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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Phillies and Rays talking trade as the MLB non-waiver deadline approaches

Ramos is a two-time all-star
As the 2018 MLB trade deadline fast approaches, trades are being finalized and the rumor mills are really starting to heat up. 
The Philadelphia Phillies, linked to a number of players in recent days, are expected to be active as the afternoon rolls along.
It is believed that general manager Matt Klentak is looking to bolster the bullpen, as well as trying to find players who might improve the overall team defense.
Breaking reports on Tuesday afternoon had the Phillies “deep into talks” with the Tampa Bay Rays involving catcher Wilson Ramos
The first rumblings of this item came across Twitter from Yahoo reporter Jeff Passan:
That was followed moments later by MLB Network insider Joel Sherman, who stated that the Phillies are looking to upgrade their defense at both the catcher and shortstop positions:
Wilson Ramos will be traded b4 the deadline, sources say. @Ken_Rosenthal says are talking seriously. Heard that Phils are concentrating on defensive upgrades at catcher and SS (TB has Hechavarria too).
Ramos will turn 31 years old on August 10, and is now in his ninth big league season. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring injury which is not expected to sideline him for long.
Ramos was originally signed as a teenager out of Venezuela by the Minnesota Twins more than a decade ago. He made his MLB debut with Minnesota in 2010, but was traded to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline that year for reliever Matt Capps.
After parts of seven seasons with the Nationals, Ramos became a free agent. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with Tampa Bay on December 12, 2016 and will become a free agent again in the coming off-season.

The Phillies have also been considered as one of the possible destinations for pitcher Chris Archer of Tampa Bay. 
It is possible that Klentak will be exploring a price to land a package that includes Archer, Ramos, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Rays.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Phillies have found it tough to win at Fenway Park in recent years

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Fenway Park during Red Sox 4-1 series victory over Phillies in 1915 World Series

Major League Baseball has been doing this Inter-league stuff in the regular season for just over two decades now. The Phillies and American League’s Boston Red Sox will face off as a pair of first place teams over the next two nights at Fenway Park in Boston.
Fenway Park is particularly famous to opposing fans due to its huge left field wall. The “Green Monster” stands 37.2 feet tall and is just 310 feet from home plate. For the Phillies, it has been the stuff of nightmares.
The Phillies have visited Fenway Park on 10 separate occasions over the last 21 seasons prior to this one. Those visits have seen the two club square off in 28 regular season games in Boston. The Phillies have walked out a winner just nine times. That’s a miserable .321 winning percentage.
Things weren’t so bad in the early years of Inter-league play. The host Bosox swept the Phillies in the first-ever three game series at Fenway Park back in 1997.
But over the next seven seasons between 1998-2004, the Phillies captured six of the 11 games spanning four series. In one memorable game on June 9, 2001 the Phillies beat Boston’s Hall of Fame ace Pedro Martinez 5-2 behind the pitching of Omar Daal.
However, since the Red Sox ended their “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the 2004 World Series, things have not been good for the Phillies. The Red Sox swept a three-game series between the two clubs in 2006 and have gone 11-2 against the Phillies under the backdrop of their Green Monster over the last five series between the teams in Boston.

A year ago, the Red Sox pulled off a pair of dramatic walkoff victories against the Phillies at Fenway. That gives Boston five straight victories over the Phillies at Fenway Park entering tonight’s contest.
After losing three of four to the last-place Cincinnati Reds over this past weekend, the Phillies cannot afford to get swept in Boston. A loss tonight would make it four defeats in a row, something that the team has experienced just twice all season in pushing to the top of the NL East. They have yet to drop five in a row.
If the Phillies are going to come back home for their big Alumni Weekend still in first place, they are likely going to have to figure out a way to beat the Boston Red Sox in front of the Green Monster. That will be even tougher this year. Boston’s record of 74-33 is the best in baseball.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

In Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Thome thanks Manuel, recalls time with Phillies

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Thome (R) recognized contributions of his mentor Manuel (L) at the Hall of Fame

When the time came this afternoon for Jim Thome‘s turn to be formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was no surprise to learn that it would his mentor, friend, and former manager Charlie Manuel who would be doing the introductions.
By way of a pre-recorded video, the now 74-year-old former skipper heaped praise on the man whom he managed with both the Cleveland Indians and the Phillies.
Every time he walked up to the plate he was dangerous,” began Manuel. The two are both Phillies Wall of Famers. Now the pupil has surpassed the teacher and reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in his profession.
Manuel went on to recall the circumstances when they first met, and the characteristics that attracted him to the young power hitter.
“As far as meeting him the first time, I wanta say it was in spring of ’89. Jimmy was young. He was shy. He was really tentative about what he did, ya know. He wanted to do the right thing. Jimmy was one of the most dedicated guys as far as listenin’. And coachable? I tell people all the time, with Jimmy Thome, he really thinks that you helped him. But Jimmy Thome helped me too. You know, just bein’ who he was, and bein’ dedicated like he was.”

"He hit so much, I don't think I can explain to you how much he hit."

Manager Charlie Manuel reflects on the career of 's own Jim Thome, ahead of his speech.
There has clearly always been a special bond between the two men. In Cleveland, Manuel was the hitting coach as the Indians won the AL Central Division crown in each of Thome’s first five full seasons from 1995-99.
Manuel would become the manager of the Indians in 2000 but was fired in July of 2002 over a contract dispute. Thome would leave as a free agent that following off-season, signing with the Phillies.
In 2005, the two men would experience an all-too-short reunion when Manuel was hired as the Phillies new skipper. However, Thome would suffer through an injury-marred first half. By June 30, his season was over. Into the breach would stop a new slugger, Ryan Howard, who would win the NL Rookie of the Year Award that season. Thome’s days in Philly were numbered.
Following that 2005 campaign, Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two pitchers, one of whom would be Gio Gonzalez.
Manuel would go on to guide the Phillies to five consecutive NL East crowns, back-to-back National League pennants, and the 2008 World Series championship.

Phillies Wall of Famer Jim Thome inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Thome delivers his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, New York

On Sunday afternoon, retired Philadelphia Phillies star first baseman Jim Thome finds himself officially enshrined among baseball’s immortals.
Also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame are five more superstars: Vladimir GuerreroTrevor HoffmanChipper JonesJack Morris, and Alan Trammell.
Even though Thome played just four of his 22 big league seasons with the Phillies, his impact on the organization was considered so great that he has previously been enshrined on the club’s Wall of Fame.
Last summer, Thome joined Mike Lieberthal (2012) as the only players enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame who appeared in a majority of their seasons with the club during the 2000’s but who had not played with the 2008 World Series team.
Thome signed with the Phillies as a free agent following the 2002 campaign. By that time, he had become one of the most feared sluggers in the game. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Thome had been a three-time American League all-star, a Silver Slugger winner, and a perennial MVP candidate.
The Phillies team that Thome was joining for the 2003 season was not dissimilar to the current 2018 team. After years of losing, the Phillies had spent a few seasons rebuilding and retooling their roster.
Thome was signed to become the new Phillies first baseman and help the team step up to contending status. He was also brought in to provide a drawing card as Veteran’s Stadium closed in 2003 and Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004.
In his first season, the team’s final year after 33 seasons at The Vet, Thome led the National League with 47 home runs. He finished fourth in the NL MVP vote that year for a Phillies team that led the NL Wildcard race before collapsing to lose seven of their last eight games.
The following year, Thome made the National League all-star team for what would be the lone time in his career. He banged another 42 home runs that season, finishing among the top 20 in NL MVP voting. Among the many highlights were the 400th home run of his career, which he banged in front of the home fans in South Philly.

He would be honored following that 2004 season with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award given to a player who best exemplifies strong character both on and off the field.
That Phillies team turned it on down the stretch this time, finishing the season with a 21-8 record after September 1. But again, it wasn’t enough to land a playoff berth.
His third season with the Phillies would prove to be abbreviated. It would also lead directly to a change that would have reverberations for the Phillies ultimate fortunes, and for the rest of his own career.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Velasquez, Eflin take mound for key weekend outings in Cincinnati

Eflin needs to show he is back to June form
The host Cincinnati Reds dumped the Philadelphia Phillies by a 6-4 final score on Friday night at Great American Ball Park.
With the win, the Reds have managed a split of the first two games of this four-game long weekend series with the Phillies.
Despite the defeat, the Phillies remain 2.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division standings. The Braves were shut down at home by Clayton Kershaw on Friday, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In gaining the split to this point in the series, the Reds have faced the bottom of the Phillies pitching rotation options. On Thursday night the Phils dipped into their minor league depth for Ranger Suarez. The lefty made his big league debut a winning one.
Last night it was the struggling Nick Pivetta who suffered the loss. Pivetta has been a true head-scratcher this season. There is no question about his stuff. After striking out a dozen Reds batters on Friday night, he now possesses a tremendous 134/32 K:BB ratio over 107.2 innings.
However, Pivetta also surrendered a pair of home runs which resulted in five earned runs scored against him. That lifted his ERA on the season to the 4.85 mark in what was his second straight poor outing since the MLB All-Star Game break.

With those two back-end starting pitching efforts in the rear-view mirror and the club still in first place, these next two games to end the weekend series become pivotal for the Phillies.
Saturday’s match-up will feature a pair of interesting pitchers taking the mound. For the Phillies it will be Vince Velasquez looking to extend what has been the most successful string of starts in his career. The Reds send out Matt Harvey, who moved to Cincinnati and has been largely effective after being dumped by the New York Mets.
Velasquez has pitched into the sixth inning in nine of his last 12 starts and has gotten to the seventh inning on five occasions during that period. He has allowed just 49 hits over 67.1 innings with an 80/24 K:BB ratio during that time.
The knock on Velasquez over the first few years of his career was that he couldn’t get deep into his starts. If this recent stretch of performances is indicative of what’s to come, the 26-year-old will silence those who have felt that his best role would come with a move to the bullpen.
After Velasquez shut down the San Diego Padres last Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler was quoted by Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia on the keys to his pitcher’s increased effectiveness:
“That was as good as he’s been all year. The tempo, the pace and the energy levels were right on. It’s the combination of keeping his rhythm and his pace but not losing control of his body…When he gets runners on base, he’s done a really good job of holding runners on…he does a great job holding the baseball. As a runner at first base, you have difficulty timing your jumps and before you know it, your body shuts down naturally. Across the board, I think he’s been an exceptional athlete for us on the mound.”
For the series finale on Sunday it will be Zach Eflin taking the mound for the Phillies. Though his overall numbers look fine, Eflin struggled mightily in his most recent outing this past Monday night. The Dodgers got to him for three home runs, knocking him out in the third inning.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Phillies add veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera in trade with rival Mets

Cabrera likely to help Phillies at multiple positions
The initial impression when evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera in trade from the New York Mets might be that he is a “rental” player.
However, Cabrera’s versatility and experience could instead lead the team to bring him back beyond this season. It’s all going to depend on how he fits in over these next few months, and what his contract demands might be this coming off-season.
Cabrera is currently playing out the end of what was a three-year, $24.75 million free agent contract which he signed with the Mets following the 2015 campaign.
He originally signed as an amateur free agent with the Seattle Mariners in August of 2002 while still a teenager. Cabrera was subsequently dealt to the Cleveland Indians in June 2006 for current ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez.
Cabrera broke into the big leagues with the Indians in 2007 and would become a two-time American League All-Star. In the first of those back-to-back all-star seasons, Cabrera was awarded the 2011 AL Silver Slugger Award for the shortstop position. He registered career highs in home runs (25), RBI (92), and runs scored (87) that season while hitting .273 and stealing 17 bases.
After parts of eight seasons with the Tribe, Cabrera was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for pitcher Zach Walters.
As with this current trade, he became a free agent following that season and signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Once that season was completed and he was a free agent once again, Cabrera signed his Mets deal.
Early in his career, Cabrera split time between second base and shortstop with the Indians. But by 2011 he was Cleveland’s everyday shortstop. He remained exclusively at shortstop until the Nats acquired him and used him for the balance of the 2014 season as their starting second baseman.
He was back at shortstop with the Rays during his lone season in Tampa, and then during his first season in New York. However, last season the Mets began to deploy him in a super-utility role. Cabrera played 45 games at shortstop, 44 at third base, and 32 games at second base.
Prior to this trade to the Phillies, Cabrera had been used exclusively by the Mets as a second baseman this year. It’s hard to say exactly how Gabe Kapler will choose to integrate him into the mix with his first-place ball club.
Maikel Franco has been playing tremendous baseball for more than a month and has become a key player in the Phillies rise. There is no way that Cabrera is going to supplant him at the hot corner.
At second base, Cesar Hernandez has settled into what is his typical empty offensive type of season. He is getting on-base at a .371 clip – no surprise there. However, he also hasn’t homered since June 20, and has stolen just two bases since June 24 – none in the last 15 games.
The Phillies lost their starting shortstop, J.P. Crawford, to injury early on. They have been playing Scott Kingery there out of position for much of the season to the mixed results that could have been expected with a rookie playing the position for the first time professionally.
The best guess is that Kapler will use him at both second and short liberally. Cabrera has banged 18 home runs and 23 doubles this year. 
Those figures would put him second only to Rhys Hoskins in those categories in the Phillies lineup. He hit the last of those 18 homers in a Mets uniform just last night in Pittsburgh.

Roman Quinn should add a dynamic speed element to Phillies attack

The dynamic Quinn adds major speed to Phillies attack
After struggling to score runs for most of the first three months of the season, the Phillies offense is finally heating up with the warmer summer weather.
Through June 16 the Phillies had scored five or more runs just 26 times, a little more than 38%, over their first 68 games.
Since that date, over their last 34 games the offense has reached or surpassed that mark a full 50% of the time. That would be 17 games, including the last five straight and seven of the last eight.
The renewed offensive fireworks have helped the club burst up the standings. Their record since that mid-June date is 22-12. They have risen from third place, four games behind the division leaders at the time, to take a 2.5 game lead of their own.
Rhys Hoskins returned to the lineup just a week earlier from a nearly two-week stay on the disabled list. Since his return on June 9, Hoskins is hitting for a .290/.378/.611 slash with 14 homers, 10 doubles, 39 RBI, and 30 runs scored.
Third baseman Maikel Franco was struggling so badly over the first two and a half months that he was largely benched for almost a week. But since returning to the everyday lineup on a full-time basis on June 17, Franco appears reborn. He has slashed to the tune of .330/.376/.642 with nine homers, seven doubles, and 20 RBI over these last 32 games.
As highlighted in a full piece earlier today on his own break out, Nick Williams has joined the hit parade as well. Now starting full-time in right field for the first time in his career, Williams has a .307/.392/.509 slash with six home runs and 20 RBI since June 16.
Each of those three hot players bashed a pair of home runs in last night’s series-opening 9-4 romp of the host Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Veteran first baseman Carlos Santana, signed to a three-year, $60 million contract this past off-season, also homered last night. The seven homers tied the Phillies franchise record for one game. But Santana had been doing little more than drawing a ton of walks over the first half of the season.
Over the past week, something has changed. The  32-year-old is finally doing what this lineup really needs him to do, drive in runs. Santana has a .286 average and .607 slugging percentage while driving in 10 runs since July 20.
Since July 10, all-or-nothing catcher Jorge Alfaro has been “all” on a more frequent basis. He is hitting to a .364/.462/.636 slash with five extra-base hits, five RBI, and nine runs scored over his last nine games.
Even Scott Kingery appears to finally be finding his stroke. The rookie shortstop is hitting .284 over his last 76 plate appearances beginning on the Fourth of July, scoring 13 runs over his last 19 games.
If the mercurial Odubel Herrera can get fully untracked, it could really send this attack into full beast mode. Herrera hasn’t disappeared, he just isn’t producing very much over this past month. He has, however, registered at least one hit in 16 of his last 21 starts.
Fans have been clamoring for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak to get this surprising first-place ball club some help as the MLB non-waiver trade deadline approaches. That help may be arriving today, just not in the form of a big name added via trade.
The Phillies are promoting 25-year old outfielder Roman Quinn. He will join the club for tonight’s game in Cincinnati. Quinn possesses dynamic, game-changing speed.