Phillies

'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers

'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers

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MILWAUKEE -- The sample size isn't very big — just 13 games — but Nick Williams is quickly making an impression.

The 23-year-old outfielder had two hits Sunday afternoon, including his first career grand slam which proved to be the deciding factor in the Phillies' 5-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park (see Instant Replay)

That boosted his average to .279, nearly matching the .280 mark he posted in 78 games earlier this season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he hit 15 home runs with 44 RBIs.

"He's been playing very aggressively," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He has some things he has to change with his swing, some holes like everybody else, but I like the way that he's playing. I'm happy with him so far."

That aggressiveness paid off in a big way Sunday.

The Phillies watched a 1-0 lead disappear an inning earlier when Brewers rookie Brett Phillips tagged Jeremy Hellickson for a two-run home run — the first of his career.

The Phillies opened the sixth with three straight singles off Rob Scahill, and with the left-handed-hitting Williams due up, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell called on lefty Tyler Webb, who had yet to throw a pitch since being acquired in an All-Star break trade with the Yankees and only had six big league appearances under his belt before that.

But Williams was familiar with Webb from their time in Triple A and had an idea of what to expect. 

“I watched a couple of clips of him pitching and said, ‘Wait I think I faced this guy. A couple of weeks ago actually,'" Williams said. "In that situation, bases loaded I was thinking even if you hit the ball on the ground, get something going because we were down one run.”

Webb's first offering was a slider, right down the middle and Williams got all of it, putting the Phillies ahead.

“I don’t think I had a lot of success against him last year, but I remember I faced him this year," Williams said. "He threw me a first-pitch slider and I hit a homer. I remembered that. First pitch again, slider and another homer.

"It’s crazy.”

Williams' grand slam wasn't a cheap shot in a hitter-friendly yard, either, but rather a no-doubt-about-it blast that traveled an estimated 411 feet to left-center, one of the deepest parts of Miller Park. 

The distance was impressive but not nearly as much as the approach. 

“It was a mistake and he jumped all over it first pitch instead of taking it," Mackanin said. "Bases loaded, you’ve got to be ready for a mistake first pitch and he was.”

Acquired from Texas in a 2015 deadline deal that shipped Cole Hamels to the Rangers — the same deal that brought back Monday's starter Jerad Eickhoff — Williams struggled at times in the minor leagues and was even benched twice last season for failing to run hard.

There's been no issue with his hustle this season, Mackanin said. 

"Players have to self-motivate," Mackanin said. "That's the kind of guys we're looking for that you don't have to motivate. They motivate themselves. Hopefully, he's one of those guys.

"The test will be three, four years down the road, if and when he has some success that he continues to play like that and not fall into that trap."

And with the Phillies in rebuilding mode, Williams is starting to look like one of the players who could make up the nucleus of the next generation of winners.

Jeremy Hellickson tossed five innings of two-run ball but left early with an apparent calf injury. The righty said he is fine and expects to make his next start.

"He looks good," Hellickson said of Williams. "The stage doesn't look too big for him."

Mets GM thinks Tim Tebow will play in majors

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Mets GM thinks Tim Tebow will play in majors

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Tim Tebow arrived at the New York Mets spring training camp on Sunday, and the attention immediately turned to whether the quarterback who became an outfielder could make it all the way to Citi Field in the future.

Guess what? Mets general manager Sandy Alderson votes yes.

"Somebody asked me if thought he'd be a major league player at some point. I think he will play in the major leagues. That's my guess," Alderson said.

"This experiment is not going to last forever, but he's made meaningful progress. We thought he would best benefit from being in major league camp -- that that would accelerate his development," Alderson said.

The 30-year-old Tebow has already had success on another field. A former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at Florida, he reached the NFL and threw an overtime TD pass for Denver to beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs (see full story).

Hosmer, Padres reach preliminary 8-year deal, per AP source
PEORIA, Ariz. — Just the thought of free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer joining the downtrodden, youthful San Diego Padres sent a morning jolt through the spring training clubhouse.

The on-field vibe seemed equally cheery, as country music blared as players went to work under sunny skies in the Arizona desert.

Hosmer reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract with the Padres, pending a physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal confirmed the tentative deal, speaking on the condition of anonymity Sunday because there had been no formal announcement of Hosmer's potential signing.

It would become official once he passes a physical early in the week. While the final position players reported Sunday - most were already in spring camp - ahead of Monday's first full-squad workout, Hosmer wasn't expected in the desert until at least Monday.

Hosmer, who spent his first seven major league seasons with Kansas City, would receive a reported $144 million (see full story).

Angels sign 2 veteran sluggers
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Los Angeles Angels have signed veteran slugger Chris Carter and longtime outfielder Chris Young.

Carter got a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training on Sunday, while Young agreed to a one-year contract.

Carter played for the New York Yankees last season, batting .201 with eight homers. The first baseman is only one season removed from leading the NL with 41 homers for Milwaukee in 2016.

The 31-year-old Carter has 158 career homers, including three straight seasons with at least 24 homers for Houston.

Young spent last season with Boston, batting .235 with 25 RBIs in 90 games. He also has played for Arizona, Oakland and the Mets and Yankees.

The Angels traded first baseman C.J. Cron to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Ellsbury says he hasn't been asked to waive no-trade clause
TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury says the team has not approached him about waiving his no-trade clause.

There has been speculation that the Yankees would like to move some of the money due Ellsbury, who has three years remaining on a $153 million, seven-year contract.

Ellsbury, 34, enters spring training as the odd man out in the outfield after losing his center field job last year to Aaron Hicks. Brett Gardner is locked in as the left fielder. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will rotate between right field and designated hitter, and could also get time in left when Gardner is rested.

"There's not a lineup made up yet, that's how I look at it," Ellsbury said Sunday on reporting day for position players. "Every year you come in and compete. One game, one pitch, your role could totally change."

Yankees manager Aaron Boone hasn't officially named Hicks as the starter but pointed out the success the 28-year-old had in 2017. Hicks had a .266 average, along with 15 homers and 52 RBIs over 88 games (see full story).

Energy, new look have Herrera 'presenting beautifully' to Kapler

Energy, new look have Herrera 'presenting beautifully' to Kapler

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Odubel Herrera showed up to Phillies camp with a new look Sunday. 
 
Bronze-tipped dreadlocks. A bronze goatee.
 
Manager Gabe Kapler, who encourages players to present themselves in a way that makes them feel confident, was impressed with his centerfielder’s style – and more.
 
“He looks amazing,” Kapler gushed. “He looks incredible. I think he is just physically presenting beautifully right now. He has a lot of energy. Obviously his smile is big and bold. He looks kind of cool. The hair is kind of cool and the beard, but more importantly he is in incredible athletic condition. You can tell he has put a lot of work in and we’re excited about what’s to come for Odubel.”
 
Herrera, 26, is entering his fourth season in the majors, all with the Phillies. He has been the team’s best player the last three seasons, leading the club in runs (218), hits (462), batting average (.288), doubles (93), extra-base hits (142), times on base (690), OPS (.774) and total bases (690) over that span.
 
Herrera sputtered at times in the first half of last season, but was outstanding, posting a .887 OPS over his final 88 games in 2017. 
 
When Herrera is motivated and focused, he is an electric player. But it’s no secret that he can occasionally be undisciplined, making baserunning blunders, forgetting how many outs there are and not running out balls.
 
So it was kind of interesting to hear Kapler say he planned on using Herrera as an example during Sunday night’s team welcome gathering at a Clearwater restaurant. Kapler encouraged players to dress in whatever attire that made them feel “confident.” He planned to address the group and trumpet his season theme of being “bold.” A video presentation was planned.
 
“We’re going to show some video tonight of Odubel on the bases and his ability to really change a play with his athleticism and a good turn around second base,” Kapler said.
 
Clearly, the skipper is taking a positive tack with Herrera, as he has done with every other player. Kapler met with Herrera over the winter in Miami and his message was all about looking forward and being positive.
 
“Not only is there a clean slate, but the meeting in Miami was much more about supporting,” Kapler said. “Before we have an opportunity to really sharpen, we have to build trust, we have to demonstrate that we really care about somebody, we have to support. And then it’s a whole lot easier when the time comes – and it absolutely will come – for us to raise the bar for our players and to have those more difficult conversations. 
 
“So I didn’t go to Miami or meet with any of our players to say, ‘Here are some things we need you to do differently from last year.’ I just think that is not an effective human strategy. Rather, it was, ‘Let’s talk about who you can be. Let’s dream together. Let’s see this as the sky’s the limit, not just as a team, but as individuals. So what are your carrots? What do you want to go after and how can we help you in your pursuit of those goals.' ”
 
Herrera was asked about his goals.
 
“The only one I can share with you is I want to help the team win,” he said. “But I have some personal ones that I want to keep to myself.”
 
Kapler believes that Herrera, entering the second season of a five-year, $30.5 million deal, can have a huge year.
 
“I told him he is an elite level defender in center field, which is absolutely true and fairly easy to quantify,” Kapler said. “I told him with some small adjustments he could be one of the best all-around center fielders in baseball. We believe that strongly.
 
“I told him the sky’s the limit for him and I believe he thinks that about himself. There is no ceiling. He wants to be an All-Star, he wants to be a Gold Glove defender and he’s not that far off from doing both of those things in the same season. There is no limitation for him, right. The ceiling is not low for Odubel Herrera. It’s incredibly high if there is one at all.”
 
Focus and the occasional lapse in hustle have been flaws in Herrera’s game. What happens if he slips up in 2018? Kapler suggested that Philadelphia’s discerning fans could play a part in keeping Herrera in line.
 
“The fans in Philadelphia expect us to give everything we have every night and they expect us to do it all over again the next day,” Kapler said. “Those are high expectations. Our players are going to have the foundation and the tools to meet those expectations.”