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Knapp not shy to put improvements on display

Phillies' catching hopeful throws out 2 would-be base-stealers, nearly earns pickoff in win against Twins
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has said the "meat and potatoes" for a Phillies catcher is his ability to call a game, frame a pitch, block a ball and control the running game.

Defense, he said, rules.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has said the "meat and potatoes" for a Phillies catcher is his ability to call a game, frame a pitch, block a ball and control the running game.

Defense, he said, rules.

Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp, who is competing with Cameron Rupp to be the team's second catcher, threw out two base stealers in Monday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Twins in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. He threw out Ehire Adrianza at second base in the first inning and Chris Heisey at second in a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out play to end the fourth. Knapp also nearly picked off Zack Granite at first base in the third.

Video: MIN@PHI: Knapp catches Adrianza trying to steal

"I've worked on my footwork," Knapp said. "In the past, I've kind of stepped backward a little bit with my throw and I can't get as much on it. Now I'm trying to gain a little ground through the ball. It's nice to see a little bit of improvement there."

But while Kapler loved Knapp's throws, he praised other gains behind the plate.

"We've seen improvement in Andrew's all-around game," Kapler said. "I think what stands out the most is how he's able to keep pitches in the zone right now. He's done a tremendous job of working on his framing. He's stayed very consistent in the bullpen with focusing on every pitch. We've seen notable improvements at the bottom of the zone with Knapp. He's actually a really good receiver. We're just seeing him continue to improve, which is good news for our pitching staff."

Rhys smashes, Cesar dashes
Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana, Maikel Franco and Rhys Hoskins entered the afternoon a combined 6-for-56 (.107) with six walks and 14 strikeouts. They went a combined 5-for-12 (.417) against the Twins, including Hoskins' second homer of the spring and doubles from Hernandez, Santana and Franco.

Video: MIN@PHI: Hoskins hits a solo shot in the 2nd

Hernandez also stole a base, which is a point of emphasis this spring.

"We've asked these guys to be bold and have a lot of conviction on the bases, take chances," Kapler said. "They're doing that. Some of them are getting thrown out. We're not going to tell them to stop. We're still going to ask them to push their limitations and find out where their edges are. Spring Training is not about making perfect decisions. We're going to see some outs recorded on the bases that we won't see recorded during the season. We're still going to reward guys for finding out where their limitations are."

Camp battle
Phillies right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. struck out two in three scoreless innings. He has struck out nine in seven scoreless innings this spring. He is competing for a job in the rotation. Failing that, he stands a good chance of making the bullpen.

"He used his changeup and split," Kapler said. "Early, his split may not have been as effective getting swings and misses, but he knew if he went to his changeup there his arm action would sell the pitch."

Vinny Velo
Vince Velasquez threw 42 pitches in two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and one walk. He struck out three, including his final two batters in the second inning after he allowed the first two batters to reach base.

Video: MIN@PHI: Velasquez gets out of a jam with a strikeout

"It was really impressive to see him work his way out of a jam," Kapler said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Anderson optioned, Hammer down
The Phillies optioned right-hander Drew Anderson to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He allowed one earned run in four innings this spring. They also reassigned catcher Edgar Cabral and right-hander J.D. Hammer to Minor League camp. Hammer is healthy, but he has not pitched this spring as the Phillies are monitoring him following a heavy workload in 2017.

Nola gives a Hoot
Aaron Nola received a canvas print before the game of his 2018 "It's All Me" public service ad as part of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which is a leader in "advocacy against appearance- and performance-enhancing substance use by the youth of America." Nola is part of a 32-member advisory board, which includes a member of every team in baseball.

"Our young people today are driven to look their best and millions of middle- and high-school kids are using appearance- and performance-enhancing substances to achieve their goals," THF president Donald Hooton Jr. said. "We're so proud of the support that Major League Baseball and these elite athletes like Aaron provide in sending a positive message to kids that they, too, can accomplish all of their dreams without the use of drugs."

Up next
The Phillies have an off-day Tuesday, and will host a Red Sox split squad at 1:05 p.m. ET Wednesday. Nola is slated to make the start for Philadelphia in the game, which will be broadcast live on MLB.TV.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Andrew Knapp