Sandberg wants pitching, improved OF defense

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Sandberg wants pitching, improved OF defense

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ryne Sandberg is at the winter meetings for the first time as a big-league manager.

Sandberg is scheduled for his official session with reporters on Tuesday, but he did offer a few thoughts on the Phillies’ offseason Monday.

“I think Byrd helps our defense a notch in right field,” he said of the Phillies’ November signing of Marlon Byrd. “I think his veteran bat could possibly bat third, could bat fifth, but just to mix him in with the left-handed bats we have -- I think there's some flexibility there.

“With speed at the top with [Ben] Revere and then [Jimmy] Rollins and then [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard, Byrd, Chooch [Ruiz], there's some balance there. Hopefully he can have the type of season he had last year.”

Byrd hit .291 with 24 homers, 88 RBIs and a .511 slugging percentage (fifth-best in the NL) with the Mets and Pirates in 2013.

Throughout the later stages of the 2013 season, Sandberg continually mentioned the need to add starting pitching depth this winter.

The Phils are still looking for that (see story).

“I'd say that's a priority right now,” he said. “It'll be a concern if we're in spring training and nothing's been done about it. Starting pitching depth is something that's being looked at and looked at very seriously."

Sandberg also mentioned a desire to get more athletic in the outfield. The Phils would like to add a fourth outfielder type who can play some center field. The Phils could even look for a bigger move by trading Domonic Brown, who is available in the right move. Revere could also be had in the right deal.

On paper, the Phils' outfield would look set with Byrd, Revere and Brown, but it might not be.

"I know that some improved defense and a little bit of athleticism in the outfield is still a piece that is being looked at,” Sandberg said.

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Pinch hitter Adam Frazier’s first career home run, a leadoff shot in the seventh inning off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos, lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

It was also the first home run allowed by Ramos (1-1) in 14 career relief appearances.

The Pirates tied it at 4-4 an inning earlier when Matt Joyce hit a two-run home run off starter Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies wound up losing two of three in the series after rookie right-hander Zach Eflin pitched a three-hit shutout on Friday night. They are 3-7 since the All-Star break to fall 10 games under .500 at 45-55.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits for the Phillies while Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera hit solo home runs off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte also had three hits. Neftali Feliz (4-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win and Mark Melancon worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 30th save.

Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning when the veteran utility infielder was spiked on the hand by Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in a play at third base. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday (see story).

Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday and will likely play Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.

The game was delayed for one hour and 32 minutes in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, though he did not factor in the decision. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings while walking four and striking out five.

Velasquez threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

At the plate
Hernandez was moved to the leadoff spot of the batting order to replace slumping right fielder Peter Bourjos and responded by going 3 for 5 with a triple.

Herrera’s home run led off the sixth and was his 11th of the season, giving the Phillies a short-lived 4-2 lead. Herrera went 7 for 13 in the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.

First baseman Ryan Howard went 2 for 3, lifting his batting average to .166, before being pinch hit for in the eighth inning.

Left fielder Cody Asche was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, the last coming to end the eighth inning with two runners on base and the Phillies trailing by a run.

Up next
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 7.98)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

PITTSBURGH --- Utility infielder Andres Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday.

Blanco was injured when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slid into his hand during a play at third base. Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who hit a solo home run off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon in the first inning. Blanco is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday.

"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.

Mike Piazza inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

Mike Piazza inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Mike Piazza has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Selected by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft with the 1,390th pick, ahead of only five other players, Piazza is the lowest-drafted player to reach the Hall of Fame. He made it in on his fourth try.

Piazza played 16 years with five teams and hit 427 home runs, including a major-league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five in MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza had six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average. All other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons.