Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

ATLANTA -- Left-hander Hoby Milner will likely get more late-inning relief opportunities over the final seven weeks of the season, manager Pete Mackanin said on Wednesday.

Milner pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Tuesday in the Phillies’ 5-2 win over the Braves. Milner allowed one hit, but retired all three left-handed batters he faced, including Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman.

“I wanted to see how he does against lefties,” Mackanin said. “It was a three-run game in the eighth inning. My job, as I see it, is to find out if he’s going to be a part of it, if he can do that.”

Left-handed batters are hitting .214 against Milner and right-handers are batting .429 against him. In 13 relief appearances, he’s posted a 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He has made three consecutive scoreless appearances.

On Tuesday, Milner allowed a one-out single to right-handed Brandon Phillips, but retired Freeman on a grounder that was nearly turned for a double play. He got cleanup hitter Nick Markakis to ground softly to shortstop to end the inning.

“His command wasn’t exceptional, but he got them out,” Mackanin said. “He got the job done. To me, that’s a good step forward.”

The Phillies are encouraging Milner to start throwing his two-seam fastball against right-handers, an approach he had abandoned.

“He’s got a good two-seam fastball, but he hasn’t been throwing it to right-handers. We can’t figure it out,” Mackanin said. “(Pitching coach Bob) McClure just noticed when he was warming up, that he’s throwing all four-seamers. He threw some [two-seamers Tuesday]. His sinker sinks this much and he wasn’t using it. Maybe that’s going to be a real bonus for him.”

No set plans for Hoskins
The Phillies still haven’t made a decision about if or when to recall slugger Rhys Hoskins, but Mackanin is eager to see what he can do.

“I liked his approach in spring training,” Mackanin said. “I must say that I’m anxious to see him at this level. If the at-bats in the spring were any indication of what he can do, it looks like he can handle it here. But Matt (Klentak, GM) will make that decision and I defer to the people who’ve seen him more than I have.”

Hoskins began playing left field with Triple A Lehigh Valley to help speed his promotion to the major leagues. He’s hitting .280 with 28 homers and 86 RBIs in 114 games.

About that Herrera homer
There was still conversation about Odubel Herrera’s golf-shot homer on Tuesday. According to Statcast, the ball was 0.73 feet off the ground and is the lowest pitch hit for a homer since they began keeping the statistic in 2015.

Mackanin said, “I saw Shawon Dunston hit a ball that bounced for a base hit. He said he was looking for a slider in the dirt. I swear that’s what he said. And he hit it.”

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday starts the one-week countdown to opening day.

Oh, yeah, and Jake Arrieta will also make his Grapefruit League debut.

It figures to be the highlight of the spring.

Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies last week. He has completed a progression from bullpen work — he actually had gotten well into that on his own before signing — to facing hitters in a controlled situation.

Now, it’s time to face some competition — the Detroit Tigers. The game will be televised on NBCSP+ at 1 p.m.

The Phillies have yet to decide when Arrieta will make his regular-season debut. The pitcher believes he will be ready during the first week of the season. The team will exercise caution. Arrieta’s performance Thursday — and possibly more important, his recovery — will go a long way into determining when the Phils turn him loose.

“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.

"We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”

Kapler said the Phils would be flexible on Arrieta’s pitch count. Fifty or so seems like a good guess.

Arrieta has been around for a week now. His teammates are thrilled to have him.

“Obviously, with the Arrieta signing, we got a lot better not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Rhys Hoskins said (more on him here). “What he’s going to be able to do not only for the pitchers but for some of us young position guys — I mean he’s recently won a World Series, he’s a Cy Young guy, he knows how to compete at the highest level. We have a good group. It’s meshing pretty quickly. I’m excited to see how it goes once we start.”

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight

USA Today Images

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight


DUNEDIN, Fla. — The season opener is eight days away and Rhys Hoskins says his swing “is getting there.” 

Getting there? Really?

It looks like it already arrived with the morning mail.

Hoskins continued his recent run of excellent at-bats in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He belted a two-run homer, a solo homer and also worked a walk. Over his last five games, he is 6 for 16 with five walks. For the spring, he is hitting .279 (12 for 43) with four doubles, four homers, eight RBIs, 11 runs scored and an OPS of 1.066.

“What does he have, 10 strikeouts and 10 walks on the spring?” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked.

Indeed, those are the numbers.

“That is fantastic,” Kapler said. “Obviously, he’s swinging the bat beautifully and really controlling the at-bats.”

It all starts with pitch recognition.

“I’ve been pretty happy with that throughout camp,” Hoskins said. “I don’t feel like I’ve chased too many, which is always good. I’ve seen a bunch of breaking balls and been able to recognize them early.”

The outstanding selectivity that Hoskins has allows him to work pitchers into fastball counts. He did that in the first inning when he got a 3-1 fastball from Marcus Stroman and drove it over the left-field wall. The ball left the bat at 108 miles per hour.

Obviously, Hoskins was pleased that the ball left the yard. He was more pleased with the swing. He believes pitchers will try to bust him in this season and he’s ready for it.

“I was really, really happy with the first at-bat,” he said. “I had been struggling with the ball in. I was able to keep my hands inside of it and the ball went.”

His second homer came on a 1-1 fastball from Luis Santos. The wind was blowing out at Dunedin Stadium. Hoskins saw a pitch up and took a rip.

“On a day like today, if you see the ball up you’re going to have a pretty good chance,” he said.

Hoskins batted second in the lineup, ahead of Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana. Kapler has juggled lineups all spring and has strongly implied that he will do that, based on matchups, during the regular season.

“I don’t care where I hit,” Hoskins said. “With the guys we have and the way they’re going to construct the lineup, if I hit second, fourth, sixth, I think I’m going to be able to hit with men on base.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a run producer, so that’s the main thing for me. If I can create some runs, whether it’s scoring runs or driving in runs, I’ll be happy.”

The Phils and Jays played to a 7-7 tie. The Phillies’ bullpen gave up five runs in the last two innings to let a 7-2 lead get away. The Phils used 10 pitchers, including two day-trippers from minor-league camp. Starter Nick Pivetta pitched two perfect innings. The team purposely scaled him back to keep him in line with a 25-inning spring target. Scott Kingery and Aaron Altherr also hit home runs.