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Phillies seeking to retain coaching staff

Phillies seeking to retain coaching staff

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are making no changes to their coaching staff.

The club announced Tuesday afternoon that every big league coach has been asked to return for the 2015 season. It remains to be seen if everyone accepts.

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Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg's coaches include bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, hitting coach Steve Henderson, first-base coach Juan Samuel, third-base coach Pete Mackanin, bullpen coach Rod Nichols and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock.

The Phillies finished 73-89 and last in the National League East, but the front office and Sandberg must have felt it could not pin the team's failures on any of its coaches. They made changes to the coaching staff following the 2013 season, when they announced pitching coach Rich Dubee, catching coach Mick Billmeyer and strength and conditioning coordinator Dong Lien would not return. That followed manager Charlie Manuel's dismissal.

The Phillies finished 73-89 that season, too.

So far, the only change to the organization is Marti Wolever, who will not return as assistant general manager of amateur scouting.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rotation, offense dashed Phils' hopes in '14

Hamels, bullpen were bright spots for team that had high internal expectations

Rotation, offense dashed Phils' hopes in '14

PHILADELPHIA -- Only the Phillies seemed to believe they had a chance in 2014.

They acknowledged as much in Spring Training when they signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16 million contract, which included a 2015 player option worth as much as $12.75 million. They spent that money partially because they already had spent more than $160 million on players like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd and Mike Adams.

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They believed if everything broke perfectly and everybody played well and stayed healthy, Burnett could help the rotation.

"We think we should be a better club," Phillies president David Montgomery said in February. "How much better? I think it has really created a situation where we're probably more anxious than I can remember in a long time to just play games and see where it goes."

Players also liked the team's chances.

"We've had a bad couple years and had injuries and all that stuff, but I don't think it's over," Howard said. "People are entitled to their opinions … but it's up to us to go out there and show them otherwise and go out and play our game and do what we do."

But the Phillies finished their season Sunday, missing the postseason for the third consecutive year, finishing in last place in the National League East.

It was the most trying season for the organization in recent memory. The team not only struggled on the field, but players had issues with Ryne Sandberg's managerial style, Ruben Amaro Jr. felt intense heat from a frustrated fan base and Montgomery took a leave of absence in August to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery.

Montgomery's departure hit the organization hard.

Pat Gillick became the team's interim president and finally acknowledged what many in baseball had been saying for some time: The core from the 2008 World Series championship team could no longer be the core to a future World Series team.

"Maybe we pushed them a little too far," Gillick said. "Sometimes you think you've got another shot at it. The old story, you're a year late rather than a year early, something of that nature."

The offense and rotation struggled, other than Hamels, which played a big part in the team's difficulties. But the Phillies had some bright spots. A young group of relievers including Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Mario Hollands fell behind Papelbon to give the Phillies a potential strength heading into next season.

They had some highlights, too.

Rollins set the franchise's all-time hits record on June 14. Ben Revere hit his first career home run on May 27. The Phillies inducted Charlie Manuel into their Wall of Fame in a memorable ceremony Aug. 9. The Phillies also had their share of walk-off wins and highlight-reel catches, but those developments and moments were not enough to overcome the disappointment from a second consecutive losing season.

It is the first time the Phillies have had consecutive losing seasons since a seven-season run from 1994-2000.

They hope for better next year.

Record: 73-89, last place in the NL East.

Defining moment: Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett no-hit the Phillies on May 25 at Citizens Bank Park, becoming the first pitcher to no-hit the Phillies since St. Louis' Bob Forsch in 1978. For years, Philadelphia had the most dominant offense in the National League, if not baseball. The Phillies still held onto the belief they would be productive offensively with everybody healthy, but the best days were behind them as they struggled to score runs. Beckett's no-hitter drove home that point in a major way.

What went right: The Phillies should enter next season with their bullpen a strength, especially if they hold onto Papelbon. The Phillies established Diekman, Giles and Papelbon as an effective 1-2-3 combination in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. De Fratus and Hollands also progressed as relievers, which should give the organization one less thing to worry about in the offseason.

What went wrong: Oh, the offense. Utley hit the ball incredibly well the first two months of the season before cooling immensely the final four months. Howard had his share of RBIs, but his OPS was not where it should have been for a No. 4 hitter. Domonic Brown took a big step back. Revere needed a torrid stretch late in the season just to get his OPS close to .700. Byrd and Rollins had relatively productive seasons. Byrd supplied the team's power, and Rollins finished among the top third of shortstops in baseball.

Biggest surprise: After a slow start, Revere made a run at the National League batting title before falling short in September. That surprised some, but the biggest surprise is Revere hit not one, but two home runs. He hit his first May 28 in the 1,466th at-bat of his five-year career. It was the longest homerless stretch to start a career since Frank Taveras went 1,594 at-bats without a home run from 1972-77. Revere hit his second Sept. 5 in Washington, which tied the game with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.

Hitter of the Year: The Phillies signed Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract in the offseason, and he delivered. He was the team's most consistent hitter from the beginning to the end of the year, leading the team in home runs and keeping pace with Howard and Utley in RBIs. Not to be lost, Byrd also played very solid defense in right field.

Pitcher of the Year: An argument could be made for Hamels or Papelbon. Both would have garnered more attention had they played for a contending team. But the edge goes to Hamels, because he put up numbers that competed with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Hamels had one of the best seasons of his career (9-9, 2.46 ERA in 30 starts), but few seemed to notice outside Philadelphia, because he didn't get the run support to pick up enough wins.

Rookie of the Year: Giles impressed the Phillies almost as soon as they promoted him to the big leagues on June 8. He threw fastballs that touched 101 mph, and he commanded his slider for strikes. It proved to be a deadly combination. He quickly established himself as the setup man to Papelbon, and word quickly spread through the league that Giles is somebody to watch in the future. That is the highest compliment about Giles' rookie season: hitters muttering in opposing clubhouses about how they know they will have to face him many more times in the years to come.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phils need increased production from every spot in '15

Utley, Howard disappointed at the plate this year; outfield also fell short

Phils need increased production from every spot in '15

PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Gillick made a couple of interesting comments in early September, when he discussed the future of the Phillies.

First, he said because there are few dominant teams in the National League, a smart tweak or two could push the Phillies back into postseason contention. Second, he said, "I'm not saying we'll get better completely overnight. I think it's going to take a little while."

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Contradictory?

Yes, but it also made sense. He acknowledged the fact that the Phillies might be a few solid moves away from turning around their fortunes, but also recognized that those moves are going to be incredibly difficult to make. Sure, if the Phillies can find a couple of legitimate middle-of-the-lineup hitters and a solid starter, maybe they could creep back into NL Wild Card contention in 2015. But good luck finding legitimate run producers plus a solid starter in the same offseason.

Those players are hard to find, although the Phillies are expected to make a run at one in Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

Regardless, this winter should be fascinating. It seems like anything and everything will be on the table. Will the Phillies listen to offers for Cole Hamels? Absolutely. They also will continue to try to trade Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Marlon Byrd. And, yes, they will be open to dealing Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

Of course, listening and talking is much different than accomplishing. But Gillick and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. seem to have moved past the belief that putting complementary players around Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels is enough to win.

The Phillies need more. Here is where the Phillies stand entering the offseason:

Arbitration eligible: INF Andres Blanco, OF Domonic Brown, LHP Antonio Bastardo, LHP Cesar Jimenez, OF Tony Gwynn Jr. and OF Ben Revere.

Free agents: RHP Mike Adams (if $6 million club option is not exercised), RHP A.J. Burnett (if $15 million mutual option or $12.75 million player option are not exercised), RHP Kyle Kendrick, C Wil Nieves, OF Grady Sizemore and RHP Jerome Williams.

Rotation: Cliff Lee made just 13 starts because of an injured left elbow, but the Phillies believe he will be ready to pitch come Spring Training. If that is true, the Phillies have three starters locked into next season's rotation: Hamels, Lee and David Buchanan. Burnett must decide shortly after the World Series if he plans to pick up his $12.75 million player option. If he does, he takes a spot. Otherwise, he becomes a free agent along with Kendrick and Williams. It is difficult to see Kendrick or Williams returning, although the Phillies do not have anybody in the farm system knocking on the door. But one thing is certain: They need the rotation to be better than it has been in the past couple seasons.

Bullpen: Will the Phillies finally trade Papelbon? The same difficulties remain. First, he makes $13 million next season with a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests based on games finished. Second, Papelbon's seven-game suspension for grabbing his groin on the field and critical comments he has made about the organization in recent years will not endear him to owners and general managers around the league. If Papelbon is traded, Ken Giles will be the closer. If not, Papelbon remains in that role. Giles, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Mario Hollands and possibly others like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez should be in the bullpen next year. (It would not be a surprise to see Bastardo traded.) Regardless, the bullpen should be strong, so this is probably the one area in which the Phillies will not need to invest substantial time or money.

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz bounced back a bit from a forgettable 2013, but his numbers are still down from his career averages. He played with a sore shoulder for much of the season, which could be a factor. But Ruiz's health is a concern. He also has two years and $17.5 million remaining on his contract, and nobody in the farm system is ready to take over. Nieves had a nice season as a backup. He could return, considering Cameron Rupp hit just .165 in 219 plate appearances in Triple-A.

First base: The Phillies are going to try to trade Howard to an American League team in the offseason. But it is going to be difficult, considering he has two years and $60 million remaining on his deal and a complete no-trade clause. The Phillies know they will have to absorb most of the contract to get an AL team to even listen. That is because Howard had some of the worst production of any everyday cleanup hitter in baseball history. But if the Phillies can move Howard (or if they release him), first base could become a combination of Maikel Franco, Darin Ruf and Utley. That at least would provide the Phillies with more flexibility.

Second base: It looked like Utley turned back the clock the first two months of the season, but then his production plummeted the final four months. Is it a matter of wear and tear and his chronically injured knees? It could be. If so, the Phillies will need to make a real effort to spell Utley more regularly next season. Phillies managers have always talked about resting Utley, but they have never followed through. It might be time. Would it be better to play Utley 150 games a season with a .750 OPS, or 140 games with an .830 OPS?

Third base: The Phillies like Cody Asche, who they believe can get better offensively. But they can platoon Asche and Franco at third, with Asche possibly getting some time in left field or at even second base.

Shortstop: Rollins takes some criticism from Phillies fans, but he remains one of the top shortstops in baseball. He finished among the top third among qualifying shortstops in OPS. He also remains a top defender. The Phillies could try to trade Rollins in the offseason, but why would they? Freddy Galvis has shown he can be brilliant defensively, but if the Phillies want to improve the offense, Galvis is not the way to go right now.

Outfield: One wonders how many Phillies outfielders will be back next year. Byrd could be traded. Revere had a solid second half, but he still remains a below-.700 OPS hitter with a weak arm. There are indications the Phillies would like to upgrade in center field, if possible. Brown took a big step back. Sizemore is a free agent. It isn't a stretch to think two or more of those players will be elsewhere next season, which makes sense. Other than Byrd, the Phillies had some of the worst outfield production in baseball this season. They need to do better.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phillies know changes coming after last-place finish

Hamels allows two runs, fans seven in eight innings in season finale

Phillies know changes coming after last-place finish

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had cleaned out their lockers and packed their things into boxes long before they played Sunday's season finale at Citizens Bank Park.

They had known for a long time they would not play past Sunday. They could afford the head start.

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The Phillies lost to the Braves in their 162nd game, 2-1, to finish 73-89, their same record as last season. It is the organization's third consecutive season without a winning record, and their first last-place finish in the National League East since 2000, despite a franchise-record $180 million payroll.

The team drew 2,423,852 fans, a nearly 20 percent drop from last season and its lowest season total since its final year at Veterans Stadium in 2003, when they drew 2,259,948.

"We started rebuilding this year," Jimmy Rollins said. "It started with the bullpen and that was a big part of the rebuilding phase. It's finding ways to score runs (next season) with the guys you have and one or two guys they may go get and guys to fill in the bench. Rebuild was something we started this year and we played like a rebuilding team in all honesty."

There is little question changes are coming to the roster and elsewhere in the offseason. The status quo won't cut it.

"Things are going to be different," Rollins said. "How much and who? We don't know. We can't even begin to try and answer that question."

The Phillies had few positives in 2014, but Cole Hamels was one of them. He had the best season of his career, despite a 9-9 record.

He allowed two runs in the first inning to hand the Braves a 2-0 lead. It included a home run to Emilio Bonifacio. Hamels suffered a scare in the second, when Tommy La Stella hit a ball up the middle that grazed him on his upper lip.

Hamels remained in the game and did not allow a hit the rest of the way. He allowed three hits, two runs, one walk and struck out seven in eight innings to finish with a career-best 2.46 ERA.

But Hamels' individual performance hardly served as a moral victory. He will turn 31 in December and he enters the third year of a six-year, $144 million contract extension he signed in July 2012 because he believed the Phillies would be competitive.

"I think when everybody becomes a free agent they make choices," Hamels said. "And I think the choice for everybody, at least I hope, is to go to an organization and a team that wins. So when you're in that sort of parameter and when things don't go your way, or they're not going in the direction you envision, it makes it tough. It makes the season go a little bit longer. And I know some frustrations can kind of come out. You really do learn the true character of a person."

The Phillies will listen to offers for Hamels in the offseason because he is their best player and could bring back the greatest haul. Hamels sounded open to it, but said he hopes to stay.

"I understand the situation," he said. "All good things come to an end. I understand the organization and what they have to do. I know they have to make some changes. I can't say or tell them what to do, I'm just one piece. If I can just be accountable for who I am, then they can just check it off their list of somebody hopefully they'll want in the organization that will provide them with a winning attitude and a winning vision.

"I understand if it has to happen. I wouldn't hold any grudges, but it would be tough to leave."

Asked how far he thinks the Phillies are from contending again -- because it looks like they are far away -- Hamels said, "I have to agree with that given what's transpired over the last two years. But I don't know what changes needs to happen and I'm glad I don't have to make those changes."

But changes are coming. That is a certainty.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fans can vote for Aaron Award nominee Byrd

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Fans can vote for Aaron Award nominee Byrd

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Diekman closes out season with 100th strikeout

First Phillies reliever to hit century mark in season in 31 years

Diekman closes out season with 100th strikeout

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman planned a long drive back to his native Nebraska on Sunday.

But he hit the century mark in strikeouts before he left town. He struck out the 100th batter of his season in the ninth inning of Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He became the first Phillies relief pitcher to strike out 100 batters in a season since Al Holland in 1983.

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Holland struck out 100 in 91 2/3 innings. Diekman struck out 100 in 71 innings.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Howard hasn't considered future outside of Philly

Howard hasn't considered future outside of Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard said Sunday morning he has not considered his future in Philadelphia, which means he had not given much thought to the possibility Sunday could be his final game with the Phillies.

It could be.

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"Do you think it's my last game as a Phillie?" Howard said.

The Phillies are expected to try to trade him to an American League team, understanding they will have to pay the majority of the remaining $60 million of his contract over the next two seasons. The Phillies would like to get younger and more athletic, and moving Howard would give them flexibility in the infield with a potential mix of Chase Utley, Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco at first base.

Sources said in July the Phillies discussed the possibility of releasing Howard in the offseason, which Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. denied. But the fact the Phillies broached the subject shows they at least feel a change at first base could help them.

"That's a question for those guys upstairs," Howard said. "I'm not really thinking about that."

But what about a fresh start somewhere?

"It just hasn't been anything that's crossed my mind," he said. "I have no clue. There are always possibilities because it's business or whatever, but it's never crossed my mind."

Howard hit .242 with 14 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .757 OPS in 69 games through June 19. His OPS ranked 81st out of 170 qualified hitters in baseball. But since then he has batted .205 with nine home runs, 45 RBIs and a .630 OPS in 83 games. His OPS ranks 137th out of 154 qualified hitters in that span.

His 95 RBIs are fourth in the National League. His 23 home runs are tied for 13th. But Howard also has 468 runners on base during his plate appearances entering Sunday, which ranks third in baseball. He has knocked in 15.4 percent of those runners, according to Baseball Prospectus. That ranks 53rd out of 137 batters with 500 or more plate appearances.

"It's not necessarily where I wanted it to be, but at the end of the day I'm happy with it," said Howard, who missed much of the previous two seasons with left leg injuries. "The biggest goal was being able to finish the season. This was my first full season in two years. It's kind of getting used to the length, the travel, all that kind of stuff again. Still been able to go out there and put up 20-plus homers and 90-plus RBIs after not playing for a couple years and not finishing a whole season, it's a starting block."

If the Phillies are unsuccessful in their efforts to move Howard, he presumably will return as the everyday first baseman, although manager Ryne Sandberg could get the OK to play Ruf or Franco more frequently in a platoon situation. Sandberg wanted to try that in July, but reversed course after Amaro publicly backed his first baseman, perhaps recognizing bigger regular-season numbers would improve their chances of moving him.

But if Howard is back, will he be in his familiar cleanup spot?

"If I'm back, why would I not be?" he said.

Howard entered Sunday with a .694 OPS in 599 plate appearances in the cleanup spot. His OPS ranked 471st out of 476 hitters with 550 or more plate appearances in the cleanup spot since 1914, accordings to StatsPass.com. His 90 RBIs ranked 351st.

Those numbers are one reason why the Phillies are going to pursue Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is a 23-year-old corner outfielder with power. They simply need more power in the lineup.

Howard said he recognizes the team will need to make changes if they have any hopes of returning to the postseason in the future. The Phillies are no longer an elite team. They've had three consecutive seasons without a winning record, and this year will finish in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000.

"I think there's definitely some changes that are on the horizon," Howard said. "What all those changes are, I don't know. I don't make all those decisions. But I'm sure there will be some."

He could be one of them, which leaves his future uncertain.

"Am I going to be playing baseball?" Howard said. "Yeah, I'll be playing baseball, so my future is certain in that aspect. But you guys are bringing up questions about whether it's going to be here or not, so I don't know. That's questions for the guys upstairs. But I'll be playing baseball."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Utley reflects on season's downturn, discusses future

Star 'not really satisfied' with year, but happy he stayed with Phillies

Utley reflects on season's downturn, discusses future

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley finds sanctuary in the batting cages at Citizens Bank Park, and he used that spot Saturday afternoon to reflect upon a 2014 season that left him frustrated on many fronts.

The Phillies on Sunday will finish their third consecutive season without a winning record, and they will finish in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000. A once-promising season for Utley turned south, too.

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"I'm not really satisfied with it," Utley said. "I didn't play as well as I could have. I've never really been satisfied with my seasons. The last few months, I haven't really swung the bat so well."

Utley hit .335 with 22 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 26 RBIs and a .937 OPS in 47 games through May 28. He ranked 10th in Major League Baseball in OPS, which propelled him to the NL All-Star team as the starting second baseman.

But in 106 games since that date entering Saturday, Utley hit just .239 with 12 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 52 RBIs and a .652 OPS, which ranked 126th out of 148 qualifying hitters. He has not homered in 40 consecutive games, which is the longest drought of his career.

"I can't put my finger on it," Utley said.

Utley, 35, has battled knee issues for several years, but he said his knees feel fine.

"Listen, three or four years ago, I had to answer questions if I was going to retire or not because of my knees," Utley said. "I'm proud of the fact that I was able to bounce back from that and play as many games as I have. Obviously, I didn't play as well as I thought I should have, but there is something to be said for going out there on a daily basis and grinding."

Simple fatigue could be a factor.

"Throughout the course of the year, you slowly wear down a little bit, especially when you're playing every day," said Utley, who has played 154 games and started 147. "I don't feel like I did when I was 25. You don't bounce back quite as quickly. But even on days I didn't feel so great, I still felt I had the opportunity to help us win."

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has indicated he would like to find more spots next season to rest veterans such as Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. More rest could bring fresher bodies, which could bring more consistent and improved production from April through September.

"Honestly, I don't know," said Utley, when asked if that might help. "Obviously feeling fresh is important. This late in the season, it's hard to feel fresh -- the atmosphere makes a difference."

The Phillies played in front of a sparsely filled ballpark for much of the season, which is the product of losing and no postseason appearances since 2011. Utley understands that and he said it is up to the team to fill the seats again.

It will be difficult.

"I'm not saying we should have won the World Series, but I think we should have finished with a better record," Utley said. "The way I look at it, there were probably, over the course of this year, 12, 14, 15 games that I thought we should have won that we didn't, and there's probably about four or five we shouldn't have won that we did win. So a .500 record is, in my opinion, kind of where we were headed."

That still leaves them about seven or eight victories short of a NL Wild Card berth. How do they make up that gap?

"Having Cole [Hamels] and Cliff [Lee] healthy, those are two guys that are really good," Utley said. "Having the back end of our bullpen pitch the way it has, if that continues, we're going to be in a lot of games. I feel like we lost a lot of close games this year where if we had an extra run or two, we would be victorious."

Offense is a problem. The Phillies entered Saturday ranked 13th in the NL with a .666 OPS. They were ranked 12th with a .364 slugging percentage. The Phils need more power in the lineup, which is why they are going to take a run at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

"I'm all for getting better, whatever that means," said Utley, who is open to hitting elsewhere in the lineup, if asked. "Adding some power wouldn't hurt. I know they want to continue to try to mix young guys in. I get it. It creates a little energy. I still feel like I bring some energy to the table."

Energy is great, but the Phillies need more talent. They are expected to listen to offers for Hamels, because he could bring back a sizeable haul. Utley said he is biased, but he hopes that does not happen.

"I would be disappointed if they moved him," Utley said. "Listen, we want to win. [The front office wants] to win. I think guys are hungry. I mean, we're not 25, 26, 27 years old, where you roll out of bed and you're ready to play. It takes a little bit more preparation, a little bit more work to perform nightly. So hopefully guys take this offseason seriously and prepare for the grind."

Utley said he still believes he made the right decision last summer in signing a contract extension to remain in Philadelphia.

"I love Philadelphia," Utley said. "There's no place I would rather be. But winning is important. We have to try to get back to that. Maybe it's going to be baby steps. I'm not quite sure, but there's no better place to win."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phillies come up short in Burnett's final outing

Howard homers, drives in two; struggling starter strikes out seven

Phillies come up short in Burnett's final outing

PHILADELPHIA -- A.J. Burnett said in San Diego last week that he expected a lot of things to be different with the Phillies in 2014.

"A lot," Burnett repeated.

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Burnett spoke coyly that night at Petco Park, but he promised to discuss everything following his final start of the season, which came Saturday night in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed five hits, four runs, three walks, two home runs and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. He fell to 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA.

Burnett leads baseball this season in losses and walks. He is the first Phillies pitcher to lose 18 games since Steve Carlton lost 20 in 1973. He is the first Phillies pitcher to walk 96 or more batters since Jose de Jesus walked 128 in '91.

"It's obviously a frustrating year," Burnett said. "You come over here and you expect to make an impact. And you make the wrong impact."

Burnett has pitched with an inguinal hernia since April. He said he wished he would have taken care of it earlier, because it bothered him throughout the season.

Burnett said he will have surgery next week to repair it. The rehab should take two to three weeks. After that, he must decide if he will pitch next season. He has until five days following the World Series to exercise the $12.75 million player option he earned when he made his 32nd start of the season last week.

If he declines, he will become a free agent. Burnett said he has not made a decision.

"There are too many things to name right now," said Burnett, when asked what will go into his decision. "Off the bat, my family. It's ultimately going to come down to me. I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can't just shut that down if it's still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it."

But Burnett also signed with the Phillies in February because he said he believed the Phillies had a chance to win. They will play their final game of the season Sunday, which concludes their third consecutive season without a winning record. They will finish in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000, despite a franchise record payroll.

Asked whether he wants to return to Philadelphia if he decides to pitch again, Burnett said, "It's something I'll have to think about as well. There's a lot of variables that are going to come into play. But it'll definitely be in my mind, for sure."

For most people, it would be impossible to leave $12.75 million on the table, but Burnett, 37, has made more than $150 million in his career. He has made $17.75 million with the Phillies, which includes salary, signing bonuses and performance bonuses.

"Money ain't everything," Burnett said. "It just shows you this year. They paid me all that, and 18 losses. Money is money."

Ryan Howard paced the Phillies on offense, homering in the second and singling to score Chase Utley in the sixth inning to tie the game as part of a 3-for-4 night. But Burnett walked Freddie Freeman to start the seventh. Justin Upton followed and hit a 1-2 curveball to left-center field for a two-run home run to hand the Braves a 4-2 lead.

Burnett then walked Jason Heyward, and Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure visited the mound. Burnett seemed disinterested in whatever McClure had to say. He turned away at one point, and as McClure left the mound to return to the dugout, Burnett could be seen on TV uttering an expletive.

Burnett said it wasn't directed at his pitching coach.

"Heck no," Burnett said. "... Not one bit. It was just everything. Frustration. We're great."

Burnett said earlier that his relationship with McClure is fine.

"Mac's been great," Burnett said. "He's been in our corner. He's done nothing but support us all year. I was more hot about that hook. I haven't hung that many hooks. I don't think I hung a hook all last year.

"It seems I'm getting beat on my best pitches a lot. It's frustrating. It's tough to swallow."

Burnett faced three more hitters before manager Ryne Sandberg pulled him after 119 pitches.

Burnett indicated in San Diego he probably would pitch next season if he could lift his right arm above his head. It sounded like he might be dealing with more than just the hernia, but he said Saturday his arm is healthy.

"It's there," Burnett said. "Yeah, I'm healthy enough to compete. That's what it comes down to -- competing. If I still have that drive to compete, then I think I'm going to have to play. We'll cross that bridge when it comes."

The bridge is coming soon.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Review confirms call as Utley ruled out at plate

Braves' Bethancourt did not block baserunner's path

Review confirms call as Utley ruled out at plate

PHILADELPHIA -- Umpires reviewed a play at the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton threw out Chase Utley at the plate on Ryan Howard's single, and a crew chief review was initiated to see if Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt had illegally blocked the plate.

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It took replay officials just 34 seconds to determine that Bethancourt allowed Utley a lane to the plate, but he was tagged out.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phillie fans impersonate Craig Kimbrel

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Phillie fans impersonate Craig Kimbrel

Ever been torn with the desire to watch a ballgame and the need to get buff? Now you can finally combine the two. And it's all thanks to a new workout craze coming out of Philadelphia called The Kimbrel. It's great for strengthening those shoulders and delts. 

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After Phils erase four-run deficit, Pap notches save

Closer receives mixed reaction in first appearance since suspension

After Phils erase four-run deficit, Pap notches save

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans loudly booed Jonathan Papelbon the last time he pitched at Citizens Bank Park.

Papelbon responded by grabbing his crotch as he left the field following a blown save on Sept. 24 against the Marlins. The gesture resulted in a seven-game suspension and fueled questions if he should pitch at home again this season. But Papelbon pitched the ninth inning in Friday's 5-4 victory over the Braves, picking up his 39th save of the season.

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He made no gestures this time, other than a fist pump following the game's final out.

He heard boos as he left the bullpen, but it certainly could have been worse.

"I couldn't hear it," Papelbon said. "I didn't hear nothing. I don't hear nothing out there when I'm pitching."

Papelbon has maintained his innocence, saying he simply needed to readjust himself that Sunday afternoon. Major League Baseball and the Phillies disagreed. MLB suspended him for the gesture and for making contacting with umpire Joe West. The Phillies said they wholeheartedly agreed with the suspension and apologized to fans.

"I know that perception is reality and they can think whatever they want to think," Papelbon said. "They have that right. Fans pay their tickets and sit where they want to sit and they can boo if they want to boo and cheer, and I can't really do a whole lot about that. I've said over and over -- I am sorry for how it was perceived and what people may have thought. Intent wasn't there. It doesn't really matter what I think. Fans have the right to say and boo and cheer. They pay their ticket price, and I understand that."

Papelbon struck out Chris Johnson on four pitches for the first out. Fans cheered. B.J. Upton doubled. Fans booed. Evan Gattis grounded out for the second out. Fans cheered again.

They stood on their feet and cheered as Joey Terdoslavich stepped to the plate. They wanted that final out. Papelbon got it for them when Terdoslavich grounded out to second base to end the game.

Fans roared with approval.

So much for a hostile reception.

It is going to be interesting to see what happens with Papelbon in the offseason. The Phillies have tried to trade him for more than a year without success. He makes $13 million next season. He also has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 100 games finished in 2014-15. He has finished 52 games this season with two more games to play.

The contract is the biggest obstacle in trading Papelbon, but a wary owner or general manager might see Papelbon's antics on the field or read his comments and wonder if they want to deal with a potential headache.

Papelbon, who said in July he wants to play for a winning team, said he hasn't considered that he may have hurt his trade value.

He also said he has no idea if he will be with the Phillies when Spring Training opens in February, although he said he would not mind it.

"I've said the perfect ending to this equation would be me on this team righting this ship and possibly closing out a World Series or getting in the playoffs and making a nice run and seeing what happens from there," he said. "I think that would be a fairy tale ending if there is one."

Of course, the Phillies seem light years removed from postseason contention. They are finishing their third consecutive season without a winning record and will finish in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000.

"Well, I think every team that isn't in it this year is far away," Papelbon said. "Yeah, we do have some things that we need to clean up and get better at. I think this season has shown what we need to get better at. Hopefully we can do that. And, obviously, staying healthy for an entire season goes a long way."

The Phillies' bullpen is the team's strength entering the offseason, especially if Papelbon remains the closer. But there are holes everywhere else, including the rotation. Right-hander Jerome Williams could be part of the 2015 rotation. He allowed eight hits, four runs and one walk while striking out three in six innings.

Williams is a free agent, but he went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts with the Phillies. He could be an option as a relatively inexpensive No. 5 starter.

"It would be a perfect situation," Williams said.

The Phillies scored a run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to tie the game. They pushed across the go-ahead run in the seventh when Carlos Ruiz walked, advanced to third on Ryan Howard's double and scored on Marlon Byrd's fielder's choice.

Ken Giles and Papelbon took care of the rest

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phils hold workout with Cuban outfielder Tomas

Phils hold workout with Cuban outfielder Tomas

PHILADELPHIA -- Get used to hearing in the offseason how the Phillies need a big bat or two.

The Phillies held a private workout Monday with Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who could be a fit. He is projected as a power bat, which the Phillies sorely need. They entered Friday's game against the Braves just 12th in the National League with a .666 OPS and 12th with a .364 slugging percentage.

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Manager Ryne Sandberg spoke to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. about the Cuban slugger this week.

"He thought he was interesting," Sandberg said. "He wasn't sure how things were going to work out ... but there was some interest there."

The bidding for Tomas could be intense. Some have speculated he could fetch more than $100 million, although if he produces like many think it could be a relative bargain, considering he is just 23.

"Another power bat, that would be very good," Sandberg said. "Four or five of them would be ideal."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Asst. scouting GM Wolever won't return to Phillies '15

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. promised significant changes in the offseason, but he started Friday when he announced assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever will not return in 2015.

Wolever, who has been running the First-Year Player Draft since 2002, had been with the organization since 1992.

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"There's nothing easy about the decision we made, but we're trying to get better and we're trying to make changes," Amaro said following Friday's 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. "This is the change that we made. Nothing easy about it. Marti's served our organization very well for a long period of time."

Amaro offered little explanation why Wolever was the first to go.

"We just need to be better, and we're working to get better," Amaro said. "Player development and scouting has always been the backbone of every organization. It's been the backbone of ours for many years. We've had many players playing right now, our core guys, putting us in a position of success every year. They're all homegrown guys. We've got to get back to bringing that caliber of player back to our system. That's our goal."

Wolever could not be reached for comment.

One of the reasons the Phillies slid in the standings in recent seasons is because they have not had enough talent coming through the farm system. They took Cole Hamels with the No. 17 pick in 2002, but since then have produced few impact players or pitchers. Amaro said the Phillies need to improve their drafting philosophy and overall scouting of amateur players.

Recent first-round picks included Greg Golson (2004), Kyle Drabek ('06), Joe Savery ('07), Anthony Hewitt ('08), Jesse Biddle ('10), J.P. Crawford ('13) and Aaron Nola ('14). Supplemental first-round picks included Adrian Cardenas (2006), Travis d'Arnaud ('07), Zach Collier ('08), Larry Greene ('11), Mitch Gueller ('12) and Shane Watson ('12).

There have been more misses than hits, although Wolever's final first-round picks -- Crawford and Nola -- could be his best.

Before this year's Draft, MLB.com examined the Phillies' previous 10 Drafts (2004-13). Forty-six Draft picks reached the big leagues, which tied the A's and Rangers for seventh best in baseball. The average in that span was 41.8 players per organization.

But the quality of the Phillies' picks ranked last. According to baseballreference.com, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies picks over the past 10 years was 20.7, which was 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3).

The Red Sox (142.7), Braves (133.3), Angels (124.4), Yankees (120.5) and D-backs (120.1) were in the top five. The Phillies, Blue Jays, Mets (49.5), Twins (49.6) and Marlins (51.8) were in the bottom five.

The big league average was 82.7.

"When you pick down low, sometimes your interest changes a little because you have a chance to take a little bit safer pick or take a chance if it hits with a high ceiling," Wolever said in May. "You reach out and you take Golsons and Saverys and you roll the dice on Anthony Hewitt and you hope that you hit based on their tools and their athletic ability. Some do, some don't and some of them haven't -- and we need to do a better job in that regard, but it's based on a lot of factors that come into play."

It should be noted Wolever's drafts produced players like Ryan Howard, Hamels and Ken Giles -- as well as the players who helped the Phillies acquire talents like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Brad Lidge and others.

But Wolever also got the Phillies snared in a controversy with the NCAA and two picks the Phillies failed to sign in 2013. Wolever reported those players to the NCAA for violating its "no-agent" rule during negotiations.

"We probably could have handled things a little bit better," Amaro said on 94WIP in March.

Wolever said in May he had no regrets.

"The only regret I have is taking players that had no intent of signing," Wolever said. "That's the only regret I have."

One wonders if Amaro will look next at the player-development staff. Are the organization's shortcomings in the farm system a matter of lackluster Drafts, or lackluster Drafts and poor player development?

"We're evaluating all the time," Amaro said. "I'm being evaluated. Benny [assistant general manager of player personnel Benny Looper] is being evaluated. Everybody in our organization is being evaluated. We decided to make this change because we decided it's the best thing for our organization to move this forward."

One thing seems fairly certain: Wolever's dismissal will not be the only change Amaro makes in the front office.

"We're continuing to evaluate things as we go, but we're looking to improve in a variety of areas," Amaro said. "Obviously this is a very important area and we'll continue to assess things as we go."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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'Pen spoils Buchanan's final start of '14 in Miami

Brown, Utley each drive in two in finale vs. Marlins

'Pen spoils Buchanan's final start of '14 in Miami

MIAMI -- The Phillies opened the season in March with a franchise-record $180 million payroll and expectations of improvement.

The victories never came. The Phillies lost Thursday to the Marlins at Marlins Park, 6-4, to clinch their first last-place finish in the National League East since 2000, when Terry Francona managed his final season in Philadelphia and 21-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins made his big league debut in September.

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The Phillies looked at Rollins as a silver lining in that forgettable season.

The Phillies look at David Buchanan as one in 2014. He was unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft in December and received a very late invitation to Spring Training. But after allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings Thursday, he finished 6-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts to give himself an inside track on a spot in next season's rotation.

"The main thing is, I'm very grateful," Buchanan said. "I feel blessed to be here. Tonight I can lay my head down and say I finished my year as big leaguer. I'm healthy and I got better every outing. I learned more than I could have hoped for."

Buchanan allowed three or fewer earned runs in his final 16 starts, the longest streak by a Phillies rookie since Bruce Ruffin's 16-start streak in 1986. He actually had a shot at his seventh win, but Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman allowed four runs in the seventh inning to cost his team a two-run lead.

"Pleasant surprise," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Buchanan. "I'm anxious to see him in Spring Training with this year under his belt. He was one of the first guys who stood out in Spring Training this year because I noticed him as the first one to the ballpark every day. Before the coaches were even there, and that was 6 o'clock. His work ethic is good. He's a student of the game. He asks a lot of questions, still. He continues to want to get better."

Cole Hamels will lead the 2015 rotation, unless the Phillies trade him in the offseason. Cliff Lee should be the No. 2, if his left elbow is healthy. A.J. Burnett could be the No. 3, but only if he picks up his player option. If not, he will not return.

Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams are free agents.

But Buchanan should be there.

Like he has in every start since June, Buchanan kept the Phillies in the game. It started rough, however. The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first, but Buchanan allowed two in the bottom of the inning to make it 2-1.

He kept the score there. Buchanan got inning-ending double plays in the second and fourth innings and got a lineout double play to end the fifth.

The Phillies finally broke through against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler in the sixth, and it started with Buchanan. He ripped a double to left field, reached third on Ben Revere's single to right and scored on Chase Utley's bloop single to left to tie the game. Domonic Brown's two-out single to left scored Revere and Utley to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead.

Buchanan got into trouble in the sixth, putting runners at the corners with one out. Left-hander Antonio Bastardo took over and finished the inning, but Diekman allowed four runs in the seventh to lose it.

The Phillies packed up their things and headed to the airport to return to Philadelphia. They will play their final three games of the season this weekend against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. They are 72-87. They finished 73-89 last season.

They expected better this season. They didn't get it. But they hope Buchanan is a bridge toward better days.

"Six months ago I never would have imagined this was possible," Buchanan said. "It was my dream to be here. I was shooting to be a September callup. And then two months in I was making my debut. I'm thrilled."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Offseason means minimum wage job for surprising rookie Giles

Offseason means minimum wage job for surprising rookie Giles

MIAMI -- If Ken Giles receives votes for National League Rookie of the Year, he might learn about it during an eight-hour shift at his 40-hour-a-week, minimum wage job at an indoor baseball facility just outside Phoenix.

Giles has spent the past few months throwing 100-mph fastballs and nasty sliders past big league hitters, but he will spend his third offseason picking up baseballs in batting cages and giving pitching lessons.

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"It gets me out of the house," Giles said.

Giles, 24, entered Thursday's series finale against the Marlins at Marlins Park with eye-popping numbers. He is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA and one save in 43 appearances since his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in June. He has allowed 24 hits, 11 walks and has struck out 63 in 44 2/3 innings. His 0.78 WHIP is fifth among all rookie relievers since 1914. His 5.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio is seventh and his 12.69 strikeouts-per-nine innings average is 10th.

He would be closing right now, if the Phillies could have traded Jonathan Papelbon.

Giles will not be NL Rookie of the Year. Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.63 ERA in 22 starts) is probably the favorite, with others like Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton receiving more hype and attention. But voters looking closely at the numbers cannot miss Giles' statistics.

"That stuff doesn't really matter to me," Giles said. "Awards are awards, numbers are numbers. It's nice to be recognized, but other than that, who cares? Staying up here was my main concern. Do my job and perform. I've been waiting to do this since I was four years old. That's all that matters to me."

It is hard to believe, but when the Phillies sent Giles to Minor League camp in March he really needed to work on his command, particularly with his slider. It has not been an issue since his promotion.

"I'm sure I shocked a lot of people with how fast I came along," Giles said. "I just busted my tail in the offseason to make sure I met those requirements. They were right to send me to the Minors. I had no problem going to Double-A, then Triple-A. It was just a matter of me getting that rhythm and that groove and getting those innings in."

Giles will enter next Spring Training as a lock to make the bullpen, either as the setup man behind Papelbon or as the presumed closer, if Papelbon is dealt. Giles said he is fine either way.

"Pap is our leader," Giles said. "I think right now he's the glue of our bullpen. If he comes back next year, I think he'll be the biggest key to our success."

Giles will head home to Phoenix following Sunday's season finale against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He said he will spend his mornings working out and the afternoons and evenings working at It's All in the Game Sports Center in Peoria, Ariz., which is located just behind the Spring Training facilities of the Mariners and Padres.

He gets weekends off.

Giles is pretty sure he's the only Phillies player to work a job in the offseason.

"I just can't sit in my house all day," he said. "A lot of my friends go there. My brother [Josh] works there. He's my boss, actually. I got him the job and he ended up being my boss. But it doesn't feel like work. It's just hanging out with a bunch of my friends."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kendrick does it all in final start of year vs. Marlins

Righty goes seven strong, records three hits and an RBI in Miami

Kendrick does it all in final start of year vs. Marlins

MIAMI -- If Kyle Kendrick made the final start of his eight-year Phillies career Wednesday night, he made it a special one.

He allowed one run in seven innings and went 3-for-3 with one double and one RBI in a 2-1 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park. Kendrick has been with the Phillies since 2007, making him one of the longest tenured professional athletes in Philadelphia. But he is a free agent after the season, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has promised significant changes before Spring Training.

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Kendrick could be one of the casualties.

"After I was done in the seventh there I soaked it up a little bit," Kendrick said. "I looked around. I've been with these guys for a while, especially Jimmy [Rollins], Cole [Hamels], Chase [Utley], Howie [Ryan Howard], Chooch [Carlos Ruiz]. Guys I've been with since day one. It was a little emotional, I'm not going to lie. I'm a pretty emotional guy anyway.

"I don't like change. I'm not good with change. Change is never easy. If it happens, I'll deal with it."

But Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg acknowledged one thing about the Phillies' starting pitching situation entering the offseason: They need pitchers, and they do not have many internal options.

"We're going to need to fill some spots for the rotation next year," Sandberg said. "We need to piece that together. I wouldn't totally eliminate [Kendrick] from that picture."

Hamels is finishing the best season of his career. He is expected back, although the Phillies will listen to trade offers for him. Cliff Lee is expected to return from an injured left elbow that limited him to 13 starts, but that is no guarantee.

A.J. Burnett must decide shortly after the season if he wants to pick up his $7.5 million player option. If not, he will not be back. David Buchanan figures to have the inside track on a job. But after him, there are free agents Kendrick and Jerome Williams and not much else, unless the organization decides to make Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez a starter again.

"KK's been a part of winners here," Sandberg said. "There is no doubt about that. He's approaching 200 innings. He's taken the ball this year. He's been durable. Those have been positives."

Kendrick went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie in 2007, helping the Phillies win their first National League East championship since 1993. He started Game 2 of the National League Division Series, which the Phillies lost to Colorado.

He entered the night 13th in the National League with 73 wins since 2007. He ranked 16th with 1,131 2/3 innings. But he also ranked 38th out of 44 qualifying pitchers with a 4.44 ERA.

Kendrick finished the season 10-13 with a 4.61 ERA and 199 innings pitched. He posted a 2.78 ERA (10 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings) in five September starts.

"We're judged on ERA," Kendrick said. "We're also judged on innings and health. Obviously my ERA wasn't as great as I wanted it to be, but you have to keep battling. I'm not a strikeout guy. I'm a contact guy. I don't want to give up runs, but, sometimes you're going to give up hits, they're going to find some holes. But I was happy to be able to pitch deep into games as many as I did. For most of my career, I was proud of that. I was fortunate enough to be healthy enough to take the ball."

Kendrick doubled to left-center field with two outs in the seventh inning to score Darin Ruf from first base to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. His third hit of the game represented a career high.

"That was Howie's bat actually," Kendrick said. "Cole used it last night and hit that double, so I was like, I'm going to use that tomorrow. Big bat. Big barrel. You hit it, it'll go."

Kendrick allowed a leadoff double to Garrett Jones in the bottom of the seventh. Jones scored two batters later when Enrique Hernandez doubled to right-center field, which tied the game. Kendrick had runners on first and second with one out when Sandberg visited the mound.

Sandberg wanted to see if Kendrick could get one more ground ball to end the inning with a double play. He liked what he heard from Kendrick, who got pinch-hitter Reed Johnson to hit into the double play.

"Chase was a big part of that, I think," Kendrick said. "[Sandberg] came out and asked how I was doing. Chase said, 'He's good, he's good.' I said, 'I'm good.' Chase said, 'He just needs a ground ball right here.' I thanked him for that."

The Phillies put Kendrick in line for the win when Maikel Franco started the eighth with a single and scored when Marlon Byrd singled to right to make it 2-1. Ken Giles pitched a scoreless eighth and Jonathan Papelbon returned from a seven-game suspension to pick up his 38th save of the season in the ninth.

Kendrick finished the season with a win.

"My last start?" said Kendrick, asked if it was on his mind. "Oh, yeah. It was definitely there. I still had to go out and pitch tonight and help us win a game. It's kind of out of my control. Hopefully it works out. If it doesn't, it's been a great ride. It's been awesome."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Papelbon returns from suspension, maintains innocence

Papelbon returns from suspension, maintains innocence

MIAMI -- Jonathan Papelbon said he is looking forward to his return to Citizens Bank Park.

He pitched Wednesday for the first time since Major League Baseball suspended him seven games for grabbing his crotch in a perceived gesture toward Phillies fans. He maintained his innocence after the 2-1 victory over Miami, saying if he really wanted to let booing Phillies fans know he was upset with them, he really could have let them know.

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"It's been rough, it's been bad," Papelbon said about the suspension. "I've just had to really try -- I don't know how to say this but -- I've just had to try to put [umpire] Joe West in the back of my mind and carry on even though I feel like I got the raw end of the deal."

West ejected Papelbon from a Sept. 14 game against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Papelbon had just blown a save when he rather aggressively adjusted himself before he entered the Phillies' dugout. West ejected him at that point. The two argued and made contact with one another on the field, with West grabbing Papelbon by his jersey and pushing him away.

MLB suspended West one game without pay for his actions.

The Phillies finish their series against the Marlins at Marlins Park on Thursday before returning to Philadelphia for the final series of the season beginning Friday against Atlanta. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg said Papelbon is their closer, inferring he will pitch in a save situation this weekend if it presents itself.

"Do I wonder about that?" Papelbon said about the fan reaction. "Do you think I wonder, or do you think I know exactly what it's going to be like?"

He knows exactly, doesn't he?

"That's right," Papelbon said.

Is he looking forward to it?

"Yes, I'm looking forward to it," Papelbon said. "I wouldn't say bathing in the boos. I'm looking forward to getting back there and pitching there. I enjoy pitching there, I really do. I don't let the boos get to me. They don't bother me. Like I said, I don't hear them. For me, I like pitching in that kind of environment. Whether the fans are booing or cheering, that don't make no difference to me."

Of course, the league and the Phillies thought Papelbon let the boos get to him, which was why he grabbed himself and why he got suspended. The Phillies said they fully supported the suspension and apologized to fans.

"I did it because I needed a readjustment," Papelbon said. "I truly feel like if the fans really got to me and they wanted something, I would have given them a little bit more than that. Everyone has their right to an opinion and what they think. I said what I said and it's the truth and I'm not going to waver from that.

"Like I said earlier, if I really, really wanted to do something back it would have been more than just a little 'umph' with the pants, you know what I mean? People are going to take it for what they want, you know what I mean?"

Papelbon said he did not appeal the suspension because it would have lingered into next season.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rollins reviews season, looks forward to '15

Rollins reviews season, looks forward to '15

MIAMI -- Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been recovering from a strained left hamstring for more than two weeks, and there is no reason to rush him back at this point.

Not with five games remaining in the 2014 season.

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"Would it be wise?" Rollins asked Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park. "It would not be wise."

But if Rollins is finished for the season, he can pack up his things Sunday knowing he rebounded well from arguably the worst season of his career. He had a career-low .667 OPS in 2013, but bumped up that number to .717 this year. He also hit .243 with 22 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs, 55 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a career-high 64 walks in 609 plate appearances.

He ranked in the top 10 among qualifying shortstops in OPS entering Wednesday, which made him one of the more productive shortstops in baseball.

"I don't know what the overall grade would be, but you're never doing enough if you're not winning," Rollins said. "Ultimately, that's how we grade ourselves as athletes. Yeah, I did great, but I didn't really help us win too many games. That's how you feel. Even if you did everything you could. Nobody is going to be perfect. Leaving that runner on third those five times, that could have been five wins because we lost by one or something. Things like that. I always look to improve. So, you're never satisfied."

Rollins will become the elder statesman of everyday shortstops following Derek Jeter's retirement. Jeter is 40. Rollins turns 36 in November. The next oldest qualifying shortstop is White Sox veteran Alexei Ramirez, who just turned 33.

Rollins will make $11 million in the final year of his contract with the Phillies. It could be his final season in Philadelphia, but as much as he would like the Phillies to be competitive next season, he said he does not know if that is possible.

"It could be next year," Rollins said. "It could be two, three years. That's what's so great about being a ballplayer. We get to write that story. Always have. You put it on paper. You make it official. But we get to write it."

Rollins said his feelings have not changed about his desire to remain in Philadelphia. It is possible the Phillies will try to trade him in the offseason, but Rollins has complete no-trade rights and will have the final say.

"I'm still here," Rollins said. "I'll be here next year."

But the Phillies could say, "Jimmy, we'd like to trade you to a contender."

"And they could say, 'Guess who we're signing? We want you to be a part of this,' " Rollins replied. 

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas could be that type of player. He could fetch $100 million or more on the open market and is projected as a middle-of-the-order bat.

"We have enough money to [compete]," Rollins said. "So you can't say we don't we have the money to make improvements in the places that need to be improved, or where they can make them, whichever is the priority. We're in a big market, so -- a big market payroll. So you have to go out there and make it happen."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter or MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Replay confirms out call at third base in Miami

Replay confirms out call at third base in Miami

MIAMI -- The Phillies lost an instant replay challenge in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 2-1 win at Marlins Park.

On a bunt from Maikel Franco, Carlos Ruiz was ruled out at third base on a throw from first baseman Justin Bour. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg thought Ruiz beat the throw and issued a challenge.

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Replay officials needed 1 minute, 40 seconds to confirm the call on the field that Ruiz was out.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter or MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hamels keeps rolling on the road, but bats quiet

Southpaw, who owns 1.82 ERA in away games, goes seven strong

Hamels keeps rolling on the road, but bats quiet

MIAMI -- Ruben Amaro Jr. and some of his top scouts have been to the Dominican Republic and Japan in the past couple of weeks, picking up frequent flyer miles and hotel points while evaluating talent.

Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels probably hopes those efforts lead to a bat or two. He could have used the help in Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park, which was the latest example of the team's offensive shortcomings. The Phillies have been shut out 15 times this season, which is tied for seventh in baseball and matches last season's total.

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The Phillies have not been blanked more than 15 times since 16 shutout losses in 1989.

"Once again, [Hamels] goes out and does his job," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Minimal pitches. Quality. As it turns out, he almost had to be perfect, pitching the way he does without a lead. He continues to do what he's got to do. He gives us a chance to win."

Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez made quick work of the Phillies. He retired four batters on the first pitch of the at-bat. He retired six more on the second pitch. He is 2-1 with a 1.68 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies.

"[Alvarez] basically comes at the hitters with fastballs, so those are pitches to hit," Sandberg said.

 Hamels provided the Phillies' only extra-base hit with a double over the head of Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich with two outs in the fifth inning.

Hamels also pitched well enough to win. He allowed two runs in seven innings, but once again had little to show for it. The lefty is 9-8 with a 2.47 ERA, which is on pace to be a career best ERA. Is it hard to believe he only has nine wins with that type of performance?

"Yeah, because when you're looking at guys with ERAs [like that] most of them have 18 to 20 wins," Hamels said. "So, it's just going out there and trying to plug away and working toward something next year. I think that's kind of what I can control. When you start a season and you make personal goals, what can you control and what can't you control? Your ERA and innings are what you can really control. The other part is the team aspect. And as much as you want to win every game possible, you have to set more realistic goals, and those are more along the lines of ERA and innings."

Hamels has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 22 consecutive starts. No Phillies pitcher has had a longer streak since Chris Short in 1967-68 (26 starts).

Hamels also posted a 1.82 ERA (22 earned runs in 109 innings) on the road in 2014, which is tied for the 13th best road ERA among left-handers since 1920. Hamels finished just 6-6 in away games because of poor run support, though. Thirty left-handers since 1920 have had an ERA under 2.00 in road games, but Hamels is one of three to finish either at .500 or with a losing record. White Sox lefty Wilbur Wood went 6-8 with a 1.77 ERA in 1968. (He made 86 appearances as a reliever, two as a starter.) Pittsburgh's Bob Veale went 5-8 with a 1.93 ERA in 1968.

The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Jeff Baker singled to center field with one out. He advanced to second on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's single to left and scored on Ed Lucas' single up the middle.

Miami extended the lead in the fifth when Yelich doubled to left, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly to right field.

Hamels will make his final start of 2014 in Sunday's season finale against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He should cross the 200-inning threshold -- he's at 196 2/3 -- despite missing the first few weeks of the season on the disabled list with left biceps tendinitis.

"That's always the goal -- to get to 200 innings -- and I made it tough on myself [with the injury]," Hamels said. "I knew that coming in, but I knew if I put my head down, stayed my course and really plugged away, I would at least make it possible." 

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Amaro, Phils take a look at Cuban slugger Tomas

General manager says he will 'reserve judgment' after private workout

Amaro, Phils take a look at Cuban slugger Tomas

MIAMI -- The Phillies need talent, and Ruben Amaro Jr. has been spanning the globe to find it.

He acknowledged a short trip this week to the Dominican Republic to take a look at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, and an extended trip last week to Japan to take a look at the talent there.

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"Talent isn't coming off of trees," Amaro said Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park. "We have to try to find it wherever we can."

Tomas could be one of those talents, right?

"I don't really have anything to say about [Tomas]," Amaro said. "I will reserve judgment. There's no reason for me to discuss free agents and what we feel about them, because he's a free agent. That's our policy."

It is believed the Phillies will be active in their pursuit of Tomas, who is a 23-year-old power-hitting corner outfielder. The Phillies have followed Tomas for some time, and they like him more than fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, who recently signed a $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox.

But other teams like Tomas, too. Some believe he could command around $100 million once he becomes a free agent.

So it made sense that the Phillies assembled a formidable crew to watch Tomas. He worked out for more than 200 scouts from every team in baseball on Sunday and held a private workout for the Phillies on Monday.

The Phils group included senior advisor to the general manager Charlie Manuel and special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld.

"Our interest in him is the same as any interest we've had in any other Cuban player that we've scouted," Amaro said. "No different."

But the Phillies need a big bat, and Tomas could be the best way to acquire one. The impending crop of free-agent outfielders is relatively weak (Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, Michael Cuddyer, Jonny Gomes and Josh Willingham), and the Phillies' farm system does not have anybody knocking on the door.

"The talent crop of free agency has been dwindling pretty significantly," Amaro said. "There is probably more pitching options out there than there are bats. That's a little more fertile than in recent years. I think bats, in general, have been a dwindling asset."

Amaro traveled to Japan with Manuel and international scouting director Sal Agostinelli. He declined to say if he scouted a specific player.

"It was the first time I'd been there," Amaro said. "It was a good opportunity for me to see some players and make some contacts with Japanese front offices."

Could the Phillies be active there this winter?

"We're keeping our mind open on every opportunity," Amaro said.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phillies confirm Papelbon will stay in closer role

Phillies confirm Papelbon will stay in closer role

MIAMI -- Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon completed his seven-game suspension Sunday, which made him eligible to pitch in the season's final six games.

The Phillies said he will be their closer.

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"If it's a closing situation, then he should close," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's our closer."

"He's our closer right now," manager Ryne Sandberg added.

But what about this weekend at Citizens Bank Park? Major League Baseball suspended Papelbon because he grabbed his groin on the field as fans booed him after he blew a save. Fans might not respond well.

"[Papelbon] will have served his time," Amaro said. "He was given a very legitimate and very appropriate punishment for his actions. We are in total of support of it. I was in total support of it, and I think MLB and the Commissioner's office did the exact right thing. He's done his time, and now it's time for him to pitch."

Papelbon has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he finishes 100 games in 2014-15. He has finished 50 this season. If the Phillies remove him from the closer's role for any period of time, Papelbon and the Players' Association could file a grievance.

"I don't think we're very focused on that," Amaro said about Papelbon's option. "We're focused on trying to play out the season, play as good caliber of baseball as we can. … [Papelbon] hasn't done anything to lose his job. What he did on the field that day doesn't have any bearing to his job on the field. He's done nothing to lose his job as our closer."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: How will Phils' offseason play out?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions

Inbox: How will Phils' offseason play out?

Email your questions to Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki for future Inbox consideration.

I'm not sure what to think about the upcoming offseason. Is there any reason to be optimistic?
-- Frank H., West Chester, Pa.

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The most encouraging thing about the offseason is that interim president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have acknowledged in recent weeks that the organization rode the core from the 2008 World Series championship team too far. In the past few offseasons, the front office thought the Phillies would win if everybody stayed healthy and the club surrounded Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz with productive complementary pieces. But that is no longer reality.

Rollins, Utley and Howard will be regarded as the greatest Phils at their respective positions in franchise history, but they can no longer carry a team on their shoulders. That is an important first step for the front office. It doesn't mean the Phillies will turn their fortunes in one winter, but they should have a clearer picture of what they need to do to improve.

Who is going to be in the Phillies' outfield next season?
-- Matt S., Boston

It would be very surprising if Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere and some combination of Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore are all back. At least one new outfielder, maybe two, is likely. Phillies left fielders have a combined .620 on-base plus slugging percentage, which is 28th in the Majors. Brown's .652 OPS is the lowest among qualifying left fielders since Juan Pierre's .650 OPS in 2011. If the Phils move on from Brown, they could platoon Ruf and Sizemore. Revere had to hit at a .363 clip from June 26 through Sept. 5 to get his season OPS to .694, which is 19th out of 26 qualifying center fielders.

Manager Ryne Sandberg stopped short last week when asked if Revere is viewed as a bona-fide everyday center fielder in the National League. The feeling here is that the front office would like to upgrade at center field, if possible, because Revere almost needs to hit at a .350 clip to be productive, since he lacks power and is a liability defensively due to his weak arm.

Byrd has been productive; his .765 OPS is 12th out of 27 qualifying right fielders. But if the Phillies are not going to contend next season, it would make sense to trade him for a piece or two that could help in the future. Of course, the Phils tried to trade Byrd before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline without success. In fact, sources said Philadelphia could not get anything close to a top 10 prospect in any team's farm system for him. Byrd will make $8 million next season and has an $8 million club option in 2016 that vests automatically based on plate appearances. Byrd, who has 617 plate appearances this year, needs 550 plate appearances next year to vest the '16 option.

That is an issue for interested teams because Byrd will be 38 at the end of next season. Look for the Phillies to take a run at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is a free agent. If they like him, they are prepared to pay him because the crop of free-agent outfielders is relatively weak (Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, Michael Cuddyer, Jonny Gomes and Josh Willingham) and the Phils have nobody coming through the system.

Do you think the Phillies will trade Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason?
-- John D., Philadelphia

They will try hard to trade him, but Papelbon's contract and his recent seven-game suspension will make it more difficult than it should be. Papelbon will make $13 million next season and has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 100 games finished across 2014 and '15. (The right-hander has finished 50 games this season.)

Papelbon remains one of the game's elite closers, but the perception that he is a problem in the clubhouse permeates the game. Surprisingly, Papelbon has been a tremendous influence on the team's young relievers all season. But owners and GMs from other teams flinch when they see Papelbon's behavior and hear other stories.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phils drop seesaw finale with A's in 10th

Byrd drives in three as Philly erases three deficits

Phils drop seesaw finale with A's in 10th

OAKLAND -- The Phillies finally ran out of answers against the A's on Sunday.

Despite doing an effective job of playing catch-up earlier in the game, Philadelphia was saddled with an 8-6 walk-off loss to Oakland when Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off Miguel Gonzalez in the 10th inning to keep the A's in the driver's seat of the American League Wild Card race.

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The extra-inning dramatics wrapped up what was something of a seesaw contest after subpar outings by the starting pitchers.

"The offense kept battling back, and primarily the top five guys in the lineup," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We had a couple of two-out rallies to score some runs. The offense kept battling back, and the bullpen overall did a good job to get us some chances."

Ultimately, Donaldson crushed a 94-mph, belt-high fastball from Gonzalez to deep center field to notch his third walkoff homer of the year. Gonzalez said he threw the pitch where he wanted, locating it on the outside half of the plate.

"It's just something. Ever since I was a little kid, that's what you prepare for," Donaldson said, "whether it's basketball, trying to hit a game-winning shot; football, making the catch; baseball, getting the game-winning hit. Ever since I was a kid, that's just the moment I've always wanted to be in."

A.J. Burnett has struggled since the All-Star break for Philadelphia, and Sunday was no exception. The veteran right-hander matched his season high by issuing six walks, bringing his yearlong total to 93, the most in the Majors. He allowed six runs on three hits while striking out three, and is now 2-9 with a 5.85 ERA in 13 second-half starts.

As much as Burnett labored, the Phillies' offense was able to keep him in the game, coming back to tie after falling behind three times against A's lefty Scott Kazmir, who struck out nine but was charged with six runs on 11 hits and a walk.

"I was upset because the guys came out swinging the bat," Burnett said. "Anytime the offense gives you runs … I don't think I would have been as upset if I would have got hit around the yard. But to be wild like that, it's just hard to swallow. It's embarrassing to me, it's embarrassing to this team. … You'd rather give up 20 hits and 20 runs than walk them on the base and give them free passes."

After publicly contemplating retirement following the 2013 season, it could be easy to point to fatigue as a reason for the 37-year-old Burnett's struggles. Sunday's start marked just the third outing this year that he wasn't able to complete the fifth, his 207 innings pitched tied for the third-highest mark of his career.

Like Burnett, Sandberg wasn't using age or fatigue as an excuse.

"You know what, his stuff is still there," Sandberg said. "He had six walks, two hit batsmen and four of the walks scored, so that came back to haunt him. But he was just off the plate, wasn't able to work ahead the count. But as far as being gassed, the stuff still comes out of his hand good. The zip's still on the ball and he still has a good breaking pitch when it's for strikes."

Marlon Byrd, who went 2-for-5 for three RBIs, drove in the game's first run with a double that scored Chase Utley. After the A's took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first, Byrd pulled the Phillies even in the third with a two-run double that plated two teammates.

Oakland jumped ahead, 4-3, in the third inning when Burnett walked Geovany Soto with the bases loaded. The next half-inning, Carlos Ruiz roped an RBI double to knot the game, 4-4.

Soto then gave the A's a 6-4 advantage with a two-run double in the fifth, but Kazmir couldn't get a shutdown inning in the sixth, as the Phillies engineered a rally to tie the game and chase him from the mound.

Given his team's trio of comeback efforts on Sunday, it's easy to see why Burnett was beating himself up after the game.

"I didn't make any pitches today from the get-go," Burnett said. "We jumped out to the lead, the shutdown inning wasn't there. Then in the last inning I walked more guys. I just walked 'em all. It's embarrassing."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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First career save a testament to Giles' progress

First career save a testament to Giles' progress

OAKLAND -- The lineup card from Saturday night's 3-0 Phillies victory over the A's was in Ken Giles' locker before Sunday's matinee and for good reason.

The rookie setup man recorded his first career save against Oakland on Saturday, which also marked his 24th birthday. And to think, when he turned 23, Giles was getting prepared for the Arizona Fall League after a disappointing season at the Class A Advanced level.

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Giles only made 24 appearances in 2013 because of a pair of oblique injuries, but he said the setbacks have turned into a blessing.

"Staying healthy is a big part," Giles said of his success this season. "But getting hurt also helped me rethink how to pitch and how my mechanics work for me. I think that's what was a big part of that year. I kind of reshaped myself and reworked my pitching strategy."

Giles said he tweaked his delivery to make better use of his entire body instead of just his upper half. The hard-throwing right-hander has been lights out since reaching Philadelphia after spending time in Double-A and Triple-A to start the year.

He's posted a 1.24 ERA while racking up 63 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Together with suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon, who's eligible to return on Tuesday, Giles has given the Phillies one of baseball's top 1-2 punches at the end of the bullpen.

Giles has the makeup of a closer, but Papelbon is signed for $13 million next year and could be a hard to trade. Papelbon, who has a 2.10 ERA and has converted 37 of 41 saves, also has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 50 more games by the end of 2015.

When looking at the rest of the bullpen, which has posted an MLB-best 2.37 ERA since Aug. 5, Giles said it's been a pleasure to learn from Papelbon and others like Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus.

"I think that's the best thing that's come for this team this year," Giles said. "We have so much talent in this 'pen, it's amazing. We can do amazing things, I believe. If we continue that next year, anything can happen."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brown expects to return from injured wrist Tuesday

Brown expects to return from injured wrist Tuesday

OAKLAND -- Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown said he was available to pinch-hit for Sunday's series finale against the A's and he expects to be back in the starting lineup against the Marlins on Tuesday.

Brown injured his right wrist while making a diving catch on Thursday in San Diego and missed the first two games of the Oakland series. Brown is batting .237/.288/.356 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs.

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"It's just a bruise," Brown said. "We took the X-ray and everything came back negative. I'm all good to go."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Williams' third win vs. A's one for the books

Veteran righty beats Oakland for third time with third different club this year

Williams' third win vs. A's one for the books

OAKLAND -- Jerome Williams made baseball history on Saturday -- albeit in bizarre fashion -- as he became the first pitcher ever to earn three wins against the same team in one season as a member of three different clubs.

Williams beat the A's on April 26 with the Astros, on July 25 with the Rangers, and on Saturday with the Phillies, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory.

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"That is crazy," Williams said. "For one, you would never think that you would face the same team. Obviously I was with the AL West so I knew I was going to face them, but coming over to the Phillies in Interleague Play, you didn't think you were going to face the team again. It's a good feat."

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was already impressed with Williams' ability to simply pitch for three teams in one season.

"That's one thing," Sandberg said, "and then to beat a team three times, that's pretty ironic."

Adding to the irony is the fact that the first two wins of Williams' career came against Oakland -- in 2003, as a member of the Giants.

Now with his seventh team, Williams is still putting up zeros. He has not allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings over his last two starts, and he is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA in eight outings since joining the Phillies.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Galvis helps Williams earn historic 'W' over A's

Shortstop breaks up scoreless affair with two-run shot in seventh

Galvis helps Williams earn historic 'W' over A's

OAKLAND -- There has not been much to smile about lately for the Phillies as they approach the end of their second straight losing season. Saturday's 3-0 win over the A's, however, was peppered with bright spots.

Ken Giles, the team's possible closer of the future, earned his first career save on his 24th birthday. Jerome Williams made baseball history, becoming the first pitcher to earn three wins against the same opponent as a member of three different teams. And Freddy Galvis continued to make the most of his time as the starting shortstop, hitting a two-run homer to break a scoreless tie in the seventh.

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"Starting pitching, the bullpen, some good defense out there, one swing of the bat for the home run and then an add-on run," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "A solid game and a lot of good stuff in a tight game."

Giles was dominant as ever in his first save opportunity, throwing 10 pitches -- nine strikes -- in a 1-2-3 ninth. The Phillies would have liked to give Giles a save chance sooner with Jonathan Papelbon serving a suspension, but the birthday boy was simply thrilled to achieve the milestone.

"It's awesome. I'm going to remember it forever," Giles said. "I've been waiting for my time to come. I'm blessed that I got the opportunity to get it on my birthday."

In order for Giles to get his chance, Galvis first had to play hero. Until the seventh inning, it was a war of offensive attrition at O.co Coliseum between two floundering offensive clubs, and the Phillies had just one hit when the seventh began.

But Cody Asche lofted a one-out double down the left-field line, and Galvis -- a switch-hitter batting left-handed -- took reliever Dan Otero deep. The pitch -- a 3-2, 91 mile-per-hour sinker -- was belted over the right-center-field wall.

"I went to 3-1, 3-2, then he threw me a fastball in the middle," Galvis said. "I was trying to hit it hard on the ground or a line drive. I hit it for a homer."

Galvis has started all 12 games at shortstop since Jimmy Rollins strained his left hamstring, going 11-for-38 (.289) with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs scored.

"He seems to be a guy who comes up in that situation, that spot, and he has a chance to drive one," Sandberg said. "Surprising power at times for a little guy.

"He's really improved his offense this year going back to Triple-A. He did a nice job working on some things and he hit for average there. He's brought that here with him. He's getting some time here at shortstop. Probably goes a long way with getting him at-bats at this level and making some adjustments. He's come up with some big hits for us."

For the season, Galvis is still batting just .165 in 97 at-bats -- though 12 games ago that number was a paltry .085.

He helped Williams make history by beating the A's for the third time this year -- once with the Astros, once with the Rangers and once with the Phillies.

Williams threw seven scoreless innings and held Oakland to four hits, and he has not allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings over his last two starts. In eight outings since joining the Phillies, he is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA.

"He's been solid since he's come over, with quality outings, good stuff," Sandberg said. "He hits his spots real well with moving stuff, so he's effective in the strike zone and really does a good job working well with the catcher."

Williams induced a double play with the bases loaded to end the second inning, and it was smooth sailing from there.

"I don't think anything changed [after the second]," Williams said. "It's just I had a couple pitches I left over the plate and I wasn't attacking the zone. I think after that I just started attacking the zone, keeping the ball down, getting key ground balls when I needed them."

Marlon Byrd added a two-out RBI in the eighth to give the bullpen a three-run cushion.

The Phillies improved to 2-4 on their final road trip of the year and set up a rubber match against the A's on Sunday.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rollins progressing, but return uncertain

Rollins progressing, but return uncertain

OAKLAND -- Jimmy Rollins, who has been out with a strained left hamstring since Sept. 8, continues to work on running the bases, and it remains unclear whether he will return this season.

"There is improvement," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said after Saturday's 3-0 win over the A's. "He was working on the rounding aspect of running. He did pretty well with it. We'll check him out tomorrow, continue to check him out day to day to see how he progresses with all that."

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Asked if Rollins will play again this year, Sandberg said: "We'll see. We'll see how he does and how he goes. I'm not going one way or another on it. Just watching the progress. He's doing good with what he's doing."

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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