Trade talk: Michael Young stays ... for now

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Trade talk: Michael Young stays ... for now

The Phillies remain in trade talks with several teams about infielder Michael Young. There’s a hitch, though.

“He only wants to go to one team,” a person with knowledge of Young’s thinking said on Tuesday.

Young, who has a full no-trade clause, would OK a trade to the Texas Rangers. That was the word 24 hours before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. Whether Young softens his stance as the deadline approaches remains to be seen. If he did, he wouldn’t be the first player to do so. In addition to Texas, Young has drawn interest from the Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles.

Young started at third base for the Phillies on Tuesday night. Before the game, he would not answer specific questions about which teams he’d accept a deal to and which ones he would not, but he did acknowledge speaking with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the topic Tuesday afternoon.

“I had a talk with Ruben today, but we’ll keep that confidential,” he said. “Those things deserve to stay between me and the Phillies. The last thing I want to do is make this thing bigger than it needs to be. The Phillies have been straightforward with me and I’m trying to do the same thing with them.”

Young was asked whether he believed he would still be a Phillie after Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

“It’s difficult to say,” he said. “I really don’t know. I don’t know.”

Texas is an attractive destination for Young, 36, because he spent 12 seasons with the Rangers before joining the Phils in a trade last winter. Young’s wife and young children have remained in the Arlington, Texas area while he has played in Philadelphia. The Rangers are looking for a right-handed bat and Young could fill the need.

However, the Phils are not going to give Young away and so far have been underwhelmed by the Rangers’ offers.

Despite this hurdle, signs still point to Young being dealt. The Phillies on Tuesday afternoon recalled third-base prospect Cody Asche, 23, from Triple A Lehigh Valley and they did not bring him up to sit (see story). Manager Charlie Manuel said Asche would start at third on Wednesday night. Young could still find playing time at first base. However, Asche’s promotion makes it pretty clear the Phillies are banking on dealing Young. The team was under no pressure to bring up Asche.

During Young’s brief time with the Phillies, he has proven to be classy, mature and professional. He said he was not troubled by Asche’s arrival even though it could pinch his playing time if he remains with the Phillies.

“I love Cody,” Young said. “I think he’s a great kid and I’m going to help him any way I can. I hope Cody has a fantastic career. We worked together a lot in spring training. He bounced a lot of ideas off me and I want to help him any way I can. He’s a great kid and I hope the best for him. He’s going to have a great career. I want him to stay healthy and be the best he can be and, like I said, I’ll help him any way I can.”

Young said it was not difficult to concentrate on baseball during such a frenzied time.

“The only thing on my plate right now is tonight’s game and that’s what I’m focused on,” he said. “I want to win tonight. Whatever happens down the road happens down the road. The last thing I want to do is hamstring the team I’m playing for. I want to make sure this is a good relationship from start to finish. Like I said, I don’t think there is anything right now that is imminent, so my thoughts are on the game right now.”

Amaro, in an interview with MLB Network, said he did not expect Young to be traded. He also said he did not expect Cliff Lee to be traded. In Young’s case, that might be posturing. As for Lee, the Phillies are seeking a huge return in talent and that could spell Lee’s staying put. Boston has interest in Lee, but is reluctant to give up top prospect Xander Bogaerts. The Phillies would require him in any deal involving Lee.

Nick Pivetta continues build toward strong finish in Phillies' win over Braves

Nick Pivetta continues build toward strong finish in Phillies' win over Braves

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ATLANTA — The Phillies and Atlanta Braves are both rebuilding teams that have looked to acquire as much pitching as possible over the last few seasons.

The Phillies added Nick Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington two years ago. The Braves picked up Luiz Gohara from Seattle back in January.

If both pitchers continue to develop, there's a chance they could face each other in a National League division race someday. 

On Sunday, they squared off in a battle of teams playing out the string, but the intensity of the matchup was good. That can happen in the penultimate weekend of the season. After all, impressions can be made right up until the final pitch of the season. Players are always auditioning, especially rookies hoping to win spots next season.

Pivetta, 24, made a very nice showing. He out-pitched Gohara in helping the Phillies salvage one game of the three-game series against the Braves with a 2-0 win (see observations).

Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr keyed a just-enough Phillies' offense with a solo homer and an RBI double and the bullpen triumvirate of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris combined for three scoreless innings to seal the shutout.

Pivetta pitched six shutout innings, walked one and struck out four. He gave up five hits. It's been an up-and-down season for the rookie right-hander. There's been a lot of on-the-job training and a few bruisings. He is 7-10 with a 6.26 ERA in 25 starts. He has allowed just two runs in 12 innings over his last two starts, so he's finishing the season on a high note.

"The key to his outing today was that he was throwing all his pitches for strikes," manager Pete Mackanin said. "His breaking ball and his changeup, he really did a good job with them, throwing them ahead in the count and behind in the count, so that was key.

"This is the place to learn. You can have a lot of success in the minor leagues but when you get up here it's a different animal. The best place to learn is at the big-league level and take your lumps and learn from them. Now, if you have too many guys like that you don’t win a lot of games, so you can afford to have one or maybe two guys in the rotation that are feeling their way through it, but not more than that."

Forced to the majors by injuries in the rotation early in the season, Pivetta has often talked about the learning experience his first year in the majors has been.

He was happy to talk about getting a victory Sunday.

"It's been nice," he said. "I've settled down a little the last two starts. Today, I just tried to do the right things — get ahead of hitters. And the guys played great defense behind me.

"Even when I had runners on base, I was able to attack the hitters the way I wanted and I didn't put too much pressure on myself."

That's not always easy for a rookie pitcher in a close game. Pivetta's ability to stay cool and pitch around baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings was a sign of his improvement. He will have one more start before the season ends and is looking to build on two good ones and go into the offseason with a healthy dose of confidence. He will be a candidate for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Sunday's victory left the Phillies at 62-94. They need to win one of their final six games to avoid 100 losses. That once seemed to be a certainty, but they have played well since the All-Star break, recording a 33-36 record since then. They were 29-58 before the break.

Young players such as Nick Williams and Rhys Hoskins have come up from the minors and given the Phils a lift in recent weeks. The bullpen has also improved with Ramos, Morgan, Neris and Luis Garcia (before Saturday night) pitching well. Morgan pitched a scoreless eighth inning Sunday. He has allowed just two runs over his last 24 innings. That covers 18 appearances since Aug. 2. Neris is 18 for 18 in save opportunities since June 28.

The only run that the Phils scored against Gohara came in the fifth when Franco smacked a first-pitch changeup into the left-field seats for his 21st homer. The pitch was on the middle-half of the plate, Franco's happy zone.

Franco is hitting .308 with three homers and seven RBIs since J.P. Crawford came up and applied a little competitive heat.

Franco said that's coincidence, that he's focused only on what he needs to do to get better.

"I think when those young guys come up it always creates an energy spurt in everybody," Mackanin said. "For whatever reason, if Maikel is having a good September, I hope it carries through for five or six months next year. One month does not a good year make. Hopefully, he'll have a better approach and he's going to be more successful."

Phillies-Braves observations: Maikel Franco homers, Nick Pivetta tosses gem in final road game

Phillies-Braves observations: Maikel Franco homers, Nick Pivetta tosses gem in final road game

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Phillies rookie Nick Pivetta outpitched Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara Sunday afternoon as the Phils salvaged the final game of a three-game series with a 2-0 win at steamy SunTrust Park.
 
Maikel Franco smacked his 21st homer and Aaron Altherr had an RBI double for the Phillies' two runs.
 
Pivetta (7-10) pitched six shutout innings and the bullpen did the rest.
 
The Phillies ended up with a 13-6 record against Atlanta this season, their best against any team.
 
• Pivetta has mostly struggled in 25 starts in his rookie season, but he's also had some very nice outings where his potential has really shined. This was one of them. His last start, in which he gave up two runs in six innings against the Dodgers, was a good one, too. So the right-hander seems to be finishing on a high note. He will have one more start before the end of the season. In a perfect world, Pivetta would have gotten more time at Triple A this season, but there was a need in the majors. Ultimately, he should benefit from his baptism by fire.
 
• Atlanta lefty Gohara was very good in his fourth big-league start. The 21-year-old from Brazil gave up just five hits, walked two and struck out nine. The only run he gave up came on Franco's homer.
 
• Pivetta did a good job pitching around trouble. He got two outs in the second inning after an error by Franco put a runner on second. He also pitched around sloppy infield play in the fifth. In the sixth, Pivetta knocked down a ball back to the box but was unable to start a double play. He stayed calm and got two outs to get out of the inning.
 
• The Phillies took a 1-0 lead on a solo homer by Franco in the top of the fifth. Franco turned on a first-pitch changeup from Gohara. The pitch was on the inside half of the plate — right in Franco's happy zone. Franco pulls off pitches away in the zone, but he kills mistakes inside. Franco will work on this flaw in winter ball this season (see story).
 
• Altherr doubled home an important insurance run for the Phillies in the eighth inning. Altherr has 61 RBIs on the season and 27 have come in the seventh inning or later.
 
• Good job by the Phillies' bullpen. Edubray Ramos and Adam Morgan pitched scoreless ball in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Morgan has allowed just two runs over his last 24 innings. That covers 18 appearances since Aug. 2. Hector Neris survived two hits in the ninth and picked up the save. He is perfect on is last 18 chances since June 28.

• The Phillies' first two hits of the game were singles to right field and both runners, Cesar Hernandez and Jorge Alfaro, were out trying to stretch at second base. Braves rightfielder Nick Markakis made two perfect throws. Hernandez needed to come out of the box quicker.
 
• The Phillies have a 35-40 record at home. They will play their final six games of the season at home beginning Monday night with the opener of a three-game series against the NL East champion Washington Nationals. Aaron Nola (12-10, 3.56) pitches against right-hander A.J. Cole (2-5, 4.43) on Monday night. Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.14) opposes lefty Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68) on Tuesday night. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69) and right-hander Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41) close out the series Wednesday night. The Phillies need to win one of their final six games to avoid 100 losses.