The Phillies will add more netting to protect fans from foul balls at Citizens Bank Park in 2017.
The club on Friday informed season ticket holders that it would add netting above both dugouts. The netting will be eight feet high and extend to the far end of each dugout.
“We think this is a reasonable step which will provide additional protection for fans,” said Mike Stiles, the club’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We believe we can do this without obstructing the views of any of our fans.”
This is the second straight year that the Phillies have added protective netting. Last year, the club extended the backstop netting, bringing it closer to the dugouts.
A number of fans throughout baseball have been injured by flying bats and balls in recent seasons and many clubs have extended backstops and added netting around the dugouts. The additional safety measures have been supported by the players.
The Phillies’ decision to add more netting at Citizens Bank Park comes after a young girl was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Freddy Galvis at a game in August. Galvis was shaken by the incident and lobbied for more netting to be added.
According to the Phillies, the additional netting will be put in place later this month. The team has invited fans who hold season tickets near the dugouts to visit the ballpark and view the changes once the project is complete.
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."
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."