Phillies

In a series loss for Phillies, rookie Dylan Cozens opens some eyes at Wrigley

In a series loss for Phillies, rookie Dylan Cozens opens some eyes at Wrigley

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CHICAGO — Lots of frustration during the Phillies' 3-7 road trip. Blown leads. Harmful infield shifts. A questionable interpretation of a ridiculous rule.

The series in San Francisco was ugly and the series at Wrigley was wildly disappointing after beginning with a Phillies win.

There's going to be a lot of negativity until the Phillies win a series again, which will be difficult with the next 22 games all coming against teams with winning records. It's natural and deserved right now.

But it's also worth looking at the positives we saw in Chicago. Aaron Nola turned in a quality start despite not having his best stuff. Zach Eflin dominated. Scott Kingery hit the ball hard all series, even though his results were mixed. Aaron Altherr cranked a three-run homer.

The most eye-opening development, though, was the pair of games Dylan Cozens had at Wrigley.

Called up from Triple A last week, Cozens made plays Wednesday and Thursday that could have won both games for the Phillies had things been ever-so-slightly different.

On Wednesday, his two-run, opposite-field home run off a 97-mph fastball from established reliever Brandon Morrow gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the ninth inning. He was all set to be the hero before Jason Heyward's walk-off salami.

On Thursday, Cozens made probably the best throw from a Phillies outfielder all season, nailing Albert Almora Jr. at the plate from 278 feet away on a 93-mph throw. It didn't end up counting because the umpires ruled that Andrew Knapp had blocked the plate.

Even though neither play resulted in a win for the Phils, it was a glimpse of what this uber-talented but imperfect outfielder is capable of.

"Definitely one of the better feelings I've ever had in my entire life," Cozens said of Wednesday's jack.

"Just a great feeling to put a good swing on a ball off a guy who has pretty good stuff. I feel comfortable out there for sure."

There is massive power in both Cozens' bat and his left arm. That has never been in question. The three big questions are whether he can get on base enough, cut down on the whiffs and hold his own against lefties. Those are three things that, to a lesser extent, hampered Nick Williams in the minors but Williams has been able to improve upon them at the major-league level.

Cozens might not be up here for good. He could be the odd man out and sent back to Triple A when Rhys Hoskins returns from the DL. To avoid that, he'll need to keep producing the way he did in these two games. The Phillies will live with the strikeouts if they're accompanied by a homer per week.

"He's incredibly talented," Gabe Kapler said after the series finale, a 4-3 loss to the Cubs (see first take). "We were talking on the bench about how good of an outfielder he is. And he had some good at-bats today, some really good at-bats. He battled and drew [two] walks and did a good job for us."

Cozens is a walking embodiment of baseball's three true outcomes. Each of his last seven plate appearances has resulted in a walk, strikeout or homer.

"An exciting moment for all of us to witness," Kapler said of the homer off Morrow. "I'm really happy for him to get the bat-head out like that. We were all really surprised he was able to go oppo on that ball. Impressive stroke off a very difficult pitcher to square up."

The Phillies haven't gotten nearly enough impressive strokes lately. They went 5 for 24 with runners in scoring position in Chicago, and they have the worst batting average, OBP and slugging percentage in the majors since May 20.

On the flip side, Phillies starting pitchers have MLB's second-lowest ERA (2.66) in the last 29 games.

If the losses mount during this difficult month of June, just keep in mind that the Phillies were not expected to make the playoffs this season. Their over-under win total in Vegas was 73.5. Even after this rough stretch, they are still on an 86-76 pace, which would be one win shy of last year's second wild-card winner.

"This was not our best road trip, obviously," Kapler said. "We've proven that we can go toe to toe with the best teams in the National League. That felt like a playoff atmosphere out there, and I think our guys fought to the very end and the way we played against the Cubs, although we didn't come out on the winning end of the series, I thought we played our butts off in a lot of ways."

Former Phillie Chase Utley to join Dodgers broadcast team for select games

Former Phillie Chase Utley to join Dodgers broadcast team for select games

Chase Utley wasn't the biggest or fastest player.

He always found advantages, though, through preparation and guile, outsmarting the opposition and capitalizing on the finest of details.

Phillies fans will never forget the fake throw to first to then nab Jason Bartlett at the plate during Game 5 of the 2008 Fall Classic, such an Utley-type play on the night the city was crowned world champions of baseball.

And how about the moment in 2006 when Utley was bestowed his famous nickname? "Chase Utley, you are the man!" the great Harry Kalas said after No. 26 raced home from second base on a high chopper to the mound.

Everyone knew Utley's smarts would make him a great coach.

They would also make him a hell of an analyst.

Fans will get the pleasure of hearing Utley provide his insight this season out in Los Angeles. It was announced Wednesday night that the retired second baseman will join SportsNet LA in studio for a few Dodgers games.

Utley joked that he'll need some pointers from retired Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.

Imagine putting those two together in the broadcast booth?

Now that's talkin' ball.

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Bryce Harper launches a rocket — and that wasn't even his most impressive clout on 2-HR day

Bryce Harper launches a rocket — and that wasn't even his most impressive clout on 2-HR day

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper is heating up. One day after stroking his first base hit of the Grapefruit League schedule, he swatted a pair of home runs in the Phillies’ 13-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Harper crushed both balls and they disappeared over the right-field wall in the blink of an eye.

“I thought the first one was a rocket and had incredible carry, and the second one, I thought, was squared up even better," manager Gabe Kapler said. 

“And there was one foul ball before the second home run that he hit that we saw such tremendous bat speed. We were at a perfect angle on the side to see the bat whistling through the zone. Looks great.”

The Phillies had 12 hits in the game and six were homers. J.T. Realmuto clubbed his fourth of the spring. Andrew Knapp, Andrew McCutchen and Gift Ngope also homered.

Velasquez inconsistent

Vince Velasquez allowed five hits, including a pair of homers, and three runs over 3 1/3 innings.

Velasquez has not shined in Grapefruit League action. He gave up five runs in two innings in his previous Grapefruit League outing.

Velasquez is out of minor-league options and the Phillies are committed to giving him a look in the rotation. But his leash might not be long with Jerad Eickhoff and Drew Anderson percolating in the minors.

The Phillies will likely skip Velasquez’s spot in the rotation during the first 10 days of the season. He could work out of the bullpen in that time. His next outing will likely be Tuesday, the day after the Phillies head north, in a minor-league game in Clearwater. He will look to get to 90 pitches in that outing.

Roster stuff

With opening day a week away, the Phils continued to thin their spring roster. Outfielders Dylan Cozens and Adam Haseley and pitchers Anderson and James Pazos were sent to the minors. Infielders Gregorio Petit and Trevor Plouffe and pitchers Edward Parades and Jeremy Bleich were released.

In addition, infielders Phil Gosselin, Gift Ngope and Matt McBride and outfielders Shane Robinson and Lane Adams were informed that they will not make the big-league club. They will stay in camp through Monday then report to minor-league camp.

The Phillies don’t have to set a roster until noon on opening day, but will likely do it before then. We examined the likely roster here (see story).

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