Cameron Rupp

2 former Phillies find new teams

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2 former Phillies find new teams

It's been a busy few days in the ex-Phillie roster moves department.

Cameron Rupp and Andres Blanco both signed minor-league deals, Rupp with the Rangers and Blanco with the Brewers.

Rupp was a free agent after being released by the Phils on March 26. It wasn't surprising that he found a new team just a week later because of how few quality backup catchers there are leaguewide. At the very least, a team knows Rupp can provide some power off the bench.

Rupp was the odd man out among Phillies' catchers and his poor spring did not help. He went 7 for 37 (.189) with 15 strikeouts and was designated for assignment as camp came to a close.

In just over 1,000 career at-bats in the majors, Rupp has hit .234/.298/.407. He's hit 14 and 16 home runs the last two seasons.

Blanco was released by the Giants on March 23. Last season, his fourth with the Phillies, was a struggle. Blanco hit .192 with a .549 OPS after hitting .274 with a .795 OPS the previous three years. He turns 34 on April 11.

Elsewhere, Vance Worley reportedly opted out of his minor-league contract with the Reds and is now a free agent. Late last week, the Rangers designated Tommy Joseph for assignment and he accepted it. He'll play with Double A Frisco, while his former teammate Rupp will be at Triple A Round Rock in the same system.

Phillies cut veteran Cameron Rupp as roster continues to take shape

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Phillies cut veteran Cameron Rupp as roster continues to take shape

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It was an emotional scene in the Phillies' clubhouse early Sunday morning as popular catcher Cameron Rupp hugged teammates, wished them luck and walked out the door for what he called “a new start.”
 
Rupp, 29, was designated for assignment as the Phillies cleared a spot on their 40-man roster for pitcher Drew Hutchison, who apparently has won a spot on the big-league pitching staff.
 
The Phillies have seven days to dispose of Rupp’s contract. He could be traded, picked up by another team on waivers or released. If he clears waivers, he could be outrighted to Triple A. Rupp’s Phillies contract calls for him to make $2.05 million in 2018, but the Phillies would only be on the hook for a quarter of that if he is released by 2 p.m. Monday.
 
Rupp’s departure means the Phillies will open the season with Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp as their catchers. The Phils will lose some organizational depth at the position if Rupp does not stay in the system. Logan Moore and Matt McBride are expected to be the catchers are Triple A. Moore, a strong defender, has been in the system since 2011. McBride, a Lehigh University product who signed with the Phils as a minor-league free agent this winter, has played in the majors with Colorado and Oakland.
 
Hutchison, 27, made 74 starts from 2012 to 2016 with the Blue Jays and Pirates. He spent all of last season with the Pirates’ Triple A club and signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies last month. The right-hander made the club by posting a 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. It’s not clear if he will pitch at the back end of the starting rotation or out of the bullpen as a long man. Roster questions are expected to be cleared up by the time the Phils leave Florida late Tuesday afternoon.
 
Rupp, a former Texas Longhorn, was the Phillies’ third-round draft pick in 2010. He got to the majors briefly in 2013 and 2014, was a teammate of World Series heroes Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, and spent all of the last three seasons with the big club as successor to fan favorite Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies are now moving on with Alfaro, a rookie who is out of minor-league options.
 
“It's just the way the team is shaping up,” Rupp said. “There wasn't room for me. At the end of the day, you know, it's just a tough day. But that's part of it. There's a business side of it. That's the decision they chose to make. We'll see what happens now. 
 
“It's tough. I saw the end of Jimmy, Chase, Howie, Cole, all the guys who won in 2008. You see them walk out the door and you see a bunch of new faces. Then you see the guys who are really going to be good. They're really going to help this organization win. It sucks. But it's a business, too, unfortunately. This is the business side. I have to deal with it and keep moving forward.”

How will Gabe Kapler's bench shape up?

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How will Gabe Kapler's bench shape up?

As the confetti gets swept up along Broad Street and the Flyers and Sixers push into the second halves of their seasons, Philadelphia’s sporting calendar moves on. The Phillies report to Clearwater for spring training next week with a new manager, a new bat in the lineup and a couple of veteran additions in the bullpen.

New skipper Gabe Kapler will look for veteran stability from relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, both signed as free agents. First baseman Carlos Santana, with a career on-base percentage of .365, has also joined the club as a free-agent signing.

Neshek and Hunter will join a returning cast of relievers that showed promise in the second half of last season. The Phillies made no upgrades to their starting rotation this winter. One may still come before the March 29 opener in Atlanta, but for now, management is committed to giving its core of young starters innings and the opportunity to show improvement.

Innings, however, could be a challenge with a staff prone to running high pitch counts. Therefore, there is a pretty good chance that the Phillies will open the season with an eight-man bullpen, which would mean just a four-man bench. The bench is hugely important in the National League and Kapler has promised to use his entire roster. A premium will be placed on versatility.

So, as camp gets set to start, let’s take a look at some of the decisions the team will have to make on its bench.

There are two key areas that will get significant focus: the backup catching position and the backup infield spot.

Catchers
Jorge Alfaro’s game still needs polish, especially behind the plate, but he is out of minor-league options. That means he is going to get significant playing time, probably No. 1 reps, and a chance to finish his development in the major leagues. Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp both return. Both can be sent to the minors or one could end up being traded. Rupp’s experience and ability to pop a long ball off the bench could help him stick, but Knapp is a switch-hitter with some plate discipline and the ability to play first base. That could help his chances. It could also factor in the decision if the Phils wanted to carry three catchers.

Nonroster invitees Logan Moore, Matt McBride and Eric Fryer could also be in the mix.

Infield
J.P. Crawford is moving in at shortstop. The Phillies need to carry a versatile Andres Blanco-type of utility infielder who can play the position if needed. Nonroster player Pedro Florimon could be that guy and his ability to play the outfield, as well, should help his chances. Florimon played well for the Phillies at Triple A and later in the majors last season and the team was obviously impressed as it re-signed him to a minor-league contract early in the offseason.

But the position is so important that management did not stop at Florimon. It has created competition with the signings of versatile veterans Adam Rosales and Ryan Flaherty. Also, Jesmuel Valentin, who hung around until the last cut last spring, will return. Scott Kingery will be in camp and should be a factor in the infield sooner rather than later. But he is likely to open the season in Triple A, a move that would delay his potential free agency until after the 2024 season.

Tommy Joseph returns and will be in line to make the team as a backup first baseman. His power (43 homers the last two seasons) is attractive, but he lacks versatility. Look for Joseph to get a lot of looks in Grapefruit League play as the Phils try to entice a trade partner from the American League, where Joseph might fit better as a designated hitter/first baseman.

Outfield
Barring a trade, there is already depth in the outfield as Kapler essentially has four regulars for three spots. Rhys Hoskins is set in left field and Odubel Herrera in center. Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr could platoon in right, a strategy that would strengthen the bench, though Altherr is gifted enough defensively to play anywhere in the outfield and that will give Kapler other lineup options. Still, the Phillies will look to carry a fifth outfielder. That could come from the cast of utility infield candidates who also carry outfielder’s gloves in their equipment bags.

It could be nonroster invite Collin Cowgill. Or it could be longtime prospect Roman Quinn. Injuries have robbed Quinn of playing time most of his minor-league career. But the speedy switch-hitter will turn 25 in May. It might be time to see what he can do in a complementary role in the majors, and his skills on both sides of the ball could be a weapon. Quinn will get a good look in Clearwater.