Phillies

'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

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'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is what it looks like when it all comes together for the Phillies, the pitching, the hitting, the defense. They can walk into a beehive environment and take a game from a quality club that had won six games in a row.

That’s what the Phillies did Monday night in a 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants at always-electric AT&T Park (see Instant Replay).

“We played a really well-rounded game,” said Cliff Lee, who pitched eight walk-free innings for the win. “That’s more of what we are right there. No doubt.”

The victory came after the Phils were tuned-up by a combined score of 16-2 in a pair losses to the lowly Miami Marlins on Saturday and Sunday.

Thirty-three games into the season, the Phils are 15-18.

Lee stepped out and challenged his teammates to show more pride last week in Cleveland. He continued to speak his mind after this game and it sounded a little like leadership, something this team could use especially after one of its most respected people, Roy Halladay, went on the disabled list Monday.

“We definitely haven’t been playing up to our potential,” Lee said. “We’ve been far short of that, to be honest with you. I think tonight is more of a real depiction of what we are. I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of under-performed this first month. It’s time for us to turn it on, and I think tonight was a good start in that direction.”

Lee used the word “pride” last week. He was asked whether he believed that was something that has been lacking.

“I think pride is a big part of executing and just grinding and sticking in there no matter if you’re down,” he said. “The Cleveland series was just a bad series. But basically, if you’re going to get beat, go down fighting, you know. They got us early both games and it seemed like we just laid down and let them take it from us. That’s what I was hinting at -- more pride and fight-till-the-end type stuff.

“We were better at home against the Marlins (the Phils won the first two games of the series), but we still could do even better and tonight was more of what I expect from this team every night as far as the energy and applying the pressure on the other team rather than having the pressure on us the whole time.”

Lee backed up his words all night Monday. He allowed just five hits. Three of them were by former teammate Hunter Pence, who homered, doubled and singled.

“Take him out of the lineup and it would have been a really good day,” Lee said. “He was tough for me. He’s got it figured out.”

Pence’s homer in the bottom of the second came on a full-count changeup one pitch after the Phillies’ bench thought Pence should have been rung-up on strikes.

The Phils already had three runs on the board when Pence homered. Michael Young keyed a three-run rally in the top of the second with a two-out, two-run double.

“That definitely makes it easier when you have a three-run lead,” said Lee, mildly famous for not getting a lot of run support.

Lee was also supported by his defense, which turned three double plays.

Lee is 4-0 with a 0.84 (four earned runs in 43 innings) ERA in five regular-season starts at AT&T Park, arguably baseball’s best venue.

“It’s a great environment to play in,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy, a lot of noise. You’ve got to step up to the occasion here. It reminds me of Philly when Philly is going good. It’s the same type of environment.”

Things aren’t going good in Philly right now. This team is just too inconsistent to get fans excited like they used to be. Weekends like the one just passed are demoralizing.

“This place might have been perfect for us because it’s a great place to play, a great environment,” Young said. “We had a tough weekend at home. It’s nice to go out and compete and have fun. It was good for us get back on the field, no days off, go play.”

Kyle Kendrick gets the ball Tuesday night as the Phils look to follow Lee’s commandment and “turn it on.”

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

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Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff is an important man in this Phillies season. He needs to be closer to the guy who pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings in 2016 than the one who had a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings last season.

It all starts with good health. Eickhoff, 27, missed time with an upper-back strain and a nerve issue near his right shoulder last season.

He is healthy now and has made a tweak in his mechanics to ease pressure on his shoulder. He made his spring debut with two hitless, scoreless innings in a 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa on Thursday (more on the game here). Eickhoff threw 17 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. 

“No matter what game it is that you pitch in, you get that intensity, there’s a hitter in the box, you still get butterflies being back at it,” Eickhoff said. “Today was a big day, facing some competition. The live batting practice was checking off the first box. A game setting was kind of the second box, so I think the sky is the limit from here. I feel great.”

Eickhoff developed a mechanical flaw last season as his body would often fall toward first base after delivering the ball. That put pressure on his shoulder. He has tried to correct the flaw this winter by holding his glove a little higher before he releases the ball. That helps him get going toward home plate.

If healthy, Eickhoff will be in the starting rotation. (Former bench coach Larry Bowa is high on him). But he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I try to approach every spring like I’m trying to win a job,” Eickhoff said. “I have something to prove every year.”

Notes
• Andrew Knapp caught and batted leadoff. He worked a walk to lead off the game and that impressed manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler advised not to read into batting order positions this early in camp. 

“These are practice settings,” he said.

• The Phillies play their Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Rotation candidates Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr. are expected to get some work. Non-roster invite Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 437 career saves, could also get an inning.

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

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Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was a nice little glimpse of the future.

Seven of the eight pitchers used by the Phillies in Thursday’s 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa were prospects who likely need a little more time in the minors, but could someday be mainstays in Philadelphia.

Jerad Eickhoff started and pitched two scoreless innings (see story). After him, prospects Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez kept the shutout intact. None of the Phillies’ pitchers walked a batter, though Eickhoff did hit one.

“No walks, that’s fairly unusual for spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was like Command City. Guys were on top of it.”

Kapler singled out Dominguez, a strong-bodied, power-armed, 23-year-old right-hander who earned a spot on the 40-man roster in November. Dominguez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh then came back with three swinging strikeouts, all on high-80s sliders.

“He maintained his composure, had electric stuff and the bravado of a seasoned veteran,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 in 2012, touched 100 mph with his fastball as a starter in the Florida State League early last season. He ended up missing time with biceps tendinitis, but is healthy now. The Phillies have reduced his pitch mix from four to three (fastball, slider, changeup) and he will convert to the bullpen, where he profiles as a potential closer, this season. He is likely to open at Double A Reading. Don’t rule out seeing him in Philadelphia later this season if all goes well.

“As a bullpen guy, he could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

“He has a top-of-the-scale fastball,” director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings.”