Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’

Rollins Is Hit King, Talks Future with Phillies

Jimmy Rollins, Mike SchmidtJimmy Rollins has more to accomplish, and it sounds like he hopes to accomplish those things in Philadelphia.

He reached a big one this afternoon when he singled to right field in the fifth inning in a 7-3 victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. It was the 2,235th hit of his career, which moved him past Mike Schmidt as the franchise’s hits leader.

“I’m not done,” Rollins said afterward. “Hopefully we can bring another championship to the city if I’m here long enough and the rest will be the rest.”

That is the question, isn’t it? Will Rollins be here long enough? He is signed through this season with an $11 million option that automatically vests with just 156 more plate appearances this season.

He will hit that mark with ease.

In fact, he should fly past that mark before the July 31 Trade Deadline, which brings up the biggest question of all. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights, so he can veto any trade at any time for any reason. He said last July in Detroit he would not waive his rights because he wanted to break the hits record.

Well, he has it. He also is playing on a team that, despite four wins in five games this week, is just 29-37 and on pace to lose 91 games following an 89-loss season in 2013 and an 81-loss season in 2012. Five consecutive National League East championships, two National League pennants and one World Series championship between from 2007-11 seems like a distant memory.

If the Phillies hold a fire sale next month would Rollins maintain his no-trade stance?

“It really depends if everything is blown up,” Rollins said. “Then you take that into consideration. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that right now. But if that time does come, and it’s time to go … people move on.”

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Amaro Talks Trade Possibilities

Ruben Amaro Jr.Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke for a few minutes this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he was asked numerous questions about the upcoming July 31 trade deadline. He said no decisions have been made and he holds out hope the Phillies will do something with their current three-game winning streak.

If not, if the team returns to its losing ways, it seems safe to say a fire sale is a certainty.

Here are a few highlights:

Q: Are some of the contracts on the books inhibiting your ability to trade players?
A: Not that much because we’ve taken money back on deals before, so we’ll do it again if we have to.

Q: Are you already getting calls?
A: We’ve had discussions with a lot of teams about things.

Q: Do people like your guys?
A: Yes. Wouldn’t you? We have some pretty good players.

Q: In your mind, can Cliff Lee get back in time where he could become appealing to contending teams, if you go in that direction?
A: I think so. Cliff threw again today and it went well, which is good. Hopefully he can start going in a straight line.

Q: If you get into a rebuild situation and you subtracted, do you have any untouchables?
A: I can’t say there are any untouchables. We’ve talked about this before. I mean, some guys are less touchable than others.

Q: Where is your confidence/faith level this team can put together a run and get into this thing when it hasn’t won more than three straight in more than a year?
A: Yeah, it hasn’t been great in that regard. No question. Our recent history is not great. We’ve got to see what happens over the next couple of weeks because we’ve got (Cody) Asche coming back, we’re waiting on Cliff to jump back in this thing. We have our bullpen starting to do some things we hoped they would do earlier in the year. You’re seeing some of that growth now, finally. What’s my confidence level? I believe in our players, but if they keep playing at this same rate they were playing … if they play like the did the last three or four guys that’d be different. But if they keep playing at the rate they were playing the last week and a couple weeks prior then my confidence would be low. We’ll see. They have ability.

Q: You said a couple weeks ago you have no intentions to trade Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins and you’ve received no indications they’re interested. Has anything changed?
A: It’s hard to speculate because they’re 10-and-5 guys. If someone comes and says we’d like to have Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley or whatever player is out there, I have to do my job and listen and explore. But the reality of it is it could be all wasted time because they may not want to go anywhere. And at that time we may not want them to go anywhere either. A lot of it depends on what we want to do, and most of it depends on what they want to do.

Q: Are you confident in your ability to rebuild if you go that way?
A: Absolutely.

 

Fire Sale Looming

Chase UtleyOn the train to DC this morning I crunched some numbers and came up with a few thoughts about the Phillies, who seem to be headed nowhere fast following a 4-7 homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and four losses in five games to the Mets.

The Phillies are 9-17 since they were 15-14 on May 4. It’s the worst record in the National League in that span.

They are 24-31 overall. They were 26-29 at this point last year, when they were on their way to 89 losses.

I’m typically one to preach patience during a 162-game season because it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about a team a little more than two months into it. I often remind people about the deficits the 2007 and 2008 Phillies overcame to win the National League East: seven down with 17 to play in 2007 and 3 ½ back with 16 to play in 2008. But those teams did at least one thing very, very well. Those teams had the best offense in the National League. They hit the cover off the ball. They also had a very good bullpen down the stretch in 2007 and a great one throughout 2008. They also played good defense.

But the 2014 Phillies don’t do anything well. You can’t say, “This team has fantastic starting pitching, so if they can just add a bullpen arm and get Domonic Brown going they should be OK.”

There are holes everywhere.

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Brown is hitting .206 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 15 walks, 36 strikeouts and a .557 OPS through the team’s first 55 games. It reminds me of Pat Burrell’s 2003 season. Burrell’s struggles were a huge story that year. Fans wanted him sent to Triple-A, like Brown. I got emails from people asking about Burrell’s eyesight or other ailments that might be affecting him at the plate. But through 55 games in 2003, Burrell was hitting .204 with 13 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .751 OPS. Amazing. Burrell’s OPS was nearly 200 points higher than Brown’s is today.

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Don’t Expect Franco Soon, Utley Trade Rumors

Chase UtleyIt sure doesn’t sound like Maikel Franco is an option to play third base while Cody Asche is on the disabled list.

“He’s just not playing good enough baseball yet,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today at Citizens Bank Park. “He’s not really ready to be a big-leaguer yet.”

Franco returned to the IronPigs lineup yesterday after missing a couple days with an upper respiratory issue. He is hitting .231 with four home runs, 19 RBIs and a .669 OPS this season after a poor start, but he has hit .292 with an .851 OPS in 27 games since April 22.

But in those last 27 games, he is hitting just .125 (3 for 24) in his last seven.

Asche is on the DL with a strained left hamstring. The Phillies said they hope Asche can return June 7, when he is eligible to be activated. If that happens, it means there are just 10 more days for Franco to get a call up.

That isn’t much of a window to suddenly become a big leaguer in the eyes and minds of the Phillies front office. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez continues to play third base in Asche’s absence. He entered Tuesday hitting .129 (4-for-31).

“There’s no reason to bring Franco unless he’s ready to be a big leaguer as far as I’m concerned,” Amaro said. “If he puts together a few days. Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now. We’re still contemplating it. We’ll see how it goes.”

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Are there Chase Utley trade rumors? If not, there will be soon, unless the team begins to play well.

“They surface because he’s a good player and we’re not in first place, that’s why they surface,” Amaro said.

But Amaro downplayed the suggestion the Phillies would trade one of their more iconic players.

“First off, no one wants to trade Chase Utley and No.2 I don’t think Chase Utley wants to go anywhere and he has the power to decide what he wants to do,” Amaro said. “The point is kind of moot. The same with Jimmy (Rollins). The same story.”

Bullpen Needs to Step Up, Help on Way?

Jonathan Papelbon,  Cliff LeeThe Phillies have their three best pitchers on the mound this weekend against the Nationals: Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels.

Ryne Sandberg will hand the ball to the bullpen at some point, and it is possible he will do it with a small lead or deficit. If the Phillies have a lead, will the bullpen hold it? If they’re down a run or two, will they keep it close to give the offense a chance to come back and win?

It has been a crap shoot all season.

The Phillies bullpen has a 4.84 ERA, which is the highest mark in the National League and the fourth-highest mark in baseball. It has allowed 1.45 home runs per nine innings, which is the highest mark in baseball.

Jonathan Papelbon has 10 scoreless appearances since blowing a save April 2 in Texas. What has hurt the bullpen has been the ineffectiveness of the young pitchers the organization thought had turned a corner. It has been the story the past two seasons. Pitchers like B.J. Rosenberg, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, etc., have pitched well late in the season, but haven’t followed up on that success. Jake Diekman, who remains in the bullpen, has been hurt by the long ball. He has allowed three homers this year, helping him to a 7.30 ERA.

As a result just three of the seven pitchers in the bullpen (Antonio Bastardo, Diekman and Mario Hollands) are homegrown. The others (Papelbon, Mike Adams, Shawn Camp and Jeff Manship) signed as free agents or Minor League free agents.

A lack of homegrown production from the bullpen is not a new thing. From 2004-13, the Phillies have had 15 different relief pitchers throw 50 or more innings in a season with less than a 3.50 ERA. Just four of those relievers were homegrown: Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Geoff Geary and Bastardo. The others the Phillies acquired in trades (Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge), signed as free agents (Clay Condrey, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, Tom Gordon, Chan Ho Park, J.C. Romero and Papelbon), claimed off waivers (Aaron Fultz) or selected in the Rule 5 Draft (David Herndon).

But Phillies fans looking for outside help shouldn’t hold their breath. If a team has a good relief pitcher there is almost zero chance they will trade him in May. But there are unsigned relievers still out there like Ryan Madson, Kevin Gregg and Joel Hanrahan, although there has been some buzz around baseball Madson might not pitch again.

“We’ve had contact with all of those guys,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We’ll see.”

Double-A right-hander Ken Giles is throwing 100 mph and dominating hitters in the Eastern League. He has allowed eight hits, two earned runs, four walks and has struck out 25 in just 13 innings.

“He consistently throws very hard,” assistant general manager of player personnel Benny Looper said. “But there are a couple things he’s working on. One, commanding the fastball low in the strike zone. He’s throwing too many pitches up, belt high, that are hittable in the big leagues. The other thing is commanding his slider. He’s got to have that second pitch. It’s a good pitch and he’s making improvements with it, but he’s got to have a couple pitches he can go to. If big league hitters are sitting on his fastball and it’s thrown belt high they’re going to catch up with it. He’s making great progress. We love his arm and we love where he’s headed. But he’s where he needs to be right now. At some point we’d consider getting him against more veteran lineups like you’d see in Triple-A. That would happen at some point.”

In the meantime, the current relievers need to perform and the ones sent to Triple-A (Rosenerg, De Fratus and Brad Lincoln) need to show enough consistency to warrant a call back.

“It’s trusting their ability because they all have big league talent,” Amaro said. “It’s a matter of putting it together when it’s time to ring the bell.”

Rollins Unfazed By Report

Phillies Player of the '00s: RollinsThe Phillies had just started batting practice this morning at Bright House Field, when Ruben Amaro Jr. called over Jimmy Rollins to a spot in shallow left field.

They spoke for a couple minutes with Amaro concluding the conversation with a pat on Rollins’ back.

Amaro and Rollins declined to discuss the conversation, but they most certainly were discussing an ESPN.com report yesterday that said there is strong sentiment within the Phillies organization that it would be better served trading Rollins as soon as possible. It followed Ryne Sandberg benching Rollins three consecutive games last week and offering a pointed “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ influence in the clubhouse this spring.

Rollins said he isn’t bothered by the report.

“Because I can’t be traded,” he said before leaving for Dunedin to play the Blue Jays. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care which way it is tried to be twisted or said, or if it is exactly how it was said, or even if it was said, I can’t be traded. It doesn’t matter. If I was tradable it may have weight because that means I could be moving soon. But I am not tradable and so it doesn’t matter.”

Amaro repeatedly called any suggestion the Phillies want Rollins out “silly” or “silliness.”

“Absolute silliness,” he said. “Jimmy Rollins is our shortstop. One of the ways we’re going to be able to win is with Jimmy being Jimmy. … We have no intention of moving Jimmy. We need Jimmy to play for us to win. It’s as simple as that.”

Asked if he believes Rollins needs to be a better leader or if that is an issue, Amaro said, “I don’t have any issues at all with Jimmy.”

It must be noted the Phillies have explored trading Rollins the previous two Trade Deadlines and again this past offseason, just like there are some that have grown weary of things like Rollins not running hard to first base, etc., so the idea the Phillies would trade Rollins at the right time with the right opportunity is correct. But Rollins has stated multiple times over the past year he has absolutely no intentions of waiving his 10-and-5 trade rights.

He is not going anywhere.

Rollins said he is not troubled that somebody could be trying to make him look bad.

“It might be a little late for that,” Rollins said. “That’s probably happened years ago. You’re persecuted long before the day you’re sentenced. You’re already found guilty or innocent by the people, so it’s a little late for that.

“Everybody wants to be loved or liked. But good or bad, right or wrong, people are going to love you and some are going to hate you regardless. You can’t change their opinions to swing either way.”

Amaro reiterated several times the Phillies need Rollins to play and play well if they expect to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. But one thing that could be a distraction to Rollins is if he believes the front office doesn’t like him.

“Nobody, there’s nobody that is upset with Jimmy,” Amaro said. “Jimmy Rollins is our shortstop. I’m happy to have him. Like I said, we need to have Jimmy be as good as he possibly can be for us to win.”

Rollins had the worst season of his career last year. He said he isn’t worried the hammer is being dropped because he is not performing like he had in the past.

“That’s OK,” he said. “Am I coming off a bad year? Yes, that part is true. I’ve never hid from the truth. That’s OK. They can’t be harder on me than I am on myself. It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK. I’m looking forward to a great year.”

Amaro Encouraged with MAG

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezThe Phillies have tempered expectations for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez since they signed him to a $12 million contract in August.

He allowed two hits, one run, walked four and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings yesterday in his Phillies and Grapefruit League debuts against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. His fastball hit 93 or 94 mph once, depending on the radar gun, but otherwise sat in the 89-91 mph range. He showed some quality offspeed pitches, particularly his breaking ball, but couldn’t command his fastball.

It was his first time pitching in a game in two years.

“He was rusty and he wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this morning at Bright House Field. “But I think stuff-wise it was encouraging. He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he’s been in camp. It’s a process. We’ve got to let him develop from there. But I was encouraged by his poise. I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way.”

Scouting reports before Gonzalez signed said he threw in the mid-90s.

So where is the heat?

“I think he’s still building it, just like all these other guys,” Amaro said. “It just takes time for guys to build arm strength. I’m not as concerned about the velocity as I am the command and making sure his stuff is consistent. It’ll build.”

Amaro said Gonzalez had some tightness in his arm earlier in the spring, but said Saturday it was not an issue.

“There have been no issues with him thus far,” Amaro said.

It’s An Old Age Question

Ruben Amaro Jr.If you have not read the story yet, the Phillies held a press conference last night to announce Carlos Ruiz‘s three-year, $26 million deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the risks of signing Ruiz, who turns 35 in January. But last night’s news conference was old news. The story broke Monday, and Ruiz’s agent Marc Kligman (@MLBAgent) confirmed and discussed the deal on Twitter and elsewhere. By the time the official announcement came, most people already had their fill of how the deal went down.

The real news is what’s next for Amaro? I wrote the other day that unless he makes a trade to free up a spot in the field, Marlon Byrd and Ruiz could be the only tweaks to next season’s lineup. (And Ruiz can’t be considered much of a tweak because he isn’t new.) So here are Amaro’s answers to questions about the team and what’s next.

Q: Could there be more changes to the lineup?
A: It is possible. We’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of clubs. We’ve kept our minds and our eyes open as far as our lineup is concerned. We hope to try to continue to improve it, or change it, somehow.

Q: Five of the eight everyday players will be 34 or older on Opening Day …
A: I think we can win. It’s really a matter of getting the guys on the field. If they’re on the field, they will produce. Unless something drastic happens over the next several months, I fully expect these guys to be on the field and performing.I also think we have some better depth because we have some kids who got a chance to play last year. If we do have breakdowns, I think we have better depth to fill in some spots. Yes, they’re older but they’re also very good when they’re playing. That’s important. I think it was (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman who said, ‘I don’t care about the age so long as they’re good.’ I believe in our players even though the core group is getting older. There’s no question about that. I can’t deny that. We hope to get them on the field. And if they’re on the field, they’ll produce

Q: So what’s next?
A: Well, I think we are still – as we talked about before – the pitching remains a priority for us. If we can still improve the rotation and our bullpen, we will try to do that. We’re still looking for ways to maybe improve, tweak  our lineup. We’re looking for more depth in the outfield, some athleticism. We’re just trying to get ourselves so we can cover all the bases a little better than we did last year when we had breakdowns in the infield and outfield. We had a lot of six-year free agents pitching in the rotation, so we’re going to try and create some depth on the pitching side and in the field as well.

Amaro: We’ve Already Made Offers

Ruben Amaro Jr.,The free-agent market opened yesterday and Ruben Amaro Jr. wasted no time.

“We’ve already made offers on several players,” he said from Arizona, where he is watching some of the organization’s top young talent in the Arizona Fall League.

Amaro declined to divulge names, but he can be aggressive. He moved quickly in Nov. 2011, when he signed closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract. Knowing there is a lack of power hitters available, perhaps Amaro is making a push to sign one. They need right-handed hitters in the worst way.

Nelson Cruz, 33, fits the bill. He hits right-handed, although he served a 50-game suspension last season and is not a defensive stalwart. Amaro has stressed the Phillies need to improve its outfield defense.

Carlos Beltran and Mike Morse also are free agents. The Phillies have tried to acquire them in the past. (Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said yesterday on SiriusXM that one team already has made an offer to Beltran.) The two biggest free-agent outfielders are Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, but they are expected to sign elsewhere.

Amaro said in September resigning catcher Carlos Ruiz was a top priority, but he couched that possibility this week.

“Well, we’re fortunate now that it’s kind of opened up,” Amaro said of the free-agent market. “There are several candidates that could be our catcher next year. We’ll see what happens. I mean, we’re in the open season.”

If the Phillies cannot resign Ruiz, there are options like Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski. But McCann hits left-handed and seems destined to join an American League team. Pierzynski also hits left-handed, and Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter that has a career .599 OPS hitting from the right side.

The Phillies could sign a less expensive catcher like Dioner Navarro, which would allow them to spend money elsewhere. But Ruiz seems like the best of the bunch, although he turns 35 in January and is coming off his worst offensive season since 2008.

The Phillies also are trying to upgrade their pitching staff, but if Amaro is trying to be aggressive, improving an anemic offense – the Phillies tied for 26th in baseball with just 610 runs scored – might be the place to start.

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The Phillies have hired Scott Freedman to be their analytics guy.

UPDATE: Wanted to clarify something about Freedman. He is not a full-time Phillies employee. MLB is paying his salary as part of a partnership with the Phillies, although the Phillies have the opportunity to hire him permanently once his externship concludes before the beginning of the regular season.

Roger, Roger: Pitching Coach Search Heats Up

Ruben Amaro Jr.’s search for a pitching coach is heating up.

Pitching coach Roger McDowell’s contract with the Braves expired at midnight Thursday, which allows the Phillies to formally contact him.

It is a near certainty they have.

MLB.com reported as early as Oct. 22 the Phillies and McDowell could get together. The Braves have invited McDowell to return next season, but he still has not signed a contract. (Sources said McDowell is one of the lowest-paid pitching coaches in the game.) Meanwhile, the Phillies have interviewed at least six candidates for the job, but the fact they have not hired anybody indicates they have been waiting to speak to somebody.

That somebody is McDowell.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wrote yesterday that McDowell met this week with Braves general manager Frank Wren. Bowman wrote “the meeting did not lead to an immediate resolution.” If the Phillies make McDowell an offer, he certainly can circle back to Wren, get a much-deserved raise and return to Atlanta.

But the Phillies are going to make a run at him anyway.

It would be a nice coup for the Phillies, who are replacing Rich Dubee after nine seasons. McDowell, who pitched for the Phillies from 1989-91, has been Atlanta’s pitching coach the past eight seasons. The Braves had several notable injuries to their pitching staff this season, but still posted a big-league best 3.18 ERA.

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Former Phillies prospect Adrian Cardenas wrote a great essay for The New Yorker about why he quit baseball. The Phillies traded him to the A’s in July 2008 as part of the Joe Blanton deal.

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