Rupp, Martin show potential in blowout loss

slideshow-phillies-cameron-rupp-ap.jpg

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.

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.