Phillies

Clay Buchholz has partial forearm tear, will seek second opinion

Clay Buchholz has partial forearm tear, will seek second opinion

Clay Buchholz's MRI Wednesday revealed a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass.

The flexor pronator mass is a collection of muscles on the anterior of the forearm used for wrist and finger flexion.

Buchholz will get a second opinion Monday from Dr. James Andrews. It's never a good sign when the words "second opinion" and "Dr. James Andrews" are used in the same sentence.

No timetable has been given but this has the look of a lengthy DL stint for Buchholz.

Buchholz tried to pitch through the issue Tuesday night but eventually called out Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and trainer Scott Sheridan in the third inning. Buchholz had allowed six runs on eight hits over 2 1/3 innings and, as he put it, "wasn't doing the team any favors throwing what I was throwing at that point in time so I made the move."

It's been an ominous start to the season for Buchholz, who allowed 10 runs and 19 base runners over just 7 1/3 innings in his first two starts. He's the second-highest-paid Phillie this season at $13.5 million and is a free agent after the season.

Buchholz suffered a flexor strain in July 2015 with the Red Sox and missed the rest of the season. It's also the same injury Cliff Lee suffered the night of the trade deadline in 2014. Lee never pitched another game in the majors.

"I've been on the DL for an extended period of time, multiple times," Buchholz said Tuesday night. "It's nothing that you want to happen. For me, I've got to find out obviously what it is and then get it taken care of."

It's unclear who the Phillies will turn to in replacing Buchholz in the rotation. Mackanin said before the game there are "five capable starters" at Triple A, referring to Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta and Mark Appel.

Eflin and Thompson pitched for the Phillies last summer and both experienced highs and lows -- Eflin finished with a 5.54 ERA; Thompson had a 5.70 ERA.

Eflin was activated off the DL Tuesday night and pitched at Triple A Lehigh Valley, so he wouldn't have to shift his schedule if the Phillies turn to him. But they might want to see him pitch a few more games at Triple A first to show he's fully healthy after undergoing two knee surgeries late last season. Eflin pitched five shutout innings for the IronPigs but was a bit rusty with control, throwing 42 strikes among 70 pitches.

Another option for the Phillies would be to call up a reliever and skip the fifth spot in the rotation. The Phillies' off days Thursday and Monday would allow for that. However, the Phils have two pitchers in Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez who could use the extra day of rest -- Nola is coming off an elbow injury that cut short his 2016 season, and Velasquez needs to be built up gradually given the fact he's never exceeded 131 innings.

Hector Neris optioned to Triple A; Phillies bring up LHP Austin Davis

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Hector Neris optioned to Triple A; Phillies bring up LHP Austin Davis

The Phillies have sent struggling reliever Hector Neris to Triple A and called up left-handed reliever Austin Davis.

Neris, 29, was the Phillies’ primary closer last season, racking up 26 saves in 74 games. He pitched in 79 games in 2016.

The workhorse right-hander has struggled this season, pitching to a 6.00 ERA in 30 games. Neris allowed four hits and four runs in the ninth inning Sunday at Milwaukee. The Phillies held on for a 10-9 win with Jake Thompson coming on for the save.

Davis, 25, was selected by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. He had a 2.70 ERA and a 0.982 WHIP in 26 games at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley this season.

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Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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