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.

Bleep it, says Frustrated Freddy Galvis, Phillies just need to play better

Bleep it, says Frustrated Freddy Galvis, Phillies just need to play better

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX -- When your starting pitcher doesn't make it out of the third inning and your offense generates just five singles and one run, well, it's not going to be a good day, and it wasn't for the Phillies on Monday. They suffered a 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks to fall to 24-51, the worst mark in the majors (see Instant Replay).

The Phils are on pace for 110 losses, one shy of the club record set in 1941.

No one expected this team to contend, but no one expected things to be this bad, either.

"In spring training, if you told me we were going to have this record, I wouldn’t believe it," shortstop Freddy Galvis, the team's elder statesman, said after the last loss. "I believed we had a good team. But we just can’t put anything together. We play well for five or six games and then we go to another six- or seven-game losing streak.

"It’s hard. It’s hard to see. It’s hard to believe it. [Bleep] it. We have to [bleeping] play harder every single day. We need to try to do better."

The Phillies were out of this one early as rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta had trouble throwing strikes and was racked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings. He allowed 12 base runners on seven hits and five walks.

It's tough to start climbing out of a hole on a day when your starting pitcher doesn’t give you much of a chance, but Galvis would like to see a little more fight, nonetheless.

"The effort has to be more than we have right now if we want to win," he said. "I think we have to do a little bit more — if we want to win."

Sometimes it almost seems as if losing is becoming habit to this team. 

"We’re losing, we’re losing, we’re losing and I don’t see any change so far," Galvis said. "If you get used to it, we’re [bleeped]. We have to have a different mentality every time we come here. We have to try to win. We have to try to fight for nine innings and 27 outs."

Entering the season, some hopeful hearts thought the Phillies could make a run at .500, a 10-game improvement on last season's 71-win season. But 75 games into this season, the Phils are on pace for just 52 wins.

Phillies management was always reluctant to put a number on how many wins it thought this team could deliver. That's standard operating procedure because rebuilds are unpredictable. But management has never been shy in pointing out that the Phillies are a club building for a better day and expectations were never high for this club. Could it be that the players are simply playing down to expectations?

"If you get that into your mind you’re [bleeped],” Galvis said. "We’re players. We have to play hard, 24-7. And that’s it. Yeah, they say we’re a rebuilding team, but we still have good players here.

"Sometimes you have to relax a little, just breathe and let it go. When we’re in a winning streak everybody just relaxes and plays baseball. But right now it’s not that way. We want to do it so badly and in the end we don’t do it because we try too hard. Let our abilities speak for us and go from there."

Manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that the "losing is hard to deal with. It’s not easy." But he said he had no qualms with the team's effort. The Phillies won the first game of the series against Arizona then lost the next three.

"We scored six runs the first game and four the next three," Mackanin said. "You know the old saying that pitching and defense wins games, well, if you can’t hit you can’t win a lot of games and we haven’t been hitting."

The Phillies had just five hits in this game, all singles, on a day when Zack Greinke was off his game and lasted just five innings and threw 102 pitches. They had some chances to get in the game, but left two men on base in the first and sixth innings and the bases loaded in the fifth. They were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Pivetta struggled with his control in his first six starts (16 walks), improved it in his next two (just three) and struggled with it again on Monday in his ninth big-league start.

Part of the learning experience?

“Yeah, but that’s not an excuse I want to use," he said. "I’ve got to make an adjustment during a game and do better. 

"I beat myself today and let my team down."

Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX -- The Phillies suffered one of their more unsightly losses of the season on Monday afternoon as they absorbed a 6-1 beating at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta did not make it out of the third inning.

The Phillies won the first game of the series, 6-1, then lost the next three, scoring just four runs in the process. They went 1-6 against the Diamondbacks in the season series.

The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 24-51. They are 10-31 on the road. They are on pace for 110 losses.

Arizona is 49-28.

Starting pitching report
Pivetta (1-4) was rocked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in his ninth big-league start. He had trouble throwing strikes — five walks — and when he threw strikes, they were often hit — seven hits.

Control has been an issue for Pivetta in the big leagues. He walked 16 in his first six starts then just three in his next two, which were both quality starts. He threw 84 pitches in his short stay Monday.

Arizona's Zack Greinke (9-4) was not particularly sharp, lasting just five innings, throwing 102 pitches and walking three, but he managed to hold the Phillies to three hits and one run while striking out five.

Bullpen report
Adam Morgan picked up Pivetta and pitched scoreless ball for 3 1/3 innings. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out five.

Arizona's bullpen picked up four shutout innings.

At the plate
The Phils actually had some chances to get in this game, but they left two men on base in the first and sixth innings and the bases loaded in the fifth. They were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

All five of the Phillies' hits were singles.

Chris Herrmann hit a leadoff homer against Pivetta on a 95-mph fastball. Arizona scored two in the second and blew it open with three in the third, two on a single by Daniel Descalso.

Transaction
The Phillies sent struggling reliever Edubray Ramos to Triple A and recalled reliever Ricardo Pinto.

Health check
Howie Kendrick can hit, but defense is a problem. He could end up on the disabled list. Also, Jared Eickhoff will miss one more start. Updates here (see story).

Up next
The Phillies play a quick, two-game interleague series in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the pitching matchups:

Tuesday night — RHP Aaron Nola (4-5, 4.32) vs. LHP James Paxton (5-2, 3.39)

Wednesday afternoon — RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (1-0, 3.60) vs. Felix Hernandez (3-2, 4.68).