Phillies

Cesar Hernandez helps Phillies start 2017 with a bang in opening day win over Reds

Cesar Hernandez helps Phillies start 2017 with a bang in opening day win over Reds

BOX SCORE

CINCINNATI -- When Cesar Hernandez showed up in the Phillies' spring-training clubhouse seven weeks ago, he was noticeably bigger and stronger. A winter spent in the weight room had taken him from a spindly 165 pounds to a sturdy 180.

It didn't take long for Hernandez to show off his new strength. The Phillies' leadoff man hit the eighth pitch of his first at-bat of the new season into the right-field seats Monday afternoon. It was one of seven extra-base hits that the Phillies used in opening their 135th season with a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park (see Instant Replay).

Hernandez, 26, entered the new season with just eight home runs in 1,187 career at-bats in the majors. He had just six in 547 at-bats last season and didn't hit his first until June 4.

So, of course, he became the first Phillie since Heinie Mueller in 1938 to lead off a season with a home run.

"I'm hitting the ball a little harder this year," Hernandez said. "Workouts."

Freddy Galvis, who had a career-high 20 homers last season, went deep an inning after Hernandez. Both homers came against Reds' starter Scott Feldman.

The two friends and middle infielders from Venezuela signed as teens on the same day in 2006. After hitting home runs on the same day in 2017, they shared a laugh in the clubhouse.

"I have to tell you," said Galvis, explaining the dugout reaction to Hernandez's homer, "nobody believed it."

Hernandez heard Galvis' comment and shot a look at his friend.

Galvis laughed.

"It was pretty good, man, pretty amazing," he said. "The guy worked hard in the offseason. He really worked hard, took it seriously every day. To see a start like that is pretty good."

Manager Pete Mackanin concurred.

"Cesar Hernandez set the tone," he said. "I tell you what, we don't need power from the corners. We've got our power from the middle infielders. Cesar and Freddy, the two littlest guys on the field. It was good to see."

Yes, it was a good way to start a game and a season.

A lot went right for the Phils in this one. Three of general manager Matt Klentak's wintertime additions had big days. Michael Saunders doubled home a run in the first inning. Howie Kendrick had two singles and a double. And Joaquin Benoit came out of the bullpen throwing smoke in the sixth inning. Pitching with a man on second and no outs after starter Jeremy Hellickson exited, Benoit got two strikeouts and a fly ball to get out of the inning and protect a 4-1 lead.

Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris both followed with a scoreless inning before Jeanmar Gomez gave his manager agita by giving up a single and a two-run run homer in the ninth before registering a wobbly save.

Gomez had 37 saves last season, but lost the closer's job with a poor September. Mackanin decided to give Gomez the first chance at the job this season, but he's clearly on a short leash.

"I'm concerned about it," Mackanin said of the closer situation. "I had two guys up in the ninth. [Gomez] is just not getting the ball down the way he did when he was successful. I want to make sure that he gets the opportunities, but at the same time I don't want to let games slip away."

Four of the Phillies' seven extra-base hits knocked home runs -- all of the runs, in fact. One of those extra-base hits was a triple by starting pitcher Hellickson in the top of the sixth inning. It knocked in Galvis, who had doubled.

Hellickson's hit was a slicing liner toward the line in right field and it got by a diving Scott Schebler and rolled to the wall. Hellickson seemed perfectly content to stop at second, but third base coach Juan Samuel waved him to third.

The 270-foot sprint left Hellickson winded. He gave up a double to open the bottom of the inning and Mackanin, clearly with more confidence in his bullpen, got the right-hander out of there after five-plus innings of one-run ball.

"I was catching my breath for about 30 minutes after I got back in here," Hellickson said in front of his locker after the game. "That's the last time I'll be doing that. I'm stopping at second no matter what."

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

ap-gabe-kapler.jpg
AP Images

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

stanton_altuve.jpg
USA Today Images

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.