Phillies, Astros and Red Sox pursue Polanco

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polanco tigers.jpgMLB.com reporters are connecting Placido Polanco to the Phillies, Red Sox and Astros one day after the Tigers declined to offer the Type A free agent arbitration, allowing teams to sign him without surrendering a draft pick.
Todd Zolecki claims the Phils have been “very aggressive in their pursuit” of Polanco as their top choice to replace Pedro Feliz at third base. Adrian Beltre and Mark DeRosa have also been discussed as possibilities there. Zolecki believes that the Phillies are the favorites to land the 34-year-old, who played for Philadelphia from mid-2002 to mid-2005.
Brian McTaggert has the Astros as “seriously interested,” even though they’ve been crying poor and they’re on the hook to Kaz Matsui for another $5 million in 2010. Houston has been hoping that Matsui would take the Kenji Johjima route back to Japan, but there’s been no indication that it’s a real possibility. Matsui remains an above average defensive second baseman, but he’s often hurt and he hit just .250/.302/.357 last season.
The Red Sox could use Polanco at second base if they moved Dustin Pedroia to shortstop, though that’s probably not their preferred option. Polanco has seen his OPS drop from 846 in 2007 to 768 in 2008 and 727 last season, and while he’s more attractive now that he won’t cost teams a draft pick, that doesn’t give him any extra advantage over Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez.
Polanco could also be an option for the Dodgers, Twins or Cubs at second base. The Tigers won’t re-sign him, as they need to save money and have an internal replacement ready in Scott Sizemore.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.