Spring Training Interview: Joe Jordan

March 5th, 2014

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At the Phillies Winter at Woodlake Country Club in January, we talked with Phillies Director of Player Development Joe Jordan about some potential 2014 BlueClaws players. It’s a perfect time, with Spring Training underway, to break out this interview and talk some baseball.

Joe, whats your excitement level heading into another baseball season?

Well, I’m excited for the third year, you know third year being a farm director. We’ve got a new staff situation here with Greg Legg taking over as manager, lef Lancaster coming back as pitching coach, Lino Connell coming back as the guy responsible for the hitters so I’m excited in that regard for those guys and again I like the players that we feel like are coming here at this point before we go to spring training.

Let me ask you first about JP Crawford.  The BlueClaws themselves go back to 2001 and he was the first high school draft pick to make it to Low A in the year he was drafted since the BlueClaws came into existence so obviously that says something about his development and how he was ready to play right from day one.

Well yeah no question, obviously we felt good about how he did in the Gulf Coast League and really we had an opportunity to keep his season going and just decided to get him up here and dip his toes in a little bit, a full season league, fully expect him to start here this coming year, hopefully he’ll come in and have a good spring training and we can do that. This will be a good level and good challenge for him to play this year.

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Build-A-Bushel, 4th Annual

February 28th, 2014

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FanFest, the day that single-game tickets for the 2014 season go on sale for the first time, is coming up on March 8th (details). That means that fans have until then to lock in the best seats for the best games prior to then (through March 2nd) in a BlueClaws ticket package. So which games should you pick? How would you “build your Bushel?”

First off – take a look at the promotional schedule at BlueClaws.com/promotions. Then pick seven. Which seven? We asked several BlueClaws staffers how they would “build their Bushel,” if they already didn’t have season tickets, of course.

When you have built your bushel, you can then order it online here or call 732-901-7000 option 3.

Bonus: If you call in and order someone’s Bushel “off-the-rack,” meaning “The [insert name here] Bushel,” you can throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a 2014 game.

Each Bushel package, of course, comes with value-pricing ($70, or $10 per game for adults), and a choice of a great gift ($15 BlueClaws Gift Card or a Food Coupon Book) making it one of our best value ticket packages.

Let’s take a look at the efforts of some BlueClaws staff members to Build-a-Bushel.

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Former BlueClaws In Clearwater

February 18th, 2014

Today marked the first day of full-squad workouts in Clearwater at Phillies Spring Training.

Here’s a rundown of the former BlueClaws in big league camp with the Phillies. (* notes a non-roster invitee)

Pitchers
Antonio Bastardo (2007)
Jesse Biddle (2011)*
Justin De Fratus (2009)
Jake Diekman (2009-10)
Ken Giles (2012)*
Cole Hamels (2003)
Mario Hollands (2011-12)*
Kyle Kendrick (2004-06)
Jonathan Pettibone (2010)
BJ Rosenberg (2009)
Michael Stutes (2008)

Catchers
Lou Marson (2006)*
Carlos Ruiz (2001)
Cameron Rupp (2011)
Sebastian Valle (2009-10)*

Infielders
Maikel Franco (2011-12)*
Freddy Galvis (2008)
Ryan Howard (2002)

Outfielders
Aaron Altherr (2010-11)
Domonic Brown (2008)
Leandro Castro (2009-10)*
Zach Collier (2009-10)
Kelly Dugan (2011)
Darin Ruf (2010)

In total, of the 58 players in Phillies camp this year, 24 are former BlueClaws.

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2013 A Year to Remember For Pettibone

January 30th, 2014

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(Editor’s Note – We’ll have some content from Wednesday’s Phillies Winter Banquet held at Woodlake Country Club that will be rolled out here over the next few days.)

Previously - Our talk with Ryne Sandberg. Our talk with Darin Ruf.

Jonathan Pettibone had made three starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley when he got “the call” that he had been waiting for his whole life. He was going to the big leagues.

2013 was a special season for the former Phillies 3rd round pick, who made his big league debut on April 22nd, allowing two runs in 5.1 innings against Pittsburgh (he got a no-decision).

“It’s your dream since you were a little boy,” he recalled last week at the Phillies Winter Banquet. “I got to call my dad and my mom and they were able to come out and see me debut the next day.”

He said while he was excited for the call, “I still had to face the Pittsburgh Pirates the next night. You want to celebrate, but really you celebrate your goal and get ready.”

The transition, while obviously significant, was something that Pettibone was prepared for, with help.

“That was my first spring training in big league camp,” he said. And meeting Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels for the first time and watching them in their daily routines was a big help. Then, getting into the same routines as them, you can learn a lot about getting ready for each game you have to start.”

Pettibone made 18 starts with the Phillies and went 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA before a July 28th injury shelved him for the remainder of the season. That injury, a shoulder strain, has been a focus for Pettibone.

“Right now,” he said. “Staying healthy is the most important thing. That put a damper on last season so I think going into camp healthy and staying healthy for 162 games would be huge.”

Fully healthy now, he’s been throwing since December 1st and began on the mound late last week.

Drafted in 2008, Pettibone made major strides with the BlueClaws in 2010. After a 5.29 ERA in the first half, Pettibone had a 2.41 ERA in the second half and won series-clinchers in both rounds of the post-season as the BlueClaws won their second straight SAL title.

“That was my first full season and coming into it I guess I was a little naive, not fully knowing what to expect,” he said. “But around the midway point of the season I turned it around and it took off from there. That whole experience, the first full season, capping it off with the championship, it was great.”

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Ruf Remembers Lakewood As He Readies For Season

January 28th, 2014

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(Editor’s Note – We’ll have some content from Wednesday’s Phillies Winter Banquet held at Woodlake Country Club that will be rolled out here over the next few days.)

Previously - Our talk with Ryne Sandberg.

Darin Ruf remembers the last game he played as a BlueClaw. May 12th, 2010 at Greenville and he went 5-5 with a home run.

“I had the worst BP that day off Gorm Heimueller, the pitching coordinator at the time,” he said. “I couldn’t hit a ball square to save my life. Then I went 5-5. Mark Parent called me to his office after the game and told me I got promoted.”

Going 5-5 not only was a great way to finish his time with the BlueClaws, but it also moved his average up 30 points to .330. He finished with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 32 games. Not a bad month for a player drafted in the 20th round the year before from Creighton.

Jonathan Singleton came up the next day and homered in his first at bat and the BlueClaws would go on to win their second straight championship while Ruf spent the rest of 2010 and all of 2011 with Clearwater.

Ruf turned enough heads that he earned a chance to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in 2011, and was on a team that included, among others, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Will Middlebrooks, and Jean Segura.

“We were on one of the worst teams in the league too. You scratch your head and wonder why we didn’t win every game,” he joked. “It was a great learning experience being around some of the guys and to pick up things from seeing how they work. I’m never going to be as athletic as them so I have to pick up some little things to do well.”

He made the next step in 2012, moving to Double-A Reading. After hitting an impressive 18 home runs through July, he more than doubled-down in August, hitting 20 and finishing with 38, most in the minors that year.

“It was incredible,” he said. “It’s every baseball player’s dream to stay locked in as long as I was. To be able to do that at peak performance, and capture that, it was incredible.”

After the Reading season ended, he was promoted to Philadelphia, where he made history on September 25th (at least to us). In hitting his first big league home run in the same game where both Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown went deep, it was the first time three BlueClaws alumni homered in the same big league game.

He ended up playing in 12 games for the Phillies that year, going 12-33 with 3 home runs.

“It’s a different situation seeing guys like Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, guys you grew up watching,” he said. “I remember when they came over talking to us at minor league camp. But personality wise, they take you in as part of the family. Having that core group of guys that know how to win and guys you can learn from is so important.”

Now, after a year split between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, he’s ready for spring training and a fight for at bats. Ruf went to Clearwater on January 12th to get ready (before a quick venture north for a week on the banquet circuit) for what he hopes is his first complete season in the big leagues.

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Sandberg Ready For First Spring Training as Big League Manager

January 23rd, 2014

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(Editor’s Note – We’ll have some content from Wednesday’s Phillies Winter Banquet held at Woodlake Country Club that will be rolled out here over the next few days. We’ll start with our chat with Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.)

Ryne Sandberg was playing winter ball in Venezuela when he found out he was leaving the Phillies. He had been traded to the Cubs with Larry Bowa in exchange for Ivan DeJesus following the 1981 season.

“At the time I was bit surprised because Larry Bowa was a shortstop and I was a shortstop at the time,” he said at the annual Phillies Winter Banquet at Woodlake Country Club. “But I was going to a place where I was going to get to play a lot at 22. I went to spring training and started my major league career.”

It’s all come full circle for Sandberg in the last 23 years. His boss now of course is Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. His manager in winter ball when he found out he was traded? Ruben Amaro, Sr.

Sandberg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 after a stellar 17-year career, will lead the Phillies at spring training for the first time starting next month. It’s the first time he’ll be a big league manager at spring training (after serving as interim manager for the Phillies over the last six weeks of last season), but it’s something he’s prepared for since his retirement.

“The smartest thing I did was go to spring training with the Cubs to serve as a guest instructor, which I did for nine years,” he said. In 2007, he started out as manager for the Cubs Midwest League affiliate in Peoria and was with the Cubs for four years before joining the Phillies again with Lehigh Valley in 2011.

“I was able to learn my style of managing while actually managing games,” he noted. “Then last year at the big league level as the third base coach and as the interim manager I was able to give the guys a feel of what I’m all about. I think being with these guys will go a long way entering the season.”

He’ll also make a point to make the younger players on the team feel as comfortable with the big league environment as he can.

“Larry Bowa [who will serve as Sandberg’s bench coach] helped me in that route both on the field and off the field,” Sandberg said. “We’d go to lunch and he made me feel I belonged. ‘I’m talking to Larry Bowa about who’s pitching today.’ Then once you’re comfortable, your natural tools will take over.”

He had to leave the Phillies to get his shot as a big league player, but now he’s come back to the Phillies to get his shot at managing, and Ryne Sandberg could not be more excited.

—-

One other thing Sandberg talked about that we wanted to mention here was the different chances players have to break into the game now compared to back then. Sandberg:

Triple-A is now different. It’s more 6 year free agents and a handful of prospects. Now, if you have a prospect at Double-A, he can make the jump straight to the big leagues. Then, you had to graduate Triple-A to get to the big leagues. Back then, you had to have a good Triple-A season and go to spring training and maybe break in. I think the movement of players now allows the players to go from Double-A to the big leagues but back then you had guys that played together for 10 years.

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Five Former BlueClaws Invited to Spring Training

January 9th, 2014

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From the Phillies release…

The Phillies have invited five additional players to major league spring training as non-roster invitees, the club announced today.

  • Jesse Biddle, LHP – In 27 starts with double-A Reading last season, Biddle went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 138.1 innings.  Despite battling whooping cough for the majority of the 2013 season, the Philadelphia native finished tied for first in the Eastern League in starts (27), tied for second in complete games (2), third in strikeouts and ninth in ERA.  He was also selected as an Eastern League midseason All-Star and earned the win for the U.S. Team in the MLB Futures Game at Citi Field in July.  On April 22 at Harrisburg, the 22-year-old took a perfect game into the 7thinning and struck out a career-high 16 batters.  After the season, he was named the second-best prospect in the Philliesminor league system by Baseball America.  Biddle was originally selected by the Phillies in the first round (27th overall) of the June 2010 draft from Germantown Friends School (Pa.).
  • Maikel Franco, 3B – The 2013 Paul Owens Award winner as the best player in the Phillies minor league system, Franco batted a combined .320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games between single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading last season.  He led all of Minor League Baseball with 308 total bases last year while finishing tied for second in extra-base hits (70), fourth in hits (173), tied for seventh in home runs and tied for eighth in RBI.   In 2013, the 21-year-old infielder was selected to the World roster for the MLB Futures Game, as well as the Florida State League midseason All-Star team, and was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Month for June and Player of the Week twice.  Following the season, he was named the top prospect in the Phillies minor league system by Baseball America.  In 388 career minor league games, Franco has batted .281 with 98 doubles, 50 home runs and 260 RBI.  He was originally signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent out of Azua, Dominican Republic, in January of 2010.
  • Ken Giles, RHP – Limited to just 24 games due to injury last season, Giles, 23, went 2-2 with six saves and a 6.31 ERA with single-A Clearwater.  The Albuquerque, N.M., native also pitched for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected as an AFL All-Star after holding opponents scoreless in nine of his 10 relief appearances and striking out 16 in 10.1 innings.  Armed with a fastball which touches 100 mph, Giles has compiled 152 strikeouts in 112.1 career innings (12.18 SO/9.0 IP) over three minor league seasons between the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Lakewood BlueClaws and Clearwater.  Giles was originally selected by the Phillies in the seventh round of the June 2011 draft out of Yavapai College in Arizona.
  • Mario Hollands, LHP – In 2013, Hollands went 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 27 games (20 starts) between single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading.  He struck out 114 batters while walking just 32 in 132.0 innings.  The 25-year-old was named Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month in June after going 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts.  In four minor league seasons with the Phillies organization, Hollands has compiled a 24-22 record and 3.93 ERA in 96 games (67 starts).  The Oakland, Calif., native was originally selected by the Phillies in the 10th round of the June 2010 draft out of UC Santa Barbara.
  • Sebastian Valle, C – Valle began 2013 playing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic before spending the regular season with double-A Reading, where he hit .203 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 41 RBI in 98 games.  Following the season, he also appeared in 46 games with Caneros de los Mochis in the Mexican Winter League where he batted .304 with 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBI.  In parts of seven seasons in the Phillies minor league system, the 23-year-old has a .258 career average with 132 doubles, 61 home runs and 311 RBI in 608 games.  He was originally signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in October of 2006.

—-

Biddle, a 2010 first-round pick of the Phillies, was with the BlueClaws in 2011 and an on the SAL post-season All-Star team. Franco was with the BlueClaws for a few weeks in 2011 and all of 2012. Giles was with Lakewood for most of 2012. Hollands was the Opening Day starter in 2011 and here for part of 2012. Valle was here for half of 2009 and all of the 2010. He hit the game-winning home run in the SAL Championship Series clincher against Greenville in 2010.

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Phillies Minor League Coaching Staffs

January 9th, 2014

The full list of assignments is posted below:

phillies coaching staffs

As you can see, Mickey Morandini, who managed the BlueClaws each of the last two years, is now a coach with Lehigh Valley. Chris Truby, who managed the BlueClaws in 2011, is now the Phillies minor league infield coordinator. That role had been held by Doug Mansolino, who is now the minor league field coordinator. Mike Compton, who was the field coordinator, is now a senior advisor of player development.

 Williamsport coach Shawn Williams is the son of Jimy Williams.

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Your 2014 BlueClaws Coaching Staff

January 9th, 2014

The Phillies have announced their player development staffs for 2014, with a familiar face to lead the BlueClaws: Greg Legg.

Legg was the first BlueClaws manager, back in 2001, and has been the hitting coach in Lakewood since 2008. He’ll be joined on the staff by Les Lancaster (pitching coach) and Lino Connell (coach). Both Lancaster and Connell were with the BlueClaws in 2012 and Williamsport in 2013.

Here is a story by Chris Rotolo in today’s Asbury Park Press, in which Legg said the following:

“I’m really excited to be staying in Lakewood, and especially as the manager,” Legg said. “The BlueClaws have always been a great group of people to work with, with a great facility, and wonderful fans.”

“I love coaching at this level,” Legg continued. “You get to work with these kids right from the start, right at the beginning of their careers. It’s more than going over fundamentals. You get to teach them how to be a professional player. You’re preparing them to be what the Phillies want in a player.”

Below the fold is the full release.

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Marson Back With Phillies

December 19th, 2013

2006 BlueClaws catcher Lou Marson was among four players invited to spring training yesterday by the Phillies, joining OF Tony Gwynn Jr., RHP Sean O’Sullivan, and OF Dave Sappelt.

Marson, of course, was the starting catcher on the BlueClaws team that won the 2006 South Atlantic League title. He was originally drafted the Phillies in the 4th round of the 2004 draft out of high school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

He made his big league debut with the Phillies in 2008 and was traded to the Indians (with Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, and Jason Donald) for Cliff Lee at the trade deadline in 2009. Marson has been with the Indians since, but this year was limited to just 12 games (between the big league club, AA Akron and AAA Columbus) by injury.

(Yes, that’s Pablo Sandoval tagging Marson out on the right in the 2006 SAL Championship Series against the Giants affiliate, Augusta)

The full Phillies release is below the fold.

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On the Phillies Top Ten…

December 18th, 2013

A few weeks back, Baseball America released their annual Phillies Top Ten prospect rankings, which you can view here. As we’ve done in the past, we sat down with the Baseball America’s Josh Norris, who made the list, to talk further and deeper about the rankings.

We thank Josh for his help, and you can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

1) First, give us an overview of all that goes into putting a list like this together (10 are out now but you go to 30 in the Prospect Handbook).

First and foremost, a lot of time on the phone with scouts and managers inside and outside of the organization. You need to get a sense of how players are gauged before you can rank them, obviously.

Once all that’s done, I took what I thought were the best-reviewed guys and put them on a white board. Then made notations for categories such as players with defensive questions, players with injury history, players who’d had upper-level experience, and a few others.

With that out of the way, the top guys tend to sift to the top rather easily. The only real wild-card this year, for me, was Miguel Gonzalez, who should be in the big leagues very early, if not on Opening Day.

2) Last year, Jesse Biddle was #1. This year he was overtaken by Maikel Franco. What did Franco do this year to move up?

Quite simply, he raked. He swatted 36 doubles and 31 bombs across two levels, en route to a .320/.356/.569 batting. Evaluators noticed marked improvements in his plate discipline, as shown by his mere 70 strikeouts in 541 plate appearances. Moreover his defense, while not elite by any means, appears to be more than enough to stick at third base, especially given his well above-average arm.

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Friday the 13th

December 13th, 2013

Today is Friday the 13th, considered a very unlucky day to most, but not to the BlueClaws. There were no Friday the 13ths during baseball season last year, but after splitting two Friday the 13th games in 2012, the BlueClaws are a robust 7-4 all-time on the unlucky day.

It’s safe to say the BlueClaws are not among the 17-21 million people affected by this one-day phobia.

Repeating from a previous post and updating with the most recent Friday the 13th games…

  • 2001: April, W 1-0 vs Hickory (11)…Two future big leaguers, Yoel Hernandez, six, and Eude Brito, three, helped pitch the shutout.
  • 2003: June, L 7-5 vs Delmarva…Led 5-1 but gave up six runs in the eighth inning.
  • 2004: August, W 7-3 and 11-0 vs Greensboro…Michael Buorn went 4-8 over the double-header and Randy Ruiz hit a home run in game two.
  • 2005: May, W 10-4 at Delmarva…Jason Jaramillo went 4-4.
  • 2007: April, W 9-5 at Hickory…’Claws pound out 14 hits including two from Quintin Berry, Adrian Cardenas, Tuffy Gosewisch, and three from Jay Miller.
  • 2008: June, W 4-0 at DEL…six shutout innings from Chance Chapman.
  • 2010: August, W 10-0 vs DEL…Trevor May threw seven shutout innings, Leandro Castro drove in three and Stephen Batts hit a home run.
  • 2011: May, L 4-3 vs HAG…8,217 fans were here to see the Bryce Harper and Jesse Biddle struck him out in the first inning. However, Hagerstown scored four in the second before holding on for a 4-3 win.
  • 2012: April, L 5-1 vs HAG…Ethan Stewart gave up a run over six innings but the Suns scored three runs off the BlueClaws bullpen in a 4-1 win at FirstEnergy Park.
  • 2012: July, W 3-2 vs HIC…Brock Stassi had a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning to give the BlueClaws the lead while Zach Cooper earned the save in his BlueClaws debut.

There is one Friday the 13th during the 2014 baseball season, in June when the BlueClaws will host Hickory.

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Halladay’s Retirement

December 11th, 2013

HalladayBlueClaws

The first big news of the Winter Meetings came on Monday when it was announced that Roy Halladay was retiring after 16 years. He signed a one day contract to retire as a Blue Jay after spending four years with the Phillies.

The reason that we’re mentioning this on this blog is of course because of Halladay’s rehab appearance at FirstEnergy Park on August 20th, when he allowed two runs in six innings in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,000.

We wish Halladay the best in retirement and fully expect we’ll see him in Cooperstown in a few years.

You can see a full photo gallery from that night from BlueClaws.com by clicking here. Halladay was on Mike and Mike this morning on ESPN Radio and you can listen to that here.

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Greetings From Orlando

December 11th, 2013

We should have gotten this up sooner, but…we’re heare in Orlando at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings at the Swan & Dolphin Disney hotel. The BlueClaws have eight staff members on hand and have been conducting business, going to seminars and meetings, and other general prep for 2014, which, as you know, is 119 days away.

By the way, they call it the Winter Meetings, but you know better.

SnowEpcot

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