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.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph both start

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph both start

Wednesday's matchup against floundering White Sox righty James Shields is a rare opportunity for Phillies manager Pete Mackanin to have both Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph in the same lineup (see game notes). In an American League ballpark against a right-handed starter, Howard (DH) will bat cleanup and Joseph (1B) will hit sixth.

Howard, who is hitting .378 with five homers and 13 RBIs in August, sat out Tuesday's 9-1 loss (see game recap). The Phillies managed only five hits, as White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon stymied the team's offense.

Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera also return to the lineup. Herrera has four hits in six career at-bats against Shields. Overall, the Phillies have a .297 batting average against the veteran Sox starter. 

With Herrera and Hernandez back at the top of the order, Aaron Altherr moves down from second to seventh. Out of Altherr's 95 at-bats this season, only four have come from the seventh spot. Here is the full lineup:

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

Tim Tebow's baseball bid 'kind of a slap in the face,' says Phillies reliever

Tim Tebow's baseball bid 'kind of a slap in the face,' says Phillies reliever

CHICAGO — David Hernandez has great respect for what Tim Tebow did on the football field.

But as for Tebow's bid to become a major-league baseball player at age 29 after not having played the game since he was a junior in high school — well, Hernandez has some strong opinions.

The Phillies' relief pitcher first voiced them on Twitter when Tebow announced his intentions two weeks ago and echoed them when it was announced Tuesday that the former Heisman trophy-winning quarterback had scheduled a private showcase for major-league scouts to be held next week in Los Angeles. As a matter of curiosity and due diligence, the Phillies will have a scout peek in on Tebow's workout. As many as 20 other teams are expected to be on hand as well.

"I think it's ridiculous," Hernandez said of Tebow's bid to reach the majors. "Hats off to him for getting an opportunity, but I just don't think it's very plausible that he'll get anywhere.

"Nothing against him, but just from the standpoint that getting to the major leagues is a long grind. It's not easy. There's a lot of work that goes into it. 

"It's kind of a slap in the face for him to say, 'I think I'll grab my things and go play pro baseball.' It's not that easy."

Hernandez, 31, pitched in high school and college then spent more than four seasons in the minors before getting to the majors with Baltimore in 2009. Before signing with the Phillies last winter, he pitched for Arizona and survived Tommy John surgery. 

In other words, he's put in the time. He knows how difficult it is to make the climb to the majors.

So does catcher Cameron Rupp. He was recruited to play linebacker at Iowa, but baseball was his first love and playing in the majors his goal. He played three years for his home state Texas Longhorns before being selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2010 draft. 

Rupp laughed when he first heard of Tebow's intention. 

He remained skeptical when he heard Tebow had lined up a showcase.

"If that's what he wants to do — good luck," Rupp said. "Guys play a long time trying to get where we are. And those that are here are trying to stay here. Staying here is the tough part.

"High school is one thing. A lot of guys play high school and were good and get to pro ball and are overmatched. He's an athlete, no question. But you can't go 10 years without seeing live pitching and all of the sudden some guy is throwing 95 (mph). That will be a challenge. 

"I don't know if he thinks baseball is easy. It's not. It'll be interesting."

Bench coach Larry Bowa is a huge sports fan, loves football and loves what Tebow did on the field at the University of Florida. 

But Bowa has been in pro ball for 50 years. He played in the majors for 16 years and has managed and coached in the majors. Like Hernandez and Rupp, Bowa is skeptical about Tebow's chances and he wonders about the former quarterback's overall understanding of the challenge he faces.

"Whosever idea it is, they don't respect the game of baseball," Bowa said. "It's a hard game. You don't come in at age 28 or 29. I'm not saying he's not a good athlete, but this is a hard game and there are a lot of good athletes in pro ball that never get to the big leagues. 

"I don't think it can happen. There are guys 28 or 29 that are getting released everyday. How can you take 10 years off and all of the sudden be facing guys throwing 95, guys throwing sliders?"

Tebow did show some baseball tools as an outfielder/pitcher in high school. He hit .494 with four homers and 30 RBIs as a junior at Nease HS in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before giving up baseball to focus on football. He played three seasons in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets but failed to stick. 

Clearly, he still has the competitiveness, desire and work ethic that he took to the gridiron. It's just difficult to see that ever getting him to the major leagues. 

But if he ever does ...

"Who knows, maybe I'll face him," critic David Hernandez said with a laugh. "Hopefully he doesn't hit a home run off me. That would be the ultimate comeback."

MLB Notes: Angels closer Huston Street has season-ending surgery

MLB Notes: Angels closer Huston Street has season-ending surgery

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels closer Huston Street has undergone season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

Street had surgery to repair a torn meniscus Wednesday in his native Texas.

The surgery puts an end to the least impressive season of Street's 12-year career. The three-time All-Star is 3-2 with a career-low nine saves and a 6.45 ERA.

Street hasn't pitched since July 31. He missed significant playing time earlier this season with an oblique muscle injury.

Street is expected to be healthy for next season. He is under contract for $9 million in 2017.

He is the sixth player to undergo season-ending surgery for the Angels (52-73), who are on pace for their worst season in 23 years.

Nationals: Katie Ledecky to throw out 1st pitch
WASHINGTON -- Swimmer Katie Ledecky is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals host the Baltimore Orioles in game three of a four-game series.

The 19-year-old Bethesda native returned from the games in Rio with four golds and a silver medal. It will be the third time Ledecky has thrown out the first pitch at Nationals Park.

The Nationals have lost the first two games of the Beltway rivalry series.

Ledecky set world records in winning the 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle. She also won gold in the 200m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, and silver in the 4x100m freestyle.

She will be a freshman at Stanford in the fall.