Phillies Notes: Tough call with Tony Gwynn Jr.

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Phillies Notes: Tough call with Tony Gwynn Jr.

There was a lot of activity around Citizens Bank Park before Monday’s game against the San Francisco Giants to kick off a seven-game homestand.

The media areas were teeming with scouts on hand to get a closer look at some players that may be available before the July 31 trade deadline, though the Phillies put a few on the open market before the game.

Before the game the team announced that Tony Gwynn Jr. had been designated for assignment and catcher Koyie Hill was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Additionally, infielder Cesar Hernandez was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

The moves were made so that Cliff Lee, catcher Wil Nieves and infielder Reid Brignac were activated from the disabled list.

With catcher Carlos Ruiz due back from a concussion shortly, the Phillies will likely option Cameron Rupp.

Nevertheless, Gwynn’s ouster was particularly difficult for the Phillies considering the recent events that occurred in the outfielder’s life. Gwynn’s father, Tony Sr., died last month and the outfielder went on bereavement leave for a week. With a lack of regular playing time, Gwynn was elbowed out of the mix when the Phillies acquired outfielder Grady Sizemore.

Gwynn batted .163 in 67 games, including 2 for 28 as a pinch hitter. He started just four games since June 21 and was relegated to duty as a late-game defensive replacement.

“It was tough with Tony with everything he's gone through,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He's a very professional guy, a terrific teammate, so it's tough. We'll see what he decides. We did give him the option to remain with the organization, and we'll see. He had limited playing time as of late, but overall a terrific guy and teammate.”

Meanwhile, Sizemore has started all seven games since joining the Phillies. He went into Monday’s game 10 for 24 (.417) with a pair of doubles. Coming back from a couple of knee surgeries, Sizemore has been quite durable this season. Sandberg doesn’t see this changing.

“I'm just kind of keeping tabs on him and with the break that we had, he got some rest,” Sandberg said. “He's voiced his opinion to get as many reps as he can and games played. But I'm also going to pick my spots with him.”

Back to the farm
Batting just .225 in 52 games and without any action in a week, Hernandez will go back to Triple A where he can expect regular playing time.

More than anything, at-bats are what Hernandez, 24, needs at this stage of his development.

“He needs to go play and get at-bats, freshen up a little bit at second base. Get some reps there where he's very good but also get time at short and third, continue with that on the defensive side of things and get some innings and reps on that side of the diamond,” Sandberg said. “On the offensive side of things, leads and jumps, with his speed the leads and jumps at first base with his potential base stealing, and also with his at-bats. He swings a good bat and he's on the fastball. He's a very good fastball hitter. Just battling with two strikes, battling the breaking pitches will go a long way to helping his at-bats.”

More K.K.?
End-of-the-rotation starter Kyle Kendrick’s struggles have been well documented this year. In fact, the right-hander has been on a steady decline since the second half of last season.

However, when Kendrick’s spot in the rotation comes around again Friday, will he be out there?

“As of right now he is, yes,” Sandberg said.

But as with anything this time of year, everything is subject to change.

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

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Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Aaron Sanchez struck out 10 and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Tuesday night in the opener of their AL wild-card showdown.

Ezequiel Carrera also homered as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in eight games. They lead the wild-card standings by two games over the Orioles with five to play.

Baltimore began the day two games ahead of Detroit and Seattle for the league's final playoff spot.

Orioles slugger Chris Davis was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little after striking out against Joe Biagini in the seventh, the third time in three at-bats Davis was caught looking. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter also was tossed after he came out to argue (see full recap).

Syndergaard, Mets pound grieving Marlins
MIAMI -- With time running out in the playoff race, the New York Mets set sympathy aside.

Noah Syndergaard struck out eight and allowed one run in six innings Tuesday night, and the Mets totaled 19 hits to beat the grieving Miami Marlins 12-1.

Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes each hit his 31st homer for the Mets, who began the game with a half-game lead over the Giants in the battle for the first NL wild-card berth, with the Cardinals 1 1/2 games behind.

The game was the Marlins' second since the death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. One night after a heart-tugging victory over New York filled with tributes to their teammate, emotions were more subdued, and Miami's bats were too.

Syndergaard (14-9) had a lot to do with that. After missing a scheduled start Saturday with strep throat, he threw 93 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.60, third-best in the majors. He'll return to pitch the regular-season finale Sunday at Philadelphia if needed (see full recap).

Cards beat Reds to tighten wild-card race
ST. LOUIS -- Playing with a heavy heart, Aledmys Diaz hit his first career grand slam and the St. Louis Cardinals finished with five home runs Tuesday night in a 12-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Chasing the Giants and Mets in a tight race for the two NL wild cards, St. Louis moved within a half-game of San Francisco for the league's final playoff spot -- pending the Giants' late game against Colorado.

New York, which beat Miami 12-1, leads the wild-card standings and remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Jhonny Peralta had a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Cardinals, who had lost four of five. Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams also homered (see full recap).