Phillies

Joseph's injury clouds Phillies' catching future

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Joseph's injury clouds Phillies' catching future

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The plan made perfect sense.

Top catching prospect Tommy Joseph was going to spend the 2013 season catching for Triple A Lehigh Valley and then if everything went well, the catcher would get a September call-up to the big leagues for a little dress rehearsal.

With Carlos Ruiz entering the last year of his contract with the Phillies, the veteran catcher could help tutor his successor. With 49 homers in his first three pro seasons, Joseph was clearly on the fast track to the big leagues.

But sometimes even the best-laid plans hit a snag.

Joseph had a concussion on May 4 when he took a foul ball off his mask and missed the next month of the season. He was activated and went to Single A Clearwater to get back into shape but lasted just five games before post-concussion symptoms put him back on the shelf.

“Right off the bat people were saying I could go down to Florida, I’ll be there a couple of weeks to get my feet under me and work my way back up,” Joseph said. “There were a lot of setbacks and it ended up taking a lot longer than people wanted it to.”

But it was Joseph’s third concussion of his pro career, and at age 22 with just four seasons under his belt, the catcher and the Phillies might need to reevaluate his future position. When he returned to Double A Reading in mid-July, Joseph was hopeful that the worst was behind him and was able to play with no limitations. However, that return lasted just a handful of games before he had another setback along with a shin injury. 

Finally, the Phillies decided the best plan for Joseph would be to give him the rest of the year off.

Joseph said he was hoping to play winter ball this year, but that depends on his recovery. 

In the interim, the Phillies will have to rethink their plans at catcher in 2014 and beyond. Ruiz has struggled in a season that began with him serving a 25-game suspension for a non-compliant use of the prescription drug, Adderall. Ruiz also had a nagging hamstring injury that forced him onto the disabled list. Meanwhile, veteran Erik Kratz also had injury issues this season and doesn’t figure to be the team’s everyday catcher.

That leaves Triple A catcher Cameron Rupp and Double A receiver Sebastian Valle as the viable in-house options. Rupp and Valle split time at Reading at the start of the season, which led to struggles for both catchers. According to Reading manager Dusty Wathan, Rupp and Valle needed as much playing time as possible.

“I think it’s difficult when you have two guys catching -- it’s difficult to have two leaders at one position,” Wathan said.

Valle has struggled at the plate for Reading this year, batting just .210 with a .242 on-base percentage and 12 homers in 76 games. Last year, Valle hit .261 for Reading with 13 homers and a .280 on-base percentage in 83 games.

As a result of Valle’s regression, Rupp has leapfrogged to Triple A and could get a look in the big leagues next month. However, even Rupp’s numbers have been rather pedestrian. In 79 games between the two levels, Rupp is batting .251 with a .313 on-base percentage and 12 homers. Plus, at 24, Rupp is the oldest of the three minor-league catchers. Rupp spent three years at the University of Texas before going in the third round of the 2010 draft.

So if Ruiz doesn’t return on a one- or two-year deal, the Phillies might have to look at the free-agent market for a catcher. There, the selection will be significant with the likes of Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski and John Buck expected to test the waters. But those veteran catchers likely will carry a hefty price tag with them.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.