MLB Notes: McCarthy comes back from head injury

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MLB Notes: McCarthy comes back from head injury

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Amanda McCarthy was a nervous wreck in the stands. Her husband was as calm as could be on the mound.

Brandon McCarthy methodically struck out four in two innings in his first game since a horrific head injury, an impressive return that overshadowed all else in the Diamondbacks' 14-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

McCarthy, signed to a two-year deal by the Diamondbacks as a free agent, gave up one run on three hits. He had not taken the mound in a game since Sept. 5 when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Erick Aybar while pitching for Oakland. McCarthy sustained an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.

Reds ace Johnny Cueto, in his first start since he was injured early in last year's playoffs, went two innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on five hits with a strikeout and a walk.

Amanda McCarthy, something of a celebrity in her own right with more than 26,000 Twitter followers, had been unusually quiet on her Twitter account as game time approached.

"I was pretty nervous. I was kind of getting shaky," she said. "My girlfriends were trying to distract me and talk to me. I'm not a very nervous person in general when he pitches, but obviously this is a unique situation."

Then she watched her husband strike out Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick in the first inning (see full story).

Marlins spoil Haren's debut
VIERA, Fla. -- Dan Haren knows no one is going to confuse his fastball with the overpowering pitch thrown by Stephen Strasburg.

That's why Haren's control and ability to set up hitters are so important.

He struggled with his command in the first inning of his Nationals spring debut Wednesday, but was much better in the second of what turned out to be a 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins.

"My fastball usually hovers around where Strasburg's changeup is," Haren joked Wednesday.

Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, couldn't have been happier with his performance. The Marlins right-hander faced the minimum six hitters in his first start, walking one and striking out three.

While he didn't throw any curveballs in his 26 pitches, Eovaldi did work in a few changeup which is something he has been working on this spring to help compliment his two best pitches - the fastball and slider (see full story).

Ortiz leaves Red Sox for few days
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has left the team for a few days to return to the Dominican Republic for a personal matter.

Before Wednesday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston manager John Farrell said that Ortiz, who has yet to play this spring training, should be back by Friday.

Farrell declined to say what Ortiz's personal matter was (see full story).

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Nick Williams, the Phillies' most advanced outfield prospect, has been on a roll lately, but Monday saw the end of his 11-game hitting streak and a premature end to his night.

Williams was removed again by IronPigs manager Dave Brundage after not running out a grounder back to the pitcher in the eighth inning of a 5-3 Lehigh Valley loss. It came less than two weeks after his previous punishment, a two-game benching for not running out a flyball that was dropped.

When asked about it after the game, Brundage told reporters including the Allentown Morning Call's Tom Housenick to ask Williams himself.

Williams told reporters he didn't have much to say.

Williams' time at Triple A this season, his first with the IronPigs, has been rocky at times. Aside from the two benchings for lack of hustle, Williams also excessively celebrated a game-winning home run on May 3 and attempted a bunt with his team up eight runs early in a 16-1 Lehigh Valley win on June 11. The bunt was not received well by the Durham Bulls and it led to two ejections and some animosity between the teams.

This is Williams' first full season in the Phillies' minor-league system after coming over last summer from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. In 287 plate appearances with the IronPigs, he's hit .285/.329/.460 with 17 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 36 RBIs. He has 12 extra-base hits this month after totaling 14 in April and May combined.

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Hot Phils offense takes on Zack Greinke

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Hot Phils offense takes on Zack Greinke

Phillies (33-45) at Diamondbacks (36-43)
9:40 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies got a little piece of revenge on Monday night, crushing the Diamondbacks, 8-0, after losing all four games to them earlier this month at Citizens Bank Park.

Runs figure to be harder to come by on Tuesday, however, as the Phils face one of the best and hottest pitchers in baseball.

1. Greinke on a roll
The Phillies face D-backs ace Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.61) for the second time in 10 days. The last meeting didn't go so well, with the Phils scoring just one run on three hits over eight innings against the $30 million pitcher. 

Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206.5 million contract with Arizona in the offseason, got off to a poor start in the desert, posting a 6.16 ERA through his first five starts. But he's been earning his money since, going 8-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in his last 11 outings.

That said, Greinke still hasn't figured out Chase Field. At his hitter-friendly, homer-friendly new home park, Greinke has a 5.06 ERA and his opponents have nine home runs and an .808 OPS. On the road, Greinke has a 1.85 ERA and his opponents have three homers and a .549 OPS.

With how hot the Phillies' bats have been lately and how much more Greinke has struggled in Phoenix, there is at least the possibility they could get to him tonight. And how sweet would that be after the Phils beat Madison Bumgarner on Saturday and hung six runs on Johnny Cueto Sunday?

Greinke has six different pitches but mostly uses his four-seam fastball, slider and excellent changeup. Against the Phillies on June 18 he used his full repertoire, throwing 24 changeups, 23 sinkers, 16 fastballs, 16 sliders and 15 curveballs.

Current Phils are 14 for 92 (.152) with one homer, four walks and 30 strikeouts lifetime vs. Greinke. Odubel Herrera hit the homer to lead off that June 18 game.

2. Franco locking in?
Maikel Franco finally seems to be settling down, seeing the ball well and squaring it up. He had a three-RBI night Monday, and over his last seven games Franco is 8 for 25 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, seven RBIs and seven walks. 

The walks have really stood out. Franco had just six in April and seven in May, numbers he's equaled over the last week. On Monday, he came up in one situation where earlier in the year he would have expanded the zone and gotten himself out. With two men on and one out in a scoreless game, a wild pitch advanced both runners to second and third. But Franco got ahead in the count and crushed a line drive past a diving shortstop to drive in the Phils' first run. 

Several Phillies have been hot in June — Peter Bourjos, Cameron Rupp, Cody Asche — but Franco has yet to really heat up. The Phillies need a strong second half from him. In 296 plate appearances this season, Franco is hitting .243/.304/.427 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 40 RBIs.

3. Ever-consistent Eickhoff
Jerad Eickhoff has been the Phillies' steadiest and most reliable starting pitcher since mid-May. He has a 2.23 ERA over his last seven starts and has given up more than three earned runs just once in his last 11 starts.

On the year, Eickhoff is 5-9 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. His worst recent start was against these D-backs in the game Greinke pitched. Eickhoff allowed three runs on nine hits and two homers over 5⅔ innings, falling one out short of a quality start.

Quality starts (six-plus innings, no more than three earned runs) have been Eickhoff's trademark early in his big-league career. He has 17 of them in 23 career starts. Since 2000, only two starting pitchers (Jacob deGrom in 2014-15, Brandon Webb in 2003) had more quality starts in their first 23 tries.

In Eickhoff's 23 starts as a Phillie, he's 8-12 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He's struck out 8.0 batters per nine innings and walked just 2.2 since coming over from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade. During that span, Hamels has gone 15-2 with a 3.19, 1.21 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 27 starts with the Rangers.

4. Joseph slowing down
The strong start Tommy Joseph got off to may have created unrealistic expectations for the rookie first baseman, who has plummeted back to Earth the last few weeks. Joseph went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts Monday, three against left-hander Robbie Ray, whose fastball simply overpowered Joseph.

Over his last 14 games, Joseph is 7 for 55 (.127) with 16 strikeouts. He has three walks and 35 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances this season. He had two solid games over the weekend in San Francisco, going 3 for 8 with a pair of doubles on Saturday and Sunday, but the late swings on Monday were a bit concerning, mostly because they came against a lefty.

Joseph is 11 for 33 (.333) against lefties with a .965 OPS. He's hit just .198 against righties with no walks and 25 strikeouts. However, half of his 18 hits against right-handers have gone for extra bases (three doubles, six home runs).

5. This and that
• It's crazy to say, but Bourjos may be hitting his way to the trading block. Bourjos has gone 21 for 42 (.500) over his last 15 games with six extra-base hits to raise his season batting line to .259/.292/.378. No, that's nothing special, but it's worlds away from where he was just 17 days ago. When play ended on June 11, Bourjos was hitting .192 with an OPS 169 points lower than it is now. If he continues to hit, his defense and speed could make him attractive to a contending club seeking a fourth outfielder.

• One of the most pleasant surprises of this 2016 Phillies season has been Rupp's continued improvement at the plate. He's hitting .270/.309/.478 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 19 RBIs. He ranks fourth among all MLB catchers with a .478 slugging percentage, behind only Wilson Ramos, Salvador Perez and Jonathan Lucroy and ahead of Matt Wieters and Buster Posey. Rupp's 22 extra-base hits are fifth-most among catchers, and all four guys ahead of him have between 56 and 94 more plate appearances.

• Hello there, Edubray Ramos. The Phillies' top minor-league reliever has impressed in three appearances since being called up, allowing just one baserunner and striking out five in 3⅓ scoreless innings. His curveball is every bit as good as Hector Neris' splitter, if not better. With that hook and his biting, mid-90s fastball, Ramos has the look of a future closer. He may even get some opportunities later this season if Jeanmar Gomez is traded or struggles.

Vince Velasquez strong in return from DL to help Phillies blank Diamondbacks

Vince Velasquez strong in return from DL to help Phillies blank Diamondbacks

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX — From the effort and his physical presence, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez could not have asked for much more.

Coming off the disabled list from a right biceps strain, Velasquez looked like he did not miss a beat from his high-level performances earlier this season during Monday's 8-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay)

After one rehab start at Double A Reading on June 22, and not facing major-league competition since he started June 8 against the Cubs, Velasquez lasted five strong innings. When Velasquez reached a pitch count of 84, manager Pete Mackanin took no further liberties.

In helping to dominate the Diamondbacks before 22,567 at Chase Field, Velasquez raised his season mark to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.38.

“My goal was to throw at least five innings and get the W,” Velasquez said. “I was OK with stopping at [84] pitches, and have full confidence in the recovery. This was a good start and something to build on and grow.”

Before Velasquez’s start Monday night, Mackanin said the right-hander was not on a short leash. The pregame forecast was 90 pitches, and Mackanin hoped for five or six innings. Velasquez reached the five-inning mark but hit the mid-80s on his pitch count as he allowed five hits and walked none while striking out seven hitters. That was the most Velasquez fanned since he struck out 10 Marlins at home on May 17.

While Velasquez pounded the strike zone and stayed ahead of hitters, Mackanin said one of the key plays took place early. In a scoreless game, Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura led off the third with a single. Michael Bourn then lined out to center, and after Odubel Herrera made the catch he fired to first and caught Segura in a double play. Paul Goldschmidt followed with a single, but Velasquez reached back to strike out Jake Lamb.

“When the ball was hit, the runner was going,” Herrera said of the double play. “After I caught it, I thought I had a chance to get him.”

Herrera's bat also stood out. Sparking a season-high 16-hit attack for the Phillies, Herrera matched a club high in hits with a 4-for-5 night. The four hits were achieved three other times by a Phillie this season, the last by Cesar Hernandez on June 23 against the Twins.

The Phillies broke open a scoreless tie with a two-spot in the sixth and set another season mark with six runs in the seventh. Previously, their season best was a five-run inning on June 5 against the Brewers. 

Run-producing singles from Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp in the sixth gave the Phillies' arms all they needed. In the seventh, Herrera and Cody Asche drove in a run each with hits, Franco singled in a pair and Hernandez knocked in two with a single.

“On this trip we’re swinging the bats very well,” Mackanin said. “We started off slowly against [Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray], but picked it up. It was good to see the offense come alive, and we’re playing everyone tough.”

With a 3-for-5 night, Peter Bourjos, who Mackanin called one of the hottest hitters in baseball currently, raised his season average to .259. After Monday’s game, Bourjos has a seven-game hitting streak (14 for 27, .519) and is hitting .458 (22 for 48) in his last 18 games.

While Bourjos continued his scorching run at the plate, first baseman and Phoenix native Tommy Joseph had a rough night in front of his hometown fans.

Though he now lives in Destin, Florida because his fiancé is in the military, Joseph, who went to Horizon High School in Phoenix, drew cheers each time he stepped to the plate.

Joseph fanned three times and left four runners on base in three at-bats against Ray. In the first inning, Joseph struck out looking with runners on first and second. He struck out swinging to end the third inning. In the fourth, he fanned with runners on second and third and one out, unable to catch up to Ray's mid-90s fastball.

In the seventh, Joseph encountered Arizona righty Jake Barrett. The two had faced each other playing for the Arizona state high school championship in 2009. This time, Barrett fanned Joseph on three pitches, and the third one was a nasty slider down and away.

Joseph flied out to center field in the ninth to cap an 0 for 5 performance. Joseph is 7 for 55 (.127) in his last 14 games, and he has three walks and 35 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances this season. 

The series continues on Tuesday when Jerad Eickhoff (5-9, 3.36 ERA) opposes Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.61 ERA).