Phillies

Phillies-Braves observations: Henderson Alvarez solid, but bullpen bends in loss

Phillies-Braves observations: Henderson Alvarez solid, but bullpen bends in loss

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies' bullpen could not hold a late lead Saturday night. The result was a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

The Phils have lost three in a row.
 
The Phillies led 2-0 through five innings and Henderson Alvarez, signed out of the Independent Atlantic League a month ago, was in line for his first big-league win in exactly three years when the Braves struck for a solo homer off reliever Kevin Siegrist in the sixth and three runs against Luis Garcia in the eighth.
 
Pinch-hitter Johan Camargo had the big hit, a two-run pinch-hit double for the Braves with two outs in the eighth, breaking a 2-2 tie.
 
Rhys Hoskins doubled home Nick Williams with the Phillies' first run with two outs in the first inning. Maikel Franco scored the Phils' second run on a passed ball in the fifth inning.
 
Both starters were good. Julio Teheran pitched seven innings of two-run ball for Atlanta. Only one of the runs he gave up was earned. Alvarez pitched five shutout innings.
 
• The Phillies signed Alvarez for organizational depth, to help them get through the season with other pitchers having gone down with injury. He's looking at the opportunity as a chance to show teams he can still pitch in the majors after missing 2016 and much of 2017 recovering from a shoulder injury. It's difficult to envision the Phillies keeping the 27-year-old right-hander on the 40-man roster all winter, but signing Alvarez to a minor-league deal for 2017 with an invite to big-league camp would make sense. He could provide depth at Triple A and if he pitched well a chance in the majors would surely arise. However, if the Phillies removed Alvarez from the 40-man roster after the season, there's no guarantee he would re-sign with the club.
 
• It's unclear if Alvarez will get another start over the final week of the season. The Phillies initially planned to use him as a sixth starter for the remainder of the month, but manager Pete Mackanin suggested he could be used out of the bullpen the rest of the way. More will be known on that in a few days.
 
• Noted Braves killer Odubel Herrera remained hitless in the series. He grounded to second on the first pitch he saw with two outs and the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh. The Phillies had Braves starter Teheran on the ropes and manager Brian Snitker visited the mound as Herrera came up. Teheran wanted to stay in the game and he quickly dispatched Herrera.

• Hoskins' RBI in the first inning was his 46th in 43 games. Hoskins has 21 RBIs in September and Nick Williams has 22. They are the first pair of Phillies rookies to collect 20 or more RBIs in the same calendar month since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920.
 
• Hoskins is just 5 for his last 35.
 
• Garcia took the loss. He allowed three runs. He had not allowed an earned run in his previous 12 1/3 innings.

• Pinch-runner Micah Johnson scored the tying run for the Braves in the eighth inning on a hit to right by Dansby Swanson. Johnson set up the run with a key stolen base that did not even draw a throw from catcher Cameron Rupp.
 
• Lefty reliever Adam Morgan, pitching in his hometown, delivered a scoreless seventh inning to protect a 2-1 lead. He has given up just two runs over 23 innings since Aug. 2. Nearly waived off the 40-man roster at the end of spring training, Morgan has pitched himself firmly into the team's bullpen plans for next season. His velocity is better — up to 97 mph — and his slider is much improved. He is pitching with confidence.
 
• J.P. Crawford started at second base for the fourth time. Mackanin said he would start at shortstop Sunday. That will be his fourth time starting at shortstop. Crawford has started 16 of the team's 18 games since arriving from Triple A on Sept 5. Clearly, team officials are trying to gauge his readiness for a spot on the opening day roster. The 22-year-old infielder does not look overmatched. He has played well defensively and has a .385 on-base percentage. If Crawford opens the 2018 season with the Phillies, the question is where: The Phillies are likely to dangle shortstop Freddy Galvis as a trade possibility. If Galvis were moved, Crawford would play his natural shortstop. Third base remains a possibility if the team moves Franco. There have been indications that the Phillies aren't ready to give up on Franco, but they certainly wouldn't say no to the right deal. Second base is more of a long shot for Crawford as Scott Kingery appears to be the man of the future at that position. He could arrive in May. Regardless of what happens early next season, Crawford appears to be the shortstop of the future.
 
• Phillie killer Freddie Freeman was not in the lineup. In fact, he was told to stay home because he has a stomach bug and the Braves didn't want it sweeping through their clubhouse. No word on his availability for Sunday.
 
• For the second time in three games, it will be an all-rookie matchup in the series finale in Sunday afternoon. Nick Pivetta (6-10, 6.57) will pitch for the Phillies against Braves lefty Luiz Gohara (1-2. 6.06).

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

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AP Images

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

The Eagles made Angel Stadium in Anaheim their home away from home last week. The entire team was greeted with a gift of a Mike Trout bobblehead. Nigel Bradham even used the Millville native and Birds season ticketholder's locker to dress. Trout left a personalized message to his favorite team prior to the Rams game.

Yet another link that it is kismet for the native son, the best player in his sport, to return someday soon to Philadelphia and play for the team he grew up rooting for? After all, the Phillies are flush with spending money should the opportunity arise. They appear to have the makings of a strong nucleus that could lure the 26-year-old back East. His deal runs through 2020 and Trout would be only 29 at the end of that contract. Seems perfect, right?  

Not so fast, my red pinstriped friends.

Hold on, we'll get to that in one minute. If you've been comatose the last seven seasons, all Trout has done since debuting in the big leagues in 2011 is win two MVPs, finish second in MVP voting three times and make six All-Star Games. The marriage here with the Phillies, a team he was a die-hard fan of growing up — even attending the 2008 World Series Championship parade as a senior in high school — would be one made in heaven. 

Adding fodder to the Trout-to-Philly hype is the Angels have reached the postseason only once in his time there. The hope from a fan's perspective would be Anaheim would continue to languish in mediocrity and eventually be forced to move Trout to possibly begin a rebuild, or he would play out his deal and walk. Wishful thinking? Sure. Out of the question? No. Trout has a full no-trade, so he can pick and choose where he ends up if he wishes to leave Southern California for South Philly prior to the end of his deal.

However, there may be a fly in the ointment. Despite it being only December, the Angels have had themselves an offseason. They signed Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old is a three-pitch starter who can touch over 100 mph on the gun with his fastball. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings for his Nippon-Ham club in Japan's Pacific League, a very high level of baseball. He also batted .322 with a .416 on-base percentage, while slugging .588 last season. In 2016, he hit 22 home runs. This was a major coup for the Angels, who won a bidding war over many other suitors around the league to land the right-handed pitching, left-handed hitting Ohtani.  

The Angels also signed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star and 2016 Gold Glove winner. Despite being 35, Kinsler is a major upgrade from what they had last year at the position. Anaheim also traded for Justin Upton late last year and re-signed him in the offseason. He'll play next to Trout in left. The Angels still need to upgrade their pitching. But on paper, they have the makings of a potent lineup that, with some pitching help, could land a wild-card spot in the playoffs. That is not music to Phillies fans' ears.

We're a long way away from 2020, so a lot can happen both here and 2,376 miles away in Orange County. The Phillies need to hope their current young nucleus blossoms like the group of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels did in the mid-2000s. They should also keep a close eye on their neighbors to the West and cross their fingers things don't go so well. If both scenarios play out in their favor, the Phillies could reel in the biggest fish in franchise history.

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

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Photo: Clearwater Threshers

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Tocci has long been an intriguing prospect in the Phillies' system. The club's international scouting staff liked the slender outfielder from Venezuela enough to give him a $759,000 signing bonus as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2011.

The big question with Tocci was whether he'd develop enough offensive pop to go with his outstanding defensive prowess.

Tocci made strides every year in the Phillies system, but not enough, in the minds of team officials, to move past other prospects and win a spot on the 40-man roster. The Phils left him unprotected last winter and managed to slip him through the annual Rule 5 draft, but they weren't so fortunate this year. Tocci was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in Thursday's draft and quickly spun to the Texas Rangers in a trade.

The price to select Tocci was $100,000. He must spend the entire 2018 season in the majors (or on the big-league disabled list) or be offered back to the Phillies for $50,000.

"Obviously, it stinks for us to lose a guy like that, but it's the risk you take when you don't protect someone," Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "I'm happy for him to get the opportunity. Selfishly, we hope to get him back."

Tocci, 22, hit .307 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage in 113 games at Double A Reading in 2017. He hit .189 in 17 games at Triple A.

Tocci has athleticism and speed. He is a plus defender. His speed and defensive skill could help him stick in the majors as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

The Phillies added a player in the Rule 5 draft, but only briefly. They selected right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi from Minnesota with the third pick and quickly traded him to Pittsburgh for $500,000 in international signing money. The Phils have just over $1 million remaining in their current pool, which expires June 15.

Extra international money is valuable. The Phillies recently added four pitchers — Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, Jose Taveras and Franklyn Kilome — to their 40-man roster and all were international signings. The team recently used international pool money to sign catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, one of 13 former Atlanta prospects who had been set free after the Braves violated signing rules. Several of those players are still unsigned and other prospects pop up all the time. Remember, the Phillies' top pitching prospect is a kid named Sixto Sanchez. He caught the eye of Phillies scouts three years ago while throwing batting practice to a catcher that the Phillies were watching (see story).

"Our international department with Sal Agostinelli and those guys, they're weapons for us," Minniti said. "So for us to have the ability to give them more money to spend is a positive. They're seeing workouts every day all over the world. It's good to have the reserves to continue to spend."

The Phillies have two open spots on their 40-man roster. Those will soon be filled by relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

The Phillies also completed their coaching staff on Thursday, hiring Jose Flores as first base coach and infield/baserunning instructor. Flores was a 34th-round pick by the Astros in 1989 and spent six years in their minor-league system. He spent 10 years as a coach in Puerto Rico's winter league and was also a coach for Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Gabe Kapler's full staff includes bench coach Rob Thomson, hitting coach John Mallee, assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, assistant pitching coach Chris Young, bullpen coach Jim Gott, first base coach Flores and third base coach Dusty Wathan.