Phillies-Reds 5 things: More rain as Phils go for series win

Phillies-Reds 5 things: More rain as Phils go for series win

Phillies at Reds
12:35 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on and the NBC Sports app

Some game notes ahead of the Phillies' series finale with the Reds Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park:

1. Buchholz's debut
Longtime Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz makes his Phillies debut and first-ever start in the National League after a rough spring.

Buchholz, 32, had a 6.65 ERA in six spring starts, allowing five home runs in 21 2/3 innings.

Buchholz is a reclamation project for GM Matt Klentak and the Phillies. They acquired him in December for minor-league second baseman Josh Tobias, who was expendable with the organization deep in second basemen (Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery, Jesmuel Valentin, perhaps Freddy Galvis once J.P. Crawford is called up).

It was a move similar to the Phillies' acquisition last offseason of Jeremy Hellickson from the Diamondbacks. That moved worked out as Hellickson has been the most solid and consistent he's been since his first two years in Tampa. 

But there's more reason for skepticism with Buchholz, who has alternated good and bad seasons in each of the last six. He also had seven trips to the DL from 2008-15.

Buchholz's last successful season was 2015, when he went 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA, 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.8 walks in 18 starts with Boston. 

The Phillies are hoping he pitches well enough in the season's first two months to become an enticing trade candidate. If that doesn't work out, well, it's not like they're committed to him. Buchholz is due $13.5 million this season before reaching free agency. If he stumbles over the first two months and Jake Thompson pitches well at Triple A, you could see Thompson up to take his place.

Buchholz has a pretty diverse repertoire. He has a four-seam fastball (about 93 mph), cutter, curveball, changeup and sinker, and last season he threw each of those pitches between 16 and 25 percent of the time.

2. Searching for offense
The Phillies made left-hander Brandon Finnegan look like an All-Star Wednesday night. He allowed just one hit (in the first inning) over seven shutout innings and struck out nine. 

It's the second straight year Finnegan shut the Phillies down in Game No. 2 of the season. Last April 6, he also struck out nine while allowing two runs over six innings in a Reds win.

Three of the Phillies' four hits last night were infield hits, so there was next to no offense to speak of. With a much different looking lineup on getaway day -- Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Andrew Knapp are starting -- they're hoping to do enough at the plate to leave Cincinnati with a series win over the lowly Reds.

Will they respond?

The Phillies had six games like this last season with no runs and four or fewer hits. On four of the six occasions, they lost the next day, three of them by one run.

3. Fitting name
The Phillies face Reds rookie Rookie Davis. Yes, a rookie named Rookie. His real name is William Davis, but he's had the nickname from his father since birth.

Davis, 23, was one of four prospects the Reds acquired from the Yankees in December 2015 for Aroldis Chapman. 

The 6-foot-5 right-hander spent most of last season at Double A before making a handful of starts at Triple A. All told, he went 10-5 with a 3.82 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 37 walks in 125 innings.

Davis is a strike-thrower with a 93-to-95 mph fastball, a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. He doesn't project to miss a ton of bats at the major-league level.

4. First start for Stassi and Knapp
Pete Mackanin had already planned to play Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp Thursday before Wednesday's 2-0 loss, and the Phils are hoping the infusion of two rookies breathes some life into the lineup. Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp were a combined 1 for 15 with seven strikeouts in the first two games.

For Stassi, it's the culmination of a long journey to the majors that was well-documented locally and nationally over the last week. Some nerves will be there for the 27-year-old, but at least he shook some of that off in the season opener with a pinch-hit walk.

With the left-handed hitting Stassi and switch-hitting Knapp in the lineup, Maikel Franco is the only true right-handed hitter in the Phillies' lineup Thursday.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Daniel Nava, LF (S)
3. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF (L)
6. Andrew Knapp, C (S)
7. Brock Stassi, 1B (L)
8. Freddy Galvis, SS (S)
9. Clay Buchholz, P 

5. This and that
• After sitting through a rain delay last night, some more precipitation is in store for the Phillies and Reds Thursday. There is a 50 percent or better chance of rain through 5 p.m.

• Tommy Joseph sits after going 0 for 8 with five strikeouts in the first two games. Pitchers are usually ahead of hitters this early in the season, but Joseph also had difficulty catching up to fastballs at times last season. Mackanin isn't going to switch things up because of two games, but the situations bears watching. 

• How good has John Kruk been so far?

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.