Sorry for the absence over the last 10 days or so. I had to have a procedure done on my “Frankenfoot” that required rest. On the plus side, I’m able to walk now, the best since I sprained it and broke a bone just 10 days before spring training began.
Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year…the day that minor league pitchers and catchers report. Additionally, the majority of the position players are here already. I’ve known some of these guys for more than five years so it’s great to see some of my friends again.
Matt Hockenberry, who pitched for the Threshers last season, is now a pitching coach for one of the two Gulf Coast League teams the Phillies will be fielding this year. I love this picture as the pitchers are all former colleagues of Hockenberry’s and it’s good to see them all enjoying a laugh together before the work begins. Also in the picture from left to right: Tyler Viza, Alberto Tirado, Alexis Rivero, Garrett Clevenger, Luke Leftwich and Jacob Waguespack in the red shirt.
I took a lot of pictures all around camp yesterday as they are all during drills, there’s not much to say as the pictures speak for themselves:
This is the part of spring training where in many aspects, it’s hard to write a narrative of where a team is going to be. This week is sort of a “limbo”for the players. There are way too many players in camp and the minor leaguers who are on the major league roster have yet to be cut.
The major league camp will start cutting players and those players will either be sent to minor league camp or given their outright release. Once that happens, all of the players sent down will have to be placed on a roster and then the players will have to be shifted around and again, some will be given their release as well.
It’s a nervous time. That being said, as far as a story, the story is the minor leaguers are playing other minor leaguers to keep a spot on the roster. It’s as if everyone is waiting for the other proverbial “shoe to drop”.
Baseball Ross and I will have a recap of the week’s intrasquad games tomorrow so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, you can find it HERE.
What I thought I’d share today is a series of pictures I took for your enjoyment.
It was a beautiful evening here in Clearwater for the annual “Meet the Threshers” picnic for season ticket holders. It’s a fun time where we had a chance to have a nice meal and hob-knob with the players.
After everyone had a chance to eat, the voice of the Threshers, Kirsten Karbach introduced the team.
Now that my foot is healing, I am able to get to spring training almost every day. I feel like I am playing “catch-up” after missing so many days. There are so many players that I haven’t had a chance to see, let alone photograph.
The highlight of yesterday was being able to catch Carlos Alonso’s home run:
Ryan Howard was playing and it seemed like he was struggling at the plate, striking out all three times I saw him bat, though Baseball Ross thinks he saw him hit a double later.
This morning it was announced that Phillies Minor leaguers would take on a college team from Japan.
The biggest surprise was how small Japan’s players were. It’s not to say that they were not good players, they were very strong for their size.
David Buchanan was the starting pitcher.
In the second, Mitch Walding hit a solo homer and all the Japanese player could do was watch it go.
In the 3rd, the Japanese team scored 2 on Buchanan.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Herlis Rodriguez got a hit and managed to slide safely into 2nd.
Next, catcher Deivi Grullon hit a long homer into the bullpen to bring the score 3-2. You can watch the homerun HERE.
Herlis was already well on his way home when the ball was still in the park.
Phillies later added one more run to make it 4-2 and it stayed until the top of the 9th. The Japanese team said “sayonara” to Matt Hockenberry’s first pitch of the inning to bring them within one.
Hockenberry bucked down and then it was over. The Phillies won 4-3.
If you have been reading our blogs for a while, you will remember that Baseball Ross and I have become unofficial “American Parents” to a few of the young Dominican players, two of which are currently on the Lakewood BlueClaws roster. The first weekend in May, the BlueClaws made their trip to the most southern team in the South Atlantic League, the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Savannah’s Grayson Stadium is a beautiful, old stadium, reminiscent of the Williamsport Cross Cutters’ Historic Bowman field.
We were in town for three games of the four-game series. We drove seven hours each way to get there, and it was so worth it. The BlueClaws won all three games we attended and only dropped the final game of the series.
Our “baseball son” Ranfi Casimirio, a RHP, pitched the first game.
Casimiro led the team to a 2-1 win over the Sand Gnats, the Mets Low-A farm team. Casimiro went five shut-out innings to increasing his record in his last two starts to 12 innings of allowing only one run. He executed four strikeouts in this five inning start. When he walked off the field at the end of the fifth, the BlueClaws were ahead 1-0.
The Sand Gnats tied it up in the sixth when BlueClaws reliever Alexis Rivero gave up a run, but the Threshers would win it with a run in the top eight with the help of a wild pitch after a double by Carlos Tocci. Matt Hockenberry, who has held the opposition scoreless in his five appearances this season, recorded the save.
Saturday night, RHP Chris Oliver pitched the team to a 4-0 victory, striking out seven over seven innings. Carlos Tocci-CF went 3 for 4 and had stolen bases. Rhys Hoskins-1B went 2 for 4 including a double and 2 RBIs. Reliever, RHP Jesson Therrien, pitched the last two innings to preserve the shut out.
Sunday afternoon, our other BlueClaw baseball son, Elniery Garcia, a LHP, pitched. Garcia surrendered three runs in six innings, still a quality start and he got the win. His Clayton Kershaw-esque curve ball helped him to strike out six including four in the first two innings. Later, he used his sinker to induce two infield ground ball double plays in the outing.
In the nine innings of relief in the three games I saw the bullpen has given up only two runs. Closer Matt Hockenberry got his sixth save of the season on Sunday, but gave up his first run of the season.
One thing I noticed this weekend, in addition to the BlueClaws games I’ve listened to on “Tune In Radio” is that Carlos Tocci is a target. Unfortunately the opposing teams in the South Atlantic League are “head hunting” Tocci. Already this season, he has been hit by a pitch three times but that is not the whole story. Friday night in the ninth inning he had to jump out of the way with an up and in pitch. Saturday, he also dodged a pitch. Sunday in the first inning he had to do duck out of the way with a ball aimed right at his head by Sand Gnat pitcher Martires Arias. The plate umpire then warned both teams that the next hit batter would result in the ejection of the pitcher.
Three games in three days and the BlueClaws won all three. We were lucky that we got to see both of our baseball sons get to pitch–and win. We also were lucky enough that they each were “charting” the game (pitchers will write down the pitches, placement and speed of both their team and the opposing team) so that they were in the stands.
The best part of the entire trip was getting to spend a little time with my “boys”.
It made the 14 hour round trip worth while to see them (as well as many of their teammates) happy to see us. I can’t wait to see them again, hopefully in June in Lakewood.
We are three weeks into the minor league season and the Phillies’ Pharm teams are shaping up. In some respects, it’s what one would expect, in others, a bit of a surprise.
The most pleasant surprise is the Reading Fightins. Reading is 10-7 and are in second place, only a game and a half behind the New Britain Rock Cats. The biggest disappointment has been the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who have the worst record in ALL of of the International League at 5-14. In-between, are the Clearwater Threshers who are a game and half out of first in the Florida State League Northern Division, trailing the Daytona Tortugas. Their 10-9 record is a great improvement over last year at this time where they were 3-16! The Lakewood BlueClaws are 8-10, two games under .500 in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.
As expected they have been lead by outstanding starting pitching. Lead by newcomer Zach Eflin, who has yet to give up an earned run in his first three starts. He is 2-0, in his first three starts. Also, going 2-0 is prospect Jesse Biddle. Biddle, who is coming off of a very challenging 2014 season, has an impressive 2.76 ERA and averages a strike out an inning. Ben Lively is equally impressive with a 1.42 ERA and 1-0 in his first three starts. Aaron Nola, last years’ number one draft pick from LSU, has gone 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA.
Hitting-wise Reading is lead by 1B Brock Stassi, with a .357 batting average, 3 home runs and 19 RBIs. Phenom Roman Quinn, is off to a strong start, hitting .348, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs. He is currently 3rd in steals with 8 steals and leads the league with runs scored with 18.
The one disappointing event was the injury to former Golden Glove winner, 2B Carlos Alonso, who was injured by a Harrisburg Senator’s “take out slide” and is currently sidelined with a knee injury. He is currently on the 7-day disabled list.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Packed with veteran free agents that were released by other organizations, Lehigh Valley is off to a difficult start. The highpoint of the offense is the play of Maikel Franco, who is hitting .338 and leads the International league in doubles with 10 so far this season, while playing outstanding defense at third base.Conversely, rehabbing MLBer, Domonic Brown continuing to struggle, hitting only .139 in nine games for the IronPigs.
On the mound, the highlight is Severino Gonzalez, with a .357 ERA which earned him his first MLB start with the Phillies. The biggest surprise on the mound, however, is Phillippe Aumont. Aumont, who was dropped from the 40-man roster this spring, is 1-0 with 1.06 ERA in 17 innings. Even more surprising, he was moved from the bullpen to starter and is proving to be much more successful as a starter.
The Threshers are the team that never seems to say die. Last year, was one of the most difficult years I have ever witnessed in professional sport. It seemed like they always found a way to LOSE. Even if they managed to push a game into extra innings, they always seemed to come up short. This year, is very different. Four of their ten wins have been in extra innings, including an impressive win at home in SEVENTEEN innings.
Offensively, Dylan Cozens (RF) has driven in 13 runs to lead the team in RBIs. The fans in Clearwater have taken to calling him “Clutch” Cozens because he has gone 4-6 with 3 RBIs in extra innings. Leading the team in doubles are Willians Astudillo (3-6 with a walk off in extra innings) and Andrew Pullin with 5 each.
Threshers’ pitching is another great surprise with strong starting and relief pitchers. The tops starters are Brandon Leibrant (1-1, 1.80 ERA in 4 starts) and David Whitehead (1-2, 3.04 ERA in 4 starts). The bullpen has been exceptionally strong, led by Ulises Joaquin 1-0 with three saves, Edubray Ramos 1-1 with 1 save and Mark Leiter, Jr. who is 1-0 with one save and struck out TWENTY in 15 innings out of the pen. The top left handed reliever is Cody Forsythe, 1-0 and has struck out 13 in nine innings of work.
While the BlueClaws have been hanging around .500, there have been early flashes of brilliance. After completing what looks to be a successful weight training program in the off season, Carlos Tocci is hitting .338 and leads the team with 11 RBIs. Malquin Canelo is second hitting .333. First basemen Rhys Hoskins has supplied the power with 3 home runs, hitting .290.
Regarding pitchers, they are led by Tyler Viza, 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first three starts, all of last season, Viza went 3-17. Ricardo Pinto, 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, leads the team in strike outs with 18 in 19 innings of pitching. The bullpen is good as well, Matt Hockenberry has picked up three saves and has yet to give up a run in nine innings of work. Left handed reliever Austin Davis has yet to give up a run in ten innings of relief as the “set-up” man.