Mark Leiter Jr. shelled in brief outing as Phillies' struggles against Mets continue

Mark Leiter Jr. shelled in brief outing as Phillies' struggles against Mets continue


NEW YORK — The New York Mets came home lugging a four-game losing streak Monday and in the visiting dugout found the perfect remedy for their ills.

The Phillies.

The Mets hung an 11-7 loss on the Phillies in a Labor Day game that was laborious to watch (see observations).

The Mets are 36-16 against the Phillies since the start of the 2015 season.

Don't be fooled by Monday's final score. It wasn't that close. The Mets led 10-0 after four innings. The Phils, sparked by reserve Andres Blanco's three hits off the bench, showed some late life, but not enough to overcome the early wounds.

"It was good to see our guys come back," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We play nine innings and I'm happy to see that."

With a pitching staff that has been decimated by trades and injuries, the Phillies are using four rookies in their five-man rotation these days.

Things did not go well for one of them on Monday. Mark Leiter Jr. was hit hard in taking the loss. He gave up nine hits and nine runs in 3 1/3 innings. His downfall started with a pair of home runs in the third inning, a first-pitch solo shot by Jose Reyes and a two-run blow on a 2-0 pitch by Asdrubal Cabrera. Both homers came on 90-mph fastballs over the heart of the plate. No pitcher can survive there.

"Leiter missed location with his fastball too often," Mackanin said. "He made a lot of mistakes over the plate. It seemed like the balls they hit were right down the middle. He just couldn't locate his pitches like he's capable of doing, like he's done in the past."

Leiter agreed with the manager's assessment.

"I got too much of the plate," he said.

This was a special start for Leiter. He grew up on the Jersey shore and attended games in New York (as well as Philadelphia) as a kid. His uncle, Al, pitched in the World Series for the Mets.

"I would’ve rather it gone a different way," Leiter said after the game. "But it’s close to home. It was cool. I had a lot of people here. I just wish the results went differently."

Leiter threw 63 pitches and 46 of them were strikes. 

"I think there definitely could have been something that I maybe could’ve done a little differently," he said. "Maybe a few more misses off the plate. Try to get them to chase some balls, maybe. It’s kind of funny sometimes. You don’t throw enough strikes, sometimes you might throw too many. It’s something to look back at and maybe use as a learning tool."

The game marked the return of cleanup man and rookie Rhys Hoskins to the lineup. He had missed Sunday's game after taking a fastball off his right wrist on Saturday. Hoskins was not added to the lineup until about 90 minutes before game time, after he received clearance from the team's athletic training staff.

"It felt fine," Hoskins said after the game. "I was surprised how well it responded."

Hoskins did not get a hit, but he worked two walks and saw 35 pitches in five plate appearances as he showed the selectivity for which he is known. The Phillies front office would like more of these types of hitters. One of them is on his way. Shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford will join the club in time for Tuesday night's game (see story).

The Phillies will face a tough challenge in that game. Mets starter Jacob deGrom owns the Phillies. He is 6-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 career starts against the Phils. He is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA (three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings) in three starts against the Phils this season. He has struck out 24 and walked just three.

The Phillies will counter with right-hander Ben Lively, one of four rookies in their current rotation.

He will try to hold down the Mets' lineup that Leiter could not Monday.

"These guys are all young," Mackanin said. "You can't really expect them to pitch like seasoned major league pitchers. They're going to make mistakes. They're going to have good outings and bad outings. Little by little, hopefully, they learn from their mistakes and improve with their command."

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.

Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

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Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies' pitching staff has suffered a setback.

Jerad Eickhoff, projected as a member of the season-opening starting rotation, has been shut down with a strained right lat muscle, the area behind his shoulder. He will open the season on the disabled list and be sidelined into May, based on the team's six- to eight-week timetable for treatment and recovery.

Eickhoff, 27, spent time on the disabled list with a similar injury last season. That injury was technically called an upper back strain.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Eickhoff injured himself on one of the final pitches he threw during his last start.

Eickhoff led the Phillies' staff in ERA (3.65) while making 33 starts in 2016. He was limited to 24 starts and had a 4.71 ERA last year while making two trips to the DL. His second trip to the DL, which ended his season, was for a nerve irritation in his right hand. Eickhoff is in Philadelphia being checked by doctors.

"We want to ensure, and we're pretty confident, that it's not related in any way to the (nerve) stuff he was dealing with last year," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Kapler added, "It's a mild lat strain. There might be a blessing in disguise here. We're always thinking about keeping guys healthy and strong and limiting their total innings count. Those are things that are always on our mind so it's possible the innings are limited on the front end and then in September, October, he's strong and healthy and prepared to go through a full season."

With Eickhoff down, the Phillies suddenly have some openings in their rotation. Jake Arrieta, who signed with the Phillies on Monday, believes he can be ready for the first week of the season, but nothing is official. Aaron Nola will be the opening day starter and Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are good bets to be in the rotation. The final spot could go to Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. or Tom Eshelman.

It is not known whether the Phillies would pursue free agent Alex Cobb. On Monday, general manager Matt Klentak said his offseason moves were likely complete.