Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Top prospect Maikel Franco dazzles Phillies

CLEARWATER — The youngest player in Phillies camp gravitated to the 68-year-old man with an unforgiving fungo bat. Their morning ground-ball sessions soon turned from voluntary to inferred, and 3B Maikel Franco understood it was wise to stay near Larry Bowa.

Franco, the 21-year-old top prospect, admitted to nerves in his first taste of a big-league spring. "I didn't feel comfortable," he said. Bowa's barrage of grounders eased the pressure.

"I have a good relationship with him," Franco said. "I think he helps me a lot."

Bowa, the baseball lifer, is smitten.

"He's going to be special if he doesn't get hurt and continues to progress," Bowa said. "He'll be one of those guys who makes you go, 'Wow.' "

This spring is about first impressions for Franco, the team's most-hyped prospect since Domonic Brown. Eventually, he will make the short walk from Bright House Field to the Carpenter Complex and join the Phillies' minor-league players. He passed the initial eye test.

"If he continues to grow and learn, he will be a force to be reckoned with," 1B Ryan Howard said. "He has a really good idea of what he's doing and what it takes."

"He's got power, man," C Carlos Ruiz said. "Just from watching him in batting practice."

"Real good glove," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He has a knack for the harder the play it is, the softer he is. I don't know where he got that. I haven't asked him. That's instincts. That is second-nature stuff."

Yanks: Papi's props

TAMPA — The tributes for Derek Jeter haven't let up since the shortstop announced last month of his intent to retire.

Tuesday it was David Ortiz of the rival Red Sox, who said watching Jeter play gives him "goosebumps."

"If there's one guy that the baseball game is gonna miss once he's retired, it's Derek," Ortiz said on Sirius XM's MLB Network Radio. "Derek is very professional, that's a guy that is all about the game, all about the business. He is one of the baseball players that I can tell you that pretty much his whole career has done everything perfectly right. And when I watch him play I get goosebumps."

Jeter is off to a slow start this spring, 0-for-9 in four games.

LUCKY MOMENT: Jeter's backup, Brendan Ryan, had his glove knocked off by a smoked liner by Russ Canzler during BP Monday. The ball caught the fleshy part of the shortstop's left palm.

"It's sore but okay," Ryan said. "That was pretty scary."

EL DUQUE IN CAMP: Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez rejoined the Yankees as a minor-league spring training pitching instructor. The Cuban right-hander, a key member of the teams that won three straight World Series from 1998-2000, said he will be at the team's minor-league complex for the next few weeks.

Jays: Dickey satisfied

CLEARWATER — R.A. Dickey wasn't concerned about his pitching line. How he performed was less important than how he felt.

The Blue Jays right-hander allowed three runs on four hits, walked three and hit a batter in four innings during Toronto's 5-3 victory over the Phillies.

Dickey settled down somewhat after a rough first inning in which he plunked Freddy Galvis and walked two, including Bobby Abreu with the bases loaded.

"I had a really good" knuckleball, Dickey. "The one that hit Galvis, it broke about 3 feet, broke right into his shoe. That's part of the deal. You get one, it catches and it goes that way. That's tough, but other than that, I felt good.

"It was similar to my last outing where the wind was really in my face so I was getting a lot of depth, which accounted for a lot of walks. But I felt strong, which is really all I care about right now."

1B Adam Lind homered for Toronto, and former Ray Dan Johnson gave the Blue Jays a two-run lead in the eighth inning when he homered to rightfield off Philadelphia LHP Cesar Jimenez.

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