Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg meets with unhappy players … again

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For the second week in a row, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg began his Sunday at the ballpark by having a meeting with an unhappy player.

This time, actually, it was two players.

Sandberg spoke separately with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan before Sunday’s 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals (see story). Both players had made comments that were interpreted as being critical of the manager after Saturday night’s game.

Buchanan, a 25-year-old rookie who has made 14 starts in the big leagues, was not happy about being lifted after five innings Saturday night.

“I didn’t expect that and I wasn’t too happy about that,” the right-hander said after throwing 90 pitches and allowing eight hits and two runs.

Buchanan met with Sandberg Sunday morning.

“That’s been addressed,” was all Sandberg would say of the meeting.

The manager also spoke with Brown, who insinuated that his recent decline in playing time contributed to his inability to make a catch in left field Saturday night. That play was followed by Brown’s making a throwing error that led to a run.

“I had a conversation with him on that,” Sandberg said of Brown’s comments. “It was more frustration than anything.”

Brown was back in the lineup Sunday for the ninth time in the last 14 games. He went 1 for 4 with a run scored.

Brown has lost some playing time to Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore. But Brown has made it easy for Sandberg to sit him by playing shaky defense and hitting just .226 with a .611 OPS for the season.

“I have no beef with Ryno; everything is good,” Brown said after Sunday’s game. “We talked. He just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page and we are. Everything is good. Ryno’s doing a great job.”

Brown did indicate that he’s frustrated.

“I just want to play,” he said. “That’s it. Ryno knows that. It’s tough on him. Grady has been swinging the bat well and Ruf has to play as well. It’s tough for him right now.

“I want to play. I want to be out there. I don’t want days off. I’m not used to that.”

Brown can cure his frustration and get more playing time simply by playing better. The Phillies have given ample time to nail down an outfield job. He could be a fixture in the lineup for years if he would simply produce consistently. The Phillies would like that to happen. It hasn’t and that’s why the team is taking a look at other players.

The comments made by Buchanan and Brown were not the first affronts made against Sandberg’s authority in recent days. A week ago, pitcher Kyle Kendrick showed up Sandberg on the pitcher’s mound in San Francisco. Sandberg met with Kendrick the day after and Kendrick apologized for his actions (see story).

Are these affronts merely the product of a long and frustrating season or does Sandberg have an authority issue with this club?

This is certainly something to keep an eye on as the rest of this season plays out.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.