Phillies

Lee blanks Marlins as Phillies pull to within game of .500

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Lee blanks Marlins as Phillies pull to within game of .500

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MIAMI -- For all the frustration (completely justified, by the way) caused by the offense and all the worry spawned by a recent spate of injuries, the Phillies have won seven of their last 10 ballgames to pull within a game of .500.

They got to that mark for the first time since April 15 with a Cliff Lee-led, 3-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).

“If you’re going to win the division you’re going to have to get past .500,” Lee said after firing the 12th shutout of his career. “Obviously we aren’t there yet, but we have to get past that to get where we want to go.

“Right now, we’re playing good, well-rounded baseball.”

Over the last couple of weeks, the aging Phillies have lost Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Mike Adams to the disabled list. Chase Utley, who has missed two straight games with a rib cage injury, could be next (see story).

And yet, the Phillies are winning. It hasn’t been all that pretty given the sporadic offense, but they’re keeping their noses above water.

“That just says we’ve got guys that can fill these holes,” Lee said. “The Halladay thing, I feel like he was hurt for a while and just tried to grind through it and we finally decided to do something about it. That was tough, but you can’t go out there and pitch when you’re not all the way there. The Chase thing was kind of a surprise. Hopefully that’s not a major deal and he’s back to help us out. Chooch same thing.

“Fortunately, we have [Erik] Kratz and [Humberto] Quintero and Freddy [Galvis] and [Jonathan] Pettibone and [Tyler] Cloyd and guys like that who can come in and fill those holes and give us a chance.”

The Phillies received excellent starting pitching in the three-game series against the Marlins.

Cole Hamels, Cloyd and Lee combined to pitch 22 innings and allow just four runs while walking four and striking out 20 against the weakest offensive team in the NL. Lee’s shutout was the ninth sustained by the Marlins this season.

Of course, the Phils only won two of the games in Miami because the offense flopped again behind Hamels. It came alive Tuesday and Wednesday with a combined 27 hits.

“As good as our starting pitching has been, we only need a few runs,” Delmon Young said. “If our pitching wasn’t what it has been, we’d really have a bad record.”

Young was a big contributor in Miami. He hit long home runs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and played well in in right field. (His arm provided a big double play behind Lee.) Young also legged out an infield hit in the sixth inning Wednesday night that started a two-out, two-run rally that featured a long triple by Domonic Brown, who is up to 24 RBIs, one shy of the team lead shared by Ryan Howard and Utley.

Sixty at-bats into his time with the Phillies, Young is hitting .233. Two games ago, he was hitting .192.

He’s moving in the right direction.

“I’ve always thought Delmon would hit,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’ve been saying that. When we got him, our people thought he’d help us. We always thought he was an RBI guy.”

Lee, who is 9-2 with a 1.09 ERA in his last 12 starts against the NL East, is on a terrific roll. He has allowed just four runs in 31 innings over his last four starts.

Lee allowed just three hits (all singles) Wednesday night. He walked two and hit a batter. He did his best pitching in the second inning when he loaded the bases and got out of it with a 5-2-3 double play and a pop out.

“I was just trying to get a ground ball and a double play,” Lee said. “I was willing to sacrifice a run for two outs. Fortunately the ball was hit to third where we could get the out at home. That was huge.”

The Marlins didn’t do much against Lee the rest of the way.

“The last three innings I felt as good as I’ve felt in a long time,” Lee said. “I felt like I could put the ball right where I wanted.”

The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington on Friday night.  

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.

Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

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Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

The Phillies added four promising pitching prospects to their 40-man roster on Monday. In a corresponding move, they subtracted a notable name.

Right-handers Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Taveras and lefty Ranger Suarez were all added to the roster, protecting them from being selected by another club in next month's Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies also added an infielder, Engelb Vielma, to the roster. He was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.

To make room for these additions, the team needed to clear three spots on its roster, which had been at 38. Left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia cleared waivers and was sent outright to the minor leagues while right-handers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel were designated for assignment. The Phillies will try to trade Tirado and Appel before placing them on waivers. If they clear waivers, they could stay in the system.

The Phillies cut Appel loose after he'd struggled with injury and ineffectiveness during two seasons in the organization. The 26-year-old right-hander from Stanford University had twice been a first-round draft pick, by Pittsburgh in 2012 and by Houston — No. 1 overall — in 2013. The Phillies acquired him from the Astros as part of the package for Ken Giles in December 2015, but he never lived up to his huge potential.

"A lot of the tools that Mark showed as an amateur that led to him being the No. 1 overall pick are still there," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "He has simply struggled with performance. It's certainly not for lack of effort on his part. We think the world of the kid and wish him well. It was a tough decision."

Tirado, 22, was acquired from Toronto in July 2015 as part of the return for Ben Revere. He arrived with a fastball that could reach triple digits on the radar gun and that promise earned him a spot on the 40-man a year ago. Tirado suffered a shoulder injury early last season and struggled in the minors.

All four of the pitchers that the Phillies protected are products of the team's international scouting department. Taveras, 24, was a standout at three levels in the minors last season and could be in the picture in Philadelphia in 2018. He led the system in strikeouts in 2016 and 2017.

"He knows how to get guys out and often times that comes via the strikeout," Klentak said. "No matter where he pitches, he rises to the occasion and puts up a strong performance."

Kilome, 22, and Dominguez, 22, are both power arms who project to see significant time at Double A in 2018. Suarez, 22, should also get to Double A at some point in 2018. He had a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts at two levels of Single A ball in 2017.

"He may have been the breakout pitcher of the year for the Phillies," Klentak said. "We'd always heard a lot about him and this year he took his performance to another level.

"We're really excited for all four of these guys. All have worked extremely hard and they are all deserving of being added to our roster. Our international scouting operation, Sal Agostinelli and his group, continues to crank out players. They've done a great job. These four pitchers have earned this through their work ethic and performance. By no means is this the ultimate goal for them, but it's one step closer. We believe really strongly in the futures of these four pitchers."

Vielma, 23, is a top defensive shortstop who can also play second and third base. He was waived by Minnesota in September and claimed by the Giants, who let him go in a roster crunch.

"He's an intriguing claim," Klentak said. "He adds depth to our infield."

The Phillies’ roster is at 40. The team will have to clear space if it wants to add a player in next month's Rule 5 draft. Last November, the Phils added 11 players to the 40-man roster and still lost lefty reliever Hoby Milner to Cleveland. Milner failed to make the Indians' opening-day roster, returned to the organization in March and ended up making 37 appearances for the big club after coming up in late June. He was one of 12 rookies to make their big-league debut with the Phillies in 2017.

Notable players who were not protected include outfielders Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin and pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.

"One of the byproducts of a strong system is every year there are some tough omissions," Klentak said. "There are always tough calls. But we look at that as a good problem to have."