Phillies hope to hang on to Tommy Joseph after lopping him from roster

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Phillies hope to hang on to Tommy Joseph after lopping him from roster


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jake Arrieta’s big day was Tommy Joseph’s bad day.

Arrieta passed his physical exam in Philadelphia on Monday and his three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies became official (see story). In need of a 40-man roster spot for Arrieta, the Phillies designated Joseph for assignment. Within the next week, Joseph will either be traded or claimed by another club on waivers. If he clears waivers, he could be sent to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

“We would like it to break that he’s still with us going forward,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Joseph, 26, joined the Phillies organization in the summer of 2012 in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. At the time, Joseph was a catcher. A series of concussions nearly ended his career, but he converted to first base and forged his way to the majors in May 2016. He hit 43 home runs the last two seasons, but did not reach base enough to satisfy a front office that wants to build a lineup around players with that skill. The emergence of Rhys Hoskins last season and the signing of free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana this winter made Joseph expendable and efforts to trade him were fruitless.

During his time in the majors, Joseph emerged as one of the most likeable and respected players in the Phillies clubhouse. His courageous journey from nearly being out of baseball to the major leagues is chronicled here.

In just a short time together, Kapler grew to appreciate Joseph’s maturity and team-first attitude.

“Everyone here has an incredible amount of respect for Tommy,” Kapler said. “It’s a loss in the clubhouse.”

Kapler informed Joseph of the news before the Phillies played the Braves at Disney.

“He took it like a professional,” Kapler said. “Every conversation I’ve had with Tommy has been the same – professional, thoughtful. He’s been a joy.”

• The Phillies rallied to beat the Braves, 3-0, on the strength of Mitch Walding’s three-run homer against Arodys Vizcaino in the top of the eighth inning. The Phillies had been no-hit through seven innings. J.P. Crawford opened the eighth with a bloop double. Those were the Phils’ only two hits.

Zach Eflin was impressive with five innings of one-hit ball. He struck out two and walked none. Eflin is a candidate for a job in the back half of the rotation, but the addition of Arrieta could mean he opens at Triple A.

• Arrieta will report to Clearwater on Tuesday morning and be introduced in a news conference. Kapler said team officials would gauge Arrieta’s readiness to pitch when he arrives. Arrieta has been working out and throwing so he should not be far behind. Nonetheless, Kapler said he will stick with Aaron Nola as opening day starter.

“He has earned that right,” Kapler said.

Phillies players jacked to have Jake Arrieta

Phillies players jacked to have Jake Arrieta

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies clubhouse buzzed with excitement Monday afternoon. Jake Arrieta is on his way and the stakes have been raised for this club.

“I don’t know what other thought there would be other than it’s a great move for us,” catcher Cameron Rupp said. “How can you think otherwise? It’s exciting. It’s a guy who has established himself in the big leagues, been to a World Series. There’s a lot of good things that can come from not only having him on our pitching staff, but in our clubhouse as well.

“I’m sure that predictive stat of how many games we’re going to win just went up.

“There’s a lot of good things happening here. It’s nice to see it.”

Arrieta's three-year, $75 million contract became official when he passed his physical exam in Philadelphia on Monday. He will be introduced Tuesday at a 9 a.m. news conference in Clearwater. To make room for Arrieta on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated Tommy Joseph for assignment (see story)

The Phillies won just 66 games last season, though they did play .500 ball over their final 76 games. They would likely need to improve their overall win total by 20 to nibble around the second wild-card spot. Improvement in all corners of the roster is needed, but with Arrieta and Aaron Nola accounting for 40 percent of the club’s starts, the Phillies’ chances are better today than they were yesterday.

At the very least, Arrieta's signing indicates that the organization’s tack is shifting from rebuilding to contending.

“It shows that the turning of the tide is a lot sooner than I think we all thought,” pitcher Jerad Eickhoff said. “This whole camp has been real positive and there was this sense that it could happen sooner than later, but this is just another piece. It's a pretty exciting time.”

Arrieta is one of four free agents signed by the Phillies this winter, along with Carlos Santana and relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. Arrieta and Hunter were teammates in Baltimore and remain close friends. Hunter spent the winter trying to convince his pal to sign with the Phillies.

“I was coming hard in the paint, man,” Hunter said with a laugh.

On Sunday, Arrieta called Hunter (via FaceTime) and told him he’d reached agreement with the Phillies.

“He’s a Cy Young winner and a great clubhouse guy," Hunter said.

Can his addition turn the Phillies into contenders?

“The team could have made a run without him,” Hunter said. “You never know in baseball. I don’t want to put that burden or weight on one person and say that guy is going to transform an entire organization, but if you asked him if there’s anybody that could do it, it’d be him. He’s a confident guy and you have to be at the level he’s pitched at the last few years. You have to walk around with that swag and I think it’s going to take a lot of pressure off a lot of people having him here.”

Hunter was crowned champion of the team’s clubhouse ping-pong tournament last week. Will he give his new teammate a shot at the title?

“He can step in line like everybody else,” Hunter said. “Back of the bus, kid.”

Phillies fans might be irked by what the Nationals did

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Phillies fans might be irked by what the Nationals did

Surprised Gabe Kapler didn't think of this one first.

New Nationals manager Dave Martinez had every player on his team practice their walk-off trot to prepare for the inevitable game-winning hit this season.

"I tell them, just like everything else, we work really hard, I also want them to have fun," Martinez told the Associated Press.

This is the new normal in baseball. Martinez is a disciple of innovative Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who has always focused on fun in the clubhouse, both in Chicago and Tampa Bay.

Phillies fans will probably be irked by Martinez having his guys practice walk-offs. It's like telling the world that you're practicing your acceptance speech before actually winning the award.

But this is all in good fun. The days of things like this being a "disgrace to the game" are ending quickly. Players are letting their personalities show now more than ever before, and the list of managers embracing that is growing.