Sunday, February 28, 2016

Duo impresses during Phillies' win against University of Tampa

Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola threw a combined 18 pitches in two perfect innings for the Phillies on Sunday at Bright House Field.
Their performances in an 8-3 victory against the University of Tampa meant little in the long run, but they are worth noting because one of the two pitchers is expected to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter on April 4 against the Reds in Cincinnati. The runner-up is expected to pitch the second game of the season on April 6, which would not be a bad consolation prize: He would also be in line to pitch the homer opener April 11 against the Padres.
"Yeah, I'd absolutely love the honor, but it doesn't matter one bit," Hellickson said about pitching Opening Day. "We're going to need all five guys to pitch how we're capable of pitching. I don't really think it matters who starts it off, but at the same time, it's a goal and it'd be fun."
"It'd be a cool thing," Nola said. "If you haven't done it before, if you haven't had an Opening Day start in your career, it would definitely be cool. But wherever they have me, I'm going to go out there and compete."
Nola said he would understand if the Phillies told him they preferred to ease him into the season, giving the nod to the more experienced Hellickson, who won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
"Being on the field and competing against the batters, trying to get a win for the team, that's the focus," Nola said.
Hellickson, 28, went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 starts last season with the D-backs. He has a 4.86 ERA in 72 appearances (71 starts) the past three seasons. The Phillies acquired him in an offseason trade with Arizona because they consider him a solid bounce-back candidate and they needed a veteran presence in the rotation.
Hellickson certainly has motivation to pitch well. He will become a free agent following the season, so a big year would help him on the open market. And if he pitches well, the Phillies could potentially deal him before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I just really need to get back to being consistent," Hellickson said. "The last couple years I feel like I've thrown better than what the numbers said at the end, but my bad ones were just really, really bad. I couldn't stop the bleeding in those big innings. I've just got to be better out of the stretch with guys on base. Just be more consistent every five days. I can't give up one in seven [innings] one game and then give up five in three the next."
Nola threw fastballs and curveballs in his short stint, although he said he will be making a concerted effort to improve his changeup this spring.

Spartans Fall To Phillies In MLB Exhibition

 Major League Baseball Spring Training action started on Sunday afternoon as the University of Tampa Spartans faced off against the Philadelphia Phillies in an exhibition matchup. After falling to the Spartans last season, the Phillies came out on top this year with an 8-3 victory. 
The Spartans came into this game with a record of 11-1, after sweeping Barry in a three-game series. 
Junior Christopher Williams drew the start for the Spartans, as the righty went two innings, allowing four runs. 
Chris McCormick came in relief for UT, as the righty went one inning, allowing three runs. 
Following McCormick was Conner Andrews. Andrews went three complete innings, allowing just one run on two hits, while recording three strikeouts. 
Cody Martin came into the game in the eighth inning as the righty threw a perfect inning recording one strikeout. 
As a staff, UT allowed nine hits, all which were single. The Spartans were also able to record four strikeouts.
The Phillies wasted no time getting on the board this year as they came out swinging and scored three first-inning runs and adding another run in the bottom of the second to jump out to a quick 4-0 lead. 
In the top half of the third inning, Cody deNoyelles and Zion Bell led the inning off with back-to-back singles. Following the base hits, catcher Michael Kleinman hit a double down the left field line to bring in deNoyelles and Bell bringing the Spartans within two runs at 4-2. Kleinman would then come around to score on an RBI groundout by Danny Lee to make the game 4-3 after three innings. 
Philadelphia would quickly respond to the Tampa rally scoring three runs of their own off relief pitcher McCormick. The Phillies would score the three runs after a bases-loaded hit by pitch and a two-RBI single. McCormick would then get the next three batters to fly out to end the inning. 
Philly would then add the eighth run of the game in the fifth inning on an RBI single up the middle. 
Matt Piatt had a big day at the plate, as he went 2-for-3 in the game including a double. Vincent Minet also recorded a pinch-hit single in his lone at-bat for the day.
The Spartans will be back in action on Thursday, March 3rd as they take on Seton Hill University. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 pm. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Australia rides combined gem to Qualifier final

 Four pitchers combined to strike out 11 as Team Australia (2-0) moved within one win of returning to its fourth World Baseball Classic following a 4-1 win over South Africa (1-1) on Friday night at Blacktown International Sportspark.
New Zealand (1-1), which eliminated the Philippines (0-2) with a 17-7 win on Friday, will play South Africa on Saturday at 2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time. The winner of that game will face Australia in the Qualifier championship at 2 p.m. local time Sunday (10 p.m. ET Saturday). Fans can watch all games live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Former Major Leaguer Travis Blackley will start for Australia. 
"Our goal is to win, and the good thing is we've got our best pitcher going at the end," said Australian manager Jon Deeble. "Our programs in Australia are about pitching and defense, and that came to the floor tonight.
"Warwick [Saupold] was on a pitch count, so we had to get him out of there, but Ryan Rowland-Smith threw the ball as good as I've ever seen him throw it, and [Todd] Van Steensel was outstanding, too. And then [Ryan] Searle, who's had a good ABL, he continued his good work."
Saupold, who reached Triple-A with the Tigers last season, went the first three innings for Australia, giving up one run on three hits with three strikeouts. Rowland-Smith, a former Mariners right-hander, then struck out three over three shutout innings. Van Steensel followed with two perfect innings, before ABL saves leader Searle earned the Qualifier's first save with a scoreless ninth.
"I was able to command my fastball, and my little backdoor slider was good," said Rowland-Smith. "If I see something from these hitters, I am going to just keep attacking it and attacking it. That's where the experience comes in. I felt good tonight, and hopefully it is something I could build on."
Aussie pitchers scattered six hits and retired 12 batters in a row until there were two outs in the ninth.
South Africa's only run came on a gift double that was dropped by left fielder Luke Hughes in the third inning, followed by Kyle Botha's two-out single.
Australia jumped on South Africa Olympian Carl Michaels with four straight hits to start the first inning, scoring three times on five hits. Michaels settled down after that 35-pitch first inning to pitch the first three innings.
"That's the type of character [Michaels] that we hope our younger guys latch onto," said manager Alan Phillips. "He talks a lot to them. They look up to him a lot. He's been around. The reason why we pulled Carl as well was not because of the situation in the game, it was more the situation that comes Sunday. We're going to need someone, if everything goes well on our side."
Australia did not have another hit until the fifth, a two-out double to left from Trent Oeltjen. It did have seven left on through five and another at third in the sixth, despite pushing across the fourth run with a James Beresford groundout to make it 4-1. It was the third RBI for the Aussie leadoff hitter.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ex Boston farmhand's 7 RBIs keep Kiwis alive

Former Red Sox prospect Boss Moanaroa went 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and seven RBIs to make a winner out of 18-year-old American Jimmy Boyce (1-0) and give New Zealand (1-1) a 17-7 mercy-rule win in eight innings over the Philippines (0-2) in a World Baseball Classic Qualifier elimination game on Friday at Blacktown International Sportspark.
Moanaroa's homer, a three-run shot, came in a six-run sixth inning that helped New Zealand pull away in what started out as a back-and-forth contest. Moanaroa had tied the game in the fifth with the first of his two doubles, and the 24-year-old first baseman added a two-run single in the seventh to make it 14-7.
Leadoff hitter Eric Farris, who played for the Twins' Triple-A affiliate the last two seasons, had four hits, including two doubles, for the Philippines and was 5-for-7 during Qualifier play.
The Kiwis will face the loser of Friday's 3:30 a.m. ET game between South Africa and Australia on Saturday (2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local) in another elimination game. Sunday's Qualifier championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET Saturday). Fans can watch all Qualifier matchups live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Boyce, who came on in the sixth after the Philippines took a 7-4 lead, gave up a single to start before retiring the next four batters he faced. Boyce currently attends Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash., but taking the mound for his native country was a decision that will impact his prep career.
According to a story by MLB Network reporter Jon Paul Morosi for FOXSports.com, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules indicate that Boyce, a junior who was born in Tauranga, New Zealand, and lived in that country until moving to the U.S. in 2012, is now ineligible to play for Mount Si High School because rules prohibit student-athletes from competing in team sports with or against professional players.

Twins' farmhands lead Australia to WBC rout

Twins Minor Leaguer James Beresford went 4-for-5 with three RBIs from the leadoff spot as Australia cruised by the Philippines, 11-1, prompting the mercy rule after seven innings on Thursday in the second game of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier at Blacktown International Sportspark. Australia will now face South Africa in the winner's bracket, while the Philippines will take on New Zealand in an elimination game.
"He's a great player," Australia manager Jon Deeble said of Beresford. "He's been in professional baseball for 11 years. He hit .300 in Triple-A. We just want him to get a chance in the big leagues because he is such a bloody good player. Hopefully, that is this year."
Joining Beresford in Team Australia's rout, fellow Twins farmhand Logan Wade had two doubles and Stefan Welch went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Winning pitcher Steven Kent, who was signed to a Minor League deal by Atlanta in January, struck out seven over six innings, giving up one run on four hits. Kent settled down after a 25-pitch first inning in which he gave up one run on two hits. The 26-year-old lefty finished his night by retiring his final seven batters.
"I thought Kent was outstanding tonight," Deeble said. "That first inning he really battled, and he started changing speeds in the third or fourth inning. We were looking at the fifth inning, and we thought if we could just squeeze that sixth inning out ... he got through that, and that was big for us."
The teams traded runs in the first inning, as Cal State Dominguez Hills senior Brady Conlan drove in the game's first run for the Philippines with a two-out single to center. Eric Farris, a teammate of Beresford at Triple-A Rochester this past season, scored the Philippines' only run.
Welch countered with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, and a Beresford RBI single scored Wade in the second.
Philippines starting pitcher J.R. Bunda left in the third inning with right elbow strain, and former big league left-hander Clay Rapada came on in a 2-1 game. Rapada appeared in 649 Minor and Major League games over 14 seasons and is set to retire when Team Philippines wraps up its World Baseball Classic run. Rapada allowed two runs on three hits, striking out two in two innings.
"I thought Bunda did a fantastic job. He was a little bit of an unknown for us, but he had thrown some really great bullpens," said Philippines manager Tim Hulett. "If we knew how great his sinker was -- most of the balls that were hit hard were his secondary pitches."
Trent Oeltjen chased Rapada from the game with a two-run double in the left-field gap that made it 4-1 in the fifth inning, and Team Australia batted around and added seven runs in the seventh to end the game two innings early. 
The Aussies (1-0) will face South Africa (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) on Friday, with right-hander Warwick Saupold from the Tigers organization taking on South Africa right-hander Carl Michaels. Fans can watch the action unfold live on MLB.com, WorldBaseballClassic.com and ESPN Pac-Rim.

Mariners' Unsworth leads RSA past New Zealand

Mariners prospect Dylan Unsworth pitched eight shutout innings, scattering two hits, to put South Africa into the winner's bracket on the first day of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier with a 7-1 win over New Zealand at Blacktown International Sportspark on Thursday.
"I think everything [was working]. Just commanding the fastball, changeup, curveball, everything," said Unsworth, a 23-year-old right-hander who reached Double-A last season. "When you have a three-run cushion, you feel confident, you feel good. Honestly, all you have to do is throw strikes and everything will happen after that."
Unsworth induced 15 ground balls and retired the first 11 Kiwis he faced. He struck out the side in his final inning, striking out four overall on 89 pitches. He also retired his final 10 batters.
"He just competed. He attacked us. He came right after us with his fastball. He was able in certain counts to pitch behind a little bit. He was relentless," said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward, who is the Dodgers' third-base coach and used to coach with the Mariners. "I actually had him in Seattle, and I knew him pretty well. I love the way he competes and I wouldn't say he's got Cy Young stuff, but he's got good enough stuff to where he can pitch at a pretty high level because of his competitiveness."
Designated hitter Brett Willemburg had two hits and drove in two runs for South Africa.
South Africa was knocking on the door from the start, but New Zealand's defense kept the opposition off the board until two errors in the third inning led to a 3-0 advantage. 
In the first, New Zealand shortstop Scott Campbell went up and grabbed a line drive to end the innning, before left fielder Tim Auty made a diving catch on the dirt of the warning track to end the second with one runner on.
The defensive magic continued for New Zealand into the third, when third baseman Daniel Lamb-Hunt went to one knee and completed a double play, and it looked like New Zealand would again dodge trouble for starting pitcher Scott Cone. But Campbell's throwing error put a runner on with two outs, before Cone was relieved by his brother, Ben Cone, after 43 pitches. 
Ben Cone then gave up back-to-back singles to Kyle Botha and Willemburg, the second plating the first run. Then, after hitting Rowan Ebersohn to load the bases, a wild pitch and ensuing throwing error from behind the plate, made it 3-0. 
"We felt at one stage we should have been five or six runs up, but in a game of this nature we'll take the three and we'll have to work from there," said South Africa manager Alan Phillips.
Brandon Bouillon, who was batting at the time of the wildness, instead struck out to end the inning.
"Any time that we could put runs on the board early, it's a bit of a settling factor in our squad," said Phillips.
New Zealand's six pitchers walked seven, hit three batters and had two wild pitches. The Kiwis also made three errors, the final one coming in a four-run, four-hit ninth inning.
"I thought our pitchers did a pretty good job," said Woodward. "I thought they kept us in the game, and if it wasn't for a couple mistakes, it would have probably been a scoreless game going into the ninth inning."
Right-hander Carl Michaels is slated to throw for South Africa on Friday against Australia on Thursday. Right-hander Andrew Marck will throw in an elimination game for New Zealand vs. the Philippines.