Phillies

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies (24-49) at Diamondbacks (47-28)
4:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After Friday's victory, the Phillies couldn't keep the good times rolling, losing 9-2 to the Diamondbacks on Saturday night. Jeremy Hellickson will take on his former team in Game 3 of the four-game set, opposing spot starter Randall Delgado.

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon:

1. Hellickson vs. his former 'mates
A year after he was traded by his original franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays, Hellickson was dealt by the D-backs on Nov. 14, 2015 to the Phillies for minor leaguer Sam McWilliams. 

McWilliams is a 21-year-old righty in Single A for the D-backs right now, but his value is basically a bonus for Arizona: Hellickson was basically salary dumped on the Phillies, who bought low on the veteran righty.

While the 30-year-old lost his only start against Arizona last season, he went seven innings while allowing just three runs. And he provided a fair amount of value to the Phillies, pitching to a 3.71 ERA over 189 innings. 

He leads the team with 15 starts this season, but he hasn't lived up to the promise of last season nor the qualifying offer he signed in the offseason. He has a 4.61 ERA and has allowed 16 home runs in 84 innings, all while watching his strikeout rate dwindle to a career-low. 

Hellickson is actually coming off one of his better starts this year. He allowed just one run to the Cardinals in seven innings, even striking out four batters. He left with the game tied, but the Phillies' bullpen surrendered seven runs in a loss. The veteran righty hasn't won a start since May 19.

Hellickson has relatively good numbers against the current Diamondbacks squad, buoyed by a 1 for 11 mark from backup catcher Jeff Mathis. Paul Goldschmidt is 0 for 2 with three walks and a HBP against him, while Jake Lamb is 2 for 3 with a home run.

2. Randall on the spot
Delgado has seen his role on the D-backs staff flip-flop over the last month. He's moved from the bullpen to the rotation back to the bullpen.

And now he's back in the rotation. 

Delgado is making a spot start to keep the pitching staff fresh in the middle of a stretch where the team plays 13 games in 13 nights. He's not unfamiliar to starting, having worked in the Braves' rotation to begin his career. However, he started just once in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined before making four starts this season. 

In his four starts, he was 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA over 20 innings, striking out 20. He threw just 25 pitches in his last appearance, which came in a two-inning relief appearance on June 21. He was stretched out to more than 90 pitches as a starter, but he will be 16 days removed from his last start. Therefore, the D-backs' bullpen will be on notice.

Delgado hasn't started against the Phillies since 2013 and holds a 3.29 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in nine total appearances against them. No current Phillie has faced him more than six times with Howie Kendrick going 0 for 5 with a walk against the righty. Maikel Franco is 3 for 3 with two home runs and a double.

3. The road ahead
Sunday's contest will be just the third game of a nine-game road trip for the Phillies. On Monday, they play the wraparound series finale against the D-backs and their ace, Zack Greinke, before traveling to Seattle for a two-game series.

The Phillies haven't played at Safeco Field since June 17-19, 2011. In that three-game set, the Phils lost two of three. The winning pitchers for the Mariners in that series, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas, have been solid this season in the American League, albeit for the Yankees and Royals respectively. 

After the quick two-game set, the Phillies will play three games at Citi Field before returning home. The Phillies are 2-4 against the Mets, who they haven't faced since April. The Mets are just 33-41 this season and could field an All-Star team with their disabled list. 

Once the road trip ends, the Phillies play a pair of lackluster teams in the Pirates and Padres for seven games at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break. The Pirates are 35-40 while the Padres are 31-44. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies
: Freddy Galvis has picked up at least two hits for the fourth straight game. The switch-hitting shortstop has gone 9 for 18 with three doubles, one triple and a homer during that stretch.

Diamondbacks: After going 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored on Saturday, Paul Goldschmidt is batting .331/.448/.610 on the season. That line has All-Star written all over it.

5. This and that
• Ben Lively became the first Phillies pitcher to hit a home run since Chad Billingsley vs. the Mets in 2015. Bet you didn't expect a Billingsley reference in these game notes!

• Saturday was the Phillies' first loss at Chase Field since Aug. 11, 2015. The starter for the D-backs in that game? Jeremy Hellickson.

• Going into Saturday, the Diamondbacks rotation led all of baseball with 9.5 Wins Above Replacement and a 3.51 ERA. 

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.