Mariano Rivera steals show in last All-Star Game

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Mariano Rivera steals show in last All-Star Game

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NEW YORK – The 84th All-Star Game was played Tuesday night in New York City, in the borough of Queens.

But the script came straight out of Hollywood.

That much was undeniable as the American League shut out the National League, 3-0, with New York baseball legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of the game, coming out of the bullpen and getting three outs in his final All-Star Game.

The 43-year-old right-hander, a 13-time All-Star who will retire at season’s end, pitched the bottom of the eighth inning and was named the game’s MVP.

Rivera, whose 638 saves are the most ever, jogged onto the field with his familiar entry song, Metallica’s "Enter Sandman," blaring over the stadium loud speakers.

When Rivera reached the mound, he looked around and saw he was the only man on the field. His AL teammates waited in the dugout so Rivera could have the spotlight.

“We came up with that before the game,” AL outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We wanted him to get his due, to have him tip his hat. He’s a great guy. He’s done his job and never complained. We respect him. That’s what you do for a guy like that.”

As flashbulbs popped, Rivera lifted his cap to the crowd of 45,186 -- the largest ever at the ballpark -- and was saluted with a standing ovation. His AL teammates came out in front of the dugout and tipped their caps to him before taking the field.

Rivera was clearly moved by his teammates’ gesture. He did not know it was coming.

“The whole thing was amazing,” he said. “I have no words for it. It’s been a wonderful night. The only thing that will top this is the World Series.”

It was an All-Star sendoff reminiscent of the one Cal Ripken Jr. received in Seattle in 2001. In that game, Alex Rodriguez, the AL shortstop, moved to third base before the game’s first pitch so Ripken could get one more moment at shortstop, his original position in the major leagues.

Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, threw 16 pitches, and got the hold. The save went to Joe Nathan. AL manager Jim Leyland went to Rivera in the eighth because he didn’t want to risk the NL rallying against a different pitcher in the inning and eliminating the need for the bottom of the ninth inning.

It turned out to be a memorable moment for everyone.

With the victory, the AL gained home-field advantage in the World Series, no small matter considering the team with home-field advantage has won 25 of 32 World Series since 1980.

It was not a particularly good night for the Phillies’ representatives. Not only were Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee on the losing side, but neither performed well. Lee pitched an inning and gave up two hits and a run. Down 2-0 with a man on base in the seventh inning, Brown struck out on three pitches against Toronto lefty Brett Cecil (see story).

In the top of the eighth inning, with two outs, Brown appeared to misplay a ball off the bat of Jason Kipnis and it went for an RBI double.

Matt Harvey was the no-brainer starting pitcher in this game. The 24-year-old right-hander earned the assignment by going 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA and an NL-best 147 strikeouts before the break. While performance was the primary reason for Harvey’s selection as starter, there was an understandable sentimental reason: The All-Star Game was back at the home of the New York Mets for the first time since Johnny Callison won it for the NL in 1964. Harvey, of course, is the Golden Boy of the Mets and their future.

“People who haven’t seen him yet are going to see something pretty special,” Mets manager Terry Collins, a member of the NL coaching staff, said on Monday.

Harvey, who can heat his fastball up to triple digits, had some jitters early. Mike Trout, the pride of Millville, N.J., hit the first pitch of the game, a 97-mph heater, down the right-field line for a double. Harvey then plunked Robinson Cano of the cross-city Yankees on the right quadriceps muscle with a 96-mph fastball. Harvey settled down and got out of the inning on two strikeouts and a fly ball.

Cano was able to take first base after being hit on the right leg, but he left the game shortly after. As he walked across the diamond to the AL dugout, he looked at Harvey, who patted his chest as if to apologize and say, “My bad.” An X-ray on Cano’s leg was negative. Players always go home with a boatload of souvenirs from the All-Star Game. Cano’s souvenir was black and blue.

“Obviously that was the last thing I wanted to do -- to go out there and injure someone,” Harvey said afterward. “I think he understood it wasn’t intentional. I apologize.”

Harvey pitched two innings and allowed just the one hit while striking out three.

Phillies fans know all about Harvey. He has beaten the Phils twice this season, allowing just five hits and one run, while striking out 15 and walking just three in 13 innings. Harvey is scheduled to face the Phillies and Lee on Sunday at Citi Field.

Max Scherzer, the AL starter and 13-game winner from the Detroit Tigers, pitched just one perfect inning and threw 12 pitches.

The AL used 10 pitchers to complete the three-hit shutout.

But the night belonged to one pitcher -- Mariano Rivera.

Phillies DFA OF Cody Asche, claim LHP David Rollins off waivers

Phillies DFA OF Cody Asche, claim LHP David Rollins off waivers

Cody Asche's time with the Phillies has come to an end.

The Phillies claimed LHP David Rollins off waivers from the Texas Rangers on Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, Asche was designated for assignment. The Phillies had until 8 p.m. on Friday to tender a contract to the outfielder, but they instead chose to free up the roster spot for Rollins.

Asche played four seasons with the Phillies from 2013-16 after he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011. The St. Charles, Mo. native had a .213/.284/.350 batting line this past season over 71 games. His best season with the Phillies came as their starting third baseman in 2014, hitting 10 home runs and driving home 46 runs in 121 games.

Rollins has been on four different rosters this offseason. He pitched 31 games in relief for the Seattle Mariners over the last two seasons, sporting a 7.60 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs 15 days after the World Series and then subsequently claimed again by the Rangers. 

Rollins was a 24th round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2011 MLB Draft and was traded a year later to the Houston Astros. Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners picked Rollins in the Rule 5 draft after the Astros chose not to protect him.

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.