Phillies

Always known for his defense, Peter Bourjos turning heads with hitting streak

Always known for his defense, Peter Bourjos turning heads with hitting streak

Peter Bourjos has never really been known for his hitting.

It's always been his fielding that has set him apart, as he’s been considered one of the best defensive centerfielders in MLB. While he’s played mostly right field for the Phillies, his fielding has remained top notch.

Yet, that’s not what has gotten him recent praise. His hitting has finally come alive, helping to fuel a recent four-game win streak.

Bourjos was batting a measly .199 coming into the month of June, but then his performance completely changed. He hit .410 (25 for 61) in June, which was the second-highest average in the majors and first in the National League. He’s pushed his season batting average up to .262, recording at least one hit in his last 10 games.

At home on Friday against the defending champion Kansas City Royals, Bourjos stretched his hit streak to double digits with a single in the bottom of the fifth. He scored on the next at-bat when Cody Asche drove him in on an RBI double to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. The Phillies went on to an eventual 4-3 win at Citizens Bank Park (see game recap).

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the difference in Bourjos' hitting was to just not swing the bat so hard.

“According to what I read, he just decided that he didn’t have to swing as hard, which makes a lot of sense,” Mackanin said. “It takes a lot of tension out of your body. You just go out there and react to the ball instead of trying to drive the ball.”

Mackanin mentioned how Pete Rose, who holds the record for most hits in MLB history, didn’t worry about trying to hit a home run each time, which resulted in a lot of groundball hits. He added that so few of a player’s at-bats are going to result in extra-base-hits, so just focusing on getting on base is most important.

Even though Bourjos' defense is what sets him apart, this isn’t the first time in his career he’s found himself hitting the ball well. In 2011 with the Angels, Bourjos hit .271 with 26 doubles, 11 triples and 12 home runs in 147 games. Mackanin said he’s definitely capable of replicating those numbers.

“You see when he takes batting practice he has power,” Mackanin said. “I think what happened to him over the years was he never really knew what kind of hitter he was. He has the power to hit a home run to the opposite field. He can hit 15, 20 home runs.”

Bourjos said it’s never really bothered him that he’s been branded mostly as a defensive player.

“I’ve had that label since I’ve probably signed,” Bourjos said. “It didn’t matter how well I hit in the minor leagues, it was always glove first. You can’t shake that label, it’s just there. You start going and having good at-bats, and hopefully they recognize that you’re an all-around good player.”

If his hot streak continues, Bourjos could find himself as an attractive trade piece to a playoff contender.

The non-wavier trade deadline is just one month away, and with the All-Star break even closer, teams will soon begin to determine if they need a boost in talent to make a playoff run. With the Phillies still rebuilding, they may want to capitalize on an opportunity to continue to build their farm system and deal a veteran.

The situation would be even more favorable for the Phillies considering Bourjos, 29, is playing on just a one-year deal. And taking advantage of this red-hot streak could be something to consider.

However, Bourjos says he’s unsure if that’ll happen.

“I’m not too sure about that, that’s a question for other general managers,” he said. “Obviously, I just want to go out and play as well as I can for this team, and hopefully I’m here the whole year.”

Roman Quinn sidelined again, high-priced David Robertson out for next season

Roman Quinn sidelined again, high-priced David Robertson out for next season

The injured list is Roman Quinn’s unfortunate home away from home. And now, the 26-year-old outfielder is back there for the third time this season.

Quinn suffered a strained right groin muscle in the ninth inning of Friday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. It is a similar injury to the one that forced him to spend a month on the IL earlier this season, though not as severe.

The injury comes at a time when Quinn’s exciting talents seemed to be coming together. He was hitting .368 with a 1.139 OPS in 13 games in August. He had a double, a triple, three homers and was 4 for 4 in stolen base attempts.

There is probably enough time left in the season for Quinn to make it back, but it’s safe to say he’ll miss at least a couple of weeks and that's a loss to the Phillies' lineup.

Injuries have been a huge and frustrating issue for the likable switch-hitter who was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2011 out of the Florida panhandle town of Port St. Joe.

Quinn has missed significant time in his minor- and major-league career with a torn quadriceps, a torn Achilles tendon, a strained elbow ligament, a torn ligament in his middle finger, a concussion and a broken toe. He missed the start of this season while recovering from an oblique strain suffered in spring training then went down with a groin injury in May.

With Quinn out, the Phillies will likely turn to Adam Haseley more often in center field.

The Phillies filled Quinn’s roster spot by adding reliever Jared Hughes. He was picked up off waivers from Cincinnati earlier in the week.

There was more injury news Saturday. As expected, Jake Arrieta will have season-ending surgery to clean up a bone spur in his elbow (see story). The surgery will happen before the end of the month and he’ll have plenty of time to get ready for spring training. Arrieta is under contract for $20 million next season.

David Robertson will not be ready for spring training. In fact, he probably will not pitch next season. The team said he had Tommy John surgery on Thursday. That typically requires a recovery of at least 14 months. 

Robertson, 34, signed a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies in December. He ended up pitching just 6 2/3 innings over seven appearances before landing on the IL with a sore elbow in April.

The Phillies have sunk some serious money into veteran relievers and gotten little in return because of injuries. Pat Neshek, 38, signed a two-year, $16.25 million contract before the 2018 season. He pitched in just 30 games last season and 20 this season. He has only pitched once since May 23 and likely will not pitch again for the Phillies. Tommy Hunter, 33, signed a two-year, $19 million deal before the 2018 season. He pitched in 65 games last season but just five this season because of an elbow injury that required surgery.

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Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Baseball is a game most accurately measured over the long haul, not in short snippets. So we probably won’t know for a couple of weeks or more exactly what impact Charlie Manuel is having on the Phillies’ offense.

But with nothing but a short snippet to work with thus far, we can definitely say this:

So far, so great.

Take it from sizzling J.T. Realmuto.

“Of course, Charlie's had an impact,” Realmuto said after the Phillies slugged their way past the San Diego Padres, 8-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

“Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and have him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He's a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to so we're definitely glad to have him.”

The Phillies have matched a season-high with four straight wins, all on this homestand, and all coinciding with the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee and the insertion of Manuel into that role.

Officially, Manuel has been in the dugout for three games. In those three games, the Phils have pounded out 35 hits, including seven homers and eight doubles, and scored 26 runs.

Not bad for a club that went 2-5 on its most recent road trip, scored one or zero runs in three of the five losses and was the victim of a one-hitter and a three-hitter.

“There’s a lot of confidence and looseness in our at-bats,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not forcing it right now. There’s not a whole lot of pressing going on. I think guys are just in an easy state of mind.”

How much of that has to do with Manuel’s arrival?

“I think Charlie has done a great job of keeping it loose,” Kapler said. “He’s great to talk to. He’s got an incredible demeanor. It’s always nice to look over and see him in the dugout with us. He’s a real calming presence and I think he’s only had a positive impact.”

The Phils had 12 hits, including homers by Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Roman Quinn, in Friday’s night win. The victory put the Phils in a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card spot. Both teams are 64-58. The Phillies took three from the Cubs earlier this week, capped by Thursday night’s wild 7-5 win in which Harper clubbed a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Harper hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach Friday night. He has seven homers and 17 RBIs over his last nine games. Harper is up to 90 RBIs, putting him in the top 10 in the NL.

“It's a lot of fun to watch from this side,” Realmuto said. “I've seen it a lot from the other side (when he was with the Marlins) in recent years. When Bryce gets hot, he's one of the most exciting players to watch, as you guys are seeing right now.

“These last four nights have been a ton of fun, really. Kind of putting our tough stretch behind us and going out there, we have a lot more confidence than we've had in the past couple weeks so it makes for more fun baseball and that's when you win. You go out there and you have fun, let loose a little bit, you enjoy the crowd. Obviously, they're into it. They've been a blast for us the last four games so we're just riding that emotion, just got to keep going.”

Realmuto is as hot as Harper. He had a homer, a double and a single and is hitting .313 (51 for 163) with 16 doubles, 8 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 44 games.

“We’ve talked about our offense and how when guys clicked together it could be the catalyst to win a lot of baseball games,” Kapler said. “And I think we're seeing that Bryce and J.T. can carry us, but we’re also getting contributions up and down the lineup.”

If Rhys Hoskins can get going when he returns to the lineup — he did not start because of a sore hand Friday night, but will be ready to start Saturday — the Phillies could have three hot hitters. And they could use even more than that because if they’re going to make a run over the final 40 games, they will need to out-hit other clubs. The pitching is just too suspect to carry this team.

Nonetheless, the Phillies got a good start from Vince Velasquez on Friday night. He pitched shutout ball through the first five innings before being bitten by the dreaded third-time-through-the-lineup bug.

Velasquez needs to continue to deliver good starts to keep the Phillies in this thing. Ditto for the rest of the rotation. Zach Eflin returns to the rotation on Saturday. He has stretches where he pitched well for a month. The Phillies could certainly use one right now.

“What we need is quality starts,” Kapler said. “We’re not looking for eight innings and zeroes every night. What we’re looking for is to be in games. If we’re in games, we have the kind of offense that can win those games, so we just want very competitive starts from our starters. We feel confident that Zach can help us compete (Saturday night).”

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