Phillies

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

BOX SCORE

There’s nowhere to hide when you’re a professional athlete and things aren’t going well on the field.

Particularly in Philadelphia.

Adam Morgan said he did not hear the boos when he trotted in from the bullpen with the game on the line in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon. He was just focused on one thing — retiring Matt Carpenter, no easy task considering the St. Louis Cardinals’ leadoff man had almost personally beaten the Phillies the previous night.

Morgan was booed because the fans at Citizens Bank Park did not have much faith in him and his 15.75 ERA in the month of June. But manager Gabe Kapler had faith in Morgan and the pitcher had faith in himself. With the tying run standing on second base, Morgan retired the dangerous duo of Carpenter and Tommy Pham to wrap up a tense 4-3 win over the Cardinals (see first take).

The boos turned to cheers as Morgan became the seventh reliever to earn a save this season in Kapler’s be-ready-for-anything-boys bullpen.

After the game, Brother Gabe raved about Morgan’s perseverance and the job he did against “an incredible hitter” in Carpenter.

“Mo had a lot of poise and confidence and we went with our gut there and it worked out well for him,” Kapler said. “I’m so happy for him. He’s battled through a lot of struggles.”

The struggles included giving up a grand slam to lose a game in Wrigley Field and allowing a game-tying hit in the ninth inning of a game the Phillies eventually won Monday night.

Morgan is a humble Southern gentleman, a man of few words. Kapler is a loquacious Southern Californian. The manager put into words Morgan's escape from the abyss better than the pitcher.

“I think it’s a series of adjustments,” Kapler said. “It’s looking himself in the mirror. It’s having heart-to-heart talks with a lot of our staff and his teammates. It’s some trial and error. It’s getting through it by pitching and getting off the mound, and when I say that I mean practice on the mound, not just the game situations, finding himself through bullpen sessions, and a lot of hard work from (pitching coaches) Rick Kranitz and Chris Young. But ultimately the credit goes to Mo for what he did today.”

Morgan kept the ball from the final out as a souvenir of his first big-league save.

“It feels good,” he said. “It feels good to get a win. It feels good to go out there in any situation and get a win.

“I’ve struggled, but it’s never as bad as it is and it’s never as good as it is. You just have to keep going after it and working. You can’t quit. That’s not going to help anything.”

The Phillies got a big two-run homer from Cesar Hernandez in the fourth inning and a tie-breaking homer from smokin' Odubel Herrera in the seventh. With Seranthony Dominguez unavailable, Kapler used Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Morgan to navigate the final three innings after Jake Arrieta exited a 3-3 game.

Arano started the ninth with a one-run lead and exited after allowing a one-out double. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Morgan used a slider to get Carpenter to pop out to third baseman Maikel Franco for the second out. (Franco made a long run into foul territory to make the play.) Morgan then got Pham on a ground ball to end the game.

Would Kapler still have gone to Morgan if there were two outs and no one on base?

“It’s a possibility,” Kapler said. “We’re reading and reacting to what’s happening on the field, so because there’s not an alternate universe, I can’t tell you for sure.”

One thing that could be said for sure is that the Phillies have won three straight series. They hadn’t beaten the Cardinals in a series since 2014. They blew leads in all three games, but got the job done.

“This was an emotional series for us because there’s a roller-coaster ride happening out there and we were put in some tough spots,” Kapler said. “We had some leads go back and forth in this series. That lineup is super tough. To have our pitchers run through them today was really impressive.”

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No more pain for Cesar Hernandez, an edge for Andrew Knapp, more from Phillies' first full-squad workout

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No more pain for Cesar Hernandez, an edge for Andrew Knapp, more from Phillies' first full-squad workout

CLEARWATER, Fla. — When it comes to the Phillies’ pursuit of you-know-who and you-know-who, Cesar Hernandez can’t help but be a little greedy.

“I don’t have a preference,” the veteran second baseman said. “Everyone knows that they’re really, really good players. If it’s one of them, it’s one of them. If we can get both of them, I’ll take both of them.”

The Phillies held their first full-squad workout on the fields at Carpenter Complex on Monday. Off the field, attention being paid to the team’s pursuit of free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper continued to climb toward a boiling point. The Phils remain in talks with both players and are eager to get a deal with whoever comes and gets it.

Hernandez, 28, arrived in camp with manager Gabe Kapler’s faith as a leadoff man (see story) and a healthy right foot. He broke the foot on a foul ball last July and played through it.

“I’m not going to lie, it was tough playing with a broken foot,” he said. “It affected me every single way. But I was able to tolerate the pain. I had to because I wanted to help the team and I was able to make it through.”

Hernandez’ play suffered because of the injury. He finished with a .253 batting average, down from .294 the previous season, and his OPS dropped to .718 from .793. He struck out a career-high 155 times. Despite his struggles, he walked a career-high 95 times and maintained a solid .356 on-base percentage.

Hernandez has played with several different shortstops — Freddy Galvis, Scott Kingery, Asdrubal Cabrera — the last two seasons. He is eager play with newcomer Jean Segura and will spend the spring building a bond.

Who's the backup catcher?

Manager Gabe Kapler said Andrew Knapp was “in the driver’s seat,” to be the backup catcher. Veteran newcomer Drew Butera, who signed a minor-league contract earlier this month, will also be in the hunt for the job. Knapp appeared in 53 games behind the plate last season.

Rodriguez hurting

Veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez, in camp on a minor-league deal, did not participate in workouts Monday because of a sore knee. Kapler said Rodriguez was getting the knee checked.

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Inquisitive Phillies catching prospect Deivi Grullon shines early in camp

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Inquisitive Phillies catching prospect Deivi Grullon shines early in camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Just before 9 o’clock Monday morning, Deivi Grullon rose from his seat in the Phillies clubhouse, walked over to Jake Arrieta and asked if he had a minute.

Grullon, a young catcher in his first big-league camp, proceeded to pepper the former Cy Young Award winner with questions.

“It was an interesting conversation,” Grullon said through Spanish-language translator Diego Ettedgui later in the day. “I’m trying to learn as much as possible.”

Grullon spoke the word esponja.

Sponge.

It might have taken a little nerve for Grullon to approach Arrieta, but he explained that he has been encouraged to build a bond with pitchers. The day before, Grullon had been in the video room watching tape of Arrieta pitching in a game last season. He was curious about Arrieta’s thought process in attacking right-handed hitters with his sinker and was eager to learn about it, just in case he found himself catching the pitcher this spring. Arrieta was gracious and more than willing to fill up the sponge. During the conversation, Arrieta reached into his locker, grabbed a baseball and showed Grullon several different pitch grips.

The early-morning clubhouse scene proved to be a fitting backdrop to the day because, later on, manager Gabe Kapler raved about what he’d seen from Grullon in the first week of workouts. Kapler had been impressed by Grullon’s raw power — especially to the opposite field — at the plate and his willingness to work hard on framing pitches behind it.

“There had been a little bit of information presented to me that his concentration level waned from time to time,” Kapler said. “I have not seen that. I have actually seen the concentration super high. The work he’s done with (catching instructors) Craig Driver and Bob Stumpo has been really good. They’ve seen improvement in just four or five days.

“This is a guy that from a raw talent perspective, our player development staff has been excited about for a couple of years. He’s kind of stood out so far.”

Grullon, who turned 23 earlier this week, is powerfully built at 5-10 and 235 pounds. He was signed for $575,000 out of the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2012. The Phillies have long liked the power in his bat and in his throwing arm. He had a strong season at Double-A Reading in 2018, hitting .273 with a .825 OPS, 21 homers and 59 RBIs in 326 at-bats.

The Phils rolled the dice and left Grullon unprotected in the Rule 5 draft in December. No team selected him and he is slated to be the No. 1 catcher at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season. It will be a good test and if he passes it, the Phillies will likely have to protect him next winter.

In the meantime, Grullon is happy to be in his first big-league camp, happy to be making an impression and soaking up all the knowledge he can.

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