Phillies

Brad Lidge delivers wisdom to Jeanmar Gomez, Phillies relievers

Brad Lidge delivers wisdom to Jeanmar Gomez, Phillies relievers

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A timeless baseball scene, the kind that has been going on for generations in this game, unfolded in the hallway outside the coaches’ locker room in Phillies camp early Thursday morning.

If you closed your eyes, it could have been Sandy Koufax talking to a young lefty back in Vero Beach ... or maybe Yaz giving tips to a hitter back in the day in Winter Haven … or even Eddie Mathews schooling a group of eager, young hopefuls in Pompano Beach.

It is that moment when the accomplished comes back to camp to impart wisdom on the aspiring.

So there they were, Jeanmar Gomez and Brad Lidge, deep in conversation before Thursday morning’s workout, one longtime closer, one relative newcomer to the role, two members of a unique baseball fraternity bonded by high-wire adrenaline, the sweet euphoria of success and the spleen-splitting agony of failure.

"It's really tough," Lidge said of the emotional toll that the role can take on a closer when he lets a lead slip away and his team loses a ballgame. "You never want to feel like you’re letting your team down. I think for me when I wasn’t throwing well or when I’d have a bad game it was like, 'Man, I let everybody else down.' "

Few know the elation that a closer can feel upon nailing down a tight game better than Lidge. He became a Phillies icon by going 48 for 48 in save chances then dropping to his knees and shouting, “Oh, my God, we just won the World Series,” one magic October night back in 2008.

He also knows the horse kick in the gut that comes with stumbling in the role. There is no safety net for a closer. Failure is completely deflating. Lidge felt plenty of that in 2009 when he followed up his storybook season with 11 blown saves, the most in the majors that year.

So Lidge can completely sympathize with what Gomez went through as the Phillies' closer last year.

He knows the satisfaction that Gomez felt shaking hands with his teammates 37 times after saves.

He also knows the despair that Gomez felt when he pitched so poorly in September that manager Pete Mackanin had to remove him from the closer’s role.

Lidge, who retired after his right arm gave out in 2012, is in camp this week as a guest instructor, and if you think he’s here to sign a few autographs and spin yarns in the bullpen, think again.

As soon as he committed to his visit to Phillies camp, he knew there was one guy he wanted to speak with.

“I kind of wanted to talk to a lot of guys in the bullpen, but specifically Jeanmar, for sure,” Lidge said.

“He had a great season last year. Maybe it didn’t end quite the way he wanted. But for a guy in his first season of closing — he earned that role and he stepped on the accelerator for five months.”

Lidge is also seeking out Hector Neris in this camp. The hard-throwing Dominican with the nasty splitter has the makings of a future closer.

“I think my job here is to make the learning curve happen as fast as possible for these young guys because the arms are there for them to be great setup guys or closers,” Lidge said.

Lidge’s advice to Gomez centered on how to stay strong for a full season. He recalled getting similar lessons as a young reliever from Billy Wagner, then a teammate in Houston.

“That first full season of closing is physically and mentally taxing,” Lidge said. “We talked about ways to stay fresh and stay at a high level all year. He’s shown he can do it. This year it’s just going to be more about maintenance for a full year.”

Lidge spoke with Gomez about his daily, pregame, flat-ground throwing program, about knowing when to back off and save bullets.

“Maybe take a day off now and then so when you get near that finish line in September, you can accelerate up instead of feeling tired,” Lidge said.

Conserving strength for the long haul is one of the reasons Gomez, 29, has decided not to pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic next month.

In 2008, Lidge struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings thanks in part to a devastating out pitch, his hard, downward-breaking slider. The Torpedo.

Gomez is not a typical closer. Over his career, he has struck out just 5.5 batters per nine innings. He relies on command of his sinker and his defense to get him through innings. The command and the movement on the sinker abandoned Gomez in September, causing him to struggle.

Lidge believes Gomez’s recipe can work if he’s called on to close again this season. Mackanin has anointed Gomez the closer — he’s sticking with him much like Charlie Manuel did with Lidge in 2009 — but roles can always change.

“I think you can have success [without a big out-pitch],” Lidge said. “It’s a little bit tougher. You have to be a little more precise [with your location], but you can do it.

“I really believe Jeanmar can have that type of season that he had for five months last year if he doesn’t get tired.

“He’s got everything he needs to close games. He’s got the stuff. He’s got the right mentality, too.”

He also has a year of experience on the high wire.

“With closing, I think it’s just a matter of going through it,” Lidge said. “Experience is the best teacher.”

Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

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AP Images

Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

The Phillies added four promising pitching prospects to their 40-man roster on Monday. In a corresponding move, they subtracted a notable name.

Right-handers Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Taveras and lefty Ranger Suarez were all added to the roster, protecting them from being selected by another club in next month's Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies also added an infielder, Engelb Vielma, to the roster. He was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.

To make room for these additions, the team needed to clear three spots on its roster, which had been at 38. Left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia cleared waivers and was sent outright to the minor leagues while right-handers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel were designated for assignment. The Phillies will try to trade Tirado and Appel before placing them on waivers. If they clear waivers, they could stay in the system.

The Phillies cut Appel loose after he'd struggled with injury and ineffectiveness during two seasons in the organization. The 26-year-old right-hander from Stanford University had twice been a first-round draft pick, by Pittsburgh in 2012 and by Houston — No. 1 overall — in 2013. The Phillies acquired him from the Astros as part of the package for Ken Giles in December 2015, but he never lived up to his huge potential.

"A lot of the tools that Mark showed as an amateur that led to him being the No. 1 overall pick are still there," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "He has simply struggled with performance. It's certainly not for lack of effort on his part. We think the world of the kid and wish him well. It was a tough decision."

Tirado, 22, was acquired from Toronto in July 2015 as part of the return for Ben Revere. He arrived with a fastball that could reach triple digits on the radar gun and that promise earned him a spot on the 40-man a year ago. Tirado suffered a shoulder injury early last season and struggled in the minors.

All four of the pitchers that the Phillies protected are products of the team's international scouting department. Taveras, 24, was a standout at three levels in the minors last season and could be in the picture in Philadelphia in 2018. He led the system in strikeouts in 2016 and 2017.

"He knows how to get guys out and often times that comes via the strikeout," Klentak said. "No matter where he pitches, he rises to the occasion and puts up a strong performance."

Kilome, 22, and Dominguez, 22, are both power arms who project to see significant time at Double A in 2018. Suarez, 22, should also get to Double A at some point in 2018. He had a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts at two levels of Single A ball in 2017.

"He may have been the breakout pitcher of the year for the Phillies," Klentak said. "We'd always heard a lot about him and this year he took his performance to another level.

"We're really excited for all four of these guys. All have worked extremely hard and they are all deserving of being added to our roster. Our international scouting operation, Sal Agostinelli and his group, continues to crank out players. They've done a great job. These four pitchers have earned this through their work ethic and performance. By no means is this the ultimate goal for them, but it's one step closer. We believe really strongly in the futures of these four pitchers."

Vielma, 23, is a top defensive shortstop who can also play second and third base. He was waived by Minnesota in September and claimed by the Giants, who let him go in a roster crunch.

"He's an intriguing claim," Klentak said. "He adds depth to our infield."

The Phillies’ roster is at 40. The team will have to clear space if it wants to add a player in next month's Rule 5 draft. Last November, the Phils added 11 players to the 40-man roster and still lost lefty reliever Hoby Milner to Cleveland. Milner failed to make the Indians' opening-day roster, returned to the organization in March and ended up making 37 appearances for the big club after coming up in late June. He was one of 12 rookies to make their big-league debut with the Phillies in 2017.

Notable players who were not protected include outfielders Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin and pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.

"One of the byproducts of a strong system is every year there are some tough omissions," Klentak said. "There are always tough calls. But we look at that as a good problem to have."

New details emerge in investigation into Roy Halladay's death

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USA Today Images

New details emerge in investigation into Roy Halladay's death

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Retired star pitcher Roy Halladay sped his small sports plane low over the Gulf of Mexico minutes before his fatal crash two weeks ago, climbing sharply in the final seconds before diving into the water, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Monday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Noreen Price placed no blame for the Nov. 7 accident near Tampa, simply laying out the facts as gleaned from the plane's data recorder and eyewitnesses. A final report with conclusions could take one to two years.

Price says Halladay, 40, had taken off from a lake near his Tampa-area home about 17 minutes before the crash, taking his ICON A5 to 1,900 feet (580 meters) before dropping to 600 feet (180 meters) as he neared the coastline. He then dropped to 36 feet (11 meters) when he reached the water. While flying at about 105 mph (170 kph), Halladay skimmed the water at 11 feet (3.3 meters), flying in a circle before climbing to 100 feet (30 meters), the plane's data showed.

A witness told investigators the plane climbed to between 300 and 500 feet (95 to 150 meters) when it turned and went into a 45-degree dive. It slammed into the water and flipped.

Halladay's body was found with the plane, which was severely damaged. The plane itself was equipped with a parachute, but it was not deployed.

The former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies star had received the plane from ICON on Oct. 10, and was one of the first to receive the model. In one of many enthusiastic tweets about the plane, Halladay said it felt "like flying a fighter jet." He had about 700 hours of flight time after getting his license in 2013, the report says. He had 51 hours in ICON A5s, including 14 in the plane that crashed.

Rolled out in 2014, the A5 is an amphibious aircraft meant to be treated like an ATV, a piece of weekend recreational gear with folding wings that can easily be towed on a trailer to a lake where it can take off from the water.

The man who led the plane's design, 55-year-old John Murray Karkow, died while flying an A5 over California's Lake Berryessa on May 8, a crash the NTSB attributed to pilot error.

Another A5 crashed in April, making a hard landing in the water off Key Largo, Florida, injuring the pilot and his passenger. The pilot told investigators the plane descended faster than he expected.

Halladay, an eight-time All-Star, pitched a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter in 2010. He played for the Blue Jays from 1998 to 2009 and for the Phillies from 2009-13, going 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA.