Phillies shut out in Sandberg's debut as manager

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Phillies shut out in Sandberg's debut as manager

BOX SCORE

Baseball doesn’t stop. Not ever. So even on a day as emotional as Friday was at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies had to get back to work.

Baseball doesn’t stop.

“All things come to an end,” Jimmy Rollins said after the Phillies’ 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night, the team’s first game without manager Charlie Manuel since 2004 (see Instant Replay).

“It was different. My brother-in-law clued me in earlier and told me about the presser and then Chase (Utley) hit me and said, ‘You might want to get in.’ I got dressed. I knew what it was at that point.”

Manuel was fired on Friday afternoon before the Phillies dropped their 20th game in the last 24 (see story). This time, with Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg leading the club, the Phillies were shut out for the 11th time of the season and for the fourth time during the 4-20 swoon.

Not even a solid pitching outing from Cliff Lee, who went eight innings and allowed just five hits, could change the Phillies’ fortunes against the streaking Dodgers on Friday. After the game, Sandberg talked about Zack Greinke’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball and his timing-killing changeup, but that wasn’t the real reason the Phillies played so poorly again.

This time it was because they felt guilty about costing Manuel his job.

“There’s no thought behind that. It’s the truth,” Rollins said. “The manager is always the first one to go. It always starts with him and he always gave credit. He didn’t take credit when the wins came, so we feel the same way. If we had been winning, he’d still be here. That’s the truth.”

Lee, who suffered his fourth straight defeat on Friday, didn’t seem surprised that Manuel was out as manager. But he knew very well the reason Sandberg was in and Manuel was out.

“It’s definitely our fault he got let go,” Lee said.

Nevertheless, the Ryne Sandberg era began exactly the way the Charlie Manuel era ended. The Phillies had chances to score runs off Greinke and relievers Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario, but came up empty.

Again.

Though the Phillies got just three hits, they were able to draw five walks. They had the leadoff man on base in the second, fourth and seventh innings and had two on with one out and then the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

The trends didn’t change one bit.

The Phillies went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position with a pop up, two groundouts and two strikeouts. Utley put one ball in play and had some shaky moments in the field. Dom Brown misplayed a fly ball into an RBI double with two outs in the seventh.

Before the game, Sandberg talked about cleaning up some of the “lackadaisical” play he’d seen from the Phillies lately, but clearly the best laid plans take some time.

“It was a roller coaster of a day emotionally,” Sandberg said. “It affected me and I think it affects the players. That’s how the day was.”

After his introductory press conference in the afternoon, Sandberg met with his team to fill them in on the regime change. He also explained his expectations and let the players know that there were chances for them to prove something on the field.

Nobody took Sandberg up on the opportunity to stand out on Friday, but then again, it was only the first day.

“I just let them know that I was their manager for the next 42 games on an interim basis. Some of my expectations about meaningful games, play the right way, give your best and try to win games,” Sandberg said.

“I used the word opportunity. There is an opportunity here for the players and a responsibility to be a major league player.”

Fortunately for the Phillies, a new game arrives on Saturday. For a season that seemed doomed at the outset and suddenly has taken an unexpected turn, the slate is temporarily clean.

Change comes quickly, but then so does the routine. The Phillies hope to get back into a new groove quickly.

“Baseball is demanding,” Rollins said. “Change happens, but the game keeps going. It doesn’t stop.”

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 eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

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.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.