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Phillies Notebook: Phillies focus on offense early in the draft

On second day of draft, only three of nine players chosen were pitchers.

(Courtesy of the News-Gazette)
(Courtesy of the News-Gazette)Read more

MILWAUKEE - When Baseball America tabbed the top 10 prospects in the Phillies' farm system before Christmas, four of the top six players were pitchers.

It has been the case for most of the time since Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell developed in the system. The Phils have been flush with pitching - much of it used in trades - but short in position player talent.

Assistant general manager Marti Wolever, an unabashed fan of high-ceiling bats, went to work to change that in the first 2 days of Major League Baseball's draft.

After selecting California high school shortstop J.P. Crawford with the 16th overall pick in the draft, Wolever used eight of the Phillies' first 11 picks on offensive players. The Phils didn't select a pitcher until their sixth pick, when they took Oregon State lefthander Ben Holmes.

The draft board apparently broke their way, allowing the Phils to use the first five picks on bats.

"It kind of did," said Wolever, who has led the team's draft since being named scouting director in the fall of 2001. "I think [the draft] was fairly deep in the pitching board and not real deep on the offense board for high school or college, so we tried to focus on that and get as much as we could done."

After taking Crawford, a played Wolever likened to Arizona rookie Didi Gregorius, and University of California catcher Andrew Knapp on Thursday night, Wolever began yesterday by grabbing a high-value outfielder in the third round. With the 89th overall pick, the Phils selected Cord Sandberg, a 6-3, 215-pound centerfielder out of Manatee High (Fla.). Sandberg, no relation to Phillies third-base coach Ryne Sandberg, was rated as the 56th-best prospect in the draft by MLB.com.

Sandberg, who has been likened to Josh Hamilton for his size and athleticism, is a two-sport star who has a scholarship to play quarterback at Mississippi State.

"I think he slipped a little bit because of [football]," Wolever said on a conference call yesterday. "I don't think he had a great senior season. At his last tournament, he did OK, but nothing spectacular. So you combine all of that, and I think that's why he was there for us in the draft."

Sandberg reportedly also is the first Phillies draftee to sign. The Bradenton Herald in Florida reported that Sandberg and the Phillies agreed to a $750,000 signing bonus, plus the equivalent of 4 years of schooling at Mississippi State.

"I said, let's go for it," Sandberg told Bright House Sports Network. "I'm ready to put some money in the bank and start playing professional baseball. I'm happy with how it ended up."

If that number is correct, the Phils went a good deal north of the slot value ($593,400) to snag Sandberg. But they apparently thought his second round-type talent warranted it, too.

Seven picks after selecting Sandberg, the Phils chose another infielder, Jan Hernandez (third round, 96th overall). Wolever said Hernandez, a shortstop out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, would be shifted to third base.

The Phils' final seven picks yesterday included another catcher, California high-schooler Jake Sweaney (fourth round, 121st overall) and another third baseman, junior college power hitter Trey Williams, the son of former big-leaguer Eddie Williams (seventh round, 211th).

The Phillies also drafted two more outfielders, Washington State's Jason Monda (sixth round, 181st) and Illinois' Justin Parr (eighth round, 241st), and three pitchers: Holmes (fifth round, 151st), Southwest Oklahoma State righthander Shane Martin (ninth round, 271st) and Seton Hall righthander Jon Prosinksi (10th round, 301st).

Crawford, who joined the conference call with Wolever yesterday, is committed to USC, but sounded ready to begin his pro career instead.

"I want to sign and get down there as soon as possible," said Crawford, the cousin of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford.

Locally, Malvern Prep's Ty Young, a junior third baseman at Louisville, was picked in the seventh round (No. 218) by Tampa Bay.

Pitching update

Even with two-thirds of his rotation on the disabled list, manager Charlie Manuel is more than pleased with the Phillies starting pitchers.

Although the starters' 3.97 ERA ranks eighth in the NL, it's considerably skewed by an injured Halladay's tumultuous first month. Take away Halladay's numbers and Phillies starters have a 3.50 ERA, which would stand as the fifth-best ERA in baseball.

Even with Halladay, Phils starters entered last night having thrown 381 1/3 innings, second only to St. Louis (383 2/3) among baseball's 30 teams.

While the rotation has held up, the bullpen has mostly been in flux over the course of the first 2 months of the season. Veteran setup man Mike Adams might as well be the poster boy for the erratic pen.

Adams, who signed a 2-year, $12 million deal as a free agent last winter, was scored on only twice in his first 10 outings while racking up 14 strikeouts and walking just two. But in 13 appearances since, Adams yielded at least one run in six of those games, while allowing 11 hits in 11 2/3 innings; he's struck out eight while also walking eight in that span.

Since returning from the DL on May 27, Adams has allowed a run in four of his six games and has more walks (four) than strikeouts (three).

Manuel brought Adams into a 5-0 game in the eighth inning on Thursday night. Adams walked the leadoff batter, who eventually scored.

"The only thing I see is he pushes the ball instead of extending through it," Manuel said, relaying a conversation he had with Adams at the team hotel. "But he'll get there. He'll start doing that."

Manuel said he's been trying to toe the line between not overworking Adams, who had a back strain last month, with getting the veteran reliever sharp with his mechanics through more regular work.

"I'd like to see us give him enough rest where he can get him into a routine where he can go 2 to 3 days in a row," Manuel said. "But I don't think we're quite there yet."

Toning down Brown

In a pregame spot with the Phillies radio network, outfielder Domonic Brown said he would tone down his home-run celebrations.

Brown, who has hit 10 home runs in his last 13 games to take the National League lead, caught flak in Philadelphia last week when some members of the Miami Marlins complained about his post-homer theatrics. In addition to an exaggerated bat flip and path to first base out of the batter's box, Brown took part in an orchestrated handshake and bowing act with Ryan Howard after crossing the plate.

"We'll take it to the dugout," Brown said of the celebrations yesterday in Milwaukee.

Daily News staff writer Ted Silary contributed to this report.

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