Phillies

In successful weekend in Miami, Phillies show potential against Marlins

In successful weekend in Miami, Phillies show potential against Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — The Phillies have the worst record in baseball at 52-84. But after taking three out of four games from the playoff-contending Miami Marlins this weekend, it’s possible the Phillies aren’t that bad.

The Phillies continued to show signs of life Sunday, beating Miami, 3-1, at Marlins Park on a two-out, two-run, single by Nick Williams in the top of the 12th inning (see observations).

As for the big picture …

“We’ve had injuries like everybody else,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’ve had guys coming and going — I think 16 guys who have made their (major-league) debut.

“I feel like this team has a lot of potential.”

To Mackanin’s point, the Phillies are tied for eighth in the majors in fielding percentage, and the organization’s vision no doubt has that ranking improving in the near future with the addition of athletic infield prospects such as J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery.

True, the Phillies are 24th in the majors in ERA (4.72) and 28th in runs scored. The pitching deficiencies have a lot to do with injuries to Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez, a pair of starters the Phillies hope to have ready for 2018.

Aaron Nola leads the staff with 10 wins, and this weekend saw good starts from Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta and Jake Thompson, the latter of whom struck out a career high seven batters in a one-run, six-inning performance Sunday.

Mark Leiter Jr., who pitches Monday against the Mets in New York, has been impressive so far with a 3.88 ERA.

And here’s the thing: All seven of the aforementioned pitchers are 26 or younger.

The bullpen, meanwhile, looked great Sunday, as four pitchers combined to limit Miami to one hit and no runs over six innings. Hector Neris got his 19th save, but Juan Nicasio, Luis Garcia and Adam Morgan also contributed out of the 'pen.

Thompson, who has bounced four times this year between the Phillies and Triple A Lehigh Valley, was grateful things went his way Sunday.

“It’s nice to have one of those days after the things I’ve gone through this year,” Thompson said. “It makes me feel good.”

As for the offense, it struggled considerably Sunday when Rhys Hoskins sat out with a bruised right hand. But if Hoskins and Williams continue to develop, perhaps the Phillies can rise from out of the NL East basement next year.

Williams, who is batting .271, now has 35 RBIs since making his major-league debut June 30, tops among NL rookies during that span.

But he had stranded the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning Sunday and had left runners on the corners with one out in the 10th, unable to get even a sacrifice fly on either occasion.

Finally, with two outs in the top of the 12th, Williams pulled his two-run single to right.

“It’s weird,” Williams said. “I’ve been getting out like crazy (lately). It’s not like I was striking out. I’ve just been hitting balls right at people.”

As long as good contact is being made, though, hits will eventually fall, and that’s what the Phillies are hoping for more of in the future.

Perhaps it’s not entirely crazy to think the Phillies could make a Marlins-type run at .500 in 2018. Miami’s pitching is not much better than Philadelphia’s, ranking 21st in the majors with a 4.63 ERA.

The Marlins are 15th in runs scored and 16th in homers. The Phillies are 27th in homers.

So, to make a significant stride, the Phillies would have to get healthy, improve their pitching and hope that Hoskins and Williams become their version of Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.

Morgan (3-1), who got the win Sunday with three hitless and scoreless innings, is bullish on the Phillies’ future. And the same can be said about Thompson.

“It’s good to have something to feel good about as we go into the offseason,” Thompson said. “That’s huge.

“Hopefully, we can finish the season strong.”

Jake Arrieta ain't happening, Phillies fans

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AP Images

Jake Arrieta ain't happening, Phillies fans

ORLANDO — Throughout this entire offseason, Phillies officials have privately said that they will not be players for top free-agent starting pitchers seeking long contracts and huge paydays.

It's not that the Phillies can't do it. This is the same ownership group that signed free agent Cliff Lee to a mega-deal a few years ago, the same ownership group that gave Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard huge extensions.

Money is not an issue for this team. 

The Phillies will spend big again someday soon — GM Matt Klentak talked about that Monday — but the time is not right, at least when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers on the other side of age 30 whose impressive career track records have included some recent blips in performance and the occasional health concern.

Back in October, club president Andy MacPhail talked about the downside of signing these types of pitchers and the dangers of paying for what he called "past performance." He went on to stress something that he has stressed since he arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 2015 — the need to develop your own pitchers.

Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are the top two starting pitchers on this winter's free-agent market. Both are over the age of 30. Both are seeking big-money, long-term deals. Phillies officials, while expressing respect for both pitchers, have privately rejected the idea of pursuing either this winter.

And, yet, on Day 2 of the winter meetings Tuesday, a breathless rumor surfaced that the Phillies were considering Arrieta. A Phillies official privately scoffed at the rumor, which surfaced a day after ESPN reported that Arrieta was seeking a deal of $180 million to $200 million.

Again, it's not that the Phillies can't afford Arrieta. It's that his age — he'll pitch at 32 next season — does not make him a great fit for a young Phillies team that still has miles to go on its development curve.

"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," Klentak said Monday.

Now, if the Baltimore Orioles are serious about trading Manny Machado this winter, we expect the Phillies to be right in it. They love Machado and his age — 25 — fits nicely into the Phillies' plan of developing a young core. It's extremely doubtful that the Phillies would give up Sixto Sanchez or Scott Kingery, but they'd listen on other players, provided they could get Machado signed to an extension.

The Phillies are looking to add starting pitching this winter and they have lots of money. So linking Arrieta to the Phillies makes sense, especially for those interested in driving up his market. We don’t doubt that Arrieta's name may have come up in passing in conversations between the Phillies and his agent, Scott Boras. Maybe that qualifies as "considering." But this is a deal that ain't happening.

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."