With Utley out, Phillies' bats come alive in win

slideshow-052113-phillies-cloyd-howard-ap.jpg

With Utley out, Phillies' bats come alive in win

BOX SCORE

MIAMI – Charlie Manuel wasn’t about to kid himself.

In talking about the reasons for the Phillies’ bats waking up in a 7-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay), Manuel cited the following:

• Better swings, especially from Delmon Young.

• Improved patience at the plate.

• And the Marlins’ decision to remove rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez after five innings.

“Maybe one of the best things was they took him out,” Manuel said with a laugh.

Fernandez, Miami’s 20-year-old phenom, had pitched 13 scoreless innings against the Phillies in two earlier starts this season. Tuesday night he allowed just one run -- a solo homer to Young -- before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s decision made sense because his team was down 1-0 with a runner on third and the pinch-hitter, Jordan Brown, got the run home. Fernandez’s pitch count was also a factor in the decision. He was at 79 pitches and the Marlins are trying to be cautious with his workload so he’ll have the bullets to torment NL East hitters for years to come.

Regardless of the reasons behind Fernandez’s exit, the Phils were happy to see him go. They collected 10 hits and scored six runs against Miami’s bullpen. After scoring just four runs in the previous three games, that qualified as an explosion for the offensively challenged Phillies.

“It was good to see our guys get some hits,” Manuel said.

Tyler Cloyd was the beneficiary of that offense. In his second start filling in for Roy Halladay, Cloyd held Miami to two runs over seven innings. Cloyd now has as many wins as Cole Hamels, who has been a victim of criminally poor run support. When Cloyd left the mound after the seventh inning Tuesday night, he received handshakes and back pats in the dugout. Hamels was one of the first to congratulate Cloyd. It was not known whether Hamels whispered, “Why can’t I get some of those runs?” to Cloyd.

Cloyd was 1-4 with a 6.57 ERA in seven starts at Triple A this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts with the big club. In 13 1/3 innings with the Phils this season, he has allowed 10 hits, four runs and five walks while striking out nine.

“I’m definitely keeping the ball down a lot better here than I was in Triple A,” Cloyd said. “Hopefully I can stay up here and get some more starts.”

Ryan Howard returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore left knee. But as Howard came back to provide three hits and three RBIs, Chase Utley went down with a rib cage injury during batting practice. Utley was not available to reporters after the game. He will be evaluated on Wednesday. It would not be surprising to see him miss some time. Teams are usually very cautious with rib cage (oblique) strains because they can linger and become more serious if not treated aggressively at the outset.

“When he took a swing, he felt a little burn, a pain in his rib cage,” Manuel said. “Sometimes if you keep playing that can get more serious and you lose time. It’s hard to breathe, really hard to swing. We’ll see. Hopefully we don’t lose him for very long.”

Halladay, Mike Adams, Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan are already on the DL. Losing Utley would be a significant blow to the Phillies as they try to get to the .500 mark. Tuesday night’s win pushed them to two games under .500 for the eighth time since April 22. They have lost the next game each time.

Howard keyed a four-run seventh inning with a bases-loaded single that scored two runs. Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere and Michael Young all reached base on infield singles ahead of Howard.

Howard’s three hits were encouraging. So, too, was the way Delmon Young swung the bat. He had entered the game hitting .192, but hit two balls with authority, a homer to left and a double to center. If he can get going ... well, you’ve heard that before. Actually, with the uncertainty surrounding Utley, it’s imperative that Young get going.

“We’re trying to get him to click,” Manuel said. “We think he can hit. He’s 27 years old. He’s got a lot of baseball left in him. It’s just a matter of him getting some more at-bats and getting going. That’s why we want to play him.”

Young said his timing at the plate was much improved.

“I was able to see pitches early and recognize them tonight,” he said. “We haven’t been scoring many runs and I haven’t been contributing like I’m capable of. This was good. Hopefully we can carry it into tomorrow and the rest of the trip because we’re going to need to score runs against the clubs we’re going to be playing.”

MLB Notes: Austin Jackson makes Indians' opening day roster

MLB Notes: Austin Jackson makes Indians' opening day roster

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Outfielder Austin Jackson took an opportunity with the Cleveland Indians and ran with it.

Jackson was informed on Sunday that he has made Cleveland's opening-day roster, giving the AL champions some outfield depth in case Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley aren't ready for the start of the season.

The 30-year-old Jackson signed a minor league deal with the Indians in January. He missed the early part of training camp as he recovered from left knee surgery, but Jackson has made up for lost time by batting .375 with one homer and five RBIs in Cactus League games.

Jackson played in only 54 games last year with the Chicago White Sox before undergoing knee surgery to repair torn meniscus. He's played in the postseason with Detroit and the Cubs.

Jackson had an out clause in his contract that had to be exercised by Sunday (see full story).

Rockies: Mark Reynolds' contract selected from Triple A
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Colorado Rockies have selected the contract of first baseman Mark Reynolds from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Reynolds figures to be the starter at first in the absence of Ian Desmond, who is out with a broken left hand.

The 33-year-old Reynolds hit a career-best .282 last season with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. He was limited to 32 at-bats after Aug. 11. He broke a bone in his left hand while swinging a bat, had surgery on Aug. 15, was activated Aug. 31 and broke his left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Sept. 18.

He re-signed with Colorado in February on a minor-league deal.

Also Sunday, Colorado placed right-hander Chad Bettis on the 60-day disabled list as he deals with testicular cancer. There is no timetable for Bettis' return.

Tigers: Lowe released; Jimenez to minor-league camp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers have released right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, one of several cuts before Sunday's spring training game against Toronto.

Detroit also optioned catcher John Hicks to Triple-A Toledo, and the Tigers reassigned right-handers Joe Jimenez, Ruben Alaniz, Logan Kensing, Arcenio Leon and Edward Mujica, infielder Dominic Ficociello and outfielders Anthony Gose and Juan Perez to minor league camp.

The Tigers signed Lowe to an $11 million, two-year contract before last season, but he was ineffective in 2016, going 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA in 54 appearances. He had a 5.19 ERA in nine appearances this spring.

In 2015, Lowe went 1-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 57 games with Seattle and Toronto.

Phillies 6, Pirates 3: Andrew Knapp's big day comes at the right time

Phillies 6, Pirates 3: Andrew Knapp's big day comes at the right time

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ever since Andrew Knapp earned his way onto the Phillies' 40-man roster back in November, it seemed to be a fait accompli that he would end up as the team's backup catcher on opening day.

But that's not to say he didn't have to shine just a little bit in spring training to validate his standing.

Knapp got off to a slow start in Grapefruit League play -- one hit in his first 22 at-bats -- but he began the final week of camp with his best game on Sunday. He went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run and threw out two runners on the bases.

"It's been nice to get some games back-to-back," Knapp said. "I struggled a little bit early just taking a lot of time off in between at-bats and behind the plate. But this past week, I've been able to get in there a lot and start to get in the flow of the game a little bit. I think I was trying to do too much early on."

The increased playing time is likely a sign that Knapp will end up on the 25-man roster. The Phils have two non-roster veteran catchers -- Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan -- in camp. Both can opt out of their minor-league contracts in the coming days if they aren't going to make the club.

Phillies officials are looking to make as few subtractions from the 40-man roster as they can in constructing their bench and bullpen (see story). That's why things are looking good for Knapp.

But he's taking nothing for granted. Though Phillies officials were scheduled to meet Sunday evening "to try to get as close to the finalization as we can," in manager Pete Mackanin's words, opening day rosters don't have to be officially submitted until next Sunday, a day before the season opener.

"I'm just trying to keep my head down and not think about it that much," Knapp said. "The playing helps a lot. When you're just sitting on the bench, you're thinking about a million things. But when you're in the game, you get away from that a little bit. Just go out there, play, and enjoy the game. It's helped a lot."

The rest of the bench
Andres Blanco and Aaron Altherr are both set on the bench. Knapp looks good. That leaves two open spots, presuming the Phillies go with a five-man bench.

Chris Coghlan and Daniel Nava, both non-roster veterans, have played extensively in recent days. That suggests they could be the lead candidates. If that's the case, Brock Stassi, who has not played the last two days, could be on the outside. Infielder Jesmuel Valentin is also still in camp and he has played well. He's also on the 40-man roster and that would play in his favor. However, at 22, he might be better served to get regular playing time in Triple A.

Neither Coghlan nor Nava is on the 40-man roster so the Phils would have to clear spots to carry them.

Coghlan made an excellent running catch against the wall in left field Sunday.

The game
The Phillies had 15 hits and six of them were for extra bases, including homers by Knapp and Maikel Franco, in their 6-3 win over the Pirates.

Clay Buchholz, who had not pitched in 10 days after traveling home for the birth of his son, was rusty. He gave up five hits and three runs in 3 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four.

"Four walks is definitely subpar, but, you know, it's still spring training," Buchholz said.

The right-hander has allowed 11 runs over his last 14 2/3 innings.

"You can't honestly say he's had a good spring, but he was up close to 90 pitches today so pitch-count-wise he's doing fine," Mackanin said. "He hadn't pitched in 10 days so I can understand his lack of command. Once he's into a rhythm I think he'll be fine."

Venditte shines
Ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

"It's fun to watch Venditte pitch," Mackanin said. "If I'm up in the stands and I see him throw four pitches from the right side and I reach over to get my Coke or beer and I look back up and he's throwing from the left side I will start wondering how many beers I had. He's fun to watch."

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Monday night. Vince Velasquez will start against Toronto's Aaron Sanchez.

The Phils could have several roster moves during the day as the 25-man roster continues to come into focus.