Phils fail to hold lead in walk-off loss to Rangers

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Phils fail to hold lead in walk-off loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was no surprise 14-run explosion for the Phillies on Tuesday night, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have picked up another win in the young season.

The bullpen failed to protect a late one-run lead and the Phils suffered a 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (1-1) won Monday's opener, 14-10.

Rangers’ cleanup man Adrian Beltre tied Tuesday night's game with a two-out RBI double in the seventh and won it with an RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Beltre’s game-winning hit came against right-hander B.J. Rosenberg, who entered after rookie Mario Hollands walked two men in a crucible of a major-league debut. Both of the batters that Hollands walked were left-handed hitters -- Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder.

“I’m supposed to get those guys out whether it’s my first time or not,” Hollands said.

Manager Ryne Sandberg had already used Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo in the seventh and eighth innings. Diekman, in fact, gave up the game-tying hit to the right-handed hitting Beltre in the seventh.

Hollands came into spring training largely as an unknown and pitched his way onto the club with a strong performance in Florida. Sandberg could have gone with Brad Lincoln or Justin De Fratus in the ninth -– both have big-league experience –- but he chose Hollands because he was left-handed and showed promise in spring training.

“That’s a tough spot for him,” Sandberg said. “Even though he walked two guys, I thought he showed his stuff. He might have been one pitch away from getting Fielder.”

The walk to Fielder ended Hollands' night. Enter Rosenberg, who allowed two hits and walked a batter in Monday’s opener. Rosenberg has allowed three inherited runners to score in two appearances. Sandberg has used him in big situations because “Coming out of spring training he was throwing the best.”

Given the lefties Texas sent up in the ninth inning, it might have been good to have Bastardo in that inning, but Sandberg wanted to use him in the eighth inning -- even if it was against the bottom of the order -- with the game tied.

“Being on the road, Bastardo is our eighth-inning guy,” Sandberg said. “We’re trying to put a zero up there and trying to score in our half of the inning. We went that route.”

There were other factors in the loss beside the bullpen.

A.J. Burnett and Martin Perez hooked up in a scoreless duel for five innings before the Phillies broke through with two runs in the sixth. They scored both of those runs after Ben Revere, another potential run, was picked off second base in a play that had to be reviewed before the umpires got it right.

“That was a big play,” Sandberg said. “He wasn’t going anywhere. He was getting his lead and [Perez] quick-picked him. As it turned out we could have possibly put up a crooked number there.

“Ben was trying to be aggressive so he could score on a hit. You don’t want to get picked off there. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.”

Ryan Howard, dropped from the cleanup spot for the first time since June 2008, a span of 665 starts, capped that inning with a two-out RBI double off the lefty Perez. The double gave the Phils a 2-0 lead.

Howard had a chance to do more damage when he batted with two men on base and the score tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth. He struck out swinging at a breaking ball off the plate from lefty Neal Cotts.

“It is what it is,” Howard said of being moved out of the cleanup spot, a move Sandberg may employ more often against left-handed starters. “Where we hit in the lineup is Ryno’s decision. My job is to get hits and knock in runs. Whether I hit fourth or fifth, I’ve got to do a job.

“I was able to come through in [the sixth inning]. I wish I could have come through later on. But that’s a situation where it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting fourth or fifth.

“I was a little anxious. It’s early. I’m still working out some kinks. I have to let the ball travel a little deeper and not be so quick.

“I’ll get in the cage tomorrow and keep working to get better, so if that situation presents itself again there will be a different result.”

The Phillies face another left-handed starter (Robbie Ross) in Wednesday’s series finale. After Tuesday night’s game, Sandberg was asked where Howard would hit Wednesday.

“I haven’t done the lineup yet,” the manager said.

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies got the good health they were looking for from Aaron Nola this spring.

But the overall results weren't so good.

Nola struggled in his sixth and final Grapefruit League start Tuesday night. He was roughed up for seven hits, including two home runs, and five runs and did not make it out of the second inning in the Phillies' 10-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Nola finished the Grapefruit League portion of his spring with an ERA of 8.38 after giving up 18 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He gave up 28 hits, walked seven and struck out 23.

"People say it's spring training but nobody wants to go out there and give up runs," Nola said.

While he wasn't happy with the numbers he put up in camp, Nola was pleased with his health. He missed the final two months of last season with an elbow strain. He said that is completely behind him.

"I feel good," he said. "The ball is coming out of my hand really good.

"Tonight was the best I've felt all spring. I just left some balls up and they took some good swings. It was a tough night."

Manager Pete Mackanin weighed in on Nola's spring.

"One thing I like is that his velocity is way up," Mackanin said. "I think his arm is healthy and that's good to see more than anything.

"He hasn't shown the command that makes him a good pitcher, but I think that will get there."

Nola gave up home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Melvin Upton Jr.

Nola lines up to pitch the fifth game of the regular season a week from Saturday in Philadelphia.

He only threw 51 pitches Tuesday night so he has room for a good bullpen session and another start before that outing. The start will come at the minor-league complex on Sunday. He will then join the team in Cincinnati for Monday's season opener.

Murray injured
Reliever Colton Murray ran his scoreless string to 10 1/3 innings before allowing a two-run homer in his third inning of work. Murray left the game with what looked like a lower back injury. He fell to the ground in pain after throwing a pitch. Earlier in the day, Murray was told that he would open the season in Triple A.

Minor matters 
Infielder Cole Stobbe, 19, the Phillies' third-round pick in last year's draft, and 18-year-old righty Sixto Sanchez were named winners of the Bill Giles and Larry Rojas awards for their standout work in minor-league camp. Both are among the organization's most highly touted young prospects.

Up next
The Phillies will split the squad and play two games on Wednesday. One team will go to Lakeland to play the Tigers. The other will go to Bradenton to face the Pirates.

The battle for one of the final spots in the bullpen will take center stage as Luis Garcia starts in Lakeland and Joely Rodriguez in Bradenton.

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Busy, busy day of roster moves in Phillies camp.

Let's try to put it all in perspective.

First, the facts:

Veteran infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan was released from his minor-league contract.

Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later or cash.

Infielder Pedro Florimon and relief pitchers Cesar Ramos, Hoby Milner, Pat Venditte and Colton Murray were all informed that they will not make the opening-day roster, but they remain in big-league camp as non-roster invitees.

OK, what does it all mean?

Let's start on the position-player side. The starting eight is set, but there are still openings to fill on the bench before the team's charter flight lifts off from Tampa International Airport early Friday evening.

Barring something unforeseen, infielder Andres Blanco, outfielder Aaron Altherr and catcher Andrew Knapp will all make the 25-man roster. That leaves two openings on the bench.

Coghlan, a former National League Rookie of the Year and member of last year's World Series-winning Chicago Cubs team, asked for his release after the club raised the possibility of him signing an advance consent form. Advanced consent gives a team more control of a player and also allows a team to release a player with no further financial commitment up to 45 days into the season. Coghlan decided to move on, as was his contractual right, and is expected to land with another club.

Coghlan's departure reduced the field of candidates for the two bench jobs to three -- Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin.

All signs point to lefty-hitting first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi being rewarded for his excellent spring with a spot on the roster. The 27-year-old from the Sacramento area, the team's 33rd-round draft pick in 2011, has never played in the majors.

With Stassi looking good, the final spot on the bench is down to Nava and Valentin. They are two very different players. Nava is 34 and has five years of big-league service time. He is in camp on a minor-league deal, essentially looking to keep his career alive. Valentin, on the other hand, is 22 and very much a prospect. The team must decide if it wants to go with the veteran outfielder or the young second baseman for the final spot on the bench.

"With the way Stassi, Nava and Valentin are playing right now, one way or another we're going to be making tough decisions on the bench," general manager Matt Klentak said.

With Asher off the 40-man roster, the Phillies have the space to add Stassi.

They would need to create one more spot, probably by waiving a player, if they want to keep Nava.

Valentin is already on the 40-man roster so the team would not have to lose a player to keep him, but doing that would cost the young player the development opportunity that would come with regular at-bats in Triple A.

"I'm not opposed to starting that way if he wins the job and that's how we open," Klentak said of Valentin. "If we concluded after a few weeks that playing time just isn't there and we need to send him back down and get somebody else up, we can do that. That's the beauty of roster flexibility and having players on the big-league club with options. We can make those decisions in real time throughout the year."

So let's move on to the bullpen.

Five spots are set with Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek.

It's likely that the team will go with seven relievers. That means there are two open spots with three candidates -- Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez and Luis Garica -- still standing. All three are on the 40-man roster, so that makes the personnel mechanics a little easier. 

The team probably needs a long reliever and Morgan profiles as that guy.

Rodriguez and Garcia are both scheduled to pitch in separate games on Wednesday, so their performances will be worth watching, though Klentak said not all roster decisions are based on spring performance. 

Garcia has had a number of chances in the majors the last four seasons. He has recently added a splitter and team officials are intrigued by that, so he has remained in the mix.

There is a slim chance the team could carry all three of these relievers and go with an eight-man bullpen and a short bench, but that would be tough to do in the National League. When the decisions are made, look for a five-man bench and a seven-man bullpen.

But, remember, things can change quickly on a 25-man roster once the season begins. Ender Inciarte was on the Phillies' opening-day roster in 2013 and gone a day later. Cedric Hunter was there last year and gone two weeks later.

"We have to make sure we're disciplined to the notion that the end of spring training is not a finish line," Klentak said. "The end of spring training is the starting line for a long major-league season. Whatever we can do to preserve as many assets and players and different possibilities as we can, we need to factor that in as we're making out our opening-day roster."