Minnesota Twins

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

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Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition


FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.

MLB Notes: Giants say they have potential deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton

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MLB Notes: Giants say they have potential deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants general manager Bobby Evans confirmed on San Francisco's flagship radio station KNBR that the club has reached the parameters of a potential trade for Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Evans said Giants executives gathered with the NL MVP and his representatives in "a good meeting" last week.

"The specifics of the deal are not something that we feel comfortable discussing, but ultimately our hope is that if he does choose to come here, we'll be able to fold him in with a winning club," Evans said Wednesday. "In terms of our deal it just has a number of contingencies, one of course that's paramount is relative to his full no trade and that's a decision that really comes from him. But our terms with the Marlins are clear."

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said Tuesday that Miami has not decided whether to trade Stanton, still owed $295 million over the final decade of his record $325 million, 13-year contract. When asked specifically about absorbing the majority of that contract, Evans didn't address it.

Stanton is due to make $25 million in 2018 after he led the majors with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs this season.

"He has a contract already in front of him," Evans said. "He's got a home there, clearly has some ties to LA, so really it's his call as to ultimately what he wants to do. We were very impressed with him. He's obviously passionate about winning, he's passionate about the game and really presented himself extremely well. He had a lot of questions for us and I thought our meeting went well.

"But again it's a tough decision for him. He may take a lot of time before he's ready to make that call" (see full story).

Twins: Mariners, Angels get $1M for Ohtani pursuit
MINNESOTA -- The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels each have acquired $1 million in international bonus pool money from the Minnesota Twins, aiding their pursuit of Japanese outfielder and pitcher Shohei Ohtani.

The teams announced the deals Wednesday night. Seattle sent minor league catcher David Banuelos to Minnesota, while the Angels traded minor league outfielder Jacob Pearson to the Twins.

Seattle can now offer Ohtani $2,557,500 and Los Angeles can spend $2,315,000. The Texas Rangers have the most slot money available with $3,535,000. Seattle, Los Angeles and Texas are among seven teams believed to be in the running for Ohtani.

Minnesota had $3.07 million in bonus pool money before the trades, but it is not among the finalists in the Ohtani bidding.

Banuelos was a fifth-round draft pick this year from Long Beach State. He is considered a strong fielder and was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as one of the nation's top amateur catchers.

Pearson was Los Angeles' third-round selection this year.

Yankees: Boone knows he must prove himself
NEW YORK -- Aaron Boone was pulling into the driveway of his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, last Thursday, bringing 8-year-old daughter Bella home from school so his wife could drive her to a dance lesson, and he noticed a missed call from Brian Cashman.

Boone called back the New York Yankees general manager as his wife looked on and said Cashman told him: "Hey, just first and foremost, I want to make sure you're completely on board and understanding the commitment level that is now expected of you."

"If that's the case," Boone recalled Cashman saying, "I'm going to recommend to ownership that you're the guy we move forward and focus on."

And with that, at age 44 Boone had secured his first manager or coaching job of any kind since his retirement as a player eight years ago.

Boone was introduced Wednesday as New York's manager during a news conference at Yankee Stadium, where televisions throughout the ballpark showed images of him rounding the bases in triumph after his 11th-inning home run off Boston's Tim Wakefield won Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series for New York.

"It's certainly something that I'm known for in my baseball life, obviously, and in some way probably is a contributor to me being here today," he said (see full story).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees rally to beat Twins in AL wild-card game

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees rally to beat Twins in AL wild-card game


NEW YORK -- Minutes into the playoff debut for these young New York Yankees, they trailed Minnesota by three runs. Their starting pitcher lasted just one out. A sellout crowd was stunned.

Could their postseason be over almost before it began?

Nope. A strange AL wild-card game was only just beginning.

"We've had a quite a few games where we've gotten down early," Aaron Judge said. "Just keep battling. Just stay calm. Just play your game, and good things will happen."

Judge, Didi Gregorius and a brilliant bullpen rescued New York and lifted the Yankees to their first postseason victory in five years.

Gregorius' three-run homer tied the score in the first inning after Minnesota knocked out Luis Severino, a pumped-up Judge showed his most emotion this season when he hit a two-run shot in his playoff debut and the Yankees beat the Twins 8-4 Tuesday night. New York plays the Indians in a best-of-five Division Series starting Thursday.

"We're not done yet," Judge said. "We've just got to keep it rolling in Cleveland."

Brett Gardner also homered for the Yankees, who chased Ervin Santana after two innings and once again eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs.

Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman combined for 8 2/3 innings of one-run, five-hit relief, striking out 13 to tie the postseason record for a bullpen.

"It was just remarkable," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Twins manager Paul Molitor marveled at the Yankees relievers and Girardi's use of them over 142 pitches.

"He extended some guys probably past their comfort zone," the Hall of Famer said. "They still performed."

Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run and Eddie Rosario hit a two-run drive as the Twins burst to a quick lead.

But Santana went to full counts on eight of 11 batters, and he was removed after six outs and 64 pitches with the Twins trailing 4-3.

"It's the exhilaration of jumping out," Molitor said, "and then the deflation of giving it back so quickly."

Minnesota, the first team to follow a 100-loss season with a playoff appearance, lost its 13th consecutive postseason game, tying the record set by Boston from 1986-95. The Twins have been eliminated by the Yankees in five of their last six postseason appearances and have not won a playoff series since 2002.

"Nobody expected us to be here," Byron Buxton said. "That's an amazing achievement."

New York won nine regular-season games after trailing by three runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- including when Severino fell behind against the Twins on Sept. 20 as New York rebounded to complete a series sweep. Gregorius erased the deficit in this one four batters into the bottom of the first.

"I was hyped, and I tried to get the game going, tried to get the guys going," he said.

Judge, the 6-foot-7 sensation who set a rookie record with 52 home runs, was given a Ruthian ovation, with several sections of fans holding signs in his honor spelling out "All Rise!" He scored three runs, hitting a single to help ignite the first-inning rally, smoking a 108 mph home run off loser Jose Berrios in the fourth and walking in the seventh before coming home when Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded.

Judge shouted in excitement as he rounded first base after the homer, his face flush with emotion.

"This place was rocking. It was incredible," he said.

New York had made only one postseason appearance since 2012, losing the 2015 wild-card game to Houston 3-0. Just three Yankees who started that game were in the starting lineup, part of a Baby Bombers movement that purged the roster of veterans.

At 23, Severino was the youngest Yankees postseason starter since Andy Pettitte in 1995. The right-hander lasted only 29 pitches on a crisp autumn night and matched the Yankees' shortest postseason start, by Bob Turley in Game 2 of the 1958 World Series and Art Ditmar in the 1960 World Series opener.

Severino was shaking his head as walked to the dugout and Green replaced him with runners at second and third. Green struck out Buxton and Jason Castro , then fanned three in a row in the second.

"I think we're all ready to be in from the first to the ninth," Green said.

Robertson came in with the bases loaded in the third and allowed Buxton's RBI grounder , then struck out Castro.

Robertson tired in the sixth but earned the win, leaving after 52 pitches and 3 1/3 innings. His only longer professional outing was 3 2/3 innings for Double-A Trenton in April 2008.

Kahnle relieved with a runner on and retired Joe Mauer on a flyout to the warning track . After Kahnle threw 2 1/3 perfect innings , Chapman struck out three around a hit in the ninth.

A pitcher named Santana -- Johan Santana -- beat the Yankees for the Twins' last postseason win in 2004. But Ervin Santana's career postseason ERA climbed to 6.57, contributing to a first inning that lasted 45 minutes and three innings that took 1:43.

Gardner walked leading off, Judge poked a single to center and Gregorius lined a fastball over the right-field scoreboard. Brushed off the plate by a 2-2 pitch in the second, Gardner sent Santana's next offering into the second deck in right for a 4-3 lead.

Green struck out the side in the second, but left in the third after a leadoff single and two walks loaded the bases. Buxton hit into a run-scoring forceout before Robertson struck out Castro, and the Yankees went ahead for good in the bottom half when Gary Sanchez doubled off Berrios leading off and scored on Greg Bird's two-out single.

'"'I think we can win it all," Todd Frazier said after a draining game that took 3:51. "If we just keep doing what we've been doing, like we did today, sky's the limit."

Up next
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-12) is likely to start Thursday for the Yankees against the Indians and Trevor Bauer (17-9).