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Amaro: Changes Are Coming

Ruben Amaro, Jr.Ruben Amaro Jr. said today that changes are coming for the Phillies’ offense.

It could come in the form of trades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, injured players finally getting healthy or Minor Leaguers finally getting a shot.

“It’s disappointing, particularly the offense,” Amaro said about the Phillies’ performance. “What more can you say other than we’re not swinging the bats very well? I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us.”

The Phillies hit just .206 and averaged just 2.56 runs a game over their recent 3-13 slide. They hit .148 with runners in scoring position in that stretch. For the season, the Phillies are 26th in baseball in runs per game (3.75) and 29th in OPS (.661), despite having a franchise-record $180 million payroll and nearly every high-paid hitter healthy.

Possible changes include Triple-A outfielders Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore and infielders Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.

“Whoever else in the organization may be factors for us,” Amaro said. “We have to get them healthy and see if it behooves us to make any of those changes.”

Ruf is recovering from a knee and wrist injury, Sizemore can opt out of his contract over the All-Star break if he is not in the Phillies’ plans, Galvis is recovering from a broken collarbone and Franco is trying to get on track after struggling most of the season.

Franco, who was the organization’s top hitting prospect entering the season, is hitting .342 (13-for-38) with two doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs in the past nine games.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Amaro said. “Hey, listen, I’m looking for people who can swing the bat. Because we’re not doing it here. If he gets to the point where he starts swinging the bat consistently, he’s a guy who could be in play too.”

But Franco plays third base and Phillies third baseman Cody Asche warrants a longer look. Could both be on the field at the same time?

“Yeah, because he could play first base, too,” Amaro said about Franco.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hitting .230 with 14 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .701 OPS, which ranks 114th out of 165 qualifying hitters in baseball.

Amaro said there is still interest in his players, despite their poor play recently. He also said the front office has been active in pursuing improvements.

“Whether we’ll actually get it done or if there is something that can improve us, it depends on how our club is being evaluated,” Amaro said. “If we’re going to make changes, we make changes to get better. Everything we think about is thinking about how we can improve our club. Will we be better? That’s what you have to analyze.”

Phillies Sign Three International Players

The Phillies signed three players today on the first day of the international signing period.

They signed Venezuelan shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa, one of the top infielders on the international market, for $900,000. Gamboa ranked 15th on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list. They also signed Venezuelan shortstop Daniel Brito for $650,000 and Panamanian left-hander Jhon Nunez for close to $100,000.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said the Phillies planned to use most or all of their $3.2 million allotted for international players.

“Three signed and working on others,” Amaro said. “We’ll find out more in the next 24 hours.”

In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool based on the team’s record in 2013 for the international signing period. Philadelphia’s bonus pool total for this year’s signing period is $3,221,800.

Gonzalez A Reliever For Now

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezThe Phillies signed Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million contract last year because they believed he would pitch in their rotation this season.

But Gonzalez, who had health concerns before the Phillies signed him, has been plagued with shoulder issues. He has been healthy recently, however, and the Phillies today activated him from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Double-A Reading, where he will pitch out of the bullpen.

“We started stretching him out and when he got past 40 pitches he wasn’t able to handle it physically and stay in his mechanics,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We decided to go ahead and make him a reliever for now. Once he gets his feet on the ground we’ll try to stretch him out for next year.”

So he could be a starter in the future?

“He could, yeah,” Amaro said.

If his shoulder holds up. Asked if Gonzalez’s latest MRI looked clean, Amaro said, “It’s kind of like normal changes like a lot of guys, but he’s physically fine now.”

Gonzalez has been throwing well during a rehab assignment with Class A Clearwater. He touched 97 mph recently when he got upset at an opposing player.

“He got a little rammy,” Amaro said. “We’ll see how rammy he can get. We’re just trying to get him reps right now and get him going and competing. We’ll see where it takes us. We’ll evaluate him like everybody else in our system. Hopefully he can handle Double-A and we’ll go from there.”

Could he be in the big leagues this year?

“Can I see it? If he throws 96 or 97, or 94 or 95 or whatever and gets people out consistently, yeah,” Amaro said. “Why not? A lot of depends on his performance.”

Lee’s Next Step Could Be Rehab Start

Cliff LeeCliff Lee continues to recover from his strained left elbow, taking another step forward today at Marlins Park.

He threw 60 pitches in a three-inning simulated game.

“We’re on pace,” Lee said.

Lee said he feels ready to begin a rehab assignment, which could happen Sunday with Class A Clearwater. That decision could come tomorrow, when the Phillies and Lee see how his elbow responded from today’s effort.

“I’ve been feeling better every day,” Lee said. “A couple rehab assignments then hopefully back up.”

If Lee makes two rehab starts he should be in line to rejoin the Phillies’ rotation after the All-Star break, although the Phillies did not rule out just one rehab start and a return shortly before the break.

Tune Update – June 29

Ryan HowardHere’s the latest music update. If you don’t see a player here it means he hasn’t chose at-bat or warmup music.

AT BAT:

  • Cody Asche: Dat New New – Kid Cudi
  • Reid Brignac: Drop Tha Top – Boss Hogg Outlawz
  • Domonic Brown: In Da Wind – Trick Daddy and Move That Dope – Future
  • A.J. Burnett: Black Skinhead – Kanye West
  • Marlon Byrd: Get Like Me – David Banner and Work – DJ Smoke f/Gangstarr
  • Tony Gwynn Jr.: Collard Greens – Schoolboy Q
  • Ryan Howard: Trumpets – Jason Derulo
  • Kyle Kendrick: The Outsiders – Eric Church
  • John Mayberry Jr.: Look Ahead – Future
  • Wil Nieves: No Soy Yo – Tony Vega
  • Ben Revere: Turn Down For What – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
  • Jimmy Rollins: Good Kisser – Usher and Wiggle – Jason Derulo
  • Carlos Ruiz: In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
  • Chase Utley: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

WARMUPS:

  • Mike Adams: Intro – DMX
  • David Buchanan: Agnus Dei / Worthy – Third Day
  • A.J. Burnett: The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Cole Hamels: Thunderstruck – AC/DC
  • Kyle Kendrick:A Country Boy Can Survive – Hank Williams, Jr.
  • Cliff Lee: Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Bout That Life – Meek Mill

T-Mac’s Catch



Tom McCarthy
made a heck of a catch last night, considering the circumstances.

I talked to him this morning about it.

Chooch to DL with Concussion

Carlos RuizCarlos Ruiz got hit in the head with a pitch during his at-bat in the 11th inning last night, but he still finished the 14-inning victory over the Marlins.

But the Phillies announced an hour before tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Braves that Ruiz had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list. They selected the contract of Triple-A Lehigh Valley catcher Koyie Hill to take Ruiz’s spot on the 25-man roster. They designated Double-A outfielder Zach Collier for assignment to make room for Hill on the 40-man roster.

Ryne Sandberg indicated about three hours before the game that Ruiz, who spent time on the DL in 2010 with a concussion, would be fine, but that changed.

“He was under a little bit of watch,” Sandberg said after the game. “He just had a headache and he checked with Scott (head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan). It was clear that he had something going on.”

Backup catcher Wil Nieves already is on the DL with a strained right quadriceps, leaving the Phillies with Cameron Rupp and Hill to catch while Ruiz and Nieves recover.

Hill, 35, was hitting .240 with nine doubles, one triple, three home runs and 17 RBIs in 45 games for Lehigh Valley.

Collier, 23, appeared in 40 games for Reading this season, hitting .228 with five doubles, two triples and one home run.

Utley Goes Deep for Sixth Walkoff Hit, First since ’07


Chase Utley hit a two-run, walkoff home run in the 14th inning last night to beat the Marlins.

It had been a long time coming, in more ways than one.

He entered the night hitting .225 with one double, one home run, seven RBIs and a .568 OPS in 92 plate appearances since June 2, so he was due for a big hit, if not a big hit at a big moment.

“I’m trying to build some comfort at the plate,” he said. “You go through some funks and you try to battle through them.”

It was Utley’s sixth walk-off hit of his career, but his first since Aug. 30, 2007, when he singled against Mets closer Billy Wagner to score Tadahito Iguchi in a memorable 11-10 victory in a memorable run to the postseason. It was the third walk-off homer of Utley’s career, his first since Sept. 4, 2006, against Houston’s Dave Borkowski.

Utley fouled off a first-pitch fastball from Marlins right-hander Chris Hatcher, but swung and missed badly at an 0-1 fastball.

He recovered nicely, sending the third pitch into the seats.

“It was good to see him regroup, get a pitch he can really handle,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He’s a grinder. Three RBIs on the game, scrapped out a hit and a big shot at the end. Right man at the right spot.”

Biddle Placed on Inactive List

biddleJesse Biddle entered 2014 season as the organization’s top pitching prospect, but at the moment he is lost.

The Phillies today placed the Double-A left-hander, who they selected in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, on the inactive list. Biddle, who is 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA in 13 starts, told the Reading Eagle, “I’m miserable out there. I’m very unhappy. And I don’t know why.”

It sounds like a mental health break for the 22-year-old.

Biddle, who is 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA in his last four starts, pitching past the third inning just once, battled the mental side of the game in 2013. He also suffered through whooping cough, and a postseason MRI revealed he pitched the final month of the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

He finished 5-14 with a respectable 3.64 ERA, but battled through constant frustrations.

“I was really, really immature in some ways handling my illnesses, handling some of the adversity I was facing,” Biddle said in January. “There were a lot of times I failed last year, and I didn’t handle it the right way. There are some things I really want to grow up on and want to improve.”

Former Phillies ace Roy Halladay had a one-on-one discussion with Biddle in Spring Training. He spoke with him for about 30 minutes one afternoon, discussing the mental aspects of pitching and handing him a copy of “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” by Harvey Dorfman, which Halladay credits for helping saving his big league career.

“A big thing for me will just be not sitting on things as long,” Biddle said. “There are times where I’ll let a game affect me for too long after the game is over, when the fact is, once my manager takes the ball out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do. As much as I want to, as much as I want to go back and replay it over and over in my head, there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

The Phillies also announced they released Double-A outfielder Jiwan James, who they selected in the 22nd round in 2007.

Sizemore Signed to Minor League Deal

sizemoreThe Phillies need some serious help in the outfield.

It is exactly why they signed Grady Sizemore today to a Minor League contract after the Red Sox released him last Wednesday. Sizemore will report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday. Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Sizemore has an out clause in his contract. The Phillies will have to bring Sizemore to the big leagues sometime in July or he can ask for his release.

“Well, I’d like to have more production in the outfield,” Amaro said. “It’s pretty simple. If we think after watching him play in Lehigh Valley, if we think he’s going to help us, then we’ll bring him. Really, this is a no-risk, high-reward situation for us. ”

Sizemore hit just .215 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 15 RBIs and a .612 OPS in 52 games before the Red Sox released him. Sizemore had been one of the better outfielders in baseball with the Indians from 2004-09 before seven surgeries for a variety of injuries limited to 104 games 2010-11 and kept him out of baseball in 2012-13.

“More than anything else, when you take that much time off, it takes a long time — much longer than people think — to get your feet back on the ground,” Amaro said. “I know Boston gave him an opportunity to play. He had some level of success and then he did struggle at times. We’ll see what he has in the tank. We believe in the athlete. We’ll see what he has left.”

There is reason to roll the dice. Phillies leftfielders entered Tuesday 30th in baseball with a .578 OPS and Phillies centerfielders were 27th with a .612 OPS. Individually, Domonic Brown was 162nd out of 167 qualified players with a .596 OPS. Ben Revere was 157th with a .615 OPS.

Marlon Byrd‘s .778 OPS was 63rd. He was on pace for 25 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Amaro said he thinks Sizemore can still play center field, although he will get a look at every outfield spot.

The Phillies expressed interest in Sizemore in the offseason, but did not want to offer him a big-league contract.

“We were interested,” Amaro said. “It didn’t work out. But we’ll get an opportunity to see how he’s progressed. We’ll see what happens. There’s a chance we could get him back here in July at some point.”

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