.

Franco vowed to keep working on it under new hitting coach Matt Stairs.

“He told me my focus should be when I stay to the middle of the field, I'll have a lot of success,” Franco said. “I am trying to work on it and put focus on it. I talked to (Howie) Kendrick about hitting and he's helped me. I'm going to stay on it every single day. I'm trying to do my job, trying to do the best I can.

“When I stay in the middle, when I try to hit the ball up the middle, something is going to happen. That's what I want to do, what I want to keep doing.”

Franco hit .255 with 25 homers and 88 RBIs last season, but his on-base percentage was just .306.

He was asked whether he had any personal goals for the season.

“The first thing is to try to be healthy,” he said. “I just want to play in 162 games. Other than that, I'll just do everything I can do.

“Every single day I want to do my best and not try to force the situation. I think I can do better than last year. This year should be very good and much better than last year.”

The game 
The Phillies won it, 6-5, on a walk-off RBI single by Brock Stassi in the bottom of the ninth inning. The hit scored Rhys Hoskins, who had doubled. Hoskins drove a homer to deep center earlier in the game.

Hoskins, who turns 24 in March, has 55 homers and 206 RBIs the last two seasons. He will move to Triple A this season and play first base.

Stassi is a candidate to win a job on the bench (see story). He hasn’t hurt himself in the first two games. He homered Friday and had the game-winning hit Saturday.

“I’m feeling pretty good early on,” he said. “Gotta keep it going.”

Pitching in
Adam Morgan pitched two scoreless innings. Prospect Ricardo Pinto pitched a scoreless inning. It’s not out of the question that he transitions to the bullpen at some point this season.

Mark Appel showed his big stuff with three strikeouts in two innings of work, but his control problems also surfaced as he threw a wild pitch that resulted in two runs.

Up next
Probable opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson makes his spring debut Sunday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Here is the Phillies’ posted lineup for that game:

1. Cameron Perkins CF
2. J.P. Crawford SS
3. Daniel Nava LF
4. Cameron Rupp DH 
5. Andres Blanco 2B
6. Dylan Cozens RF
7. Ryan Hanigan C
8. Brock Stassi 1B
9. Taylor Featherston 3B

Right-hander Joe Biagini will start for Toronto.

Jerad Eickhoff will start for the Phillies against Tampa Bay on Monday. Clay Buchholz will start against Baltimore on Tuesday. Both of those games are in Clearwater.