Ruben Amaro: Changes to come for Phillies’ failing offense

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MILWAUKEE — The Phillies entered the final leg of a three-city road trip Monday night with a 1-5 record in the first six games.

They have hit .170 in those games.

Overall, the team has lost nine of its last 10 games (hitting .204 in the process) to fall to 14 games under .500 and 12 games out in the NL East race.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been with the Phillies on this trip. Before Monday night’s game, he said changes could be coming to this failing team.

“It’s disappointing, particularly the offense,” Amaro said. “What more can you say other than we’re not swinging the bats very well. I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us.”

Amaro indicated that Darin Ruf and Freddy Galvis, both recovering from injuries, could get playing time when they are healthy. Outfielder Grady Sizemore could also be coming in the next week or so.

“Any of those guys,” Amaro said. “Ruf, Freddy, Sizemore, whoever else in the organization may be factors for us. We have to get them healthy and see if it behooves us to make any of those changes.”

How about Maikel Franco?

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Amaro said. “Hey, listen, I’m looking for people who can swing the bat because we’re not doing it here. If he gets to the point where he starts swinging the bat consistently, he’s a guy who could be in play, too.”

Franco plays third base. Is there room for him and Cody Asche?

“Yeah,” Amaro said, “because he could play first base, too.”

Franco, 21, had two more hits for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Monday night. He is 11 for 23 with six RBIs in his last five games, but is hitting just .223 with six homers and 37 RBIs overall.

Sizemore has played eight games in Triple A since signing with the Phillies after his release from Boston. He is 10 for 37 in those games. He can opt out of his minor-league contract during the all-star break if he is not in the majors.

There’s a good chance he will be with the Phillies just before or after the all-star break.

“We’re considering it,” Amaro said. “He’s playing pretty good, moving pretty well. We have some time to make the decision on him, but everything so far has been positive.”

While Amaro talked only about potential changes that could come from within the organization, he continues to talk about trades with other clubs. He is willing to listen on any player. Trading some high-salaried players will be difficult, however. And the Phils have many of them.

The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.

“There’s still interest in our guys,” Amaro said. “I think that we would be (active before the deadline). Again, being active and actually getting something done are two different things. We’ve been active already. We’ll be active, whether we’ll actually get it done or if there is something that can improve us, it depends on how our club is being evaluated.

“If we’re going to make changes, we make changes to get better. Everything we think about is thinking about how we can improve our club. Will we be better? That’s what you have to analyze.”

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”