Rupp, Martin show potential in blowout loss

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Rupp, Martin show potential in blowout loss

BOX SCORE

Ryne Sandberg continues to look at all the players on the Phillies' roster and some in new roles.

Tuesday night’s game against San Diego saw catcher Cameron Rupp make his major-league debut and pitcher Ethan Martin make his maiden voyage as a reliever.

Though the Phillies were beaten badly in an 8-2 loss to the Padres (see Instant Replay), Rupp and Martin provided some interesting and entertaining storylines.

Rupp, a burly 24-year-old from Texas, received an interesting compliment for his work behind the plate, and he somewhat hilariously had his first big-league hit in the eighth inning.

Martin, a power arm who had trouble throwing strikes as a starter, made his big-league relief debut and dazzled. He got three outs on 10 pitches -- all strikes -- in the sixth inning.

Rupp and Martin are two of a number of youngsters who are being evaluated for future work as the Phillies wind down what will be their first losing season since 2002. Third baseman Cody Asche is another young player that management is taking a look at. He has impressed since arriving in late July. On Tuesday night, he belted his fifth home run in 112 at-bats. It came against hard-throwing Padres’ right-hander Andrew Cashner, who allowed just two runs over 7 2/3 innings.

The Phillies ended up with seven hits (to San Diego’s 13), but entered the eighth inning with just two against Cashner. In addition to the weak showing at the plate, the Phils did not get a good outing from starter Tyler Cloyd, who allowed nine hits and seven runs in four-plus innings.

“My pitches were up,” Cloyd said. “I made a lot of mistakes. I needed to throw more off-speed stuff. They were on my fastball and slider all night. I just didn’t execute. I got off the game plan. I didn’t throw enough off-speed stuff and stayed on the plate too much.”

Cloyd’s early exit allowed the Phils to get a look at Martin out of the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has been used as a starter since joining the Phils’ organization in a trade with the Dodgers last summer, but his skill-set might play better out of the bullpen.

It certainly did in this game.

“He made a very good showing,” Sandberg said. “He kept the ball down in the zone well.”

Rupp was a third-round pick of the Phillies out of the University of Texas in 2010. He entered spring training ranked behind Tommy Joseph on the team’s list of catching prospects, but got a chance to play at Triple A when Joseph could not make it back from a concussion suffered in May. Rupp showed enough at the plate and behind it to earn a September promotion.

Though he struck out in his first two at-bats of the game, he earned a nice compliment from an unusual source. In the ninth inning, home plate umpire Mark Wegner wandered over to the Phillies’ dugout -- these things happen in a blowout -- and told Sandberg how impressed he was with Rupp’s work behind the plate.

“The umpire said that was the best visibility and framing of pitches he’d seen all season,” Sandberg said. “It was pretty cool. With (Rupp’s) posture, he gets a little rounded. I can see where the umpire would see the ball very well coming in. That was a pretty good compliment. Pretty impressive.”

Rupp said he’d never received a compliment like that from an umpire.

“That makes me feel good,” he said. “You want to give the umpire the best look and give him a chance to call a strike for the pitcher, so that’s something I pride myself in.”

Rupp’s parents, Kevin and Kathi, came in from Dallas for the weekend. Their son did not play. Kevin flew home after Sunday’s game -- Kathi stayed -- and returned to Philadelphia in time for Tuesday’s game when he heard his son would start. (Cameron had gotten a heads-up Sunday night.)

The Comcast SportsNet broadcast showed Rupp’s proud parents several times during the game, including after he beat out a slow roller to third for his first big-league hit. As Rupp reached the bag, he tripped and rolled to the ground. Up in the stands, his father laughed hysterically.

“Exactly the way I drew it up,” Rupp said of his less-than-majestic first big-league hit. “I’m sure I’m not going to hear the end of it for a while.

“But I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a dream come true to play in a major-league game.”

Rupp will have the last laugh on his father when his parents return to Texas on a 6:30 a.m. flight Wednesday.

He’s sleeping in.

“They can take a cab to the airport,” he said.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.