Bethlehem Press

Friday, February 28, 2020

Winning vs. development

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

The IronPigs limped out of town a week ago having had the last game on their six-game homestand rained out, which may have been a good thing since they lost the first five games, coming on the heels of a loss in Buffalo to end their last road trip.

They went down to Durham and lost two more before a win over the Bulls and then won the middle game of a three-game series in Charlotte over the weekend. If you’re doing the math, that’s 10 losses in their last 12 games.

You can point to some things like key players like Sean Rodriguez and Phil Gosselin, who were both playing well for Lehigh Valley, heading for Philadelphia. Plus, Jerad Eickhoff and Cole Irvin found their way to the majors, as did reliever Edgar Garcia, who pitched well out of the Pig Pen.

Slumping players and nagging injuries didn’t help either. Dylan Cozens was in a 1-for-23 slump with 15 of his outs coming on strikeouts, prior to winding up on the IL with a sore toe. Mitch Walding was 1-for-21 after he returned from a stint with the Phillies and he had whiffed 16 times over that same span. Shane Robinson and Lane Adams both missed games because of injuries that weren’t severe enough to send them to the IL, but still missed time.

Manager Gary Jones was quick to point out that while he doesn’t like to lose, minor league baseball is first and foremost about player development.

“I hate losing, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting these guys prepared for the next level. We have to handle our players a little differently to put them in the spots where we want them to be to see how they handle certain things and players are working on certain things; it’s all part of being a minor league manager, you do things differently,” said Jones.

One spot where the player development over winning approach worked has been with reliever Kyle Dohy. In his Triple-A debut against Pawtucket, Dohy allowed three earned runs in two innings and followed that up by loading the bases on 12 pitches at home against Buffalo; that’s hard to do. All three runners scored, putting his ERA up to 54.00, but two days later he went out and allowed five earned runs in two innings, which actually dropped his ERA down to 33.00 in three appearances. He seemed outmatched at Triple-A, but the Phillies were patient with him and kept him in the IronPigs bullpen and Jones kept running him out there. He put together 5 1/3 scoreless innings before being hit for two earned runs against Charlotte on Saturday.

The point is that Dohy seems to have turned the table and is learning how to pitch at this level.

“He’s got some good stuff, but it’s difficult when you come up here and the nerves are working and you’re trying to impress everybody and it doesn’t happen,” said Jones. “He’ll be OK. It’s just a matter of putting some innings in and finding himself at this level and that will boost his confidence and before you know it, he’s a different pitcher.”

The ‘Pigs return home Tuesday night against the Syracuse Mets. The good news is that Robinson and Adams are both healthy and Walding is 5-for-12 (.417) in his last four games.

UPS AND DOWNS... The Phillies made a surprise move when they activated Scott Kingery from the IL Sunday. Gosselin or Rodriguez being sent back to Lehigh Valley was the expected move, but instead, outfielder Nick Williams was optioned out. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler explained that the team wants Williams to get regular at-bats and play every day for a stretch to work out some issues at the plate. Williams had 61 at-bats in 38 games with the Phillies and was hitting just .180 with one home run and four RBI when he was optioned out.

PITCHING CHANGE... The Phillies decided they have seen enough of JoJo Romero at Triple-A for now after he opened the season 2-2 with a 9.64 ERA in seven starts with the IronPigs. Romero was sent down to Double-A Reading where he pitched last season. Tom Eshelman, who was the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017 and then fell on hard times and struggled horribly last season for Lehigh Valley opened the season at Double-A Reading. Eshelman pitched well – 6 2/3 IP, 1 ER – in his last start with the Fightins. Overall, Eshelman wasn’t pitching great (0-3, 6.28) at Reading, but wanted to give him another shot at the Triple-A level.

‘CLAW STRUCK... The Lakewood BlueClaws, the Low-A Phillies affiliate in the South Atlantic League had a really bad day Sunday. They had a makeup doubleheader in Greensboro and lost the first game when Mason Martin hit a walk-off, three-run home run. They were leading 6-3 when Blake Bennett entered in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and two runners on and Martin headed to the plate. You guessed it; Martin hit his second walk-off, three-run home run of the day to sink Lakewood in both ends of the doubleheader.