Phils have failed to get younger, better so far

120813_salisbury_pic.jpg

Phils have failed to get younger, better so far

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has already made some moves this offseason, but as baseball's annual winter meetings approach, the club still isn't any younger.

CSNPhilly.com Phillies insider Jim Salisbury thinks the offseason has been different, just not in the way one might have expected.

"I think, looking at this offseason so far for the Phils, it's been lackluster," Salisbury said on SportsNite on Comcast SportsNet. "Age has been a big issue with this team the last few years, everyone getting older and older and older. One of their stated goals was to get younger and they haven't gotten any younger.

"It's an offseason unlike previous ones in that they haven't gone after big names. They're conscious of where their payroll is, conscious of having so many guys making $20 million or more on their roster. And they're looking at that midrange free-agent market. And looking at it on the whole, they've kind of run in circles this offseason.

"They haven't gotten any younger, and I don't think they've gotten any better."

The Phillies re-signed Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million deal and brought Marlon Byrd in for two years, $16 million.

Both players will at least 35 years old by opening day. While the club hopes that Ruiz bounces back after a subpar 2013 season, Amaro has bet on Byrd's bat staying hot after setting a career high in slugging percentage last year (.847).

While the Byrd deal may have resulted in ridicule in some circles, the choice to tender a contract offer to John Mayberry Jr. earlier this week caused even more noise.

However, Salisbury suggests a contract wouldn't automatically guarantee that he will be on the roster on opening day.

"When you look at this team, the only two guys I can tell you that will be there on opening day are Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee," Salisbury said. "There was a big uproar when they decided to offer Mayberry a contract. Many of them felt like it was time to say goodbye. I think there could be more at work here. I don't think they wanted to worsen his value in the trade market. I think he could be traded before opening day -- sooner rather than later -- but there's a chance he will be traded. If not, he's a backup outfielder for this club."

While there are a number of players vying for spots in the outfield, the Phillies' bullpen still serves as a question mark, and Amaro has taken steps to add a strong arm to the bullpen.

By trading away catcher Erik Kratz and prospect Rob Rasmussen to the Blue Jays, the Phillies brought in Brad Lincoln, a former fourth overall selection. He has a live arm, and if he can get it under control, he will be an asset. But he has question marks surrounding him, just like the rest of the bullpen.

"They're still trying to rebuild their bullpen," Salisbury said. "They're keeping their fingers crossed that what they saw from Jake Diekman and B.J. Rosenberg late last season was a harbinger of the success to come. They're hopeful that they'll have Mike Adams back sometime in the month of April, maybe early May, and they're hoping Jonathan Papelbon rebounds. But they're still looking to add pieces."

The winter meetings begin in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 9.

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jerad Eickhoff pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but still came away with a loss as the Phillies were shut out, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.

Giancarlo Stanton drove in the Marlins’ first two runs with a single and a double.

Stanton gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead with a two-out base hit to right field against Eickhoff in the sixth inning. Stanton’s groundball hit rolled through the second base area, which had been vacated by the shift.

The Marlins blew the game open with four runs against the Phillies’ bullpen in the eighth.

The Phillies are 4-8 since the All-Star break and 46-56 overall.

Starting pithing report
Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

Miami manager Don Mattingly pulled Tom Koehler after the right-hander pitched six shutout innings and had allowed just three hits. Koehler walked one, struck out five and threw just 73 pitches. He exited with a 1-0 lead.

Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in a win over the Phillies last week.

Bullpen report 
Andrew Bailey was charged with three runs in the eighth.

Mike Dunn, David Phelps and Nick Wittgren completed the shutout for the Marlins. 

At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits, all singles, and struck out 10 times. They were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and are 1 for 13 the last two nights.

Stanton had been just 3 for 35 against the Phils this season before his shift-beating RBI hit in the sixth. He hit the ball much harder in the eighth inning when he clouted an RBI double to right-center against Bailey.

Adeiny Hechavarria padded the Marlins’ lead with a two-run single in their four-run eighth inning.

Ichiro Suzuki’s eighth-inning single left him three hits shy of 3,000 in his big-league career.

Health check
Rightfielder Peter Bourjos injured his right shoulder making a catch against the wall in the first inning and left the game (see story).

Minor matters
Ranger Suarez, a 20-year-old left-hander from Venezuela, pitched a seven-inning no-hitter for the Phillies’ Single A Williamsport club on Tuesday night.

Up next
The series concludes on Wednesday afternoon. Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) pitches against Miami lefty Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58).

Peter Bourjos exits game with jammed right shoulder

Peter Bourjos exits game with jammed right shoulder

Updated: 10:55 p.m.

MIAMI — Phillies outfielder and trade candidate Peter Bourjos left Tuesday night’s game after running hard into the right field wall in the bottom of the first inning.

Bourjos had an X-ray, which was negative, and was diagnosed with a jammed right shoulder. It's unclear how long he will be out, but it seems likely he will miss several days.

"I just kind of jammed it into the wall and we'll see how it feels in the morning," Bourjos said after the Phillies were shut out, 5-0, by Miami (see Instant Replay). "There was no fracture or anything so that's good news. Hopefully it's not too long. It's just more sore and stiff right now. I think if I get a few days out, hopefully it's doing better." 

Bourjos suffered the injury while making a nice running catch on a leadoff shot to the gap by Miami's Ichiro Suzuki, who entered the game just four hits shy of 3,000.

Bourjos hit his right shoulder against the wall as he made the catch and briefly went to his knees. He left the game in the second inning and was replaced by Jimmy Paredes.

It's unclear how the injury will affect Bourjos' status as a trade candidate. The injury comes less than a week before the trade deadline. Bourjos could be attractive to teams looking for an extra outfielder and moving him would open a spot for Aaron Altherr, who could come off the disabled list as soon as Thursday.

Bourjos raised his trade stock by hitting .402 (37 for 92) with a 1.086 OPS from June 6 to the All-Star break. He has since tailed off and was hitting .136 in 11 games after the All-Star break entering Tuesday night.

Despite the struggles, Bourjos remains a top defender, as evidenced by the running catch he made on Suzuki that resulted in his leaving Tuesday night’s game.

J.P. Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

J.P. Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — After a slow start at Triple A, J.P. Crawford is once again showing everybody why he's not only the top prospect in the Phillies organization, but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Crawford's average was still hovering around or below .200 one full month into his promotion, and that was considered a sign of improvement. Then the 21-year-old shortstop got hot for real, batting .333 with seven multi-hit games during the month of July. His power has been coming around, too, socking all three of his home runs for Lehigh Valley over that span.

It probably was only a matter of time until Crawford's bat came alive. In fact, never before had he experienced such a deep, prolonged slump.

"It was tough," Crawford said Tuesday. "It was the first time I ever went through something like that, but thankfully I have good teammates to pick me up and keep me thinking positive. I just tried to stay within myself and I got out of it."

IronPigs manager Dave Brundage was one of the first to point out Crawford had never struggled to quite that extent, observing that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing that it happened either. Crawford agreed, adding that it's better to get the unpleasant yet inevitable experience out of the way now, before his highly anticipated arrival in the major leagues.

"I definitely would rather have it here than if I make it up there," said Crawford, notably not taking his eventual promotion to the Phillies for granted. "I'd rather learn from it now than suffer from it later."

Crawford entered Tuesday's IronPigs doubleheader batting .267 with a .341 on-base percentage and .356 slugging since his May 20 call-up. That's beginning to approach the numbers from his stint at Double A Reading, where he hit .265 with a .367 OBP and .416 slugging across parts of 2015-16.

As for what's changed, Crawford made some tweaks to his approach that helped him break out. Most of all, he's simply getting back to what made him successful in the first place.

"Just trying to stay within myself, as far as not trying to get three hits in one at-bat," Crawford said. "Recently been trying to put the ball hard back up the middle and it's been working.

"I'm just using less of my body and focused on using my hands more, like I'm used to, not thinking too much at the plate, staying confident in myself and just doing me."

Brundage suggests the reasons behind Crawford's initial struggles, aside from the challenge in making the jump to the next level, may have been a matter of circumstance for the left-handed batter.

"He had a little tough luck early on and was kind of getting his feet wet, just a lack of experience at this level," Brundage said. "I think he's getting himself more comfortable, he's feeling more comfortable with the bat, just trying to make some adjustments along the way and they seem to be working.

"He's had much better at-bats. That, and we haven't faced — not that he can't hit left-handers, because he's done a better job against lefties — but there for a run I think we faced nine out of 11 starters were left-handed against us, so that makes it a little bit tougher when you're trying to gain some experience, when you're trying to make it here at Triple A."

There's little doubt Crawford will get his first taste of the majors with the Phillies come September when the roster expands, if not sooner. He's now demonstrated he can hit at every level of the minors. There's only one step left to take, and that's up to the big leagues.

But Crawford isn't getting ahead of himself. He knows he's knocking on the door. He also understands what the expectations are once he gets there, and that there's a lot more hard work ahead.

"I mean, it's cool, but I'm trying not to think about it," Crawford said of an impending promotion. "I try to just go about my business, day by day, try to find a way to get better before the game and try to win the game that night."