Zac Rinaldo Got Thrown Out For This

Zac Rinaldo Got Thrown Out For This

Not the most memorable Saturday in Philly sports history, but not the end of the world, either. The Flyers lost a meaningless playoff preamble in Pittsburgh, the Phils offense stayed in the locker room a second straight day, and the Sixers… I didn't watch, but it appears as if they lost again too. Actually, I only saw the Flyers game in its entirety. The Phillies we caught over the radio with Franzke & LA with a backyard fire. So, I don't have a lot to say about either the Phils or the Sixers today. 
Here's a bit on the Flyers' finale, but admittedly not much. It had the action of a preseason game, and not much more meaning. The most interesting moment may have come in the first period, when Zac Rinaldo was given the gate for a check that toed the line between legality and a 2-minute minor. The Flyers had to withstand a 5-minute major and lost a forward who was scheduled for a heavier complement of ice time than usual. 
Watch below, see if you think it's worth a full misconduct—or if the refs were just trying to eliminate all possible threats to their peacekeeping mission. 

OK, so Rinaldo ran Zbynek Michalek there. But Michalek knew full well he wasn't alone going into the end boards, and he did nothing to protect himself or get out of the danger zone quickly. If anything, he turned into the boards. And, as the announcers pointed out, Rinaldo did pull up a bit, rather than barreling full-speed into him. He stopped striding and glided into the hit. No elbows, no sticks up, no head shots. Michalek didn't miss a single shift, and Rinaldo's day was over. 
Later, Jody Shelley would be given a phantom 10-minute misconduct, effectively ending his day as well. 
Both were plainly overreactions by the refs. But they'd pretty clearly been instructed not to let this game get out of hand, and hopefully to keep any potential injuries to a minimum. Their manner of doing so was to just take two of the most likely catalysts out of the equation. 
GAME NOTESThe Flyers made the decision to rest Claude Giroux, who may have a cold according to Lisa Hilary, and certainly didn't have much to play for with the standings locked. Danny Briere is still out indefinitely after taking a hit from Joe Vitale—something the coaches may have wanted to eliminate from Giroux's possible plight. Nick Grossmann seems to be progressing, but again, why rush him with rest days and only practice for a few days before the playoffs begin. 
Ilya Bryzgalov will be one of the biggest keys to the series ahead. Given that he's sporting a chip fracture, there was no need to play him either. After Bryz's March, which saw him named the Star of the Month, there is no confidence left to build. It could be argued he could benefit from some game action and sharpness after missing a few games, but it was tough to peg what kind of game this would be, and even Pittsburgh pulled MAF midway through it. 
The rough stuff came early, but didn't last, in part due to the very purposeful overstepping of bounds by the referees. For some reason, it was Harry Z who answered the call to throw down with Vitale, and uh… it didn't go well. 

Ragdoll'd… 
Not exactly sure what Harry was going for with that leg kick/canopener thing he was doing. Was it involuntary due to getting hit in the head? Some kind of matrix-like attempt at gaining leverage?
It looked like Jody Shelley and Steve MacIntyre were gonna go, but this fight pre-empted it. MacIntyre was called up for just such an occasion as Shelley trying to exact revenge from Vitale for his hits on Briere and Nick Grossmann. 
Oh well. 
Brayden Schenn and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Flyers, who lost 4-2. Crosby and Malkin each scored in a decisive second period. 
BRIGHT SIDESchenn played a helluva game, continuing his emergence as a top-flight NHL threat. This kid could be a major difference maker in the postseason. With Giroux out, Schenn really stepped up, with playmaking, offensive opportunities, and some nice hits. 
After Rinaldo got the gate, the Flyers killed off 5 minutes of Penguins power play time, and this was before the Pens began resting their stars. 
Just gotta laugh at this one sequence in the second period, when the game really started to slip into meaninglessness. Jagr was called for hooking after Kris Letang clamped his arm down on Jagr's stick, then dragged himself to the ice as Jags waved his free arm to signal that Letang was holding his stick. A little move we're gonna dub The Penguin Wing. Two minutes in the box for Mr. Jagr, and Crosby scores on the ensuing power play. It's laughable in game 82. We're breaking shit if it happens in the playoffs. 
Would it have been great if the Flyers had topped the Penguins? Absolutely. We'd be talking about how they set the tone for the playoff series, how Pittsburgh owned no home-ice advantage, and even a team without Danny, Claude, Nick, and Ilya was enough to win. 
Not surprisingly, it wasn't. Fortunately, after the first 20 or 30 minutes of the game, it felt nothing like meaningful hockey, so we're not worried about its outcome. 

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.