Phillies

Hoby Milner's scoreless streak highlighting Philliies' improving bullpen

Hoby Milner's scoreless streak highlighting Philliies' improving bullpen

Hoby Milner didn’t know he was accumulating the Phillies’ longest streak of scoreless appearances in a decade until his girlfriend sent him a screen grab from a recent television broadcast.

“I didn’t notice because I’ve had some shaky outings in there where I’ve had bases-loaded, one out, two outs and it just doesn’t feel like I had a good outing,” the lefty sidearmer said Sunday prior to the series finale vs. the Athletics. “I just got out of it without giving up a run. There’s some luck involved.”

Milner’s steak reached 20 appearances when he got two outs and walked one while pitching the sixth inning of Saturday night’s 5-3 win over Oakland. Milner last allowed a run when he was charged with two against Atlanta on July 29, spanning 16 1/3 innings entering Sunday’s game.

It’s the longest streak since J.C. Romero had 35 straight scoreless outings in 2007.

“A lot of the times, though, I come in and maybe get the first two outs and, like (Saturday) night, and it’s up to someone else to make sure he doesn’t score,” Milner said. “I’ve been lucky that most of my outings have been late and close and we’ve got Luis (Garcia) or (Hector) Neris coming after me and they just shut it down and I get off the hook.”

The skinny 26-year-old was a seventh-round pick of the Phillies in 2012 after playing college ball at Texas. The team decided his deceptive delivery was better for the bullpen and he became a full-time reliever in 2015.

Milner made his major-league debut June 24. Far from a finished product, he’s allowed 28 hits, including two home runs, while walking 11 and hitting four batters over his first 26 innings. But he’s struck out 16 in 30 appearances and held a 1.73 ERA.

His most impressive stat: lefties were batting .081 (3 for 37) during the scoreless streak.

Milner’s emergence is part of a trend. A group of mostly young Phillies relievers has impressed in the second half of the season.

“(Adam) Morgan has improved immensely and Hoby Milner has really established himself as a pretty good situational lefty. And he gets righties out for the most part,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Garcia, huge step forward and outstanding. (Edubray) Ramos is pitching well. (Victor) Arano looks good and (Kevin) Siegrist, they’re all contributing. They’re all pitching very well and that’s the reason we’re improving."

The Phillies had a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings pitched by relievers snapped in the ninth inning Saturday when Neris gave up a solo homer to Jed Lowrie. But Neris has converted 25 straight saves, and since Aug. 27, Phillies relievers have a 2.04 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings.

“Once we got rid of (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek and those guys, I’m assuming the Phillies had no clue how the bullpen was going to shape up the rest of the year,” Milner said. “But if we can show we can get outs and we can put up zeros now, that’s less than they have to go out and get in the offseason. They can focus on bigger roles and not bullpen guys.”

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.