Papelbon blows another save in Phils' latest loss

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Papelbon blows another save in Phils' latest loss

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It didn’t exactly go over very well. When closer Jonathan Papelbon said the Phillies needed to make changes “from top to bottom” in the organization and that he didn’t sign with the team to go through a losing season last weekend in Detroit, it didn’t win him too many new friends.

But Papelbon wasn’t taking anything back. Not even after picking up another blown save with a two-run ninth inning in a 2-1 loss to the Giants on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

“I think they speak for themselves,” Papelbon said, offering no mea culpa. “Whether I blow a game or whether I save a game, whatever is happening within the organization, I feel like I’m honest and forthcoming and I’m the same way after games like tonight.

“I feel like that’s the best way to go about a day’s work is to just be honest with yourself and be honest with the position you’re in and not try to sugarcoat anything or trying to see something for what it’s not. That’s the way I’ve always been. I go by facts and I stand by what I say. I don’t feel like I said anything that wasn’t true.”

Still, maybe it’s not a good idea to blow a save in the first outing since calling out everyone.

Handed a 1-0 lead after Cole Hamels pitched brilliantly for eight innings, Papelbon, in his first save opportunity since July 11, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. The four hits were all singles to start the ninth inning with Joaquin Arias driving in the go-ahead run on the 10th pitch of the frame.

No, the Giants didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball in dealing Papelbon and the Phillies their 10th loss in the last 11 games. But the Giants didn’t get any cheap ones off Papelbon, either.

“Not me. I think my ball has life at the plate, which is all I care about it,” Papelbon said. “If I’m getting hit all over the ballpark with hard hit balls, I have to reassess. After a night like tonight, you just kind of chalk it up to that’s that. I felt all of my pitches were working. I felt good. I felt strong. It was just one of those nights.”

Yes, Papelbon is chalking it up to just one of those nights. Though manager Charlie Manuel said Papelbon was “a really good closer when he’s right,” and his velocity on his fastball hasn’t been what it used to be, he doesn’t see the need for too many adjustments. Even though that in addition to the six blown saves, Papelbon has seen his strikeouts per nine innings dip dramatically, he says it’s by design.

“I’m not going out there and trying to blow anybody away. I’m trying to get outs,” Papelbon said. “That’s basically what it boils down to.”

Besides, Papelbon says he also has been forced to make certain adjustments and pitch in situations he hasn’t been used to as a closer.

“I think for me this year it’s been a constant adjustment on how to figure out how to go without pitching or pitching in tie ballgames a lot,” Papelbon said. “I think for me more than anything there have been some situations that have come up that have been fairly new for me. I think for me I just try to go out there one day at a time to see how I can get better each day and not necessarily worry about struggling and whatnot.”

Still, one has to wonder how culpable Papelbon feels he is for the Phillies’ lackluster season. At 50-58, the Phillies are 13½ games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and just 2-10 since the All-Star break. Papelbon has blown six save opportunities and closed out just seven games since June 17.

Certainly, that’s not the type of closer the Phillies were looking for when they signed Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal before the 2012 season. Those six blown saves have resulted in just three losses, which means his teammates have bailed him out. Against the Giants, Papelbon could not help out Hamels.

“Obviously, I want to go in and preserve wins for these starters, man. Because that’s what I take pride in,” Papelbon said. “But some nights, it really, you just go back in the dugout and you kind of scratch your head, like, what just happened? A tough pill to swallow.”

Papelbon is hardly the only one to blame in the Phillies’ latest loss. Against Matt Cain, the Phillies got six hits and Hamels -- taking matters into his own hands -- drove in the only run for the Phillies with a two-out single in the fifth.

The Phillies had a chance to score in the seventh after Darin Ruf walked to lead off the inning and pinch runner Michael Martinez stole second base. With one out, Martinez was thrown out at the plate after John Mayberry Jr. singled to left.

Manuel said Martinez got a bad jump off second.

In the eighth, Jimmy Rollins tripled with one out, but was thrown out at the plate when Michael Young grounded one into the teeth of the drawn-in infield.

Then in the ninth, the Phillies had the bases loaded and no outs against Giants’ closer Sergio Romo and still could not tie the game. Laynce Nix popped out to shallow right, Carlos Ruiz popped out to shallow left and pinch hitter Erik Kratz grounded out to end the game.

Afterwards, instead of talking about pitching a gem for a much-needed win, Hamels was asked how he felt about Papelbon’s comments.

“I don’t like to lose. I didn’t sign here to lose,” Hamels said. “A lot of the thoughts that we have don’t get voiced a lot, and sometimes they do get voiced and it can look really bad. But I think all of us want to win and are capable of winning, but it isn’t happening and I think it’s very frustrating. It’s the human nature of not being able to control our emotions and things creep out that probably don’t need to be said.

“But at the same time, things obviously have to be addressed, because if we keep going down this path there will have to be changes. That’s myself included. I have to go out and win and be the best pitcher I can every five days and be a part, and if I’m not a part then I’m a culprit, and I don’t want to be a culprit. So we have to get back to winning ways and plug away.”

Next, the Phillies host the Braves for three games starting on Friday night.

MLB Notes: Austin Jackson makes Indians' opening day roster

MLB Notes: Austin Jackson makes Indians' opening day roster

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Outfielder Austin Jackson took an opportunity with the Cleveland Indians and ran with it.

Jackson was informed on Sunday that he has made Cleveland's opening-day roster, giving the AL champions some outfield depth in case Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley aren't ready for the start of the season.

The 30-year-old Jackson signed a minor league deal with the Indians in January. He missed the early part of training camp as he recovered from left knee surgery, but Jackson has made up for lost time by batting .375 with one homer and five RBIs in Cactus League games.

Jackson played in only 54 games last year with the Chicago White Sox before undergoing knee surgery to repair torn meniscus. He's played in the postseason with Detroit and the Cubs.

Jackson had an out clause in his contract that had to be exercised by Sunday (see full story).

Rockies: Mark Reynolds' contract selected from Triple A
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Colorado Rockies have selected the contract of first baseman Mark Reynolds from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Reynolds figures to be the starter at first in the absence of Ian Desmond, who is out with a broken left hand.

The 33-year-old Reynolds hit a career-best .282 last season with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. He was limited to 32 at-bats after Aug. 11. He broke a bone in his left hand while swinging a bat, had surgery on Aug. 15, was activated Aug. 31 and broke his left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Sept. 18.

He re-signed with Colorado in February on a minor-league deal.

Also Sunday, Colorado placed right-hander Chad Bettis on the 60-day disabled list as he deals with testicular cancer. There is no timetable for Bettis' return.

Tigers: Lowe released; Jimenez to minor-league camp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers have released right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, one of several cuts before Sunday's spring training game against Toronto.

Detroit also optioned catcher John Hicks to Triple-A Toledo, and the Tigers reassigned right-handers Joe Jimenez, Ruben Alaniz, Logan Kensing, Arcenio Leon and Edward Mujica, infielder Dominic Ficociello and outfielders Anthony Gose and Juan Perez to minor league camp.

The Tigers signed Lowe to an $11 million, two-year contract before last season, but he was ineffective in 2016, going 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA in 54 appearances. He had a 5.19 ERA in nine appearances this spring.

In 2015, Lowe went 1-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 57 games with Seattle and Toronto.

Phillies 6, Pirates 3: Andrew Knapp's big day comes at the right time

Phillies 6, Pirates 3: Andrew Knapp's big day comes at the right time

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ever since Andrew Knapp earned his way onto the Phillies' 40-man roster back in November, it seemed to be a fait accompli that he would end up as the team's backup catcher on opening day.

But that's not to say he didn't have to shine just a little bit in spring training to validate his standing.

Knapp got off to a slow start in Grapefruit League play -- one hit in his first 22 at-bats -- but he began the final week of camp with his best game on Sunday. He went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run and threw out two runners on the bases.

"It's been nice to get some games back-to-back," Knapp said. "I struggled a little bit early just taking a lot of time off in between at-bats and behind the plate. But this past week, I've been able to get in there a lot and start to get in the flow of the game a little bit. I think I was trying to do too much early on."

The increased playing time is likely a sign that Knapp will end up on the 25-man roster. The Phils have two non-roster veteran catchers -- Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan -- in camp. Both can opt out of their minor-league contracts in the coming days if they aren't going to make the club.

Phillies officials are looking to make as few subtractions from the 40-man roster as they can in constructing their bench and bullpen (see story). That's why things are looking good for Knapp.

But he's taking nothing for granted. Though Phillies officials were scheduled to meet Sunday evening "to try to get as close to the finalization as we can," in manager Pete Mackanin's words, opening day rosters don't have to be officially submitted until next Sunday, a day before the season opener.

"I'm just trying to keep my head down and not think about it that much," Knapp said. "The playing helps a lot. When you're just sitting on the bench, you're thinking about a million things. But when you're in the game, you get away from that a little bit. Just go out there, play, and enjoy the game. It's helped a lot."

The rest of the bench
Andres Blanco and Aaron Altherr are both set on the bench. Knapp looks good. That leaves two open spots, presuming the Phillies go with a five-man bench.

Chris Coghlan and Daniel Nava, both non-roster veterans, have played extensively in recent days. That suggests they could be the lead candidates. If that's the case, Brock Stassi, who has not played the last two days, could be on the outside. Infielder Jesmuel Valentin is also still in camp and he has played well. He's also on the 40-man roster and that would play in his favor. However, at 22, he might be better served to get regular playing time in Triple A.

Neither Coghlan nor Nava is on the 40-man roster so the Phils would have to clear spots to carry them.

Coghlan made an excellent running catch against the wall in left field Sunday.

The game
The Phillies had 15 hits and six of them were for extra bases, including homers by Knapp and Maikel Franco, in their 6-3 win over the Pirates.

Clay Buchholz, who had not pitched in 10 days after traveling home for the birth of his son, was rusty. He gave up five hits and three runs in 3 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four.

"Four walks is definitely subpar, but, you know, it's still spring training," Buchholz said.

The right-hander has allowed 11 runs over his last 14 2/3 innings.

"You can't honestly say he's had a good spring, but he was up close to 90 pitches today so pitch-count-wise he's doing fine," Mackanin said. "He hadn't pitched in 10 days so I can understand his lack of command. Once he's into a rhythm I think he'll be fine."

Venditte shines
Ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

"It's fun to watch Venditte pitch," Mackanin said. "If I'm up in the stands and I see him throw four pitches from the right side and I reach over to get my Coke or beer and I look back up and he's throwing from the left side I will start wondering how many beers I had. He's fun to watch."

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Monday night. Vince Velasquez will start against Toronto's Aaron Sanchez.

The Phils could have several roster moves during the day as the 25-man roster continues to come into focus.