Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

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Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

Marlins (1-3) vs. Phillies (1-2) 1:05 p.m. on CSN

Starting pitchers
Cole Hamels, hoping to stop the teams two-game losing streak, takes the hill in the Phillies home opener. The free-agent-to-be was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA and a microscopic 0.99 WHIP in 2011. Hamels finished sixth in the NL in ERA, second in WHIP, second in hits-per-nine innings, fourth in walks-per-nine and fifth in complete games. Hamels makes 15 million in his final arbitration year.

The Marlins send out righthander Anibal Sanchez, the third consecutive starter the Phillies face who lost nine games last season. Sanchez in 2011 was 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 196 innings. Since 2009, Sanchez is 3-4 in 11 starts vs. the Phils with a 3.88 ERA. Hes 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts at Citizens Bank Park. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter in Sept. 2006 to end the longest no-hitter drought in major-league history (6,364 games).

Previous games
The Phillies lost their third consecutive series at PNC Park when Andrew McCutchen hit a walkoff RBI single off David Herndon Sunday. The Phils batted .204.264.255 against the Pirates with three extra-base hits in three games.

The bullpen blew a save, allowing seven baserunners over 2 23 innings. Michael Stutes allowed two runs and Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo combined for one.

The Marlins served up a walkoff of their own Sunday, losing to the Reds, 6-5, in a game they led in the ninth inning. Heath Bell allowed four hits and two runs in a third of an inning. The Fish are 1-3, having been stifled offensively in their first two games (home vs. St Louis, at Cincinnati).

Head-to-head
After years of struggles with the Marlins, the Phillies are 25-11 against Miami since 2010.

Hamels is 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA lifetime vs. the Marlins. His peripherals are familiarly impressive -- .226 opponents batting average, better than a strikeout per inning, four times as many strikeouts as walks.

The Phillies have great career numbers vs. Sanchez, but much of the run production came from Chase Utley (.441 batting average in 34 at-bats) and Ryan Howard (two homers, two doubles, 11 walks to nine strikeouts).

Placido Polanco is 9 for 18 off Sanchez with two home runs. Jimmy Rollins is 10 for 30 (.333).
Whos hot
Hunter Pence, who has seven of the Phillies 16 total bases. Pence had an RBI double and a solo home run to put the first two runs of the game on the board Sunday.

For the Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio is 5 for 15 with three steals. Omar Infante is 4 for 14 with a season cycle: a single, double, triple and home run.

Whos not
Freddy Galvis is 0 for 10. Ty Wigginton is 1 for 8. Rollins is 2 for 12. Kyle Kendrick has recorded four outs, but three were on line drives.

In the other clubhouse, Gaby Sanchez is 1 for 12 after an awful spring. Hanley Ramirez is 2 for 15.

Storylines
Can the Phillies avoid a 1-3 start?

How will Hamels pitch in the first start of his all-important contract year?

Will the Phillies hit Sanchez without Utley and Howard?

Does Juan Pierre start again in left field?

Will the bunting with a man on second and no outs stop?

Sound off
What is your biggest concern three games into the season?

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' 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 to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."