MLB Notes: Albert Pujols looks to test knee

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MLB Notes: Albert Pujols looks to test knee

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols hopes to begin agility drills and light running in a couple of days to test his surgically repaired right knee.

Pujols underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee in October, what he considered a minor cleanup procedure, but says he will ease into spring training with the hopes of being fully healthy for opening day. There's no reason to rush things in mid-February with the season nearly two months away (see full story).

Cards extend GM Mozeliak
JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a three-year contract extension with general manager John Mozeliak and exercised the 2014 option for manager Mike Matheny.

The 44-year-old Mozeliak will now be with the Cardinals through 2016. Matheny, in the second year of a two-year contract, is now guaranteed through next year. Terms were not announced.

Chairman William DeWitt says the management team shares the same vision and he praised both managers, saying Matheny did a "remarkable" job in his first season, coming within a win of taking the team to a second straight World Series (see full story).

Francona plans speech
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona has his speech planned. To him, it's the biggest one he'll give all season. 

With Boston in his rear view mirror, Cleveland's new manager will stand before the revamped Indians on Friday and outline his expectations for training camp and the upcoming season. Francona, who spent a year as a broadcaster after eight seasons with the Red Sox, said it's vital to set the right tone with his team, one that has been overhauled by an unexpected spending spree.

The Indians invested $117 million in guaranteed money on free agents this winter, with the signings of outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn accounting for $104 million.
Bourn, an All-Star with Atlanta last season, arrived at the team's training facility on Thursday. He'll be introduced at a news conference shortly after the Indians have their first full-squad workout (see full story).

Youkilis changes sides
TAMPA, Fla. -- Kevin Youkilis has taken part in his first workout with the New York Yankees.

The one-time Boston Red Sox third baseman was part of a pre-spring training session Thursday at the Yankees' minor league complex.

Youkilis took batting practice and also stopped at Steinbrenner Field, where New York's pitchers and catchers held their second day of workouts, and talked with manager Joe Girardi.

A three-time All-Star, Youkilis figures to be the Yankees' starting third baseman for at least the first half of the season while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. Youkilis agreed to a $12 million, one-year contract in December (see full story).

Phillies-Braves observations: Ben Lively ambushed in 1st inning of blowout loss

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Phillies-Braves observations: Ben Lively ambushed in 1st inning of blowout loss

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Ben Lively's ability to deliver quality starts escaped him early on Friday night. The rookie right-hander was tagged for five first-inning runs as he and the Phillies absorbed a 7-2 beating by the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

Lively had authored a quality start — six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs — in nine of his previous 13 outings this season.

The Phillies are 26-53 on the road with two more road games remaining.

• Lively allowed a sixth run in the second inning, but did manage to get things in order in the third inning. He finished with three straight scoreless innings and pitched through the fifth, preventing the team from blowing out its bullpen in the first game of the series.

• Before the game, manager Pete Mackanin praised Lively's competitiveness and said it helped him make up for having "pretty ordinary" stuff. Lively can survive with that ordinary stuff if he keeps it out of the middle of the plate. He did not do that in this game. In particular, Kurt Suzuki hit a down-the-middle, 92-mph fastball for a two-run home run in the first inning.

• The Braves' first six hitters of the game all reached on hits.

• The Braves also sent a rookie to the mound. Lefty Sean Newcomb held the Phillies to two runs over 5 1/3 innings. Newcomb has faced the Phillies three times this season and allowed just five earned runs in 16 1/3 innings. He was a first-round pick of the Angels in 2014 — he went 15th overall, eight picks behind Aaron Nola — and was traded to Atlanta in November 2015.

• The Phillies' offense did little. The Phils did not have a hit through the first three innings. Cesar Hernandez doubled to lead off the fourth and eventually scored on a fly ball by Nick Williams. Williams also singled home a run in the sixth inning. He has 52 RBIs in 75 games. Twenty-two of his RBIs have come this month. Williams had two of the Phillies' six hits.

• Odubel Herrera went hitless against the Braves for the first time this season. He had hit safely in 13 previous games this season — 16 overall, dating to last season — at a .434 clip.

• Atlanta's Ender Inciarte led off the bottom of the first inning with a double against Lively. It was his 192nd hit of the season, third most in the majors behind Charlie Blackmon (201 entering Friday) and Jose Altuve (195 entering Friday). The Braves have not had a player reach 200 hits since Marquis Grissom had 207 in 1996. Jimmy Rollins was the Phillies' last 200-hit man. He had 212 in his MVP season of 2007. Inciarte is a former Rule 5 pick by the Phillies. In fact, he opened the season with the 2013 Phillies before being sent back to Arizona, his original team. The Phillies are typically patient with players. They were not patient enough with Inciarte. In 2013, they were still hoping to contend and did not feel they could carry Inciarte. The rebuild did not begin in earnest until after the 2014 season.

• The race for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft is going right down to the wire. The Phillies are 61-93. The San Francisco Giants entered play Friday night at 60-93. The Chicago White Sox were 61-91.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 7.20) gets his second look in the rotation Saturday night. He will oppose right-hander Julio Teheran (11-12, 4.52).

Tonight's lineup: Phillies begin final road series with familiar lineup

Tonight's lineup: Phillies begin final road series with familiar lineup

For the first four months of the season, 100 losses appeared inevitable. Not anymore.

Despite failing to complete a four-game sweep of the MLB-best Dodgers Thursday afternoon, the Phillies begin their final road series tonight in Atlanta coming off a 7-3 homestand. At 61-92 and nine games left, 100 losses seem highly unlikely.

Since the All-Star break, the Phillies are 32-34. Since Aug. 10, when they called up first baseman Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia is 19-23. Since Sept. 1, the Phillies are 11-9. After a long season of losing, now with young blood, the Phillies are tasting victory.

Tonight, manager Pete Mackanin is sticking with a lineup that's worked, with Hoskins batting cleanup, Nick Williams in right field and hitting third and J.P. Crawford batting eighth and playing third base.

With Freddy Galvis manning shortstop, Crawford has been seeing a lot of time at third base recently as the Phillies get a long look at Crawford in the majors.

The 22-year-old has not looked out of place either. Crawford on Thursday made four exceptional defensive plays in the Phillies' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers.

In addition to his defense, Crawford is heating up offensively too. He still has yet to hit his first career homer, but he is coming off a three-walk game Thursday. Crawford has eight walks in his last five games.

"He was advertised as someone who controls the strike zone," Mackanin said Thursday, "and he's proven that he can do that."

On Thursday, Crawford said the transition to third base has been seamless, and now that he's gotten his footing down in the big leagues, he's more comfortable in the batter's box.

Taking three of four games against the Dodgers with a team powered by young players — Hoskins, Williams, Odubel Herrera — gave Crawford hope for things to come.

"It showed me that we can compete with the best teams in the league," Crawford said Thursday. "I just can't wait for what next year has in store for us."

The Phillies will look to continue their recent success Friday night against the Braves. Ben Lively (3-6, 3.94) will make his second-to-last start of the season.
   
Lively has faced the Braves just once, his second career start on June 8. The right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings in a 3-1 loss.
   
He's second behind RHP Aaron Nola on the Phillies with nine quality starts. His last outing on Sept. 16 against Oakland was cut short because of rain.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, LF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. J.P. Crawford, 3B
9. Ben Lively, P

And the Braves' lineup:

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Kurt Suzuki, C
6. Johan Camargo, 3B
7. Lane Adams, LF
8. Dansby Swanson, SS
9. Sean Newcomb, P