Manuel echoes Lee's remarks on wanting to win

slideshow-061314-phillies-manuel-lee-uspresswire.jpg

Manuel echoes Lee's remarks on wanting to win

DENVER -- A day after Cliff Lee voiced frustration with the Phillies’ inability to win consistently, manager Charlie Manuel joined the club.

“When I hear Cliff wanting to play for a winner -- no one in baseball wants to win more than I do,” Manuel said before the Phils opened a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Friday night.

“We have quite a bunch of those guys -- (Roy) Halladay, Cliff, (Jonathan) Papelbon, more than that. Those guys signed here because they wanted to be here, that it was a good place to come for a chance to win. For us to win, we have to get better, improve. How we do that is another story, but at the same time, we have to play a lot better baseball than we have.”

For the second year in a row, the Phillies’ first-half struggles have led to speculation that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. could trade off some pieces in July. Lee and Papelbon are prime candidates, though Amaro has downplayed the possibility of dealing both, especially Lee.

“The best chance we have to be a winning club now and in the future is to have the top of the rotation we have with those two big left-handers,” Amaro said of Lee and Cole Hamels earlier this week (see story). “That’s our best chance to win games. That’s what we’re in the business of doing.

“People think we’re going to blow up this team. We’re never going to be in the position of blowing up. There’s no blowing up. There might come a time when we make changes to improve for the future, but we don’t have a reason to blow it up.”

Lee signed with the Phillies over the Yankees and Rangers because he believed the team gave him a chance to win a World Series. The World Series seemed a long way away when the Phillies took the field with a 32-35 record Friday night.

A night earlier, Lee, who turns 35 in August, was asked about his future with the team, specifically if he’d want to stay with the club if things don’t turn around. He gave a non-committal answer, saying, “I definitely want to win.” He went on to say he wanted to win in Philadelphia, but sounded like a guy who might be open to moving on if things continue to look bleak for the Phils.

Papelbon could be of interest to contending teams looking for a closer such as Detroit, Boston or maybe St. Louis. He has two years and $26 million remaining on his deal and a no-trade clause that allows him to pick the 12 teams he’d go to. Detroit is not on that list, but no-trade clauses can be negotiated away. The Tigers had a scout in Denver for the start of Friday night’s Phillies-Rockies series. The significance of that was unknown, but the Tigers do have serious closer issues.

While Amaro has downplayed the notion of trading top guys, remember, he is on record as saying there may come a time when he makes changes to benefit the future. A premier closer is a luxury for a non-contending team. It would not be surprising to see Amaro eventually move Papelbon to inject some young position player talent into the lineup -- if the Phillies fall further in the standings.

Manuel was asked whether the trade deadline was on his mind.

“I have nothing to do with that,” he said Friday. “That’s not a decision I have anything to do with.

“I stay focused on my job and my main part is to win the game. I try to play the best team we can every night, and hopefully we play well enough to win the game.”

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

uspresswire-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg
USA Today Images

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

The Marlins announced Fernandez's death, and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Fish Commission.

A news conference was planned for later Sunday morning.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times -- landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries -- before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.