Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez will skip Arizona Fall League after setback

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Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez will skip Arizona Fall League after setback

The Phillies have decided against sending top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to the Arizona Fall League after the right-hander recently experienced a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury that first sidelined him in early June, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

General manager Matt Klentak confirmed the team’s decision.

Sanchez was firmly on the road to recovery and getting work in the Florida Instructional League when he recently came down with soreness in his right collarbone. Team medical officials are not alarmed by the issue and they are confident that Sanchez will be fully healthy and ready to go for spring training. However, the setback cut into Sanchez’s preparation time in Florida so the team has decided to err on the side of caution and hold him out of the AFL. The prospect-studded league opens play Tuesday and runs through Nov. 17. Sanchez had been slated to pitch for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Sanchez, 20, was shut down in early June after experiencing right elbow soreness. After a battery of tests, it was determined that he would not require surgery. He spent the summer rehabilitating the injury in Florida and began getting back on the mound in late August.

Sanchez had been pitching for Single A Clearwater at the time of his injury. In four starts leading up to the injury, he had allowed just two earned runs in 25 2/3 innings while striking out 29 and walking four. In his last start on June 3, he delivered seven shutout innings, walked two and struck out five in a win over the Florida Fire Frogs. He reported to the ballpark the next day complaining of elbow tenderness.

The Phillies discovered Sanchez, a converted shortstop, during a workout in the Dominican Republic in late 2014 (see story). His mix of control and power stuff has made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects and an untouchable in trade discussions. The Phillies envision him as being a mainstay in their rotation in the coming years.

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Phillies get mugged in Miami — their inability to beat bad teams could prove fatal to playoff hopes

Phillies get mugged in Miami — their inability to beat bad teams could prove fatal to playoff hopes

MIAMI — How does this happen? How do the Phillies manage to sweep formidable clubs like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox (in Fenway Park, no less) and stumble against teams like the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins in recent weeks?

Obviously, it’s lack of performance, lack of execution, but are there other factors, like, possibly, a lack of concentration that has led the Phillies to play down to the competition so often?

While you ponder this rhetorical question, keep this in mind: The Phillies open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home on Monday night.

The Pirates are another bad team.

That’s good for the Phillies, who desperately need wins over the final 33 games.

It’s also bad for the Phillies, who in recent weeks have lost series to the White Sox, Padres and Marlins.

The latest fall-on-your face performance was capped Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins, who are 47-82, last in the NL East.

The Marlins mugged Aaron Nola for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead moments after Rhys Hoskins had belted a two-run homer to put the Phillies on top. Nola had retired 11 straight batters before giving up a one-out double, a walk, an RBI single and a two-run double in the sixth. It was a shocking implosion by the Phillies’ ace and his mates, playing without Bryce Harper (paternity leave) for a third straight day, produced just four hits on the day so there was no bailing him out.

“He was cruising,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He lost a little command in the sixth. Sometimes even the best pitchers lose command and that's enough.”

Nola, who had held Boston’s thundering offense to two runs in seven innings in his previous start, did not have his best fastball.

“I didn’t really feel like I had my fastball early in the game,” he said. “I was pulling it a lot. My changeup was working today. It was the only thing really working today.”

The Phillies won two in Boston on this trip then lost two of three in Miami. They scored 11 runs on Friday night and still lost. That’s because they blew a 7-0 lead.

If the Phils fail to make the playoffs, they will look back to their performance against the Marlins as the reason why. The Phils are 7-9 against Miami. Atlanta is 15-4 against the Marlins. The Mets are 11-4. Washington is 10-3.

Sunday's loss left the Phils 1½ games back in the wild-card race.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hoskins said. “You often hear you’re playing against yourself, right? If we play our game, we obviously can beat any team. We swept the Cubs, we swept the Red Sox on the road. Yeah, it’s tough. This is just a different place to play here. Credit to those guys. They came up with some big hits in some big situations off Noles and they … I don’t really have much more to say.”

Kapler, already agitated by Cesar Hernandez' lack of hustle in the game, was also at a loss for words when asked about his team’s struggles against the Marlins.

“Whatever the reason, we have to find a way to win these baseball games,” he said.

So, how do the Phillies avoid a similar letdown against the Pirates, who are 11-30 since the All-Star break? How do they do it without having Nola go to the mound in the series? Surely, Harper's return should help.

“We remind them how good they are, how much they're capable of, how much confidence we have in them,” Kapler said. “Everybody in the clubhouse knows that it's all of our responsibilities to step up to the plate and be stronger and be better.”

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Will Cesar Hernandez hear it from Philly fans after 'totally unacceptable' lack of hustle?

Will Cesar Hernandez hear it from Philly fans after 'totally unacceptable' lack of hustle?

MIAMI — The Phillies return home to Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

Cesar Hernandez will probably get a painfully warm Philadelphia greeting from the fans.

“Yeah, I expect,” he said.

Hernandez was not the reason that the Phillies lost two of three over the weekend in Miami. He was not the reason they lost the series finale, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon. In fact, he scored one of the team’s runs after a two-out single in the sixth inning.

But Hernandez was still a major subplot in the loss as what has been a season-long issue for this team reared its head again.

That base hit that Hernandez had in the sixth inning? It should have been a double. He thought the ball was going to be a homer so he did not run hard out of the box. By the time he realized it was going to stay in the park, it was too late to make it to second. It was an egregious mistake in a scoreless game when a base hit could have put a run on the board.

As it turned out, Rhys Hoskins got Hernandez off the hook with a two-run homer. Hernandez thanked Hoskins for that — twice — once at home plate and once while running out to the field in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Hernandez’ lack of hustle did not sit well with manager Gabe Kapler.

“Totally unacceptable baserunning play,” Kapler said through clenched jaw. “It was addressed on the bench. I had a conversation with Cesar after the game. He understands it's unacceptable. There's no excuse for it. We have some strong veteran leaders in the clubhouse who will address it, as well.”

One day earlier, Kapler had talked about accountability after sending Nick Pivetta to the minors. Kapler said he thought Pivetta needed to be more accountable, to “look in the mirror.”

Hernandez is not the first Phillie to come up short in the hustle department this season. Jean Segura and Maikel Franco were violators. Franco was held accountable with a benching.

Did Kapler consider removing Hernandez from the game?

“It's just an unacceptable base running play,” was Kapler’s answer to that question.

Deciding whether or not to pull Hernandez is a question complicated by the Phils’ place in the standings — they are in a playoff race and need wins — and the fact that they have a weak bench. Would it have been fair to the rest of the team to subtract the starting second baseman (and endure the dropoff in talent) from a game the team needed to win?

“I think it's really important that we bust our asses out of the batter's box,” Kapler said. “We're not sure if the ball is going to go out of the ballpark. It's really important that we give every ounce of energy on that play. Even at the expense of making a bang-bang play at second base. We need a single to score that run. Obviously, Rhys was able to bail us all out. He hit a big home run for us. But we have to find a way to get to second base on that play.”

Hernandez was contrite after the game.

“It was obviously a mistake," he said, "but the thing about this team is that we try to pick each other up. You watched the game and you saw what happened. I was obviously thankful to Rhys that he was able to pick me up there.”

Hoskins said players in the clubhouse hold each other accountable.

He added that Hernandez did not need a strong reprimand.

“Cesar doesn’t need to be talked to,” Hoskins said. “I don’t think he’s someone that doesn’t play the game the right way. He just had a little brain fart. Had a little lapse in judgment. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt us.

“I didn’t say anything to him on the field. He came up to me. That showed everybody he’s accountable. That type of player knows (he made a mistake). My bet is it doesn’t happen again.”

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