Jonathan Papelbon questions the Phillies fundamentals

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Jonathan Papelbon blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth in yesterday’s Phillies-Nationals game. And he did take responsibility for not making the right pitches to Jayson Werth who singled in the tying run. But he also called out his entire team and, it seems, coaching staff, for playing poor fundamental baseball.

Jim Salisbury has the story at CSNPhilly.com. First, Papelbon questioned Ryan Howard’s positioning in the ninth when Denard Span reached on an infield single:

“I was thinking on a 3-1 count our infield would be back and I was expecting to turn around and run to first base and catch a underhand throw,” Papelbon said.

So he was surprised Howard was even with the bag?

“Yeah,” he said.

Then he expounded on fundamental baseball:

“Everything from the pitchers making the correct pitches, to pitchers backing up the right bases, to the outfield moving on counts, to the infield moving on counts. Everything that goes into every pre-pitch. We’ve got to do better.

“I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. It’s a team effort here. To be able to win and be in the forefront of the playoff race, you have to play good fundamental baseball and do the little things, and the little things are before the pitches are thrown. There’s 150 pitches thrown by our pitchers and before every one of those we have to make sure we’re putting ourselves in a position to be the best we can before each pitch.

“I’m seeing some of the same mistakes. I think for us we have to make the fundamental plays were supposed to make.”

He’s not wrong on the merits. The Phillies have been playing quite poorly. But it’s pretty unusual for a team’s closer to be the one talking about this. Normally it’s the manager or a position player who is viewed as a team leader who says stuff like this. Then again, Papelbon has previously called out the Phillies clubhouse for suffering from a lack of leadership, so maybe he feels like he’s filling a vacuum here.

Any comment Charlie Manuel? Ryne Sandberg?

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.