Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss

Phillies-Athletics observations: Henderson Alvarez's debut, Rhys Hoskins hitless again in loss


A local kid did in the Phillies on Sunday.

Joey Wendle, who starred at West Chester University and Avon Grove High School, belted a go-ahead grand slam off Edubray Ramos in the sixth inning to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 6-3 victory. 

It was the second career homer for the 27-year-old Wendle, coming one year to the day after he went deep against Yu Darvish in Texas. 

The second baseman’s blast to right in front of family and friends at Citizens Bank Park spoiled a decent return to the big leagues for former All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez. 

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who dropped two of three in the series. 

Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers in the fourth against Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013 and was an All-Star a year later before multiple shoulder surgeries. He hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since May 22, 2015. 

• Alvarez (0-1) went five-plus innings and left with a 3-2 lead after giving up a walk and single to lead off the sixth. He was charged with four runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He certainly pitched well enough to earn another start as he auditions for a 2018 job. 

• Alvarez became the 31st player to pitch for the Phillies this season, a new record besting the 30 hurlers in 2015. 

• Relying on a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, Alvarez looked smooth while retiring the first five batters. He didn’t allow a hit until Marcus Semien’s two-out double in the third. 

• Pinder crushed Alvarez’s hanging curve for his 15th homer to lead off the fourth and Olson followed by homering to right on a 91 mph fastball to tie it at 2. 

• Olson certainly out-Hoskined Rhys Hoskins in the series. The rookie homered in all three games and has 21 in 53 games compared to 18 in 37 games for Hoskins. Olson has four homers in five games, six in eight and 13 in 19. He has hit 10 in September. 

• Hoskins flung his bat in disgust after flying out to right against Sean Manaea (11-10) in the fifth. He was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and fanned six times while going 0 for 11 in the series. 

• Left-hander Hoby Milner replaced Alvarez with two on and nobody out in the sixth and struck out Olson to extend his streak of scoreless appearances to 21 games (see story)

• Ramos (2-8) replaced Milner and struck out Matt Chapman and walked Mark Canha to load the bases before Wendle crushed a first-pitch slider. 

• The A’s showed why they’re the worst defensive team in baseball. Chapman had two errors at third base to boost the A’s MLB-high total to 118. Chapman booted Aaron Altherr’s two-out grounder in the first that led to two unearned runs. 

• J.P. Crawford, who drove in two runs while playing third base Saturday, started at shortstop as Freddy Galvis was out of the starting lineup for the second time in three games. Crawford moved up to second in the order and went 0 for 2 with three walks. 

• Aaron Altherr was back in center field after resting his hamstring Saturday and hit cleanup. Manager Pete Mackanin inserted him between Hoskins and Nick Williams. 

• Alvarez began the game with almost all fastballs — until throwing a 53.6 mph Eephus pitch to Olson in the second that was taken for a ball. 

• The Phillies, before the game, honored A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich. He’s been with the team 50 years, joining the club just 13 years after it left Philadelphia. The only other person to be the franchise longer: Connie Mack. 

• Former Phillies star Chase Utley returns to town Monday night with the major league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers to start a four-game series. Utley had three doubles in the past two games and was hitting .234 with eight homers before a Sunday night game at Washington. 

• Pitching matchups for the Dodgers series: Monday: LH Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12 ERA) vs RH Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.75). Tuesday: RH Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) vs. RH Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60). Wednesday: LH Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) vs. RH Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46). Thursday: RH Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) vs. RH Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93). 

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

DUNEDIN, Fla. – It’s not hard to find Charlie Manuel in spring training. In late mornings, he’s perched behind the batting cage watching Phillies hitters take their swings. During the game, he’s on the top step of the dugout, taking it all in and offering advice where needed.

Manuel didn’t stay for the game Saturday. He watched batting practice, showered and drove out of the parking lot 30 minutes before the first pitch.

Manuel, you see, had a promise to keep.

Back in November, Manuel was one of nine people to speak at Roy Halladay’s memorial service at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring training home. Manuel stood at a podium near the very mound that Halladay trained on and spoke from the heart about what an honor it was to manage such a great talent and competitor. Manuel had jotted his words down on a paper, but he didn’t stick completely to his script that day. At one point, he looked down at Halladay’s two grieving sons, Braden and Ryan, and told them he’d be keeping tabs on their progress as young ballplayers. Manuel promised to attend their games. And that’s just what he did Saturday afternoon.

Braden Halladay, a lanky 17-year-old right-hander who bears a striking resemblance to his dad, on and off the mound, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team’s spring training roster. He was born in Toronto when his dad played for the Blue Jays, hence his eligibility to pitch for Canada.

On Saturday, Braden pitched a scoreless eighth inning against a Jays’ split-squad team on the very Dunedin Stadium mound where his dad began his career.

“I’m so glad I came over,” Manuel said after Braden’s perfect inning of work. “He did good. I’m glad he got ‘em out.”

This wasn’t the first time Manuel had seen Braden pitch. Braden pitches for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, where he is a junior. Manuel watched him pitch five shutout innings earlier in the week. And on Wednesday night, Manuel attended young brother Ryan’s practice in Clearwater.

Manuel has a warm spot for the boys for a lot of reasons. Obviously, there was the respect he had for their dad. “When I think of Roy, I think of the perfect game and playoff no-hitter first,” Manuel said. “Right after that, I think of his work ethic. It was the best I’ve ever seen.” 

But Manuel’s affection for the boys goes beyond the respect he had for their dad. Manuel was 18, the oldest son in a family of 11 children, when he lost his dad.

“I feel for those boys,” Manuel said. “I know what they’re going through and it isn’t easy. Not easy at all.”

It takes a lot of love to get through a tragedy like the one the Halladay family has gone through. The boys get it from their mom, Brandy, who is at all of their games. And they get it from people like Charlie Manuel.

Saturday’s first pitch at Dunedin Stadium, just a few miles from the Phillies’ ballpark, was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Manuel wanted to hustle over so he could wish Braden luck before the game. Manuel made his way down to the bullpen area and spotted one of his former Phillies players, Pete Orr, who is a coach with the Canadian team. Orr called over to Braden. A huge smile crossed the kid’s face when he saw Manuel. He sprinted over and gave Manuel a hug. Orr, who grew up near Toronto, slapped Braden on the back of his Team Canada jersey and said, “He looks good in red and white.”

He sure did.

Braden chatted with Manuel for a minute or two, and Manuel wished him luck. A reporter from Philadelphia asked Braden what it felt like to have Manuel keep tabs on his baseball career.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Braden said with a big smile. “It means a lot to me.”

The reporter wished him luck and told him that all of Philadelphia was rooting for him.

“I appreciate that,” the young pitcher said before trotting off to join his teammates.

Braden Halladay is 6-3 and 150 pounds. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team down, 11-3, at first to a smattering of applause. That grew into a big, beautiful round of applause after the PA man announced his name and everyone in the crowd realized the magnitude of the moment. Braden knelt behind the mound and wrote his dad’s initials in the dirt before delivering his first pitch. His pitching delivery is smooth and fundamentally pure.

“You can tell Roy worked with him,” Manuel said.

Braden mixed his pitches nicely in getting two pop-ups and a ground ball. He hit 83 mph on the stadium radar gun. A few months ago, Braden announced that he had committed to Penn State. Manuel sees a lot of promise in the kid.

“When he’s 21, he’ll pitch at 205 pounds,” Manuel said. “He’ll get stronger. You watch, he’s got a chance to be real good. He has a good, quick arm, command of the ball and mechanics.”

Where the game will eventually take Braden Halladay is a story for another day. Back in November, he sat in the middle of a baseball field and listened to people eulogize his dad. It was an excruciatingly difficult experience and the look on his face that day said as much.

So on Saturday, it was just great to see Braden Halladay back on a baseball field with a smile on his face. And it was great to see Charlie Manuel there, taking it all in, just as he had promised.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

AP Images

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.