Scott Franzke: Secrets Revealed!

Ever wonder why Scott Franzke is so chock full of information during his radio broadcasts?

It turns out he doesn’t have a photographic memory. He uses something called OneNote.

He just did a spot (or spots) for it.

So the next time he brings up a bizarre food item, promotion, stat or story to Larry Andersen, we’ll know how he remembered it.

Could Phillies Be Interested In Maddon?

joe maddonJoe Maddon is regarded as one of the best managers in baseball, and he unexpectedly became a free agent today when he opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Could the Phillies be interested in Maddon?

“We have a manager,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon. “Ryne Sandberg is our manager.”

So no plans to speak to him?

“Like I said, we have a manager,” Amaro said.

Maddon already has said he wants to manage next season. He told FOXSports.com and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that, “I have interest everywhere right now. I’ve got to hear what everyone has to say.”

Sandberg is signed through 2016. The Phillies finished 73-89 and last in the National League East in his first full season after replacing Charlie Manuel in August 2013. He did not have much to work with, but he had his struggles. A lack of communication with players was a problem at times and, like most managers, his in-game decisions were criticized. But interim president Pat Gillick and Amaro have supported him.

“It was a very good learning experience for him,” Amaro said about Sandberg earlier this month. “First time manager on a team that’s an aging team that has an expectation of winning. And with some of the bumps and bruises we had over the course of the year, I think Ryno is the man for the job. I also think Ryno is going through a similar learning process that is associated with being a first-year manager. And so I believe in him. I know that he is dedicated and focused on putting the Phillies where they need to be, and I feel very good about his instincts and ability to get us to where we need to go.”

Maddon’s agent is expected to talk to numerous teams with managers already under contract. Some manager somewhere could suddenly find himself out of a job.

“For me, it’s not my responsibility to think for other organizations,” Maddon told Rosenthal. “I’m controlling what I can. … At the end of the day, I would never ask or tell an organization what to do. That’s not my business.”

Utley Is Gold Glove Finalist

Chase Utley will have a shot at his first Gold Glove early next month.

He is one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for National League second basemen. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips and Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu are the other two finalists.

Utley committed 11 errors with a .985 fielding percentage this season. Phillips committed two with a .996 fielding percentage, while LeMahieu had six with a .991 fielding percentage. But Utley’s 8.2 ultimate zone rating ranked second to LeMahieu (10.7), according to FanGraphs.

Utley’s 10.4 defense rating also ranked second to LeMahieu (12.7).

Phillies Sign Williams

Jerome WilliamsJerome Williams made enough of a positive impression that the Phillies are bringing him back next season.

They announced today that they signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, which includes performance bonuses. Williams, 32, went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts this year.

“He did a nice job,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We feel he has some upside. He’s got some versatility. He’ll be given every opportunity to be part of our rotation, but he has some versatility to pitch in the middle (of the bullpen) somewhere if not.”

Williams went 2-5 with a 6.71 ERA in 28 appearances (two starts) last season with the Astros and Rangers before the Phillies claimed him off waivers in August. He is 48-54 with a 4.40 ERA in his nine-year career, so should the Phillies expect some sort of regression to his career averages?

“We looked at the metrics on that,” Amaro said. “A lot of it will depend on him. The way that he performed, it was clear that he had changed his overall approach. If he maintains that approach we believe he can gives us the depth we need. One of our priorities is trying to create some more starting pitching depth.”

Cole Hamels and David Buchanan are the only starting pitchers under contract or team control who finished the 2014 season healthy.

Cliff Lee finished the year on the disabled list with a left elbow injury, although Amaro said Lee is scheduled to begin his throwing program next month. The Phillies expect him to be ready by Spring Training.

A.J. Burnett has a $15 million mutual option, which the Phillies are certain to decline. But even if they do, Burnett has a $12.75 million player option, which he has until five days following the World Series to accept or decline. Burnett has vacillated between pitching again and retiring.

“I’m really kind of neutral on it,” said Amaro, asked if he would be surprised if Burnett turned down that much money. “I knew what it took to get him back and pitching this year. I would assume that he’d want to pitch again. I don’t have that information, but my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”

Other pitchers on the 40-man roster include Kyle Kendrick, who will become a free agent; Jonathan Pettibone, who had right shoulder surgery in June; and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who became a reliever because of concerns about his ability to stay healthy as a starter.

But Amaro said Gonzalez will enter Spring Training competing for a job in the rotation.

“We’re going to give him every opportunity to be in our rotation,” Amaro said. “We have to try to create as many opportunities for starting pitching as we possibly can. We’re not going to be able to go through a season with five or six pitchers. It’s probably going to take seven to 10 pitchers.”

But can Gonzalez hold up?

“He personally feels more comfortable being in the rotation,” Amaro said. “Whether or not he can provide that remains to be seen. But after speaking with him it was very important to him to be prepared mentally and physically for this offseason to get stretched out.”

Phillies Hire Wolever’s Replacement

The Phillies have a replacement for former assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever, whom they dismissed late last month.

They announced today they have hired Braves international scouting director Johnny Almaraz to be their amateur scouting director. He will run the Phillies’ First-Year Player Drafts, which Wolever had done since 2002.

It will be new role for Almaraz.

“We couldn’t be happier to add someone of Johnny’s caliber to our baseball operations staff,” Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said in a statement. “He has established a reputation for being able to identify future Major League talent and brings a great deal of experience to the Phillies.”

Almaraz had been Atlanta’s international scouting director since 2008. His most notable signings are Julio Teheran and Christian Bethancourt. Before joining the Braves in 2006 as director of Latin America operations, he spent 16 years as a scout with the Reds. There he signed amateurs like Adam Dunn, Johnny Cueto and B.J. Ryan.

Wolever had been running the Phillies’ First-Year Player Drafts since 2002, but success had been scattered. MLB.com in June examined the Phillies’ Drafts from 2004-13. Forty-six picks reached the big leagues, which tied the A’s and Rangers for seventh best in baseball.

But the quality of the Phillies’ picks ranked last. According to baseballreference.com, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies picks over the past 10 years was 20.7, which was 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3). The big league average was 82.7.

Amaro: Nothing Is Off the Table

Ruben Amaro Jr.,Ruben Amaro Jr. talked yesterday about the upcoming offseason, which will be a big one for the Phillies.

Read the full story here.

In short, he said nothing is off the table. It seems the Phillies are finally open to doing anything in the offseason, which means trading Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, if a deal makes sense to them. Of course, they’re going to try hard to trade Howard, although it will be difficult with the $60 million remaining on his contract. But at least the Phillies are not going into the offseason believing they can still win if everybody stays healthy and performs to their capabilities. 2008 is a long time ago. They’re finally accepting that.

Here is some of what Amaro had to say:

Q: Is the organization acknowledging it held on too long to the idea it will win as long as the 2008 core is together?
A: I think we have to look at everything kind of deeply. My feeling is we need to try to get younger. We need to try to put ourselves in a position to be a little bit more athletic, and we have to put ourselves in position to be open minded about some changes at the major league level. Clearly, we’ve gone for it several times and the last couple years it hasn’t worked for us, and so we have to think about and have been thinking about ways to move the organization forward in a different way other than just adding small pieces to try to be a championship club. I think we have to certainly, and we have been, looking for more long term solutions.

Q: Is anything and everything on the table?
A: We’re staying very open minded. I think we have our philosophies about evaluating players and putting the club together, and we are still evaluating those as well. But we are keeping a very, very open mind as far as our player personnel is concerned. And so I guess you could say there’s nothing that’s really off the table.

Q: Do you feel you have one year to turn things around with your contract expiring at the end of next season?
A: It doesn’t bother me one way or another. I have a job to do and that’s to get the Phillies back to where we can be a perennial contender. And that’s really the ultimate goal. If you wanted to put a stamp on what we’re talking about today it’s about getting the Phillies back to the point where we’re a perennial contender. Does it happen next year? Does it happen in two years? Does it happen in three years? We don’t know yet. But we are in the process … but that’s the goal for long term success, not just the short term success.

(more…)

Phillies Tweak Player Development Staff

The Phillies today announced a tweak to their Minor League player development staff.

They hired Rafael Chaves to be their Minor League pitching coordinator. The Phillies interviewed Chaves to be their big-league pitching coach last offseason before hiring Bob McClure.

Chaves, 46, spent this season as the Dodgers’ special assistant of player personnel after spending five seasons as their Minor League pitching coordinator. He served as Seattle’s pitching coach from 2006-07, so his relationship with Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper, who worked in the Mariners front office from 1987-2008, likely played a role in his hire.

“We are extremely excited to add Rafael to our staff,” Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and is one of the most respected names in our business when it comes to developing pitchers.”

Carlos Arroyo, who held that role this season, will resume his previous job as the Phillies’ Minor League roving pitching coach.

The Phillies said they will announce their complete player development staff at a later date.

Phillies Refute Report

The Phillies this morning refuted a TV report last night that Phillies president David Montgomery had been ousted from his position in August, and that limited partner John Middleton is making a push to own the majority of the franchise.

Multiple sources also refuted the report.

Montgomery took a leave of absence in August to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. Pat Gillick took his place as interim president.

FOX 29 called it a “convenient story.”

“Contrary to the Fox 29 report last night, David Montgomery’s leave of absence from the Phillies is entirely due to his medical condition, as previously announced,” the team said in a statement. “There is absolutely no other reason for his leave from active involvement in the Phillies management.”

Regarding the reported ownership shakeup, the Phillies said, “Over the life of the Phillies partnership no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership, and we do not foresee this changing in the future.”

Ruiz, Revere, Lee, Burnett Injury Updates

Russell Martin, Ben RevereThe Phillies announced four injury updates Wednesday:

  • Carlos Ruiz on Monday had minor arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. Team physician Michael Ciccotti performed the surgery. Ruiz will begin his rehab immediately and will return to Philadelphia in one month for a follow-up exam. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
  • Ben Revere on Tuesday had surgery at the Rothman Institute to remove screws from his right ankle. Physician Steven Raikin performed the surgery. Revere will be in a walking boot for approximately two weeks and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
  • Cliff Lee on Friday had an MRI on his left elbow at the Rothman Institute. The team said the MRI showed positive results as his flexor tendon is healing well. Lee will begin a full throwing program in November and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
  • The Phillies are in the process of scheduling hernia surgery for right-hander A.J. Burnett. The club will have more information once the surgery has been scheduled.

Changes? None to Phillies Coaching Staff

Ryne Sandberg, Steve HendersonThe Phillies are making no changes to their coaching staff.

They announced this afternoon that every big-league coach has been asked to return for the 2015 season. It remains to be seen if everyone accepts.

Ryne Sandberg’s coaches include bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, hitting coach Steve Henderson, first base coach Juan Samuel, third base coach Pete Mackanin, bullpen coach Rod Nichols and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock.

The Phillies finished 73-89 and last in the National League East, but the front office and Sandberg must have felt it could not pin the team’s failures on any of its coaches. They made changes to the coaching staff following the 2014 season, when they announced pitching coach Rich Dubee, catching coach Mick Billmeyer and strength and conditioning coordinator Dong Lien would not return. (Assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner had been invited back, but left the organization.)  That followed manager Charlie Manuel’s dismissal.

The Phillies finished 73-89 that season, too.

So far the only change to the organization is Marti Wolever, who will not return as assistant general manager of amateur scouting.

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