Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’
The Phillies signed Yuniesky Betancourt to a Minor League contract in January, and my Twitter feed quickly filled with stunned-and-confused comments about it. I guess it’s one of those things that happens these days. The Phillies sign a guy for organizational depth at relatively low cost and minimal risk and people freak out because he has a career .290 on-base percentage.
I mean, we’re talking about the 25th man on the big-league roster or Lehigh Valley’s possible everyday shortstop, but whatever …
But an interesting thing is happening in Clearwater: Betancourt is playing well and he could get one of the team’s two utility infield jobs.
What is especially interesting about the battle among Betancourt, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis is Betancourt has an earlier than usual opt-out clause for March 24. The Phillies must tell Betancourt by that date if he has made the 25-man roster. If he has not made the team, he can ask to be released. March 24 is a full week before the Phillies play their final exhibition game, so the Phillies will have to decide on that before they theoretically come to conclusions about the final three bullpen jobs or outfield situation. Like I wrote yesterday, I would not be surprised to see Betancourt and Frandsen start the season with the team. Galvis can be optioned to Triple-A, where he could get more seasoning with the IronPigs. Meanwhile, Betancourt and Frandsen can show what they’ve got with the Phillies. If either struggles, the Phillies could recall Galvis at that point.
Interestingly, Ruben Amaro Jr. said Betancourt’s ability to play defense is key. That’s interesting because Galvis unquestionably is the best defensive player of the three, but the fact he has options and the others don’t could tilt the jobs in their favor.
“You could probably say right now, even though he’s a young player, he’d probably be the most reliable guy [defensively],” Amaro said of Galvis. “But again, Yuniesky has got a lot of experience. It depends on how [Betancourt] performs. We’re not making any decisions today. We don’t have to make any decision for several weeks, so we’re OK.”
Will your head explode if Betancourt makes the team? If you said yes, take a deep breath and relax. Like I said, we’re talking about the last bench player here. The Phillies won the World Series with So Taguchi‘s .580 OPS on the bench in 2008. They won a National League pennant with Eric Bruntlett‘s .462 OPS on the bench in 2009. And they won a franchise-record 102 games with Michael Martinez‘s .540 OPS on the bench in 2011.
I’m not really sure which way the Phillies will go, but Betancourt is playing well enough early to make the front office think long and hard about it.
The Phillies announced today they traded Schwimer to the Blue Jays for Minor League first baseman Art Charles. Ruben Amaro Jr. said they shipped Schwimer to Toronto because they had depth in the bullpen, they needed to anticipate future roster moves and they needed power at the Minor League level. But Schwimer had fallen out of favor with the organization after he disputed the Phillies’ decision to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August, claiming he was injured, although there also had been other issues.
It might be more accurate to call this trade addition by subtraction.
“He’s a great kid,” said Amaro, when asked if last season’s dispute sparked the trade. “There’s nothing wrong with Schwim.”
Schwimer said he agreed, but added one caveat.
“The Phillies want to win period so they’re not going to let any petty differences affect them wanting to win,” he said. “So in my opinion I think that had absolutely zero effect.”
Carpenter, 37, had surgery in July to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which involved removing a rib to alleviate pressure on a nerve near his right shoulder. He returned to pitch in September and told reporters last month, “I haven’t had any issues with my throwing or anything this year. I feel good. My shoulder feels good.”
But he suffered a season-ending setback last week, which included the return of numbness and discomfort in the right shoulder and neck area, bruising and discoloration in his right hand.
Those problems are relevant in Philadelphia because Phillies setup man Mike Adams, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract in December, had the same surgery in October.
“We’ve talked to him. He said he’s doing great,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today about Adams. “We’ll find out more when he arrives in Clearwater, and I think he’ll be arriving there fairly soon. He’s been throwing off the mound and he hasn’t had any issues. We’ll see how far along he is, whether he’s going to be behind in Spring Training or not. We don’t think so. But we’ll find out once he gets to Clearwater. Right now we don’t have any concerns, but we obviously want to make sure that he’s all right and progressing properly.”
It goes without saying the Phillies need Adams healthy. The eighth inning proved to be a mess last season with the Phillies blowing 13 leads.
But while Amaro acknowledged that signing Adams carried risks, he said this week’s news regarding Carpenter did not make him more concerned.
“Everybody’s situation is a little different,” he said. “All the information we got from our doctor and looking at the medical reports and such we felt … as always there’s a risk when guys are coming off a surgery like this, but we felt like it was a good risk.”
As of today, Amaro said outfielder Delmon Young will be the only player in camp definitely behind schedule, although that could change by the time pitchers and catchers have their first official workout Wednesday. Young is recovering from microfracture surgery on his right ankle in November.
“He won’t be able to get into real activities probably for a few weeks after we open up, at least,” Amaro said. “He might not be able to play in games competitively until the middle of March. We don’t know that, but we’ll see how he progresses once we see him.”
Amaro said right-hander Mike Stutes, who had shoulder surgery in June, should be “100 percent, we believe. He shouldn’t be any issue at all. He’s been throwing bullpens for a while.” Left-hander Raul Valdes had right knee surgery in September. Amaro also said he doing well.
“He’ll be close to 100 percent,” he said.
Both pitchers will be competing for bullpen jobs.
Hamels’ reaction when asked about it tonight?
“I don’t know of anything that happened,” he insisted. “I’ve been healthy. That’s the last thing on my list. … I haven’t felt anything of that sort. That’s the honest truth. I don’t know. I wasn’t the one that started it. I know I feel good and I’m ready to go. That’s all I can really answer. That’s kind of where it is. Same program, ready for Spring Training and finally getting out of the cold. That will be a lot nicer. I’m very excited.”
Ruben Amaro Jr. earlier this month addressed a report that said Hamels suffered from a sore shoulder. Amaro said the Phillies shut down Hamels’ throwing program for a couple weeks and has been fine since.
Amaro said the Phillies never considered it an issue, pointing out Hamels never visited a doctor. Hamels said the same thing. So while Hamels felt something in the shoulder in September he considered it typical soreness from the grind of the regular season and nothing more. That seems to be why there is a discrepancy in what Hamels said. Typically when a pitcher complains of shoulder soreness it means he cannot pitch, but Hamels apparently never felt that way.
If Hamels is fine that certainly is good news for the Phillies. Hamels, 29, signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension last summer and they need him healthy if they expect to return to the postseason in 2013.
Hamels said he planned to throw his fourth offseason bullpen session Wednesday. He plans to head to Clearwater, Fla., sometime next week.
Is there anything to worry about here?
Ruben Amaro Jr. said today left-hander Cole Hamels’ shoulder is fine. CSNPhilly.com reported Hamels had some shoulder soreness late in the 2012 season and early in the offseason. But the Phillies shut down Hamels’ throwing program for a couple weeks and has been fine since, Amaro said.
“We really weren’t concerned,” Amaro said. “If we were concerned or had any concern then he would have or would be seeing a doctor. We had none of that. If there are problems that come up in Spring Training then we’ll deal with them. But there is no indication that Cole has an issue right now.”
The Phillies hope so. Hamels, 29, signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension last summer and they need him healthy if they expect to return to the postseason in 2013.
Here are the highlights:
QUESTION: Are you still searching for a corner outfielder?
ANSWER: As far as the outfield situation is concerned, we’re still trolling through the possibility of adding another piece there. And we’re also considering the possibility of a double platoon. That’s a possibility as well. We’ve done some things that have helped our club at a couple of different levels. I don’t think the process of trying to help improve our club stops until the end of the season. It’s very possible that we have the answers internally. I feel comfortable with the way our club is today and if there’s a way to improve it, we’ll try to do that.
QUESTION: Have an update on Roy Halladay‘s offseason?
ANSWER: Doc’s done very well. He’s going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. Dubes (Rich Dubee) has seen him throw a couple times, at least long toss. I guess he’s working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He’s doing well, but we don’t know what kind of Doc we’re going to get until Doc’s down firing in spring training. But he’s feeling pretty good so far.
QUESTION: How is Chase Utley doing?
ANSWER: He’s done very well this offseason. (Head athletic trainer) Scott Sheridan’s visited him once and he’s probably going to go see him again. He’s taking ground balls pretty much every other day. He didn’t take a whole lot of time off. One of the things I think we’ve all learned, including Chase, that it probably behooved him to continue to work and do things to be able to keep his joints going, keep his knees going. He’s actually done very well. We have to be cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be back and playing. He hasn’t played games in spring training the last two years, but we’re cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be ready to go. We’ll probably monitor and have a discussion prior to spring training about how he’ll be utilized and such during the spring. I think he’s feeling like he’s raring to go and hopefully he’ll be ready to go April 1.
Even the scouting department.
“Just like in any other part of our organization, everybody is being evaluated,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Everybody.”
“Oh, I would think so,” he said.
Every organization has hits and misses throughout the year: good and bad free agent signings, good and bad trades, a player released that should not have been released, a player that got promoted that surprised everybody, etc.
The trick is minimizing the misses.
The Phillies have had some misses lately. They released right-hander Jason Grilli in July 2011. He had a 1.93 ERA in Triple-A Lehigh Valley at the time. He signed with the Pirates, and had a 2.91 ERA in 64 appearances this season. They acquired outfielder John Bowker from the Pirates in Aug. 2011, considering him a better bench option than Lehigh Valley outfielder Brandon Moss. Bowker went hitless in 13 at-bats, while Moss, who had a fantastic season in Lehigh Valley, signed a contract with Oakland in December. He has hit .287 with 21 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .947 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 258 at-bats this season. They signed Laynce Nix to a two-year, $2.5 million deal in December, despite the fact he had never signed a big-league contract before and had a lengthy history of injuries. They signed Chad Qualls in January, despite terrible splits away from PETCO Park. He stunk, and the Phillies traded him to the Yankees on July 1. And one wonders why they did not have legitimate interest in somebody like Josh Willingham, who looks like a steal with the three-year, $21 million contract he signed with the Twins.
Now, the Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract, which was a big bargain. He has hit .310 with 37 stolen bases and has been a positive presence in the clubhouse. They acquired left-hander Jeremy Horst from Cincinnati for Wilson Valdez in the offseason, which looks like an absolute steal. Horst is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 31 appearances, while Valdez (but … but … but … he was the team MVP in 2010!) is hitting .203 with a .458 OPS with the Reds. Other Minor League free agent signings like Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz played well enough that they could be on next season’s Opening Day roster. The signings of Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins also worked out well in their first seasons, although a contract can never truly be judged until the end. But Papelbon did his job, and Rollins will finish among the top third of shortstops in baseball in OPS.
“We evaluate all those things,” Amaro said of the good and bad moves. “We don’t hit on every single guy. At the same time I think we’ve done a very good job hitting on most. I have a great deal of trust in Mike Ondo, who heads up our pro scouting staff. He’s as thorough and as good as there is. I think Mike and his people did a great job at the Trade Deadline. We got some very, very good players. We came away with some players that we believe really helped our organization and are going to make some impact on our club pretty soon.
“Listen, we’re talking about human beings here. When you try to make moves that you think will work out and don’t for whatever reason, a lot of the stuff is not under your control. I feel pretty confident in the people that we employ to be the eyes and ears of our organization. I think we have as good a group of people in our baseball ops department as any club in baseball.”
One thing is certain: the Phillies need more hits this offseason. They need to find the next Willingham. They need to sign a relief pitcher or two where, unlike Qualls, they don’t have to cross their fingers and hope things break right for them to have good seasons. They need to find the right solution at third base, despite almost no attractive options.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel said Friday at Marlins Park that Utley will not play third base before the end of the season, leaving the Phillies’ future at the position murky. Utley initiated the idea of a move from second to third and had been working out there for weeks, but the Phillies decided they could not make a credible evaluation about his ability to play there on a long-term basis in just six games.
“It’s kind of on hold, I guess,” Amaro said. “It’s more of a matter of practicality and what’s really best for the team overall. I think while having that option would be helpful, I don’t know if it’s really an option that’s going to make us necessarily better.”
That seems to put the Phillies in a tough spot.
Amaro has made it clear the free agent market for third basemen is not impressive. It is a list that includes Kevin Youkilis, Scott Rolen and Brandon Inge. The Phillies could try to trade for a third baseman, but good luck getting somebody like Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. Internally, the Phillies seem to view Kevin Frandsen as a part-time player, while Freddy Galvis, who would have been the team’s second baseman had Utley made the switch, has never played third base.
“It doesn’t really change things all that much,” Amaro insisted. “It can be revisited, with Chase being an option. It just doesn’t make any sense for us to have him out there for six games and think that that’s going to change our minds one way or another. It’s not a dead issue. It’s just kind of unfair to the player and to us to think we can make an evaluation in six games and say, ‘OK, shazam, this guy can play.’ That’s not necessarily fair to him. We’re not good enough scouts to make that determination.”
Amaro and Manuel are meeting with players before the end of the season. They met Friday with Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
Amaro said Utley was OK with their decision to keep him at second.
“He’s fine,” Amaro said. “He only came to us because he thought it might help our club, because he knows it’s an area of need.”
Asked about his No. 1 priority this offseason, Amaro said, “I don’t know if we have a No. 1. I think offense is important to us. I’d like to create some balance from the right side offensively. I think that’s something that would help. Having a healthy Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) would help that, but he gets banged up so we have to be cognizant of that. Third base is an issue we have to deal with. I think while we have some very, very good arms in the bullpen we’ll keep an eye on that as well.”
But Amaro also said the Phillies might need to be creative to fill some holes this offseason. Rather than maybe spending big money on the big name on the free agent market, perhaps they will spend more judiciously.
“I think patience is going to be important throughout this offseason,” he said. “And the reason that I say that is some of the opportunities that will present themselves … none of the opportunities that present themselves, at least at first blush, are all that fantastic. I think we’re going to have to, as far as the availability of all players, I think we’re going to have to be creative to try to improve. There are only a few standout guys out there that would be potential free agents.”
Maybe the Phillies look to Galvis to play third base. They had said Galvis would be the second baseman if Utley played third, so they could simply switch spots.
“He did work out there during Spring Training,” Amaro said. “And overall, pretty good reviews on how he handled it. He didn’t do it in any games. But the man went from short to second and was awesome. And now … I don’t know if it’s that much of a stretch to move him to third base and not think he’d be a plus defender.”
Amaro and Manuel said they would keep the door open on Utley trying third base again. Perhaps Utley will spend his offseason working out there and want to give it a shot in Spring Training.
“If you stop and think about it, he definitely has a big say in it,” Manuel said. “He has to feel comfortable, really good about it. He would do anything to win, but … we’ll just see. It’ll always be there if we want to do that.”
But for now the Phillies will go into the offseason looking for a third baseman.
That remains to be seen.
He visited team doctors Friday about “spasms” in the back of his right shoulder, then suffered through the second shortest start of his career Saturday in a loss to Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park. Halladay, 35, is 10-8 with a 4.40 ERA in 24 starts this season. It is his highest ERA since he finished with a 10.64 ERA in 2000.
Halladay visited doctors again Sunday, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday afternoon that “after the last exam it seemed like he’s OK for his next start. That may change.”
Amaro said there are no further test scheduled.
“He seems to be doing OK,” he said. “If anything were to change, the doctors would give us anything or Doc would give us anything, then we’ll let you know.”
There are two schools of thought on Halladay making his final two starts:
- If there is no risk of injury and Halladay wants to pitch, let him. He has earned the right. And also consider this: who would pitch in his place? They really have nobody with their Minor League seasons ending weeks ago, unless they want to use the bullpen in those starts.
- Even if there is no risk of injury, maybe he should get a jumpstart on 2013 because there is little left to play for. The Phillies are five games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card with just nine games to play. Even if the Phillies finished 9-0, they would need the Cardinals to finish no better than 2-7 to tie.
Amaro declined to discuss the positives and negatives about Halladay finishing the season on the mound or in the dugout.
“We haven’t discussed it internally yet, but we’ll see,” Amaro said.
But looking ahead, there will be less certainty regarding the Phillies’ rotation entering Spring Training than there has been in the recent past. In 2011, the Phillies had the four aces (Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt). In Spring Training 2012, there was no reason not to believe Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Vance Worley would not deliver the organization its sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.
But as Amaro begins his offseason to-do list, he seems pretty comfortable with his rotation.
“I like our rotation coming into next year, barring any other issues,” he said. “I like our top four or five guys coming in and we have a lot more depth coming from below. I like our situation a lot as far as our starters are concerned, yeah.”
Worley had surgery recently to remove a loose body and spur from his right elbow. He should be ready to go by Spring Training. Kyle Kendrick is 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA in his last eight starts. He is a heavy favorite for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.
“He hasn’t done anything to make us think otherwise,” Amaro said. “He’s pitched very, very well over the last half of the year. Certainly he’s a guy that if you look around, I don’t know if there are many better fourth or fifth starters in the league.”
But what about Doc?
Can he rebound? Or is there just too much mileage on that right arm?
Amaro said he is confident a revamped offseason workout program will get Halladay back on track.
“Yeah, I think we can assume that,” he said. “Knowing the way Roy goes about his business and some of the things that he may be able to do, I think the benefit of Roy is even if he’s not back to throwing 92 to 95, that he’s still going to be a top of the rotation pitcher, regardless.”
- Utley feels comfortable enough to play there.
- The Phillies fall from contention in the National League Wild Card race. That could happen quickly. The Phillies entered Monday’s series opener against the Mets at Citi Field four games out of the second National League Wild Card with just 15 games to play.
“I think I’ve been out there three or four times,” Utley said, referring to his pregame workouts at third base. “Every time I get a little more comfortable. But I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. So far it’s going well. I feel like I’ve progressed a little bit, but there’s still more room for improvement.”
Utley is taking this potential move seriously. He spoke with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel in Manuel’s office before batting practice. He later spoke with Mets third baseman David Wright behind the batting cage with Wright even crouching into a defensive position as he offered advice.
“I think he’s doing fine,” Amaro said of Utley.
Fine enough to play third base next season?
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Amaro said.
Asked if the Phillies can learn enough about Utley at third base if he plays just a couple games there before the end of the season, Amaro said, “Realistically, I don’t think so. But if he really dedicates himself to doing it, I think the probability of him being able to do it is much higher than it is with other people. I think more than anything else this is finding out if in fact he feels comfortable enough doing it. Having him play third base just gives us another option. And what’s wrong with giving us another option?”
Both Amaro and Manuel agree the Phillies are better defensively in 2013 with Freddy Galvis at second base and Utley at third base, despite the uncertainty of Utley’s ability to play there. Certainly if they feel Utley can play third base it would give the Phillies one less thing to worry about in the offseason, which would be a plus because Amaro said the market for third basemen via trade or free agency is “not very good.”
But here’s the big question: If Utley only plays a couple games at third base and Amaro does not think he can truly evaluate Utley’s ability to play there based on just a couple games, how do the Phillies go into the offseason knowing Utley is their 2013 third baseman?
“I don’t necessarily,” Amaro said. “It becomes riskier. Then you take a risk sometimes. Sometimes it’s OK to take a risk.”