Phillies

MLB Notes: Red Sox reportedly used Apple Watch to steal signs

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MLB Notes: Red Sox reportedly used Apple Watch to steal signs

NEW YORK -- Looking for any edge in an age-old rivalry, the Boston Red Sox got called out in a high-tech sign-stealing scheme they ran on the New York Yankees.

The first-place Red Sox admitted to Major League Baseball that they used an Apple Watch to relay signals from opposing catchers to Boston players, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Sign stealing has long been a part of the game, but employing electronic gadgets to do it is against the rules.

MLB is looking into allegations levied by the Yankees after a series between the teams last month in Boston. The Times said the Red Sox told MLB investigators that Boston manager John Farrell, general Dave Dombrowski and other team executives were not aware of the operation, which had been going on for weeks.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was at Fenway Park on Tuesday night as part of a previously planned visit, said he wanted to get the matter resolved quickly. He didn't comment about possible penalties.

"The only thing that I can tell you about repercussions is that to the extent that there was a violation on either side -- and I'm not saying that there was -- to the extent that there was a violation on either side, we are 100 percent comfortable that it is not an ongoing issue -- that if it happened, it is no longer happening," he said (see full story).

Pirates: Manager Hurdle, GM Huntington get extensions
PITTSBURGH -- Neal Huntington arrived in Pittsburgh a decade ago confident he had the right plan to turn around the floundering Pirates. Three years later, the general manager hired Clint Hurdle to take the building blocks the front office put in place and mold it into finished -- and winning -- major-league product.

Together, Huntington and Hurdle oversaw the franchise's end to a generation of misery. While the buzz provided by three straight playoff berths from 2013-15 has dulled with Pirates entering the final month of a wildly uneven 2017 season well out of things in the NL Central, the resolve of the men who oversaw baseball's renaissance in Pittsburgh has not.

Rather than panic or split, Huntington and Hurdle are doubling down. The Pirates signed both to four-year contract extensions on Tuesday that will keep them in Pittsburgh through 2021.

"We were able to accomplish some things in the last seven years that have meaning," Hurdle said Tuesday. "There are things out there that have more meaning that we want to accomplish together" (see full story).

Cubs: Arrieta undergoes MRI, iffy for next start
PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta underwent an MRI on his achy right hamstring on Tuesday, and manager Joe Maddon says his team's ace could have his next start pushed back.

Arrieta left with one out in the third inning of Monday's loss to Pittsburgh after experiencing what he described as a cramp in the hamstring. Arrieta said afterward he felt fine, but the team opted for an MRI as a precaution.

Arrieta is scheduled to start on Saturday when the first-place Cubs host second-place Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. Maddon said it's likely the team will exercise some caution regardless of the MRI results.

If Arrieta can't go on Saturday, Chicago would likely use Mike Montgomery to fill in.

Arrieta had been 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA since the All-Star break before Monday's shortened outing.

Marlins: Families travel with team as Irma looms
MIAMI -- With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida, the Miami Marlins are allowing families of players and staff to travel with the team on their upcoming road trip.

"Jeffrey (Loria) ultimately made the decision that all the families are going to get to go with us, travel the whole trip, kids and the whole thing, and really provide a service for our families, which is really very nice of the organization," manager Don Mattingly said, referring to the Marlins' owner.

The Marlins will be leaving Miami after Wednesday night's game against the Washington Nationals for a seven-game road trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

"We all feel the same way, you all feel the same way too. If you had your kids here and you're leaving on a trip, it's not the best feeling to leave your family somewhere," Mattingly said. "We really don't have a family trip so it is actually probably a good thing. To me, I would like to see us have a couple trips where the families could travel with us and be a part of it. So it's a pretty good opportunity to see what it looks like" (see full story).

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

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Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — For a gazillion years, pitchers have been told to keep the ball down. That is still valuable advice, but with more and more hitters looking to launch the ball with an upward swing path these days, power pitchers are striking back with a high fastball above the bat head.

Nick Pivetta has a power fastball and he’s working on this technique. He consciously threw some fastballs above the belt in his two-inning spring debut Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“We're telling all of our pitchers, we're asking them to do some new things,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And there's going to be some times in spring training games when you get hit a little bit.”

That’s OK. The new-school Phillies want their players to be open to new ideas. Pivetta, who struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings in 26 starts last season, is open learning to ride a high fastball by a hitter looking to launch. He watched on television as Justin Verlander did that for Houston in the postseason last year and he’s watched more video of Verlander and interacted with Phillies coaches about the strategy this spring.

“A key point that they brought to me was how Verlander pitched in the playoffs,” Pivetta said. “I think that’s something I can learn from a lot of the time, how he did it when he came over to Houston.

“It’s part of pitching. You’ve got to be able to command the zone, both the top and bottom. It’s not to say we’re going to only throw up. It’s just something else to work on.”

Pivetta pitched two innings and struck out three in the 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed three hits, a walk and two runs in the first inning. One of the hits was a solo homer by Curtis Granderson on a hanging breaking ball.

Kapler was pleased with Pivetta’s performace and his reponse to trying new things.

“He executed his game plan today,” Kapler said. “He executed some pretty nasty sliders at the bottom of the zone. He executed some fastballs at the top of the zone. He missed some bats, which is really encouraging.

“One of the things we’re working on with him is elevating a little bit. He has velocity and strong pitch characteristics to pitch up in the zone. But he also has the ability to pitch down in the zone with his slider and his curveball.

“He kicked ass today. He did everything we asked him to do.”

The Phillies host the Orioles on Saturday. Zach Eflin will be the starting pitcher.

Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

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Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Francisco Rodriguez navigated the narrow streets of this friendly, little, old-school spring training burg looking for a place to park his Mercedes late Friday morning.

Finally, after asking several people for directions, he found a spot near the grounds crew shed at Dunedin Stadium.

The episode was a bit of a metaphor for Rodriguez’s workday with the Phillies. Back on the mound in a game situation for the first time since last summer, Rodriguez allowed a walk to the first batter he faced and later a single, but stayed composed and left two runners on base in notching a scoreless inning in his first action of the spring in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I felt kind of lost the first couple of batters,” Rodriguez said. “But once I got a ground ball, I started locating. It had been a while since I was on the mound in a game.”

Rodriguez, 36, is the most decorated player in Phillies camp. He is a six-time All-Star and baseball’s active leader in saves (437) and appearances (948). Released twice last season, he is trying to win a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen as a non-roster invite to camp.

He opened last season as Detroit’s closer, but was released in June after recording a 7.82 ERA in 28 games. The Nationals took a peek at him in the minors a few weeks later and also let him go.

Rodriguez said he was not healthy last season. He said he had issues with his groin and hamstring.

“I couldn’t be 100 percent,” he said. “But that’s not an excuse. I should have found a way to get the job done in Detroit and I couldn’t. That’s one of the reasons that I’m in this situation now.”

Rodriguez ranks fourth all time in saves behind Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. He does not have the power fastball that once earned him the nickname K-Rod — he topped out at 89 mph Friday — but location, a good changeup and old-fashioned savvy are still strengths. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was influential in bringing in Rodriguez for a look. The two were together in Milwaukee, where Rodriguez was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015.

“He’s a great reliever,” Kranitz said.

Does he have anything left?

“I believe so, yes,” Kranitz said.

Kranitz went on to say that Rodriguez was a high-character guy who would help the Phillies’ young pitchers.

Rodriguez was asked what pushed him to continue his career and come to camp essentially on a tryout.

“I love the game,” he said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything. I don’t think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball and I’m going to continue to do it.”

The Phillies may go with an eight-man bullpen. That could help Rodriguez’s chances of sticking. But he will have to pitch well.

“I’m looking forward to having a great spring,” he said.