Papelbon finishes job for Lee in Phils' win over Red Sox

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Papelbon finishes job for Lee in Phils' win over Red Sox

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- You never know with Charlie Manuel. Sometimes he manages right by the book. Other times he manages straight from the gut. Sometimes he’s just a sucker for a good story.

This was one of those nights.

Cliff Lee was at his dart-throwing best Tuesday night. For eight innings, he put the baseball right where he wanted to, striking out eight Boston Red Sox and walking none. He ran off the mound after the bottom of the eighth with a one-run lead and 95 pitches on the hand-held clicker.

Everything pointed to Lee getting the chance to finish off his gem in the ninth, but Manuel went to Jonathan Papelbon and the fiery former Red Sox closer, in his first appearance back in Fenway Park, went through the heart of the Boston order to wrap up a 3-1 Phillies’ win (see Instant Replay).

Manuel was asked why he went to Papelbon when Lee was cruising with plenty of gas left in his tank.

“I kind of wanted to see it, if you want to know the truth,” the Phillies’ skipper said. “What the hell? Pap likes drama. I might as well like it with him.”

Papelbon spent six seasons as Boston’s closer. He saved 219 games and won a World Series with the club before signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies after the 2011 season. He retired Jonny Gomes, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz for the final three outs. Pedroia and Ortiz were longtime teammates of Papelbon. In fact, before Monday’s game, Papelbon envisioned a scenario in which he’d have to face Ortiz. Papelbon said he’d throw the ball right down the middle and get Ortiz to swing and miss. Ortiz ended up grounding out to end the game.

“I loved it,” Papelbon said of his night’s work. “I would say it was more fun than strange. It was like playing against your brother in the backyard. For me, those guys are some of my best friends in the world. At the same time, it was fun. They have a really good lineup over there, so I had to stay focused on the task at hand because I knew at any given moment the game could have been tied up.”

Papelbon received a nice ovation during a brief video-board tribute early in Monday’s game. When he jogged in from the bullpen for the ninth inning Tuesday night, he heard a lot of boos.

“That’s how they love you in this town,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching in this city, off that mound. It really felt like old times, just in a different uniform.”

Paplebon is 10 for 10 in save chances this season. He has racked up 18 straight scoreless appearances after allowing two runs in his first game of the season.

“I couldn’t tell you my stats,” he said. “I just go, man. I don’t think a lot. They don’t pay me to think.”

Lee has a similar mindset: Don’t think a lot. Get the ball and throw it -- to good spots. He was staked to a 1-0 lead on Michael Young’s solo homer off Ryan Dempster in the first, gave back the run in the bottom of the inning, then allowed just two singles after the first inning while he waited for Erik Kratz (RBI hit in the seventh) to break the tie.

Lee improved to 6-2 with a 2.34 ERA. He is 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in eight starts following a Phillies’ loss this season.

“Regardless of what happens yesterday, when it’s my day to pitch I want to go as deep as I can and put up as many zeroes as I can,” Lee said.

Lee was surprised when pitching coach Rich Dubee told him he was done after eight innings.

“Yeah, I wanted to finish,” he said. “But Pap has been throwing well, so it’s hard to argue with that, especially with him being back in Boston. That was a big win for us and I’m sure he wanted the opportunity. It’s hard to question it when you win.”

Compelling storyline notwithstanding, Manuel said his decision to go to Papelbon was completely baseball-related. In a close game, in the shadow of the Green Monster, he liked the idea of the right-handed Papelbon going after Gomes and Pedroia, both right-handed bats, to start the inning.

“Lee was fantastic,” Manuel said. “If he was pitching a shutout, it would have been tough. But I wanted Pap on those right-handed hitters so they’d hit the ball to right field.”

Manuel was going to Papelbon even before Domonic Brown turned a one-run lead into a two-run lead with a solo home run in the top of the ninth. If Papelbon had given up the lead, Manuel would have ripped apart by his critics. When you’re a manager, the only good decisions are the ones that the players make work. Papelbon made this one work. Good win. Good theater.

The Phillies ended their road trip at 4-4 and are 25-27. They have the Red Sox at home Wednesday and Thursday night.

“I feel like we’ve still got a long way to go, but things are starting to click,” Papelbon said. “Our pitching and hitting are starting to sync up a little bit. If we do that we can create damage in the National League. This division is still anyone’s by a long shot. If we keep grinding it out we have a good chance.”

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The difference was striking.
 
When Mickey Moniak arrived in Philadelphia to sign his first professional contract six months ago, he was rail-thin and 170 pounds.
 
On Tuesday night, Moniak made a quick visit to the winter meetings to be honored as Baseball America’s high school player of the year for 2016. 
 
He’d added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.
 
“It’s all muscle,” Moniak said proudly.
 
The Phillies selected Moniak with the first pick in the June draft and signed him for $6.1 million. Just a few months of professional baseball convinced the 18-year-old centerfielder that he needed to get stronger. He recently capped off his first year of pro ball with a three-week stint at the Phillies’ strength and conditioning camp in Clearwater.
 
“It’s something the Phillies wanted me to do and I knew I definitely needed it, too,” Moniak said. “I really enjoyed my first year. I got a taste of what it was like to play baseball for a job and it was a good time.
 
“There were a lot of positives that came out of the first year. I felt like I jumped in there and really competed. I hit well in July. In August, I started to fatigue and I wasn’t prepared for that, being my first season. But it was a good learning experience. I needed to get stronger.”
 
Moniak hit .284 with a .340 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a homer and 28 RBIs in 46 games for the Phillies’ prospect-stacked Gulf Coast League team. That club, loaded with young Latin players and first-year talent from the 2016 draft, went 41-17 and advanced to the finals of the league playoffs before losing to the Cardinals.
 
After the playoffs, many of the players from that club participated in the Florida instructional league. Moniak played sparingly, however, after dealing with some soreness in his right hip. He was checked out by doctors in Philadelphia and there are no more concerns.
 
“It was just tightness,” Moniak said. “Everything is good. I’m 100 percent. They said it was either a growing pain or just tightness. I just have to stretch more.”
 
Moniak is an athletic centerfielder with speed and a good left-side bat. He has been compared favorably to former All-Star Steve Finley.
 
"Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft," Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies head of amateur scouting, said on draft night in June. "He's a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star."

Moniak hit .476 with seven homers, 12 triples and four doubles at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, during his senior season. He impressed a rival scout who saw him play five times during the season.

“The bat is good,” the scout said. “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.”
 
Now, Moniak is stronger. He looked sturdy in a dress shirt and tie at the winter meetings Tuesday night. He is eager to see how it all translates on the field in 2017.
 
“I’m excited for the season,” he said. “I’m just going to go to spring training and compete and hopefully end up in (Single A) Lakewood, stay healthy and hopefully have a winning season and win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal and if personal stats come with that, too, that’s great.”

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the 2016 season was winding down, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin surveyed his low-scoring club and made public an offseason wish list that included “two professional hitters.”

So far this winter, he’s gotten one — Howie Kendrick.

Is that going to be enough to satisfy the skipper?

“You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” Mackanin said at the winter meetings Tuesday. “Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grind out at-bats.

“We have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve.

“I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitching, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.”

There’s no doubt that Mackanin would like to add another hitter to an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second to last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385).

“Yeah, it would be nice,” Mackanin conceded. “We have to improve offensively.”

General manager Matt Klentak has spoken often this winter about the quandary he’s facing. He would like to add another bat in a corner outfield spot, but not necessarily at the cost of taking away an opportunity from a young player such as Roman Quinn or blocking the ultimate ascension of Dylan Cozens or Nick Williams. This is the tightrope that the GM of a rebuilding club must walk.

There are several corner outfield bats (J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier) available in potential trades and others (such as Michael Saunders) on the free-agent market.

“It’s about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time,” Klentak said.

Mackanin understands all this. But he’d still love to have another bat.

Does he think he’ll eventually get one?

“That's hard to say,” he said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important, obviously, to improve our offense. … I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.”

Contract talk
Mackanin is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017. He has a club option for 2018.

Will the Phillies pick up Mackanin’s option before spring training to prevent a lame-duck situation?

Klentak was noncommittal on the subject Tuesday.

“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”

In March, the Phillies gave Mackanin a two-year contract with a club option for 2018.

“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” Mackanin said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”