Art of the deal: Amaro, Phillies in a different class

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Art of the deal: Amaro, Phillies in a different class

There are always rumors. Mostly though, the rumors that flow like lava during this time of the baseball season resonate like a glass jar thrown at brick wall. Sure, they make a lot of noise, but rarely do they stick.

So as the trading deadline inches ever-so closer to its end point on Sunday afternoon, the big-market monoliths like the Yankees and the Red Sox are merely part of that clamor. Ubaldo Jimenez's name pops up. Rich Harden and Hiroki Kurado also seem to be very popular, too.

To be frank, Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. just can't stand the constant rumor mongering. It drives him nuts.

"Yes," Amaro said. "That's why I go silent."

Silent is a relative term, of course. Amaro may impose a media blackout when it comes to his wheeling and dealing, but when he gets to the finish line there is a lot to discuss. After all, for the three years he has been a general manager at the trading deadline, Amaro has been way out in front. It's one thing to be active and to add a missing piece here or there, but it's a completely different realm where the Phillies live these days. The Phillies under Amaro just don't make moves, they make the biggest moves.

While the Yankees and Red Sox talk the talk, Amaro gives press conferences. Even when he has swung and missed, the Phillies have landed on their feet. In 2009 the Phillies tried to get Roy Halladay at the trade deadline, only to fall short. Instead, Amaro swung deals to get Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee.

In 2010, with Halladay holding down a spot at the top of rotation after Amaro revisited the deal with Toronto, Amaro added ace Roy Oswalt. Then, after reacquiring Lee over the winter, but losing right-handed slugger Jayson Werth, the Phillies got a younger, cheaper and better right-handed hitter for right field by dealing for Hunter Pence.

Over the same time period, the Red Sox have swung deals for catchers Victor Martinez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, while the Yankees got Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Mark Teixeira. That's not bad, but it's not Cliff Lee, a player the Yankees whiffed on (twice) in 2010.

Yep, Trader Rube got it done again.

"Let me tell you something about Ruben, I definitely have to give him a lot of praise and credit," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's active, he's aggressive -- I like that. He's a chance taker."

Art of the deal
So what's the deal? Or better yet, what's the art of the deal? How come Amaro seems to pull off a big acquisition every year and other teams cannot?

According to Amaro, it has nothing to do with wits or skill with negotiations. After all, he says, there were other GMs that came up with intricate three-way and four-way trades that left Amaro's head spinning. Fortunately, he says, the Phillies have been lucky enough to have a surplus of talent in the minor leagues and other teams willing to part with a much-needed piece.

"You just try to get to the point where you match up right," Amaro said.

"Trades are so hard to get done that you just stay cautiously optimistic. It's just so hard to match up these days, we're just lucky that the talent we have and the talent we're getting back were what other clubs were seeking."

It's as simple as that, Amaro says. There also seems to be a humbleness that one has to possess, too. Oh sure, Amaro gets teased about his "smugness," and surely the Smug Meter very well could reach Code Red if the Phillies continue to make the deals work. But at the core of it, Amaro says the idea isn't to "win the trade." After all, who wants to do business with someone unwilling to part with anything of value.

The basic tenets are something Amaro picked up from his predecessor, Pat Gillick, which is to always listen to everyone, especially the folks trying to help, and always add some talent.

"It's about bringing in talent into the system," Amaro said. "That's the single most important part of putting together a team."

Of course a GM can't always pull off a blockbuster. Sometimes it's a seemingly small move that resonates. For instance, Amaro added starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez in 2009 from the scrap heap and the team went 4-1 in his five starts. They also got future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and used him in three starts between the NLCS and the World Series.

Last season when Ryan Howard went on the disabled list with an ankle injury, Amaro swung a post-deadline deal for veteran Mike Sweeney to fill in at first base during the stretch drive.

Maybe this year's Mike Sweeney could be Jason Giambi or Jim Thome for the bench or perhaps even a bullpen piece.

"If you go back and look at what Ruben as done, there's the Halladays, the Lees, the Oswalts, and Pedro Martinez," Manuel said. "But it's Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez, they all helped our team. I can't say enough good things about it. Every year we've done things to bolster our roster to give us the best chance to win."

How long can it keep up? Who knows. In the meantime, while folks are busy yapping about potential baseball deals, the Phillies are getting work done. Besides, sometimes a GM is only as good as his last deal.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JRFingerCSN.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT — The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

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Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

BOX SCORE

DETROIT – The Phillies beat the Detroit Tigers at their own game in picking up an 8-5 win to salvage one game in the interleague series on Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron Nola pitched well and earned the win. Odubel Herrera had a big hit and Hector Neris was clutch out of the bullpen.

The Tigers are one of the best hitting teams in baseball and the Phillies are one of the worst. But the Phils out-hit the Tigers, 12-10. Two of the Phils’ hits were home runs.

The Phillies entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game, ranking them second-to-last in the majors. The Phils had scored just 11 runs in their previous five games; four of them were losses.

The win left the Phils at 26-21 heading into Chicago for three games with the rugged Cubs.

Starting pitching report
Aaron Nola gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings of work. He walked one and struck out six.

Four of the hits and three of the runs Nola gave up came in the fifth. All the hits were singles and one could have been ruled an error. So Nola was not supported by completely clean defense.

The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 10 starts. He has 70 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 66 innings.

He is 6-1 in 13 road starts during his young career.

Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez took the loss. He gave up eight hits and six runs in six-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned. The Tigers committed three errors.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez inherited a 7-4 lead in the seventh. He allowed two hits, a walk and a run with one out and was removed from the game. Hector Neris came on and struck out Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos to clean up Hernandez’s mess. Neris stayed on for a scoreless eighth.

Jeanmar Gomez earned his majors-leading 17th save.

At the plate
Peter Bourjos drove in two runs. He singled home one in the second and belted his first homer of the season in the seventh. The homer gave the Phils a 6-4 lead. Tommy Joseph increased the lead to 7-4 with sacrifice fly later in that inning.

Herrera had the big hit for the Phillies, a three-run homer in the fourth. He hit a 2-1 slider from Sanchez far over the right-field wall and scored Jose Bautista points with a big bat flip.

The Phillies scored their second run of the day when Bourjos and Andres Blanco executed a double steal. Blanco became the first Phillie to steal home since Chase Utley in 2009.

Cameron Rupp and Blanco had back-to-back doubles in the eighth to give the Phils some cushion.

Ryan Howard laced a hard, line-drive single to right his first time up then struck out in his next two at-bats. He finished 1 for 5 and is now hitting .160.

Every player in the Tigers’ lineup had a hit except Castellanos.

Health check
Maikel Franco limped off the field and out of the game before the start of the bottom of the seventh inning. He jammed his right foot sliding into second base in the top of the inning and was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. It was said to be mild.

Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. The Cubs are the first team in the majors to reach 30 wins. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday afternoon – LHP Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61)

Saturday afternoon – RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30) vs. RHP Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86)

Sunday afternoon – RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38) vs. RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75)