Kimmo Therapy

Kimmo Therapy

With a 5-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, the Flyers not only kept up their winning ways, but also their excellent scoring production. The team is third in the NHL in goals-for average, behind only Detroit and Ottawa. But the Flyers aren't doing it on the back of one guy, like a Kovalchuk or an Ovechkin. They're consistently scoring goals in bunches, with six players already having double-digit goal tallies and players up and down the roster stepping up their scoring while others get through injuries or cold streaks. We've said it plenty before, but every line on this team can score, presenting matchup difficulties in all phases of the game.

 For the second straight game, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was a big part of the team's balanced attack, scoring a goal and adding two assists, marking six points in his last two games. He opened the scoring by sneaking in from the left and pegging the top of the net with a perfect water-bottle wrister. The All-Star is logging plenty of ice time, but staying in the plus column and out of the penalty box lately.

Timonen's scoring efforts in the last two games have complemented the continued heroics of Scott Hartnell, who added another goal to recent tear. Hartnell's been playing like a captain lately, providing a consistent source of goals and assists, but just as importantly, a physical presence on the ice. Before the first minute had ticked off the clock, Hartnell had dropped the gloves with Olli Jokinen, taking the Panthers' leading scorer off the ice for 5 minutes and setting the tone for the game despite it being a rather lackluster fight. In the third period, Scottie dropped 'em again, this time with Richard Zednick. Both players wear visors, so it wasn't much to see.

Best of the Rest
With the play of Simon Gagne this past week, it's hard to believe the Flyers survived so long without him. Gags lit the lamp again, and his presence has clearly helped jumpstart the once-stalled Danny Briere, who scored two more goals last night. Mike Richards added two assists as well, and continues to lead the team in points. Richards, Hartnell, and Steve Downie have gelled together nicely, and Downie assisted on the Hartnell goal with a long outlet pass to set up the break. And last but not least, Antero Niittymaki won again, his first W at home this season. Don't let the three goals against fool you; Niitty had a great game, including a diving stick save in the third period. The shot may have been going wide, it's hard to tell, but Niitty swatted it away with authority at a critical time, as the Panthers had crept back from a 4-1 deficit and were within one at that point. Niittymaki is looking more and more like this team's starter, and John Stevens reportedly said the words "we have two #1s" this week.

Having a 4-1 first period lead cut so dramatically is a cause for concern, as the Flyers continue to have off-periods. Fortunately, they'd scored enough early to weather the storm. Derian Hatcher had an awful turnover in the defensive zone, which left a surprised Niittymaki high and dry. Hatcher's play lately is better than many fans have given him credit for though. He's probably been the team's most solid blueliner this season, although mistakes like that one are more memorable than "solid play."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Wayne, Pa. -- Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q+A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

Blanco's injury led to promotions for Phillies prospects Jesmuel Valentin, Scott Kingery

Blanco's injury led to promotions for Phillies prospects Jesmuel Valentin, Scott Kingery

The Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, was not considered for a promotion to the majors this week when Andres Blanco was placed on the 15-day DL with a fractured finger, but Blanco's injury did create a cascade effect that resulted in two of the organization's other middle infield prospects earning call-ups.

Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin was promoted this week from from Double A Reading to Triple A Lehigh Valley to replace Taylor Featherston, who the Phillies added in Blanco's spot. And 2B Scott Kingery was promoted from High A Clearwater to Reading to take Valentin's place.

It's a positive development for the Phillies, who have stockpiled so many intriguing prospects that singles hitters like Valentin and Kingery were mostly afterthoughts much of the season. 

Valentin, the son of former big-league shortstop Jose Valentin and the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, was acquired by the Phillies in August 2014 from the Dodgers in exchange for Roberto Hernandez. 

Valentin, 22, made the Double A All-Star Game this season and hit .276/.346/.399 in 388 plate appearances with Reading before the promotion. He looks like a future utility infielder who could maybe turn into something more.

The Phillies also received 21-year-old reliever Victor Arano in that Hernandez trade. Arano has been excellent this season at Clearwater, posting a 2.29 ERA in 32 appearances with 68 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 59 innings. 

The Phillies got two legit pieces for Hernandez, a journeyman fifth starter who is now out of baseball. It's crazy to think they received a better return for Hernandez than for Chase Utley. 

As for the right-handed hitting Kingery, he made his Double A debut on Monday, going 0 for 3 for Reading. He had a good run at Clearwater, hitting .293/.360/.411 in 420 plate appearances with 29 doubles and 26 steals. He was the Phils' second-round pick last year out of the University of Arizona. Kingery is a 5-foot-10, speedy second baseman who has a solid approach at the plate. He probably won't hit for power, but Kingery looks like the type who could eventually hit for average and take walks, perhaps one day turning into a more polished, instinctive and consistent version of Cesar Hernandez.

Quinn finally back
Roman Quinn, out since June 4 with an oblique injury, began a rehab assignment Monday in the Gulf Coast League. In two games, the speedy, 23-year-old, switch-hitting centerfielder has gone 2 for 6 with a walk, a steal and two runs scored. 

He'll spend a few days in the GCL, where Mickey Moniak and Jhailyn Ortiz are currently playing, before advancing back up the chain. Moniak, by the way, had another multi-hit game Tuesday and is batting .321 through 90 plate appearances.