Phils' latest loss prompts closed-door meeting

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Phils' latest loss prompts closed-door meeting

BOX SCORE

Charlie Manuel was twitching to get the frustration off his chest after Tuesday night's collapse against the Mets. Yet, the Phillies manager refrained.

Manuel slept on the loss and losing record and returned to the ballpark Wednesday hoping for a changed approach, a different result. He didn't get it.

In fact, after what Manuel watched on the field in a 10-6 loss to the Mets some sloppy fielding, runners left all over the basepaths and another implosion from his bullpen the Phillies manager couldn't contain himself for a second straight night. He unloaded on his club in a closed-door team meeting after getting swept at home by the division rival Mets.

"After I watched that game, I felt it was necessary," Manuel said. "Tuesday night I knew exactly what to tell them. There was a lot of things going through my mind. I knew exactly what I could tell them, what I needed to tell them. I've been wanting to talk to them for a while."

The lambasting covered the gamut. Manuel had enough of everything, from the shoddy execution to lackadaisical approach.

"It's the whole thing, the whole environment of how weve been doing," Manuel said. "Ive been sitting here watching for 31 games how weve gone about things. How we get ready for the game, how we play Weve got to get better. The whole game. Weve got to execute better and weve got to pitch better and definitely hit better."

It was several minutes of Charlie unplugged. No player interjected or offered their opinion on the Phillies' play of late. Manuel didn't single out any individual players something he's done during past tirades. Instead, his harsh words focused more on the team and their performance so far during a 14-18 start to the season.

"We don't have a lot of meetings, which is usually good. It usually means you're playing well. When we do, he has a reason behind it and gets his point across," starting pitcher Joe Blanton said. "He got his point across."

There were more than a few moments in Wednesday's loss that could have sent Manuel over the edge (see Instant Replay). There was Shane Victorino misplaying a sinking line drive to center field into a triple. There was Hunter Pence dropping a routine fly ball to right. Or there was the latest implosion by a bullpen that hasn't been able to get anyone out for weeks. The 'pen has a 7.02 ERA in its last 16 games. Kyle Kendrick and Jose Contreras combined to allow seven runs in two innings in Wednesday's loss to the Mets.

With losses in five of their last six games, the players seemed to agree with everything Manuel said in the meeting. They believed the message and timing was right. As veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins said, the meeting was "necessary." It couldn't wait for another loss.

The time to for the Phillies to get their season on track needed to begin now, with almost a quarter of it already wasted in the rearview mirror. They have a day off Thursday before beginning a three-game series Friday at home against the NL-worst San Diego Padres.

"It was a good time after the way we've played this series," Rollins said. "He took it upon himself to do what a manager does and talk to his team."

History suggests Manuel's team meeting could have an immediate positive effect. The Phillies won eight of nine when the manager undressed his team and individual players after a disastrous series against Houston late in the 2010 season. Admittedly, that was one of the more memorable explosions of his managerial career.

By all accounts, this one was much more tame. Still, it appears Manuel was able to talk directly to certain players without naming names.

"I got the loss, I blew the game, so partly, I think he was talking to myself," said Kendrick (0-3) after he entered with the Phillies holding a 4-2 lead and allowed five runs in one-plus inning of work. "So Ill take that. I gave up the runs that ended up losing the game, so thats me all the way."

Kendrick came in to relieve Cliff Lee, who made his return from the disabled list (oblique) and pitched six solid innings. Lee allowed two runs on five hits before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out six in his first start in three weeks.

But it was another quality start wasted. The Phillies failed to put the game away early and only three of their 15 hits went for extra bases.

"Its awful. Its unacceptable. I understand everyones frustration," Pence said. "Charlie is an unbelievable manager and everything he said is right. Its not acceptable to play the way were playing and the way Im playing. Weve all got to look ourselves in the mirror. Weve all got to figure something out."

The hope is that Manuel's team meeting will help.

E-mail Jordan Raanan at jraanan@hotmail.com

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

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More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

NEW YORK -- The Mets have found help at first base following Lucas Duda's injury, acquiring veteran James Loney from the San Diego Padres for cash.

Loney has spent this season in the minors, playing well for Triple-A El Paso. He was batting .342 with two home runs and 28 RBIs over 43 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Always a fine fielder, the 32-year-old Loney hit .280 with four homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 104 games with Tampa Bay last year. The Rays released him April 3 and he signed with the Padres on April 8.

Duda was put on the disabled list Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back that is expected to sideline him at least four to six weeks, probably longer.

Until Duda returns, Mets manager Terry Collins says Loney, a left-handed hitter, will mostly face right-handed pitching in a first-base platoon with Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell. Flores is close to returning from a strained hamstring.

In a corresponding move Saturday, the team selected the contract of right-hander Casey Fien from its top farm club.

Dodgers send lefty Urias back to minors after brief debut
NEW YORK -- Following a brief major league debut, the Los Angeles Dodgers have optioned 19-year-old pitching prospect Julio Urias back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says the team wanted another arm in the bullpen after Urias lasted only 2 2/3 innings Friday night. Los Angeles used five relievers in a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets.

Urias, one of baseball's top prospects, threw 42 of 81 pitches for strikes at Citi Field in a much-anticipated big league debut that lasted 59 minutes. He became the first teenage pitcher to start a game in the majors since Seattle's Felix Hernandez in 2005.

The left-hander gave up three runs, five hits and four walks while striking out three. He was on the hook for a loss until Los Angeles rallied for four runs in the ninth to tie the score (see full story).

Royals: Catcher Perez hurt, helped from field
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez had to be helped off the field in the ninth inning Saturday against the Chicago White Sox after colliding with rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert while catching Adam Eaton's foul popup.

Cuthbert came sliding in and struck Perez's lower legs. Perez went down in pain as trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost rushed to the field.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon collided Sunday while chasing a foul ball at Chicago and both landed on the disabled list. Gordon has a broken right wrist and is out for three to four weeks, while Moustakas tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is likely out for the season.

Drew Butera replaced Perez.

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter activated from paternity list
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Matt Carpenter has been activated from the paternity list by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Carpenter missed two games after being placed on the paternity list Thursday. His wife gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl, on Wednesday.

Carpenter leads the Cardinals with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.

To make room for Carpenter on the 25-man roster, St. Louis designated infielder Ruben Tejada for assignment on Saturday. Tejada was batting .176 over 23 games with no homers and three RBIs.

If Tejada is released, St. Louis would be responsible for the remainder of his $1.5 million salary this year, which was $1,049,180 entering Saturday.