Phillies-Nationals observations: Hoskins goes deep as Phils hold off Nats

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Phillies-Nationals observations: Hoskins goes deep as Phils hold off Nats


WASHINGTON -- Rhys Hoskins homered again and drew three walks and Mark Leiter Jr. notched the pitching victory as the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals, 5-4, on Saturday night.

The Phillies got strong bullpen work from Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris in making a one-run lead stand up in the late innings. Neris got the final two outs with the potential tying run on second.

• Leiter Jr. allowed four runs over six innings and left with a 5-4 lead. Leiter took a two-run lead to the mound in the sixth and allowed a pair of no-out singles, prompting a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure. Leiter then retired the next two batters on fly balls to center. He then gave up an RBI single to Michael A. Taylor as the Nats pulled to within a run before retiring pinch-hitter Adam Lind for the final out.

• Reliever Ramos has pitched well — and with a lot of confidence — since coming back from the minors. He registered a pair of strikeouts in protecting a one-run lead in the seventh. His second strikeout came on a hard-biting breaking ball to the dangerous Howie Kendrick and stranded the potential tying run at second. Ramos has struck out 23 and walked just five in 16 2/3 innings since coming back from Triple A. He has the stuff to be a force late in games. Lately, he has been.

• Reliever Garcia struck out the side in the eighth, getting three tough customers in Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon with a combination of fastballs and hard sliders. One of Garcia's fastballs registered 100 mph. Garcia has long had a great arm and tantalized Phillies officials with his potential. The team's patience with him might pay off. He has allowed just one run in his last 14 appearances and just eight in his last 39 innings.

• The Phillies got solo home runs from Hoskins and Maikel Franco in the second inning. Hoskins was on base four times with the homer and three walks. His bases-loaded walk in the fourth delivered a run. He also stole his first base as a big-leaguer. He had just 19 steals in 455 games in the minors.

• Hoskins has 14 homers in 30 big-league games. That's the most homers ever by a player who made his big-league debut after August 1.

• Franco has homered in two straight games since being held out of the starting lineup three straight games.

• Odubel Herrera had a tough night. He left seven men on base and saw his 21-game hitting streak end. That was the longest in the majors this season.

• J.P. Crawford did not start after playing the previous four games, three at third base and one at shortstop. He could get his first start at second base on Sunday. Crawford pinch-hit in the eighth inning against Joe Blanton and stuck out on a breaking ball.

• Aaron Atherr has been cleared to play. In fact, he entered as a defensive sub in left field in the ninth inning. Manager Pete Mackanin said there was a possibility Altherr would start in the outfield on Sunday afternoon, which is good news for fans who've been clamoring to see him play over Hyun Soo Kim. Altherr has not had an at-bat since August 4 when he went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

• Heard a couple of Eagles chants in the stands. The Birds, of course, open up down this way Sunday. (Personal note: Hope the Birds go undefeated, but it's must-see TV when Michael B. goes nuts on the postgame show after they lose.)

• Rookie Ben Lively (3-5, 3.92) pitches against Washington's Stephen Strasburg in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Strasburg is 12-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 24 starts. Over his last three starts, he has worked 21 scoreless innings, walked just two and struck out 23. It won't be an easy assignment for the Phillies.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

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.