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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Carson Wentz breaks rib, likely out for rest of preseason

By Jack McCaffery
@JackMcCaffery on Twitter
PHILADELPHIA >> Carson Wentz did not make it through his first Eagles game without an issue.
After not throwing a pass in a morning practice Saturday at the NovaCare Complex, the rookie quarterback was diagnosed with a “hairline fracture in his ribs,” according to the Eagles.
The Eagles did not specify when Wentz could return to football, though Doug Pederson hinted that it could be before the end of the preseason.
Earlier, the Birds' head coach did not seem concerned that Wentz was complaining of pain on his right-side ribs, indicating that the quarterback would participate in practice Sunday. But Wentz retreated to the locker room and sent word through the Eagles' communications staff that he would not be available for comment.
Later, the Birds released this statement from Pederson: “Carson felt some discomfort and soreness as we began this morning’s practice. We decided to limit him throughout the remainder of practice and, as a precaution, sent him for a CT scan after practice. The scan revealed a hairline fracture in his ribs. We do not know an exact timetable for his return, but we hope to have him back before the end of the preseason.”
Wentz completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards and rush three times for 15 yards in his Eagles preseason debut.
“If you were watching the game the other night, he took a shot,” Pederson said. “It was around the next-to-last play. He got up a little slow. So he is just sore today. We just wanted to protect him, so he didn’t throw.”
Wentz was not expected to play much, if at all, for the Eagles this season. Rather, he was to develop while learning from Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. The injury could compromise his early, training-camp development.
“It bothered him to throw a little bit,” Pederson said earlier Saturday. “But he’s fine.”
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Bradford pocketed $11 million to sign last offseason with the Eagles, the first payment on a contract that could be worth up to $36 million.
He was just thinking out loud Saturday, but he figures they probably expect him to appear in more than three plays a game.
After joking with reporters that he would take as much time as necessary analyzing all three of the plays he ran, two of them handoffs, in the Birds’ preseason opener, Bradford acknowledged that he will play substantially longer in the next game, Thursday in Pittsburgh.
“We really haven’t talked about that a lot,” he said. “I am sure in the next couple days we will go over that. I’m assuming we will play quite a bit over the next couple of games. I think it will be great for us to get out there and establish a little bit of a rhythm, get into some more game situations, try to simulate what we are going to see in Week 1 and just try to get some live action.”
Though the Eagles must certainly see Bradford for more than three plays against the Steelers, Pederson is committed to spreading the quarterback playing-time around.
“We are staying equal,” he said, before learning of Wentz's cracked rib, “with all three.”
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With Lane Johnson almost certain to miss the Birds’ first 10 regular-season games due to a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs, Pederson is adapting. Saturday, he used Allen Barbre at Johnson’s right-tackle spot, dropping Johnson to the second team.
“He’s played there, No. 1,” the coach said of Barbre. “It’s been more left tackle than right, but he’s been there in the past. I love his athleticism. He’s a smart guy out there.”
Left tackle Jason Peters was back Saturday after missing the preseason opener with a quad injury. Pederson experimented with multiple combinations throughout the practice, which unfolded in 96-degree heat.
“Obviously, you got ‘Big V’ (Halapoulivaati Vaitai) sitting right there,” the head coach said. “Of course, Jason Peters is on the left side. Matt Tobin can play both sides, and he played well the other night in limited reps.
“But it’s a situation where this is the time. Once you get kind of through that first game, you start shuffling your roster a little bit.”
Pederson was not committing to any particular alignment.
“What happens if Jason Peters goes down during the regular season, or Jason Kelce goes down during the regular season?” he said. “I just want to see different guys at those spots. In order to do that you’ve got to take time now, this week in camp, to get that accomplished.”
He feels he will.
“I’m looking for five tough, dirty, nasty guys that want to go out and just play football,” he said. “I don’t care which five it is, but we’re going to find the best five and the right five. And I feel like we’ve got them here on the team.”
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NOTES: Malcolm Jenkins (quad), Wendell Smallwood (quad) and Marcus Smith (concussion) practiced, if on a limited basis, Saturday … Brandon Brooks, who left the Tampa Bay game early with a biceps issue, is back. Pederson: “He’s fine.” …  After a tape review, Pederson touted Fletcher Cox and Jaylen Watkins for their performances against the Bucs … Pederson said he would take the Birds indoors for a walk-through Saturday and a similar exercise Sunday morning. Sunday night at 7, the Birds’ practice in the Linc will be open to the public. Admission is free.

Sizzling Ryan Howard could have late trade value

By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> If a contending team, most likely in the American League, needs a power hitter for a month or so, Pete Mackanin has one who has 10 RBIs in his last seven games, including a grand slam Friday in the Phillies' 10-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Ryan Howard, anybody?
“If I were a playoff team, I would take notice of what he did tonight,” the Phillies' manager said. “It is something he is capable of doing, either as a DH or a pinch-hitter.”
Howard was 3-for-5 Friday with five RBIs, including a fifth-inning grand slam, his franchise-record 14th. Since June 22, he is hitting .320.
Any team interested in Howard would need to make a waiver deal, then have him on the roster before September to have him eligible for the playoffs. He is due the remainder of the $25 million he is owed this season and $10 million as a buyout for 2017.
Does he think about the possibility that he could interest a contender?
“Really and truthfully, I am just trying to take it as it comes,” Howard said. “I haven't put too much thought into anything. Just trying to keep it simple.”
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Last seen leaving a game in Los Angeles and complaining of back pain, Jeremy Hellickson is likely to make his next scheduled Phillies start.
“Hellickson seems to be fine,” Pete Mackanin said. “We are still going to wait, see how he feels in a couple days to see if he is going to make his next start. But at this point right now I feel like he is going to make that start.”
Hellickson grabbed his back after making a fifth-inning pitch in the Phillies' 6-2 victory over the Dodgers Wednesday, then was removed from the game. To that point, the right-hander had allowed three hits and one earned run. Afterward, Mackanin admitted in print to being worried. By Friday, he was relieved.
The Phillies have not named a starter for Sunday. They have Monday off. That would suggest a Tuesday return for Hellickson against the visiting Dodgers.
“As I said, he told me he wanted to go back out,” Mackanin said. “But I didn't want to send him out. I didn't want another starter going down for just one more inning.”
By then, the Phillies' rotation was already challenged, with Aaron Nola (elbow) on the disabled list and Zach Eflin joining him with trouble in both knees. Eflin had an MRI on his knees Friday, according to Mackanin. The Phillies did not reveal the results.
If Eflin has pitched his last game for the Phils this season, he will have gone 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA. Among his 11 starts were two nine-inning efforts in which he did not walk a hitter. For that, Mackanin believes the right-hander had shown the Phillies enough in his rookie season.
“I feel like that,” the manager said. “He's had enough good starts where he's been impressive at times. And he's had chronic knee issues as it is. If they decide to take care of it now, I think that may be a good idea. But I'll leave that up to the medical people. Bring him back 100 percent next year. We'll see what they say.”
A likely candidate to pitch Sunday against Colorado is Adam Morgan, who would need to be recalled form Lehigh Valley. The left-hander is 6-1 with the IronPigs and 1-7 with the Phils in a perplexing season. However, Mackanin denied that decision had been made.
Jerad Eickhoff (7-12, 3.78 ERA) will face Colorado left-hander Tyler Anderson (4-3, 3.04) Saturday night at 7:05. Right-hander Tyler Chatwood (10-7, 3.58) will pitch for the Rockies Sunday at 1:35.
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Simply by signing with the Phillies in 2003 as a free agent, Jim Thome helped inflate the popularity of Citizens Bank Park when it opened in 2004.
Friday, the Phillies made that official when they hammered a Thome plaque onto their centerfield Wall of Fame.
“I don’t think one guy actually comes in and changes things,” Thome said before the Phillies' game against the Colorado Rockies. “I think what happens is, if a guy signs, you see other guys follow. And we were all together as a unit. And even though you don’t see at that moment, say a world championship that season, eventually you’re working towards that.”
Thome played just four seasons with the Phillies, including a 40-game hitch in 2012 at age 41. But he was thrilled to join Phillies legends Mike Schmidt, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton and others on a stage for the pregame Wall of Fame ceremony.
“You are humbled that they would think that highly of you to put you in a great fraternity of Hall of Famers,” Thome said. “They just don’t give people that honor. To be voted by the fans, that’s something special. I know that I didn’t play here long and I know there are so many guys that are going to be in this that are deserving. I just feel so honored that they would think of me to put me in.”
Thome was introduced by Wall of Famer Charlie Manuel.
“Overnight,” Manuel said, “he changed the way people thought about the Philadelphia Phillies.”
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Jake Thompson earned his first major-league win, striking out six in five innings.
“It's awesome,” he said. “It's kind of nice to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully, I will get a little confidence out there on the mound and keep it rolling.”
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When Peter Bourjos rejoined the Phillies Friday after recovering from a shoulder injury, a roster move was necessary. The Phillies chose to return Cody Asche to Lehigh Valley, keeping Jimmy Paredes, who was hitting .200 with three home runs in 49 games.
“Well, we wanted Asche to get at-bats, go down there and figure himself out,” Mackanin said. “He hasn't been the same hitter and we're exhausting every possibility of getting him back on track and we don't want to do it here.”
Asche was hitting .213 with four home runs.
“He wasn't happy, but he was fine with it,” Mackanin said. “He was disappointed. But he handled it well. Professional.”
With that, Mackanin started Bourjos in right, Odubel Herrera in center and Aaron Altherr in left.
“I like the look of the outfield,” Mackanin said. “We’ve got two 'centerfielders' on the corners, Herrera in center. It’s like I have three centerfielders out there. So I like the look of that.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sons of Hagler, Leonard to get it on ... and other sports notes

Marvin Hagler Jr., left, with Sugar Ray Leonard Jr. and promoter Damon Feldman, center

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gostisbehere meets with heroic Delco police officer

Chis Dorman, the Folcroft police officer who was shot seven times in the line of duty last week, welcomed a well-wisher today at the Folcroft Police Department ... Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

“What he’s been through the last week, I’m pretty sure his world’s been flipped upside down," Gostisbehere said, in a statement released by the Flyers. "But I wanted to take time out to lift his spirits a bit and get him in some orange and black to make him look really good now. 

"People see hockey players and other athletes as role models. But when you see police officers and firefighters, and you see what he’s going through right now and you see how much of a warrior he is and walking around right now, and it only happened a week ago, he’s pretty amazing and I’m pretty sure kids are going to be looking up to him.”

Dorman, 25, who survived the shooting, enjoyed the visit. “It’s awesome," he said. "It’s really good to meet someone like him.”

The Flyers gave Dorman, of the 63rd police district, a personalized No. 63 jersey.

“Awesome," Dorman said. "Perfect fit!” 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Phillies complete draft

The Phillies completed their draft Saturday, adding the following players in the 11th round through the 40th rounds:
Joshua Stephen, a high school centerfielder from Newport Beach, Calif.; Justin Miller, a right-handed high school pitcher from Fresno, Calif.; Andrew Brown, a right-handed high school pitcher from Alpine, Calif.; Darick Hall, a first baseman from Dallas Baptist University; Alex Wojciechowski, a first baseman from Minnesota-Duluth; Brett Barbier, a catcher from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Daniel Zardon, a first baseman from Nova Southeastern Florida University; Jacob Kelzer, a right-handed pitcher from Indiana University; William Hibbs, a right-handed pitcher from Lamar; Caleb Eldridge, a first baseman from Cowley County (Okla.) J.C.; Jonathan Hennigan, a left-handed pitcher from Texas State.
Also, Kyle Young, a left-handed high school pitcher from Syosset, N.Y.; Camden Duzenack, a shortstop from Dallas Baptist; Tyler Hallead, a right-handed pitcher from the College of Southern Nevada; Trevor Bettencourt, a right-handed pitcher from Cal-Santa Barbara; Tyler Kent, a high school centerfielder from Otterbein, Col.; Davis Agle, a right-handed pitcher from Spartanburg Methodist; Awa Kurok, a right-handed pitcher from Hawaii-Hilo; Alexander Kline, a left-handed pitcher from Florida Nova Southeastern.
Also, Logan Davidson, a high school shortstop from Charlotte, N.C.; Tyler Frohwirth, a right-handed pitcher from Minnesota State; James Garner, a right-handed pitcher from Northwestern State; Jackson Klein, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford; Luke Maglich, an outfielder from the University of South Florida; Carter Bins, a high school catcher from Fairfield, Calif.; Joseph Scheroler, a right-handed pitcher from Southeastern Louisiana; James Ziemba, a left-handed pitcher from Duke; Trevor Hillhouse, a high school left-handed pitcher from Canton, Ga.; Dante Baldelli, a high school centerfielder from Cumberland, R.I.; and Trey Morris, a right-handed high school pitcher from Katy, Texas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mackanin gives hitting coach the green light

By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> Pete Mackanin was looking at his lineup card Tuesday evening, essentially concluding that he would not immediately send it out for framing.
“It's funny,” the Phillies' manager said, before a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. “Without (Tommy) Joseph in it, it becomes a little different.
“That's the best I could come up with.”
The Phillies having lost nine of their previous 11, Mackanin used .234 hitter Freddy Galvis in the three hole, hit Ryan Howard No. 5 spot and gave Carlos Ruiz a start.
But as Mackanin ran his finger down the card, name by name, he wondered aloud why so many hitters were struggling. By the time he reached Jerad Eickhoff at No. 9, it was time to wonder: Is the manager still confident in his hitting coach, Steve Henderson, who has been around since 2012?
“Yes,” Mackanin said, without hesitation. “It’s funny because I listen to him and I go in the cage and I watch what they’re doing. And they are doing exactly what they need to be doing. And in the cage they do it. The hard part is taking it into a game.
“If they’re doing it in the cage, great you've got it, that’s it. Then they swing at the first pitch and they’re underneath the ball. Like I said, you can only teach so much. I’ve said this many times, but I can’t teach you how to ride a bike. You've got to get on it and feel it. I can’t teach you how to ice skate. I can tell you how to tie your skates and push off but you've got to figure it out.”
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Ruiz entered with a .226 average and hit No. 8, but supplied a single, stole his first base of the season and scored a run.
He's 37, has lost his No. 1 catching job to Cameron Rupp … and is testing his manager's patience.
“I don't like his swing,” Mackanin said. “He's upper-cutting the ball. And he doesn't look like the same guy. And I have talked to him about it and he's just not swinging the bat real well. But early on he did. It's a mechanical thing that I think he's got to correct. When you change your mechanics as a hitter, it's very hard to take it into the game. Because it feels different and therefore it feels uncomfortable. However, if you don't make that change, you're not going to hit. And it's as easy as that.”
Thus, Mackanin's stance, even if it is a bit wobbly: Ruiz's troubles are as much mechanical as age-related.
“I think it's a combination,” he said. “I'm looking at the cup half full instead of half empty. So that's the way I choose to look at it.”
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Howard's fourth-inning home run was the 366th of his career, tying him with Lance Berkman for 80th on the all-time list. It was his ninth of the season.
After a week in which he was benched and had a beer bottle thrown in his direction, Howard looked refreshed, sending a ball to the center field fence later in the game, and making a nice throw to second in the ninth.
“It's good,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about the week or the past 10 days. I was just thinking about that moment. I got a good pitch to hit. He hung me a breaking ball. And I was just able to hit it out.”
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Jerad Eickhoff struck out eight and walked two, allowing two hits and one earned run in seven innings.
“That was as good as he's been all year,” Mackanin said.
Gaining more command of his slider and showing velocity, Eickhoff improved to 3-8. His ERA is at 3.68.
“To win games like that you have to be fundamentally sound for the most part,” the right-hander said. “And I think we were tonight in key spots. Those guys behind me did a great job tonight.”
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With his wife, Krystle, Howard will entertain 3,000 school children at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday morning with a read-along from the Little Rhino book series. The event will be on behalf of the Big Piece Foundation.
There will also be a chance for a question-and-answer session with some players. With the Howards, Rupp will act out some of the parts of the book.
The Phillies will play the Cubs at 1:05.
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NOTES: A pregame rain chased both teams into the cages for batting practice … The Phils stole a season-high three bases … Howard had gone 50 at-bats between home runs … Jeanmar Gomez' six-out save was the first multi-inning save of his career … Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.67 ERA) will face right-hander John Lackey (6-2, 2.88) Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

How Sixers, Eagles plans are alike

Into just about every one of his public monologues, Jeffrey Lurie injects a form of the same phrase. Lately, Howie Roseman has been providing the chorus.

Give or take an inflection, this is how it goes: “We don't want to be risk-averse.” It's the Eagles' justification for everything; they could hire a coach and later fire the guy, both times proud that they were willing to take a chance. Lurie, for one, says it so often that he must spend his weekends leaping from Acapulco cliffs.

But no matter how many times Roseman took pride in taking the risk of trading multiple draft picks over multiple years to acquire the rights to draft Carson Wentz, the truth was the Eagles were taking anything but the dangerous route to what they believed was a championship. Rather, not unlike the Sixers, they convinced themselves that there was only one way to NFL fulfillment, and that was to do whatever it took to land a prospective superstar. In the case of football, that would be a quarterback.

The Sixers did their tanking up front, losing for years and collecting Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and other promises. The Eagles went back-door, forcing the move for Wentz, aware that they would not have many chances in future years to improve through the draft.

It's the way idealists have warped sports. Rather than letting something grow organically, they imagine a model and then try to make that model work. The Eagles have grown convinced, brainwashed even, that nothing will work without a superstar quarterback, and that once they have one, it's just a matter of how to arrange the parade chairs.

Carson Wentz may become a superstar. Or not. But the Eagles are not going to become champions just because they think they have figured out a system in a sport that is not so easily solved.