Phillies-Mets observations: Nick Pivetta hit hard in rain-shortened loss

Phillies-Mets observations: Nick Pivetta hit hard in rain-shortened loss


NEW YORK — Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta was hit hard in the Phillies' 6-3 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday night.
The game was ended in the sixth inning after a 57-minute rain delay.
The Mets ended up taking two of three from the Phillies and have taken 18 of the last 21 series between the two teams. The Mets are 37-17 against the Phils since the start of the 2015 season.

• For only the second time since May 27, the Phillies entered a game without the worst record in the majors. Tuesday's win gave them a winning percentage of .384. The San Francisco Giants entered the day at .383.
• Pivetta has a good arm. He's one of hardest throwers on the roster. But like many young pitchers on this club, he throws too many pitches — period — and too many over the heart of the plate. He was tagged for 10 hits and six runs over five innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out five. Pivetta has shown flashes of brilliance this season. There's something there. It just needs refinement. In a perfect world, he would have had more time at Triple A this season. But he was pressed into duty in the big leagues and has a 6.49 ERA in 22 starts. He should be better for the experience next season.
• The Phillies trailed, 6-0, after five innings. They cut the Mets' lead in half with three runs in the top of the sixth, two on a two-run homer by Nick Williams in the top of the sixth. It was the rookie's ninth homer and he hit it good — a 403-foot laser over the wall in right-center.
• Earlier in the day, the Phillies traded recently acquired reliever Juan Nicasio to the Cardinals for minor-league infield prospect Eliezer Alvarez, 22 (see story). Baseball America ranked Alvarez as the Cardinals' 10th-best prospect entering the season. Nicasio's time with the Phillies was brief as he was picked up on waivers from Pittsburgh last week. He made two appearances with the Phils and needed just three pitches to earn the win in his first one. "I was going to say he's available today — but not to me," manager Pete Mackanin quipped before the game. "He came in, threw three pitches, got a win and left." The Phillies made a good deal here. They got him for a $50,000 waiver fee and a week of salary. He wasn't in their plans for next season, so they spun him for a player that has some upside and could fit into the rebuild. The loser is the Pirates. They had tried to trade Nicasio but pulled him off revocable waivers when a rival team claimed him. Then they put him in irrevocable waivers and the Phillies claimed him. So the Pirates ended up getting nothing for him while the Phillies picked up a player with a chance.
• Much of the game was played in a chilly rain. The crowd was so small you could hear the infielders snap their gum. As the rain fell steadily in the middle of the sixth inning, the head of the grounds crew brought a computer tablet out to the field so the umpires could get a look at the weather radar. The umpires called for the tarp moments later.
• Odubel Herrera was not in the lineup. He was scheduled to have the day off as part of his recovery from a hamstring strain. He had returned to the lineup on Tuesday. Herrera is scheduled to play the next two games then get another day off before being turned loose. As for Aaron Altherr, also recovering from a hamstring strain: Wet grounds pregame prevented him from going through a scheduled base-running test. He hopes to be able to go through the test Thursday in Washington and get some playing time later on this weekend.
• Cameron Rupp did the catching, but before the game Mackanin admitted, "I need to see (Jorge) Alfaro more." So look for Alfaro to get an increase in action as the Phillies get him ready for next season. Alfaro is out of minor-league options and could be the Phils' primary catcher in April.
• The Phillies move on to Washington for four against the postseason-bound Nationals on Thursday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
Thursday night — RHP Aaron Nola (10-10, 3.72) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (11-9, 4.48)
Friday night — RHP Jake Thompson (1-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (13-5, 2.19)
Saturday night — RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.29)
Sunday afternoon — RHP Ben Lively (3-5, 3.92) vs. TBA.

Phillies willing to sign Jake Arrieta if ...

Phillies willing to sign Jake Arrieta if ...

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Longstanding rumors linking the Phillies to free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta continue to percolate. On Tuesday morning, baseball reporter Jon Heyman tweeted that the Phillies and Arrieta were engaged in "dialogue."

Here’s what we know: At the winter meetings in December, Phillies officials met with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, to go over a number of Boras’ clients. At the time, Arrieta was looking for a deal in the neighborhood of seven years and $180 million to $200 million. Those parameters were not a fit for the Phillies, who have placed a premium on short-term contracts while they move their rebuild forward.

The Phillies have remained engaged with the Arrieta camp throughout the winter and they have made it clear that if the pitcher’s price tag comes down, they would have interest in a union. It is believed the Phillies would be willing to sign Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, to a two- or three-year contract, at a significant salary and possibly with some creative structure such as an out after one year.

Earlier this winter, the Phillies had reservations about meeting free agent Carlos Santana’s original contract demands of upwards of five years. When Santana’s demands were lowered to three years, the Phillies pounced and signed him for $60 million. Such a lowering of demands could make Arrieta a Phillie. Of course, there are other teams interested. Arrieta has long been linked to the Cardinals and Nationals.

Arrieta would come with some risk. All pitchers of his age and odometer reading do. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 while going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA for the Chicago Cubs. He went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA the following season and slipped to 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA in 2017. That trend downward has coincided with a slight drop in velocity and that has given teams pause at signing Arrieta to a long-term deal. It would seem that even the Cubs had reservations about Arrieta as they let him walk and signed free agent Yu Darvish.

In the last few days, a couple of big-name Boras clients have signed. Eric Hosmer went to the Padres and J.D. Martinez to the Red Sox. Arrieta might be next. If he would come at the Phillies’ price he might end up being a Phillie.

Signing Arrieta would cost the Phillies a second- or third-round draft pick in June.

Phillies tell hulking power hitter Dylan Cozens to tone it down

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Phillies tell hulking power hitter Dylan Cozens to tone it down

CLEARWATER, Fla. – At 6-6, 245 pounds, Dylan Cozens was the biggest player in Phillies camp last spring.

This year, he's bigger.

“Yeah,” Cozens said with a laugh. “I’m 270 pounds now.”

And it’s all muscle.

Cozens, a 23-year-old corner outfielder, hit the weight room hard this offseason. So now, his muscles have muscles.

There is a plan behind the added strength. Cozens struggled at Triple A last season. He hit just .210 and struck out 194 times. He still has awesome power from the left side, as evidenced by 27 homers and 74 RBIs last season. But he needs to make more contact if he’s going to board the same Philadelphia-bound train that Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro did last season.

More contact is the reason for the added strength.

“Just to have easier power,” Cozens said. “The plan is easier swings with two strikes.

New manager Gabe Kapler spent significant time digging into the Phillies' roster this winter, learning everything he could about his new players. That included players who hadn’t reached the majors yet, prospects like Cozens, the Double A Eastern League MVP from 2016.

Kapler and the Phillies' staff, which includes new hitting coach John Mallee, are looking for Cozens to simply swing a little easier. That could equal more contact, and more contact – for a man of Cozens’ size – will equal more home runs.

“Effort level is always big when it comes to making contact,” Kapler said. “I’m not trying to hit the ball 500 feet. I can hit it 400 feet and it’s still a homer. And by the way, I’m this big and strong and all I really need to do is make flush contact with the baseball. So thinking about being a good hitter first and a power hitter second will actually increase his home run totals and increase his on-base capabilities, which are both things I think he’d be happy with.”

Kapler trotted out an analogy in talking about Cozens.

“Effort level speaks to how hard I’m swinging,” Kapler said. “Am I coming with my 90 percent effort level or am I coming with my 100 percent effort level? If all my muscles are firing and my jaws are clenched and I’m going full speed ahead, I might not be running as fast as if I was more like a cheetah, right? I think that’s the message we would send to Dylan. You’re more a cheetah than a brute. Let it fly, be easy, and that’s going to create loud contact for him because he’s as strong as any individual I’ve been around. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy with that level of strength and power ever on a baseball field before.”

Cozens arrived at camp early and has been working with Mallee and Charlie Manuel.

Manuel never met a power hitter he didn’t love. He raves about some of the moon shots that Cozens has hit in batting practice.

“He’s got talent,” Manuel said, emphasizing the last word. “He hits balls completely out of the ballpark. If he controls his swing, he’ll be fine.”

Cozens was recruited to play defensive end by the University of Arizona, but instead signed with the Phillies after being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. He looked to be on a fast track to the big leagues when he pulverized Eastern League pitchers in 2016. Despite striking out 186 times, he hit .276 with 40 homers, 125 RBIs and a .941 OPS. Last season, his OPS dipped .719. He hit .217 against right-handers and .194 against lefties.

“It was terrible,” Cozens said of his season. “I lost my core mechanics. Just a lack of confidence. I doubted myself. Mentally and mechanics-wise, I felt like it was a mess. I was all over the place. I wasn’t consistent at all. I got in my own head.

“I was trying all sorts of different things. I was in on the plate, off the plate, bigger leg kick, smaller leg kick, toe tap, no stride.”

As Cozens fiddled with his mechanics he saw several friends and longtime teammates – players that he’d always been mentioned with as the next generation of Phillies – go to the majors. A year ago at this time, Cozens was thinking he’d play in the majors in 2017. Looking back now …

“I didn’t deserve it,” he said. “I don’t think where I was at with my mechanics being all over the place, and where I was mentally being all over the place, it would have been a good start for me. You don’t want to go up there and fail. You want to be ready for when you’re up there and I didn’t feel like I was ready.”

Cozens’ current swing mechanics are closer to what they were in 2016: Small leg kick. A little hand movement.

“Toning it down,” he said. “I know I can play better than I did last year.”

And so does Kapler.

“You don’t ignore the fact that he needs to make more contact,” the manager said. “That’s 100 percent true.

“If you ask him, he’ll say, ‘If I make more contact I will hit more home runs and be much more valuable to my team. I will reach base more and I will give myself a better chance to be a Philadelphia Phillie.’ “

That’s the goal for Dylan Cozens. One bad season hasn’t changed that. He still has the tools to make it happen.

"I want to have an amazing spring training and force them to make a decision to keep me up there," Cozens said. "It’s probably unlikely, so go to Triple A, hit the ground running and make the decision hard on them.”