Phillies

Setting clubhouse boundaries is a smashing idea for these Phillies

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USA Today Images

Setting clubhouse boundaries is a smashing idea for these Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — At the start of spring training, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he would implement stronger clubhouse boundaries "that make it clear we are here to work every single day."

At the time, Kapler refused to offer examples of why he would run a tighter ship in his second season on the job.

Now, thanks to Carlos Santana, Kapler's reasoning is becoming clearer.

In an ESPN story posted Monday morning, Santana, now with the Cleveland Indians after spending 2018 with the Phillies, tells of smashing a television on the final weekend of the season after seeing "a couple" of teammates playing video games during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies, who plummeted from first place in the NL East to under .500 over the final seven weeks of the season, lost their ninth straight game when Santana acted out.

The ESPN story was a topic of conversation in the Phillies' clubhouse Monday morning. Both Jake Arrieta and Rhys Hoskins downplayed the incident.

"There is some untruth to the story, some things that were not portrayed correctly," Arrieta said. "I don't believe that guys were playing video games during the game. That's something that I would not allow and a majority of the guys on the team would not allow.

"There was a lot of video-game playing and I was a part of it, too, but well in advance of the game — and that was something that we bonded over. It brought us close together and it was something we had in common. It was fun. But as far as during the game, and I've talked to a bunch of our guys, I do not believe that was taking place."

Arrieta went on to say that Santana did his damage late at night, well after most of the players had departed.

Arrieta and Hoskins are both part of a group of players that, in concert with Kapler, have come up with a new set of standards for the clubhouse.

"I think this is kind of giving us a little bit of a roadmap of what we need to focus on this year, what needed to change in our clubhouse," Hoskins said. "One thing that I want to make clear is that this has absolutely nothing to do with Kap. Kap is a great leader. He knows how to bring us together. He left it up to us players to kind of police ourselves.

"When you're winning, the chemistry is great and everybody is bonding. But when you're frustrated and losing the way that we did at the end of the year, you start to search for answers. What are we doing wrong? People get frustrated. That's the natural flow of this game. Emotions run high and I think that's what we saw with Carlos last year. Nobody is knocking him for doing that. It happens. That's what happens in a room full of men when you're frustrated. But, like I said, it kind of made us aware that we as players need to do a better job of holding each other accountable and making sure that we're all preparing for a game." 

Arrieta said video-gaming would now stop an hour before the game.

He went on to explain that the Phillies' pre-game clubhouse was not some red-pinstriped version of Pee-wee's Playhouse.

"Everybody's wired differently, everybody locks in for a game differently," he said. "For one guy to think that video games are a disturbance to the team, is another guy's version of getting prepared for the game. You don't have to be sitting in front of the video screen watching videotape up until the first pitch to get ready for the game. Everyone is different in that regard.

"That's why I say communication (between Santana and teammates) should have taken place because we could have had a conversation about, 'OK, I understand that you maybe don't like guys playing video games, but what if someone doesn't like you on your phone watching a movie before the game?' It's kind of the same thing. So, for me, it's just a matter of understanding that guys are different, guys like to prepare different, but at the end of the day no one should be watching Netflix or whatever during the game or video games."

It is not unusual for players not in a game to spend time in the clubhouse during a game. Arrieta said there would be more focus on being in the dugout during the game, starting with the National Anthem, this season.

Santana was traded to Seattle and then Cleveland this winter. The trade was not a result of his frustration; it was to open first base for Hoskins. Santana paid for the damage that he did to the Phillies' video equipment. He is not the first Phillie to get a bill for smashing a TV. It has happened in the past, usually out of frustration over performance.

"I like Carlos and I think he's a great player," Arrieta said. "I just think it boils down to not communicating, and that's it. I wish it would've happened. It didn't. But it's not something anybody in here is worried about. We're focused on March 28, really, and preparation for the Braves and getting our guys out of here healthy.

"It's just some crap that happened last year that was unfortunate, but once the year was over, we all pretty much forgot about it."

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Gabe Kapler coy about Sunday's starter for Phillies but roster moves likely to come

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USA Today Images/Isaiah J. Downing

Gabe Kapler coy about Sunday's starter for Phillies but roster moves likely to come

ATLANTA — Gabe Kapler is playing things close to the vest regarding Sunday's starting pitcher. The Phillies still have not announced who will start the series finale in Atlanta.

Here's what we know:

• It will not be Jake Arrieta on regular rest. Instead, the Phils will get Arrieta an extra day because of the off-day this past Thursday. Arrieta will start Monday's series opener in D.C.

• Cole Irvin will be involved Sunday in some form. He may not start, but he's likely to pitch multiple innings in relief as he did at Dodger Stadium on June 1.

If Irvin doesn't start, the other option is using an opener. However, this isn't as clear-cut as it was against the Dodgers, an extremely left-handed team with Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo.

The Braves come at you from both sides and they are unlikely to alter their batting order because of an opener. Friday night's win was their eighth in a row and they've won all eight with this lineup. 

Atlanta is not going to move Ronald Acuña Jr. down in the order just because a right-hander like Juan Nicasio or Vince Velasquez is beginning the game. The Braves are not going to move Freddie Freeman or Nick Markakis out of their customary spots batting third and fifth.

All that to say, the mind game with the Braves Sunday is unlikely to have a big impact. 

We could wind up seeing someone like Nicasio face the first two batters of the game, Acuña Jr. and Dansby Swanson, then Kapler make the call to the 'pen for Irvin. That would seem like the right spot with Freeman batting third, Markakis fifth, Brian McCann seventh and Ozzie Albies (switch-hitter) eighth.

Roster moves coming

The Phillies could have a couple of roster moves to make Sunday to make room for Irvin and the potential return of Pat Neshek. Neshek (shoulder) responded well after a bullpen session Friday and could be activated Sunday morning. 

If those two are added to the 25-man roster Sunday, the casualties would likely be two of Ranger Suarez, Jerad Eickhoff and J.D. Hammer.

What about Quinn?

The tentative plan was to activate Roman Quinn for this Braves series but now it's more likely he's activated in D.C. rather than Atlanta.

Quinn was hit by a pitch in the shoulder Friday night during a rehab game with Double A Reading and felt discomfort on a subsequent swing. He will not play Saturday night for Reading but will go through his normal pregame routine and the Phillies will formulate a plan from there.

They do not see the shoulder issue as anything serious. Quinn is sitting Saturday as a precaution, Kapler said.

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Making sense of Phillies' demoralizing meltdown against Braves

Making sense of Phillies' demoralizing meltdown against Braves

ATLANTA — If the NL East is eventually decided by a game or two in the Braves' favor, Friday night, June 14, will stick out like a hanging splitter.

The Phillies, previously 36-2 when leading after the eighth inning, imploded in the ninth and lost a heartbreaker, 9-8 to the Braves to fall to 2½ games back in the NL East (see observations). It was the eighth win in a row for a Braves team that looks more dangerous by the day.

The ninth inning was like a game unto itself. Hector Neris, who entered a perfect 14 for 14 in save chances this season, looked to have things locked down on three different occasions but just could not throw that one final strike past rookie Austin Riley or veteran Brian McCann.

When Neris came all the way back from a 3-0 count to strike out Freddie Freeman earlier in the inning, it appeared he was on track to notch his 15th straight save. When Jay Bruce made a game-saving play by bare-handing a bouncing ball in the outfield that he ran past, it looked like fortune was on the Phillies' side.

Alas.

Both Riley and McCann made well-placed contact to left-center off Neris to key the win. Both were down to their final strike.

Neris is an accountable guy. He has been in this position before, experiencing success and failure. When he throws a flat fastball or leaves a split too high in the zone, he admits it. He did not feel like he was terrible on this night.

"He got soft contact on a pitch I threw for a strikeout," Neris said of the McCann at-bat, which cut the Phillies' lead to one and put runners on second and third with two outs. "He got terrible contact on that single. I can't control that. It was down, it just struck the bat. Looking at the pitch, lucky for him. But tomorrow, you know, I got it tomorrow, for sure."

The expected batting average on McCann's walk-off hit was just .190. You have to wonder whether it was a ball that an outfielder with range like Andrew McCutchen would have reached.

When you lose like this, all there is to do is look forward to tomorrow. A loss like this is too hard to swallow if you think too long about it or replay every moment. 

The Phillies were in control for two and a half hours. They got three long home runs from Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery and led 7-2 entering the bottom of the seventh. They got a mostly solid start from Nick Pivetta, who had allowed just a pair of runs on solo homers through six. 

But the bullpen, which is ravaged by injuries and not good enough to win a division as currently constructed, gave it all back. 

"A crushing loss, no way around it," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We had a two-run lead in the ninth inning with our best reliever on the mound. Neris has been tremendous for us all year long. Outstanding for a full calendar year. Can't wait to get him back out on the mound in that same kind of situation. We have the highest level of trust with him in that situation. We felt really good in the dugout about it. It's just a devastating loss. We'll come back tomorrow and be ready to fight again."

Fans raced to social media to play Monday morning quarterback, a common occurrence when a big lead is lost. So many act like every decision the manager made was so plainly stupid and should have been changed. Looking at the choices Kapler made late in this game, no glaring mistake caused this loss. The Braves are just really good. They don't swing and miss much and they don't quit.

Did Kapler leave Pivetta in too long? Who's to say? You saw what the bullpen ended up doing. And in the long run, showing confidence in Pivetta with two outs and a man on second in the seventh inning against a hitter he'd retired all three times earlier in the night could be beneficial for him. Extending him to 116 pitches could be a confidence-builder and Pivetta acknowledged as much after the game.

Why use Jose Alvarez in the eighth? You tell me who you're going to in that spot, with lefties Nick Markakis and McCann due up and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies to follow.

Why not intentionally walk McCann with two outs and two on and pitch to Albies instead? Because Albies is a skilled hitter who is 14 for 33 (.424) over his last nine games and could have just as easily beaten Neris as McCann did. In fact, Albies may have been more of a threat, considering he's fast enough to beat out an infield hit, and another walk would have forced in the tying run. 

"It was discussed when McCann came up to the plate," Kapler said. "We felt like we had the right matchup there. Albies is the kind of guy that if he puts the ball in play he can beat out a single. There are so many things that can happen. The split can go by the catcher. We just thought the right thing there was let him go after McCann. We didn't think that ball was blistered by any stretch. We thought he made a good pitch. 

"At the end of the day, there's no discounting that that was very difficult to watch."

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