Phillies owner John Middleton would 'love' to sign an upgrade

Phillies owner John Middleton would 'love' to sign an upgrade

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Even though the Grapefruit League schedule starts on Friday and opening day is less than six weeks away, the Phillies are still hungry to improve their pitching.

In an interview with John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia on Tuesday, Phillies owner John Middleton said the team was “very” active in pursuing potential upgrades. Middleton went on to say that he would “love” to do something on that front.

Middleton made the comments as a number of attractive free-agent pitchers, including Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, remain unsigned.

“We’re having talks every single day with different people,” Middleton said. 

Middleton gets updates on those talks regularly from general manager Matt Klentak.

“Matt kind of now knows me, when we walk in the office and see each other for the first time he basically says [since] the last time I talked to you, John, at 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon nothing happened or this has happened,” Middleton said with a laugh. “Then I’ll see him at lunch time and still nothing has happened or this has happened. We have a lot of conversations about that.”

Middleton is eager to win, but he remains committed to seeing the rebuild through. Klentak has often said he won’t make a shortsighted move that would jeopardize the future. He has said his goal is to play in October for a decade, not just one year. That’s Middleton’s goal, too.

If the Phillies were to make an upgrade on the pitching side in the coming days or weeks, it would have to be on their terms. They have been in continuous contact with Arrieta’s representatives all winter, but won’t go to five or more years to sign the right-hander who turns 32 in March. If Arrieta were willing to sign a deal in the two- to four-year range, the Phillies would definitely have interest (more on all that here).

Stay tuned on that one. Camps are open. Free agents Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez have signed in recent days. Like Arrieta, they are represented by Scott Boras. The pitching logjam looks ready to break and could have an impact in Philadelphia, where the Phillies are methodically striving to become playoff relevant again.

“We wouldn’t be out talking to people the way we are if we didn’t think that we could get that little extra push,” Middleton said. “I think we all feel this way. [It] just has to be done in an intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable way.

“But, yeah, I’d love to do something."

Phillies' opening day roster decisions not getting any easier

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Phillies' opening day roster decisions not getting any easier


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies are going down to the wire with their opening day roster decisions.

Manager Gabe Kapler & Co. got another look at pitcher Drew Hutchison and bench candidates Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn on Saturday in a game against the Tigers in Lakeland. None of the three hurt their chances of making the club in a 4-1 win over the Tigers.

Hutchison, a Lakeland native, pitched four scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and survived three walks. He struck out three, including Miguel Cabrera with runners on second and third with one out in the third inning. 

Hutchison, 27, made 74 starts from 2012 to 2016 with the Blue Jays and Pirates. He spent all of last season with the Pirates’ Triple A club and signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies last month. The Phillies have given the right-hander a good look and he has responded well. He has given up 12 hits and six runs in 19 2/3 innings for a 2.75 ERA. However, he has walked eight while registering 17 strikeouts.

Hutchison’s best chance to make the club could be as a long man in the bullpen. Ben Lively is also in the running for that job. Jake Thompson could also be in the picture. He is converting to the bullpen but has built up his pitch counts.

Valentin, a strong candidate for a utility job, started at first base with a borrowed mitt from Rhys Hoskins. Valentin has a first baseman’s mitt and a catcher's mitt on order. He could be the emergency third catcher. Valentin had a good game. He made a nice defensive play and had two hits and a walk. He has played seven positions this spring.

Quinn had two hits, scored a run and swiped three bases. He could open with the big club or be sent to Triple A for playing time. He has impressed Kapler with his electricity and figures to impact the big club at some point, maybe as soon as opening day.

Scott Kingery had two more hits, raising his average to .392 (20 for 51). He will likely open in Triple A but could be up by the third weekend of the season. Delaying his arrival until then would push his potential free agency back until after 2024.

• Rhys Hoskins stayed back in Clearwater and got a bunch of at-bats in a pair of minor-league games. He swatted a pair of opposite-field homers in a Triple A game.

The Phillies host the Orioles on Saturday. Nick Pivetta will start.

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 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.

Pivetta will start against the Orioles on Sunday.