Phillies

Luis Garcia dominates heart of Nationals' order in Phillies' win

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Luis Garcia dominates heart of Nationals' order in Phillies' win

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WASHINGTON -- Admit it, there have been times over the last couple of seasons when you've looked at Luis Garcia said, "OK, enough of this. It's time to move on."
 
Some folks in the Phillies organization have even felt this way. The power-armed reliever has had a lot of chances, but never completely put it together because of an inability to throw strikes consistently.
 
But every time the Phillies seriously think of giving up on Garcia they take another look at that tantalizing arm and decide to give him just a little more time.
 
The Phils' patience with Garcia might pay off, after all. It sure did Saturday night when he mowed down the heart of the Washington Nationals' batting order in the bottom of the eighth inning to help preserve a 5-4 Phillies' win at Nationals Park (see observations).
 
The 30-year-old right-hander struck out Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon — three studs who carried .300 or better batting averages into the game — with a mix of splitters, sliders and fastballs. One of the fastballs to Rendon registered 100 mph on the stadium gun.
 
"I showed him a little mechanical thing to add a little extra," manager Pete Mackanin said jokingly after the game. "He just cut through the middle of their lineup. Outstanding performance."
 
Mark Leiter Jr. got the pitching victory with six gutsy innings of four-run ball and Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco hit home runs. Hoskins also walked three times, including once with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to plate the Phillies' fifth run.

"He's just a smart hitter," Mackanin said. 
 
But this game was won with the bullpen. Edubray Ramos protected a one-run lead in the seventh. Garcia did the same in the eighth and Hector Neris survived some ninth-inning turbulence — with a big assist from Freddy Galvis and his game-ending fielding gem — to close it out and earn his 20th save.
 
"Ramos and Garcia were huge," Mackanin said.
 
"They came in and did their jobs," Leiter said. "We don't win the game if they don't. It was a great job by them."
 
Garcia, 30, knows every mile marker on the Northeast Extension as he's gone back and forth between Triple A Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia numerous times in 2014, 2016 and this season, as well. But since June 14, he's been outstanding — in the big leagues. He's pitched 39 innings in 37 games since then and allowed just eight earned runs for an ERA of 1.85. Opposing batters have hit just .200 (28 for 140) over that span.
 
"I think it's just part of the process of getting more confident and mature," Garcia said.
 
Mackanin agreed.
 
"He's getting ahead with strike one more often," Mackanin said. "And his pitch count is under 15 most innings. He's been efficient with his pitches rather than getting behind 1-0, 2-0, and with that comes confidence. He's built himself some confidence."
 
If Garcia can continue to pitch with confidence and handle his nerves, he could one day be a candidate to close. He certainly has the stuff to do it and adding a splitter to his fastball-slider repertoire has only helped. It wasn't that long ago that Garcia's stuff was compared to Ken Giles'. Giles simply combined his stuff with a fearless assassin's mentality. If Garcia ever gets that, well, the Phillies' patience with him will really pay off.
 
The bullpen's work preserved a one-run win one night after the Phillies lost their major-league-high 34th one-run game. Six of those defeats have come against the Nationals. For the season, the Phils are 6-9 against the Nationals.
 
"Those guys across the field have to be thinking, 'How come these guys don't have a better record than that?' because we always play them so tough," Mackanin said. "It's always a close game, it seems."
 
Regardless of how close the games have been, the Phillies will still be going home in a few weeks, quite possibly with the worst record in the majors, while the Nationals head to the postseason. The Nats' magic number for winning the NL East is two.
 
But in the rubble of this losing season, the Phils may have found a hitter in Hoskins, and maybe another in Nick Williams. And after all these years of waiting for it to click with Luis Garcia, that might be happening, too.

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.