Phillies plan to play J.P. Crawford as much as possible down the stretch

Phillies plan to play J.P. Crawford as much as possible down the stretch

NEW YORK — From the front office on down, the Phillies organization is eager to take a look at prospect J.P. Crawford and get a gauge on whether he could be part of the big-league roster in April.

So it was no surprise that Crawford, on his first day in the majors, was in the team's starting lineup, batting seventh and playing third base against the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Crawford, 22, will play a lot over the final 25 games of this season that was from the outset dedicated to finding out who will be part of the future and who won't.

"I won't say every day, but as much as I can," manager Pete Mackanin said before Tuesday night's game. "The whole idea is to get his feet wet up here."

Crawford, considered by many to be the Phillies' top prospect from the time he was selected 16th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft, is a shortstop by trade. At the moment, the Phillies are more concerned with getting him at-bats than they are time at shortstop. That's why he recently began learning to play third base. He will play that position, and also some second base, this month.

Mackanin projected that Crawford would play "five or six" games at shortstop. That means Freddy Galvis may not play in all of the team's 162 games, as is his goal. Galvis, the Phils' starting shortstop since the start of 2015, has played Gold Glove-caliber defense this season, but he entered Tuesday night with an on-base percentage of just .304. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is committed to building his team around players with strong on-base skills. Crawford has them. His career on-base percentage in the minors is .367. All of this points to Galvis or third baseman Maikel Franco being shopped for a wintertime trade that would open a spot for Crawford. Franco, who carries a .278 on-base percentage, was bounced from the lineup in favor of Crawford on Tuesday night. Regardless of where Crawford plays next season, he still profiles as the team's shortstop of the future. Galvis will be a free agent after next season.

If Galvis, 27, feels as if he is being pushed out, he hasn't revealed it — at least publicly. He has said all the right things (see story). He welcomed Crawford to the clubhouse with a hug Tuesday afternoon and was seen giving his left-side-infield partner some tips between innings during the game.

"Freddy has been very good about it," Mackanin said. "Right now he’s our shortstop and that’s the way I look at it. We’re getting a look at the other kid, just like we found a spot for (Rhys) Hoskins (in left field) to try to get a look at him. We know Crawford can play shortstop and we feel that he’s going to be a good shortstop. At the same time, he has to get a taste of the major leagues. Eventually he’s going to be here. So it’s a good way to do it. Last year, (Ryan) Howard had to sit so we could a look at [Tommy Joseph]. That’s the way it is."

Crawford survived a brutal first half of this season and finished with a .243 batting average and a .756 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley. From June 20 through Monday's regular-season finale, he hit .280 with a .381 on-base percentage, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a .904 OPS.

It was a no-brainer that the Phils would take a look at Crawford this month; they would have had to place him on the 40-man roster in November anyway. Still, Crawford was a little surprised to get the call on the day he helped Lehigh Valley clinch a berth in the International League playoffs. Competing in a playoff series — at any level — can benefit a player's development. The Phillies, however, decided they wanted to see Crawford now.

"I thought I was going to stick around for playoffs and then Dusty (Wathan, the Triple A manager) told me and I was speechless," Crawford said. "It has been my dream since I was a little kid to play in the big leagues and I'm just happy to be here."

Crawford's poor first half this season left some pundits questioning his prospect status. He ranked as high as No. 6 in the game on Baseball America's list entering the 2016 season. In July, the publication dropped him to 92nd.

"It kind of sparked a fire right there," Crawford said.

Crawford said he has enjoyed playing new positions and that it doesn’t matter where he plays because the big leagues are where every players wants to be.

"I’m going to do the best I can do and hopefully get a spot for next year," he said. "Until then, I’m just focused on today. I just want to focus on this game today and take it day by day. I'm happy to be here and I want to help this team."

Red Sox name Alex Cora manager; Mets offer job to Mickey Callaway

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Red Sox name Alex Cora manager; Mets offer job to Mickey Callaway

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager.

The team made the announcement on Sunday, a day after Cora's Astros reached the World Series.

Cora replaces John Farrell, who was fired this month despite winning back-to-back AL East titles. Farrell's teams won the 2013 World Series, finished last twice and then in each of the past two years won the division but got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Hispanic manager in Red Sox history.

He played 14 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2011, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He was a member of Boston's 2007 World Series team.

Cora has never managed before.

Reports: Mets offer manager job to Indians coach Callaway
NEW YORK — It appears the New York Mets have settled on their choice for a manager.

Several media outlets are reporting the team has offered the job to Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. The New York Post was the first to report the Mets were in talks with Callaway, saying a deal is being finalized.

When contacted Sunday, multiple Mets officials declined to comment.

With his contract set to expire, Terry Collins stepped down at the end of the season after seven years as Mets manager and accepted a position as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson.

The 42-year-old Callaway has been Cleveland's pitching coach for the past five seasons under highly successful manager Terry Francona. Led by ace right-hander Corey Kluber, the Indians led the major leagues with a 3.30 ERA this season, one year after reaching the World Series.

Callaway has never managed at any professional level.

Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7


HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP, and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve, the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."