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BlueClaws Quotables: DeNato on first pro save, Viza on loss record

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sun, August 31, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 2

Sliding into a key role at the back end of the Class A Lakewood bullpen late in the season, Phillies 19th round draft pick Joe DeNato has notched his first two pro saves in recent days.

Through 22 pro games combined at short-season A level Williamsport and with Lakewood, the Indiana product has tallied a 3-1 record with a 1.78 ERA and a 9.68 K/9 mark.

I spoke with Joe this weekend about his first minor league save, being drafted by the Phillies and more.

-DeNato commented on his initial professional save against Hickory in a 3-0 win in Lakewood on Thursday…

We had the shutout going, so I just really wanted that pitchers’ BP, but I mean, I just went out there, knowing that I needed to throw strikes.  I kind of struggled with that with the first batter.  Luckily, I didn’t walk him.  He ended up getting on base though, but overall I just wanted to get the job done.

-I asked DeNato if the Phillies were on his radar among teams interested in drafting him after posted a 13-1 record with a 1.82 ERA as a starter in college this year…

The Phillies weren’t a surprise.  There were about four teams that were contacting me leading up to the draft and the Phillies were one of them.  I mean, I was happy to be drafted by them.  I’m from San Diego, so honestly I never followed the Phillies that much, but obviously they’re my number one team now.  Yeah, it’s been a good experience.

-DeNato commented on if the transition to the pro ranks was what he expected…

I mean, I didn’t really know what to expect.  I just tried to go with the flow, you know, just try to do what I can do and do what I’m told.  You know, it has worked out so far.  I’m just going to keep trying to succeed.  Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: DeNato on first pro save, Viza on loss record

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Fightins Quotables: Nola, Lundquist, Altherr, Moore

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 30, 2014 11:05 AM Comments: 0

AaronNola-TugHaines

Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

Top Phillies draft pick Aaron Nola tossed a gem of an outing in Trenton on Friday night, in what will be the final appearance of his first pro season. Over five innings, the 21-year-old allowed just four hits and surrendered no runs while striking out two and walking none. He notched the win, as the Reading Fightins downed the Thunder by a score of 3-0.

In 12 professional outings, since he was selected 7th overall in this year’s MLB amateur draft, Nola tallied a 4-3 record with a 2.93 ERA while striking out 45 and walking 10 in 55 1/3 innings combined between Double-A Reading and Class A Advanced Clearwater.

After the game, I spoke with Reading pitching coach Dave Lundquist and Nola himself about the outing and more. I also spent time chatting with Nola’s backstop Logan Moore about his season as well as his pitching staff. Additionally, I chatted with outfielder Aaron Altherr about his time with the big league club this year. Read ahead for loads of exclusive quotes…

-Dave Lundquist on Nola’s effort on Friday night…

It was outstanding. You know, five innings, with no runs, 62 total pitches. You know, the thing that was really impressive was, in the fifth, he had (runners on) 2nd and 3rd with nobody out and got a pop up in the infield, a strike out and a ground ball and really showed a good feel for pitching and working himself out of a jam. He did a nice job.

-Asked Lundquist if there’s any temptation to let Nola go beyond his innings limit when his pitch count is low…

No, not right now. Not this year. Not with where he’s at. Total wise, through college and here, no. We just want him to get to that one point and that’s it. His pitch count was really low and he definitely could have continued going and it’s good to know he could have continued going, but at this point in the year, no that’s it.

-Also asked Lundquist for his thoughts about righty reliever Colton Murray, who notched his fifth save of the season for Reading in their win over Trenton on Friday…

Power guy that goes right after people. One thing he’s done is he’s really improved his curve ball as a pitch he can throw in and out of the zone. It’s become a quality swing and miss pitch for him. Very aggressive and he goes right after people. It’s what you look for in a reliever. Continue reading Fightins Quotables: Nola, Lundquist, Altherr, Moore

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BlueClaws Quotables: Team Speaks on Astudillo’s Batting Crown Chase

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, August 29, 2014 04:02 PM Comments: 4

As Class A Lakewood standout Willians Astudillo continues his quest toward a South Atlantic League batting title, entering the final weekend of the season, his team is backing him.

The 22-year-old missed all of last season with a left knee injury, but has clearly bounced back nicely.  Astudillo is 40-for-85 (.471 avg) in his last 23 games, helping to boost his league leading season average to .340.

I spoke with BlueClaws personnel about Astudillo’s exciting batting crown chase.  Read ahead for those quotes…

Manager Greg Legg-

“He’s played the same all year, with the same energy and intensity.  I never saw him have a lull.  He loves baseball.  I think that’s the reason he gets up in the morning is to hit.  But it has added some excitement to (our final week of the season).  It’s definitely interesting and if we can do anything to help him, we will.”

“It’s neat, we got Cozens, who set a franchise record for 15 homers and (stealing) 20 bags.  No one else has ever done that.  I think he’s the only guy in the league to do that this year. So, we’ve got a couple pluses on the offensive side.”

Fellow Venezuelan Carlos Tocci-

“I’m excited because I know Astudillo’s going to win that title because he’s been hitting his whole life and he’s a great hitter.  I want to help push him to win that title.”

Reliever Joe DeNato-

“I’ve never seen a better hitter than him.  He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen.  He doesn’t strike out.  And he’s consistent too.” Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: Team Speaks on Astudillo’s Batting Crown Chase

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PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 69: Justin De Fratus In Studio

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, August 22, 2014 04:25 PM Comments: 0

It’s the landmark 69th edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast hosted by Phillies Nation’s minor league expert Jay Floyd.  On the latest edition of the show, Jay and his co-host Tug Haines are joined by Phillies pitcher Justin De Fratus.

Justin was in studio for an extensive interview talking about his time in the minors, his past “controversial” Twitter comments as well as playing for Charlie Manuel and Ryne Sandberg.  He also shares stories about initiating former teammate Brian Gump to Class A ball and how former big league All-Star Brad Lidge impacted his approach after Lidge’s retirement plus loads more.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

The PhoulBallz Podcast is a show that features call-in guests and focuses on the Phillies minor league system.  Check out archived episodes by clicking here.

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PN Interview: Reading’s Cerebral Slugger Jake Fox

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 21, 2014 03:30 PM Comments: 9

Jake Fox, image- Tug Haines

Since rejoining the Phillies organization in June, corner infielder Jake Fox has been the driving force of the Double-A Reading offense.  The 32-year-old veteran of four big league seasons, having played with the Cubs, A’s and Orioles, has dominated Eastern League pitching, posting a .322 average while mashing 20 home runs and driving in 65 runs in 66 games.

Two seasons ago, Fox played with Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, batting .230 with five homers in 26 total games as a late-season edition.

Prior to signing with the Phillies this year, Fox competed in Mexico, where he sported a .307/.397/.605 slash like in 57 games with Laguna.

Fox, who was originally drafted in the third round of the 2003 amateur draft by the Cubs, plays with an extremely cerebral approach.

Recently, I spoke with Jake about his intellectual focus toward the game, how he helps the teammates around him and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-I’ve talked to Zach Collier recently about how you’ve helped him improve his offensive approach and you’re definitely a guy that takes pride in influencing and helping your younger teammates.  What can you tell me about that?

I think one of the hardest things about this level is that you’re stuck in between trying to win games and developing and I think a lot of times at this level you finally separate guys from other things other than their talent, because at this level everybody’s talented, everybody can play the game.  And one thing that I preach to these guys a lot is not relying on athletic ability, because we have some athletes in this locker room.  But, as you move up, it’s an intelligent sport and it’s about more than your athleticism.  So, this is the first time that they have to think about the game, more than just an athletic sport.  And, so, a lot of times when you talk to young guys like Zach Collier and Aaron Altherr, who are young guys that always relied on just their athletic ability, they’ve never had to create an identity as a hitter.  

The most important thing you have to do at this level is create your own identity, about what I want to be and what am I going to do to become that type of hitter.  Because a lot of times a lot of hitting coaches will preach to guys about being a complete hitter instead of playing to what you’re good at.  Okay, so having said that, nobody’s Miguel Cabrera.  Nobody’s going to go out there and hit .340 and 60 homers and 140 RBI’s every year.  But, you can still be effective and get to the big leagues by playing to your strengths.   Continue reading PN Interview: Reading’s Cerebral Slugger Jake Fox

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PN Interview: Top Phils Draft Pick Aaron Nola

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, August 18, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 2

Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

The Phillies’ top pick from this year’s draft, righty hurler Aaron Nola, has looked very good in the early stages of his pro career. In nine games combined in the minors, the 21-year-old LSU product sports a 3-3 record with a 3.35 ERA while striking out 36 batters and walking seven in 40 1/3 innings.

Over the weekend, I spoke with Nola, who was recently promoted to Double-A Reading, about his draft experience, the possibility of being shut down before season’s end, the transition from college to the pro’s, looking up to his brother Austin and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-What was your draft experience like? How did you celebrate?

We had a party over at LSU in our lounge and it was a bunch of family and some friends over there. We had about 100 people actually, so it was pretty big. It was fun. It was a fun time and it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. The draft and getting picked early by the Phillies.

-How do you think pitching at LSU prepared you for your transition to the minor leagues?

It prepared me, man. I’m glad I went to LSU. I matured more. I matured on the field. Also my physical and mental ability rose up in college, you know, you see a lot of older guys that I’m playing against right now, 23 to 26 year old guys, and I feel like a lot of the guys I played against in college are in high A. I haven’t seen too many in Double-A, but I saw a lot of guys down in Clearwater that I played against one, two or three years in college. Continue reading PN Interview: Top Phils Draft Pick Aaron Nola

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Fightins Quotables: Manager Wathan talks Reading players

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 16, 2014 12:05 PM Comments: 0

I spoke with Double-A Reading Fightins skipper Dusty Wathan prior to Friday’s home contest against the Binghamton Mets.  Topics of discussion included top draft pick Aaron Nola‘s pitching restrictions, outfielder Kelly Dugan‘s progress, Severino Gonzalez‘s season and plenty more.  Read ahead for those exclusive comments from Wathan.

Kelly Dugan, image- Jay Floyd

-Speaking about Kelly Dugan, who entered action on Friday sporting a .330/.423/.481 line in 32 games since the All-Star break…

Kelly’s been very good.  I think he’s done a nice job with his swing, he’s flattened it out a little bit.  He’s driving balls the other way better than I’ve ever seen him.  You know, I think he’s really learning his swing, becoming a better hitter.  I think his power numbers are a little down and some people have voice their concerns about that, not inside the organization, but media.  But, to me that’s no big deal.  To me, he’s a better hitter than I saw last year.  And the power will come.  I’m not worried about that.  he’s driving balls all over the ballpark and having really good at bats every night, so it’s really good for Kelly. He’s had a long stretch where he’s felt good and it’s nice to see for him and the organization.

-I asked Dusty if he thought OF Aaron Altherr‘s brief stints with the Phillies this year could benefit him in the long run…

Yeah, I think so.  I think everybody wants to get to the big leagues and play in the big leagues and sometimes once you get a taste of it, it makes you want to be there even more.  I think he went from the Ritz-Carlton to the Super 8 one time, so if that’s any incentive to get back there and to work on what he needs to work on to get there, that’s the prime example right there.

-Speaking about veteran corner infielder/DH Jake Fox, who is Reading’s top offensive performer at 32-years-old, and his impact on younger teammates…

He’s been outstanding.  To have a veteran to do what he’s done in his career, plaed all over the place, played in tbe big leagues, multiple leagues all over the world and the attitude that he has, the leadership that he has, to be able to use that experience that he has to give to give to other players.  He’s willing to do that.  Hes a good mentor to a lot of these guys.  He likes to talk hitting.  I think sometimes, as coaches, we can talk till we’re blue in the face about things, but when it comes from a peer and a guy that has done it before and is doing it right now, sometimes it really clicks for some guys. Continue reading Fightins Quotables: Manager Wathan talks Reading players

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BlueClaws Quotables: Walding and Cozens talks about second half success

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 14, 2014 12:50 PM Comments: 0

This week I spoke with a pair of solid Class A hitters that have increased their offensive numbers considerably in the second half of the season.

Lakewood third baseman Mitch Walding and outfielder Dylan Cozens have improved quite a bit since the South Atlantic League All-Star break with Walding sporting an OPS that’s 255 points higher in his last 49 games than it was in his first 46 games this year, while Cozens has posted an OPS mark 85 points higher than he did before the break.

I asked both players about the uptick in production and more.  Read ahead for those exclusive quotes.

Mitch Walding, image- Jay Floyd

-Walding, the Phillies’ 5th round pick in 2011, spoke about what he attributes to his recent success…

You know, at first I was doing some things and I was exactly feeling too comfortable at the plate.  I was kind of struggling really hard with getting pitches and doing some things and I talked with our hitting coordinator (Andy) Tracy and my hitting coach Lino Connell.  We changed some things with my hands, um, changed my approach at the plate and going to get pitches that I wanted to get instead of, kind of- what I was doing was I was being indecisive, waiting to see the pitch and making my decision when the ball was half way and by the time I was making my decision, I was too late, so I was striking out a lot and wasn’t hitting the ball the way I should be.  And now I’m attacking pitches and doing things that I want to do at the plate.  Things have turned around a lot. 

-Walding, who has tallied a .239 average with six home runs and 51 RBI through 95 games with Lakewood this year, specified what mechanical changes he made in the batters box…

Moving (my hands) down a little bit.  Kind of getting them in a good slot, right above my shoulder.  Just having loose hands, kind of being able to feel my hands work a lot more, ’cause I might drop them if they’re too high.  Just kind of moved them down a little bit and staying relaxed with my hands.  Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: Walding and Cozens talks about second half success

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Phillies Nation – Episode 19 – Ryan Howard vs. LHP, Curt Simmons and Kevin Wilson

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, August 13, 2014 05:23 PM Comments: 0

On this episode of Phillies Nation, Pat and Corey discuss some positives from the Phillies season thus far, including Cole Hamels‘ career year and Ryan Howard‘s surprising success against lefties. They also bring you a minor league update with a focus on the Phils’ 2014 first round pick, Aaron Nola.

Ian sits down with Phillies legendary pitcher Curt Simmons for a rare television interview. Curt shares stories from growing up in Egypt, New Jersey and playing in an exhibition game against the Phillies that launched his career.

Kevin Wilson joins us to talk about the use of technology in regards to hitting. Plus, Tommy Greene returns to explain the pitcher’s role as a batter in the lineup. And as always, Ryann collected viewer questions for the guys to debate in Batter’s Inbox.

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PN Interview: 11th round draft pick Drew Stankiewicz

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, August 12, 2014 07:30 AM Comments: 28

DrewStankiewicz

Drew Stankiewicz, image- Jay Floyd

Infielder Drew Stankiewicz was an 11th round draft choice this year by the Phillies.  The son of former big leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, Drew is already in the midst of his second stint with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

After posting a .305 average in his junior year this season at Arizona State University, Stankiewicz was anxious to begin his pro career and quickly signed with the Phillies.

The 21-year-old batted .390 in July with short-season Class A Williamsport and rejoined the BlueClaws on July 30th.  He spent a week with Lakewood in June.  Through 13 games with the ‘Claws, the five-foot-nine 160-pounder has posted a .156 average with an RBI and two steals.

I spoke with Stankiewicz this past weekend about his draft experience, adjusting to the pro’s, his father’s pride in him and plenty more.  Read ahead for the full interview.

-What was your draft experience like?  How did you find out you were drafted by the Phillies and how did you celebrate?

I was sitting at home and I got a call from my scout, Brad Holland, saying that we’re probably going to take you in the next round.  So, I turned I turned on my computer and watched the pick and me and my family were just celebrating down in Phoenix, Arizona, where I live.

My whole family was there.  We just sat there and just were all happy, got some food.  It was like any normal day, and I was thankful I got drafted.

-What’s been the biggest thing about adjusting to the pro’s, coming from college?

Honestly, it’s more mental than I thought.  Physically, playing in the PAC the past years, which is the top baseball you can play in college baseball, but coming here, it’s more of a mental game, when you’re not succeeding you just get down on yourself, but you can’t do that, because you play every day here in the minors, so it’s just probably more mental. Continue reading PN Interview: 11th round draft pick Drew Stankiewicz

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