Archive for September, 2011

On Last Night

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

A few quick BlueClaws-related items from maybe the best three hour period in the history of the regular season:

Congrats to Justin De Fratus on getting his first Major League win.

Sort-of on point, the Phillies won their franchise record 102nd game on the day that Charlie Manuel became the franchise’s all-time wins record by a manager with 646. He had this gem of a line:

“I remember when we lost 10,000 games and some people acted like I was there for all 10,000,” Manuel said. “Now that I’m the winningest manager, I might let someone else brag, but I’ll definitely smile and take credit for it.”

We’ve referenced this article before but think about this: Former BlueClaw Michael Bourn, now with the Braves, and Carl Crawford, now with the Red Sox, experienced the two worst collapses in the history of baseball, with their games finishing about 45 minutes apart last night.

The two are great friends, having played Little League baseball together in Houston. Now they go home and will have something to commiserate about until February.

Sally League Top 20 With Two BlueClaws

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

biddlesantanafullBaseball America released their annual look at the top 20 prospects in the South Atlantic League and two BlueClaws are featured: #6 Jesse Biddle and #18 Domingo Santana (traded to Houston).

Click here for the full list from Baseball America.

Biddle, who we interviewed here last week, went 7-8, 2.98 but had the best ERA in the league (1.97) during the second half of the season. Biddle, a first round pick in 2010, was relatively happy with his year.

“I think it went alright. It didn’t start out too well but I guess I am moderately happy with my second half…There are a lot of things I need to work on like command of the fastball and change-up, picking off runners, fielding and other things that will make you a better pitcher. I got a lot better but I know I need to keep getting better and I’m excited for that chance.”

Santana split the year between Lakewood and Lexington, where he went in August after the July 29th trade that brought the Phillies Hunter Pence (Santana was the player-to-be-named-later). He hit .287-12-53 on the season, but .382-5-21 in just 17 games with Lexington.

He opened 2010 with Lakewood as a 17 year old, the youngest player, by more than a full year, in BlueClaws history and returned to Lakewood for 2011.

Bryce Harper – Manny Machado – Jurickson Profar – Jameson Taillon – Christian Yelich went 1-2-3-4-5, which seems about right, though the BlueClaws never saw Machado (injured).

There are two players on this list who were drafted out of college (#12 Kyle Parker of Asheville, a 1st round pick from Clemson and #16 Bryce Brentz of Greenville, a supplemental first-round pick from Middle Tennessee State).

Here are last year’s rankings when the BlueClaws had 6 out of 20 and 4 out of 8.

Former BlueClaw Tries to Knock Out Sox

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Rooting for the Red Sox to get knocked out of the playoffs tonight? Then you’re also rooting for a former BlueClaw. 2003 Lakewood pitcher Alfredo Simon will get the start tonight for the Orioles as they take on Boston in the final game of the regular season. Boston enters the night tied with Tampa Bay for the wild card, trying to avoid becoming the first team to ever blow a nine-game playoff-spot lead in September.

Simon went 5-0, 3.79 in 14 games (7 starts) with the BlueClaws in 2003. He ended up being traded by the Phillies, with Ricky Ledee, to the Giants for Felix Rodriguez at the trade deadline a year later. He was briefly with Texas and the Dodgers as well before signing with the Orioles in September of 2008.

This year, Simon is 4-9, 4.85.

He made his big league debut on September 6, 2008 becoming the 24th BlueClaw to reach the big leagues.

Today, Baseball America will release their top 20 prospects from the South Atlantic League and we figure that the BlueClaws will have a few representatives, headed by Jesse Biddle.

Franco, Altherr in BA’s NYPL Top 20

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

francoaltherrTwo 2011 BlueClaws – Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr – were ranked among the top 20 prospects in the NY-Penn League by Baseball America, who released their annual league rankings yesterday.

Franco, a 3rd baseman from the Dominican Republic, ranked 4th, started the year with Williamsport and made a cameo with Lakewood during the summer. He hit .287 with two home runs with Williamsport, mostly as an 18-year old (he turned 19 on August 25th). With the BlueClaws, he went 8-65 with one home run, an absolute laser over the left-centerfield wall off of a 96 mph fastball from 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon of West Virginia. Presumably, he will be Lakewood’s Opening Day third baseman next year.

Altherr, an outfielder from Arizona, ranked 20th. He began the year with Lakewood, hitting .211 with one home run in the first half before going to the NY-Penn League, where he hit .260 with 5 home runs. He ranked 15th on the same list last year and entered 2011 as a top ten prospect in the organization as also ranked by Baseball America. Altherr played mostly centerfield with Lakewood (all 39 of his games played were in center), but was the left-fielder with Williamsport (61 games in left vs 11 in center) as Kyrell Hudson (former 3rd round pick who hit .275 with 28 stolen bases) played center. We would expect Altherr to man left and Hudson center for Lakewood in 2012 as well.

Previously: Gulf Coast League Top 20

Zagurksi to Arizona

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

zagurskiblogPer Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, 2006 BlueClaws pitcher Mike Zagurski has been traded to Arizona for a player-to-be-named later.

Zagurski was with the BlueClaws in 2006 and made his MLB debut on May 25, 2007, becoming the fastest player to go From the Shore to the Show.

We bobbled him the next year as part of the Made the Phillies series, and the picture is of Zagurski with the bobblehead doll the night it was given away (July 29th, 2008).

Why now? As Gelb explains:

The 28-year-old had no options remaining, which meant the Phillies would have to keep him on the roster coming out of spring training in 2012 or cut him loose.

Good luck to Mike.

By the way, since Zagurski was acquired after September 1st, he is not eligible for the Diamondbacks post-season roster. So no, he can’t face the Phillies in the playoffs. The Phillies know all about this, with Sparky Lyle in 1980 a prominent example of the rule.

Jim Murphy: Fundraising Machine

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

jimmurphyblogAs part of the annual Home Runs for Heroes program, OceanFirst Foundation (charity of OceanFirst Bank) donates $1,000 to a local-military based charity for every BlueClaws home run hit at FirstEnergy Park.

This year, $25,000 was donated, $11,000 thanks to home runs by Jim Murphy. Four of those were in the second inning, meaning he raised $4,000 for VetGroup of the $7,000 they earned through the program.

There was a check presentation at the ballpark yesterday and here is the full story.

“When our young men and women leave to serve their country, they leave families behind here in the States. We support those organizations that help those families and we support those organizations that help our soldiers when they come home,” said OceanFirst Bank President Vito Nardelli.

How the Program Works
Each of the nine organizations participating in the program is paired up with an inning in the game. If a BlueClaws player homers in the first inning, then said organization (in this case Catholic Charities) gets $1,000, so on and so forth.

Navy-Marine Relief Earle had the 9th inning plus extras, and the lone home run was courtesy of Anthony Hewitt on May 1st.

American Recreational Military Services had the 5th inning, and they received $1,000 despite no BlueClaws home runs in that frame. For those that listen to BlueClaws games on the radio, that is the Asbury Park Press 5th inning, so we can assign all blame to BlueClaws beat writer Tony Graham.

Home Runs for Heroes has now raised $79,000 over its three year existence for these nine military-based non-profit organizations. Thanks to OceanFirst for their fine support.

UPDATE: Murphy also hit seven HRs at home in 2009, meaning he has accounted for $18,000 raised through this program of the $79,000!

Matt Moore in Lakewood

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

We talk all the time here about the former BlueClaws and their games here with Lakewood but sometimes it’s fun to look back at someone who the BlueClaws played against. Last night at Yankee Stadium, Rays LHP Matt Moore had a tremendous first start, striking out 11 Yankees over five shutout innings.

In 2009, Moore (drafted in the 8th round of the 2008 draft) played for Bowling Green. Tampa’s Sally League affiliate had been Columbus (GA), but they moved to Bowling Green (KY), spending 2009 in the Sally League and they are now (with Lake County) a member of the Midwest League.

That year, Bowling Green made one stop in Lakewood and Moore pitched the second game on July 14th, allowing three runs over five innings.

All three runs came in the third with two outs. Harold Garcia and Anthony Gose singled. Travis d’Arnaud doubled both of them in and then Jim Murphy doubled in d’Arnaud. Moore struck out eight in the game.

Moore that year led the league with 176 strikeouts and went 8-5, 3.15 on the year. He spent 2009 with Port Charlotte and split this year between AA Montgomery and AAA Durham, going 12-3, 1.92 before his call-up.

Biddle Talks Season, Instructional League

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

biddleblog52011 BlueClaws LHP Jesse Biddle is among the group of Phillies prospects who reported to Clearwater on Monday for the start of the Florida Instructional League, his second year in the FIL. The Instructional League is in some ways a “second spring training” and learning opportunity for some of the younger players in the system, like Biddle, who said last week that he learned the most last fall not on the field, but in his hotel room.

“I sat there in the room charting Roy Halladay’s no-hitter (against the Reds),” he said. “I would get the velocities off the tv and note fastballs, first pitch strikes, change-up strikes, and other stuff but the whole emphasis for me was on change-ups.”

He would chart the games, at the urging of Phillies minor league pitching coordinator Gorm Heimueller, just like he would if he was sitting in the stands in the days leading up to a regular season start, only this time he was doing it from his hotel room and had television commentary rather than live, cheering fans.

“We also did a lot of video stuff, putting 10 guys in a room and breaking down our deliveries,” he said. “As much as you’re playing another month after the previous seven, it’s a lot different.”

When Jesse came to the Phillies Winter Tour stop in Lakewood before the season, he said he wanted to focus on his change-up during spring training and into the season. How’d he do?

“I think it got a lot better and that was the biggest thing I got better at. I could throw it in different counts, for strikes, locating it pretty well,” he said. “I’ve watched enough of Cole Hamels to know how effective a good change-up can be, not comparing myself at all to him, but watching him really made me realize that was something I really needed to work on.”

Biddle started slow, and had a 7.16 ERA in April this year, but from May on through, he had an ERA of just 2.39, second best in the league, and in the second half, he had the league’s best ERA at 1.91.

(more…)

Road to Lakewood: GCL Top 20

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

H/T to Phuture Phillies for the heads up…Baseball America puts out their annual top 20 prospects by league, and yesterday they released their report on the Gulf Coast League.

The only Phillies player on the list was LHP Ethan Stewart, a 47th round pick in 2010 from New Mexico Junior College, who ranked 16th.

Stewart made his pro debut in 2011 and went 4-4, 3.62 in 11 starts (54 Ks in 54.2 innings) and then gave up two runs in nine innings with Williamsport at the end of the season.

Only three 2011 draftees made the list, in part because many sign much closer to the August 15th deadline, too late to make a major impact.

He’s 6-5, 210 from Canada.

Last year, Jesse Biddle and Aaron Altherr were both on the GCL Phillies top 20 list and both opened the season with the BlueClaws.

Michael Taylor’s First Big League Home Run

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

taylor-rounding-basesHe hit 67 home runs in the Minor Leagues, 10 of those in just one half with Lakewood in 2008, and last night, Michael Taylor hit his first home run in the Major Leagues, on a 3-2 change-up from Texas lefty Derek Holland.

Here is video from MLB.com, which apparently is unembeddable, and on the right is obviously a screen-grab.

“It’s obviously a special thing,” Taylor said, “but it’s kind of disappointing it comes in a loss, though technically it brought us closer.”

It came in his 18th career at bat. His first minor league home run came in his 40th career at bat in 2007 after he was drafted. Taylor hit two in that game, an 11-7 Williamsport loss to Jamestown (he had five RBIs), and hit behind Matt Rizzotti in the lineup.

Underway in the Instructional League

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Forgot to pass this along yesterday but if you were looking for the rosters for the upcoming Florida Instructional League, Larry Shenk from the Phillies (read his blog here) sent these over.

Coordinators: Mike Compton, field; Gorman Heimueller, pitching; Steve Henderson, hitting; Doug Mansolino, infield.

Staff: Mickey Morandini, manager; Frank Cacciatore, hitting; Carlos Arroyo, pitching; Les Lancaster, pitching; Mark Parent, instructor; Dusty Wathan, instructor and Brett Gross, video rep

Pitchers: Gabriel Arias, Jesse Biddle, James Birmingham, Lisalberto Bonilla, Ranfi Casimiro, Lendy Castillo, Brody Colvin, J. Dygestile-Therrien, Percival Garner, Ken Giles, Steven Inch, Ulises Joaquin, Jay Johnson, Colin Kleven, Ervis Manzanillo, Lino Martinez, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Ramon Oviedo, J. C. Ramirez, Yacksel Rios, Braden Shull, Ethan Stewart, Joshua Warner, Austin Wright.

Catchers: Francisco Diaz, Logan Moore, Chase Numata, Cameron Rupp, Robert Stumpo.

Infielders: Cody Ashe, Albert Cartwright, Edgar Dugan, Maikel Franco, Gustavo Gonzalez, Tyler Grene, Cesar Hernandez, Harold Martinez, Roman Quinn, Brock Stassi, Alejandro Villalobos, Mitch Walding.

Outfielders Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Gauntlett Eldemire, Tyson Gillies, Larry Greene, Kyrell Hudson, Jonathan Knight, Brian Pointer, Carlos Tocci, Jiandido Tromp.

Bold means they played here this year.

Gillies missed the year with an injury and is tuning up for the Arizona Fall League. Jay Johnson will probably leave early to play for Team Canada. Tocci is a 16 year old from Venezuela who just signed for nice money.

Players reported yesterday. Games start on Monday and go through October 15th – Monday through Friday at 1 and Saturday at 10.

Jay Johnson to Pitch for Team Canada

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

LHP Jay Johnson, who had five saves and a 2.94 ERA with the BlueClaws this year, will pitch for Team Canada in the upcoming IBAF World Cup and Pan-Am Games according to this article on the Canadian Baseball Network.

The IBAF World Cup will take place in Panama City from October 2-15 and the Pan-Am Games are in Guadalajara between October 19-26.

“JJ,” as he was called, is a side-armer from Sussex Corner, New Brunswick in Canada.

Here is a Get to Know piece we did in June on Johnson, who had previously been drafted by both the Orioles and Blue Jays but never signed. He tried out in Arizona for the Phillies in March and signed then, joining the BlueClaws in late-April.

In his first game, he faced four hitters, walked all four, and was removed, an inauspicious debut.

“I was excited, but I didn’t feel the ball that well for some reason. I don’t think I even got a two-strike count,” he joked about it months later.

He threw a scoreless inning the next day and from there was one of Lakewood’s most valuable relief pitchers.

Johnson played a little hockey but didn’t have easy access to a rink, and with an older brother that played baseball, that became his favorite sport. He went to a junior college in Canada and then Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

“That was prairies too but just not as many dust storms as West Texas in Lubbock,” he said.

After Texas Tech, with no place to play professionally at the time, he helped his father, a fisherman, on the water while working out to get ready.

Team Canada, we’ll note, is managed by Ernie Whitt, Phillies roving catching instructor. He also managed the team in both World Baseball Classics and the 2004 Olympics.

Good luck to Jay and Ernie.

Gose, d’Arnaud Win Again

Monday, September 19th, 2011

arnaud12009 BlueClaw teammates Anthony Gose and Travis d’Arnaud, who were re-united with the Blue Jays, from two separate deals, Gose in a side-deal after being traded to the Astros as part of the Roy Oswalt deal and d’Arnaud in the Roy Halladay deal, won their second title together over the weekend when New Hampshire captured the AA Eastern League championship.

It was Gose who scored the winning run in the 9th inning on Saturday night.

“The ball was hit to right field, I knew I was going to go to third,” Gose said. “I didn’t realize that he missed the ball, but manager Sal was waving me home. It pretty much clicked in my head that he had missed it. I scored standing up, and that was the winning run.”

Who got the save? 2002 BlueClaw Bobby Korecky. The team also included 2007 BlueClaw Kevin Howard.

Gose also won a Community Service Award from the Blue Jays earlier last week which we wanted to post here.

Gose, who set the Fisher Cats single season franchise record for stolen bases with 70, quickly became a fan favorite in New Hampshire, putting in as much effort off the field as he did between the lines. The 21-year-old centerfielder strengthened the partnership developed by the Fisher Cats with the community as the go-to-guy for community appearances and initiatives.

The EL Season Ending All-Star consistently volunteered to visit with sick children and their families. One of those families, the Arsenaults, was particularly affected by their time with Anthony after they initially met at the ballpark in early June. Anthony developed a relationship with their son, Donnie, who spent the summer enduring grueling rounds of chemotherapy. Later in the season they presented Anthony a green bracelet that read ‘Keep the Faith-Team Donnie’ as a token of their appreciation which Anthony wears proudly each day.

The Bellflower, California native was the only player to work all four sessions of the Fisher Cats Dartmouth-Hitchcock Baseball Camp in addition to offering his services for several other camps and community initiatives.

De Fratus Debuts…#39

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Justin De Fratus became the 39th former BlueClaw to appear in a big league game when he threw a shutout inning last night in a 5-0 Phillies loss to St. Louis.

De Fratus, the first member of the 2009 championship BlueClaws to make his big league debut, went 5-6 with a 3.19 ERA with Lakewood that year and was a member of the mid-season South Atlantic League All-Star team.

This year, De Fratus started with Reading and went 4-0, 2.10 and was promoted to Lehigh Valley, where he was 2-3, 3.73. He was officially added to the Phillies on Friday night after Lehigh Valley’s season came to an end in the Governors Cup Finals.

He had 21 saves and a 1.94 ERA between Clearwater and Reading in 2010 and played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. De Fratus was originally an 11th round pick in 2007 from Ventura College (CA).

In addition to becoming the 39th former BlueClaw to play in a Major League game, he is the third to debut this year, following Mike Stutes (2008), who debuted with the Phillies in April and Michael Taylor (2010), who debuted with the Athletics on September 2nd.

Here is the full Shore to the Show list.