They fully expected him to jump into the 2014 rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
But more than a year into his three-year, $12 million contract (Gonzalez lost $36 million because of concerns following his physical) the Phillies have received no return on their investment. And one wonders if they ever will. The Phillies optioned Gonzalez to Minor League camp yesterday after he went 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances. He allowed 25 hits, 12 runs, five home runs and one walk with seven strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.
“It’s possible,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today, when asked if he is worried the organization will get nothing from Gonzalez.
“He hasn’t pitched well enough to be a major league starter for us,” Amaro said. “His stuff and his command just weren’t good enough. It’s kind of simple. He needs to be better for us to utilize him in our rotation. He’ll go down and pitch and hopefully he improves. If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t.”
The killer is that Gonzalez never had a better opportunity to make the team. The Phillies desperately need a No. 5 starter with Lee almost certainly lost for the season with a torn tendon in his left elbow. But Gonzalez could not outpitch non-roster invitees Kevin Slowey and Sean O’Sullivan.
“You wish the guy was pitching better,” Amaro said. “I think he does, too. I think he’s disappointed. I think he’s disappointed in himself because he geared himself up to want to take this job. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of him, but he’s just not ready to take that job right now.”
Does this serve as a warning for those who want the Phillies to drop tens of millions of dollars on Cuban free agents?
“It’s a risk,” Amaro said. “There’s a lot of teams that were in on him and we ended up signing him. He hasn’t performed as well as we would have liked. He may never perform as well as we would have liked, but that’s the risk you take. Sometimes, you’ve got to take a risk.”
One important decision has been made. Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera not only has made the team, he will be the Opening Day center fielder.
“He kind of fits the bill of what we were trying to do,” Amaro said before today’s Grapefruit League game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field. “We were trying to get younger, a little more athletic. He’s got good energy, he’s got a decent package. Is he going to be a .300 hitter toward the top of our lineup or wherever (Ryne Sandberg) puts him? I don’t know. We’re going to give him a shot. That’s what this season is about.”
Right fielder Domonic Brown is likely to open the season on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left Achilles, which would open up another roster spot. The Phillies also might carry an extra bench player or relief pitcher with no need for a fifth starter until April 12.
Darin Ruf is one of the only right-handed bats in camp with power. Amaro said Ruf is not a lock to make the team, but he also said Ruf playing in Triple-A is not ideal.
Read between the lines, folks. Ruf is a safe bet to make the team.
He confirmed today that he plans to use Revere and Herrera in those spots Opening Day.
“As I look at it now he’s left field,” Sandberg said about Revere.
So Herrera, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick, starts in center?
“Probably to start (the season) with,” Sandberg said.
Revere said Sandberg has told him to be prepared to play left field in the regular season.
“I’m fine now,” Revere said about being comfortable in left, a position he had not played since 2012. “I’m just playing my game. Before I got here (to Philadelphia), I played center, left, right, a bunch of times. It won’t make any difference. Of course, it’s different the way the ball goes. But everything else is pretty much the same.
“There may come a time when they may need me back in center. All right, I’ll be ready to go. I’m up for any task.”
“It’s a secret,” he said.
Everybody in the world knew it would be Cole Hamels. It literally could be nobody else. But Sandberg made the obvious official Sunday afternoon at Bright House Field, where he anti-climatically announced Hamels is the guy.
“It’ll be Hamels and (Aaron) Harang to start the season, officially, in that order to start the year,” Sandberg said after a 4-4 tie with the Pirates.
Hamels will face the Red Sox on April 6 at Citizens Bank Park. It will be the second Opening Day start of his career.
Sandberg said the Phillies have not lined up anything beyond that, but David Buchanan and Jerome Williams will be the No. 3 and 4 starters.
The No. 5 starter is expected to be Sean O’Sullivan or Kevin Slowey with O’Sullivan, who is in Minor League camp, considered the favorite. The Phillies do not need a No. 5 starter until April 12, and the organization is hopeful Chad Billingsley will be able to join the rotation before the end of April.
Billingsley is recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries.
But Hamels will pitch Opening Day. How long he remains in the Phillies’ rotation remains to be seen. He is available in a trade, but the Phillies have not found an offer they like.
The Phillies announced this morning they had optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, which was not a surprise. Gonzalez entered Spring Training with a chance to make the Phillies rotation and his chances improved dramatically with Cliff Lee almost certainly lost for the season with an injured left elbow.
But Gonzalez never looked close to big-league ready. He went 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances. He allowed 25 hits, 12 runs, five home runs and one walk with seven strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.
Gonzalez’s demotion leaves the No. 5 starter’s job to Kevin Slowey or Sean O’Sullivan, who is in Minor League camp.
O’Sullivan might be the favorite at this point because he is being stretched out. Slowey is not, although there is time. The Phillies do not need a No. 5 starter until April 12.
The Phillies on Sunday also optioned right-hander Hector Neris to Triple-A. Right-hander Paul Clemens, catcher Koyie Hill and infielders Chris McGuiness and Chris Nelson had been reassigned to Minor League camp.
The Phillies have 36 players remaining in camp: 17 pitchers, three catchers, eight fielders and eight outfielders.
The Phillies and Gonzalez agreed to a six-year, $48 million contract in July 2013, but the deal dropped to three years, $12 million following his physical. Gonzalez’s questionable health popped up last Spring Training and he struggled in the Minor Leagues as a starter with those health issues lingering.
The Phillies eventually converted Gonzalez into a reliever and he had success in that role in Double-A Reading and Triple-A. He got promoted to the Phillies in September, but he had a 6.75 ERA in six relief appearances.
He strained his left oblique, which the Phillies said could sideline him four to six weeks.
“That’s the range,” Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said. “We’ll see in a few days how he responds to treatment. We’ll have a better feel in five, six, seven days from now.”
Crawford, 20, was scheduled to open the season in Class A Clearwater with a potentially quick promotion to Double-A Reading, but that will have to wait.
“It’s disappointing, but it shouldn’t be a long term thing,” Jordan said.
The Phillies selected Crawford with the 16th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. MLBPipline.com ranks Crawford as the No. 22 prospect in baseball. He hit a combined .285 with 23 doubles, 11 home runs, 48 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and a .781 OPS in 538 plate appearances last season with Class A Lakewood and Clearwater.
Hollands has a torn common flexor tendon, which is the same injury that is likely to end Cliff Lee’s career. Hollands visited Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti this week in Philadelphia to discuss his recent MRI results. Surgery has been recommended because Hollands’ first attempt at rehab failed – the injury first surfaced in September, which ended his season – but he has two other options: rest and PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injection.
“I wanted to do the PRP and rest because I wanted to help the team this year. I wanted to play,” Hollands said. “That’s still in my head because I want to play so bad, but I am a little worried because it’s the second time so I don’t know if rest or PRP will be the only solution. So surgery, I’m thinking about it pretty hard.”
Hollands will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. He hopes to have his recommendation soon.
Hollands’ difficult choice is this: if he elects rest or PRP and it fails a second time he risks being healthy at the beginning of the 2016 season. The Phillies said the recovery from this type of surgery is six to eight months.
“It would be heartbreaking if it came back again after rest,” Hollands said.
In that sense, surgery might be the safest option.
“That’ll help just seal it up and hopefully it will never be a problem again,” Hollands said.
Hollands made the team last season as a non-roster invitee. He went 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 50 appearances. His loss opens up a bullpen job. Four spots are locked up with Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus. Andy Oliver, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Garcia are the leading candidates for the final three jobs.
The show recreated the stands, the concourses, the concession stands, the bathrooms, etc. But the show almost never happened.
Goldberg spoke with MLB.com recently about the episode, being a Phillies fan and more.
Click here to read the story, which includes a couple clips from Wednesday’s episode.
Q: So why did you want to have a Phillies/Vet episode?
A: The Goldbergs is completely autobiographical about my life growing up in the ‘80s in Philadelphia. Every day in the writers’ room, we just talk about stories from our childhood and things that mattered to us. I grew up in a sports family. As you see in the show, I wasn’t athletic. But my brother was. My dad was an athlete. I was the black sheep. But that didn’t stop me from being dragged to Phillies games, Eagles games. We had Flyers season tickets. So sports are a big part of my family and growing up. Some of my best memories were going to Phillies games with my dad, going to Veterans Stadium. There was one particular instance where we got separated, and in the ‘80s when you got separated from somebody in a big place without a cell phone there was no way to find them. So I was telling this story about how I went with my dad to a Phillies game and we got separated. And there was this panic you felt because Veterans Stadium was so big and so scary. It was terrifying. It’s really an episode about Adam’s transition into manhood as he learns to survive in Veterans Stadium by himself only to be reunited with his dad at the end.
Q: But I remember seeing on Twitter you couldn’t get script approval.
A: The show is a love letter to the ‘80s, but it’s also a love letter to Philadelphia and a love letter to the sports that I grew up with. So it’s a love letter to all the Philly teams. I’ve done a lot of Flyers stuff. The NHL is really cooperative. Baseball, everybody knows, they’re just tougher. So the interesting thing was, when we approached them they had concerns about the scripts as any franchise would. Be it sports or even when we try to get an ‘80s movie cleared. Everyone wants their property to be portrayed in the right way and they have concerns. And the way it happened was I tweeted my frustrations and the Phillies saw that fans wanted Veterans Stadium to be resurrected so badly. So MLB has been awesome because they’ve decided to stay out of it and leave it in the hands of the Phillies. So now I’m working with the Phillies, which is so cool, to really come up with something that I’m happy with comedically and they’re happy that represents the Phillies in the best way. The other thing that’s amazing that is that it is a comedy and the Phillies were able to have a really good sense of humor about what Veterans Stadium was. So that’s been really cool. I think there’s concerns that naturally, we don’t want the fans to be portrayed in a certain way. So what was explained back that this isn’t about the fans. This is about Veterans Stadium, what that meant to the city and yes it was rough around the edges, but it was a place that people loved. So we’re recreating the stands and the bleachers. We’re recreating the bathrooms. There’s a lot of people from Philly on my show. And those bathrooms. Those giant troughs that you had to pee in with the drunk fans. You’re so crowded in. I remember having stage fright for the first time, having to go so bad, but being so freaked out by the experience I couldn’t go. There was so much. It was so ripe for material. This episode came out so easily because we all have so many experiences going to Phillies games with going to Veterans Stadium.
He is scheduled to pitch a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. Billingsley, 30, is recovering from a pair of surgeries on his right elbow, which have limited him to just 12 innings in the big leagues the previous two seasons.
Billingsley is expected to throw 30 to 35 pitches, about two innings of work.
“Then do it again,” Billingsley said.
The Phillies have indicated Billingsley could make a Grapefruit League appearance before the team heads to Philadelphia on April 2, but he said he is not focused on that.
“I’m not thinking that far ahead,” he said. “When you’ve been going through two years of rehab, you don’t look beyond the next week or the next start or the next whatever. You just kind of approach it one start at a time and put all your focus on doing your rehab and your treatment to get to the next step. I’m just getting ready for Thursday.”
Billingsley’s successful return to the big leagues is worth following. First, the Phillies need starting pitching help. Second, if Billingsley comes back and pitches successfully he could be a valuable trade chip come July.
He left a Grapefruit League game against the Yankees in the third inning because of soreness in his left Achilles. He said in the visitors’ clubhouse the Achilles had been bothering him for a couple weeks.
“They’re saying tendinitis,” Brown said.
Brown said he will have a team doctor examine him tomorrow.
Brown struck out twice in his only two plate appearances tonight. He is hitting .241 (7-for-29) with one double, two RBIs, five walks and five strikeouts in 11 games. The Phillies are hoping for a big bounce back season from Brown, who struggled as one of the least productive outfielders in baseball in 2014.
“I want to be in there, Spring Training or not,” Brown said. “I feel pretty good at the plate. I don’t want to miss any time, but this is part of the game, also. I’m definitely frustrated for sure. It seemed like we were going in the right direction, it was getting a little bit better.
“As soon as Chase Headley hit the home run (in the second inning), I took off and started feeling it then. Once I got to the on-deck circle … I could definitely feel it. Not pulling but grabbing a little bit.”
Brown missed a game earlier this week because of dehydration. He said he had been doubling up on anti-inflammatories, which might have keyed the dehydration.