Phillies Drop Grapefruit League Opener

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Mar 1, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz (51) takes the field at the start of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz (51) takes the field at the start of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies dropped their Grapefruit League opener to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Phils and Jays are a pair of Major League Baseball organizations playing in different leagues, and at very different stages of competitiveness. While the Phillies are coming off the worst record in MLB in 2015 and are among the favorites to finish there again, Toronto is the defending AL East champs and a World Series contender.

Today at Bright House Field on a typically warm, sun-splashed Florida afternoon, the Jays defeated the Phillies by a 5-3 score in the Grapefruit League opener for both teams.

Phillies’ skipper Pete Mackanin was hoping to get his squad off on a strong footing with a winning performance in front of the home fans. His starting lineup was very representative of what he is expected to run out in the regular season.

Meanwhile, Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons held back the majority of his starters, not even utilizing them in a substitute role. The same two teams will meet again tomorrow at the Jays’ spring home of Dunedin, and you can count on the Toronto regulars getting their first action in at that point.

The Phils went with righthander Severino Gonzalez as their starting pitcher in this one. At age 22, he made his big league debut a year ago. Riding the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Philly and Allentown, home of the Phils’ AAA Lehigh Valley affiliates, Gonzalez made seven scattered, mostly ineffective starts for the big club between late April and early July.

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Little changed in this one, even though he wasn’t facing the Jays’ best hitters. He walked Dalton Pompey as the first batter of the day, then following a force out, gave up a single to Chris Colabello. He recorded the second out to nearly escape, but then hit Matt Dominguez to load the bases, and surrendered a two-run double to Darwin Barney that put Toronto on top by 2-0.

After Gonzalez returned to set the Jays down in order in the top of the 2nd, the Phillies got the two runs back and tied it up. With two outs in the bottom of the 2nd against Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, both J.P. Arencibia and Cesar Hernandez singled. That brought up veteran Carlos Ruiz, who delivered a two-run single as the Clearwater crowd shouted “Chooooch!”

For the top of the 3rd, Mackanin decided to go with Gregory Infante out of his bullpen. Infante was a 2006 draftee of the Chicago White Sox, and appeared in five games for the Chisox way back in 2010. He has moved on to first the Los Angeles Dodgers and then to Toronto over the last three years, but has not been able to return to the big leagues.

Today was some indication of why that is so. With two outs, Infante walked Justin Smoak on four pitches. Dominguez followed with a single, and then Barney delivered another two-run double to put Toronto back on top by a 4-2 score.

In the bottom of the 4th with two outs and nobody on against Drew Hutchison, Arencibia blasted a solo first-pitch, moonshot home run to center field to cut the Jays’ lead to 4-3.

Again, Toronto got the run right back. And again it was Barney who made it happen. In the top of the 5th, Barney delivered a two-out, first-pitch RBI single against Phils’ reliever Edubray Ramos.

On the play, Richard Urena tried to score, but was gunned down by a throw to Ruiz from right fielder Aaron Altherr. That Toronto 5th was also notable for a hustling catch on a sinking liner earlier in the inning by Phillies’ center fielder Odubel Herrera.

That was it for the scoring, as the two bullpens traded scoreless frames the rest of the way. Toronto ended up with five runs on eight hits, making two errors. The Phillies scored their three runs with just five hits, while making no errors in the field.

On Wednesday afternoon in Dunedin, the Phillies will send David Buchanan out for the start against knuckleballing veteran R.A. Dickey for Toronto. The game is scheduled for a 1:07pm start. There is no TV or radio broadcast coverage back to Philly. However, a radio broadcast of the game by MLB.com can be heard at their website.

Buchanan is scheduled to be followed to the mound by Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer, a pair of arms obtained from the Houston Astros in the Ken Giles deal. They are among the pitchers battling for the 5th starter role.

Next: Phillies Draft: a 2nd Look at A.J. Puk

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