5/29/2014 11:26 P.M. ET
Brown seeing pitches to hit, just not connecting
By Erik Bacharach and Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- A season after blasting 27 homers and being selected to his first All-Star Game, Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown has struggled this year. But it hasn't been for a lack of opportunities.
"For me, he gets pitches to hit and he fouls them off. Before you know it, he's got two strikes," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "They're expanding the zone and he's having a hard time laying off those pitches in that situation. I see him getting fastballs, I see him getting pitches away. I see him getting pitches in. He's just not connecting on his pitch."
Brown entered Thursday's game barely hovering over the Mendoza line with a .203 batting average, and his .579 OPS as a left fielder this season was 24th out of 25 qualifying left fielders.
Phillies seek consistency from Bastardo, Diekman
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' bullpen continues to be an area of concern. Their two top left-handers, Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman, have been sources of inconsistency.
Bastardo, who threw 12 of his first 14 pitches Wednesday night for balls, is walking batters at a career-high rate. His 6.7 BB/9 in 2014 is 2.2 higher than his next highest mark in a season. He walked one more Thursday night in two-thirds of an inning in a 4-1 loss to the Mets.
"I think in the past, he's been a little bit better throwing some some strikes out of the 'pen, especially against, maybe more so, to left-handed [hitters]," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Whether it's mechanical, or whatever it is, he's just missing out of the zone. It's been more significant this year than in the past. Something that he just has to work on. You need those strikes coming out of the bullpen."
Diekman, meanwhile, has gotten the job done against left-handed bats, holding them to a .135 batting average. But righties are hitting at a .290 clip and have a .378 on-base percentage.
Sandberg insists that he doesn't view Diekman as a lefty specialist.
"I still like him against right-handers or left-handers," Sandberg said. "For me, he's a full inning guy, righties or lefties, from what I've seen. A guy that throws 96-98 [mph], I think he's come a long with his location and mixing up both sides of the plate with the fastball."
Wolever discusses No. 7 pick, 'no agent' rule
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have the seventh overall pick in next Thursday's First-Year Player Draft, and it's a big one.
Past No. 7 picks include Clayton Kershaw (2006), Troy Tulowitzki ('05), Nick Markakis ('03), Prince Fielder ('02) and Frank Thomas ('89). Of course, there are numerous No. 7 picks who never made the big leagues, but after missing on several first-round picks in recent years, the Phillies hope to hit big here.
Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever spoke about that topic Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, but he also visited a lingering issue the Phillies declined to discuss when news broke in February: The Phillies reported to Major League Baseball that Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler and Washington State outfielder Jason Monda violated the NCAA's "no agent" rule during negotiations. The Phillies drafted them in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, but neither signed.
The NCAA suspended Wetzler 11 games.
"We probably could have handled things a little bit better," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on radio station 94WIP in March.
Wolever said Thursday 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."
But both Amaro and Wolever said this week they expect no blowback from potential Draft picks or agents who might be representing them.
"I have had plenty of discussions and talks with agents and I have not heard about that being an issue at all," Amaro said.
"You wouldn't believe the number of people in professional baseball who have come up to me and our group over the course of the year and say, 'Thank you for what you did,'" Wolever said. "You guys aren't the bad guys in this situation. ... It has not hurt us a lick, because each guy is an individual, every player is different, as it is in the Major Leagues. We've had nothing but good responses."
Interestingly, the NCAA's investigations into Wetzler and Monda, who was cleared of wrongdoing, centered on the "no-agent" rule, but Wolever said the agents representing both players performed admirably.
"In this situation, both of the agents and advisors did a tremendous job. Both of them did their job," he said. "We were led to believe, prior to the Draft, that both of these gentlemen, according to their agents, would sign. Subsequently, that's why we took them. We offered what we offered and both accepted and then decided against it after that. Again, my only regret is we could have taken other players who would be in this organization. All I ask for is for people to be honest and upfront. It's very plain and simple. If you don't want to sign, tell us. If you do, let's try to reach an agreement and let's move forward. Plain and simple."
• Cliff Lee, who landed on the disabled list on May 20 with a left elbow strain, is not ready to begin a throwing program. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the left-hander is about a week away from throwing.
"He's going through some strength tests," Sandberg said. "Just has a little slight sensation left. So he'll be evaluated daily to see how that changes. No throwing yet. In the meantime, he's getting lower body work and he's getting his running in."
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.