How Phillies might optimize their lineup in 2018

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How Phillies might optimize their lineup in 2018


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies manager Gabe Kapler continued to experiment with different lineup looks Saturday. He used the bulk of his regulars in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez batted eighth and shortstop J.P. Crawford ninth.

Several National League managers, starting with Tony La Russa when he was leading the Cardinals, and more recently Joe Maddon of the Cubs, have used this strategy. Pete Mackanin did it 35 times with the Phils in 2016.

Kapler could employ the strategy this season.

“We want more runners on base at the top of the lineup,” Kapler said. “Utilizing J.P.’s superior on-base skills — that’s the intent there. It’s possible that we will use a lineup like that during the season, and, like I’ve said numerous times, we don’t want to do anything for the first time in the season that we didn’t do in practice here.”

The strength of the Phillies’ batting order will be at the top where Kapler could go with Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana, Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins in the top four spots.

“If you think about where we can do a lot of damage, it’s right at the top of our lineup,” Kapler said. “And it’s a possibility that either Santana or Hoskins is hitting in that two-hole, then it makes sense that we’d like to have J.P. standing on second or third base when those guys come up in the order. It’s not just J.P. It will be a personnel decision.

“But any edge that we can use to score more runs, we’re going to go after, even if it is just a minor edge, sort of that continual (quest for) value at the margins. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned. We’re going to continually look to optimize our lineup to score runs.”

Hector Neris gave up a three-run homer to David Olmedo-Barrera in the top of the ninth to take the loss.

Crawford was involved in a scary play when a piece of his broken bat hit him in the face. Kapler said Crawford was fine.

Velasquez was sharp with four scoreless innings. He gave up three singles, one of which was a routine ground ball through a shift hole. He struck out two and walked none.

The Phillies sent pitchers Ricardo Pinto, Enyel De Los Santos and Cole Irvin to the minors. Infielder Heiker Meneses and catcher Nick Rickles were also reassigned.

The Phils play a night game against the Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday night. Nick Pivetta will be the starting pitcher.

Phillies set date for Jake Arrieta's regular season debut

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Phillies set date for Jake Arrieta's regular season debut

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies have announced their plan for Jake Arrieta.

He will make his regular season debut on April 8 at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins.

That is a Sunday afternoon game.

Arrieta has a career ERA of 3.28 in day games as opposed to 3.77 in night games. Opposing batters have hit just .214 against him over his career in day games.

“He loves pitching in day games,” manager Gabe Kapler said in announcing the plan for Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies on March 12.

Even though Arrieta showed up to camp in excellent shape and had been throwing on his own, the Phillies had promised to be cautious in getting him ready for the regular season. Arrieta will start on Tuesday in Clearwater then pitch again on April 2, probably against minor leaguers in Clearwater, before his debut against Miami.

Arrieta had hoped to pitch during the first week of the season. The way things line up, he will miss just one start. The Phillies could stash him on the disabled list as he builds arm strength until they activate him before the April 8 game.

“Jake’s on board with this,” Kapler said. “He’s such a competitive dude, he wants to get out there immediately. But he has a strong understanding of the long view and what will keep him healthy and strong over the whole season and through the next three or four years. He understood that the best thing for his body is to build up a little more and get a nice slow, easy ramp and come out firing for us on April 8 against the Marlins.”

Arrieta has made four lifetime starts against Miami. He is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in those games. Over 26 innings, he’s allowed four runs and 16 hits while walking four and striking out 26.

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. The order of the rotation is unclear after that, though the Phillies could get by with four starters until Arrieta is ready. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez will be in the rotation. Zach Eflin, Ben Lively or Drew Hutchison could round out the rotation during the first seven games. Lively or Hutchison could also work out of the bullpen.

Lively will start against the Orioles on Sunday.

Francisco Rodriguez released by Phillies

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Francisco Rodriguez released by Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Francisco Rodriguez’s bid to revive his career with a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen ended Saturday when he was granted his unconditional release by the club.

Rodriguez, who ranks fourth all-time in saves, signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies shortly before camp began. He pitched to a 5.40 ERA in 6 2/3 innings and was tagged for 11 hits.

Rodriguez, 36, was released twice last summer, first by Detroit and then by Washington.

This might be the end of the road for Rodriguez. If it is, he had a tremendous career. He racked up 437 saves and was a six-time All-Star in 16 seasons. Only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith have more saves.

While Rodriguez’ time in a Phillies uniform will go down as a footnote to his career, he did have the best quote of the spring early in camp.

“I love the game,” he said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything. I don’t think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball and I’m going to continue to do it.”