Phils Start to Cool off as Nats get Hot

 

The Phillies have consistently remained in contention for the NL East crown this season, although once again they will face a test with having to turn the season around. The Phils have won just 5 of their last 10 games, and more recently have dropped their last three contests. Yesterday against the Rockies, Kyle Kendrick managed to pitch just 4.1 innings while giving up 5 runs. He has a 6.56 Earned Run Average this year after signing a 2 year/$8 million extension with the Phillies.  Said manager Joe Torre, “Kyle just hasn’t been getting the movement on his pitches that you need to compete at this level.” Kendrick attributed the lack of success to not being able to put hitters away.  GM Noah Oppenheimer said that while the club respects Kendrick, they are looking to find a replacement. Weather that will be from AAA or another team is yet to be determined, although they will have to act fast–Kendrick’s next start is in just four days.

On the Flip side, the Nationals have leapfrogged the Phils in the standings, winning 8 of their last 11 games. But is Oppenheimer worried? “There’s a reason we’re called the Fightin’ Phils,” he said, “we’re never going to give up. In a 162-game season, a streak like this is just a blimp on the radar.”  Bench Coach Bobby Valentine says the players aren’t stressed out in  the clubhouse. “The guys are still having fun, but taking the game seriously,” he said, “Joe’s done a great job of implementing a balance between the two.

Brown to Rejoin Phillies

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The Phillies outfield will get some re-enforcement for the upcoming three-game series against Cincinnati, as outfielder Dominic Brown , who hit .304 before being injured early this season, is set to join the club. CF Ezequiel Carrera was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for Brown on the active roster. Brown hit .400 in his rehab stint to show the Phillies he was ready for action. He is expected to step into the lineup to replace slumping RF Justin Maxwell tomorrow. 3B Ryan Flaherty, acquired from Baltimore last winter, was not called up to the big leagues. Flaherty struggled to start the season before hurting his thumb, and Zach Cox, his replacement, has impressed in the starting role. Flaherty’s success in Triple-A will determine whether he becomes the backup to Cox or if rookie Cody Asche retains that roll.

Manager Joe Torre said that he is glad to have Brown back and thinks he will give the offense the boost they need. GM Noah Oppenheimer declined to comment on the future of Flaherty. He has been criticized for trading Darin Ruf, who has hit 11 homers and for a .272 average with the Orioles in exchange for Flaherty, who to this point has been a bust.

Rookie Cox finally Starting to Shine

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Last season, when  Zach Cox found himself at the age of 24, playing in Double-A Jacksonville, his hopes of a bright major league future from years ago had seemed to fade. Fast forward about a year, and Cox is batting second for the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting for a slash line .292/.347/.496, along with whacking five balls out of the park. Cox, a former first-round pick, was traded to Philly from Miami along with Nate Eovaldi, and Justin Ruggiano, bringing back Ben Revere among others. This trade was heavily criticized by many experts and GMs, but, at least this far into the season, it appears Philly may have got the better of the trade. Although Revere has hit .281, he has  stole three bases and neither of the two minor leaguers also shipped by the Phils looks to have much of a bright future. In addition, Eovaldi has won three games for the Phillies this year and Ruggiano has knocked five balls out of the park and managed a .470 slugging percentage.  Of course it is still early, but this trade has played a big role in Philly’s hot start to the season.

The real story, however, is Cox, the Arkansas grad who had all but given up on his baseball career before the trade. “Philly took a chance on me,” he said, “and I’m so thankful they did. I never expected to make the major league roster out of spring training, and I even told my friends in Lehigh Valley that I would be coming there. But the day Noah [Oppenheimer] called me and said I’d be coming with them to Philly, I couldn’t believe it, I’d never been so excited.”  Cox was slated to be a backup to Ryan Flaherty at third base, but Flaherty went down for a month during the first week of the season, opening the door for the young Cox to step into a starter’s role and make his mark. “I had an opportunity, and I just tried to take it,” says Cox, who got off to a slow, his batting average hovering around the Mendoza for a week or two. But recently Cox has gotten hot, and he has probably taken the job from Flaherty, at least for the time being.  “Zack has done great,” says manager Joe Torre, “and nobody deserves it more than him. He’s very quiet but very nice, and he works harder than most.”

“I’ve had some success,” said Cox, “but now I have to remember h0w quickly you can go from top dog to last place. It happened to me. I was a first round pick, and I fell to somebody who nobody wanted. But I’m going to do all I can to not let that happen again, I’ll work hard and not just sit back on a couple of good weeks of baseball.”

Phillies GM Relaxes, Watches Team Get Hot

Some people may have noticed that Phillies GM Noah Oppenheimer has not been involved much in team activities lately. Today, when speaking at a short press conference, he was asked why he has been seen so little around the ballclub. “There’s nothing to do now,” he said,  “Me and Joe [Torre] just have to sit back and watch them (the players) play. It’s been fun to not care too much about what’s going on, just be a fan and see whether we win or lose. In a few weeks it will start to be crunch time, when me and the rest of the front office has to figure out what pieces to add and move at the trade deadline. For now, I’m just going relax before I have a heart attack from watching our games. Plus, the players probably hate me by know for all that yelling, so I might as well give them a break before August.”

Oppenheimer strategy may have worked, as the Phils have turned a recent five-game losing streak into a four -game winning one. “We’ve been playing some good baseball,” said veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Added bullpen arm Octavio Dotel, “I’ve played for a long time, been on a lot of teams, but this is one of my favorites. The chemistry is so amazing between this group of guys.”

GM Noah Oppenheimer Comments on the State of Phillies Baseball

The Phillies had an off day yesterday, so GM Noah Oppenheimer took some time to guest-write an article for the MMB Phillies Blog

Wow, it’s been a crazy season so far! I knew we could do it, but never expected to get off to such a great start! I also never thought the Braves would struggle so much, opening the door for teams like us and the Mets. Now we’ve slowed down a bit and we’re on a losing streak, but that’s going to end tomorrow when we beat New York. Still, the team has showed what they can do, and if we keep losing or we go on another losing streak I’m going to be mad! Joe has handled the team great, and the players have played their hearts out, but now it’s time to win. Everybody knows that, from the owner to the skipper to the players to the ball boy. We all know that we need to win or else all our jobs could be in danger. And we want to win! We want to show all those people who said we can’t do it and we aren’t good enough that we can win the World Series! We want to make those idiots shut the hell up! Because we know that we’re a great ballclub, we know that we’re every bit good enough to win the division and keep going in the play-offs. Now we just have to prove it!

I know a lot of our players have been hurt, but that’s no excuse for losing! If one guys goes down, i want the next guy to step up and do a great job! And I really think that I have built our organization to have the depth to do so. This off-season I was also doubted a lot. Although many people approved my signing of Saltalamacchia, a lot of them thought I was crazy when I announced I had hired Joe Torre as our manager. The owner of the ballclub really wanted me to hire someone younger, and it took nearly a week to convince him to approve the hiring. Joe knows the game so well that he is a perfect fit here. A perfect successor to Charlie Manuel. When I first joined the team I said I would not rebuild the Phillies, and I guaranteed success. Many people said I was crazy, but I didn’t let it get to me. My next move was acquiring Jesus Guzman from the Padres. He has hit very well and had a great attitude, not causing any problems in the clubhouse. Nate Eovaldi has done what’s asked of him, and he’s better than his E.R.A. suggests. Another doubted move was signing 40-year-old Octavio Dotel.He is old, but age is just a number and he’s pitched great when healthy. One of my biggest goals is bringing depth to our club, and i think i’ve done just that. I won’t be worried when a starter goes down.

I’d like to give a big shout-out to players: Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. They are both veterans who have a long history of winning, so they could have grumbled about being on a team not projected to do so well. Instead, they bought in to the belief and became great leaders in the clubhouse. They installed a believing and winning attitude in the clubhouse, and now we have a whole team of players who have bought in to the new brand of Phillies baseball, and I speak for both myself and all our players in saying it’s a great day to be a Phillie!

Phillies Look to end Losing Streak Against arch-Rival Mets

The Phillies season got off to a great start, and it seemed as though a they could have a legitimate shot at a NL east crown as the mighty Braves faltered. That has all changed very quickly, as the Phillies have lost four straight and seven of their last ten games. Slugger John Mayberry Jr. has been injured, along with fellow OF Dominic Brown. Nate Eovaldi faltered in his start despite being stellar most of the year, and the Phils were swept out of town by the D-Backs.

Today they look to change that, as the team prepares to take on the struggling Mets to open a two-game series at home. So can they turn it around and take control of the division as April comes to a close? “Of course we can,” says Noah Oppenheimer, asked at a press conference this morning. “We’ve been very good at home this season, and we get New York in Philly,” he continued, “this series could really affect our season, and we think we have a great shot at winning.” Asked how a two-game series could have such dramatic effects on a 162-game season, Oppenheimer replied, “Well for starters, we are trailing the Mets by 2 1/2 games. if we win both, then we’re just a half a game back. But if we get swept, it’s 4 1/2. Also, we have an opportunity to turn around our season at the moment. Two losses could kill our momentum, if it isn’t dead already.”

So tomorrow’s match-up could have a huge impact on the Phillies success, and it will be a game to watch around the MMB.

Injury Bug Starting to get to Phillies

Every team wants to avoid it, but it happens to almost every team each season. The injury bug has set in on the Philadelphia Phillies. Dominic Brown has already gone down. The Phillies have been without Ryan Flaherty for nearly two weeks. Closer Octavio Dotel’s injury has been pending diagnosis for three days, and it looks like it could be bad. Due to back soreness, John Mayberry Jr. can’t play for a week. That leaves the Phils without their two best outfielders and hottest hitter in Mayberry, most solid bullpen arm this year in Dotel, and a regular starter at one of the organization’s weakest positions at third base. Zach Cox has hit three homers while replacing Flaherty, and Justin Maxwell, filling in for Brown, has knocked four balls over the fence in the last six games. But Juan Pierre will have to replace Mayberry adequately while he’s gone, and the rest of the tired bullpen will have to pick up the slack for not having a key member ready. As the saying goes, the Phillies can’t win the division in the next few weeks, but they can most definitely lose it. If the team can step up as they have done all season they will be fine, but if they fall victim to the injuries and can’t pounce on the troubled Braves they will be in trouble. Said GM Noah Oppenheimer, “I don’t care if some of our players are dinged up, I don’t care if they’re out. We need to win ballgames, and that’s all that will be tolerated.”