Phillies Notebook: Phillies mourn passing of Gwynn

BILL WECHTER/GETTY IMAGES Emmanuel Savala, of San Diego, eyes a statue of Tony Gwynn outside Petco Park, home of the Padres.
BILL WECHTER/GETTY IMAGES Emmanuel Savala, of San Diego, eyes a statue of Tony Gwynn outside Petco Park, home of the Padres.
Posted: June 18, 2014

ATLANTA - To Ryne Sandberg, he was a respected peer. To Larry Bowa, he was a manager's dream. To Tony Gwynn Jr., he was simply, "Dad." The Phillies joined the baseball world in mourning the passing of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn yesterday, while at the same time moving to fill an opening on their bench as Gwynn Jr. left the team to return home to San Diego and was placed on the bereavement list.

The organization had been aware that the elder Gwynn was in grave condition. Bowa, who managed Gwynn for a year and a half with the Padres, said Gwynn Jr. told his teammates during a road trip last month that his father's cancer, which originated in his mouth, was not responding to treatment.

"It's been a tough time for Junior the last month or so," Bowa said. "He's had a lot on his mind. He told the team in New York [last month] that his dad was pretty sick, so he's had to fight through this."

In a mid-March interview, Gwynn Jr. spoke optimistically about his father's condition, but things took a turn for the worse later that month, and the Hall of Famer took a leave of absence from his coaching job at San Diego State University. Gwynn and Sandberg were perennial members of the National League All-Star team during the mid-1980s and '90s.

In 1984, Sandberg won the NL Most Valuable Player award; Gwynn finished third.

"He was one of the few players who I would go out and watch take batting practice just to see the swing and the results," Sandberg said. "It's a big loss to baseball."

To take Gwynn Jr.'s space on the active roster, the Phillies called up outfielder Aaron Altherr from Double A Reading. Altherr flew out to centerfield as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning of last night's game.

While Altherr is considered a prospect, he got the call mostly because he was the lone healthy outfielder on the 40-man roster. After struggling for most of the first 2 months of the season, the 23-year-old carried a 12-game hitting streak into yesterday. During that stretch, he was 20-for-48 with seven extra-base hits, including one home run, and four walks. On the season, he was hitting .245/.293/.370 with four home runs and 41 strikeouts in 200 at-bats. A 6-5, 220-pound righthanded hitter who can play all three outfield positions, Altherr attended but did not participate in big-league spring training due to a wrist injury.

Sandberg said the Phillies considered activating third baseman Cody Asche from the disabled list, but decided that he needed a few more minor league rehab outings before he was ready to face major league pitching after a 24-day layoff due to a hamstring strain. Asche was hitting .258/.346/.425 with four homers when he went down with the injury and the Phillies have struggled to fill the void. In his first three rehab outings at Class A Lakewood, Asche was 3-for-7 with two home runs and a double.

"It's just fairness to him, to have him ready," Sandberg said. "From the reports, he needed probably two or three more games under his belt."

That left Altherr as the only healthy non-catcher on the 40-man roster who isn't already on the active roster. Infielder Freddy Galvis and outfielders Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan and Darin Ruf are all recovering from injuries.

Placement on the bereavement list stipulates that a player must miss at least 3, but no more than 7 days. Sandberg said he had communicated via text with Gwynn Jr., who commented on his father's passing on Twitter, labeling his namesake his "best friend."

Pettibone surgery

Last season, Jonathan Pettibone made 18 starts for the Phillies, posting a 4.04 ERA with averages of 5.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. Today he will have surgery on his right shoulder as Dr. James Andrews attempts to fix whatever has been causing the soreness that has plagued the 23-year-old for much of the last year. The Phillies will not have an idea of a timetable for return until after the procedure. Pettibone started two games this year, allowing nine earned runs in nine innings.
On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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