Jerad Eickhoff, Phillies burned by lack of offense in 1st loss of season

Jerad Eickhoff, Phillies burned by lack of offense in 1st loss of season


CINCINNATI -- The Phillies pounded the ball all over the lot in beating the Cincinnati Reds on opening day.

In the second game of the season, they barely hit it out of the infield.

The Phils were held to just four hits -- and three of them did not leave the infield -- in a 2-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).

Jerad Eickhoff delivered a strong start in his season debut, but ended up with the loss when he gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Joey Votto's solo homer leading off the frame was the game's big blow.

"Not enough hits," said manager Pete Mackanin, sounding like he did often last season when the Phillies finished last in the majors with 610 runs.

"We played a clean game. The bats just weren't going."

Cincinnati lefty Brandon Finnegan had something to do with that. For seven innings, he hooked up in a fast-moving pitchers' duel with Eickhoff. Both pitchers were really good in their season debuts. Finnegan was just a little better, holding the Phillies to one hit over seven innings. He struck out nine. For the game, Phillies hitters struck out 13 times.

"You've got to give Finnegan credit," Mackanin said. "He was tough."

Finnegan actually labored through a 25-pitch first inning in which he gave up a hard-hit, two-out single to left-center by Maikel Franco. After that, he set down 19 Phillies hitters in a row.

"In that first inning, I thought we were going to set the tone of the game but then he settled down after that," Mackanin said. "We just couldn't do anything against the guy. I credit him for a well-pitched game."

Eickhoff breezed through the first six innings on 66 pitches. He gave up the game's first run when Votto led off the bottom of the seventh by swatting a 1-0 curveball into the right-field seats. Eickhoff then allowed a double to Adam Duvall on another curveball and was chased from the game on a two-out, RBI hit by Zack Cozart.

Three of the five hits Eickhoff gave up came in that seventh inning.

"It was up, a hanging curveball," Mackanin said of the pitch to Votto. "As well as [Eickhoff] pitched, some of his curveballs had tight spin and others were just kind of rolling. Those two [to Votto and Duvall] were kind of rolling. It happens. He only gave up two runs and pitched a heck of a good ballgame."

Eickhoff admitted that the curveball to Duvall was not sharp.

But, in his view, the one to Votto was not bad.

"The homer to Votto, the 1-0 curveball, it's kind of one of those things where I threw one of my better pitches," Eickhoff said. "You just tip your cap. I think it might have fooled him a little but he was able to keep his hands back and put the barrel on it and he's strong enough to put it out of the park."

Eickhoff made 33 starts last year. He delivered a quality start -- six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs -- in 20 of them.

He already has his first quality start this season.

But he also has his first loss.

Run support continues to be a problem for Eickhoff. He has made 42 big-league starts since coming up in August 2015. His mates have scored one or zero runs (while he's been in the game) in 18 of those starts.

"It's a shame," Mackanin said. "But he can't control that. He always gets after it and does his part."

Eickhoff is one of the most levelheaded guys in the clubhouse. Sure, he'd like to get eight runs every time out. But he's not about to complain about the situation.

"I can't control that," he said. "Those guys are busting their butt every day to get hits, working in the cage. I can't control it. I'm just trying to get outs and when I walk off the mound hopefully I kept us in the game."

He did that in this one.

The Phils actually got a little something going in the eighth, after Finnegan departed. Aaron Altherr and Cameron Rupp both had infield singles with no outs against hard-throwing Michael Lorenzen. Up came Freddy Galvis.

Mackanin thought about bunting, but decided to play for the big inning.

"To play for a tie there with the way we swung tonight, I just thought that maybe Freddy could hit a double or something like that," Mackanin said.

Lorenzen struck out Galvis and pinch-hitter Michael Saunders before ending the threat by getting Cesar Hernandez on a ground ball.

There was some unexpected excitement in the ninth when Odubel Herrera reached on an infield hit and, with his team down two runs and the first baseman not holding him tight, decided to steal second with two outs and Tommy Joseph at the plate. At first, Herrera was called out and it looked like the game had ended in ignominious fashion for the Phillies. The call was overturned moments later and Herrera was off the hook. Joseph ended up striking out to end the game.

Mackanin was not thrilled with Herrera's move and said he would speak to the player.

"He made it," Mackanin said. "That's all I'm going to say."

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

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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

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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.