Phillies

'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

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'It's time for us to turn it on,' Lee says after Phillies' win

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SAN FRANCISCO -- This is what it looks like when it all comes together for the Phillies, the pitching, the hitting, the defense. They can walk into a beehive environment and take a game from a quality club that had won six games in a row.

That’s what the Phillies did Monday night in a 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants at always-electric AT&T Park (see Instant Replay).

“We played a really well-rounded game,” said Cliff Lee, who pitched eight walk-free innings for the win. “That’s more of what we are right there. No doubt.”

The victory came after the Phils were tuned-up by a combined score of 16-2 in a pair losses to the lowly Miami Marlins on Saturday and Sunday.

Thirty-three games into the season, the Phils are 15-18.

Lee stepped out and challenged his teammates to show more pride last week in Cleveland. He continued to speak his mind after this game and it sounded a little like leadership, something this team could use especially after one of its most respected people, Roy Halladay, went on the disabled list Monday.

“We definitely haven’t been playing up to our potential,” Lee said. “We’ve been far short of that, to be honest with you. I think tonight is more of a real depiction of what we are. I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of under-performed this first month. It’s time for us to turn it on, and I think tonight was a good start in that direction.”

Lee used the word “pride” last week. He was asked whether he believed that was something that has been lacking.

“I think pride is a big part of executing and just grinding and sticking in there no matter if you’re down,” he said. “The Cleveland series was just a bad series. But basically, if you’re going to get beat, go down fighting, you know. They got us early both games and it seemed like we just laid down and let them take it from us. That’s what I was hinting at -- more pride and fight-till-the-end type stuff.

“We were better at home against the Marlins (the Phils won the first two games of the series), but we still could do even better and tonight was more of what I expect from this team every night as far as the energy and applying the pressure on the other team rather than having the pressure on us the whole time.”

Lee backed up his words all night Monday. He allowed just five hits. Three of them were by former teammate Hunter Pence, who homered, doubled and singled.

“Take him out of the lineup and it would have been a really good day,” Lee said. “He was tough for me. He’s got it figured out.”

Pence’s homer in the bottom of the second came on a full-count changeup one pitch after the Phillies’ bench thought Pence should have been rung-up on strikes.

The Phils already had three runs on the board when Pence homered. Michael Young keyed a three-run rally in the top of the second with a two-out, two-run double.

“That definitely makes it easier when you have a three-run lead,” said Lee, mildly famous for not getting a lot of run support.

Lee was also supported by his defense, which turned three double plays.

Lee is 4-0 with a 0.84 (four earned runs in 43 innings) ERA in five regular-season starts at AT&T Park, arguably baseball’s best venue.

“It’s a great environment to play in,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy, a lot of noise. You’ve got to step up to the occasion here. It reminds me of Philly when Philly is going good. It’s the same type of environment.”

Things aren’t going good in Philly right now. This team is just too inconsistent to get fans excited like they used to be. Weekends like the one just passed are demoralizing.

“This place might have been perfect for us because it’s a great place to play, a great environment,” Young said. “We had a tough weekend at home. It’s nice to go out and compete and have fun. It was good for us get back on the field, no days off, go play.”

Kyle Kendrick gets the ball Tuesday night as the Phils look to follow Lee’s commandment and “turn it on.”

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

ORLANDO, Fla. — On Day 1 of the winter meetings Monday, the Phillies' longstanding interest in Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado bubbled to the surface once again. The subject will continue to percolate all winter and beyond as the Orioles mull whether to trade the star player or let him play out the 2018 season, his final one before free agency.

It makes much more sense for the Phillies to try to sign Machado as a free agent next winter rather than surrender prospects — and ultimately big cash in the form of an extension — for him this winter. But if the Orioles create a market for Machado this winter, the Phillies will be in on it. At the moment, all is quiet.

It's no secret that the Phillies have deep pockets and no secret that they will spend big on top talent like Machado once their rebuild gets into the red zone. Klentak confirmed that again on Monday.

"There will come a time when we are one piece away and that one piece is a fill in the blank — starting pitcher, closer, cleanup hitter — and in that moment, when we feel that we are one piece away, or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do," he said.

"But for right now, we are on the cusp of getting to where we want to go, to developing this next young core. This is what happened with (Jimmy) Rollins and (Chase) Utley and (Ryan) Howard and (Cole) Hamels. We need to give these guys a chance to become that next group."

The Phillies showed improvement in the second half of last season. They went 38-38 over the final 76 games. Klentak wants to give the team's core the chance to continue its improvement in 2018.

"The most important thing we can do next year is let this young core develop and get the reps that they need to continue their improvement," Klentak said.

"We scored almost a full run more per game in the second half than we did in the first half. That was driven by (Nick) Williams, (Rhys) Hoskins, (J.P.) Crawford and (Jorge) Alfaro joining Cesar (Hernandez), Freddy (Galvis), (Maikel) Franco, Odubel (Herrera), (Aaron) Altherr, (Andrew) Knapp. That's exciting to me. Not only do we need to let that play out, we want to let that play out. 

"We want to see what that group can do now that they're more than three months into their major-league careers. What can they do in their first full season? Or their second full season? Baseball aging curves tell us that these players are likely to get better. How much better? We don't know. But we're only going to find out if we let them play." 

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the day he was traded from the Phillies to the Colorado Rockies in July, Pat Neshek stood in front of his locker and talked about how much he liked his time in Philadelphia. He gazed into his crystal ball and envisioned himself returning to the Phillies as a free agent over the winter.

The image in Neshek's crystal ball is about to come to life. The Phillies are on the verge of re-signing the 37-year-old right-hander, multiple sources said on Monday, the first day of baseball's winter meetings. When the deal is wrapped up in the next few days, it will be worth $16.25 million for two years with a club option for a third.

"We've been talking with the agents of a bunch of relief pitchers and we're on the goal line with one," said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who initially acquired Neshek in a trade with Houston 14 months ago then watched the pitcher deliver four outstanding months that landed him on the National League All-Star team.

There is not a no-trade clause in Neshek's new deal, so the Phillies could peddle him once again if they are not in contention. The Phillies got three prospects for Neshek in July — infielder Jose Gomez and right-handed pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena. Hammer was recently named to the Arizona Fall League's All-Prospect team.

Neshek pitched in 43 games (40 1/3 innings) for the Phillies in 2017 and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62 1/3 innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Neshek is expected to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017. The Phillies could continue to add to their bullpen before the winter is complete. Sources say they have shown interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

"I think we’re open-minded to bringing in multiple bullpen reinforcements," Klentak said. "One of the goals leading into next season is to improve our run prevention. Obviously, there are a lot of ways we can do that. One way — and this is sort of the simple narrative — is to address our starting pitching. We will continue to explore ways to improve our starting pitching, but I also think we need to be prepared to improve our run prevention in other areas. Improving our bullpen is one way to do that.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning. If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."

The Phillies will continue to look for starting pitching at these winter meetings and beyond. They are open to trading Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez and would look to get starting pitching in a deal for one of them. The Angels, according to sources, covet Hernandez as both a second baseman and leadoff man, but the Phillies' asking price is high.

Also on Day 1 of the winter meetings ...

The Phillies lost outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma on waivers to Seattle and Pittsburgh, respectively. With two openings on the 40-man roster, the Phils can add a player in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. They have the third overall pick.

"I would expect that we would take advantage of the third pick in some form or fashion," Klentak said. "Whether we draft a player and retain that player or draft a player and make a trade, I think we’ll look to do something with it. That was a big part of why we put the two guys on waivers that we did. It was just to free us up to be able to participate on Thursday."