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Phillies get bad news, make trade

carlosruiz.png

Phillies get bad news, make trade

With a 2012 season ruined by major injuries, the Philadelphia Phillies hold hope they can bounce back as contenders in 2013. Their chances to turn things around, however, may have been dealt a blow on Tuesday with the suspension of All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz has been banned for 25 games in the 2013 season because he tested positive for Adderall, an amphetamine-based stimulant considered a performance enhancing drug. 

Here is the statement from the league on his suspension:

“The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has received a 25-game suspension without pay after testing positive for an Amphetamine in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Ruiz is effective at the start of the 2013 regular season.  He will be eligible to participate in Spring Training, including in Spring Training games.”

The Phillies were by no means good in 2012, but without Ruiz they would have been even worse. The 33-year-old backstop enjoyed a career year hitting .325/.394/.540 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI. He posted the numbers in just 114 games including just one appearance in August.

Ruiz’ suspension would put him on track to debut at the New York Mets on April 28. The Phillies don’t play the Nationals until they visit Washington on May 24.

Ruiz released a statement apologizing for his offense:

“I am sincerely regretful for my mistake in taking a prohibited stimulant. I apologize to my teammates, the Phillies organization, and the Philadelphia fans. I will serve the imposed 25-game suspension to begin the season and I look forward to returning to the field and working toward bringing a championship back to Philadelphia in 2013.”

The N.L. East figures to be one of baseball’s best divisions once again next season and the Phillies can’t afford to get off to a slow start. They don’t play the Nationals while Ruiz is out, but they do face the Braves, Reds, and Cardinals in April.

Phillies make a trade

The Phillies are also close to acquiring relief pitcher Wilton Lopez from the Astros for a few minor leaguers (CSNphilly.com first had the report). Lopez, 29, went 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 innings in 2012. He has a career ERA of 3.14 through four major league seasons. 
[This article originally said the deal had been completed]

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Dusty Baker drops hints about playoff roles for Nationals rookies

Dusty Baker drops hints about playoff roles for Nationals rookies

The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks in their series finale on Thursday and by doing so inched closer to securing home field advantage in the NL Division Series. They earned the win despite playing without Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who remained out with injuries.

In order to make it happen, they needed contributions from unexpected places. Catcher Pedro Severino homered and walked. Second baseman Wilmer Difo also hit a home run, the first of his young MLB career. Michael Taylor had three hits and drove in two runs. Those three led the way on offense on a day their regulars - Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon - went a combined 2-for-16. 

Rookie Reynaldo Lopez also chipped in with 3 2/3 innings of relief work. The coincidence that he, Severino and Difo all made their mark was not lost on them or manager Dusty Baker. The trio are all young players from the Dominican Republic.

"It was Dominican Republic Day," Baker said. Our Dominicans hit two home runs and pitched well... Maybe they had it mixed up, they thought today was Latin Day instead of yesterday."

Baker was referring to a special pregame ceremony at Nationals Park on Wednesday that featured Latin American flags on the field and a representative from the D.R. to throw out the first pitch. 

The players picked up on it, as well.

“It was very fun and exciting," Lopez said through an interpreter. "He said as I came into the dugout to Dusty having known that Difo had hit a home run as well as Severino already and they’ve been doing a good job and I was pitching very well, he said ‘I guess today is really Latin day.’ It was just very humorous, but it was fun. And he kept repeating that because we were all performing so well for him, so it was great.”

"Very excited that all three of us were able to do a great job for the team today," Difo said through an interpreter. "Just keep working hard to show everybody that we deserve to be here and that we can contribute and help the team win. I’m just very excited about today."

Severino knows he will be on the playoff roster at this point. With the loss of Wilson Ramos to a season-ending injury, Severino is the next man up.

Difo and Taylor would need an injury or two to clear room for them. They are unlikely to make the final 25.

[RELATED: What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs?]

Lopez, though, is in a battle for the bullpen. Depending on how many pitchers they keep, Lopez could definitely find himself in that mix. And Baker is already talking like Lopez will be pitching in October.

"He's been working on some things," Baker said. "He picked up his tempo. He throws strikes. He appears unfazed by the situation or having to come into the game. And I'm just hoping that he continues that same mindset when we get to the playoffs because it's the same game. More at stake and the world's watching, but it's the same game."

Baker also dropped a hint about Severino that should be kept in mind over the next week. 

"All of our young guys dont appear to be intimidated at all by being young. They're about to venture into territories that they haven't been before. And I told him, 'Hey, man, I want you to do the same thing as [Clayton] Kershaw if you're starting in L.A.' And he said OK and left it at that."

It sounds like Severino has at least a decent chance of starting Game 1 on Friday.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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