Pettibone, Phillies can't climb out of early hole in loss

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Pettibone, Phillies can't climb out of early hole in loss

BOX SCORE

It was just a matter of time until Phillies’ rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone had one of those nights.

In Thursday night’s 9-2 loss to the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, it was just one of those innings that ruined his night (see Instant Replay).

In vying to become the first Phillies’ starting pitcher to begin his career with a 4-0 record since Randy Wolf did it in 1999, Pettibone was battered around for four runs in the first inning against the crafty Red Sox lineup.

Though he settled in and held the Red Sox scoreless after the first inning, it was a two-run, two-out double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia that sealed Pettibone’s fate. And strangely enough, Saltalamacchia hit the first pitch from Pettibone. If the Phillies were paying attention, they would have seen how the Red Sox made Pettibone and the club’s pitchers work during most at-bats.

That veteran approach knocked the rookie out of the game after throwing 98 pitches and drawing four walks in five innings.

“I didn’t finish the batters,” Pettibone said. “They were able to sneak some hits through and then (Saltalamacchia’s) double was up in the zone. He put a good swing on it and that was it.”

If there was something manager Charlie Manuel could steal from the Red Sox and inject into his team’s offense, it would be their patient approach at the plate. The Sox sent 46 hitters to the plate on Thursday night and 24 of them had at-bats that lasted four pitches or longer. In comparison, the Phillies had just 15 plate appearances that lasted four pitches or longer out of 34 hitters.

“They were very patient with Jonathan and they definitely made him pitch,” Manuel said. “They made him pitch and if you noticed, we swung at some bad balls, especially when we were ahead in the count. We didn’t use their wildness to our advantage tonight.”

It’s one thing to look at a lot of pitches or wear out pitchers, and it’s another to make things happen. In pounding out 14 hits and drawing five walks, the Red Sox had 10 different players get at least one hit. They had five hits with runners in scoring position, got five extra-base hits and had five stolen bases.

Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury had all five of those stolen bases, setting a Red Sox record while becoming the first player since records were kept in 1916 to swipe five bags against the Phillies.

Ellsbury also reached base five times in three different ways. He had three hits, walked and got hit by a pitch.

If the Phillies wanted to stop Ellsbury, they didn’t do a very good job of it.

But as Manuel said after the game, wins are a struggle. Even when Pettibone, Cliff Lee or Kyle Kendrick turns in a quality start, the game is never a laugher for the Phillies. Though Pettibone struggled against the Red Sox, the Phillies still had a chance.

The problem is the offense just isn’t able to get much going unless the Phillies hit a home run.

“It’s a battle for us. To win a game is a battle,” Manuel said. “When we have [a pitcher] throw a really good game, it’s still a battle for us to win sometimes. We don’t blow anybody out. We don’t knock the cover off the ball.”

The Phillies got a pair of runs in the first on Delmon Young’s homer. After that, they put just two runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, the Phillies scored just 12 runs in the four games against the Red Sox and all but one of them came on homers.

Against spot-starter Franklin Morales, the Phillies went down in order in the second, third and fifth innings. During the fourth inning the Phillies loaded the bases with two walks and a single and looked poised to do some damage with just one out. However, catcher Erik Kratz bounced into an inning-ending double play.

From there, the Phillies had just three base runners the rest of the night.

“We didn’t muster enough offense,” Manuel said. “It’s kind of the same thing every day.”

The Phillies wasted a chance to move back to .500 for the first time since April 14. They have had three chances to get to .500 in the past seven games and have lost each time.

Nevertheless, Manuel says the Phillies’ goal isn’t simply to get back to .500.

“We want to get beyond .500. There’s no doubt about that,” the manager said. “We’re not looking at .500 as some great championship move.”

The Phillies look to bounce back on Friday night when they open a three-game series against the last-place Milwaukee Brewers. The pitching matchups for the weekend are:

Friday: Cole Hamels (1-8, 4.43) vs. Yovani Gallardo (3-5, 4.79)
Saturday: Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 5.74) vs. Mike Fiers (1-3, 6.62)
Sunday: Cliff Lee (6-2, 2.34) vs. Wily Peralta (3-6, 6.35).

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with 8 homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253 with 24 HR, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.