Phillies

Kapler brings in the perfect man to drive home 'Be Bold' mentality

Kapler brings in the perfect man to drive home 'Be Bold' mentality

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies players were welcomed to spring training with an inspirational multi-media presentation and dinner (the menu included creamed spinach) at a Clearwater restaurant on Sunday night.

The welcome event continued Monday morning when Philadelphia’s most sought-after speaker walked into the clubhouse before the team’s first full-squad workout.

Two weeks after winning the Super Bowl and emphatically punctuating the victory parade with the most famous speech in the state of Pennsylvania since Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Eagles center Jason Kelce, already on vacation in the area, popped into camp to fire up the lads with a few words of wisdom.

“Champions have stories to share and they’re effective,” said new manager Gabe Kapler, who jumped at the chance to have Kelce stop by and speak to his team. “They’ve been through the ups and downs, they’ve displayed courageousness, they’ve come together as units, they’ve felt what it feels like to have people count them out and then they’ve proven them wrong.

“Jason’s message was tremendous. I don’t know that there was a No. 1 takeaway. I think there were eight to 10 takeaways and a lot of them have to do with it’s OK to fall down, be fearless, get back up, be bold and do it all over again. He referenced that several times.”

Being bold is the theme of Camp Kap. Before Monday’s workout, players were given red T-shirts emblazoned with the words Be Bold. The letters VAM – Value at the Margins – are on the sleeves. Kapler is stressing how small details can lead to big things in his first camp and bringing in Kelce for a visit was of them. So was Sunday night’s video presentation, produced by team officials Kevin Camiscioli and Dan Stephenson. The video featured victorious and inspirational moments from the Eagles, Flyers and Sixers. There was also some Rocky in there.

“We feel like we're in a partnership with the city, the fans and certainly the teams,” Kapler said. “You saw it today with Jason. He was part of our family.”

Kelce wore a red Phillies shirt, No. 62, of course, and a red Phillies cap. After speaking with the club, he had a picture taken with lookalike Cam Rupp – “He’s a thick boy and he’s got a good beard,” Kelce said – and took in the spirited two-hour workout.

“The environment was created by players,” Kapler said. “They came out and they gave us everything they had. We have high expectations. We expect you to come prepared. We expect you to come in and bust your ass and to come and do it the next day and they started off on the right foot.”

After the workout concluded with conditioning drills and yoga for some players, Kapler knelt in the outfield and spoke with three young players, Andrew Pullin, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery. Kapler spoke to them about balancing hard work with recovery. He talked about nutrition and maintaining healthy body fat to help ward off injury. He told them that it’s OK to indulge sometimes.

What are Gabe Kapler’s indulgences?

“An occasional glass of wine, scotch, steaks,” he said. “I really like creamy vegetable stuff. We had some creamed spinach last night. It was incredible.”

By all accounts, Kelce was pretty incredible during his chat with the Phillies.

“Awesome,” said pitcher Mark Leiter, Jr. a Jersey Shore kid and diehard Eagles fan. “He talked about his journey, not being highly recruited, being undersized and now he’s a Super Bowl champion. He has that forever. You have to respect that. It’s something you have to work for.”

Yes, Kelce dropped a couple of F-bombs for emphasis. He was in a locker room, after all. During his speech for the ages on the Art Museum steps two weeks ago, Kelce, filled with adrenaline, emotion and maybe a few adult beverages, dropped a couple memorable F-bombs as he saluted all the underdogs that made the Eagles' championship a reality.

“It was pretty crazy,” Kelce said. “The speech had been building up for a long time and it just came out at that moment. It was stuff that had been brewing for a long time.

"The night before, I couldn’t really sleep. I was just sitting there thinking. They had just told me I was going to talk. I was thinking about what I should say. That’s when I started thinking about all the guys who had overcome things and been counted out and rebounded. It was really from the top down. From there you started to see that parallel to the city of Philadelphia. The city had struggled for this championship for a long time.”

Now, the Eagles have that championship. The Sixers and Flyers are well into their seasons. And the Phillies are just getting into their long grind. Philadelphia’s most sought-after speaker was here to help them kick it off on Monday.

Phillies' relievers let the club down again in tough loss to Cardinals

Phillies' relievers let the club down again in tough loss to Cardinals

BOX SCORE

The pregame talk centered around the Phillies’ beleaguered bullpen. Both manager Gabe Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak expressed confidence in the unit (see story).

Well …

Said bullpen gave up three killer runs in the late innings in a 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Tommy Hunter let a two-run lead get away in the top of the seventh inning as the Cardinals took a 6-4 lead. The Phillies rallied to tie the game on a two-run double by Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the eighth. Hoskins hit a 101-mph fastball from Jordan Hicks. The Cardinals, however, went ahead for good on a two-out solo homer by Matt Carpenter against Seranthony Dominguez in the top of the ninth. Carpenter hit an 0-2 fastball that registered 98 mph. Dominguez threw all fastballs in the showdown and Carpenter was waiting for one.

Vince Velasquez turned in a solid start for the Phillies and exited with one out in the seventh inning, two men on base and a two-run lead. Hunter came on and got the second out of the inning. However, he then allowed three straight hits, including a pair of two-run doubles, as the Cardinals tied the game then took the lead.

Hunter, signed to a two-year, $18 million contract in the offseason, left the mound to boos after the frame.

The Phillies’ bullpen has been among the worst in baseball in June. It has a 6.17 ERA in the month and has given up 64 hits in 54 innings.

The Phillies scored single runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in building a 4-2 lead. Carlos Santana drove in two runs with a ground out in the first inning and a solo homer in the fifth. Odubel Herrera continued to heat up with a solo homer in the third, his fourth long ball in the last five games. Cesar Hernandez drew a one-out, bases-loaded walk for a run in the fourth. The Phils had two more shots to get more runs against Luke Weaver in the inning but Hoskins popped up and Herrera took a called third strike as the Phils left the bases full.

Velasquez gave up just two runs, both on solo homers, through the first six innings. He got the first out in the seventh then did Hunter no favors by giving up a single and hitting a batter to put two runners on base as Kapler went to the bullpen.

Before the game, Kapler proclaimed that Dominguez would be available. Kapler likes to use him in the game’s biggest moment, but in this case he went to Hunter, probably because the right-hander features a cutter that works well against left-handed hitters. Carpenter, a left-handed hitter, tied the game with a two-out double. He hit a 1-0 curveball. Two batters later, Jose Martinez clubbed a two-run double to put the Cards ahead.

Dominguez came into the game in the ninth and struck out the first two batters before Carpenter stroked another big hit to break the tie and send the Phillies to a demoralizing loss.

Crawford exits
J.P. Crawford, who started at third base, was plunked on the left hand by a pitch in the fourth inning. He stayed in the game briefly then was replaced by Maikel Franco. Kapler said after the game that Crawford suffered a fracture and will miss four to six weeks.

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Matt Klentak, Gabe Kapler agree on how Phillies should use Seranthony Dominguez

Matt Klentak, Gabe Kapler agree on how Phillies should use Seranthony Dominguez

Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler are in lock-step agreement when it comes to how bullpen weapon Seranthony Dominguez has been deployed.

Kapler, the Phillies skipper, hasn’t ruled out using Dominguez as a classic, ninth-inning closer someday. But he prefers to use the hard-throwing right-hander as a kill shot in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning, whenever he determines the game to be on the line.

Klentak, the general manager, shares that philosophy and that’s not a surprise. Their shared baseball ideals and a dedication to new-school practices made Kapler an attractive choice when Klentak went searching for a new manager after last season.

“The argument against (using Dominguez exclusively in the ninth inning) is that the ninth inning is not always the highest-leverage situation,” Klentak said Tuesday afternoon. “You can blow a save in the seventh or the eighth or the ninth. Emotionally, it stings more when it happens in the ninth because you feel like you're right there. You're just about to win the game. But if you never get to the ninth inning with a lead in the first place, you never have a chance to win that game. So sometimes using your best relievers earlier in the game is what makes the most sense.”

By all indications, the Phillies are trying to come up with a dependable ninth-inning man from their current bullpen mix. That would allow Kapler to continue to use Dominguez as a wild card. Luis Garcia and Hector Neris got looks in the ninth. Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano will get some looks there. Pat Neshek might get an occasional call there when he returns. Down the road, others will get a look.

The NL East rival Washington Nationals went out and traded for a closer, Kelvin Herrera, on Monday. Klentak would not say whether he was in the mix for Herrera, but he did not rule out trading for bullpen help in the coming weeks — if the Phillies remain in the hunt.

“There's been a handful of [trade] conversations,” Klentak said. “I wouldn't say that the trade market has been hot at this point. Once you get through the draft, those conversations start. It's the proverbial feeling-out process, but I guess every once and a while that might lead to something.”

Before making a trade, Klentak will first try to fill bullpen holes from within. He mentioned that Neshek could be the biggest bullpen acquisition in the game once he’s ready (see story).

“First and foremost, we really do like and trust the group of relievers that we have,” he said. “I am well aware that to date we have not settled on a single closer. I think at some point we might. If organically it works and that's the way things shake out, I think we're open to that. If we had Brad Lidge on this team, he would close. If we had Billy Wagner on this team, he would close. If we had Jonathan Papelbon on this team, he would close. We don't have one of those guys. So we're making due with what we have, which is a pretty good group. Guys like Arano, Dominguez, Ramos — these guys are having, quietly or not-so-quietly, some really good years. Tommy Hunter is having, arguably, the best year of his career right now.

“That doesn't minimize the fact that we've had some really tough losses, some really deflating ninth-inning meltdowns. But the group itself is really talented and we're confident in it. I think at some point in the near future we're going to get Pat Neshek back, who while not a traditional closer, is probably as good a bullpen arm as a team is going to add in the next six weeks. We will see what's available in the trade market — which players are available, what the costs are. We will probably look at that in free agency as well. But we have to maintain the proper perspective on any potential acquisition.”

That perspective involves weighing where the Phillies are in the standings, how realistic their chances at making the postseason are and what the cost in prospects surrendered would be. Despite the improvements the Phillies have made this season, the front office is still in a building mode and it does not want to mortgage the future.

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