Phillies sign right-hander Williams to one-year deal

Phillies sign right-hander Williams to one-year deal

PHILADELPHIA -- Jerome Williams made enough of a positive impression on the Phillies that they are bringing him back next season.

The team announced Tuesday evening that they signed Williams to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $2.5 million, plus performance bonuses.

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"It would be a perfect situation," Williams said last month, when asked about the possibility of returning in 2015.

Williams went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts this season with the Phillies.

The Phillies lack starting pitching depth, so bringing back Williams helps in that regard. Cole Hamels and David Buchanan are the only starting pitchers under contract who finished the season healthy.

Cliff Lee finished the season on the disabled list with a left elbow injury, although the Phillies said they expect him to be ready by Spring Training. A.J. Burnett has until five days following the World Series to accept or decline his $12.75 million player option. If he declines, he will become a free agent. Kyle Kendrick is a free agent.

Williams, 32, went 2-5 with a 6.71 ERA in 28 appearances (two starts) in 2014 with the Astros and Rangers. The Phillies claimed Williams off waivers in August.

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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With team or not, Byrd a key to Phillies' future

Right fielder will either be in lineup or be dealt to build organizational depth

With team or not, Byrd a key to Phillies' future

PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg both believe a winning team begins with quality starting pitching and defense.

But they know the Phillies need much more than that. They ranked ninth in the National League in runs, 11th in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging percentage on their way to a 73-89 record and their first last-place finish in the NL East since 2000.

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They must improve their offense, and the outfield is one place they will look to do so.

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd could be dealt, but not because he proved unproductive. He hit .264 with 28 doubles, two triples, a team-high 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. His team-leading .757 OPS was head and shoulders above Phillies outfielders Ben Revere (.686) and Domonic Brown (.634).

Byrd, 37, could be traded because he figures to have value for a contending team looking to fill a void. But the Phillies tried that in July and came up empty.

Byrd's contract might have played a role. He will make $8 million next season, which is reasonable, but he also has an $8 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests based on plate appearances.

Byrd needs 550 plate appearances next season to vest it, and he had 637 this season.

"I don't wonder about being traded," Byrd said on the final day of the season. "I've been traded plenty of times. I know how to handle it. It is what it is. If it makes the organization better, of course they'll trade me."

If Byrd is back, he knows he needs to improve on a few things. He set a career high in home runs, but also in strikeouts with 185. He hit .214 with no home runs and a .534 OPS after he hit his 25th homer on Aug. 30 at Citi Field.

"Personally, I've got some things to work on this offseason," Byrd said. "My average slipped. Hitting with runners in scoring position slipped. I set a career high in homers, but I hit zero in September. That means my mechanics broke down.

"My strikeouts were ridiculous. I had 24 homers last season and 144 strikeouts. Fifty more strikeouts for one more home run? That just doesn't make any sense. I'm not a guy that strikes out that much. It's a mechanical breakdown. Beginning in November, I'll work to figure it out. I've got a lot of work to do."

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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Brown's future with Phillies uncertain after trying season

Brown's future with Phillies uncertain after trying season

PHILADELPHIA -- Domonic Brown entered this year confident and ready to build upon his 2013 breakout season.

But he left Citizens Bank Park late last month with only questions about his future in Philadelphia.

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Brown made the National League All-Star team in '13, but hit just .235 with 22 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 144 games this season. His OPS ranked 139th out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .640 OPS as an outfielder ranked 60th out of 64 outfielders, and his .641 OPS as a left fielder is the lowest of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch's .582 OPS for Kansas City in '02.

"I had a terrible first half, man," Brown said on the final day of the season. "I think I finished pretty strong. I had a great second half, or a pretty good second half. I'm just trying to build off of that, take it into the offseason and carry on into Spring Training."

Brown's assessment that he had a great or pretty good second half does not line up with the numbers. He hit .250 with 10 doubles, four home runs, 17 RBIs and a .686 OPS after the All-Star break. (He had a slightly improved .263 batting average and .715 OPS from Aug. 10 through the end of the season.) That .686 OPS still would have been the lowest among qualified left fielders.

Brown's playing time dipped in the second half as Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg played Grady Sizemore and Darin Ruf more frequently. Sandberg was not playing those two for the heck of it. He played them because the front office is trying to decide which way they want to go in left field.

Do they stick with Brown? Or do they try some combination of Sizemore (.701 OPS) and Ruf (.712 OPS)? Or do they look outside the organization for help?

"If I'm not here, I'll definitely have a job somewhere else," Brown said. "I don't really think that's a problem. I love you guys. I love Philly. But that's part of baseball."

Brown believes he tried to do too much in the first half, perhaps trying to live up to expectations and concerns following a disappointing second half last year, when he posted a .685 OPS from July 20 through the end of the season.

"The first half I was definitely trying to create a lot," Brown said. "We were struggling pretty bad there. I definitely was trying to do way too much."

He also alluded to the fact he missed former assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner, who left the organization last offseason to become Detroit's hitting coach. Players often cited Joyner's work last season.

Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock have been invited back next year.

"I mean, it was a little different, not having Wally for sure," Brown said. "I mean, I had him the whole year. We bonded and clicked from the very first time that we saw each other, so we definitely stayed in contact, but it was definitely a little different."

Perhaps a change of scenery could benefit Brown. There always has been a lot of pressure on Brown, who Baseball America considered the fourth-best prospect in baseball in '11.

"I don't like to say that," Brown said. "I really don't like to say that kind of stuff. I just want to be here, you know? This is home for me. But at the same time it's business and I understand that. Wherever I'm at I'm going to be happy. And as long as I'm playing baseball, I'm good."

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' prospect Quinn shows upside in AFL action

Team's No. 5 prospect gets two hits, RBIs while getting more experience in outfield

Phils' prospect Quinn shows upside in AFL action

After the first week of the Arizona Fall League season, Roman Quinn had more stolen bases (four) than hits (three).

That changed Tuesday, as Quinn collected two hits and drove in his first two runs of the fall to help visiting Scottsdale defeat Mesa, 10-7. The victory extended the Scorpions' winning streak to four games.

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Quinn, the Phillies' No. 5 prospect, finished the game 2-for-6. He is hitting .200/.286/.200 in six games this fall.

Despite a somewhat slow start to the fall, Quinn said he feels good at the plate.

"I'm hitting balls on the line, they just can't find the holes right now," he said. "But it feels pretty good to get two hits today."

The Scorpions took an early lead Tuesday, scoring four runs in the second off left-hander Sean Nolin, and Quinn was in the middle of it. Josh Bell and L.J. Mazzilli began the inning with back-to-back doubles and Matt Reynolds and Logan Moore followed with back-to-back walks. Quinn rapped a single up the middle, driving in two runs and knocking Nolin out of the game.

Scottsdale went on to score once more in the inning and added five more runs over the next two innings.

The beneficiary of the early lead was left-hander Joely Rodriguez, who threw three scoreless innings and picked up his first win in the AFL. He struck out three and held the Solar Sox to one hit and one walk.

Quinn said the Scorpions offense and starting pitching have been the keys to their winning streak.

"We're playing great baseball," he said. "Our starters are doing good and we're hitting the ball really well in key situations."

Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, finished the game 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' No. 3 prospect, went 2-for-3 with three walks, a run and an RBI.

Despite the early deficit, the Solar Sox were able to fight back into the game. They ultimately were able to bring the tying run to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth. But right-hander Nefi Ogando came out of the bullpen to get the final two outs and earn his second save of the fall.

First baseman Matt Olson, the A's No. 2 prospect, went 1-for-4 with a home run, a walk and two RBIs. He has hit three home runs in four games this fall, tying him with Surprise catcher Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, atop the AFL leaderboard.

Offense was the focus in Tuesday's game, but for Quinn, the AFL is also providing him a chance to work on his defense. After playing shortstop for the first two years of his professional career, the Phillies moved him to center field in June. The move was made partially in deference to top prospect J.P. Crawford and partially because Quinn will be able to better use his elite speed as an outfielder.

Quinn played the outfield in high school and center field throughout the second half of the season for Class A Advanced Clearwater. He said he worked with Andy Abad, the Phillies outfield coordinator, while he was in Clearwater and also reached out to childhood friend Mallex Smith, now an outfielder in the Padres system, for advice.

After playing the outfield for about four months, Quinn said he once again feels comfortable at the position.

"I feel really good out there," Quinn said. "I'm getting good jumps and making the right decisions and my arm feels good. It feels natural."

Quinn missed the first six weeks of the regular season at Clearwater as he continued to recover from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered during the offseason. Once he got back on the field, he hit .257/.343/.370 with seven home runs and 32 stolen bases in 88 games.

This fall, Quinn is making up for that lost development time. He said he hopes to work on all facets of his game during the AFL.

"I want to get better out there in center field, obviously, and get more at-bats from the left side," said Quinn, a switch-hitter.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: Do the Phillies need to deal Hamels in the offseason?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions

Inbox: Do the Phillies need to deal Hamels in the offseason?

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

Do you think the Phillies should trade Cole Hamels to get the quality players they need to improve?
-- Robert C., Reading, Pa.

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I'm not sure they must trade him, but they certainly should not be afraid to trade him. ESPN is showing "The Great Trade Robbery" about the Dallas Cowboys trading Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings, which catapulted the Cowboys to a NFL dynasty. "My attitude was, we were 53 players away from the Super Bowl," former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. In other words, it made sense to trade their most talented player because they were not going to win with him. But they could win in the future if they traded him for multiple talents, which they did.

I remember Phillies senior advisor Pat Gillick saying you have to be willing to take risks as an organization. Trading Hamels would be a considerable risk, especially with the way the organization has identified amateur and professional talent in recent years, but it could pay off in a big way.

Who is to blame for years of trades/Draft picks and nobody coming up through the system?
-- Jerry P., Tunkhannock, Pa.

Former assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever took the fall for the organization when Ruben Amaro Jr. told him late last month that he would not return. Wolever had been running the Phillies' First-Year Player Drafts since 2002. Certainly Wolever is not the only reason for the organization's decline the past three seasons, but his dismissal is the only significant change Philadelphia has made to the front office since '11. The organization believes it is on a bad run and that things will turn around with the staff it already has in place. It is a gamble, but it is one the club is willing to take.

Considering his .300-plus batting average, 49 stolen bases, age and three years of control remaining, will Ben Revere ever have more trade value than he does this offseason? Will the Phillies' front office push to move him for younger players with more upside?
-- Nick C., Chicago

Perhaps, but I'm not sure how much trade value Revere has. It's almost certainly not enough to get multiple prospects. Revere needs to hit at a high clip to be a productive everyday player in a lineup, because he lacks power. And while he has remarkable speed, his lack of arm strength hurts him in the outfield. The Phillies would like to upgrade center field, if possible, so it would not surprise me to see them trade him, or move in another direction. But the reality is everyday center fielders are hard to find, so Revere could be back in his current role.

Do the Phillies have the luxury of keeping both third basemen Cody Asche and Maikel Franco, or could one be traded?
-- Ed G., Greensboro, N.C.

They can keep both, and they could play both in a platoon at third base. There has been talk about moving Asche to left field. Franco also can play first base, which becomes a more attractive option if the Phillies move Ryan Howard in the offseason. Right now, young players with upside are in short supply, so I think Asche and Franco are two of the players least likely to be traded this offseason.

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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Former skipper Manuel to hold winter hitting camp

Former skipper Manuel to hold winter hitting camp

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel has not changed a lick.

During his introduction as Phillies manager in November 2004, he called himself a 24-hours-a-day baseball guy. He said he eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes baseball. So it came as no surprise Wednesday when he said he had watched every postseason game this fall. Just like it came as no surprise when he said he watched or followed nearly every Phillies game this season, and often stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning to watch West Coast games.

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"I followed the Phillies on my phone when I was at Minor League parks or watching college or high school games," Manuel said.

Manuel, who is a senior advisor to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., still loves to talk and teach hitting, too. In fact, he is hosting a baseball camp from Dec. 19-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

A second camp is in the planning stages for Philadelphia shortly after New Year's Day.

"I still have that same passion I've always had," Manuel said. "I love the game."

College coaches will be providing instruction, and special guests include Jim Thome, Tom Gordon, Pedro Feliz, Pat Borders, David Segui, Rich Dubee and more. More information can be found at charliemanuelbaseball.com.

"I'm going to be talking and working with hitters," Manuel said. "I've taken an interest in amateur baseball."

Manuel said he held similar camps years ago when he worked with the Indians, and this is a way to get back into it. He said if he likes it and it goes well, there could be more in the future.

"It's going to be teaching, pitching and hitting and talking about baseball, how to play," Manuel said. "It's going to be really good."

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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Former Phillies broadcaster Campbell passes away

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee also called Eagles, Warriors and 76ers games

Former Phillies broadcaster Campbell passes away

PHILADELPHIA -- Bill Campbell broadcast some of the most memorable moments in Philadelphia sports history. His run included eight seasons as a Phillies broadcaster from 1963-70.

Campbell, who died Monday at 91, worked alongside By Saam and Richie Ashburn, and he became synonymous with his trademark "Oh, baby!" line.

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"He was a very nice man and a very professional broadcaster," Phillies vice president of alumni relations Larry Shenk said. "I don't think he'll ever be replaced, because I don't think anybody else will broadcast three major sports."

Campbell also broadcast the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Warriors and 76ers. His role in professional football and basketball allowed him to call the Eagles' first and only NFL championship in 1960 and Wilt Chamberlain's historic 100-point game in Hershey, Pa., in '62.

Campbell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 as the Curt Gowdy Award winner.

During Spring Training in the 1960s in Clearwater, Fla., members of the Phillies' front office and coaching staff, and members of the media regularly dined at Bob Heilman's Beachcomber restaurant near the beach. The restaurant had a piano player, and Shenk recalled how Campbell often got up and sang along with the piano man.

"Bill liked to entertain," Shenk said. "I never forgot that."

Of course, Campbell came close to calling the 1964 World Series before the Phillies infamously blew a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games to play to finish one game behind the Cardinals.

"He was very professional in how he approached everything," Shenk said. "Win or lose."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Campbell's wife, Jo, died on Jan. 20. After his wife's death -- they were married 67 years -- his health declined.

"He missed her so much," Campbell's daughter, Christine, told the newspaper. "The joy is that he's going back to her. She's waiting for him."

Mr. Campbell is survived by his only child, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

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 tab Almaraz to be amateur scouting director

Phillies tab Almaraz to be amateur scouting director

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have a replacement for former assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever, whom they dismissed late last month.

The team announced Wednesday that it has hired Johnny Almaraz, who was the Braves' international scouting director, to be amateur scouting director. He will run the Phillies' First-Year Player Drafts, which Wolever had done since 2002.

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It will be a new role for Almaraz.

"We couldn't be happier to add someone of Johnny's caliber to our baseball operations staff," Phillies assistant GM Benny Looper said. "He has established a reputation for being able to identify future Major League talent and brings a great deal of experience to the Phillies."

Almaraz had been Atlanta's international scouting director since 2008. His most notable signings have been pitcher Julio Teheran and catcher Christian Bethancourt. Before joining the Braves in 2006 to be director of Latin America operations, Almaraz spent 16 years as a scout for the Reds. There he signed Adam Dunn, Johnny Cueto and B.J. Ryan when they were amateurs.

Wolever had been running the Phillies' First-Year Player Drafts since 2002, but success had been scattered. MLB.com in June examined the Phillies' Drafts from 2004-13. Forty-six picks reached the big leagues, which tied the A's and Rangers for seventh most in baseball.

But the quality of the Phillies' picks ranked last. According to baseball-reference.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 big league average was 82.7.

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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Gwynn Jr. opts for free agency

Gwynn Jr. opts for free agency

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. refused his assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and has opted for free agency.

Gwynn hit .152 (16-for-105) with two doubles, one triple, three RBIs and a .455 OPS in 2014.

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

Nothing off the table for Phillies this offseason

Amaro keeping open mind evaluating potential 2015 squad

Nothing off the table for Phillies this offseason

PHILADELPHIA -- It sounds like the Phillies are ready to deviate from their offseason norm.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke Monday afternoon about open-mindedness and making changes to an "aging" roster this offseason. The front office entered the past few offseasons believing it only needed to tweak its roster because as long as it had Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz it could win. But three consecutive seasons without a winning record and a last-place finish in the National League East this season have changed that.

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"I guess you could say there's nothing that's really off the table," Amaro said.

But some things will remain the same. Amaro relieved assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever of his duties. They have since announced they have hired a new Minor League pitching coordinator, but they also have invited their entire big league coaching staff to return.

"Everybody wants to try to scapegoat people, but these guys worked very hard," Amaro said about the coaching staff.

Wolever is expected to be the only significant change to the baseball operations department.

"I don't think there's going to be a complete philosophical change about how we do our business because, frankly, I think we have a pretty good track record overall," said Amaro, whose contract expires after next season. "The last two or three years have not been good for us at the Major League level. We do need to improve in a lot of areas, but … I don't think this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players."

The Phillies at least have come around to the idea they no longer can rely on their 2008 World Series heroes to win.

Utley posted a .751 OPS as a second baseman, which ranked seventh out of 21 qualifying second basemen. Rollins posted a .716 OPS as a shortstop, which ranked seventh out of 23 shortstops. Ruiz's .719 OPS as a catcher ranked 10th out of 21 catchers. Howard posted a .688 OPS as a first baseman, which ranked last out of 20 first basemen.

Individually, Utley and Rollins remain among the more productive players at their respective positions. But they no longer can carry a lineup. And while the Phillies tout Howard's 95 RBIs, his .695 OPS in the No. 4 spot ranked 314th out of 316 hitters with 600 or more plate appearances in the cleanup spot since 1914.

Hamels remains one of the game's elite pitchers, but the Phillies are willing to move any of their players if it makes sense.

No veteran is untouchable.

"I think we have to look at everything kind of deeply," Amaro said when asked if the organization held on too long to the '08 core. "My feeling is we need to try to get younger. We need to try to put ourselves in a position to be a little bit more athletic, and we have to put ourselves in position to be open-minded about some changes at the Major League level.

"Clearly, we've gone for it several times and the last couple years it hasn't worked for us. We have been thinking about ways to move the organization forward in a different way other than just adding small pieces to try to be a championship club. I think we have to certainly, and we have been, looking for more long-term solutions."

Amaro mentioned athleticism a couple times. He said with a lack of power bats available, "speed and contact and ability to put the ball in play may become more of a priority of us. Clearly, power is a premium because nobody has it. It's not very prevalent, so you have to figure out ways to maximize your offense if you don't have power."

That leads the Phillies into Howard. The Phillies will try hard to move Howard in the offseason, although it will not be easy. (Sources said in July the front office discussed the possibility of releasing him in the offseason.) He is guaranteed $60 million over the next two years -- $50 million in salary and a $10 million option buyout after the 2016 season. Combine his salary with his declining production and the Phillies will need to pay the majority of his contract to get an American League team to even think about acquiring him.

They know this, but the Phillies have eaten contracts in the past (i.e. Jim Thome, Adam Eaton, Geoff Jenkins).

"We've been greatly supported by our ownership group," Amaro said. "They've been open-minded about that and they will continue to be. I haven't been told that will change. Fortunately, hopefully, we'll have opportunities to do some things not based on the bottom line."

That could help them move other players, too. Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd and others are more tradable if the Phillies pay some of their remaining salaries.

Changing the mix in the clubhouse cannot hurt. Amaro acknowledged chemistry in the clubhouse could be better.

"But that's no different from any other area that we have and need to improve," he said.

Amaro expects Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg to improve. There was a lack of communication between manager and players at times, which became an issue. Players often questioned where they stood with Sandberg.

"It was a very good learning experience for him -- first-time manager on an aging team that has an expectation of winning," Amaro said. "I think Ryno is the man for the job. I believe in him. I know that he is dedicated and focused on putting the Phillies where they need to be, and I feel very good about his instincts and ability to get us to where we need to go."

Fans are wondering the same thing about Amaro. He said he does not feel any more pressure this offseason because he is entering the final year of his contract and does not feel like he has one winter to turn around the Phillies.

"It doesn't bother me one way or another," Amaro said. "I have a job to do and that's to get the Phillies back to where we can be a perennial contender. And that's really the ultimate goal. If you wanted to put a stamp on what we're talking about today, it's about getting the Phillies back to the point where we're a perennial contender. Does it happen next year? Does it happen in two years? Does it happen in three years? We don't know yet."

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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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ashburn among 10 finalists for '15 Frick Award

Ashburn among 10 finalists for '15 Frick Award

The list of 2015 Ford C. Frick Award finalists has been narrowed to 10, with the winner set to be announced on Dec. 10 at the Winter Meetings.

The finalists are Richie Ashburn, Billy Berroa, Rene Cardenas, Dizzy Dean, Dick Enberg, Ernie Johnson Sr., Ralph Kiner, Ned Martin, Joe Nuxhall and Jack Quinlan. The award is presented annually "for excellence in baseball broadcasting" by the Hall of Fame.

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The winner will be honored during the July 25 awards presentation as part of the Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service.

The list of 10 includes three fan selections (Enberg, Kiner and Quinlan) and seven that were chosen by the Hall of Fame research committee. Cardenas and Enberg are the only two living candidates.

Final voting will be conducted by a 20-member electorate, comprised of the 16 living award recipients and four broadcast historian/columnists.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Phils hire Chaves as Minor League pitching coordinator

Phils hire Chaves as Minor League pitching coordinator

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies on Monday afternoon announced a tweak to their Minor League player development staff, as they hired Rafael Chaves to be their Minor League pitching coordinator. Philadelphia interviewed Chaves to be the big league pitching coach last offseason before hiring Bob McClure.

Chaves, 46, spent this season as the Dodgers' special assistant of player personnel after spending five seasons as their Minor League pitching coordinator. He served as Seattle's pitching coach from 2006-07, so his relationship with Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper, who worked in the Mariners' front office from 1987-2008, likely played a role in his hire.

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"We are extremely excited to add Rafael to our staff," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said in a statement. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and is one of the most respected names in our business when it comes to developing pitchers."

Carlos Arroyo, who held that role this season, will resume his previous job as the Phillies' Minor League roving pitching coach. 

The Phils said they will announce their complete player development staff at a later date.

• The Phillies also announced they have outrighted right-hander Sean O'Sullivan off the 40-man roster. He went 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA in three appearances (two starts) this 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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Surgery for Ruiz, Revere among Phils' injury updates

Surgery for Ruiz, Revere among Phils' injury updates

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced four injury updates Wednesday:

• Catcher Carlos Ruiz on Monday had minor arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. Team physician Michael Ciccotti performed the surgery. Ruiz will begin his rehab immediately and will return to Philadelphia in one month for a follow-up exam. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

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Ben Revere on Tuesday had surgery at the Rothman Institute to remove screws from his right ankle. Physician Steven Raikin performed the surgery. Revere will be in a walking boot for approximately two weeks and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Cliff Lee on Friday had an MRI on his left elbow at the Rothman Institute. The team said the MRI showed positive results, as his flexor tendon is healing well. Lee will begin a full throwing program in November and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

• The Phillies are in the process of scheduling hernia surgery for right-hander A.J. Burnett. The club will have more information once the surgery has been scheduled.

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 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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Phillies refute report of ownership shakeup

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies refuted a TV report Thursday night that limited partner John Middleton is making a push to own the majority of the franchise and that club president David Montgomery was pressured out of his role in August.

"Contrary to the Fox 29 report last night, David Montgomery's leave of absence from the Phillies is entirely due to his medical condition, as previously announced," the Phillies said in a statement.

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Regarding the reported ownership shakeup, the Phillies said, "Over the life of the Phillies partnership, no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership, and we do not foresee this changing in the future."

Montgomery took a leave of absence in August to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. Pat Gillick took his place as interim president.

Multiple sources told MLB.com there is nothing to the report.

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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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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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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