Ryno gets his man, still needs pitching coach

slideshow-phillies-ryne-sandberg-uspresswire.jpg

Ryno gets his man, still needs pitching coach

Ryne Sandberg has his 21st win as Phillies manager.

Sandberg wanted Larry Bowa as his bench coach.

He got him.

“We go back a long way,” Sandberg said after Bowa was officially named to the Phils’ coaching staff Tuesday. “I learned a lot from him as a young player. Now, as a young manager, with his experience and knowledge and information -- I think he'll be a terrific guy by my side. I have a high level of comfort with him, and he’s a top-notch baseball man.”

Bowa played 12 seasons at shortstop for the Phillies and was an All-Star and Gold Glover. He coached third base for the 1993 NL Champion Phils and managed the club from 2001 to 2004.

Bowa did not always leave the organization on good terms, but he always found his way back. This will be his fourth tour of duty with the club.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged the messiness of Bowa’s previous departures.

“It was something we certainly thought about,” Amaro said. “But at the end of the day, Ryne's comfort level and Larry’s ability as a baseball person -- his knowledge of the game -- really overrode any ill feelings.

“For us, it's about getting the best people for Ryne to support him in the best way. Baseball seems to be cyclical. That's part of baseball. The fact of the matter is Larry’s an outstanding baseball man. This is not about Larry Bowa, this is about building a staff around and with Ryne that's going to be most effective. Clearly, Ryne felt that Larry was someone important to him.”

Bowa is known for being emotional and fiery. He speaks his mind and is not afraid to ruffle feathers. Some people love that about him. Others hate it.

Sandberg spoke to Bowa about his demeanor and does not think it will be a problem.

“I like people to be themselves,” Sandberg said. “But he's coming on board to support me and be one of the coaches. Everybody works together. I've had good conversations with him and he's totally on board with supporting me and doing his job.

“A little bit of energy and excitement is something he can bring to the ballclub in a positive way. We've had discussions about that and he's totally on board with what's going to be asked of him. I'm excited to have him around.”

Pete Mackanin was named third-base coach. He and Sandberg go back to the days when Sandberg played for the Chicago Cubs and Mackanin was a minor-league manager in that organization.

Mackanin was former manager Charlie Manuel’s bench coach from 2009-12. He was let go after the 2012 season and spent 2013 as a scout with the Yankees.

The Phillies still have at least one opening on their staff -- and it’s a big one. They need a pitching coach. Rich Dubee’s contract was not renewed after nine seasons. The Phils have not officially named a first-base coach or a bullpen coach, but holdovers Juan Samuel and Rod Nichols are both under consideration for those positions.

While Sandberg was clearly the driving force behind the hirings of Bowa and Mackanin, he will only be part of the decision-making process in selecting a pitching coach. Amaro said Nichols, a former minor-league pitching coach with the Phillies and the team’s bullpen coach in 2013, is a candidate for the job. But Amaro is clearly looking for other candidates, as well. He said an interview process would begin shortly.

“We're vetting out the best candidates,” Amaro said. “It's going to be a process. It's going to take some time, we think, because we're not really sure about all of the possible candidates who will be available. Clearly, there is a lot of movement going on around the league. We have done a great deal of research on possible candidates.”

Amaro said the next pitching coach does not have to have big-league experience, but it would be helpful.

“As far as prerequisites, we're just looking for the best guy,” Amaro said. “We're looking for someone who can both handle the staff and someone we feel has the right philosophy to move this club forward.”

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."