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."

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.