Phils' official: 'Don't give up on Phillippe Aumont'

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Phils' official: 'Don't give up on Phillippe Aumont'

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 2:40 p.m.
By Jim SalisburyCSNPhilly.com

Phillies minor leaguers broke spring-training camp over the weekend and will begin their seasons this week.

Shortly after camp ended, Chuck LaMar, the assistant general manager who oversees player development for the Phillies, was asked to name the bright light of camp, the guy who made everyone sit up and take notice.

His answer might surprise you.

Phillippe Aumont had an outstanding spring, LaMar said enthusiastically. He had impressive outing after impressive outing.

Aumont, 22, was one of the three players that the Phillies received from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade of December 2009. The 6-foot-7, man-mountain righthander had a dismal season in 2010, going 3-11 with a 5.68 ERA at Double-A Reading and Single-A Clearwater. He was used mostly as a starter.

Now, Aumont is back in the bullpen role in which he was used in Seattles system. He thrived in spring training and will open the season in Readings bullpen, where he will share important innings late in the game with Justin DeFratus, one of the organizations top relief prospects.

Phillippe Aumonts confidence is back, LaMar said. He likes the role hes in. Hes throwing strikes with power stuff 94, 95 miles per hour with a curveball and a sinker with late life. We really like what weve seen of this guy.

Righthanded starter J.C. Ramirez, also acquired in the Lee deal, will be in Readings starting rotation. The 22-year-old, power-armed Nicaraguan had an impressive camp.

LaMar was told that some people had given up on the Phillies return in the Lee trade.

Dont do it, he warned. J.C. Ramirez will pitch in the big leagues. And if Aumont continues to come along, hell be a major-league guy.

Tyson Gillies, the third player in the Lee deal, remains in limbo. The 22-year-old centerfielder had a lost season in 2010. He suffered a left hamstring injury that knocked him out of Readings lineup after 26 games. In June, he was arrested for cocaine possession in Clearwater. Charges were dropped in October. Gillies is one of the best athletes in all of pro ball, but he cant seem to get on the field. He was slated to open the season at Reading but is once again being hampered by left hamstring problems, and there is no timetable for his return.

Were in the process of finding out whats wrong, LaMar said. Hes seeing doctors. Obviously something is going on in there.

As the minor-league season begins, pitching appears to be the strength of the system. There are some power-armed starting pitchers in the low minors, and some intriguing, hard-throwing right-handed relievers in the upper minors.

Spring-training standout Michael Stutes leads the cast of reliever prospects. The 24-year-old righty nearly made the big club out of spring training and is likely to be the first reliever called up from Triple-A when the Phils need one. Stutes has a rubber arm. He is capable of pitching several days in a row and seldom ices his arm. (Sounds a little like Paul Quantrill.) Phillies officials, on the lookout for a reliever who can get more than three outs at a time, would like to see Stutes do that at Lehigh Valley.

The Lehigh Valley bullpen also features righthanders Scott Mathieson and Michael Schwimer and lefty Mike Zagurski. All could be in the picture in Philadelphia during the season. Righthander Vance Worley will open in Lehigh Valleys rotation, but he also has the ability to help in the bullpen. DeFratus and Aumont highlight the bullpen arms in Double-A.

The best starting arms are in the lower levels. Four of them righthanders Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone will open the season at Single-A Clearwater. All have power stuff and project as big-league talents. Cosart, Colvin and Pettibone are all 20. May is 21.

Clearwater is the Phillies advanced-level Single-A team. Their less-advanced Single-A club plays in Lakewood, N.J., in the South Atlantic League. Thats where 19-year-old lefty Jesse Biddle, the organizations top pick in last years draft and a native Philadelphian, will open the season. Less than a year out of Germantown Friends, Biddle, 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, has impressed club officials with his work on and off the field.

He pitched well last year and in spring training and earned the right to go to Lakewood, LaMar said. Hell have his ups and downs the first year out of high school, but the stuff is there and we think he can handle being pushed a little.

Lakewoods rotation also features Ervis Manzanillo, a 19-year-old lefty from Venezuela.

Josh Zeid and Austin Hyatt, both drafted out of college in 2009, will join Ramirez in the Double-A rotation. Hyatt was the pitcher of the year in the Florida State League last year. Zeid jumps to Double A from the South Atlantic League. He is knocking on the door or prospecthood.

The top two catching prospects in the system, Cameron Rupp and Sebastian Valle, will open at Lakewood and Clearwater, respectively. Rupp was a third-round pick last season out of the University of Texas.

Two of the organizations top position player prospects, Jonathan Singleton and Cesar Hernandez will open at Clearwater. Singleton, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound left-handed swinger, is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. He batted .290 with 14 homers and 77 RBIs in 104 games at Lakewood last season. And he did that as an 18 year old. With Ryan Howard signed for six more years, the Phillies are converting Singleton from first base to leftfield. So far, hes handled the switch well. Hell play leftfield aside centerfielder Jiwan James, a multi-tool prospect to keep an eye on. Another toolsy centerfielder, Aaron Altherr, will open at Lakewood.

Hernandez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan second baseman, jumps from the New York-Penn League, where he hit .325 in 65 games last summer, to Clearwater.

Rival scouts who peeked in on Phillies minor league camp were very impressed with Singleton and Hernandez.

The Phils have stocked their Triple-A club mostly with major-league veterans. Below that, Double-A middle infielders Freddy Galvis and Harold Garcia are both considered prospects.

Other players to keep an eye on include Joe Savery, the teams No. 1 pick in 2007, and Zach Collier, who was selected between the first and second rounds in the 2008 draft. Savery is converting from pitcher to hitter and will open at Clearwater, where he will bounce between first base and designated hitter. He may also get on the mound in a pinch. Collier, a top hitting prospect leading up to the 2008 draft, returns to Lakewoods outfield after missing last season with a wrist injury.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON -- David Price scattered five hits over seven innings and Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to extend his streak to 28 games as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 on Tuesday night.

David Ortiz had a two-run double and a two-run single, and Dustin Pedroia added three hits to help Boston win its third straight game. Price (7-1) allowed three runs, walking one and striking out six to earn his third consecutive win.

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games.

Jorge De La Rosa (1-4) made his first start after spending almost a month on the disabled list with a left groin strain. He gave up two runs in the first, two more in the second and left with one out in the fourth with two on and one run already in (see full recap).

Polanco, Pirates crush Diamondbacks
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.

Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Shelby Miller (1-6) in the first inning gave Pittsburgh an early boost. Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand.

After a short adjustment period, Polanco has thrived batting third in the lineup, hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates spread their 17 hits among 11 batters.

Miller's recent recovery from a miserable start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller's ERA ballooned to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings (see full recap).

Strasburg strikes out 11 in Nationals' win
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg remained unbeaten with an 11-strikeout performance, and the Washington Nationals hit three of their season-high five home runs off struggling Matt Harvey in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (8-0) gave up two runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings in defeating Harvey and the Mets for the second time in six days. Strasburg has five games this season with at least 10 strikeouts and 26 over his seven-year career.

Harvey (3-7) stumbled through a third straight ineffective start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five rocky innings. The right-hander has yielded 16 earned runs and 31 hits over his last three outings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon hit successive solo shots to put Washington ahead in the fourth inning, and Daniel Murphy added a two-run drive off his former teammate in the fifth for a 5-1 lead (see full recap).

Justin Verlander powers his way through Phillies' weak lineup

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Justin Verlander powers his way through Phillies' weak lineup

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Back on March 26, the Detroit Tigers made the trip to Clearwater to play the Phillies during the final week of the Grapefruit League schedule.
 
Justin Verlander was the Tigers’ starting pitcher that day at Bright House Field. The Phillies ended up losing that game by a run when their bullpen came undone in the late innings. But earlier in the game, the Phils had pretty good success against Verlander. They knocked him around for three runs in five innings. They had seven hits against him, four for extra bases.
 
Two months later, the Phillies came face to face with Verlander again on a warm Tuesday night in Detroit.
 
This time, the Phils had no chance.
 
They were manhandled by the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner in suffering a 3-1 loss to the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
“Verlander pitched well,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He had a good fastball and we weren’t catching up to it.”
 
Yes, Verlander had good fastball and he knew it. Sixty-five of his 108 pitches were fastballs. He averaged 94 mph with the pitch and topped out at 97. That’s how hard his final pitch of the night was. He blew it by the Phillies’ best hitter, Odubel Herrera, for his 10th strikeout of the game.
 
In all, Verlander pitched eight shutout innings and gave up just three hits against one of baseball’s worst offenses; the Phils entered the game averaging just 3.24 runs per game.
 
The loss was the Phillies’ fourth in the last five games and it dropped them to 25-21. They have opened this challenging road trip, which finishes with three against the Chicago Cubs, owners of the best record in the game, with two straight losses heading into Wednesday’s series finale against the Tigers. Aaron Nola will get the ball against Anibal Sanchez.
 
Can Nola be a stopper? The Phillies could really use a victory. To get it, they will need some offense. They got just about none until Verlander left the game Tuesday night.
 
“We just couldn’t get enough going,” Mackanin said. “Verlander really relied on his fastball and we couldn’t capitalize.”
 
Jeremy Hellickson pitched well for the third straight time for the Phillies. (He has allowed just five earned runs over 20 innings in his last three starts. He has walked just three batters and struck out 20 over that span.) But with no run support, Hellickson couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and he needed excellent defensive support — which he did not get.
 
Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.
 
In a close game with not much offense going against Verlander, Hellickson needed strong defense behind him. He did not get it from third baseman Maikel Franco in the fifth inning. With a runner on first and no outs, J.D. Martinez hit a bounding ball to Franco’s right. Franco tried to backhand the ball with a quick snap of his glove. Fielded cleanly, Franco probably could have started a double play. Instead, the ball got by him, was generously scored a double and led to a run. The Tigers scored twice in the inning to take a 3-1 lead.
 
“Yes, it’s makeable,” Mackanin said of the ball that got by Franco. “He got to a certain spot and then he stopped and tried to snag it instead of taking one more step toward it. I don’t think he could have gotten in front of the ball but he could have gone through it instead of stopping and trying to snag it. I thought he could have done that.
 
“It’s a potential double-play ball. He needed to take one more step instead of reaching for it.”
 
Tommy Joseph had the best at-bats against Verlander. He lined out twice to the pull side and had a base hit in the seventh. In the ninth, the Phillies rallied for a couple of hits against Francisco Rodriguez. Joseph scorched a liner to left for a sacrifice fly and the Phillies’ only run.
 
“He hit the ball on the nose four times, really good at bats,” Mackanin said of Joseph. “If that ball he hits in the ninth inning finds a gap, we have the tying run at second.”
 
Joseph has seven hits in his first 23 at-bats and has made some hard outs. He will start at first base again Wednesday and also on Friday as the Cubs will start lefty Jon Lester. After that, he could get starts against right-handers because he’s simply out-hitting Ryan Howard, who went 1 for 4 and saw his average climb to .159.
 
Before the game, Mackanin said Joseph could take playing time away from Howard if he continues to hit.

Instant Replay: Tigers 3, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Tigers 3, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — What figures to be the Phillies’ most challenging road trip so far is not off to a good start.
 
The Phillies lost for the second time in as many nights to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander manhandled the Phillies in leading his team to a 3-1 victory.
 
The Phillies were held to just three hits in the first eight innings. They rallied for a run on two hits and a sacrifice fly by Tommy Joseph after Verlander had exited in the ninth.
 
The Phils have lost four out of their last five games and are 25-21 on the season.
 
After a slow start, the Tigers have come alive. They have won eight of their last nine.
 
The series ends Wednesday afternoon. The Phillies open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. They have the best record in the majors.
 
Starting pitching report
Jeremy Hellickson delivered a very solid start of seven innings and three runs, but received no run support. He walked just one and struck out seven.
 
Hellickson has allowed just five earned runs over 20 innings in his last three starts. He has walked just three batters and struck out 20 over that span.
 
Verlander gave up just two singles and a double over eight shutout innings. He walked two and struck out 10.
 
Verlander’s 108th and final pitch of the game was a 97 mph fastball past Odubel Herrera.
 
Bullpen report
Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez survived a shaky ninth for the save. He squandered his team’s shutout bid by allowing the Phillies’ only run.
 
The save was Francisco’s 400th. He is the sixth pitcher in big-league history to reach that milestone.
 
At the plate
Ryan Howard entered the night hitting .083 (4 for 48) in the month of May. Three of those hits were homers and the other was a double. Howard had not had a single since April 29, a span of 19 games. He ended the singles drought with a base hit against Verlander in the second inning.
 
Howard popped out, struck out and grounded out in his next three at-bats as his average actually climbed to .159.
 
Howard batted fifth and Joseph hit fourth. Joseph, who had a homer and a double in Monday night’s game, stung the ball right at the shortstop and leftfielder, respectively, in his first two at-bats before singling in his third at-bat. He lined a sacrifice fly to left for the Phils’ only run in the ninth.
 
Freddy Galvis doubled twice for the Phils.
 
Miguel Cabrera, who had two homers and a double on Monday night, continued to scorch the Phils. He doubled home a run in the first inning and plated another with a groundout in the sixth. Victor Martinez, who drove in the go-ahead run Monday night, drove in the Tigers’ third run with a single in the sixth.
 
In the field
Catcher Carlos Ruiz threw out two runners trying to steal second.
 
Third baseman Maikel Franco unsuccessfully tried to backhand a bounding ball from J.D. Martinez in the sixth inning. If Franco makes the play, he probably starts an around-the-horn double play. Instead, it got by him, was generously scored a double and led to the Tigers’ second run of the game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche, rehabbing from an oblique strain with the Double A Reading club, hit a two-run home run Tuesday night.
 
Up next
The series concludes Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Nola (3-3, 2.85) starts for the Phillies against Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 6.23).