Henderson Alvarez solid as audition with Phillies continues in loss to Braves

Henderson Alvarez solid as audition with Phillies continues in loss to Braves


ATLANTA — It had been three years to the day since Henderson Alvarez had notched a pitching victory in the major leagues. Back on Sept. 23, 2014, while pitching for the Miami Marlins in a season in which he made the National League All-Star team, he beat the Phillies with 7 2/3 shutout innings.
A shoulder injury limited Alvarez to just four starts the next season. He did not pitch in 2016 and was forced to show his wares in the Independent Atlantic League before latching on with the Phillies in late August.
The Phils were looking for some pitching depth to get through the season, but Alvarez didn't care about the reason. He was happy for the audition in Triple A and the call to the majors this month.
Alvarez's long road back from surgery put him on the mound at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves, on Saturday night, exactly three years after his last big-league win. It would have been pretty sweet for the 27-year-old right-hander to come out of the assignment with a win — and he was in line to get it before the bullpen let a late lead get away in a 4-2 loss to the Braves (see observations).
"It is what it is," Alvarez said, shrugging after the game. "That's the way baseball is sometimes. You have to make every single out. There are things you cannot control. You just go out there and try your best."
Alvarez pitched five shutout innings and left with a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI double by Rhys Hoskins and another run that scored on a passed ball.
"He pitched through five innings, got through it and didn't give up a run," manager Pete Mackanin said. "His ball had some movement and he changed speeds."
The bullpen could not hold the lead. Newcomer Kevin Siegrist gave up a solo homer to Rio Ruiz in the sixth inning on a 1-2 breaking ball that registered 69 mph on the radar gun. Two innings later, Luis Garcia was tagged for three runs as the Braves tied the game and took the lead.
Up and down the roster, the Phillies are in audition mode. Siegrist, a waiver claim from St. Louis, is looking to stick with the club as a lefty out of the bullpen. Ditto for Adam Morgan, who has been sensational over the last couple of months. He racked up another scoreless inning in this game and has allowed just two runs in his last 23 innings, dating to Aug. 2. Garcia has been auditioning toward the back of the bullpen and performed well. He had not allowed an earned run in his last 12 1/3 innings before this outing.
Garcia allowed three hits and three runs. Dansby Swanson singled home the tying run after Garcia fell behind in the count and had to pump fastballs with a man on second, and pinch-hitter Johan Camargo broke the tie with a two-out, two-run double to right-center.
"When you're pitching in a clutch situation, you can't fall behind hitters," Mackanin said. "You’ve got to get ahead. I think he threw five consecutive fastballs to Swanson. He tried to get a strike and couldn't do it. And you have to do it to be successful. You cannot get behind the hitters.
"It all comes down to getting clutch hits, making clutch plays and making clutch pitches. We're looking to win a World Series. You've got to be clutch."
The Phillies could have used a clutch hit or two to pad their early lead. In one big situation, they had the bases loaded against Braves starter Julio Teheran with two outs in the seventh and Odubel Herrera grounded out to second base on Teheran's last pitch of the night.
Herrera is hitless in the first two games of the series after hitting in each of the first 13 games (at a .434 clip) between the two teams this season.
It's not clear where Alvarez fits into the Phillies' future — or even if he does. He could make one more start over the final week of the season or he could finish in the bullpen. It does not seem likely the Phillies would keep him on the 40-man roster all winter, but it's not difficult to envision the club trying to bring him back on a minor-league deal where he could provide organizational depth and continue to get stronger post-surgery. Several teams will probably have interest in doing that.
Whatever happens, Alvarez had to feel good about his work Saturday night. Though he did not get his win, it was a step in the right direction on the comeback trail.
"It's been a roller-coaster," he said. "I just have to keep working hard."

Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils' spring training game

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Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils' spring training game


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies bring extra pitchers over from the minor-league complex for bullpen depth every game in spring training. For the pitchers, it’s a nice little recognition of a job well done. They often don’t get in the game, but they get to put on a big-league uniform and put a day’s worth of big-league meal money in their pocket.
Parker Frazier got even more than that on Thursday. He not only got in the game. He got ejected.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a spring training game,” Frazier said with a laugh afterward. “I’ll take the first for something.”

Home plate umpire Tom Hallion gave Frazier the boot for hitting Detroit’s Derek Hill with a pitch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss. Frazier hit Hill with an off-speed pitch, so it clearly was not intentional. But Hallion had already issued warnings to both benches after Zach Eflin had hit Jose Iglesias and Detroit’s Matthew Boyd came in close twice against Odubel Herrera. In addition to Frazier, Hallion also ejected Phillies reliever Pedro Beato for hitting a batter in the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler and bench coach Rob Thomson were ejected with Frazier and Beato, respectively.

It made for a crazy scene, especially in a spring training game.

Herrera believed that Boyd intentionally threw at him as retaliation for Iglesias getting hit. Boyd at first threw over Herrera’s head as Herrera tried to call timeout. He then came inside on Herrera. Herrera sidestepped the pitch and took first with a walk.

“He can’t hit me,” a defiant Herrera said afterward. “I’m too quick.”

Frazier definitely wasn’t trying to hit Hill, not with a slider.

“It was a slider that didn’t slide,” he joked.

Frazier is the 29-year-old son of former big-league pitcher George Frazier. He’s a career minor leaguer who has been in pro ball since 2007 and pitched in the Rockies, Reds, White Sox, A’s and Diamondbacks organizations. He pitched the last three seasons in independent ball and is in Phillies camp for the first time.

Frazier’s fiancee and future in-laws were in from Oklahoma for the game. They expected to see him pitch at the minor-league complex, but instead got to see him experience an eventful day in big-league camp.

After being ejected, Frazier returned to the clubhouse. A text from his fiancee awaited him.

“They wanted to know what happened,” he said. “I told them accidental hit pitch.”

Kapler wouldn't discuss what he said to Hallion after Frazier's ejection. He said he would respect the umpire's decision because those are the rules.

But Kapler made it clear that he didn’t believe his pitchers were trying to hit anyone.

“We have a minor leaguer in the game and he’s just trying to make a good impression,” Kapler said. “He threw a slider that backed up and hit somebody. Beato is also trying to make a club and make a good impression. There’s no reason to not throw strikes. Balls will get away. It’s part of the game.”

Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

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Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ever since Jake Arrieta flew into town on Air Middleton and raised expectations for 2018, Phillies officials have said they would take a methodical approach with getting him ready for the regular season.

The Phils followed that plan in holding Arrieta to two innings and 31 pitches in the right-hander’s hotly anticipated spring debut against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

“We had a very specific pitch count in mind and we feel like we executed the innings and the pitch count to a T,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We did not want to push the envelope at all. There’s no reason to. We’re focused on the long view.”

Arrieta struck out the first two batters of the game then allowed a solo home run to two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, a double, a single and another run over the balance of his outing. He had hoped to go three innings, but understands the team’s plan.

“I'm on board with what these guys intend to do,” said the 32-year-old pitcher, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phils last week. “I know they have my health and the team's success over the long haul in mind. That's the most important thing moving forward.”

Kapler liked what he saw from Arrieta.

“It was a real positive outing,” he said. “We wanted to see health and strength. We saw both of those things and he threw strikes.”

Twenty-two of Arrieta’s 31 pitches were strikes.

Arrieta’s arm strength was impressive. He touched 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. He also threw several fastballs that registered 94. His fastball velocity had been a concern as it dropped from 94.9 mph in his Cy Young season of 2015 to 92.6 mph last season, according to PITCHf/x data.

“My timing and my delivery were nice,” Arrieta said. “The ball was coming out of my hand good. Even though I'm not particularly worried about velocity, the velocity was nice today. Sinking fastball was really good. I threw some good curveballs. The cutter wasn't necessarily great, along with the changeup. But those will come with repetition.”

Arrieta said he had “a ton of nervous energy” before the start.

“Now that it's over, I take a deep breath and I remember what it feels like to be in a game situation,” he said. “Umpires, crowd. It felt great. I'm healthy. The ball is coming out good. To get the first one out of the way — even though it is a little bit later — it's a good sign.”

Kapler continued to play things close to the vest with Arrieta’s timetable. What is clear, however, is that Arrieta will get one more start in Florida before camp breaks on Tuesday. He could build to around 50 pitches in that one and be ready to start in New York on April 2, 3 or 4. If the Phils decide that Arrieta needs two more outings to prepare for the regular season, he could debut on April 7 at home against Miami. Either way, he lines up to make 30-plus starts.