Phillies

Phillies mount late rally to squeeze past fast-fading Marlins

Phillies mount late rally to squeeze past fast-fading Marlins

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MIAMI — It was revenge for Nick Pivetta, who lasted just four outs the last time he faced the Miami Marlins.

It was redemption for Maikel Franco, who had stranded four runners in a pair of two-out at-bats.

And it was sweet relief for Jorge Alfaro, Andres Blanco and Hector Neris, three of the heroes of a ninth inning that saw the Phillies turn an apparent loss against a pitcher making his major-league debut into a rousing 2-1 comeback win on the road (see observations).

Let’s start with the starter, Pivetta, who left with a no-decision, yes, but with his pride intact.

In two previous starts against Miami, Pivetta was 1-1 but with an ugly 12.15 ERA. On Friday, he pitched six innings, struck out six, allowed four hits and just one run — on a wild pitch.

He had a respectable 4.73 ERA in the first half of this season. But entering Friday, he had a 9.22 ERA in the second half.

“The work I’m doing is coming together,” said Pivetta, a rookie with a 5-9 record and a 6.28 ERA. “I had a rough August, but I’m looking forward to [a better] September and finishing strong.”  
  
Franco’s night was interesting.

The Phillies had very little in terms of a scouting report to go on against rookie lefty Dillon Peters, who stepped on a big-league mound for the first time on Friday.

Threats of two men on base were mounted in the first and sixth innings. But Franco squashed both of those opportunities, striking out swinging in the first and grounding into a force play in the sixth. On the latter play, another Marlins player making his big-league debut, Brian Anderson, made a diving stop.

But in the ninth, Franco got his first hit of the game, a leadoff double to the left-field corner, and that set the Phillies up for victory.

Franco moved up to third on a grounder by Nick Williams and scored when Alfaro singled softly to right.

“I was trying to put the ball in play,” Alfaro said. “I wasn’t as anxious as earlier in the game.”

The game-winning RBI wasn’t hit that hard, either. With runners on the corners and one out, Blanco grounded out to second baseman Dee Gordon. But Blanco gave it all he had to first base, avoiding a double play.

“That’s how you create a run and win a ballgame,” Blanco said. “Everybody was doing the little things, and I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to do something too.“

Neris pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save of the season, but it wasn’t that easy, especially that last out.

Christian Yelich hit what should’ve been a fairly easy comebacker. However, Neris bobbled the ball and threw wildly to first, where Blanco stretched out for a great grab.

It was ironic that Neris, who specializes in saves, needed a save from his teammate, but that’s exactly how it went down.

“I didn’t expect a good throw,” Blanco told CSN’s Gregg Murphy. “I knew something crazy was going to happen. He bobbled it so many times. … But we made it.”

Phillies turn sights to starting pitching after adding relievers at winter meetings

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AP Images

Phillies turn sights to starting pitching after adding relievers at winter meetings

ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Klentak's trip to the winter meetings netted two veteran relievers, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

Now, Klentak's focus becomes starting pitching. He'd like to add at least one before spring training begins, and chances are good that he will.

"We will probably slow down on the reliever front for a little while," the Phillies general manager said on Wednesday, Day 3 of the meetings. "I think for right now, we’ll probably shift our focus back toward the starting pitcher market, see what comes of that and just be patient with it.

"My expectation is that we will have another move before we go to spring training. I would not be surprised if we’re done for the winter meetings, but I would be surprised if we’re done for the offseason."

The Phillies have probed the free-agent market — big-ticket items such as Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are unlikely — and spent the fall gauging other teams on which starters could become available in trades.

"I couldn't handicap the way it'll happen or even if it'll happen," Klentak said. "I think we're continuing to stay engaged with some agents. There's a few teams we've talked to about trades, some short-term options, some more controllable options. I just don't know.

"We've said as an industry and the Phillies have talked about this for a long time: it's so important to be able to develop your own starting pitchers because to acquire them in a trade is incredibly expensive in terms of player capital and to acquire them in free agency is incredibly expensive in terms of total dollars. Maybe never in our history has it been more important to develop starting pitchers."

In recent seasons, the Phillies have added starting pitchers (Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Clay Buchholz) near the end of their contracts. The Phils could still do that and have the money to take on a salary dump. But there would be merit to taking on a younger pitcher who has more contractual control, and the Phillies have the prospects to get in the hunt for Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer, three pitchers who fit this profile.

The Phillies have a logjam in the middle infield with J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery pushing Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. Galvis and Hernandez are both available for trades. Officials from other clubs say the Phillies have been aggressive in shopping Galvis. The Phils will look to get pitching for Galvis, but the return might not be robust because he is a rental player who will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Hernandez figures to bring a better return because he has three years of contractual control remaining. A person from a club that has spoken to the Phillies about Hernandez said the Phils are looking for two pitchers for him.

Another starting arm is needed to complement a group of starters that includes Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Ben Lively.

It's possible the Phils could also look for a veteran outfielder to come off the bench. But it's just as possible that the Phils give in-house prospect Roman Quinn a chance to be that guy. Quinn, a dynamic, speedy switch-hitter, has been plagued by injuries throughout his minor-league career, including last season when he missed significant time at Triple A with an elbow injury. He will turn 25 in May. It might be time to bring him, even if it means filling a reserve role.

"This is a year we want to find out about our young kids," Klentak said. "If we can find out about Roman Quinn, we would like to do that. On the flip side, if we have a chance to bring in a great makeup, complementary player that can help our young kids and show them the ropes a little bit, then we’d be open to that, too. That’s not likely to be an early offseason venture."

Also, as the rest of the offseason plays out, the Phils will monitor the availability of Miami outfielder Christian Yelich. The Phils have long liked Yelich and would certainly try to make a play for him. But as much as the Phillies like the player, Klentak has made it clear he's not in a hurry to subtract core players and prospects. That could hurt the Phillies' chances because it would take a big package of talent to get Yelich.

Notes
The Phillies pick third in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning. They will likely make a pick, but there's a strong possibility they will make it for another club and quickly trade the player. If the Phils lost someone in the draft, it could be outfielder Carlos Tocci or lefthander Brandon Leibrandt.

Klentak hinted that hard-throwing pitching prospect Seranthony Dominguez would begin transitioning to the bullpen in spring training. Mark Appel will also make the move to the bullpen.

Marlins continue fire sale by trading Marcell Ozuna

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USA Today Images

Marlins continue fire sale by trading Marcell Ozuna

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical.

"Ozuna is one of those names that you have to have great respect, especially as much we see him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said at the winter meetings. "We're at that necessary point of talking through health always, no matter what the player is. It's not just a formality."

An All-Star the past two seasons, the 27-year-old Ozuna set career bests this season with a .312 average, 37 homers and 124 RBIs. He is eligible for salary arbitration and likely will earn more than $10 million. He can become a free agent after the 2019 season.

Miami traded second baseman Dee Gordon to Seattle last Thursday for three prospects and dealt right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning NL MVP, to the New York Yankees on Monday for second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects. The Cardinals had a deal in place for Stanton last week, but he invoked his no-trade clause and blocked the move.

"I was just very impressed the fact that we were involved in those conversations," Matheny said. "Unfortunately, that didn't work, but I think that just kind of parlayed into, OK, now what are we going to do?"

Ozuna likely will be in the outfielder with Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham. St. Louis could trade right fielder Stephen Piscotty.

Matheny wouldn't commit to an alignment.

"Something we're appreciative of is the humility of our players to maybe go to a spot where they haven't been before," he said. "You go in with your ideals of what you would like to see, and you're going to have to be flexible."

Center fielder Christian Yelich could be the next to exit the downsizing Marlins, bought by Bruce Sherman's group on Oct. 2.

Miami had a $116 million payroll on Aug. 31, up from $81 million at the end of last year, and is intent on reducing obligations. Stanton was owed $295 million over the next decade, and Gordon $38 million through 2020.