What a difference three weeks makes. On May 19th, Phillies Nation’s Ryan Gerstel and Corey Sharp covered the Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez signing and the Phils were rolling at 24-17. On June 8th the Phils sit two games under .500 at 29-31, after another thrashing at the hands of the Cubbies. Rain in the forecast and a slight delay to the start of the day’s game didn’t deter Dynasty Sports in the Oxford Valley Mall from hosting another great event – this one featuring Phillies rookie first baseman Tommy Joseph and closer Jeanmar Gomez. Ryan and Corey were once again called to the scene to report on the action.
Unfortunately, the event had a different feel to it with the Phils’ recent struggles. The topic of conversation was the future of the team, specifically draft day. There were a wave of fans that wanted a position player and another wave that wanted a starter. One fan went to the lengths of wanting to trade down to draft a local kid from Holy Ghost Prep, shortstop Nolan Jones. As we all know, the Phillies elected to go with a hitting prospect in California high school phenom, Mickey Moniak.
Corey caught up with Jason from Nazareth, PA and they talked about the team in general. Jason said, “we have a bright future and beat expectations.” Jason is also a season ticket holder for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs–the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate–getting a first hand look of the talent the Phillies will have in the years to come. He expressed how upset he is whenever a player gets called up, but realizes it’s for the greater good. Ryan had the chance to talk to Kris, formerly from Levittown, PA, but recently moved to Yardley, PA. Kris thought that the Phillies should draft a pitcher with the first overall pick, specifically University of Florida LHP A.J. Puk, and explained that the club could always find a big bat through free agency or at the trade deadline. The Phillies did not take Kris’ advice, unfortunately, but it’s hard not to be pleased with Moniak, despite how young he is.
In regards to the Howard beer bottle incident, Kris thinks it falls on the organization to 1.) find the person responsible and 2.) to not put Howard in that position. Another handful of fans believed that the culprit should be banned for life from attending games at Citizens Bank Park–including games for the other three major sports teams. The bottle thrower is still at large, but hopefully he is brought to justice, soon.
Joseph and Gomez have both had surprising seasons to date. Joseph did not make the opening day roster, but was called up to the big club on May 13th after hitting his way onto the Phillies’ radar. He’s been platooning with Ryan Howard at first base, but has started the first six games in June. The 6-1, 215-pounder is hitting .311, with 5 home runs, in just 65 plate appearances. Gomez has been lights out this season, emerging as the team’s closer. The 6-3, 200-pounder has recorded 19 of 20 saves, tied for best in the bigs, with an ERA of 2.61.
First up was Gomez, who was coming fresh off of an impressive two-inning save against the Cubs.
Corey: “You’re tied for the Major League lead in saves with 19 – did you picture that coming into the year?”
Gomez: “Yeah, it’s a surprise because before the season started I was going to be reliever.”
Corey: “When you have a lead – Hernandez has the 7th, Neris pitches the 8th, and the 9th is yours – is knowing your roles in the pen more comforting to you?”
Gomez: “Yeah, over there in the bullpen we try to stay together, root for everybody, and take care of everyone and be focused throughout the game and be ready for any situation.”
Corey: “Not many people know that you started some games in your first three years for Cleveland and Pittsburgh – is there a different mentality to starting rather than closing?”
Gomez: “Yeah, for me it’s a big difference because when you’re a starter you have to be ready before the game, warming up with 35-40 pitches. But you’re in the bullpen, you have to be ready for 10-15 pitches. So that transition was a little tough the first time because when it comes to being a reliever, I asked how can these guys be ready in 10 or 15 pitches, I need more than that. Right now, I can be ready in 10 or 15 pitches, but for me, that was a tough moment for the transition.”
Ryan: “You’ve been fantastic this season. You lead the league in saves and you have a chance to be selected to the All-Star Game. How much of an honor would it be to represent the Phillies in San Diego?”
Gomez: “Well for one I have to thank the Phillies for giving me the opportunity to pitch. For me, I like to be in that position; to help the team to win. If I make the All-Star team, it’ll be important for me not to live in the future. You have to live in the present and get ready for every single game.”
Ryan: “Obviously, you haven’t always been a closer. In fact, you’ve never been a closer before. What’s your mentality out there on the mound? Do you want to pitch to contact to get guys out early in the count?”
Gomez: “Yeah, yesterday you know I was watching the whole game from the bullpen. I knew Carlos Ruiz was doing a really good job calling the game against the Cubs. Whatever he puts behind his leg I’ll feel comfortable with. Just execute the pitch and don’t hang any pitches. Just execute it and try to get the out quickly.”
Ryan: “What’s your favorite part of being a Philadelphia Phillie: The fans? The City? The ballpark?”
Gomez: “For me, I like the fans. The fans are awesome. The stadium, the team that I go to, too. To be a part of the Philadelphia Phillies is more than special for me, especially with my wife. I’m so glad be a part of the Phillies.”
Next up was Joseph, who was gearing up for the weekend series in Washington after two off days.
Corey: “What’s the biggest adjustment you had to make from the minor leagues to the majors?”
Joseph: “Staying consistent with my routine and making sure I stay on track that way, that’s the biggest thing that I think some people get away from. It’s very easy to get distracted up here, there’s a lot of things going on, media attention, TV, fans, all that stuff. So the more that I can stay locked in and stay focused on my routine and what I need to do everyday to prepare to play, I’ll be good.”
Corey: “What was the transition like from catcher to first base?”
Joseph: The transition was a tough one just because of dealing with the vestibular therapy and the vision stuff I had to go through just to be able to get back on the field. That part of it was the tough part but now it’s continuing to get repetitions and continuing to play in games and making sure I’m locked in every pitch.”
Corey: “You’re a west coast guy, born in Arizona – what’s the biggest difference from the west coast to the east coast, specifically Philadelphia?
Joseph: “The big cities on the west coast are a little bit different. The big cities on the east coast are tight quarters and obviously they’re older. There’s a lot more history over here too and that’s something you don’t really get on the west coast which is part of what I like to enjoy out here. It’s definitely got a different feel to it out here.”
Ryan: “Your professional career has been a complete roller coaster. How surreal is it for you to find yourself on a big league roster and report the ballpark everyday for work?”
Joseph: “It’s pretty special. It makes everything I’ve had to go through the last few years, you know, worth it. A lot of ups and downs, a lot of doubting myself. It makes it pretty special to show up for work everyday.”
Ryan: “One thing about playing the Cubs is that they’re a very good. But on the other hand you get to play at Wrigley, which must have been pretty awesome for you. Describe what it was like to play in the confines of Wrigley and also homer there.”
Joseph: “Yeah, I mean it was pretty awesome. Obviously as a baseball fan it made it extra special. It meant a lot. A part of my family is actually from Chicago. I grew up I guess as a little bit of a Cubs fan in that sense because my family was always rooting for them. Getting the opportunity to go back and share that moment at Wrigley was pretty special.”
Ryan: “Your teammate, Ryan Howard, has been a big topic of conversation this season. What’s your relationship like with him? I know he gave you a new nickname recently (scorpion).”
Joseph: “Our relationship is great. You know, he is somebody who I was very intimidated by when I met him years ago. Now he’s one of my role models for sure. He’s a guy to look up to. He does so much in the clubhouse for our team and not to mention off-the-field in the community and the city of Philadelphia. What he does means a lot to the organization and it means a lot to his teammates. He’s that special of a guy; he’s awesome.”
Ryan: “Has he given you a piece of advice that really stands out about playing the game of baseball, or about playing in Philadelphia?”
Joseph: “One thing he told me when I came up was do the best you can to make it about the game of baseball. Make sure you come here everyday and make it about the game, make it about the 24 other guys in this clubhouse and the more you can concentrate on that, the easier it’s going to be on yourself. Control what you can control.”
After his two home run performance Friday night in Washington, Joseph has earned the full-time first baseman job with Pete Mackanin delegating Howard to a bench player. Gomez, who has 19 saves and 2.61 ERA in 31 innings this season, will look to keep nailing down games for the Phillies and earn an invite to this year’s All-Star Game in San Diego. If the Phillies want to turn things around as we enter the middle portion of the season, Gomez and Joseph will have to help right the ship.