Phillies Notes: Kevin Siegrist adds another lefty weapon to the bullpen

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Phillies Notes: Kevin Siegrist adds another lefty weapon to the bullpen

MIAMI — In the NL East alone, the Phillies have to face dangerous lefty hitters such as Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy of the Nationals, Michael Conforto (Mets), Christian Yelich and Justin Bour (Marlins) and Freddie Freeman (Braves).

Next year, if everything breaks right, the Phillies will have some late-game weapons to battle those sluggers.

On Saturday, the Phillies claimed 28-year-old lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist on waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. Siegrist, who is arbitration eligible in 2018 but under team control through 2019, joins two other lefties in the Phillies' 'pen: Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner.

“We (as an organization) have liked (Siegrist) for the past few years,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before Saturday’s game against the Marlins. “I feel happy that we’ve got a chance to look at him.”

Drafted by the Cardinals in the 41st round in 2008, Siegrist has carved out a significant career as a set-up reliever.  

He is 18-10 with a 3.43 ERA in five major-league seasons, all with St. Louis. He went 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 81 appearances in 2015. Last year, he went 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA in 67 games.

This year, though, he was 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA in 39 appearances. He landed on the disabled list in late June, missing nearly one month, and perhaps that heavy usage in 2015 and ’16 has caught up to Siegrist, whose velocity dropped this year amid a forearm injury, according to reports.

“I don’t know much about his injuries,” Mackanin said.

Siegrist hasn’t pitched since Aug. 3, but he did not allow a run in seven of his final eight appearances with the Cardinals.

“I’m anxious to see where he fits,” Mackanin said. “Those two guys (Morgan and Milner) have been outstanding — two nice pieces to have. And if we can add another (lefty reliever), that would be even better.”

Here are some more Phillies notes beyond the Siegrist acquisition:

• RHP Jerad Eickhoff’s season ended officially Saturday when the Phillies placed him on the 60-day disabled list. Eickhoff has been out since Aug. 30 because of nerve irritation and numbness in his right hand.

“It was a pretty clean image,” Mackanin said of the MRI Eickhoff had Friday, “nothing to be overly concerned about.”

Eickhoff, 27, was on the rise in 2016, going 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings. This year, though, he finished 4-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings, and Mackanin indicated Eickhoff will have to battle for a job in the rotation once the spring of 2018 arrives.

“He’s a candidate,” Mackanin said of Eickhoff, who was on the disabled list twice this year. “I’d like to think he would be because he was solid for us last year.”  

• RHP Jake Thompson will be recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley so he can start against the Marlins on Sunday. The 23-year-old rookie is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA for the Phillies this year, making six appearances, including three starts.

Thompson went 5-14 with a 5.25 ERA and a 1.546 WHIP in 22 starts at Lehigh Valley this year.

“He didn’t have a very good season at Triple A,” Mackanin said. “But he has pitched relatively well for us the couple of times he’s been up here.”

• Siegrist is the second veteran reliever the Phillies have picked up on waivers this week, joining right-hander Juan Nicasio. The Phillies got Nicasio from the Pirates on Thursday, and he picked up a relief win Friday despite getting just one out on three pitches.

“I told him we’re not going to pay him,” Mackanin joked. “He only threw three pitches to get the win. That’s not fair.”

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

ORLANDO, Fla. — On Day 1 of the winter meetings Monday, the Phillies' longstanding interest in Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado bubbled to the surface once again. The subject will continue to percolate all winter and beyond as the Orioles mull whether to trade the star player or let him play out the 2018 season, his final one before free agency.

It makes much more sense for the Phillies to try to sign Machado as a free agent next winter rather than surrender prospects — and ultimately big cash in the form of an extension — for him this winter. But if the Orioles create a market for Machado this winter, the Phillies will be in on it. At the moment, all is quiet.

It's no secret that the Phillies have deep pockets and no secret that they will spend big on top talent like Machado once their rebuild gets into the red zone. Klentak confirmed that again on Monday.

"There will come a time when we are one piece away and that one piece is a fill in the blank — starting pitcher, closer, cleanup hitter — and in that moment, when we feel that we are one piece away, or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do," he said.

"But for right now, we are on the cusp of getting to where we want to go, to developing this next young core. This is what happened with (Jimmy) Rollins and (Chase) Utley and (Ryan) Howard and (Cole) Hamels. We need to give these guys a chance to become that next group."

The Phillies showed improvement in the second half of last season. They went 38-38 over the final 76 games. Klentak wants to give the team's core the chance to continue its improvement in 2018.

"The most important thing we can do next year is let this young core develop and get the reps that they need to continue their improvement," Klentak said.

"We scored almost a full run more per game in the second half than we did in the first half. That was driven by (Nick) Williams, (Rhys) Hoskins, (J.P.) Crawford and (Jorge) Alfaro joining Cesar (Hernandez), Freddy (Galvis), (Maikel) Franco, Odubel (Herrera), (Aaron) Altherr, (Andrew) Knapp. That's exciting to me. Not only do we need to let that play out, we want to let that play out. 

"We want to see what that group can do now that they're more than three months into their major-league careers. What can they do in their first full season? Or their second full season? Baseball aging curves tell us that these players are likely to get better. How much better? We don't know. But we're only going to find out if we let them play." 

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the day he was traded from the Phillies to the Colorado Rockies in July, Pat Neshek stood in front of his locker and talked about how much he liked his time in Philadelphia. He gazed into his crystal ball and envisioned himself returning to the Phillies as a free agent over the winter.

The image in Neshek's crystal ball is about to come to life. The Phillies are on the verge of re-signing the 37-year-old right-hander, multiple sources said on Monday, the first day of baseball's winter meetings. When the deal is wrapped up in the next few days, it will be worth $16.25 million for two years with a club option for a third.

"We've been talking with the agents of a bunch of relief pitchers and we're on the goal line with one," said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who initially acquired Neshek in a trade with Houston 14 months ago then watched the pitcher deliver four outstanding months that landed him on the National League All-Star team.

There is not a no-trade clause in Neshek's new deal, so the Phillies could peddle him once again if they are not in contention. The Phillies got three prospects for Neshek in July — infielder Jose Gomez and right-handed pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena. Hammer was recently named to the Arizona Fall League's All-Prospect team.

Neshek pitched in 43 games (40 1/3 innings) for the Phillies in 2017 and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62 1/3 innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Neshek is expected to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017. The Phillies could continue to add to their bullpen before the winter is complete. Sources say they have shown interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

"I think we’re open-minded to bringing in multiple bullpen reinforcements," Klentak said. "One of the goals leading into next season is to improve our run prevention. Obviously, there are a lot of ways we can do that. One way — and this is sort of the simple narrative — is to address our starting pitching. We will continue to explore ways to improve our starting pitching, but I also think we need to be prepared to improve our run prevention in other areas. Improving our bullpen is one way to do that.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning. If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."

The Phillies will continue to look for starting pitching at these winter meetings and beyond. They are open to trading Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez and would look to get starting pitching in a deal for one of them. The Angels, according to sources, covet Hernandez as both a second baseman and leadoff man, but the Phillies' asking price is high.

Also on Day 1 of the winter meetings ...

The Phillies lost outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma on waivers to Seattle and Pittsburgh, respectively. With two openings on the 40-man roster, the Phils can add a player in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. They have the third overall pick.

"I would expect that we would take advantage of the third pick in some form or fashion," Klentak said. "Whether we draft a player and retain that player or draft a player and make a trade, I think we’ll look to do something with it. That was a big part of why we put the two guys on waivers that we did. It was just to free us up to be able to participate on Thursday."