Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Phillies lose key reliever Edubray Ramos just ahead of trade deadline

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Phillies lose key reliever Edubray Ramos just ahead of trade deadline

The Edubray Ramos injury is going to hurt.

In Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader against the Padres, the Phillies lost Ramos, a key reliever this season, to a strained left patella tendon (see first take).

Ramos was placed on the DL in between games and Luis Garcia was activated after missing six weeks with a wrist injury. The Phillies also added hard-throwing right-handed reliever Yacksel Rios as the 26th man they're permitted in a doubleheader.

Gabe Kapler didn't have a specific timetable for Ramos' return, but looking at the history of patella tendon strains across the major sports, it seems to be a 4-to-6-week injury.

Losing Ramos for that time frame will weaken the Phillies' bullpen, there's no two ways about it. He has a 1.91 ERA in 39 appearances this season, and it was 1.11 before the final game of the first half.

But it goes beyond that. Kapler has used Ramos in a variety of roles — 14 of his 33 innings were appearances in the sixth and seventh; 17 were in the eighth and ninth.

On a lot of nights, Ramos was the first reliever Kapler would turn to in a medium-to-high-leverage situation.

With Ramos out, the Phillies' need for another reliever increases. Three very good relievers — Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand and Adam Cimber — are already off the market after trades this weekend. 

But relief help is typically the easiest kind to find at this time of the year. There are still a few elite relievers out there — Cincinnati's Raisel Iglesias, Pittsburgh's Felipe Vazquez, Miami's Kyle Barraclough — as well as setup men like Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates, Ryan Tepera, Tyler Clippard, Seunghwan Oh and Jake Diekman.

The return of Pat Neshek has certainly helped the Phils' bullpen, but beyond Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez, the Phillies don't really have a reliever they can trust to lock things down late in a game. Adding a reliever made sense even before the Ramos injury, but now, it would be pretty surprising if the Phillies didn't make an addition to the 'pen between now and July 31.

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Phillies' long day vs. Padres gets off to a ghastly start

Phillies' long day vs. Padres gets off to a ghastly start


Just as they did two weeks ago at Citi Field, the Phillies lost the first game of a doubleheader to a lowly opponent.

The Phils lost 10-2 to the Padres Sunday afternoon, a few hours before Game 2 of their split-admission doubleheader. 

Game 2 is set to begin at 6:05 p.m. and will pit Vince Velasquez (5-8, 4.39) against Luis Perdomo (1-4, 7.55).

Nick Pivetta got two quick outs in the first inning Sunday before allowing three runs. He settled in from there to retire 13 of the next 15 but encountered more trouble in the sixth. 

Pivetta struck out nine over 5⅓ innings but allowed eight hits and six runs (five earned). He is 6-8 with a 4.78 ERA. Since June 1, he has a 6.80 ERA in 10 games.

Ramos hurt

Edubray Ramos, a key reliever for the Phillies this season, left in the middle of an at-bat with a left patella tendon strain. Ramos tried to shake it off but was forced to exit in the sixth inning.

Ramos has been placed on the 10-day DL, allowing RHP Luis Garcia to be reinstated from the 10-day DL in his place. RHP Yacksel Rios will fill in as the 26th man for Game 2 of the doubleheader.

Losing Ramos for any period of time will hurt the Phillies' bullpen and heighten the need for GM Matt Klentak to go get a reliever ahead of the trade deadline. 

Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia are off the board, but there are still some high-quality options on the trade market: Zach Britton, Raisel Iglesias, Felipe Vazquez and Kyle Barraclough. The tier below would include Ryan Tepera, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Jake Diekman.

Ramos has a 1.91 ERA in 39 appearances this season. It was 1.11 prior to the first-half finale in Miami.

Hoskins the only standout

Rhys Hoskins homered (15) in the first inning and doubled (22) in the fifth, scoring both of the Phillies' runs. 

Excluding the 37 he hit in the Derby, it was Hoskins' first home run since June 29.

Hoskins is hitting .253/.365/.465 on the season and has not spent a single day all season with an OBP lower than .359.

Four months to forget for Altherr

This has not been a fun season for Aaron Altherr. He came in as a pinch-hitter Sunday with the bases loaded, one out in the seventh inning and the Phillies trailing by five runs. After working a 3-1 count, he swung through two fastballs to strike out.

Altherr is hitting .171 in 248 plate appearances, and he's also grounded into 12 double plays. It's the highest double-play rate of any player in the majors this season. Nobody with fewer than 315 plate appearances has grounded into as many double plays as Altherr.

Hat trick for Kingery

Scott Kingery entered Sunday hitting .240, the highest his batting average has been since April 21, which was 77 games ago.

Kingery struck out in each of his first three plate appearances, twice against starter Tyson Ross. In his second at-bat, Kingery chased a pitch well off the plate for strike three. In his third at-bat, he swung through a high fastball.

The Phillies view Kingery's future as bright, but there's no question they need more offense (and defense) from shortstop.

Davis looks like a keeper

The emergence of Austin Davis has been a pleasant surprise for a Phillies team that needs more lefty relief help.

Davis struck out three Padres in 1⅓ scoreless innings Sunday to lower his ERA to 3.14. He's struck out 20 in 14⅓ innings, and half of his 12 appearances have lasted longer than an inning.

Galvis hurts the Phils again

In his first series at Citizens Bank Park as a visiting player, Freddy Galvis has victimized the Phillies. 

Galvis' two-run single in the first inning off Pivetta was the Padres' biggest hit of the day. He went 3 for 4 with those two RBI and a run scored. On Friday, he went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI.

Galvis' offensive numbers this season are pretty much in line with his career numbers. They're also slightly better than what the Phillies have gotten out of shortstop. It made sense for the Phils to move on, but there's no question they miss his glove (see story)

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