Phillies hope Delmon Young fills RF spot

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Phillies hope Delmon Young fills RF spot

An outfield competition will still take place in Clearwater, but the Phillies hope they have solved at least one of their question marks on the corners.

The Phils on Tuesday signed outfielder Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 performance-bonus laden contract with the expectation of him earning the job as their starting right fielder. Its a low-risk, potentially high-reward acquisition for the Phillies, who had been searching for another proven outfielder to add to the mix.

Now, if Young can prove his defense in right field is up to par, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix will compete for playing time on the opposite side of Ben Revere.

"I view this is an addition of depth in our outfield, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. While obviously Delmons got a lot more track record as far as success in the major leagues, he still can be competing for playing time. Ideally, hed be playing right field every day for us but thats not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us."

Young, a career .284 hitter, played left field in just 30 his 151 games last season for the American League-champion Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old has not played his natural position of right field since 2007, his first full major league season, when he appeared in 130 games there for Tampa Bay. The former first-overall pick switched to left when he was traded to the Twins in November 2007, as Denard Span was occupying the right side in Minnesota.

Young does come without his fair share of baggage. He was suspended 50 games in 2006 as a minor leaguer for flinging his bat at an umpire. And then, in April of last year, he was accused of shouting an anti-Semitic slur outside a New York hotel, an incident that led to him pleading guilty of aggravated harassment and a seven-game suspension from MLB. He recently completed his allotted hours of community service, helping to clean a New York City park.

"It was an unfortunate incident," Young said. "I put myself in a bad situation, but it was a one-time thing. Its not like it was a daily thing. I've learned a lot from it and how to rebound from it. I have a great support system, from family and friends to teammates in Detroit. Id like to thank them because they kept my spirits up and told me I could get through."

Young's past was something Amaro said and the Phillies did their homework on. In addition to meeting with Young, the GM spoke with the anti-defamation league in Philadelphia and rabbi acquaintances.

"The off-field stuff is something that we did think about," Amaro said. "[We] did a lot of due diligence on what kind of person he is. I think more than anything else the conclusion that we came up with was that he made a mistake and whatever was written about him in the past I think doesn't really depict the kind of person he is. Obviously we want to have good character guys in our clubhouse, and I think hes going to be one."

Amaro said there's a chance Young could start the season on the disabled list, as the outfielder underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 10, just after the World Series. Young, who has already lost 20 pounds on a healthier diet, continues to work through a four-to-six month rehab process in preparation for spring training.

He admitted there will likely be a learning curve moving back to right field but added that with Minnesota he often found himself looking across the field and is looking forward to the opportunity. Hes also familiar with Revere, a teammate from the Twins.

"As a younger player [Young] was at least an average, probably a plus-defender in right field as he was coming through the minor leagues in the Tampa organization," Amaro said. "Always had a good arm. Its backed off a little bit since hes been doing more DHing. And there is some risk here, there's no question about it. But we think it's one of those situations where it's kind of a low risk, high reward because the guy can hit."

Young understands the position he's in, signing with just three weeks until spring training for much less money than the $6.75 million he made last season.

"I've done some things where theres a reason for it," he said. "If I went out there and was an All-Star six years in a row and was healthy and a model citizen, then yeah. But this is where I'm looking to make a change. Ive had a full offseason to reflect on life and have good people around me."

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

NEW YORK — Phillies players were greeted by a message from Carlos Ruiz when they entered the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field on Friday.

“I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! Gracias,” (see story).

Ruiz did not actually write those words on the whiteboard by the entry to the clubhouse, but they were his. He reached out to visiting clubhouse manager Tony Carullo and asked that the message be written in just that way.

Ruiz, 37, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, ending an 11-season run with the Phillies that included five NL East titles, a World Series championship, an All-Star Game, a slew of clutch hits, many words of praise from the pitching staff and a million calls of Choooooch from fans in the stands (see story).

“Everybody loved Chooch for a number of reasons,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s the kind of guy you loved seeing every day, a hard-working, humble and appealing human being.

“I’d like to think when he’s done playing, the Phillies might have a place for him.”

Mackanin paused and laughed.

“As long as they don’t make him manager and he takes my job.”

Ruiz’s exit leaves Ryan Howard as the only member of the 2008 World Series championship team still with the club. Over the last few seasons, Howard has seen Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley depart.

It’s a topic that Howard seems to have grown weary of talking about.

“I've had to hear about it every year,” he said. “It's again the same thing. You play with guys your entire career and now you see them in different uniforms. It's definitely going to be something to get used to but that's baseball. That's the business aspect of it. Teams make moves and that's what happens.”

Like the rest of the core of that team, Howard, 36, has been available for trade the last few seasons, but there has been no real interest because of his decline in performance and huge salary.

So he will play out the final six weeks of his contract and try to hook on elsewhere next season.

Howard saluted his former teammate, Ruiz.

“I'm trying to think of the right words,” he said.

“The thing about Chooch — he was the quarterback in a sense. The way he handled the pitching staff, the way he prepared himself for games with the pitchers, from the defensive standpoint knowing different situations, knowing what guy you want to beat you, what guy you don't want to beat you. Just the way he played the game, he was a fireball. He was a fireball out there. I'm definitely going to miss him. I hit him up yesterday a little bit after I found out. I was happy for him and wanted to wish him the best.

“Chooch, he was always very, very positive. Always trying to help guys out, trying to pick guys up when he can and it carried over onto the field. That was his mentality.”

The Phillies acquired veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later for Ruiz (see story). Ellis is due to join the team Saturday. In the meantime, the Phillies added prospect Jorge Alfaro from Double A (see story). He will be the backup catcher Friday night, then return to a talent-rich Reading club that has the best record in minor-league baseball and a date with the Eastern League playoffs.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard batting cleanup, Cameron Rupp catching

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard batting cleanup, Cameron Rupp catching

Following a day off, the Phillies continue their roadtrip with the start of a three-game set with the New York Mets.

Ryan Howard will bat in the heart of the Phillies order with Cameron Rupp at catcher following the trade of Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup remains mostly the same as it was prior to a brief two-game series with American League rules.

With Ruiz's trade, Howard is the last remaining member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series team. He'll try to throw back to that time against the ageless Bartolo Colon. 

Howard has good power numbers against Colon. He has just six hits in 28 at-bats, but has drawn three walks and has three home runs against the 43-year-old starter. There are only 18 pitchers he has faced more often than Colon.

At catcher, Rupp had already inherited the starting job from Ruiz, but he is now the backstop with more experience in Philadelphia. The Phillies called up prospect Jorge Alfaro for now, but he will likely remain on the bench and be sent down when A.J. Ellis reports this weekend. 

Rupp has five hits in 14 at-bats against Colon. He has faced only the Braves' Julio Teheran more times than Colon in his four-year career. The five hits are tied for his most against any one pitcher (Teheran).

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Colon and the Mets. 

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Aaron Altherr, LF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Adam Morgan, P

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Another chance to solve the ageless Bartolo Colon

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Another chance to solve the ageless Bartolo Colon

Phillies (59-68) at Mets (64-63)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

On Day 1 of the post-Carlos Ruiz era, the Phillies are at Citi Field to begin a three-game series with the Mets. 

Let's take a look:

1. Quick audition for Alfaro
Jorge Alfaro has been called up by the Phillies in time for Friday's game against the Mets. It won't be for long, though, as catcher A.J. Ellis will join the Phils on Saturday.

Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke Thursday night about the importance of receiving Ellis from the Dodgers in the Ruiz trade. Like Chooch, Ellis is known for his game-calling ability. With Cameron Rupp being more of an offensive-minded catcher, the need still exists for a vet like Ellis.

Alfaro is regarded as the top catching prospect in baseball by MLB.com, and he will likely be called up again in mid-September, but for now the promotion seems more need-based than anything else. The Phillies need a backup catcher until Ellis arrives and Alfaro was the only catcher other than Rupp on the 40-man roster. The move made sense.

2. Yet another meeting with Colon
The Phillies face 43-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon for the fourth time this season and 13th time since he joined the Mets in 2014. 

Colon (11-7, 3.36) has lost fastball velocity each season since 2011. His heater averaged 91.7 mph that season and is all the way down to 87.7 this year. But he remains effective because he commands that fastball as well as any pitcher in baseball. Colon throws one of his two fastballs a whopping 89 percent of time. His pitch distribution this season has been 65 percent two-seamers, 24 percent four-seamers, seven percent sliders and four percent changeups.

The Phillies just haven't been able to solve Colon the last several years. In his starts against them as a Met, Colon is 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Nine of the 12 were quality starts.

Colon has a 2.25 ERA in four August starts, but he's been hittable. His opponents have hit .320 this month, but Colon has beared down with men on base.

Current Phillies have hit .229 against him with four home runs, three of which belong to Ryan Howard.

3. Morgan looks to build momentum
Adam Morgan has had a rough time in the majors in 2016, going 1-7 with a 6.21 ERA, but he's coming off his best start since early May. He allowed one run in six innings vs. the Cardinals last Friday. It was his first time pitching six innings in his last seven starts.

Morgan has faced the Mets just once, last season. He allowed five runs and 11 baserunners in 3⅔ innings.

Morgan has shown he's better than his opponents at Triple A, but in the majors he's had a lot of trouble retiring righties. They've hit .300 with 67 extra-base hits and an .887 OPS in 533 plate appearances. He's essentially made all right-handed hitters look like last year's version of Nolan Arenado.

4. Power at first
The Phillies' first base production has increased since the All-Star break as Howard has gotten hot. But Tommy Joseph continues to hit for power when given the opportunity to play, hitting his 17th homer Wednesday night in Chicago.

Since 2000, only seven players have more homers than Joseph in their first 75 games: Jose Abreu, Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, George Springer, Albert Pujols, Trevor Story and Wilin Rosario. 

The Phillies lead the majors with 33 home runs from their first basemen. (Howard and Joseph have a combined 36, but three of them came when one was either pinch-hitting or DH'ing.)

Howard, by the way, is up to .199. A 1-for-3 game would get him above the Mendoza line for the first time since April 30.

5. This and that
• Setup man Hector Neris leads the majors with 64 appearances, but he's only getting better as the season progresses. In his last 18⅓ innings, he's allowed one run (0.49 ERA) and 11 baserunners (0.60 WHIP). He's struck out 26 and walked two.

• The Mets are third in the National League with 165 home runs but 13th in runs. It's a boom-bust offense that has gone bust far too often this season. The Mets rank 29th in team batting average (.241) and 27th in on-base percentage (.309).

• Yoenis Cespedes returned last Friday from a quad injury and has hit since, going 8 for 25 with three homers and two doubles.

• Travis d'Arnaud has always been a highly regarded catcher, and he's healthy now, but he's missed so much time over the last few years that the Mets can't be certain he's their catcher of the future. The 27-year-old was traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in December 2009 in the Roy Halladay deal and then shipped to the Mets three years later with Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey. D'Arnaud showed flashes last season, when he hit .268/.340/.485, but he averaged 88 games in 2014-15 and has played in just 54 this season.