Tag Archives: Bryan Price

Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

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Nationals’ Joe Dillon emerges as Phillies hitting coach candidate

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Dillon is the assistant hitting coach with the world champion Washington Nationals

 

With their managerial position filled by Joe Girardi and the pitching coach job now taken by Bryan Price, the Philadelphia Phillies will now turn their attention to filling the open hitting coach post.

Until this point, no names had been publicly named as candidates for the job. That all changed today when the name of Joe Dillon, assistant hitting coach with the newly crowned world champion Washington Nationals, was floated by NBC Sports Philadelphia insider Jim Salisbury.

Salisbury noted that it would not be likely that the Phillies could bring in Kevin Long, who served as the hitting coach under Girardi for much of the skipper’s time with the New York Yankees. Long just finished up his second season as the Nationals hitting coach.

However, Dillon could make for an interesting candidate in his own right. Salisbury noted the following:

…he’s gaining recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.” Anyone of that distinction, coming off a World Series title, would seem to be in line for advancement in the game.

The 44-year-old Dillon is a NoCal native who was the seventh round choice of the Kansas City Royals in the 1997 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech University. He played for parts of four big-league seasons with the Marlins, Brewers, and Rays.

Dillon got into coaching following his retirement, and served as the hitting coach for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliates at Syracuse before becoming the minor league hitting coordinator for the Miami Marlins in 2016.

In a March 2018 piece for the Washington Post, Jorge Castillo wrote of Dillon’s influential methods with the Nationals:

Dillon has brought revolutionary methods to the batting cage, methods even Long hadn’t incorporated in his lauded work with the New York Yankees and Mets. Rather than the standard half-speed drills, the banal soft tossing and tee work, Dillon is a proponent of creating game-like conditions outside of actual games. The concept is standard across sports. It’s novel in baseball.

It remains to be seen whether Dillon actually gets the job as the Phillies hitting instructor, or whether he will even receive an interview. He’ll be enjoying a World Series championship parade and visit to the White House over the next few days.

But Dillon’s name has now surfaced as the first possible candidate for this important job. It would seem hard to beat his reputation and qualifications.

 

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Bryan Price brings tremendous experience as new Phillies pitching coach

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Price has been a pitching coach and manager in MLB for two decades

 

Just days after officially hiring Joe Girardi as their new manager, the Phillies have filled one of the key open positions on his coaching staff.

Bryan Price, who most recently served as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 2014 into the 2018 season, has been hired as the Phillies new pitching coach.

Price brings tremendous experience to the job. He previously served as pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners (2000-06), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007-09), and the Reds (2010-13) in addition to his managerial term in Cincinnati.

Girardi and Price have a recent link. Back in the summer, the Phillies new skipper was named as the manager of Team USA for the upcoming international Premier 12 tournament. Price was scheduled to be his pitching coach.

However, on taking the Phillies job, Girardi was replaced as Team USA manager by Scott Brosius. It remains unclear whether Price will remain with Team USA through the Premier 12 tourney, which kicks off the qualifying process for the 2020 Summer Olympics and runs from November 2-17, 2019.

The Mariners pitching staff led the American League in ERA in the 2001 season, earning Price the USA Today Baseball Weekly Pitching Coach of the Year Award. In 2007, his Dbacks staff finished fourth in ERA in the National League and helped the club reach the NLCS. For that performance, Price was named as the Major League Baseball Coach of the Year by Baseball America.

With the Reds, Price guided a pitching staff that twice finished among the top five in National League ERA. However, his managerial stint did not prove as successful. Cincinnati went just 279-387 in parts of five seasons, and he was ultimately fired after a 3-15 start in 2018.

Price was involved in a highly publicized and controversial incident in April of 2015 when he went on an expletive-laden rant against the Cincinnati media after a reporter published what Price felt was information regarding an injury to catcher Devin Mesoraco which put the Reds at a competitive disadvantage.

The 57-year-old Price is a native of San Francisco. He was the eighth round choice of the California Angels in the 1984 MLB Draft as a pitcher out of the University of California-Berkeley, the 190th player selected overall.

Price reached the Double-A level in the Angels organization before being released following the 2016 season. After taking a year off in 2017, Price signed with the Seattle Mariners and eventually reached Triple-A. Over a five-year minor league career he accumulated a 31-19 record with a 3.74 ERA across 90 games, 75 of those as starting assignments.

Price has other prior Phillies connections besides his brief period with Girardi in preparation for their Team USA assignment. Phillies Wall of Famer Pat Gillick hired Price as the pitching coach in Seattle when Gillick was the general manager of the Mariners.

Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jamie Moyer was a pitcher on those Mariners’ staffs under Price.

If I was looking for a pitching coach, he’d be at the top of my list.~ Jamie Moyer

“He’s a student of the game and he cares about his pitchers,” Moyer said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think first and foremost that’s what jumps out about him — how much he cares about his pitchers. He was a first-time pitching coach when he came aboard and we had a lot of veterans on that team. He quickly earned their trust with great communication and with a lot of give and take. His style was basically, ‘What do you do well and what can we do with it to make you better?’

On Monday, prior to the announcement of Price’s hiring, Girardi had commented on the pitching coach position. “Just as important is a real ability to relate to the pitchers, sometimes the struggles they’re going through, and that there’s a deep relationship there,” Girardi said per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The pitching coach has a tough job because there’s so many pitchers that they deal with. But he has to know each one of them really well, and they have to trust him, and that’s really important.

Based on his long history of success as a pitching coach and Moyer’s comments, it appears that Price fits that need for a strong communicator well. He looks like a perfect fit for the new Phillies coaching staff, which now seeks a similar strong addition for the hitting coach position.

Per Matt Gelb at The Athletic, Price turned down at least two offers to coach elsewhere before taking the job with the Phillies. One concern that he had was the ability to infuse the game’s new shift towards analytics with his more natural old-school style approach.

What I don’t know, I can learn,” Price said per Gelb. “But one thing I won’t forget is the fundamentals of pitching — of competitiveness and preparation and the detailed work that is really the lifeblood of being a competitive major-league pitcher. There are just essentials to it that aren’t going to be defined by a spreadsheet or technology that tells you if you’re doing it right or wrong. A reasonable mind says they both have a place. To think that one thrives without the other, it doesn’t. I can tell you, in pitching, there’s no uniformity.

Now, who exactly will be the pitchers under his tutelage during the 2020 season? The Phillies staff finished 17th in ERA, 20th in OPS against, and  22nd in batting average against among the 30 teams in Major League Baseball this past season.

Given health, the starting rotation in 2020 is almost certain to include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Based on the majority of his performances combined with his age and upside potential, Zach Eflin would also seem a lock. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is likely to make a strong push for a rotation spot as well, possibly as early as spring training.

More questionable are the fates of Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Each is talented, but neither has been able to establish themselves as a reliable starting pitcher for the Phillies. They both could end up as trade candidates this off-season, or end up in the bullpen if better options are found.

I don’t speak for the Phillies in any way, shape or form. I’m new to the organization,” said Price per Gelb. “We had a good talk about philosophy. We will use our analytics and technology department in a very strong and positive way. But I think the pitching coach’s job is to help extract as much talent and build as much confidence in the group as possible through relationship building. It’s through building trust. It’s through sharing experience and knowledge. We give these guys a goal of becoming something special, instead of something that’s specialized.”

Most observers believe that the Phillies are going to need to add two new, veteran arms to that rotation in free agency in order to compete against talented Washington and Atlanta teams in the NL East. At least one of those new starting pitchers needs to be ace-caliber, someone such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.

That will be the primary job of general manager Matt Klentak this off-season, providing pitching talent of a caliber that can help the Phillies to become winners and return to the postseason for the first time nine years.

 

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Cincinnati Reds collapse could cost manager his job

Reds skipper Bryan Price will find his job on the line 
The 2017 Major League Baseball season began well for the Cincinnati Reds. The club got off to a hot start, winning seven of their first nine games.
As late as May 17, the Reds were still in first place in the National League Central Division standings. At that point, the club had a 17-14 record.
Beginning on April 30, the club would win nine of 11 games to reach a high-water mark on the season of four games over the .500 mark.
After a month-long period of struggles, the Reds record had fallen into the red. But then Cincinnati went on a four-game winning streak in early June. The quick spurt got the club back within a game of the break-even mark.
It all began to go wrong for the Reds when they left for a west coast swing out to Los Angeles and San Diego beginning on June 9. Scoring just 20 runs on the trip, Cincinnati lost all six games to the Dodgers and Padres.
That west coast shutout was the start of a nine-game losing streak. The Reds have never recovered. Since leaving for that trip, Cincy has collapsed with a 12-30 record.
The Reds are now in last place in the division, buried 13.5 games out. They’re even further back, 17 games, in the NL Wildcard race.
Cincinnati is tied for 18th in MLB in runs scored heading into Saturday action. The pitching staff is 24th in Batting Average Against. Those statistical positions have been on the decline, propped up by the performances of the first two months.

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE, OR KISS OF DEATH?

Just 10 days ago, C. Trent Rosecrans at Cincinnati.com spoke with Reds general manager Dick Williams. Rosecrans brought up the topic of Price’s contract, which has a club option for next season that has yet to be activated.
That contract, per Rosecrans, has “language that would prevent the decision from going down to the last week, like it did last year.” Williams telegraphed that the decision would not come down purely to wins and losses.
However, the losses have really piled up on Price’s watch. The ball club is nearly a full 100 games below the .500 mark with a 249-340 record in his four seasons at the helm.
If the losing continues at anything close to the pace of the last two months, the Reds will finish with 100 or more losses for the first time in 35 years.
“We’re not losing games in the dugout right now,” said Williams per Rosecrans. “The coaching staff has done a good job. We just need to make sure the talent continues to develop and those guys keep believing in themselves.”
Since Williams made those comments in what appeared to have been a vote of confidence in Price at the MLB All-Star break, the Reds have lost 13 of 15 games.

PRICE IS RIGHT, REDS LOSING EVERYWHERE

Their 7-4 defeat on Friday night at Marlins Park was the Reds seventh consecutive loss to the struggling Fish in Miami. Price was quoted by Fox Sports on the South Florida streak.
“You look at our winning percentage since the second half of 2014, and it hasn’t been very good. We haven’t won a lot of games anywhere. I don’t think this is any different than any other venue.”
Price is right. The Reds don’t win a lot of games anywhere. His last two teams finished in last place, and this one is headed towards that same finish in the standings.
The Reds may not be losing games in the dugout, as Williams claims, but they are absolutely losing them on the field at an alarming rate. If there isn’t some kind of dramatic turnaround in the next few weeks, it’s hard to see how Price’s contract option will be picked up.