Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins

Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins


MIAMI — When your organization has the worst record in baseball, you search every game to find something, anything, to build on for next year.

On Thursday night at Marlins Park, there might have been more than just one thing in a harrowing 3-2 win for the Phillies over the Miami Marlins (see observations).

But you would be hard-pressed to find anything more impressive than what left-hander Adam Morgan accomplished in the seventh inning, striking out the side against three impressive hitters.

After allowing a leadoff single to speedy Dee Gordon, Morgan, protecting a one-run lead, could have crumbled right there.

After all, this is his first year as a major-league reliever.

After all, Morgan had to find some way to get out Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs.

As it turned out, Morgan got all of them to swing at air for strike three.

“I just stuck to my strengths,” said Morgan, who is 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA this season. “It feels good, but I have to keep going. I want to finish strong.”

Morgan, a 27-year-old native of Marietta, Georgia, was once one of the Phillies’ top prospects. But shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff caused him to miss the entire 2014 minor-league season.  

He made his major-league debut on June 21, 2015, as a starting pitcher. He had a promising rookie season, going 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA. But last year, he slipped to 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA, opening the door for his conversion to reliever.

Morgan, though, said part of the issue was just getting back to normal after his surgery.

“The more you throw after a surgery,” he said, “the more you use whatever body part was surgically repaired, the more loose it gets and the more it gets back to normal.”

Morgan wasn’t the only hero on Thursday as the Phillies improved to 50-83. Starter Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also delighted in driving in two runs in an all-around performance.

“I feel if I swing hard enough and get a hold of it right, good things will happen,” said Lively, who is hitting .235 with one homer and four RBIs this season.

The Marlins stranded runners on second and third in the second inning and also left the bases loaded in the third, letting Lively off the hook.

The credit for working out of those jams apparently goes to catcher Cameron Rupp.

“I stuck with Rupp — he knows these guys better than I do,” said Lively, who broke a personal five-game losing streak. “I believed in him, and I believed in my pitches.”

This was the Phillies’ first one-run win since Aug. 9, but it almost didn’t happen because of some late-inning issues after Morgan departed.

The Marlins appeared to have tied the game in the eighth on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score. However, Telis ran out of the baseline and was called out.

“You don’t see that very often, but it was the right call,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You’ve got to give the pitcher a place to throw the ball.”

Stanton was held in check all night, going 0 for 5. And he was involved in Miami’s failed ninth-inning rally against Phillies closer Hector Neris, who earned his 17th save the hard way.

Neris hit pinch-hitter Mike Aviles with his first pitch and allowed a single to Gordon. Stanton then hit a deep fly out to center, but Aviles did not tag up. Yelich hit a low liner to left that was grabbed on a diving play by Hyun Soo Kim for the second out.

After a walk to Ozuna loaded the bases, J.T. Realmuto was caught looking at a 2-2 fastball that was either low or right at the knees to end the game.

“Good thing Lively drove in two runs,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “We won, and we’re happy about that.”

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.

Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

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Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies' pitching staff has suffered a setback.

Jerad Eickhoff, projected as a member of the season-opening starting rotation, has been shut down with a strained right lat muscle, the area behind his shoulder. He will open the season on the disabled list and be sidelined into May, based on the team's six- to eight-week timetable for treatment and recovery.

Eickhoff, 27, spent time on the disabled list with a similar injury last season. That injury was technically called an upper back strain.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Eickhoff injured himself on one of the final pitches he threw during his last start.

Eickhoff led the Phillies' staff in ERA (3.65) while making 33 starts in 2016. He was limited to 24 starts and had a 4.71 ERA last year while making two trips to the DL. His second trip to the DL, which ended his season, was for a nerve irritation in his right hand. Eickhoff is in Philadelphia being checked by doctors.

"We want to ensure, and we're pretty confident, that it's not related in any way to the (nerve) stuff he was dealing with last year," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Kapler added, "It's a mild lat strain. There might be a blessing in disguise here. We're always thinking about keeping guys healthy and strong and limiting their total innings count. Those are things that are always on our mind so it's possible the innings are limited on the front end and then in September, October, he's strong and healthy and prepared to go through a full season."

With Eickhoff down, the Phillies suddenly have some openings in their rotation. Jake Arrieta, who signed with the Phillies on Monday, believes he can be ready for the first week of the season, but nothing is official. Aaron Nola will be the opening day starter and Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are good bets to be in the rotation. The final spot could go to Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. or Tom Eshelman.

It is not known whether the Phillies would pursue free agent Alex Cobb. On Monday, general manager Matt Klentak said his offseason moves were likely complete.