'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

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'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

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SAN FRANCISCO -- This is what it looks like when it all comes together for the Phillies, the pitching, the hitting, the defense. They can walk into a beehive environment and take a game from a quality club that had won six games in a row.

That’s what the Phillies did Monday night in a 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants at always-electric AT&T Park (see Instant Replay).

“We played a really well-rounded game,” said Cliff Lee, who pitched eight walk-free innings for the win. “That’s more of what we are right there. No doubt.”

The victory came after the Phils were tuned-up by a combined score of 16-2 in a pair losses to the lowly Miami Marlins on Saturday and Sunday.

Thirty-three games into the season, the Phils are 15-18.

Lee stepped out and challenged his teammates to show more pride last week in Cleveland. He continued to speak his mind after this game and it sounded a little like leadership, something this team could use especially after one of its most respected people, Roy Halladay, went on the disabled list Monday.

“We definitely haven’t been playing up to our potential,” Lee said. “We’ve been far short of that, to be honest with you. I think tonight is more of a real depiction of what we are. I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of under-performed this first month. It’s time for us to turn it on, and I think tonight was a good start in that direction.”

Lee used the word “pride” last week. He was asked whether he believed that was something that has been lacking.

“I think pride is a big part of executing and just grinding and sticking in there no matter if you’re down,” he said. “The Cleveland series was just a bad series. But basically, if you’re going to get beat, go down fighting, you know. They got us early both games and it seemed like we just laid down and let them take it from us. That’s what I was hinting at -- more pride and fight-till-the-end type stuff.

“We were better at home against the Marlins (the Phils won the first two games of the series), but we still could do even better and tonight was more of what I expect from this team every night as far as the energy and applying the pressure on the other team rather than having the pressure on us the whole time.”

Lee backed up his words all night Monday. He allowed just five hits. Three of them were by former teammate Hunter Pence, who homered, doubled and singled.

“Take him out of the lineup and it would have been a really good day,” Lee said. “He was tough for me. He’s got it figured out.”

Pence’s homer in the bottom of the second came on a full-count changeup one pitch after the Phillies’ bench thought Pence should have been rung-up on strikes.

The Phils already had three runs on the board when Pence homered. Michael Young keyed a three-run rally in the top of the second with a two-out, two-run double.

“That definitely makes it easier when you have a three-run lead,” said Lee, mildly famous for not getting a lot of run support.

Lee was also supported by his defense, which turned three double plays.

Lee is 4-0 with a 0.84 (four earned runs in 43 innings) ERA in five regular-season starts at AT&T Park, arguably baseball’s best venue.

“It’s a great environment to play in,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy, a lot of noise. You’ve got to step up to the occasion here. It reminds me of Philly when Philly is going good. It’s the same type of environment.”

Things aren’t going good in Philly right now. This team is just too inconsistent to get fans excited like they used to be. Weekends like the one just passed are demoralizing.

“This place might have been perfect for us because it’s a great place to play, a great environment,” Young said. “We had a tough weekend at home. It’s nice to go out and compete and have fun. It was good for us get back on the field, no days off, go play.”

Kyle Kendrick gets the ball Tuesday night as the Phils look to follow Lee’s commandment and “turn it on.”

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

The Nation’s Capital will become the center of the baseball world over the next week as the winter meetings get underway Sunday in Washington.
 
The meetings run through Thursday morning, concluding with the Rule 5 draft, and will play out against a backdrop of labor peace as the owners and players agreed on a new five-year labor deal on Wednesday night.
 
Teams looking to make a big score on the free-agent market will find sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, quality producers in Dexter Fowler, Justin Turner and Ian Desmond and proven closers in Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. The trade market features a big name in former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.
 
As for the local nine, don’t look for a week of head-spinning activity. The Phillies got most of their heavy lifting out of the way early in the offseason when they re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick and reliever Pat Neshek. Hellickson and Kendrick filled two of the team’s stated needs, a veteran innings guy in the rotation and the proverbial professional hitter.
 
This is not to say the Phils won’t be active at the meetings, or in the days leading up to them or following them, because they likely will be. The team still has some secondary areas that need to be addressed, but as for a big, headline-grabbing move, well, nothing like that appears to be cooking — unless, of course, some team wants to give the Phillies multiples of top talent for one of their young core big-leaguers. As we’ve said before, this team has no untouchables and general manager Matt Klentak is willing talk about any player if the return speeds the team’s rebuild and has long-term impact.
 
With that, let’s take a look at some of the matters facing the Phils as they get set to head to the meetings:
 
Backup shortstop/utility infielder
This is an area the team probably needs to address. There are currently five infielders on the 40-man roster: the four projected starters (Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis) and recent addition Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin is strictly a second baseman and projects to play at Triple A. If the Phils had a long-term opening at shortstop, they could push J.P. Crawford. In a pinch, Hernandez could move over from second and play the position. Still, adding a utility infielder is probably a must and that player might have to come on a minor-league contract because the 40-man roster is full. The door has not been closed on the return of Andres Blanco. Even someone like versatile Emmanuel Burris could return.
 
Bullpen help
Klentak made improving the bullpen an offseason priority so it’s likely that he’s looking to make additions beyond just Neshek. As it stands now, the Phils have just one lefty reliever, promising but unproven Joely Rodriguez, so it’s important that Klentak add at least one more lefty through a signing or trade.
 
Backup catcher
The Phils have had longstanding interest in bringing back A.J. Ellis and they've maintained contact with his representatives, but they already have three catchers on their 40-man roster in Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. If the roster pinch gets solved, possibly by dealing from a position of depth and including Knapp in a trade or other transactions, Ellis could return. Other than that, it’s possible Knapp could be the big team’s backup catcher with Alfaro working every day at Triple A.
 
Another bat?
The Phils were last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second-to-last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385) in 2016 so they really need to add more than just Kendrick if they’re going to make a noticeable improvement in their offense. However, management has made it clear that it wants to keep pathways open for young players to advance to the majors.

Barring a trade, seven of the eight starting position spots are pretty much set. Right field is the exception and that would be a nice landing spot for one of those young players, speedy Roman Quinn. There’s a strong possibility that Quinn will be the opening day rightfielder. However, given his health history, it might be wise to add reinforcements beyond Aaron Altherr. So it would not be surprising to see the Phillies add another bat, possibly from the left side, to their bench.
 
Trade rumors
They go hand-in-hand with the winter meetings. Even before the start of the meetings, the Phils have been connected to McCutchen and even power-hitting Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier in rumors. The feel here is that a deal for either player is unlikely, especially McCutchen, whose defense has become a concern. The Phillies are committed to building a lasting contender with their farm system as the foundation. Acquiring a McCutchen or a Dozier would require giving up multiples of young talent and that’s not the way the Phils want to operate at the moment. They're looking to retain as much young talent as possible.
 
Trade talk
Though the Phillies will be protective of their prospects in trades, the do have money and payroll flexibility. This makes it possible that they could fill a need by taking on salary as long as that salary is attached to a short-term contract. The Phils under Klentak have already done this with Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Neshek. And, as mentioned, if some team wants to send the Phils a big return, players like Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Hector Neris would be very much in play.
 
The Rule 5 draft
After landing players like Shane Victorino, David Herndon, Ender Inciarte, Herrera and Tyler Goeddel over the last decade or so, the Phils could end up sitting out this year’s Rule 5 draft. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to add a young player to their stocks and build some spring-training competition, more that they’ve already added so many young players that they’re out of room. The Phils added 11 players in maxing out their 40-man roster two weeks ago, thus protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. No other team added more than eight players.

The Phils pushed their number of protected players to 11 because they were fearful the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could increase roster size from 25 to 26 and an extra spot would make it easier for teams to carry a Rule 5 player. In the end, rosters stayed at 25. Maybe that will help the Phils retain one of the players they chose not to protect. Among that group is left-handed-hitting outfielder Andrew Pullin. There is much rumble around baseball that the Phillies could lose him. Relievers Hoby Milner and Miguel Nunez, outfielder Carlos Tocci and first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi are also names to watch on Thursday.
 
Of immediate concern
Teams have until 8 p.m. Friday to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or let them become free agents. The Phillies have four such players: Galvis, Hernandez, outfielder Cody Asche and reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Galvis and Hernandez will be tendered contracts. Asche and Gomez are on the fence. Gomez had 37 saves before struggling over the final weeks of the 2016 season. It’s possible the Phils could look to sign him before the tender deadline to a deal below his arbitration salary, projected to be $4.6 million by MLBTradeRumors.com. If Asche is non-tendered, the Phils could pick up a roster spot for a winter-meetings acquisition or a Rule 5 pick.

John Kruk joining Phillies' broadcast booth in 2017

John Kruk joining Phillies' broadcast booth in 2017

John Kruk is back with the Phillies.

According to sources, Kruk will join the team’s television broadcast crew on CSNPhilly during the 2017 season. Kruk will replace Matt Stairs on the broadcast crew and join a team that already includes lead broadcaster Tom McCarthy, color men Mike Schmidt and Ben Davis and sideline reporter Gregg Murphy. Stairs was recently named Phillies hitting coach.

Details of the agreement with Kruk were not immediately known so it’s unclear how many games he will broadcast. Stairs and Davis basically split the 162-game schedule.

Kruk most recently worked as a studio and in-game analyst for ESPN. He left the network on good terms in the fall.

Kruk, 55, played six seasons with the Phillies and made three National League all-star teams. He was a fan favorite and a key member of the 1993 NL pennant-winning team.

Before going into broadcasting, Kruk spent some time as a minor-league hitting coach with the Phillies when his playing career ended. Now he is back with the Phillies.