Phillies

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

photo-reading-usa-dusty-wathan-phillies.jpg
Reading Fightin Phils/USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler unveiled the first three members of his coaching staff Friday.
 
Kapler stayed within the organization for a couple of important hires, retaining Rick Kranitz and naming Dusty Wathan third-base coach.

Kranitz's role is yet to be determined.
 
Kapler also hired John Mallee as hitting coach. Mallee (pronounced May-lee) most recently spent three seasons as the Cubs' hitting coach. Prior to that, he served as the hitting coach for the Astros (2013-14) and Marlins (2010-11). Mallee was actually drafted by the Phillies back in 1991.
 
Kranitz, 59, has previously been major-league pitching coach for the Marlins, Orioles and Brewers. He joined the Phillies' staff as bullpen coach before the 2016 season and served as the club's assistant pitching coach under Bob McClure last season.
 
It's no surprise that the Phillies kept Kranitz. His experience — 10 seasons as a big-league pitching coach — and familiarity with the organization's pitchers will be valuable to Kapler, a first-year manager who most recently served as the director of player development for the Dodgers.
 
Wathan's hiring is also not a surprise. The 44-year-old former catcher has managed in the Phillies' minor-league system for the past 10 seasons, has had an important hand in the development of many of the players projected to help the Phillies in coming seasons, and was a finalist for the job that went to Kapler. Had Wathan not been named to the big-league staff, he would have returned to manage the Triple A Lehigh Valley club in 2018. Wathan was the Eastern League manager of the year while leading the Double A Reading club in 2015 and 2016.
 
"Dusty was incredibly impressive in this process," general manager Matt Klentak said last week at the news conference to announce Kapler's hiring. "Obviously, the fact that he was a finalist would suggest that we thought a lot of him. ... We are really proud of everything he accomplished and the way he conducted himself in the interview process. We're really glad he's with the Phillies."
 
While initially disappointed to not get the manager's job, Wathan last week said he was eager to continue his work with the organization.
 
"I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things," he said. "I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it."
 
Wathan's departure from the Triple A manager's post means the Phillies have an opening at that level.
 
Kapler and Klentak still have several more hires to make for the staff. At the news conference to announce his hiring last week, Kapler said he wanted to build a diverse coaching staff.
 
"I don't want seven people in the dugout who think just like me," he said. "I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. So I'd say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that's a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff."

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

nbcsp-ap-carlos-santana-maikel-franco-slide-1.jpg
NBC Sports Philadelphia/AP Images

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The numbering is a little off in the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse. Usually lockers are assigned in numerical sequence, clockwise around the room. But this spring, No. 41 comes immediately after No. 7.

Why?

Because that’s the way Carlos Santana wanted it.

“I told the team that I wanted Maikel Franco right next to me,” the new first baseman said after his first workout with the club Saturday. “That's something that I wanted. I really like him. He's a special kid. I appreciate him a lot. And, not only him, the whole group is nice. But I really want to work with him and help him out.”

Santana, 31, and Franco, 25, are both natives of the Dominican Republic. They bonded this winter. After Santana signed with the Phillies in December, he worked out at the Phillies' academy in the DR with Franco.

It’s no secret this is a big year for Franco (see story). He needs to finally put together his potential or the team may look elsewhere – hello, Manny Machado – for its next third baseman.

Franco’s big area of need is Santana’s area of strength: Plate discipline. Santana walks almost as much as he strikes out. He has registered a career on-base percentage of .365 while averaging 24 homers over the last seven seasons. Franco has pop – he has hit 25 and 24 homers, respectively, the last two seasons – but his career on-base percentage is just .300 after a dip to .281 last season.

Santana has reached at least 100 walks twice in his career and at least 91 four other times. Franco had a career-best 41 walks last season.

Santana praised Victor Martinez for being a mentor to him early in his career. “That’s why I wear No. 41,” he said. Santana wants to be Franco’s Victor Martinez.

“We’re going to work together every single day,” Santana said. “We’re going to make sure he executes the plan he wants to follow. I know he’s a guy that’s very talented and he’s capable of a lot. So I’m going to be there. I’m committed to helping him. I’m going to be in the cage, hitting as many balls as possible. He already told me today that he wants to follow me everywhere he goes. If I have to go to the cage he’s going to go with me to hit some balls. He’s committed and I’m committed, too.”

The Phillies have baseball’s second-worst on-base percentage (.307, San Diego is .303) the last six seasons. The additions of Santana and J.P. Crawford to the lineup – and a full season of Rhys Hoskins, another selective hitter – should help the offense.

“When you have a guy (like Santana) in the middle of the lineup, grinding down the opposing pitcher – just imagine, you’re a pitcher on the other side and you’re delivering pitch after pitch that’s getting fouled off or a ball that is just off the corner and being taken, you get exhausted,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Guess who benefits from that? The next man up and the next man up and there’s this ripple effect. An exhausted starting pitcher or even an exhausted reliever is a really good thing for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in December. He said the Phillies’ young core reminds him of the group of youngsters that his former team, the Cleveland Indians, brought to the majors in recent seasons.

Unlike a number of other free agents who are still jobless in this unusual year for free agents, Santana jumped relatively early at the Phillies’ offer. He said it was “shocking” that so many free agents remain unsigned.

“I know baseball is going through a difficult time right now, with all of the free agents,” Santana said. “But it worked out for me. I am happy. I can only speak for myself, and I am happy I did it the way I did it. It's very surprising because there are a lot of talented free agents out there. I thought it would be very different from what it's been.”

To prepare for the new season and the new team, Santana worked with a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. In one of the drills, he was forced to push a car.

“It was a complete workout,” he said. “It wasn't only to get ready for preseason, it was also to get ready for the season and be successful during the season.

“It's a positive atmosphere here. I see a lot of young guys, very hungry and very eager to win. You can tell everyone is ready to go here.”

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

usa-fernando-abad.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies on Saturday added to their stock of reliever candidates with the signing of veteran left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor-league contract. Abad will report to big-league camp and compete for a job on the 25-man roster.

The Phillies are likely to have an eight-man bullpen. The addition of Abad gives the Phillies four left-handed relief candidates. Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis are all on the 40-man roster. 

Morgan and Milner both shined in the second half of 2017. Morgan recorded a 1.69 ERA in 21 games over the final two months. He pitched 26 2/3 innings over that span, allowed just 16 hits and five runs, struck out 33 and walked six. Milner gave up just two runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last 27 games. He struck out 15 and managed to pitch around 12 walks. He was tough on lefty hitters (.159), but struggled against righties (.377). Curtis was a late-season waiver claim from Seattle. He pitched in just three games with the Phillies. 

Abad, 32, is an eight-year major-league veteran who has made stops in Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota and Boston. He had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season and lefties hit .227 off him.

From the right side, the Phillies have some bullpen depth with closer Hector Neris, veteran setup men Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos. Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominquez are also on the 40-man roster. 

Dominguez hit 100 mph on the radar gun as a starter last season and is being converted to the bullpen. He is likely to open the season at Double A Reading, but “could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The list of bullpen candidates also includes two veterans on minor-league contracts: Pedro Beato and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter is a 16-year veteran who has racked up 437 saves – fourth-most all-time – in his career. Rodriguez was released by the Tigers and Nationals last summer and is trying to make the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to big-league camp.