Phillies 2, Orioles 2: Mackanin disappointed after losing no-hitter, lead in the 9th

Phillies 2, Orioles 2: Mackanin disappointed after losing no-hitter, lead in the 9th

BOX SCORE

SARASOTA, Fla. -- It was just a spring training game. Nonetheless, there was disappointment in Pete Mackanin's voice when it was over.

The Phillies came within two outs of a combined no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. The no-hit bid ended when Chris Dickerson singled against reliever Michael Mariot with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Mariot was then unable to hold the Phillies' 2-0 lead. He allowed a two-run homer to the next hitter, Sean Coyle, and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

The homer was a thrill for Coyle, who grew up in suburban Philadelphia, played at Germantown Academy and was a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010.

It was not a thrill for Mackanin.

"It's a shame to lose the no-hitter," he said.

Even in spring training?

"A no-hitter is a no-hitter," he said. "It would have been nice to win that game."

Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson and Colton Murray preceded Mariot.

Ryan Hanigan (RBI single) and Andrew Knapp (solo homer) drove in the Phillies' runs. Knapp has been 1 for 22 on the spring before the homer.
 
Velasquez's learning experience
If you were looking for distilled essence of Velasquez, the hard-throwing right-hander offered it in 3 2/3 innings of work.

His stuff was good enough to strike out six batters over the span.

By his control was so poor, especially in the first inning, that he walked four.

He ended up throwing 76 pitches, 39 strikes and 37 balls -- a terrible ratio.

High pitch counts like this were a nemesis for Velasquez last season, often preventing him from getting through the middle innings and pitching deeper into games. Being more economical with his pitches is a big goal for Velasquez this spring and season.

So it didn't happen for him on Thursday night.

But that doesn't mean the outing was a total loss. Velasquez called it a great learning experience. Though he allowed four base runners -- all on walks -- he did not give up a run. In baseball parlance, he pitched when he had to.

"This was a good, solid outing to learn from," Velasquez said. "Knowing that I was throwing a lot of pitches, I had to throw pitches in certain situations, in key situations. The changeup was working pretty well, helping me out a lot and also setting up my fastball for some of the strikeouts. Everything was pretty much down in the dirt but I had to make adjustments.

"This was pretty much one of the games where I needed to make pitches to get outs, especially bases loaded with a tough team like this. You've got to make the pitches in the heat of the moment."

Velasquez did that in the first inning. He walked three and struck out two in the frame. After the third walk, which loaded the bases, he was at 25 pitches for the inning and 15 were balls. He received a mound visit from pitching coach Bob McClure and proceeded to end the inning with two pitches and a fly ball to left.

"He was just giving me a break, trying to gather me up again," Velasquez said.

"Just the mental thing of calm down, get your composure back and breathe. It's amazing how just one meeting can change the outcome."

Velasquez often tapped his pitching hand against his leg, especially in the first inning when he had control problems. He was asked if he had a problem feeling his hand on a chilly Florida night. That was not the case. He was reminding himself to stay back and over the rubber and not get too aggressive in his delivery.

"I was reminding myself to try to be a little more controlled, be balanced and just let it work," he said.

It was an adjustment that seemed to help Velasquez in the second inning, and his overall takeaway from the night was positive.

"I think I can really take this (outing) and keep this under my hat and apply it later on down the road whenever I hit that bump again because everyone has the ups and downs," Velasquez said. "I had it last year and I've got to do my best to prevent it. This was a good learning experience to keep under my hat for the next outing. I'm glad it happened."

Up next
The Phillies host the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday afternoon. Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies against Marco Estrada. The Phillies will wear their tradition green St. Patrick's Day garb.

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies showed a little power in their 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

Tommy Joseph provided some of it.

Vince Velasquez provided a lot of it.

Joseph crushed a two-run home run to left field and also lined a double off the center-field wall on his way to a four-hit game. The double came off his bat at 109 miles per hour. The homer was his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, Velasquez showed off his big fastball in striking out seven Blue Jays over five innings of work. Vinny Velo's final pitch of the night was a 97-mph dart past a swinging Jose Bautista.

"That pitch felt really good coming out of my hand," Velasquez said. "Sometimes my fastball slips a little bit and I yank it, but this one I got right behind and threw it right through the catcher."

Velasquez actually struck out the side in that fifth inning against three pretty good hitters in Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.

"That last inning, he really let it go," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pitch economy remains an area that Velasquez needs to improve on. He threw 87 pitches. But he was pleased with the way he attacked hitters in that final inning of work.

"I didn't attack in one inning," he said. "But in that last inning, I stopped fiddling around and trusted my stuff. I need to do that the whole time."

Velasquez gave up just one run, a homer to Martin. He allowed five hits and walked two.

Velasquez had a busy night. He drove home a run with a ground out against Aaron Sanchez. He also walked against Sanchez and scored a run on a dash home from third base after Freddy Galvis got hung up between first and second. Galvis waved Velasquez home. After crossing home plate, Velasquez, rather humorously, almost ran into the netted backstop.

"I just had momentum. I got excited," he said. "As soon as I saw Tulo (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) make eye contact with Freddy, I booked it. He's going to think, 'Pitchers can't run,' so I showed off my athleticism."

After the outing, Velasquez pronounced himself ready for the regular season.

"I'm good to go," he said.

He made five Grapefruit League starts and gave up eight runs in 19 2/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 25.

"It's been a strong, healthy, successful spring training," he said.

Velasquez will likely start the home opener on April 7. He will need to get some work in this weekend. The Phillies leave Florida on Friday. He could stay behind for a day and pitch at the minor-league complex if needed.

Offense clicks
The Phillies had 12 hits. They had 15 in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays again on Tuesday night. That game will be in Clearwater. Aaron Nola will start against Marco Estrada.

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old, he would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.