Phillies

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford will arrive in the majors on Tuesday

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Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford will arrive in the majors on Tuesday

NEW YORK — The long-awaited arrival of J.P. Crawford to the major leagues is upon us.
 
The Phillies on Monday promoted the 22-year-old shortstop to the majors. The move came moments after Crawford helped the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs win their regular season finale to earn a berth in the International League playoffs.
 
Playing in the postseason, at any level, can be beneficial to a player's development, but Phillies officials have decided they'd rather have Crawford in the majors for the final 25 games of this season so they can gauge his readiness for the possibility of a spot on next year's 25-man roster, either on opening day or shortly thereafter.

Crawford will join the club in New York in time for Tuesday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field. He will get some time at shortstop, his natural position. He is also expected to get some time at third base, a position at which he recently started to get reps.
 
Whatever time that Crawford gets at shortstop will come at the expense of Freddy Galvis, the team's regular at the position since the start of the 2015 season. Galvis has played Gold Glove caliber defense this season and is on record as saying he would like to play in all 162 games. He played center field in a game last week and could play some there as manager Pete Mackanin tries to help Galvis reach his goal.
 
Galvis last week said he understood that the team wanted to take a look at Crawford in September (see story). Galvis will be eligible for salary arbitration for the final time this winter and is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season. He could be the Phillies' regular shortstop next season. Or he could be shopped for a trade over the winter.
 
Crawford was the Phillies' top pick (No. 16 overall) in 2013. He survived a brutal first half of this season and finished with a .243 batting average and a .756 OPS at Lehigh Valley. From June 20 through Monday's regular-season finale, he hit .280 with a .381 on-base percentage, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a .904 OPS.

When Crawford plays, he will become the 14th Phillie to make his major-league debut this season.

Gabe Kapler going with a 'stud' as Phillies' opening day starter

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Gabe Kapler going with a 'stud' as Phillies' opening day starter

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Gabe Kapler got one of the rites of spring out of the way Sunday. He named his opening day starting pitcher. Not surprisingly, it is the Phillies’ best starter. Aaron Nola will take the mound March 29 in Atlanta.

“I’ll tell you, it’s Aaron Nola,” Kapler said after the right-hander’s spring debut in an 8-3 loss to the Yankees. “It’s going to be Aaron Nola, barring anything crazy happening. He’s our guy. He's the man. He's our opening day starter. He’s earned it. He’s unequivocally the right choice. He’s an absolute gamer, a grinder and a stud and we’re proud to have him.”

Nola, 24, will be the Phillies’ youngest opening day starter since Dennis Bennett in 1964. Nola departed before Kapler’s announcement. Earlier in the day, he said getting the opening day nod “would mean a lot.” He added, “But there’s a lot of games and I plan on pitching a lot of them.”

After making the announcement, Kapler was asked if he would stay with that plan if the Phillies landed a big-name starting pitcher. It’s no secret that the club would like to sign former NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta — if he’d be willing to take a short-term deal. There’s a feeling around baseball that the longer Arrieta remains unsigned, the better chance his road would lead to Philadelphia.

“Yes,” Kapler said in response to the question. “As of this moment, Aaron Nola is our opening day starter.”

Nola returned from an elbow injury in 2017 and struck out 9.88 batters per nine innings in 27 starts last season. His 3.54 ERA ranked 20th in the majors. He had 12 ultra-quality starts — seven innings or more, two or fewer earned runs. Only Clayton Kershaw (16) and Max Scherzer (14) had more.

“His performance lines up nicely with the Scherzers of the world, not far off (Zack) Grienke,” Kapler said. “He is a real stud, someone we can depend on.”

Nola worked two innings Sunday. He gave up four hits, but one was a ball that Maikel Franco lost in the sun. Had Franco made the play, Nola eventually would have gotten out of the first inning. Instead, he was charged with three runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out three.

“It was really impressive to see that horizontal curveball and the life on his fastball,” Kapler said. “His curveball has the most east-west break in baseball. You can see it make a sharp left turn out of his hand.

“The results are not representative of his work today. His work was outstanding.”

Nola said his goal this season was to make every start and pitch 200 innings. He believes the Phillies can contend.

“Everybody still thinks we’re in the rebuilding stage, but I don’t think anyone in here doesn't think we’re going to compete,” he said. “We’re definitely going to be better than last year.”

And if the Phillies can add someone like Arrieta?

“That’s not our decision,” Nola said. “That’s the big guys’ decision. It would definitely be good to get another veteran. It’s always good to have veterans because for us younger guys it’s good to learn from them. They’ve been in our shoes before.”

At career crossroads, 'fearless' Middlebrooks vows comeback from injury

At career crossroads, 'fearless' Middlebrooks vows comeback from injury

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Will Middlebrooks wears a bracelet on his left wrist that says fearless. That is the way he likes to play and it is the way he was playing when he suffered a broken leg – and maybe more – Saturday afternoon.
 
“As soon as you don’t take chances you don’t know how good you can be,” Middlebrooks said upon returning to the Phillies' clubhouse on crutches and with a cast on his leg Sunday.
 
Middlebrooks, 29, broke his left fibula in a collision with outfielder Andrew Pullin in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. Middlebrooks was playing third base when he sprinted back after a soft fly ball to left. He slid trying to make a catch and his leg bent awkwardly under the hard-charging Pullin. Middlebrooks was to see a specialist on Sunday. More tests are planned to determine whether he sustained damage to the ligaments in his ankle, as well.
 
“It was just a freak play,” Middlebrooks said. “I had a good talk with Pully about it. He was distraught. I was at the hospital yesterday, got his number and texted him. I told him everything was fine, you didn’t do anything wrong. It was just one of those plays.”
 
Middlebrooks, who has played in the majors with Boston, San Diego, Milwaukee and Texas, is in camp with the Phillies on a minor-league contract. He appeared to be a long shot to make the big-league team as a reserve corner infielder and likely would have provided depth at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He will likely need surgery to repair the injury. No timetable was given for his recovery, but he will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
In one breath, Middlebrooks conceded that the injury could threaten his career.
 
“Yeah, the game is getting younger every day,” he said. “I’ll be 30 this year. Unfortunately, that’s not prime anymore. You look in this clubhouse and everyone is 23, 24 years old. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind.”
 
In the next, he promised to be back on the field this year.
 
“In the small window of time I’ve spent here with the staff and the training staff, I think I’ll be fine,” he said. “If it takes two months, if it takes four or five months, I don’t know how long it will take. I’m not counting myself out. I plan on playing this year.”
 
The Phillies are looking for versatility in filling out their bench. Middlebrooks is one of four veteran infielders with big-league experience in camp on a minor-league deal. Pedro Florimon, Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales are the others. Jesmuel Valentin and Scott Kingery, both members of the 40-man roster, are also in camp. Kingery is expected to open the season at Triple A.