Phillies

Halladay's control off in second rehab start

slideshow-050713-phillies-halladay-uspresswire.jpg

Halladay's control off in second rehab start

LAKEWOOD, N.J. -- Roy Halladay knows that the velocity -- or lack thereof  -- on his pitches is an issue. So he addressed it head-on after pitching six innings in a minor-league game Tuesday night.
 
“I think the velocity will increase, but if it didn’t I think I could pitch at the velocity I’m at right now,” he said. “I feel like things are coming along well. I think I can rely on my curveball and splitter, and my cutter is coming around. I feel like Jamie Moyer did it and he was throwing 82, so I definitely feel like I can do it.”
 
Just over three months removed from right shoulder surgery, Halladay made his second minor-league rehab start Tuesday night. He allowed seven hits and two runs, one of which was unearned, in the Lakewood BlueClaws’ 3-2 win over Hagerstown. Halladay walked three and struck out four. His fastball touched 89 mph in the first inning but averaged 87 for the six innings, according to radar guns behind home plate.
 
Halladay’s velocity has been a hot-button issue since the spring of 2012, when he first began to experience shoulder and back problems. In what seemed like an effort to downplay Halladay’s velocity, no radar gun readings were shown on the scoreboard at FirstEnergy Park. Gun readings are usually shown at the ballpark. An official from the Lakewood club said he had no idea why the readings were not shown.
 
Halladay, 36, has maintained contact with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed surgery on the pitcher on May 15. ElAttrache tells Halladay that the velocity will come.
 
“He said velocity is the last thing you need to worry about,” Halladay said. “That will be there as I build.”
 
Halladay believes he made strides with his cutter Tuesday night, but he does not appear to be a pitcher that is ready for major-league competition. He left the game with the score tied, 2-2, but could have trailed if rightfielder Jiandido Tromp hadn’t made a nice running catch in the gap, saving what might have been a two-run triple in the sixth.
 
Halladay’s command was spotty. He threw 90 pitches in six innings, 52 of which were strikes. At one point in the fourth inning, he threw eight straight balls.
 
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was in attendance but did not stop to speak with reporters. This was Halladay’s second rehab start -- he pitched six innings in a Gulf Coast League game last week -- and Amaro had previously said there was a chance Halladay could return to the Phillies’ rotation after two rehab starts. It’s difficult to imagine that happening, however. Halladay didn’t exactly dominate hitters at one of the lowest rungs of pro ball Tuesday night.
 
Asked if he was ready to return to the majors, Halladay said, “That’s out of my control. Obviously I want to pitch in five days, but where -- that’s not my call.”
 
However, Halladay was pleased with his progress and the way he felt physically.
 
“I’m happy where things are at being three months out from surgery,” he said. “Things are getting consistently better.”
 
Halladay will be a free agent at season’s end. Phillies officials want to get a look at him in big-league competition in September to gauge whether they want to re-sign him. Other clubs will also take a peek at Halladay in September.
 
The pitcher isn’t concerned about the future. He just wants to complete his comeback from shoulder surgery.
 
“I’m not worried about that. I’m really not,” Halladay said. “I’ve played a long time. I’m not playing for money. I’m not playing for anything else. If I have a situation where I have a chance to win, I might pay them.
 
“I don’t have to play, I want to play.”

Phillies well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

usa-matt-klentak.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

Teams all over baseball, including the Phillies, are ready to pounce on a bevy of young international talent that became available Tuesday.

Major League Baseball punished the Atlanta Braves for a host of international signing violations by stripping the club of 13 minor-league prospects (see story). MLB also banished former Braves general manager John Coppolella from working in the game for life.

In the summer of 2016, MLB found the Boston Red Sox in violation of international signing rules and stripped that club of five international prospects. Included in that group was Simon Muzziotti, an outfielder from Venezuela. The Red Sox had initially signed Muzziotti for $300,000 in 2015. He was declared a free agent a year later and the Phillies swooped in and signed him for $750,000. Now 18, Muzziotti played for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team in 2017.

The list of players set free on Tuesday includes 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who received a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2016. Six other players that received signing bonuses of $1 million or more were also set free. The group includes Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, who received a $3.53 million bonus and Dominican infielder Yunior Severino, who received a $1.9 million bonus.

The Phillies are well positioned to make a run at some of these new international free agents and past practice says they will. The club added to its current international signing pool in a couple of trades last summer and has about $900,000 remaining. More money can be acquired in trades and applied to the current pool. A team can also use money from next year's pool — that market opens in July — to sign a player, though those funds cannot be used to augment the current pool.

Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani is the prize of this winter's international market. While the deep-pocketed Phillies have interest in Otani, he is subject to international signing bonus rules and pool limits. Translation: Signing him is not simply a matter of being the highest bidder. The team that gets Otani will likely be a contender in win-now mode with a history of signing Japanese talent. An American League club that could offer Otani at-bats (he wants to hit, as well as pitch) would be the best fit.

So, the Phillies' international splash this winter could come from the fallout of the Braves' signing controversy.

The former Braves' prospects are eligible to begin signing with new clubs on Dec. 5. They are:

Kevin Maitan, SS
Juan Contreras, RHP
Yefri del Rosario, RHP
Abrahan Gutierrez, C
Juan Carlos Negret, OF
Yenci Pena, SS
Yunior Severino, 2B
Livan Soto, SS
Guillermo Zuniga, RHP
Brandol Mezquita, OF
Angel Rojas, SS
Antonio Sucre, OF
Ji-Hwan Bae, SS

MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

usa-atlanta-braves-logo.jpg
USA Today Images

MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

ATLANTA -- Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred hit the Atlanta Braves with heavy sanctions, including the loss of 13 players, on Tuesday for rules violations committed by the team in the international player market.

Manfred also placed former Braves general manager John Coppolella on the permanently ineligible list. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, is suspended from performing services for any team for one year.

Manfred said an investigation conducted by Major League Baseball determined the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017 by moving bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016 (see full story).

Yankees: Judge has left shoulder surgery
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees say slugger Aaron Judge had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and is expected to be ready for spring training.

The operation was performed Monday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. The Yankees say the procedure involved a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup.

The 25-year-old Judge hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 155 games this season, helping New York make it to the AL Championship Series, where they lost to the eventual World Series champion Astros. He was a unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year and finished second to Houston infielder Jose Altuve in the AL MVP race.

MLB: Morgan urges voters to keep steroid users out of HOF
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep "known steroid users" out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball's steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall's board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

"Steroid users don't belong here," Morgan wrote. "What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change for the worse."

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions (see full story).

Cubs: Venable leaves front office to be base coach
CHICAGO -- Will Venable is leaving the Chicago Cubs front office to be their first base coach.

The former major league outfielder was hired last summer as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

The 35-year-old Venable replaces Brandon Hyde, who has been promoted to bench coach for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs also announced Tuesday that they had hired Jim Benedict as a special assistant to baseball operations. Benedict spent the previous two seasons as the vice president for pitching development for the Miami Marlins.