More shoulder woes for Phils' prospect Morgan

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More shoulder woes for Phils' prospect Morgan

Phillies pitching prospect Adam Morgan finished the Triple A season with more shoulder issues, and they could impact Ethan Martin.

Martin, a rookie right-hander, made his seventh big-league start Tuesday night.

Martin is an intriguing prospect because of his powerful arm. His fastball can reach 95-plus mph, especially early in games. He often sees a decline in stuff in the middle innings and control can be an issue.

Some baseball observers believe Martin’s skill set makes him a good candidate for late-game bullpen work. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that Martin could work as a starter or a reliever. In fact, Martin did pitch out of the bullpen at times during his time in the Dodgers' system. He came to the Phillies in a trade for Shane Victorino last summer.

Amaro says need will determine Martin’s future role. The GM said that Martin might have come up as a reliever earlier this season if the Phils’ rotation was not thinned by injuries to Roy Halladay, John Lannan and Jonathan Pettibone. Lack of starting depth is a big reason that Martin is starting now.

As for Martin’s role next year, depth could once again determine that.

Heading into the offseason, the Phils appear to have three rotation spots filled with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The rest is up in the air. Will Kyle Kendrick be tendered a contract? If he is, will he be trade bait? Will Halladay be re-signed? Will Pettibone be healthy after having been shut down last month with a sore shoulder?

The Phillies’ starting pitching depth even took a hit in the minors this season as Morgan had lingering shoulder issues.

Coming out of spring training, the 23-year-old left-hander was considered the organization’s most advanced starting pitching prospect. He was ahead of Pettibone, who eventually came up, ahead of Martin and ahead of Jesse Biddle, the darling of national publications.

Morgan came out of the chute with three strong starts at Triple A, then struggled for five starts before going on the disabled list with a partial tear in his rotator cuff. After rehabbing the injury, he made it back in late July and made eight starts the remainder of the Triple A season. Though Morgan pitched to a 2.67 ERA in those starts, he allowed 37 hits and 14 walks in 30 1/3 innings.

But the real troubling part of Morgan’s stretch drive came in his final outing Thursday night. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings before departing with shoulder discomfort.

Assistant GM Benny Looper said Morgan was scheduled to be examined by team doctors this week.

“Hopefully with rest and rehab he’ll be fine,” Looper said.

So while Martin might profile as a hard-throwing reliever, rotation depth could factor into the Phillies’ decision on what role he fills in 2014. A lot could depend on how healthy Pettibone and Morgan are.

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro, one of the Phillies' most highly regarded prospects, is off to a big start at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
He entered Wednesday night's game hitting .377 (23 for 61) with a 1.003 OPS in his first 15 games. He had a double, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs. Team officials would surely like to see the strikeouts (17) come down and the walks (1) go up, but no one is complaining about the production.
 
"I just looked at his numbers," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's doing very well — knocking the cover off the ball."
 
Alfaro, 23, is widely considered the Phillies' catcher of the future. He's an athletic talent with huge upside. Many scouts believe he could be an All-Star if he puts it all together.
 
Defense is the area where Alfaro needs the most work. Yes, he's got a "howitzer" for an arm, as Mackanin called it, so that doesn't need much work. But there's a lot more to catching than throwing. There's game-calling, receiving and blocking.
 
Alfaro made a cameo with the big club last September and did not impress club officials with his receiving or blocking. Instructors focused on improving those areas in spring training, and Mackanin reports that Alfaro has shown progress in the early season.
 
"We get a complete game report on what everyone does offensively and defensively," Mackanin said. "Apparently he looks very good defensively.
 
"He had some issues defensively. He wasn't getting down enough and he worked on that all spring. He's a big guy and it's a little more difficult for a big guy to get low.
 
"And we wanted him to just be a little more quiet behind the plate, less movement. He had a tendency to be moving while the pitcher was getting ready to pitch. We just want a guy sitting back there nice and quiet with a good target. That might seem pretty elementary, but if you're not concentrating on doing that you might not realize the importance of it.
 
"He's doing well blocking balls. He's doing everything well right now and hitting on top of it, so that's a nice sign."

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Pitcher Clay Buchholz made his first appearance in the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday since having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm last week.  

Many initially believed Buchholz would be out for the remainder of the season -- and he still might be -- but he expressed optimism and believes he can return to the mound in September.

"My goal right now is to let this heal," Buchholz said. "Get it well and if this team keeps playing like they're playing right now, we'll be playing in September, October, so that's my goal."

Buchholz said he wasn't feeling 100 percent leading up to the April 11 game against the New York Mets when manager Pete Mackanin pulled him in the third inning. 

"I told [general manager Matt Klentak] that I was sorry, and the guys in here," Buchholz said. "I was brought here for a reason. I wanted to pitch, I wanted to be good. I guess it's a good thing we have a good farm system here because they've been able to step up and fill in."

Buchholz had a similar issue with the Boston Red Sox in July 2015 and missed the rest of the season. 

In his two starts with the Phillies, Buchholz allowed 10 runs and 19 baserunners over just 7 1/3 innings. 
 
Buchholz, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the season. Given his age and the possibility that he won't return this season, the injury could significantly affect his value heading into the offseason. He's the second-highest paid player on the Phillies' roster at $13.5 million

But Buchholz wants to build the strength in his forearm and continue to pitch in MLB following this season.

"There's a lot of guys that come back," Buchholz said. "I have a lot of buddies that played this game that have come back from major surgeries and played for eight or nine more years. It's all about once I do get healthy, being prepared and building a strong foundation around my muscles."