Phillies

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

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Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The numbering is a little off in the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse. Usually lockers are assigned in numerical sequence, clockwise around the room. But this spring, No. 41 comes immediately after No. 7.

Why?

Because that’s the way Carlos Santana wanted it.

“I told the team that I wanted Maikel Franco right next to me,” the new first baseman said after his first workout with the club Saturday. “That's something that I wanted. I really like him. He's a special kid. I appreciate him a lot. And, not only him, the whole group is nice. But I really want to work with him and help him out.”

Santana, 31, and Franco, 25, are both natives of the Dominican Republic. They bonded this winter. After Santana signed with the Phillies in December, he worked out at the Phillies' academy in the DR with Franco.

It’s no secret this is a big year for Franco (see story). He needs to finally put together his potential or the team may look elsewhere – hello, Manny Machado – for its next third baseman.

Franco’s big area of need is Santana’s area of strength: Plate discipline. Santana walks almost as much as he strikes out. He has registered a career on-base percentage of .365 while averaging 24 homers over the last seven seasons. Franco has pop – he has hit 25 and 24 homers, respectively, the last two seasons – but his career on-base percentage is just .300 after a dip to .281 last season.

Santana has reached at least 100 walks twice in his career and at least 91 four other times. Franco had a career-best 41 walks last season.

Santana praised Victor Martinez for being a mentor to him early in his career. “That’s why I wear No. 41,” he said. Santana wants to be Franco’s Victor Martinez.

“We’re going to work together every single day,” Santana said. “We’re going to make sure he executes the plan he wants to follow. I know he’s a guy that’s very talented and he’s capable of a lot. So I’m going to be there. I’m committed to helping him. I’m going to be in the cage, hitting as many balls as possible. He already told me today that he wants to follow me everywhere he goes. If I have to go to the cage he’s going to go with me to hit some balls. He’s committed and I’m committed, too.”

The Phillies have baseball’s second-worst on-base percentage (.307, San Diego is .303) the last six seasons. The additions of Santana and J.P. Crawford to the lineup – and a full season of Rhys Hoskins, another selective hitter – should help the offense.

“When you have a guy (like Santana) in the middle of the lineup, grinding down the opposing pitcher – just imagine, you’re a pitcher on the other side and you’re delivering pitch after pitch that’s getting fouled off or a ball that is just off the corner and being taken, you get exhausted,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Guess who benefits from that? The next man up and the next man up and there’s this ripple effect. An exhausted starting pitcher or even an exhausted reliever is a really good thing for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in December. He said the Phillies’ young core reminds him of the group of youngsters that his former team, the Cleveland Indians, brought to the majors in recent seasons.

Unlike a number of other free agents who are still jobless in this unusual year for free agents, Santana jumped relatively early at the Phillies’ offer. He said it was “shocking” that so many free agents remain unsigned.

“I know baseball is going through a difficult time right now, with all of the free agents,” Santana said. “But it worked out for me. I am happy. I can only speak for myself, and I am happy I did it the way I did it. It's very surprising because there are a lot of talented free agents out there. I thought it would be very different from what it's been.”

To prepare for the new season and the new team, Santana worked with a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. In one of the drills, he was forced to push a car.

“It was a complete workout,” he said. “It wasn't only to get ready for preseason, it was also to get ready for the season and be successful during the season.

“It's a positive atmosphere here. I see a lot of young guys, very hungry and very eager to win. You can tell everyone is ready to go here.”

J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

J.P. Crawford is headed back to the disabled list. The 23-year-old infielder suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday night by St. Louis right-hander Luke Weaver. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford would be out four to six weeks.

Crawford already missed five weeks earlier this season with a forearm strain. He came off the disabled list on June 6 and had been getting an extended look at third base.

Crawford’s latest injury means Maikel Franco will likely get another full-time chance at third base. Franco had lost reps to Crawford recently.

The Phillies did not immediately announce a replacement for Crawford on the roster. Outfielder Dylan Cozens could be a possibility. He is on the DL with a quadriceps injury.

Crawford was hit in the fourth inning. He was not available for comment after the game. He is hitting .194 in 34 games.

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Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

BOX SCORE

It was another bad night for the Phillies’ bullpen Tuesday. Three more runs allowed, another blown lead, another home run. For the month of June, Phillies relievers have a 6.17 ERA and they have given up 64 hits, including a majors-high 13 home runs, in 54 innings.

Things have turned so badly for the bullpen that now even dashing debutant Seranthony Dominguez is giving up killer hits.

The hard-throwing rookie right-hander surrendered a tie-breaking, solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter in the top of the ninth inning as the Phillies blew a late two-run lead in what ended up a 7-6 loss (see first take).

Dominguez, brought in after Rhys Hoskins tied the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth, struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Carpenter, looking like a man who knew what was coming, unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the wall in right. Dominguez didn’t want to climb the ladder on Carpenter. He didn’t want to throw his slider. He wanted to get him out with a fastball on the inside part of the plate. He missed his spot and allowed his first homer in 22 1/3 innings as a big-leaguer.

Dominguez might have been guilty of being a little too proud of his fastball, thinking he could get it by Carpenter.

“I don’t think it was a rookie mistake at all,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the 0-2 fastball. “I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It’s just imperfect. If you can rewind time, maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate and maybe then it’s foul. This is a game of inches and we’ve seen that over the last couple of days.”

Indeed, the Phillies won Monday night’s game in extra innings when Aaron Altherr’s go-ahead double fell just in front of a diving Marcell Ozuna in left.

Earlier Tuesday night, Carpenter tagged a 1-0 curveball from Tommy Hunter for a game-tying, two-run double with two outs in the seventh. That hit was the first of three straight against Hunter as the Cards rallied for four runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.

Hunter, in the first year of a two-year, $18 million contract, picked up Vince Velasquez in the inning after Velasquez had given up a single and hit a batter. Hunter got the first out before Carpenter tagged an 0-1 curveball for a game-tying hit.

“I had a lot of confidence in Tommy to get us out of that jam and their hitters did a really good job tonight,” Kapler said. “We just got beat by some good hitters tonight.”

It seems every night brings a new bullpen drama for this team. But management remains confident in the group. General manager Matt Klentak said so before the game (see story). He even singled out Hunter, who entered with a 4.05 ERA in 24 games, as possibly having the best year of his career. Even after the game, Kapler remained steadfastly confident in the bullpen. In recent days, he has been asked about possible upgrades. He believes the Phillies can solve their problems with the relievers that are currently here. 

“Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense and I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success,” Kapler said. “I’m very confident in our bullpen, too, for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That’s why we went out and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense.”

Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana homered to help the Phils build a 4-2 lead for Velasquez. He allowed those two base runners with one out in the seventh to make Hunter’s job a little more difficult.

“Vince threw his tail off,” Hunter said. “But you know, it's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to get that done right there. It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through. That's pretty much the whole gist of it.”

The loss left the Phillies at 38-33 and the bullpen licking its wounds.

The Phils also lost J.P. Crawford to a broken left hand (see story).

“Frustrating game to lose, obviously,” Kapler said.

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