Today's Phillies lineup, three things, and how to watch

Today's Phillies lineup, three things, and how to watch

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana will make their spring-training debuts on Saturday as the Phillies host the Orioles at Spectrum Field.

The game, which begins at 1:05 p.m., will be broadcasted by NBC Sports Philadelphia and WIP-FM.

Here’s a look at the lineup:

  1. Carlos Santana, first base
  2. Rhys Hoskins, left field
  3. Jorge Alfaro, catcher
  4. Aaron Altherr, right field
  5. Cesar Hernandez, second base
  6. J.P. Crawford, shortstop
  7. Tommy Joseph, designated hitter
  8. Ryan Flaherty, third base
  9. Roman Quinn, center field

Starting pitcher: Zach Eflin

Three things

  1. Quinn will compete this spring for a spot on the team’s bench. He’ll play center today but could see time in the infield later in camp. His versatility and speed will give him a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.
  2. Eflin said he feels the best he has ever felt after undergoing knee surgery at the end of the 2016 season. The pitcher said his legs were weak last season and it felt like he was pitching on stilts. He’s competing for the final rotation spot and it will be interesting to see if his health makes him a different pitcher.
  3. Alfaro makes his spring debut and is a lock to make the team out of camp. The Phillies need him to take strides this spring with his defense, especially with his receiving and gamecalling. He has a great arm and now needs to find ways to maximize that.

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Phillies want Nick Pivetta to pitch like Justin Verlander

Phillies want Nick Pivetta to pitch like Justin Verlander

DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Phillies asked each pitcher to try something new this spring. Throw your change-up to lefthanders or rely on your slider more. For Nick Pivetta, it was simple: elevate your fastball.

The righthander averaged a 94.7 mph fastball last season but the majority of his targets were in the middle or lower half of the strike zone. The Phillies told him to watch Justin Verlander, who finds success by regularly throws his fastball high in the zone and with a ridiculous spin rate.

“A key point that they brought to me was how Verlander pitched in the playoffs,” Pivetta said after allowing a run on Friday in his first two innings of spring training. “I think that’s something I can learn from a lot of the time, how he did it.”

A high fastball could often find danger if the pitch misses its spot. But the Phillies hope Pivetta’s high fastball allows him to counter the swings of hitters who have increasingly lowered their swing paths as the game shifts to a heavy reliance on launch angles and uppercut swing techniques. The high fastball could also play up Pivetta’s curveball and slider, which seemed to get better in the later stages of last season. The high fastball, Pivetta said, will be a good tool.

Camera icon JEFF ROBERSON / AP

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander use of high fastballs is an habit the Phillies hope Pivetta can adopt.

“We identified some pitch characteristics and Nick’s fastball plays beautifully at various spots in the zone. One of them is up,” manage Gabe Kapler said. “But if you think about the swing planes we’re teaching now, trying to get the ball in the air, getting above those bats is not a terrible thing. Sometimes one of the things that keeps that ball above the bat is a ball that spins really fast. A high spin rate stays up in the zone like that.”

Outfield alignments

Chris Young, the team’s assistant pitching coach, will also be in charge of aligning the outfielders. Young used spray charts on Friday of the Toronto hitters and positioned the outfielders from the dugout before each at-bat.

“I can imagine how that might be a little bit unusual,” Kapler said of having a pitching coach align outfielders. “We started with a skills matrix. What are the responsibilities that need to be covered in a major-league dugout? There’s a big list of them. Then, who is best at tackling this responsibility. We got to the positioning of outfielders and he was the logical fit for us – partially because of his advance-scouting background, partially because he’s really good at digging into data, and he’s a big target. It doesn’t have to be an outfield guy to position outfielders. It doesn’t take the outfield experience to say, ‘Oh, you should be standing on the X.’ We’re thinking about that a bit unconventionally.”

Extra bases

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta adjust his cap, which belong to Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, the school that lost 17 students to a school shooting last week. 

The Phillies and Blue Jays held a moment of silence before the National Anthem for Roy Halladay…Each team wore the hats of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The hats were to be auctioned off to benefit the victims of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla….Dylan Cozens struck out twice and has struck out in each of his four plate appearances this spring…Mark Leiter pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut.

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    Feb 12 – 2:43 PM

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Pirates sign Kevin Siegrist to minor-league deal

Pirates sign Kevin Siegrist to minor-league deal

The Pirates have reportedly signed reliever Kevin Siegrist to a minor-league deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training.

Once an important cog in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, Siegrist led the majors in appearances in 2015 (81) and was third in the league in holds (28). In 2015 and 2016, Siegrist posted 2.17 and 2.77 ERAs respectively, although his peripherals were worse in ’16.

Unfortunately for the 28-year old lefty, his 2017 season was not quite as successful. Siegrist allowed 19 earned runs in 34.1 IP before hitting the disabled list with a cervical spine strain. The Cardinals eventually let him go and he briefly resurfaced with the Philadelphia Phillies later in the season.

With Felipe Rivero as the closer and Steven Brault likely to break camp with the team, Siegrist figures to compete with Josh Smoker and Jake Leathersich for a position as a secondary left-handed option.

Phillies' first Grapefruit game lineup and three things to know

Phillies' first Grapefruit game lineup and three things to know

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies, riding the momentum of yesterday’s shutout win over a college team, open their Grapefruit League schedule today against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. in neighboring Dunedin.

Here’s a look at today’s lineup:

  1. Scott Kingery, second base
  2. Maikel Franco, third base
  3. Cameron Rupp, catcher
  4. Nick Williams, right field
  5. Will Middlebrooks, first base
  6. Pedro Florimon, shortstop
  7. Dylan Cozens, left field
  8. Collin Cowgill, center field
  9. Matt McBride, catcher

Pitchers: Nick Pivetta, Mark Leiter Jr., Francisco Rodriguez, Victor Arano, Hoby Milner, Ricardo Pinto.

Three things

  1. The Phillies will wear black Stoneman Douglas High School hats for the entire game. Each MLB team will wear the hats for batting practice, and it is up to the team if it wants to wear them during its spring-training opener. The hats will then be signed and auctioned off to benefit the victims of last week’s school shooting.
  2. Cozens struck out twice yesterday against the University of Tampa, continuing a trend that was too prevalent last season. No one in the Phillies organization has more raw power than the 6-foot-6 Cozens. But making contact can sometimes be a problem. He struck out 194 times last season in 135 triple-A games. That is something that needs to change this season, and it is worth watching how he does during his time in major-league camp.
  3. Rodriguez turned 36 last month and is coming off a season that looked to be the end of his career. But the possible future Hall of Famer is looking for one more shot with the Phillies. His fastball is not where it used to be, and today will be his first look against live hitters. The Phillies will likely know pretty quickly if Rodriguez has anything left.

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Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies seek value at the margins

Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies seek value at the margins

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Rhys Hoskins stood in left field and waited. It was early in the morning, more than an hour before he was required to be at the ballpark. The stands were empty. The sound system was muted. It was just Hoskins, the player the Phillies hope can be a franchise cornerstone, with a coach.

That coach, outfield coordinator Andy Abad, stood 20 feet away as Hoskins waited. Abad rolled a baseball and Hoskins charged, scooped it with his glove and mimed a throw to the infield. Abad instructed and rolled another ball. And again. And again.

Hoskins showed last summer that he can hit. He blasted 18 homers in 50 games after reaching the majors, continuing the success he had at every minor-league stop on his way to Philadelphia. New manager Gabe Kapler will place Hoskins somewhere in the middle of his lineup, molding his batting order around Hoskins.

But his defense leaves room for improvement. Hoskins was a first baseman for his entire minor-league career before moving to left field just before he was promoted. That move was thought to be temporary, but it became indefinite in December when the Phillies added first baseman Carlos Santana in free agency. And that is why Hoskins stood in left field and waited.

“The infield is like the complete opposite of the outfield,” Hoskins said. “I’m kind of trying to train the body to do something it has never done. If I can home in on one of those little things a day or a week and master that, then I think it’ll all come around at the same time.”

Wearing ‘VAM’ on their sleeves

Hoskins and every other Phillies player found new red t-shirts in their lockers on the first day of spring training. It was Kapler who had the t-shirts labeled with “Be Bold,” the slogan he declared as the theme of camp. And on the sleeve, “VAM,” a slogan Kapler embraced during his playing career that means “value at the margins.”

He wrote in 2014 on his blog that he learned during his career that “small adjustments can have major impacts.” Players might not be able to control when things happen, Kapler wrote, but they can control how they prepare. The theme of camp might be “Be Bold,” but “VAM” can be considered the guide.

Kapler said this week that “value at the margins” refers to things people often neglect. A catcher’s primary responsibility, Kapler said for example, is to keep a pitch in the strike zone. But the value at the margins would be the catcher’s conditioning or the relationships he develops with pitchers. For Hoskins, his “value at the margins” is in his fielding.

“We’re just thinking about where can we find the value at the margins because we may not have the track record of some of the other clubs that we’re going to be competing with. So therefore we have to get the extra value,” Kapler said. “We have to find the value at the margins, so we can get that extra inch, which turns into an extra game and at the end of the year we’re fighting for an NL East title.”

Seven weeks of training

Hoskins worked with Abad last summer once the Phillies decided Hoskins would come to the majors as a left fielder. The pair had little time. Hoskins played just three triple-A games in left before being promoted. Abad’s primary goal was to make sure Hoskins survived. He did. Hoskins might be a first baseman, but he is not a lug. He’s athletic, he played some left field in college, and he held his own there with the Phillies.

The seven weeks offered by spring training are “paramount,” Abad said. It gave the pair the chance to work on the things they were forced to neglect last summer. Abad instructs Hoskins on how to approach a grounder, where to place his feet when he throws, how to keep his momentum when charging a ball, and the art of a crow hop. It is a chance to refine.

“The beauty about Rhys is that you only have to tell him once. His aptitude is off the charts,” Abad said. “His knowledge of the game and the feel for his body is very impressive. Just by his demeanor and his work ethic alone, even if I didn’t give him any information, he’d still get better out there. He’d figured it out on his own. That’s the kind of kid he is.”

And there Hoskins waited. Abad rolled him another baseball. He charged, lowered his glove, grabbed the ball, faked another throw to the infield, and tossed it back to Abad. The coach gave more instruction. He told him where to plant his feet and where his shoulder should be on a throw. All things Hoskins said he never thought of when he played first base and watched an outfielder make a throw.

The drill, as monotonous as a drill can be, continued.

“It’s those little details,” Hoskins said. “And if that could give me a slight edge or get me to perform that much better, then I think that’s a value at the margins that we’re looking for.”

More Coverage

  • POLL: Which Philly sports team will be the next to play for its league’s championship?
  • Get the latest Phillies news with the FREE Philly Sports Now app for iPhone and Android
  • Phillies 2017 statistics
  • SHOP SALE: Phillies fan gear

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