Phillies

Clay Buchholz is embracing leadership role on young Phillies' staff

Clay Buchholz is embracing leadership role on young Phillies' staff

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- At age 32 and with 10 years of big-league service time, Clay Buchholz is the elder statesman of the Phillies' starting pitching staff.

The distinction comes with a responsibility to lead and Buchholz is ready for that role.

"It comes with the territory," the right-hander said after his second start of the spring with his new club Sunday (see story). "If you're lucky enough to be around the big leagues for an extended period of time you know what you have to do. I'm looking forward to it."

The Phillies acquired Buchholz in a December trade with the Boston Red Sox. Three weeks into his first camp with the Phils, Buchholz has been impressed with some of the young arms he now shares a clubhouse with.

He mentioned Vince Velasquez, in particular.

"I like Velasquez," Buchholz said. "That's who I've played catch with every day since I got here. Just watching him on TV over the last few years, he's got electric stuff. If he can learn how to harness it all … Stuff plays at the major-league level if you command it.

"That's with all the kids coming up now throwing 100 miles per hour. There are some arms coming up around the league that are just electric and I think Vinny is one of those guys who could open a lot of eyes this year."

Buchholz described what it's like to simply play catch with Velasquez, who had a 16-strikeout game last season.

"You see how the ball comes out of his hand, the backspin, the movement, and he's not even trying to make it move, that's just the way it comes out of his hand," Buchholz said. "That's when you've got something special."

Buchholz hopes to impart on Velasquez and others some of the lessons that he learned over his 10 seasons in the baseball cauldron that is Boston. Buchholz enjoyed the highs of pitching a no-hitter in the second big-league start of his career and the lows of losing his spot in the rotation (he ultimately regained it) a decade later.

Playing under the microscope in Boston taught Buchholz the importance of having a short memory -- the ol' never get too high when things are going well or too low when they're going bad thingy. It also taught him the importance of focus.

"I talk to (Velasquez) every day," Buchholz said. "It's more about coming from an organization where everything is so magnified and you're expected to win every year. From my short time here, it's a little more relaxed than Boston was, even in spring. It's easier to work on things without having to answer a whole lot of questions and dwelling on them and that's what I'm trying to express to these guys: You have to work every day and even if it's relaxed you've got to take it at game speed and that's how you get better."

Velasquez, 24, struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings over 24 starts last season. He is one of three starters 26 and under in the Phillies' rotation, joining 23-year-old Aaron Nola and 26-year-old Jerad Eickhoff.

"It's something different than what I've seen the past nine or 10 years," Buchholz said. "It's always been a big veteran presence and to come into a place where the average age is 24, 25 years old, it's a little different.

"It's fun to be around them, fun to be around a new group of guys. I think this team is headed in the right direction."

Jean Segura hustles when he needs to and that's OK with Jake Arrieta

Jean Segura hustles when he needs to and that's OK with Jake Arrieta

PITTSBURGH — Jean Segura has jogged into the crosshairs of Philadelphia fans a couple of times this season for not hustling down the first base line. One of his infractions was magnified because it came on the play in which the highly respected Andrew McCutchen suffered a season-ending knee injury back in early June.

So it was all a little ironic that Segura helped the Phillies win an important ballgame Friday night in the very ballpark where McCutchen won the 2013 National League MVP award while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Segura beat out a potential inning-ending double play ball in the seventh inning and that set the table for Bryce Harper’s tie-breaking hit in the Phillies’ 6-1 win over the Pirates.

An inning after extending the seventh for the red-hot Harper — he has five two-hit games and eight RBIs since the All-Star break — Segura entertained everyone in the ballpark with a grueling 13-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off nine pitches. The at-bat ended with his legging out an infield hit with the bases loaded to turn what was a one-run lead into a two-run lead. The Phillies poured it on after that.

After the game, everyone from manager Gabe Kapler to starting pitcher Jake Arrieta was buzzing about Segura’s at-bat and his hustle.

“You can summarize the game by that at-bat, really,” Arrieta said. “Against a bullpen guy (Kyle Crick) that's got a really, really good slider and a mid- to upper-90s fastball.

“Look, Segura strained his hamstring early in the season. He's our everyday shortstop. The hustle thing, I think, is a little overblown because you hit a routine groundball to the infield, guys in the big leagues make that play. So, what's the point of being out by two steps versus three or four steps? That doesn't concern us here. He has the understanding and the awareness to know when to really get after it. That at-bat tonight, that groundball is one of those times. I don't want to see him running 100 percent to first base every time. None of the other guys in here do. But in the right situation, like tonight, he does it and it paid off for us.”

It was pointed out to Arrieta that Philadelphia fans don’t always approve of the type of selective hustle he spoke about.

“But the fans also want him on the field every night so you have to understand the guy at shortstop on the other team is making a ton of money and if the ball's hit to him, he fields it cleanly, he's out,” Arrieta said. “I don't care who's running, if it's Billy Hamilton or Roman Quinn or Scott Kingery. The out is usually made. I think people need to understand that. It might not look great, but big-league shortstops, big-league infielders, they field the ball cleanly and they record the out 99 percent of the time. Segura’s got a really good feel for the game and he knows when he needs to really get after it.”

The Pirates challenged the bang-bang call on Segura’s infield hit in the eighth. He beat it by a hair.

“Segura just grinded and grinded and grinded,” Kapler said. “The hustle was off the charts. Both beating out the double play ball and he broke right out of the box, never hesitated, smelled the hit, gave us everything he had, and beat it out. It was a huge play in the game.”

Segura has been playing in recent days with a bruised left heel.

“I do my best,” he said. “I’m still sore a little bit. At the end of the day, I had to hustle and get down the line because the bases are loaded and we’re up only 2-1 in the eighth inning. That’s huge for us. It got us a couple more runs.

“That’s baseball. You play through injuries. You play through pain. It made me feel even better because I know my teammates are behind me and they see that.”

Arrieta is also playing through some discomfort. Pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow, he was able to give his team 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He lobbied Kapler to stay in the game with the bases loaded and the game tied in the sixth inning. Kapler won the debate, Juan Nicasio doused the threat and Harper gave the Phils the lead in the seventh.

The Phillies are 4-4 since the All-Star break.

The Pirates are 1-6.

The Phillies, still trying to right themselves after six weeks of hell that dropped them from first place to third in the NL East, need to continue to pour it on Saturday night behind Zach Eflin and an offense that is starting to warm again.

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Phillies 6, Pirates 1: Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper and Jean Segura's hustle lift Phillies to win

Phillies 6, Pirates 1: Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper and Jean Segura's hustle lift Phillies to win

BOX SCORE 

PITTSBURGH — Bryce Harper had another big hit. Jean Segura had the at-bat of the season. Adam Haseley stood out on both sides of the ball. Jake Arrieta and the bullpen got it done on the mound.

The Phillies made it two wins in a row and improved to 4-4 since the All-Star break with team-effort, 6-1, win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Friday night.

Harper, who tied the game with a hit in the seventh inning of Thursday’s win over the Dodgers, this time had the go-ahead hit with two outs in the seventh.

Harper is heating up. He has had two hits in five of the eight games the Phils have played since the All-Star break. In those eight games, he has four doubles and eight RBIs.

The Phils are 51-47.

The Pirates are 1-6 since the break.

Arrieta’s night

Though he did not pitch deep into the game, Arrieta did a solid job with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. In two starts since it was confirmed that he is pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow, Arrieta has pitched 10 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs.

Arrieta threw 87 pitches and got just four swinging strikes. He was able to throw his curveball, a pitch that had previously aggravated his elbow, with some success.

Bad clutch early

The Phillies had the bases loaded and one out in the first inning and got nothing. They ran into an out on the bases after a one-out double in the fourth and left runners on the corners in the sixth when Maikel Franco went down on a disputed 0-2 check-swing.

The Phils finally got a big hit with men on base when Harper laced a first-pitch single to left-center with two outs in the seventh to score Brad Miller (one-out pinch-hit single) with the tie-breaking run.

And then in the eighth …

Segura turned in what may have been the Phillies’ best at-bat of the season when he went toe-to-toe with reliever Kyle Crick for 13 pitches — Segura fouled off nine of them — before stroking an RBI infield hit to the right side to give the Phils a 3-1 lead.

Huge out

Manager Gabe Kapler lifted Arrieta for Juan Nicasio with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the sixth. Nicasio then retired dangerous Kevin Newman on a bouncer back to the mound to end the Pirates’ threat.

Arrieta had gotten the first two outs of the frame before allowing a walk and a ringing double to Colin Moran. It was a good thing Moran hit the ball hard off the wall — and a good thing centerfielder Scott Kingery made such a quick retrieval of the ball off the wall — because Josh Bell, the runner at first, had to hold at third. Arrieta then intentionally walked the bases full before Kapler went to Nicasio.

An underappreciated pickup

The Phillies swapped relievers and sent Luis Garcia to Anaheim for lefty Jose Alvarez in the offseason. Alvarez has been a nice pickup. He protected a one-run lead with a scoreless frame in the bottom of the seventh. Eleven of his last 12 appearances have been scoreless, including his last seven.

Cole Irvin got the final six outs.

Hey, Haseley

Rookie outfielder Adam Haseley returned for his second stint in the majors six days ago when Sean Rodriguez went on the IL. Haseley, who turned 23 in April, is a developing player who needs to be on the field. The injury to Jay Bruce has allowed him that time in left field.

Haseley had an impressive game on both sides of the ball. He made a nice play in left field to gun down Moran as he tried to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning.

In the fifth inning, he showed off his power with a game-tying solo homer to center. Pirates starter Jordan Lyles challenged Haseley with a 93-mph fastball on an 0-2 count and Haseley crushed it 402 feet for the second homer of his big-league career. He hit his first in Thursday’s win over the Dodgers.

Haseley added an RBI double as the Phils turned it into a rout in the ninth.

Health check

Reliever David Robertson (elbow injury) continues to make progress toward a return. He will face hitters in a live batting practice session in Clearwater on Saturday and then again on Wednesday, if all goes well. The Phils hope to have Robertson for most of the final two months.

Up next

Zach Eflin (7-9, 4.16) will oppose right-hander Joe Musgrove (6-8, 4.31) on Saturday night. Trevor Williams was the Pirates’ scheduled starter, but he has been scratched with what the team called “severe flu-like symptoms.”

Drew Smyly, whose signing will become official Saturday or Sunday, will start for the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.

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