Ben Lively hits 1st rough patch as Phillies downed in desert by D-backs

Ben Lively hits 1st rough patch as Phillies downed in desert by D-backs


PHOENIX -- Entering Saturday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies had won two straight games on the strength of a pair of good starts by Aaron Nola and Mark Leiter Jr.
Those two outings affirmed the age-old reality that even a bad team has a shot to win if it gets good pitching.
Ben Lively couldn't keep the streak of good starts going. He was tagged for seven hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay).
The bullpen work was also spotty. Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos and Adam Morgan allowed a combined eight baserunners and four runs over 2 2/3 innings.
"You pitch better," manager Pete Mackanin said when asked if there could have been a way to hold down the Diamondbacks' powerful offense. "That's basically it. Our guy pitched great yesterday. We had some good pitching in that game. Today, not so much."
The Diamondbacks improved to 27-10 at home while the Phillies fell to 10-29 on the road and 24-49 overall.
Arizona lefty Robbie Ray and three relievers held the Phillies to two runs on the night. Both of them came on one swing by Lively. Yes, the pitcher provided all of the Phillies' offense. Lively clubbed his first career homer, a two-run shot, on a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball from Ray with two outs in the fourth inning.
"My first at-bat, he threw fastballs right by me and I was like, 'Dang, that's pretty firm,' " Lively said. "The next at-bat they gave me the go-ahead on the first pitch and it was right there."
Lively lined the pitch over the wall in right-center to give the Phils a 2-1 lead.
As it turned out, the homer may have hurt Lively as much as it helped him.
"I was pretty pumped up about that and I kind of stayed a little too pumped up," he said.
He lost the lead in the fourth, giving up a run after allowing two straight hits to open the inning. He allowed two more hits and a run in the fifth then was tagged for two more in the sixth, one on a leadoff homer by Jake Lamb.
"I just kind of let it get away from me," Lively said. "I was squeezed down in the zone. That kind of got me a little more, I wouldn't say frustrated, but I just got going, going, going and kind of let the speed of the game get to me. I usually don't let that happen. I made some bad pitches.
"I can't pitch like that. I was making terrible pitches. I was grabbing the ball and going. I wasn’t even thinking. You can't do that up here."
Lively had begun his major-league career with four straight quality starts before this outing.
"Arizona has a good hitting team," Mackanin said. "He made a few mistakes. He'd been doing well for us. But today wasn't his best outing."
Ray pitched 6 1/3 innings for his eighth win. He is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts.
The game featured some good and bad Phillies' defense. Third baseman Maikel Franco made two fielding gems, but centerfielder Odubel Herrera was charged with an error when he dropped a ball at the warning track in the second. It led to an unearned run behind Lively.
"The only thing I can think about talking about was Lively's two-run homer run and two great plays by Franco," Mackanin said.
Mackanin was right. There wasn't much worth talking about after this one. That has been the case too many times in this long, losing season. Maybe Sunday will offer something more.

Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thompson one of the best in business

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Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thompson one of the best in business

CLEARWATER, Fla. – According to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “the Phillies got one of the best,” when they hired Rob Thomson as bench coach.

“It was tough to see him leave,” Cashman said. “He is a great coach, an exceptional baseball man. His knowledge of the game is off the charts.

“Gabe Kapler has someone at his side that he can trust to have everything lined up properly all the time and that will free up Gabe Kapler to focus on whatever he wants to focus on at the given time. Rob Thomson will keep the rudder steady every step of the way."

Thomson, 54, spent 28 years in the Yankees organization, most recently as Joe Girardi’s bench coach. He was one of five people (along with Eric Wedge, Hensley Muelens and Carlos Beltran) to interview to become Girardi’s successor during the offseason (see story.) Aaron Boone got the job.

Timing worked in the Phillies’ favor in hiring Thomson. There was a lag between when Thomson found out he would not be the Yankees’ manager and Boone’s hiring. The Phillies offered him their bench coach job and he took it.

“He would have been a candidate to return here, without question,” Cashman said. “It would have been the final call of Aaron Boone, but I would have recommended him highly to Aaron Boone. I gave (Phillies GM) Matt Klentak the highest recommendation.”

Thomson described himself as a good self-evaluator. He’s not sure he’d be cut out to manage every team, but he believed he’d have been a good fit for the Yankees job. He knew that organization, its operation and its players well.

“I understand that it’s part of the business,” Thomson said. “Brian and his staff, who are very smart people, had a certain person in mind and it wasn’t me. So you have to move on and refocus.”

Kapler did extensive research on Thomson and said he often heard that Thomson was “the best in the business at planning and running a spring training camp.”

Cashman concurred.

“Gabe Kapler has as good a right-hand man as you can find,” he said.

One plugged-in baseball observer described Thomson as similar to the late John Vukovich – a loyal-to-his-manager baseball taskmaster – only with a little less volume in his voice.

“He’s tough,” Cashman said. “He will be brutally honest. He’ll say what a player needs to hear, not necessarily what a player wants to hear. And he’ll always relate well to players because he always has their best interest at heart.

“The Phillies got one of the best.”

New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

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New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It will probably hit Rob Thomson sometime on Sunday. That’s when the New York Yankees visit Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring-training home.

Thomson spent 28 seasons in the Yankees’ famous pinstripes, serving in player-development, front-office and coaching roles.

Most recently, he was the bench coach for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Thomson was one of five people interviewed to replace Girardi after last season. Aaron Boone got the job, but Thomson wasn’t a free agent for long. The Phillies quickly scooped up the 54-year-old baseball lifer and installed him as new manager Gabe Kapler’s top lieutenant.

On Sunday, Thomson will look across the diamond and see his past.

But all he’s thinking about is the future.

“I feel like I’m part of the Phillies family already,” he said. “The people have been great. They’ve welcomed me right in.

“I’m here to support Gabe in any way I can. I’ve got his back all the time.”

Phillies management wanted a veteran coaching presence around the 42-year-old Kapler, whose only managing experience came a decade ago in the low minors. New pitching coach Rick Kranitz held that position with three other clubs over 10 seasons. New hitting coach John Mallee previously held that position with the Astros and Cubs.

Thomson worked on Joe Torre’s staff before working under Girardi. He lived through the Yankees’ growth as one of baseball’s analytic giants. He's just what the Phillies and Kapler were looking for.

“I ask everybody everything all the time,” Kapler said. “I contacted no fewer than 20 people about Rob and heard nothing even remotely negative. I weigh that more than a six-hour interview. You might nail the interview, but you can’t fake your career.”

Kapler’s most valuable appraisal came from Girardi, who said Thomson was an incredible teammate.

“In my opinion, that’s the best compliment anyone in baseball can give,” Kapler said.

Thomson is a former catcher. He played on the 1984 Canadian Olympic team and in the Tigers' farm system before joining the Yankees’ player development department.

While working on Torre’s staff, Thomson learned the value of trust.

“Joe Torre was really into relationships and gaining trust with a player and that taught me a lot,” Thomson said. “Before you can really help players, they have to be able to trust you.

“With Joe Girardi, he was a little more analytics-driven so that taught me a lot. We’d always looked at numbers but it taught me to really dive into some of the more critical numbers that are around today.

“In a lot of ways, Gabe reminds me of Joe (Girardi) because of his presence and openness to ideas. Those are great qualities for a leader to have.”

Thomson arrives at work pre-dawn in spring training to plan the day. He is known to arrive at noon for a regular season night game. With data study, scouting reports, video, one-on-one coaching and meetings, the preparation for a single game rivals what happens in the NFL – only it happens every day. When game time arrives, Thomson will be at Kapler’s side, making suggestions and offering ideas (see story). He said he takes nothing personal, so Kapler can wave him off any time.

“But I won’t," Kapler said with a laugh. “I need that.”