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Phillies Futures Series kicks off tonight at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading


J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco will go head-to-head in tonight's Futures Series Game in Reading, PA (Frank Klose/Philliedelphia)

By: Brandon Apter, contributor

 The Phillies (15-10) closed out their spring schedule in Florida yesterday in dramatic fashion. After being limited to just two hits over the first seven innings, the Phils offense erupted in the eighth inning. Trailing 3-0, the Phillies loaded the bases with none out. After a Cesar Hernandez bunt RBI single tied the game Maikel Franco hit a go-ahead RBI-single. Andres Blanco blew things open with a grand slam, powering Philadelphia to an 8-4 victory on their final game at Bright House Field this season.

Tonight, the Phillies will kick-off their Futures Series at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, home of their Double-A affiliate. It's the first game that has featured the big league team in Reading in 16 years, when 9,307 fans came out to see the Reading Phillies top the Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 in May of 2000. It will be a seven inning contest. On April 2nd, the Futures Series will move to Citizens Bank Park before the Phillies open their 2016 season against the Reds on the road April 4th. 

Reliever Jeanmar Gomez will start for the Phillies while Zach Eflin and Mark Appel will start things off for the Futures team, who have six of the top 100 prospects in baseball on their roster, according to MLB.com.

Starting Pitching Matchup:

Futures Team Philadelphia Phillies
RHP Zach Eflin RHP Jeanmar Gomez
(0-0, 1.80 ERA) (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

The Phillies will opt not to send out one of their starters for tonight's matchup and will give Jeanmar Gomez the ball to start the seven-inning contest. Gomez, 28, has been a mainstay in the Phillies bullpen for the past two seasons and has looked sharp in spring action, allowing just one run in six innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Over his past two appearances, spanning two innings, Gomez has not surrendered a hit.

Meanwhile, the Futures Team will feature pitching prospects Zach Eflin and Mark Appel tonight with Jake Thompson and Ricardo Pinto slated to pitch on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Eflin ranks 13th in the Phillies organization on MLB.com after posting an 8-6 record and a 3.69 ERA with Double-A Reading in 2015. The 21-year-old right-hander pitched five innings with the Phillies during Spring Training, allowing one earned run and striking out three. Eflin is likely to start the year in what looks to be a stacked Ironpigs pitching rotation that will include Mark Appel and Jake Thompson. In minor league spring action, Eflin hurled scattered three hits over five shutout innings with seven strikeouts back on March 26th, a 6-0 win for the Double-A club.

Appel, also scheduled to pitch tonight, appeared in two games this spring for Philadelphia and allowed one earned run  in five innings of work. The 24-year-old ranks as the fourth overall prospect in the Phillies organization after coming over from Houston in the trade that sent flamethrower Ken Giles to the Astros during the offseason. Appel threw four scoreless innings, striking out four on two hits back on March 21st in a minor league spring game.

Starting Lineups:

Futures Team Philadelphia Phillies
  Position Player Bats   Position Player Bats
1 CF   Roman Quinn 1 SS  Freddy Galvis S
2 SS  J.P. Crawford  2 2B  Cesar Hernandez 
3 LF  Nick Williams  3 CF  Odubel Herrera 
4 DH  Rhys Hoskins  4 3B  Maikel Franco 
5 RF  Dylan Cozens  5 LF  Cedric Hunter 
6 Jorge Alfaro  6 1B  Darin Ruf 
7 1B  Brock Stassi  7 DH  Will Venable 
8 2B  Scott Kingery  8 RF  Peter Bourjos 
9 3B  Mitch Walding  9 J.P. Arencibia 

Broadcast Information:

  • First pitch: 6:05 p.m.      
  • Radio: MLB.com

Game Notes:

  • Reading Fightins Manager Dusty Wathan will manage the Futures Team. Triple-A pitching coach Dave Lundquist and Reading coach Frank Cacciatore will join Wathan's staff.
  • In the final day of minor league action in Florida, Adam Morgan threw five scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Alec Asher tossed five innings of one-run ball, striking out four.
  • Andrew Knapp was 1-for-4 with a homer, Aaron Brown went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a homer, Carlos Tocci went 2-for-3 and Cornelius Randolph went 2-for-3 with a double in March 29th's spring training games for the minor leagues.
  • The Phillies hit 35 home runs this spring in Florida, good for fourth best in Major League Baseball.
  • There are three players competing for two position spots left on the Phillies roster, Will Venable, Cedric Hunter and Emmanuel Burriss. Venable is likely to make the big league team after signing a contract this week. Hunter has shown nice power this spring, but has slumped offensively while Burriss has kept a consistent average at the plate and can play infield and outfield, giving him a slight advantage over the left-handed hitting Hunter.
  • Hector Neris, Andrew Bailey and Ernesto Frieri are competing for the final spot in the bullpen. Bailey and Frieri both signed minor league contracts, so they can be sent to Triple-A if the Phils decide to go with Neris.
  • Dalier Hinjosa and David Hernandez remain as the top two options for the closing role on the team, which could end up being a closer by committee once the season starts.

What's Next:

  • Friday, April 1st, 2016: vs. Baltimore Orioles at 6:05pm
    • Philadelphia, PA - Citizens Bank Park
    • RHP Aaron Nola (1-1, 5.28 ERA) vs. RHP Vance Worley (1-1, 4.61 ERA)
    • TV: TCN, MLB.TV, MLB TV; Radio: 94 WIP


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