Phillies

Fan favorite Mickey Morandini hopes for a place on new Phillies manager's staff

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USA Today Images

Fan favorite Mickey Morandini hopes for a place on new Phillies manager's staff

Mickey Morandini etched his name into Phillies lore 25 years ago when he turned the first unassisted triple play in team history in a game against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

The anniversary of the event arrived during a Phillies homestand two weeks ago. Video of the play appeared on Phanavision between innings of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Morandini, the Phillies' first base coach the last two seasons, watched the video from the top step of the dugout, then was a little overwhelmed when the crowd gave him a loud ovation. Morandini has always been a fan favorite. He waved in appreciation to the crowd as he made his way to the first base coaching box.

"These fans have always been great to me," the 51-year-old former second baseman said before Sunday's season finale. "That's why I love it here. The organization has been great to me. I have great relationships here."

Morandini completed his 19th year in a Phillies uniform Sunday and now heads into a period of uncertainty. The team announced on Friday that Pete Mackanin would not return as manager in 2018. General manager Matt Klentak told members of the coaching staff that they were "free agents." They can go strike a deal with another club or wait and see if the new manager would like to interview them for a spot on the new staff.

The organization would like to retain Larry Bowa, most recently bench coach, in a yet to be specified role, according to a source. He is expected to speak with team leaders in the near future.

Klentak has already begun his managerial search and the early list of hot names includes his fellow Dartmouth alum Brad Ausmus, who was recently let go by the Detroit Tigers, and two current big-league bench coaches, Tim Bogar of the Seattle Mariners and Gary DiSarcina of the Boston Red Sox. Both spent some time working in the Los Angeles Angels organization when Klentak was an assistant GM there.

Surely, Klentak's list of candidates is long.

Morandini hopes to work for the new manager.

"My number one choice would be to be on the big-league staff," he said. "I still want to coach. But I'd be open to other options. I'm only 51. I still have a lot to offer."

During his 19 years in a Phillies uniform, Morandini has been a player, a minor-league manager and coach and a big-league coach. During his time as part of the minor-league staff, he worked with many of the players that are now beginning to bloom in Philadelphia.

"I've been with a lot of these guys since 2011," he said. "I feel part of the rebuild. I love it here. I love the organization. I want to see the rebuild through.

"From the first half to the second half of this season, we improved a lot. Obviously, good things are happening. And we've done it with only one pitcher from our opening day rotation. The bullpen stepped up. Some of the young guys came up and played well.

"It's going to be exciting. It's not a finished product, but it's getting there."

Morandini played through pain in 2017. He has an arthritic left hip — "bone on bone," he said — but still managed to throw batting practice. He'll be pain-free next season. He is scheduled to have the hip replaced on October 17.

"Once I get my new hip I'll be sprinting again," he said with a laugh. "I can't wait to be able to run and work out again."

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Roy Halladay had morphine in his system when the plane he was piloting crashed and he tragically died in November, according to Halladay's autopsy report, released Friday.

Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien, and amphetamines were also found in Halladay's system.

As TMZ points out via the Food and Drug Administration, the amount of Zolpidem found in Halladay's system (72 ng/ml) is more than enough to impair a driver and increase the risk of an accident.

Halladay had a blood alcohol content of 0.01, according to the autopsy report. 

The official cause of Halladay's death was blunt force trauma, with drowning a contributing factor.

The crash took place on Nov. 7 in the Gulf of Mexico, with more details emerging in a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board two weeks later.

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

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Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

It's not clear whether the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before opening day, but surely they would like to.

General manager Matt Klentak “is busting his ass every single day looking for every possible opportunity to upgrade our team from every perspective,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Tuesday. “That includes looking at every option possible for the rotation.”

Klentak has kept a close eye on the trade market, but has found the prices (i.e., the young talent that must be surrendered) for top, controllable starters to be prohibitive.

He has kept a close eye on the free-agent market, but the length of contracts that top pitchers are looking for has given him pause.

For months, the Phillies have distanced themselves from speculation that has connected them to elite level free-agent pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

But with spring training less than a month away and both pitchers still unsigned, the Phillies would at least have to consider both pitchers if their asking prices experience a January thaw.

Six or seven years? No way.

Three years? Hmmm. Let's talk.

The Phillies are hosting a number of their young players this week. Rhys Hoskins, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter and Nick Williams were all in town on Tuesday.

Williams has set his sights on making the National League All-Star team in 2018.

“That's what I'm shooting for,” he said at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. “I think I had a pretty good year last year. I'm shooting for more now. I don't think being an All-Star is shooting too high.”

Williams, 24, hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 83 games, mostly in right field, with the big club as a rookie last season.

To give himself the best chance of surpassing those numbers — and achieving his goal of making the All-Star team — Williams has spent the offseason in Austin, Texas, working with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player.

Williams is working hard on agility, which will help him in the outfield and on the base paths.

And guess who one of his daily workout partners is?

Free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Back in Austin, between reps and protein shakes, Williams has occasionally talked up Philadelphia as a potential landing spot to Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner who will turn 32 in March.

“He loves it here,” Williams said of Arrieta, who, as a free agent and a Scott Boras client, is astute enough not to rule out any team, particularly one as deep-pocketed as the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys. I'm like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I'm not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I'm not really in his position.”

Williams smiled.

“I hope to be one day,” he said.

Williams marveled at Arrieta's work ethic in the gym.

And he expressed gratitude for the kindness and generosity Arrieta has showed him.

“He's bought a lot of my protein shakes,” Williams said.

Time will tell if the Phillies add a starting pitcher to the group that already consists of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and other youngsters. The hunch is they will, though it's unclear what the magnitude of that talent will be. Klentak's search for an arm likely won't stop with the addition of one pitcher and it will likely continue through July. And beyond. The quest to build a championship-caliber staff never stops.

“The pursuit is very real,” Kapler said of Klentak's search for pitching. “I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”