7/19/2014 1:30 A.M. ET
Catchers working way back toward Phillies
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The Phillies are looking forward to the return of catchers Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves, both of whom are currently rehabbing injuries.
Ruiz, who is coming back after sustaining a concussion on June 26 when he was hit in the head by an A.J. Ramos curveball in the 11th inning at Florida, is playing in Class A Advanced Clearwater, and he began a five-day schedule Thursday.
Ruiz caught the first five innings of the first game of the Threshers' doubleheader, going 0-for-3 at the plate. Nieves, who went on the DL on June 24 (retroactive to June 19) with a right quad strain, sustained June 18 in Atlanta, is at Double-A Reading.
"'Chooch' is coming along," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He started his games [Thursday]. He caught five innings. He'll DH [Friday]. He's got a program for five or six days and be monitored and see what's needed there."
The news is better on Nieves.
"He's close. He's real close," Sandberg said. "So a big part of the next week and going forward is having everybody mended up, and going forward with full strength and seeing what we can do."
Ruiz is batting .257 on the season with two homers and 14 RBIs in 66 games, while Nieves is batting .259 with a homer and four RBIs in 14 games.
Cameron Rupp has taken advantage of the opportunity, as he made his 14th start Friday night and sixth straight. He had an RBI single in the second inning, giving him a hit in five of his last six starts.
Lee ready to return for home series on Monday
ATLANTA -- What is the definition of a quality start? That depends on who you ask.
For Cliff Lee, it's a start wearing a Phillies uniform. That means Monday night, when the Phils host the Giants at Citizens Bank Park in their first post-All-Star break series at home.
"I feel as good as I've felt the whole time. I made three rehab starts and am going to pitch Monday," said Lee -- who last took the mound for the Phillies on May 18 -- from the clubhouse prior to Friday night's game with the Braves at Turner Field. "I'm just ready to try to help the team win. That's what I want to do."
Lee would have liked to have done so on Saturday, on his regular five days' rest, against the Braves, but the team chose to push him back two days.
"Just to keep everybody on seven days' rest," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "So he'll get an extra two like everybody else. Otherwise, it would have pushed [Cole] Hamels back to nine. So it keeps everybody somewhat on pace."
One benefit of his pushed-back start is that he is 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA in six career starts vs. the Giants.
Of course, Lee is hoping to continue that trend, while ignoring his final rehab start, in which he allowed eight runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. That is now something about which he can sit back and laugh.
"Everything happened," Lee said, breaking into a smile. "It was a weird game. There's no rhyme or reason for anything. They swung the bat and hit a lot of balls. I felt fine. I feel good. I'm ready to go."
Lee pitched to a 5.06 ERA in three rehab starts, going 10 2/3 innings, allowing 13 hits and a homer with eight strikeouts and two walks.
"The results aren't as important," Lee said. "It's more of, 'Get your reps in and get your pitch count up to get back to this team, where it really matters.'
"I know all the guys on the team there are wanting me to do well, because they want to win, and they should. I want to have results and get my work in at the same time. But obviously it's more about getting back to the big leagues and helping the team win here."
How long Lee lasts will depend on how strong he is.
"We'll have to watch him," said Sandberg. "See how his stamina holds up, see how his innings are. That's been a part of his rehab, is his holding his stamina throughout his whole outing."
Lee was 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts, but he'd been pitching despite having a flexor pronator strain. He said he's not worried about a repeat stress injury.
"That's just the nature of the business," Lee said. "I mean, any time you've had an injury and you go back to doing what you did that probably created the injury, there's the potential that that can happen. That's just the way it is."
Lee's name has also been involved in trade rumors.
"Right now I'm a Phillie, and I want to try to help this team win," Lee said. "I'm eager just to get back on the mound and try to help the team win. I've been out for two months now. I'm just ready to do my job."
No stress for Phils as Draft deadline passes
ATLANTA -- Phillies senior vice president and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn't sweating it out as the clock hit 5 p.m. ET on Friday, marking the deadline for signing 2014 June First-Year Draft picks.
Amaro had already done much of the heavy lifting and gotten most of the heavies signed, as the Phillies inked their first 21 Draft picks and 27 of their top 28.
Unlike recent years, the team's Draft was more college-concentrated, as 24 of their top 26 picks had college experience.
Down the road, Philadelphia could soon have a definite SEC feel to it, as top pick (No. 7 overall) Aaron Nola (LSU), a two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year, fourth-round RHP Chris Oliver (Arkansas) and 17th-round third baseman Damek Tomscha (Auburn) are SEC alumni. This is the second time the Phils have selected Tomscha, who has been drafted in three of the last four years.
Among some other interesting picks are third-round selection Aaron Brown and fifth-round selection Rhys Hoskins. Brown, a 6-2, 220-pound talent from Pepperdine, can do it on the mound (12-1 with a 2.07 ERA) and in the outfield (.310 average with a team-leading 12 homers and 47 RBIs). Brown frequently helped his own cause, as four times he homered in games in which he also was winning pitcher. Hoskins is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound power-hitting first baseman who hit 12 homers in 203 at-bats his junior year at Sacramento State.
Other players worth watching are Florida State left-hander Brandon Liebrandt (sixth round), the son of former Major League pitcher Charlie Liebrandt, and Arizona State shortstop Drew Stankiewicz (11th round), the son of former Yankees shortstop Andy Stankiewicz.
Among the unsigned is outfielder Tom Flacco (32nd round), the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco is committed to Western Michigan, where he will likely play football.
Jon Cooper is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.