alec asher

Phillies trade Alec Asher, release Chris Coghlan as roster comes into focus

Phillies trade Alec Asher, release Chris Coghlan as roster comes into focus

Updated: 3:20 p.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies' opening day roster continues to take shape.

On Tuesday, the club eliminated one candidate for a spot on the bench when it released veteran outfielder/infielder Chris Coghlan from his minor-league contract.

Later Tuesday afternoon, the Phillies traded right-hander Alec Asher to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later. The team still has roster questions on the bench and in the bullpen.

Coghlan had been a candidate for one of two remaining spots on the bench. His departure leaves Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin in the hunt for the final two jobs. There were indications Tuesday that the club was leaning toward carrying Stassi on the roster. The 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder has had a strong camp. He has never played in the majors.

Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Andrew Knapp already appear to be locks for the bench.

There are two openings in the bullpen with Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Cesar Ramos in the hunt.

The Asher trade creates an opening on the Phillies' 40-man roster, which would help them fit Stassi and/or Nava onto the team. Neither is currently on the 40.

Asher, 25, was one of five minor-leaguers the Phillies acquired from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

He posted a 2.30 ERA in eight minor-league starts (four at Double-A, four at Triple-A) last season before receiving an 80-game suspension for a positive PED test.

Upon his return, Asher was called up by the Phillies in September and went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in five starts.

Phillies 3, Red Sox 3: Bullpen auditions continue with personnel meeting looming

Phillies 3, Red Sox 3: Bullpen auditions continue with personnel meeting looming

BOX SCORE

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phillies officials have a big personnel powwow on Sunday and one of the matters that will be discussed is who gets the final two bullpen jobs.

With evaluation time dwindling, the Phils used Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox as an opportunity to look at Alec Asher, Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez, all candidates to win a job in the bullpen.

"They all got a lot of work," manager Pete Mackanin said after the Phillies played to a 3-3 tie with the Red Sox.

The right-hander Asher worked three innings and gave up three hits and two runs.

The lefty Morgan worked three innings and allowed a solo homer.

The lefty Rodriguez worked two innings, gave up a hit and struck out three.

"To hold the Red Sox to three runs is pretty nice, especially in this ballpark," Mackanin said. "They had their guys in there and we held them down."

Morgan has allowed just one run over six innings his last two outings.

"He has changed speeds well last two times out," Mackanin said. "That's how he needs to pitch."

The Phillies have five spots set in their bullpen with Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Edubray Ramos. They are all right-handers. The final two spots will likely come down to Morgan, Asher, Rodriguez and Luis Garcia, who are all on the 40-man roster. That is an important consideration because the Phils would like to keep their 40-man roster subtractions to a minimum. There is an outside chance they could go with an eight-man bullpen, though that might be tough in the National League, where a full bench comes in handy. That will be discussed Sunday.

The makeup of the bench will also be discussed Sunday. Andrew Knapp's place on the 40-man roster will help his chance of being the backup catcher. Veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday both can opt of their contracts in the next few days if they are not going to make the club. Utility man Chris Coghlan also has an opt-out coming. Daniel Nava and Brock Stassi are also candidates for what looks like two remaining spots on the bench. Nava does not have an opt-out until June. Stassi is under control and would have to accept an assignment to the minors if he does not make the club.

Infielder Jesmuel Valentin is also still in camp. He is on the 40-man roster. The question is whether the team wants to carry the 22-year-old as an extra man or get him regular reps at second base in Triple-A. Valentin is 11 for 31 (.355) this spring. He hit his fifth double on Saturday.

"He swings the bat really well from the right side," Mackanin said. "He's got some work to do from the left side. He's got good actions and instincts. In a short period of time, he's made a good impression on me and I think he can be a major-league player."

The game
The Phillies had 12 hits but scored just three runs. They have scored just 10 runs over the last four games.

"We just can't accumulate a lot of runs," Mackanin said.

The Phils were last in the majors with 610 runs last season.

The Phillies tied the game in the top of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Coghlan.

Mackanin tried to suicide-squeeze home the go-ahead run, but Roman Quinn popped up the bunt.

Colton Murray preserved the tie with a clean bottom of the ninth.

Former Phillie Kyle Kendrick pitched six innings of two-run ball for Boston. He walked none and struck out six. Kendrick projects to open the season at Triple-A, but is No. 6 on the Red Sox's starting pitching depth chart and is likely to see big-league at some point this season.

Up next
The Phillies host the Pirates on Sunday. Clay Buchholz will make the start against right-hander Josh Lindblom, who spent time with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino trade in 2012.

Phillies 9, Twins 5: Adam Morgan impresses, offense rallies for 6 in ninth

Phillies 9, Twins 5: Adam Morgan impresses, offense rallies for 6 in ninth

BOX SCORE

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Phillies held what looked like an audition for the role of long reliever on Tuesday.

Adam Morgan acquitted himself quite well with three scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins.

Jake Thompson, a long shot for the role, also worked three scoreless innings and did a good job pitching out of trouble when his command abandoned him in the third inning.

Alec Asher, meanwhile, was hit hard. He allowed two homers and gave up five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on his way to losing a three-run lead.

The Phillies came back with six runs in the top of the ninth inning to win, 9-5.

Five of the seven jobs in the Phillies' bullpen are basically set with Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit, Edubray Ramos and Pat Neshek (see 25-man projection).

Morgan, Asher, Luis Garcia and Joely Rodriguez are the top candidates for the remaining two slots. Thompson has received some light consideration, but he really needs to go to Triple-A and work as a starter. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos are also in the mix, but could end up on the outside looking in because they are not on the 40-man roster and the Phils have little flexibility there.

Morgan did not hurt his chances on being a lefty long man with his performance Tuesday. He allowed a leadoff double, but pitched out of trouble. In all, he gave up a hit, a walk and struck out two.

Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure want to see Morgan use more finesse -- soft stuff in fastball counts -- in his repertoire and the pitcher did that in this outing.

"He pitched the way we would like to see him pitch," Mackanin said. "He really had a good mixture of soft and hard. He kind of pitched backward today, which I think he's going to have to do to be successful. He showed us he can do that so that was encouraging.

"He upset the timing of hitters. That's why he was effective.

"I want to see him a few more times. He needs to pitch the remainder of the spring the way he pitched today."

Life on the bubble of a big-league roster in the final days of camp can be stressful. Morgan learned to handle it last year when he pitched well as a starter only to end up opening the season in Triple-A.

"I'm not getting too high or too low," Morgan said. "Last year I was like, 'I've got a shot, I've got a shot,' and then … So, really I'm just taking it one day at a time, trying to do my best out there. Just see how the chips fall.

"You have to check your ego at the door. In my case, you're never solidified into a spot. So I just come in and do the best I can."

The offense ...
Well, it was productive.

The Phils had 15 hits in the game, including a pair of homers by Freddy Galvis and Aaron Altherr. Altherr's homer started a six-run rally in the ninth. Roman Quinn tied the game with a pinch-hit double and Odubel Herrera singled home the go-ahead run with his second hit of the day (more on Herrera here).

"It was good to score a lot of runs," Mackanin said.

Mr. Versatility
Howie Kendrick started at second base.

He will likely get a start at third base before camp ends. He also might get some reps at first base.

"He's our primary left fielder," Mackanin said. "But we want to get him some time in the infield in case a need ever arises."

Kendrick has primarily been a second baseman during his 11 seasons in the majors. He played 94 games in the outfield with the Dodgers last season. The Phillies traded for him to be their left fielder.

Up next
Vince Velasquez opposes Masahiro Tanaka when the Yankees visit Clearwater on Wednesday.