Let the (Spring) Games Begin, 2018

Spring training shifted from the Complex to Spectrum Field when the Phillies took on perrenial Division II powerhouse, the University of Tampa Thursday afternoon.

The Phillies used nine pitchers and added 4 minor leaguers to the roster for the game – Zach Green, Cack Coppola, Garret Cleavinger, and Tyler Viza.  Two saw action.

The Tampa hasn’t come close to beating the Phillies since they spun a comeback 6-2 victory in 2015 (Andrew Amaro forced in the tying run with a bases loaded walk prior to Hector Neris surrendering a grand slam).  The Spartans went on to a 43-13 record, #1 ranking, and NCAA D2 national championship.  Tampa lost 8-3 in 2016 (41-10) and 6-0 in 2017 (39-14).  They bowed out of post season play both years in the NCAA South Regionals. This year the Spartans entered today’s game with a 6-2 record.

Today’s game was about the Phillies’ pitchers.  They shut out  Tampa through ten innings while the offense scored nine runs (six in regulation, and only four of those were earned).

Jerad Eickhoff got the start and threw the pitching schedule of course with a five-pitch first inning which included a strike out looking on a nasty 76 mph curve.  He came out to pitch the second inning.  He allowed a one-out base runner when he hit a batter with a 91 mph fastball and recorded his second strike out swinging at a 77 mph curve.

  • Eickhoff – 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HBP, 18 pitches, 14 strikes, FB sat 90, t91 mph
  • velocity – 90, 91, 90, 76, 90  |  90, 76, 90, 86, 91, 90, 90, 77, 77, 90, 90, 76, 90 (bold=strike)

Jose Taveras pitched the third inning.  He gave up the Spartans’ first hit, a one-out, ground single down the left field line.  He survived the inning on a deep fly out to left and a diving catch on a sinking line drive to center fielder Dannt Ortiz.

  • Taveras – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 10 pitches, 8 strikes, FB sat 90 mph
  • velocity – 90, 90, 90, 79, 90, 90, 90, 89, 87, 89

Tom Eschelman pitched the fourth inning.  He gave up one-out and two-out singles that sandwiched a swinging strike out at an 84 mph off speed pitch.  He escaped unscathed when J.P. Crawford speared a line drive ticked for left field.

  • Eschelman – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 15 pitches, 13 strikes, FB sat 90, t91 mph
  • velocity  – 90, 90, 90, 89, 90, 86, 90, 90, 84, 89, 82, 91, 90, 85, 89

Franklyn Kilome pitched the fifth inning.  He got two quick outs on a fly ball and strike out looking at a 93 mph fast ball.  After a line drive single to right, Eliezer Alvarez committed an error at third that put a second runner on base.  Zack Coppola made a diving catch on a sinking line drive in right center to end the inning.  He also had the first 3-ball count.

  • Kilome – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 15 pitches, 9 strikes, FB sat 92-93, t94 mph
  • velocity – 93, 92, 93, 81, 88, 91, 92, 93, 94, 82, 93, 90, 92, 79, 92

Enyel De Los Santos pitched the sixth inning.  He induced 4 ground balls – a ground out to short, 2 ground singles to CF, and a 6-4-3 double play.  He ran the second 3-ball count of the day.

  • De Los Santos – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 13 pitches, 9 strikes, FB sat 94-95, t 96 mph
  • velocity – 94, 80, 82, 95, 96, ,93 95, 80, 94, 94, 79, 80, 85

Seranthony Dominguez pitched the seventh inning.  After a soft single to right, he struck out the side.

  • Dominguez – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 13 pitches, 11 strikes, FB sat 95-96 mph
  • velocity – 96, 90, 94, 95, 88, 95, 95, 89, 88, 96, 96, 87, 95

Cole Irvin pitched the eighth inning.  He retired the next three batters in order on a strike out, ground out, and a line drive to left.  The strike out came swinging on an 87 mph pitch. He ran the team’s third 3-ball count.

  • Irvin –  1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 12 pitches, 8 strikes, FB sat 91-93 mph
  • velocity – 92, 91, 92, 87, 92, 78, 86, 93, 86, 91, 86, 93

Ranger Suarez pitched the ninth inning.  He extended the string of retired batters to nine in a row with a strike out, fly out, and ground out.  He got his strike out swinging at an 81 mph pitch.

  • Suarez – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 10 pitches, 8 strikes, FB sat 91-92 mph
  • velocity – 91, 91, 92, 84, 92, 81, 91, 92, 80, 91

Brandon Liebrandt pitched the tenth inning.  He closed out the final 3 batters extending the staff’s string of retired batters to twelve on 2 strike outs and a pop up.  He got his first strike out looking at an 89 mph fastball.  He got his second looking at a 78 mph curve.

  • 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 12 pitches, 9 strikes, FB sat 89, t90 mph
  • velocity – 89, 89, 89, 89, 86, 89, 80, 78, 89, 83, 90, 77

The Phillies scored in the bottom of the first.  Andrew Knapp led off and drew a walk.  After J.P. Crawford popped out, Tommy Joseph launched a foul ball that one hopped off the LF concourse into the Bullpen Grille.  He followed that with a scorched double down the left field line.  Knapp scored on a throwing error and Joseph was thrown out trying to advance to third.  Nick Williams and Scott Kingery singled before the inning came to an end.

The Phillies added two more runs in the fourth on Danny Ortiz double down the right field line.  Kingery who reached on a throwing error and Rosales who singled scored on the hit.

The Phillies extended their lead with 3 runs in the seventh.  They loaded the bases with a walk and two hit batters.  Andrew Pullin drove in 2 runs with a single and Heiker Meneses drove in one with a sac fly.

The game was extended to allow the Phillies tenth pitcher to throw (remember Eickhoff threw the first two).  In the bottom of the ninth, Zach Green jumped on the first pitch and launched a moon shot to left.  After another hit batter, Andrew Pullin stroked a two-run HR bringing the final tally to 9-0.  After a called strike three for the second out of the inning, the UT manager threw in the towel, getting his pitcher out of there on a good note.

The Phillies pitching was very good today.  They put up a combined line of –

  • 10.0 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, HBP, 118 pitches, 89 strikes

In addition to the offense mentioned above, Jesse Valentin hit a couple balls hard that were caught in the gaps.  He played RF in relief of Dylan Cozens.  Coz struck out twice, once swinging and once looking.  He fouled off a couple off speed pitches, staying alive in his first at bat before swinging over an 82 mph pitch.  He let a first pitch, 90 mph fast ball go by to start his second at bat, and saw slop on the next three pitches.  He was caught looking at a 77 mph curve that froze him.  J.P. Crawford made a couple disappointing air outs, a pop to the SS and a fly to center.

I won’t be attending too many Phillies’ Grapefruit League games.  This is when I begin spending most of my time at the Complex, watching the minor leaguers.  I received the following schedule from a friend –

February 27: Athletic Training and Strength & Conditioning Staff arrive in Clearwater

February 28: Minor League staff arrives in Clearwater

March 1: All players arrive in Clearwater; check-in to team hotels

March 1: Staff physicals and meetings

March 2: Player physicals begin

March 3: Player physicals continue



73 thoughts on “Let the (Spring) Games Begin, 2018

  1. Thanks, Jim. This level of detail exceeds the traditional box score data. It’s most appreciated by those of not able to be there.

    I suspect we will see a greater mix of projected starters as we move into the weekend. That said, I like seeing what the younger guys can do, even when it’s against marginal competition.

    1. Wondered where you’ve been. Walding was noticeably absent for a few days, and later seen walking with his thigh wrapped. Heard he had a “hammy”, and was shut down before it got out of hand. He’s been back hitting recently. IMO, if he were 100%, he might have started in the UT game.

      1. Yesterday he took a bunch of balls at third with Helms fielding at first. He looked good but didn’t seem to have all his range. Made a great stop and threw the ball from his rear to first on a line.. Helms looked in his glove and looks as if he was surprised the ball got there without a bounce.

  2. If Valentin plays well, he’ll earn the utility spot, thus saving a 40 spot.
    Lots of young pitching to follow as they get closer.

  3. Like Eickhoff, Taveras and Eshelman lack the good FB velocity, but unlike Eickhoff who has shown he can be successful in MLB, both Taveras and Eshelman showed little variation in the speed of their pitches. I think they need more velocity separation to have a chance of being positive MLB contributors. Other than those two, the velocity numbers look encouraging.

    1. Eshelman has pinpoint control, though. If he can throw strikes while moving a hitters eyes he can still be successful, and with an MLB scouting report on the hitters he may actually be better.

      Taveras works quickly, mixes pitches and throws strikes. He’s been successful thus far but I have seen him have innings where he gives up some very loud contact. He’s moved so quickly through the system I just feel like I need to see more of him in AAA.

  4. Eickhoff’s curve is his out-pitch. Good to see him able to set it up. Now for the regular hitters to see if he can make this work.

      1. Well you share the exact opposite opinion from Kapler who said that Pivetta “Kicked ass today. We were all high fiving his performance”. This guy is def a character lol

  5. He is the one I like most of the group of the “closest to the Majors” potential SPs going forward, not named Nola. I love VV’s stuff, but still invision him in the BP until he shows me otherwise..

    1. Vinny and Pivetta’s BB/9 both in the majors and minors (Vinny is actually better) are in the same level. Vinny’s stuff can be #2 worthy, while Pivetta can be #3 worthy but both need to clean their command otherwise both will be better served in the BP. Both almost at the same age although Vinny has more MLB IPs.

      I’ll give Pivetta one more year to sort his command, otherwise, trade him or move him in the pen. Kilome will join them soon.

      The next group of arms (Eshelman, Sixto, Medina, Ranger, JoJo, Howard, Seabold) don’t have a bad reputation about their command and they will be up very soon. I hope the Phils don’t fall in love with velocity people who cannot control the strike zone.

          1. That is your opinion lord. I Think Pivetta has the stuff to be better than anyone on this team. including Nola. His stuff is electric, his control sucks. Vv is a future closer or eight inning guy at best. If you see VV pitch he loses his stuff in the fifth inning. I don’t know what pitcher you were watching, but it wasn’t VV.

            1. Your optimism on these guys is encouraging but I don’t see it. Many players have great arms but aren’t good pitchers, we all know pitching is more than just throwing, without command of your pitches is great stuff is wasted. In my opinion Pivetta and Velazquez are fringe major leaguers, a 4th or 5th starter or bullpen piece, anything better would be a plus but to count on these guys for significant roles is a set up for disappointment.

            2. rocco…ViVe getting closer to his innings shelf-life post-TJ….besides the normal wear and tear of the aging process , the post-TJ shelf-life will just compound his velocity losses. Even Strasburg has now lost 2/3 mph over the years and after his TJ.

  6. KuKo, Tough outing for Pivetta, but it is only the first one. Again, command is key for both VV and him. If they can’t command the pitches better, then even with their stuff, they may not be all that successful out of the ‘Pen either. Franco’s 1st AB, batting out of the 2 hole. Looks at Strike 1, swings at a high fastball, strike 2, swings at a down and out breaking ball, Strike 3! Again, the first day, and 1st AB, but so reminiscent of his approach to the plate up until now. Let’s hope his tutoring from Santana kicks in soon! On the good news front, 2 hits from Nick Williams! No one else with any.

  7. Great detailed writeup Jim, appreciate it. For a fan coming to Clearwater for a day next week, are there usually workouts / activity in the morning with either big league camp or minor league camp that’s open to fans now that MLB games have started? I’d like to go to the game in the afternoon but was hoping to catch some action in the morning.

    1. Yes, there will likely be something going on at the Complex. Players not scheduled to play will be over on the fields. Hard to pinpoint at what time though. New regime has really shuffled the cards. When I drove by on US 19 on Thursday at 11:00 AM, there were a lot of Phillies’ uniforms on Ashburn Field and a few in workout dress on Schmidt Field. The Phillies had finished BP when I entered Spectrum Field and UT batted until well past noon.

  8. Gabe Kapler: “Pivetta Kicked ass today. We were all high fiving his performance”.

    I want to like this guy so badly but he seems like such a BS artist.

    1. I read where Kapler said Pivetta was working on getting the ball up and he liked the way he kept to game plan. First game of spring these guys are working on certain things to see what works for them.

      1. Agree. It is technically the first game of spring. Critiquing a players performance based on a couple of innings pitched is ludicrous. For all we know, Kapler could have told Pivetta to work on his fastball command and nothing else. Pump the brakes, fellas. It’s waaaaaayyyy too early to judge.

        1. Who commented on how Pivetta pithed? I was commenting on Kapler. And please you don’t have to explain to me what spring training is for.

          1. If you would have put the rest of Kaplers comments where he said ““He executed his game plan today,” Kapler said. “He executed some pretty nasty sliders at the bottom of the zone. He executed some fastballs at the top of the zone. He missed some bats, which is very encouraging .“One of the things we’re working on with him is elevating a little bit. He has velocity and strong pitch characteristics to pitch up in the zone. But he also has the ability to pitch down in the zone with his slider and his curveball.“He kicked ass today. He did everything we asked him to do.” You can see where the “kicked ass” comes from. Also wasn’t trying to educate anyone on spring training, sorry you took it that way.

    2. I get what you’re saying but I’m thinking it was stressed to him by upper management to have the players’ backs when it comes to what would seem to us a less than ideal performance. Kapler seems to pride himself on presentation so I’d take those quotes with a grain of salt. It all comes down to wins and losses. By midseason we should have a better gauge on who he is as a manager.

      1. @8mark, I don’t think Kapler is the kind of person who needs management to tell him “to have the players’ backs”. I think it just comes natural, that he couldn’t conceive of managing any other way.

  9. At the end of the day, professional athletes are self motivated in most cases. Philly can be a stressful place to play for a kid / young man with media and fan pressure at times being a lot to handle. The two most successful leaders in the past 15 years have been Charlie and Doug – two guys who created a safe, calm, trusting clubhouse environment. They aren’t chest thumping, loud, big personalities – they always de-stressed the situation for the players. In many ways, I’d also throw Andy Reid into that mix. As it comes to Gabe, I think this will end badly. I think it will end worse than Chip Kelly. I think he’ll be so bad it will a) turn off current players, b) keep free agents away, and c) end so bad he takes Klentak with him, possibly MacPhail. Over the course of 7 months and 190 games, a fired up, excitable Manager is not ideal. A calming, soothing influence is what works – that is not Gabe.

    1. The team has played two spring training games. I think it’s a little premature to declare the Kapler era a failure.

  10. To be honest, I thought he was a phony at first. Put yourself in his shoes. He’s a first time manager, and has no idea which players will buy into his program. I like all of the moves that he’s made in order to make it as relaxing as possible for the players. At this early date the regulars are set, but the pitching staff is not. Kapler must give the starting jobs based solely on performance this Spring. I’ve seen my share of “kick them in the ass” managers, and “pat them on the back” managers to know that Kapler is neither. He’s a “let’s sit down at talk about it” type. It’s too soon to tell if the bench coach will be his kick them in the ass coach, as Bowa was.

  11. I may be a little reluctant to get excited about Klentak, but I have a positive feeling about Kapler. I know he sounds like Tony Robbins and 8marks’ comment was really funny, but I don’t get the Chip Kelly vibe. I think Kapler tries different things to get the best out of the players, and I am looking forward to see how they play. If OBPs go up, they develop some better situational hitting, which has a very low bar to exceed, and we get something out of the cast of SP candidates, then Kapler’s first year is a success.

    1. matt13…agree.
      Chip Kelly did not seem open to other ideas….Gabe Kapler does seem to have an open mind about things with the players so far. It appears he does not force his ideas and whatever works for the individual is what he goes with.

    2. Kapler deserves a chance. He seems willing to try new approaches. I think it is a good thing for him to always have his players’ backs and try to shield them from the media and critical fans. Too many players have been thrown under the team bus in the past 3 decades of team history; it happened fairly consistently over that period and the manager often was one of the pilers-on. ‘Sending a message through the media’ is, to be brutally honest, the asinine approach of the poor communicator.

  12. pleased with what I saw from Alfaro today. He had the GS, a walk… He looked more selective… like he might not SO as much this season. Will see, one game, but he looked to have a better approach already.

    1. TAC3 its not his offense. Its his defense that worries me. How many times is he going to get catcher interference called on him?

      1. Two parts to the game for sure, but I’m still not sure the offense is there too. He needs to make strides on both. Im high on him, but he still needs to prove it. You know the flaws. Looks like the light bulb went on to me, at least for one game, lets hope it is the new standard for him.

        Having a top offensive catcher is such an advantage imo, would love to see it happen. Add Kingery in at 2B, you get the sense the core is coming along. If he cooch can relay how to call a game to him…. the Hamels trade will have been a win for the phillies.

    2. yes. fwiw, alfaro got the bat on the ball today and took some balls. but the inning where the orioles scored is all too typical for him on the defensive side (catcher’s interference and passed ball/wild pitch; it doesnt really matter which one it was — the bottom line is he simply doesnt stop enough balls). i have never seen this metric for a catcher, but i would like to know how many wild pitches are thrown when alfaro is catching vs. others. i think most catchers stop the ones they are supposed to; the difference is in the amount of wild pitches prevented. it would not surprise me if alfaro has been at the bottom in that category over the past 2 seasons in reading and lehigh valley

  13. I really liked Eflin after watching him come through Reading after the trade that got him. Yesterday he started to show me what a healthy Eflin can look like. I expect him to start the year at LHV but to get called up at some point. There will be competition as to who gets called up. Good! LHV rotation could be very good. In fact, all of our rotations could be very good.

  14. I’d like to see what Efflin, Thompson, Lively, Kilome, Anderson, & VV have in spring training before signing Arrietta. Someone should emerge in the group after another off-season.

    Even then, I would have to question his readiness to pitch this year with concern of injury with such a late start to the season. It also sends the wrong message to a rebuilding team, that it is okay to start the season late & demand money. Not a good precedent.

    It’s a pass all around with a 9 man bullpen.

    With all of the uncertainty around Cobb, Lynn, & Arrietta. All will not sign & be relegated to a prorated one year deal by the all-star break.

    That is where the Phillies can afford to overpay if in playoff contention & Kilome or others are not ready for call up, without trading a ransom to the Rays for Chris Archer.

      1. John, I doubt very much that anyone can assess what you propose in the SSS of spring training. They’ll either sign Arrieta or not based on whether they can agree to terms, not on who among our many “maybes” can carry an effective ST into the regular season.

        1. They like the idea of adding a vet SP, but at the right price only.

          Otherwise, they are prepared to leverage all the minor league arms that evidently have had some experience pitching in the bigs:

          Thompson: 18 games started.
          Lively: 15 games started
          Leiter: 11 games started
          Pivetta: 26 games started
          Efflin: 22 games started

          Focus will be for 5IP per game while leveraging a deep BP & system, while Nola & an emerging SP carry the staff.

    1. matt13….how many teams can both afford and need Arrieta?
      Boras knows the limitations for his client’s possible destinations.
      The Phillies seem to be one team that fulfills both requirements.
      Its the length that they differ on.
      Next move….is Boras’ move.

      1. If there was anyone who was willing to go more than 3 or 4 years on an Arrieta contract it would seem that they would have him signed by now. Anyway the Phillies should not bid against themselves

      2. Washington can afford him easy. I said it before the way they structure contracts he can go to a winner over a bad team, Imo I rather sign with Washington then a team who might win 75 games, playoffs versus bottom of division. I would take less to go to a winner. So if the phillies want him and I wouldn’t go nuts over him. t hey would have to overpay.

  15. I agree, 4 years max! Iwould prefer it to be an option year, maybe vesting after 180 innings. He can still get $100M and Phils won’t be negatively impacted from ither dignings.

  16. I still maintain that Arrieta is going to Washington and have always felt this. Boras is using the Phillies to drive up the price for the Nats in regards to Arrieta. Signing him will put the Nats in Luxury tax territory but they can get out of it next year and remember these three things…Boras has a great relationship with the owner, the owner is 91 and dearly wants to win a title before he passes…and Keeping Boras and the Nats tied at the hip can only be an advantage when it comes to signing another Boras client, Harper.

    1. I hope the Phillies are driving the price up for the Nationals. Best way for the Phils to beat them now is mess up their checkbook.

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