Phillies

Phillies Notes: Tough call with Tony Gwynn Jr.

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Phillies Notes: Tough call with Tony Gwynn Jr.

There was a lot of activity around Citizens Bank Park before Monday’s game against the San Francisco Giants to kick off a seven-game homestand.

The media areas were teeming with scouts on hand to get a closer look at some players that may be available before the July 31 trade deadline, though the Phillies put a few on the open market before the game.

Before the game the team announced that Tony Gwynn Jr. had been designated for assignment and catcher Koyie Hill was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Additionally, infielder Cesar Hernandez was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

The moves were made so that Cliff Lee, catcher Wil Nieves and infielder Reid Brignac were activated from the disabled list.

With catcher Carlos Ruiz due back from a concussion shortly, the Phillies will likely option Cameron Rupp.

Nevertheless, Gwynn’s ouster was particularly difficult for the Phillies considering the recent events that occurred in the outfielder’s life. Gwynn’s father, Tony Sr., died last month and the outfielder went on bereavement leave for a week. With a lack of regular playing time, Gwynn was elbowed out of the mix when the Phillies acquired outfielder Grady Sizemore.

Gwynn batted .163 in 67 games, including 2 for 28 as a pinch hitter. He started just four games since June 21 and was relegated to duty as a late-game defensive replacement.

“It was tough with Tony with everything he's gone through,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He's a very professional guy, a terrific teammate, so it's tough. We'll see what he decides. We did give him the option to remain with the organization, and we'll see. He had limited playing time as of late, but overall a terrific guy and teammate.”

Meanwhile, Sizemore has started all seven games since joining the Phillies. He went into Monday’s game 10 for 24 (.417) with a pair of doubles. Coming back from a couple of knee surgeries, Sizemore has been quite durable this season. Sandberg doesn’t see this changing.

“I'm just kind of keeping tabs on him and with the break that we had, he got some rest,” Sandberg said. “He's voiced his opinion to get as many reps as he can and games played. But I'm also going to pick my spots with him.”

Back to the farm
Batting just .225 in 52 games and without any action in a week, Hernandez will go back to Triple A where he can expect regular playing time.

More than anything, at-bats are what Hernandez, 24, needs at this stage of his development.

“He needs to go play and get at-bats, freshen up a little bit at second base. Get some reps there where he's very good but also get time at short and third, continue with that on the defensive side of things and get some innings and reps on that side of the diamond,” Sandberg said. “On the offensive side of things, leads and jumps, with his speed the leads and jumps at first base with his potential base stealing, and also with his at-bats. He swings a good bat and he's on the fastball. He's a very good fastball hitter. Just battling with two strikes, battling the breaking pitches will go a long way to helping his at-bats.”

More K.K.?
End-of-the-rotation starter Kyle Kendrick’s struggles have been well documented this year. In fact, the right-hander has been on a steady decline since the second half of last season.

However, when Kendrick’s spot in the rotation comes around again Friday, will he be out there?

“As of right now he is, yes,” Sandberg said.

But as with anything this time of year, everything is subject to change.

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."

New details emerge in investigation into Roy Halladay's death

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New details emerge in investigation into Roy Halladay's death

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Retired star pitcher Roy Halladay sped his small sports plane low over the Gulf of Mexico minutes before his fatal crash two weeks ago, climbing sharply in the final seconds before diving into the water, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Monday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Noreen Price placed no blame for the Nov. 7 accident near Tampa, simply laying out the facts as gleaned from the plane's data recorder and eyewitnesses. A final report with conclusions could take one to two years.

Price says Halladay, 40, had taken off from a lake near his Tampa-area home about 17 minutes before the crash, taking his ICON A5 to 1,900 feet (580 meters) before dropping to 600 feet (180 meters) as he neared the coastline. He then dropped to 36 feet (11 meters) when he reached the water. While flying at about 105 mph (170 kph), Halladay skimmed the water at 11 feet (3.3 meters), flying in a circle before climbing to 100 feet (30 meters), the plane's data showed.

A witness told investigators the plane climbed to between 300 and 500 feet (95 to 150 meters) when it turned and went into a 45-degree dive. It slammed into the water and flipped.

Halladay's body was found with the plane, which was severely damaged. The plane itself was equipped with a parachute, but it was not deployed.

The former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies star had received the plane from ICON on Oct. 10, and was one of the first to receive the model. In one of many enthusiastic tweets about the plane, Halladay said it felt "like flying a fighter jet." He had about 700 hours of flight time after getting his license in 2013, the report says. He had 51 hours in ICON A5s, including 14 in the plane that crashed.

Rolled out in 2014, the A5 is an amphibious aircraft meant to be treated like an ATV, a piece of weekend recreational gear with folding wings that can easily be towed on a trailer to a lake where it can take off from the water.

The man who led the plane's design, 55-year-old John Murray Karkow, died while flying an A5 over California's Lake Berryessa on May 8, a crash the NTSB attributed to pilot error.

Another A5 crashed in April, making a hard landing in the water off Key Largo, Florida, injuring the pilot and his passenger. The pilot told investigators the plane descended faster than he expected.

Halladay, an eight-time All-Star, pitched a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter in 2010. He played for the Blue Jays from 1998 to 2009 and for the Phillies from 2009-13, going 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA.