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TOP 10 STORIES FOR 2016 PHILLIES

10. Jeanmar Gomez wins closer's role: The Phillies spent their entire spring training looking for someone to step up and take the ninth-inning pitching duties. None of the leading candidates had won the job by the time the team came north, leaving the door open for Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez closed his first game five games into Philadelphia's season and didn't look back. He converted 18 of his first 19 opportunities and was among the league leaders in saves over the first few months of the season.

9. Ryan Howard's spring training claims: Ryan Howard, who entered the year in a platoon at first base, reported to spring training on time but promptly blamed the media for his on-field struggles the previous year. He also defended his performance against left-handed pitchers, saying he didn't have trouble against them, something most of the stats did not back up.

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8. Phillies extend Pete Mackanin's contract: Manager Pete Mackanin knew his job was secure through 2016 but with only a team option for the following season, he didn't have much set in stone. On March 25 the Phillies gave him a little more security, extending his contract through 2017 with a club option for 2018.

7. May 18: Following play May 18th, with starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson getting the win to push Philadelphia to 24-17, the overachieving Phillies were a season-best seven games over .500. That put them just a half game behind the Washington Nationals for the National League East lead. From there the Phillies fell further and further behind and a month later were 13 games back.

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6. Aaron Nola injured: Instead of making his scheduled start Aug. 3, Aaron Nola was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. The Phillies' first-round pick in the 2014 draft didn't throw another pitch the rest of the season. A visit to orthopedic surgeon James Andrews revealed Nola had a low-grade sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. That confirmed his first full season in the majors was over and he was transferred to the 60-day DL.

5. Chase Utley returns: Three days shy of one year since Chase Utley wore a Phillies uniform for the final time, he returned to Citizens Bank Park in a huge way. Utley, who received applause each time he came to bat, went 2-for-4 with two runs, five RBIs, a solo shot, a grand slam and a walk. The homers both ended with curtain calls.

4. Tommy Joseph's major league debut: Nine Phillies made their major league debuts in 2016 but first baseman Tommy Joseph may have been the biggest surprise. Not on anyone's radar in spring training, Joseph tore up Triple-A to begin 2016 and forced the Phillies to give him a promotion. Joseph made his major league debut on May 13 in a 3-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds. He finished his rookie season third on the team with 21 home runs.

3. Odubel Herrera signs long-term: With the Phillies still marching through their rebuild, nobody had shown enough to earn a long-term contract — until December. Philadelphia locked up its first player among this group, signing Odubel Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract with two additional years of team options on Dec. 15.

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2. Vince Velasquez's big day: In just his second start in a Phillies uniform, Vince Velasquez shut down the San Diego Padres, relying on his fastball, to throw a complete-game, 16-strikeout, zero-walk shutout on April 14. Velasquez allowed just three hits as the Phillies won 3-0.

1. Ryan Howard's farewell: Ryan Howard's 13-year career in Philadelphia came to an end on the final day of the 2016 season. A pregame highlight video tribute, larger-than-life placards of Howard's face, a plaque in the spot he hit his franchise-record 58th homer in 2006 and a hand-painted glove listing some of his notable accomplishments were part of the Phillies' farewell to the 2006 NL MVP.

— Stephen Gross

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