Phillies

Phillies-Athletics observations: Jorge Alfaro powers Phils to 4th win in 5 games

Phillies-Athletics observations: Jorge Alfaro powers Phils to 4th win in 5 games

BOX SCORE

Jorge Alfaro hit a tiebreaking two-run homer into the center field hedges in the sixth inning and the Phillies used seven pitchers to beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-3, on a soggy Saturday night.

With Rhys Hoskins hogging the attention these days, Alfaro is quietly hitting over .300 and looking comfortable behind the plate. The 24-year-old Colombian pounced on Simon Castro’s first pitch for his fourth homer in his 21st big league game this season. 

The Phillies rallied from a 2-0 deficit following a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay in the third inning to win for the fourth time in five games. Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford had RBI singles, and Crawford added a sacrifice fly. 

Ben Lively gave up a solo homer to Matt Olson in the first and didn’t return after the rain delay. 

The victory left the Phillies needing to finish 5-9 to avoid 100 losses. 

• After playing shortstop Friday, Crawford was back at third base, and the rookie snagged a hard line drive toward the line in the fifth. He continued to show he can hit big league pitching, with his sharp single to right off Chris Smith in the fourth tying it at 2. 

• Ty Kelly pinch hit for Lively after the delay and his liner to left turned into a double after Olson’s ill-advised dive. He scored on Cesar Hernandez’s two-out single up the middle. 

• Lively allowed two runs and two hits with two strikeouts and no walks in three innings. The weather thwarted another audition as he seeks a spot in next year’s rotation. 

• Odubel Herrera made a fine running catch of Matt Joyce’s deep drive to center to end the eighth. He then was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the inning and promptly stole second. 

• What happens when you combine Sepember baseball with expanded rosters and a lengthy rain delay that knocks out both starters? Seven combined pitchers through five innings and 14 in all. Victor Arano (1-0) pitched two hitless innings and Hector Neris allowed Jed Lowrie’s solo homer in the ninth before earning his 21st save. 

• Shortstop Freddy Galvis started after getting Friday off. He drew a one-out walk and raced to third when Castro (1-3) threw wild to first. But Nick Williams then fanned chasing a high fastball and Hoskins flied to left. 

• Outfielder Aaron Altherr was out of the lineup, but don’t be alarmed. “Just being careful with his hamstring,” manager Pete Mackanin said. "Plus, I’ve got to get everyone into games. It gives (Tommy) Joseph another start.” Joseph started at first and Hoskins was back in left field. 

• It started to rain in the second inning and home plate umpire Jerry Layne called for the tarp in the bottom of the third at 7:45 p.m. Play resumed at 9:31, but not before an amusing rain delay competition featuring right-hander Nick Pivetta (see story)

• Hoskins provided proof of why he’s a natural first baseman and not an outfielder. His throw home on Matt Chapman’s fly to medium left field hit the ground before it reached the pitcher’s mound, allowing Mark Canha to score and make it 2-0 in the second inning. 

• After homering in six straight games, Hoskins is 0 for 6 in the past two. He was upset when Layne rang him up as he tried to check his swing on a pitch in the dirt in the seventh. 

• Keep the remote handy Sunday while you watch the Eagles. Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who pitched a no-hitter in 2013 and made the NL All-Star team a year later, makes his Phillies debut in his comeback from shoulder problems. Alvarez hasn’t pitched in a big league game since 2015 thanks to multiple surgeries and last month was with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League (see story). Lefty Sean Manaea (10-10, 4.65 ERA) starts for the A’s. 

• Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda are scheduled to pitch for the major league-leading Dodgers when they visit for a four-game series starting Monday. 

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 the 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.