Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

slideshow-060613-phillies-young-uspresswire.jpg

Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- It turns out the old sparkplug still has a little juice.

Leading off for the first time since 2004, Michael Young went 3 for 5 and conspired with John Mayberry to produce six hits from the top two spots in the lineup. Tyler Cloyd did the rest for yet another quality start, and the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip with a 5-1 win in Milwaukee on Thursday (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (31-30) won for the fifth straight game and climbed over .500 for the first time this season.

Mayberry also went 3 for 5, Delmon Young homered and Cloyd worked into the seventh without surrendering a run, all helping the Phillies claim a relatively comfortable win.

"We're happy the hard work has started to pay off and we're starting to see it in the standings," Michael Young said. "I think we're very happy with our style of play right now. We're doing a good job on the bases, running aggressively, pushing the envelope. The bases is one of those places where you can create some energy for your team, and we're doing a good job of that right now."

A pair of infield singles ignited a first-inning rally that gave Cloyd some early support. The Phillies ultimately loaded the bases with no outs, then scored on Ryan Howard's laser-beam sacrifice fly to center and a wild pitch from Brewers starter Wily Peralta (4-7), who labored through five innings of work.

"We caught a couple breaks with two infield hits, and Jimmy got a clean one," Young said, referring to the Jimmy Rollins' single to load the bases. "Their guy has great stuff and has a real bright future, but Tyler did really well. He limited the damage. Their big guys in the middle managed a couple singles, and that was about it."

Cloyd allowed four hits -- all singles -- in 6 2/3 innings of work. He worked around five walks and has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts since subbing in for Roy Halladay. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss in his last start Saturday, also against the Brewers.

"We mixed up a lot, threw a lot of different sequences, different pitches to hitters," Cloyd said of facing the same team twice in a week. "I made little adjustments mechanics-wise, which has helped me keep the ball down. Obviously when the ball is down, you get a little more movement on pitches. The offspeed has been down in the zone and that's the biggest thing."

The Phillies weren't satisfied with the 2-0 lead after one, scoring in the second when Cloyd drew a walk and motored around from first base on Mayberry's RBI double. In the third, speed again played a role when Domonic Brown stole both second and third base, then came across when Erik Kratz beat the ball to first to avoid a double play. Brown, who registered his team-leading 20th multi-hit game, now has six stolen bases for the year after stealing five in his career heading into 2013.

"We're not going to steal a lot of pitches when pitchers are really quick to the plate and catchers throw good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We don't have a legit base-stealer where he can go when a pitcher's release is about 1.2 or 1.25 [seconds], definitely 1.3. When you start getting up into the 1.4s and [1.]5s and [1.]6s, they have a good chance of making it."

Delmon Young added his third home run in seven games in the fifth to afford the Phillies a 5-0 lead. Milwaukee's lone run came across against reliever Mike Adams in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Jonathan Lucroy.

Two of Michael Young's hits were of the infield variety, including one to lead off the game.

"[Manuel] asked me about it when I got here," Young said of batting leadoff. "He asked if I'd done it before, I said, 'Yeah.' It doesn't really matter to me. My approach is always dictated on the situation in the game.

"I know what I'm capable of — I just have to try and stay the course. I had a little bit of a rough stretch there, but I just have to keep at it and stay the course."

The Brewers, who have been beleaguered by ineffectiveness and injuries within their rotation, plan to start Alfredo Figaro and Tom Gorzelanny over the next two days. Both have spent the majority of the year in the bullpen and may not have a typical starter's pitch count to work with, meaning the Phillies could benefit from forcing the Brewers to take a full four innings of relief work Thursday.

"We've still got to come out and outplay them," Manuel said. "Sometimes in this game when things don't look so bright for you, something always happens. That's why you go play. You don't take anything for granted."

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.