'Pen win shows Phils' need for starting pitching

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'Pen win shows Phils' need for starting pitching

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MIAMI -- The Phillies’ need for starting pitching is on full display this week.

On Monday night, Roy Halladay lasted just 16 pitches before shutting it down for the season. Who knows if he’ll be back in 201 (see story)?

On Thursday night, Tyler Cloyd will pitch in Atlanta. He has allowed 25 hits and 17 runs in 13 innings over three starts this month. Ouch.

On Tuesday night, Zach Miner started for the Phillies. He did a nice job, allowing just one run in four innings in a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay). But Miner is viewed primarily as a long reliever. He got his second spot start in place of Kyle Kendrick, who has been shut down for the remainder of the season with shoulder soreness.

The Phillies have a good place to start their rotation with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in 2014.

Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez should also hold down one of the five spots. He’d better after signing a three-year, $12 million contract.

After that, it’s wide open.

Jonathan Pettibone figures to be in the mix. Kendrick will be if the Phillies retain him. Halladay could be, as well, if he’s re-signed.

But the Phillies will need more than that. They could look to make a free-agent signing or pick up another starter in a trade. Either way, new skipper Ryne Sandberg believes the club needs to improve its starting pitching. The numbers support his belief. Phillies starting pitchers rank 25th in the majors this season with a 4.36 ERA. Since the All-Star break, they rank last in the majors at 5.24.

“Starting pitching is very much a priority,” Sandberg said. “We also need depth in starting pitching. You have the fifth starter and the backup of a sixth and a seventh starter whether at Triple A or built up in the bullpen. That’s what’s necessary these days to get through the season.

“So we need to address the depth of starting pitching and the rotation.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. concurred with his skipper. He emphasized the need for depth.

Miner’s start Tuesday night illustrated the need for depth. He is the 10th different pitcher to start for the Phillies this season. On Saturday, the Phils could make it 11 different starters as they need to plug Halladay’s spot in the rotation one last time.

Sandberg was pleased with Miner’s effort.

“He did a nice job with his four innings,” Sandberg said. “It was a good lift for us on a bullpen day.”

“I wish I could be more pitch-efficient with these two outings and eat some more innings up,” said Miner, who went three innings in place of Kendrick in his first start. “I’m just trying to get guys out. Overall, I’ve been happy. We won today.”

The Phils snapped a five-game losing streak. They are 19-18 under Sandberg.

Offense has not been plentiful for the Phillies in the first two games of the series. They were shut out on four hits Monday night. They had just five hits Tuesday night and scored both of their runs in the first inning on a double by Jimmy Rollins and three straight walks by Miami starter Henderson Alvarez.

Rollins and leftfielder Domonic Brown combined on a nice relay to cut down a runner at third in the second inning, a big play in a tight game, and the relief corps of Mike Stutes, J.C. Ramirez, Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon combined on five scoreless innings to close it out.

Stutes, in his first game back since going on the disabled list with shoulder soreness June 22, got the win.

“He was only 89 mph, but he painted the knee caps, had really good location,” Sandberg said.

Diekman has allowed just one run in his last 16 1/3 innings. He retired dangerous Giancarlo Stanton with a runner on base to end the eighth inning.

“Diekman has been tested against all parts of the order,” Sandberg said. “He’s done a good job throwing strike one and commanding the zone. We saw a 98 and 99 (mph) tonight. When he’s rested, that’s what shows up.”

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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