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Amaro Talks Ryno, Brown, Ruf and More

Ruben Amaro Jr.Ryne Sandberg has had his share of closed-door meetings and issues with players this season, but Ruben Amaro Jr. said today he likes the way Sandberg has handled his first full season on the job, although he acknowledged a learning curve.

“I didn’t expect Ryno to come in here and be the greatest manager of all time,” Amaro said. “This is a process. He’s learning. By and large, he’s done a good job. You’re a smart manager when teams win and you’re not so smart when you don’t have success.”

Sandberg recently met with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan following comments they made regarding playing time. A week earlier in San Francisco he met with Kyle Kendrick after he nearly left the mound before Sandberg could remove him from a game. He had closed-door meetings with Ryan Howard last month following his announcement he wanted to see others play more at first base, which he backed off a few days later. He benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training, but ruffled feathers when he offered a “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ energy and influence in the clubhouse.

“He’s addressing these things,” Amaro said. “That’s all I can ask of the manager. Some unfortunate comments, I think. In some case, some inappropriate comments on the player’s part. But I think that’s been handled.”

Sandberg has been criticized for some of his in-game decisions and how he handles the lineup, but a big part of a manager’s job is communicating and motivating players. Amaro said he believes Sandberg is improving in those areas.

“He was given a tough task right out of the chute,” he said. “There was an expectation for us to win. We have a lot of veterans who were, in some cases, underperforming. We had some young guys we were giving opportunities who we expected more from. It’s been challenging for him. It’s a great learning experience for him. He’s still learning and learning different ways to motivate and move the club forward. He’s addressing things. He’s learning how to handle the players on a daily basis. He’s utilizing the staff well. We still have over a month to go. I’ll know more about how he’s done. So far I’m pleased with how he’s handled things.”

Amaro touched on other topics today:

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Phillies Eye Cuban Outfielders

Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week the Phillies need to make serious upgrades to their offense.

He could start in the outfield.

Despite the fact Marlon Byrd is fourth in the National League in home runs and sixth in RBIs and Ben Revere has the highest batting average in baseball since June 25, Phillies outfielders entered yesterday’s series finale against the Mariners at Citizens Bank Park with a combined .706 OPS, which ranked 19th in baseball. Domonic Brown‘s .622 OPS ranked 56th out of 60 qualifying outfielders. Brown is on pace to have the lowest OPS of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch (.582) in 2002.

Multiple sources said recently the Phillies will take a shot at Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, but they are not expected to sign him. Castillo established residency in Haiti and was cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a team in July.

The Phillies could be more aggressive with other international free agents in the coming months. Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has big-time power, and is somebody to watch closely. Tomas could hit the market in the next couple of months.

Yozzen Cuesta is a corner infielder, which would require the Phillies to shuffle several pieces if they plan to pursue him.

Tomas and Cuesta have established residency outside the United States and Cuba. They need to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), then declared free agents by Major League Baseball before they sign. But action on those players could pick up once Castillo signs with a team.

Montgomery: Amaro Is Not On Hot Seat

Ryan Howard, David MontgomeryThe Phillies might have the third-highest payroll in baseball, but they are going to miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.

But Phillies president David Montgomery‘s support for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has not wavered publicly, including yesterday at the organization’s Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women at Citizens Bank Park.

“Ruben is not on the hot seat,” he told a large group of Phillies fans during a question-and-answer session.

The comment hit Twitter shortly thereafter. Montgomery could not be reached later for further comment.

Montgomery has continually supported Amaro, despite nearly constant criticism from outside the organization. He told MLB.com in February, “I think we have somebody whose experience working under two general managers served him well and positioned him to be very effective at his job. We — we — need to do better.”

He told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June, “I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group.”

Kendrick Apologizes to Ryno, Discusses Future

Kyle KendrickKyle Kendrick apologized to Ryne Sandberg this morning at AT&T Park for almost leaving the mound before his manager arrived during a pitching change in the sixth inning yesterday.

Kendrick stormed off the field and immediately into the Phillies clubhouse.

“I didn’t want to come out of the game,” Kendrick said. “I wasn’t trying to show up Ryno or nothing. I didn’t try to. That wasn’t my intention. I was just upset. I wanted to get where nobody could see me as quickly as possible.”

He also said he wasn’t upset at teammates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for letting a routine pop up fall between them, which sparked an ugly inning in which the Phillies blew a four-run lead in a 6-5 loss.

“I didn’t handle it right,” Kendrick said. “That wasn’t very professional of me.”

Kendrick is 5-11 with a 4.90 ERA, which is the third-highest ERA out of 94 qualifying pitchers in baseball. He is a free agent after the season.

“Everything has just kind of been building up,” Kendrick said. “It’s been a tough year for us as a team and me personally. You’ve still got to keep fighting. But little stuff irritates you. … When I’m pitching I don’t really think about (free agency). When I’m out there I’m just focused on one pitch at a time. When I’m out there, no. It’s definitely not on my mind. Maybe in between starts I think about it because – shoot, I’m human. I have a family to provide for. I have two kids. So I think, where am I going to be? All that stuff.”

Asked if he thinks he will be back with the Phillies, Kendrick said, “I don’t know. I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”

Phillies Like Valentin

valentinThe Phillies hope Jesmuel Valentin is one of two quality players to join the organization following the Roberto Hernandez trade with the Dodgers.

The Phillies acquired him yesterday as the first player to be named in the deal. The Phillies have until the middle of next month to select the second player, which will come from a remaining pool of three players. Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated they are leaning toward a pitcher.

“We have a pretty good idea of who we want but we’re still waiting to make a decision right now,” he said. “We’ll check on some medical stuff. They’re younger guys. For the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy with it.”

MLB.com ranked Valentin, who is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, as the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization. Selected 51st overall as a supplement pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Valentin was hitting .282 with 22 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 107 games with Great Lakes.

Valentin will report to Class A Clearwater.

“We like the kid,” Amaro said. “He’s got baseball acumen. He’s advanced pretty quickly. He plays short and second; we’ll probably have him play second base for us. Switch hitter. Plays the game well. … We’re not sure if he’s better from the right or from the left side. He doesn’t have a whole lot of Minor-league at bats yet. But he’s all right. He’s someone who handles the bat pretty well. He has a little bit of pop. He’s not a big guy, but has a little pop. He can run. He plays the game right. He plays hard.”

Amaro said there is chance the Phillies could make at least another trade before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.

Phillies Get Valentin from Dodgers

The Phillies announced this evening they have acquired Class A second baseman Jesmuel Valentin from the Dodgers as the first of two players to be named in the Roberto Hernandez trade.

MLB.com ranked Valentin as the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization.

Selected 51st overall as a supplement pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Valentin was hitting .282 with 22 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 107 games with Great Lakes.

He struggled in 33 games with Great Lakes last season, posting a .618 OPS, but has improved at the plate this season.

Crawford Recovering from Sprained Ankle

Class A Clearwater shortstop J.P. Crawford has not played since Monday because of a sprained left ankle.

It is not believed to be serious. Crawford reportedly felt better Saturday.

“I’m not sure how much longer it is going to take,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said before today’s game against the Giants at AT&T Park. “We’re not overly concerned.”

Crawford is the top player prospect in the organization. The 19-year-old is hitting .274 with four doubles, six home runs, 18 RBIs and a .743 OPS in 48 games with Clearwater since a midseason promotion from Class A Lakewood.

Do Phillies Know Ruf or Not?

Darin RufIt sounded a few weeks ago like Darin Ruf would receive fairly consistent playing time the rest of the season, but it hasn’t happened that way.

Since he started three consecutive games at first base from July 23-25, Ruf has started just four of the Phillies’ next 18 games: twice at first base and twice in left field. Ruf did not start tonight against the Angels at Angel Stadium, despite going 3-for-5 with one home run, two RBIs, one walk and one hit by pitch in the past two games.

“Weaver is extremely tough on right-handed bats,” Ryne Sandberg said about Angels right-hander Jered Weaver.

Ruf and Domonic Brown seem to have fallen into a gray area. They are 28 and 26, respectively, so they are not young players anymore. But the Phillies also want to know what they have going forward, which would seem to mean more playing time for them as the team plays out the string.

Or maybe the organization already know enough about them and playing time is no longer an issue?

“I would say in some regards (we) still need to see them,” Sandberg said. “It’s more for what type of role are we talking about? If it’s a pinch-hit type of a situation, having some experience doing that. If it’s an everyday guy, putting together a full year and being able to do that. There is some uncertainty still going forward with what both of those guys can do.

“I can see what (Ruf) can do on the defensive side of things. I think he’s fine in left field. I think he’s very good at first base, but with the situations he’s been in the past couple years here and not being able to have a string of at-bats against all the pitchers, it’s hard to really get a gauge still.”

So then what would have been lost by playing Ruf against a tough right-hander like Weaver?

“That’s the tricky part of making up the lineups and also trying to win a game,” Sandberg said.

Phillies Claim Williams Off Waivers

The Phillies today claimed right-hander Jerome Williams off waivers from the Rangers.

Williams, 32, went 2-5 with a 6.71 ERA in 28 games this season with Houston and Texas. He is 44-52 with a 4.51 ERA in nine big-league seasons with the Giants, Cubs, Nationals, Angels, Astros, Rangers.

The Phillies designed right-hander Sean O’Sullivan for assignment to make room for Williams on the 25-man roster. O’Sullivan had been scheduled to start Tuesday against the Angels in Anaheim. Williams presumably will take his place in the rotation, although it is unclear if he will start Tuesday.

Howard’s Big Week

Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, Jason CastroRyan Howard had one heck of a series against the Astros, especially when it is stacked against his recent struggles and the uncertainty surrounding his future with the organization.

In the past couple weeks:

  • Ryne Sandberg has said it is time to see what others can do at first base.
  • He also said the remaining $60 million on Howard’s contract will not affect future lineups and he would consider a platoon moving forward.
  • There were multiple reports the Phillies front office kick around the possibility of releasing Howard in the offseason, which Ruben Amaro Jr. denied.
  • Howard upset fans when he said nobody would want to trade places with him right now, despite the fact he is in the midst of a $125 million contract.
  • Howard went 1-for-25 on a recent road trip through New York and Washington.
  • He hit .135 (15-for-111) with two doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs and a .451 OPS in 30 games from June 26-August 3. It was the second-lowest OPS out of 163 qualifying players in that stretch.
  • He is on pace to have arguably the least productive season of any cleanup hitter with 575 or more plate appearances in the No. 4 spot in the past 100 years.

But then Howard hit .357 (5-for-14) with one double, two home runs and eight RBIs in the three-game sweep against the Astros. It included tonight’s game-winning grand slam in the eighth inning of a 6-5 victory. It preceded a curtain call for a player fans have booed regularly this season.

“It is what it is,” Howard said about the up-and-down fan reaction this season. “I mean, its unfortunate. I’ll be honest with you, it’s unfortunate that’s what happens. But I’ll go out there and continue to play. I understand what it takes to play the game. I understand it wasn’t there early, but it only had to be there once. It was there with me and I’ll try to build off that.”

Like anything, it is just three games. The key for Howard is finishing the season strong. Can he build upon this? Or is this just a good three-game series?

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