Phillies

Happy to be out of Houston and with Phillies, Pat Neshek expects to be traded at some point

Happy to be out of Houston and with Phillies, Pat Neshek expects to be traded at some point

ATLANTA — Pat Neshek is not only a baseball player, he is also a baseball fan.

"I read the box scores," he said.

When Neshek checks out the standings these days, he sees that his old team, the Houston Astros, is the best in baseball, and his current team, the Phillies, is the worst.

Does it make the 36-year-old relief pitcher long to be back in Houston?

"God, no," Neshek said with a look of mild horror crossing his face.

Neshek joined the Phillies in a November cash deal. Essentially, it was a salary dump for the Astros. The Phillies assumed Neshek's $6.5 million salary for 2017 and bought themselves some bullpen stability, not to mention a potential July trade chip that has recently added some shine.

"It was a great trade for both of us," Neshek said. "They got to shed some salary. I got to get out of there and do more."

Neshek had an All-Star season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 and signed a three-year deal with the improving Astros before the 2015 season. He pitched in 66 games in 2015 and 60 last season but did not enjoy his role.

"I kind of became a bit player there," he said. "In '15, I did a lot of eighth-inning stuff and I think I was second or third in the league in holds, but I had a bad final month where they kind of just gave up on me. In '16, I just became a sixth-inning righty specialist guy and it was awful. I knew I could do a lot more. So when the trade (to the Phillies) happened I was thrilled. This was the best thing that happened to me in a few years.

"I can understand why (the Astros) did it. They have a bullpen that’s pretty well-stocked over there. So I'm real happy to be out — if not I would rather have been a free agent than gone back there, which may sound crazy but it gets to the point where you just want to do more. I would almost rather retire than do a role like I was doing for them. It was miserable."

Neshek is anything but miserable with the Phillies.

He's enjoyed his time with the club immensely and would like to hang around and see where the team's rebuild goes.

But that's probably not going to happen. He is pitching his way out of a Phillies uniform. When Hector Neris wobbled in the ninth inning Tuesday night, manager Pete Mackanin summoned Neshek for a two-out save. Neshek got that save — his first in two years — on five pitches. The performance left him at 22 innings for the season. He'd allowed just 13 hits and two runs while walking just four and striking out 21.

"Relieving is a really tough business," Neshek said. "Confidence and getting on a roll is a big part of it."

Contending teams are always looking for veteran bullpen help at the trade deadline. General manager Matt Klentak knew that when he acquired Neshek. Ditto for Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit, all veteran offseason pickups who were seen as potential mid-season trade chips.

Buchholz is out for the season with an elbow injury, Kendrick missed more than a month with an abdominal injury, Saunders has struggled offensively and Benoit, currently on the disabled list, has had ups and downs. Of the group of players added over the winter, Neshek has emerged as the best trade chip.

Does he expect to be moved?

"I would say yes," he said. "It would be really cool to stay around here. I like it here. I feel very comfortable here. But if that happens …"

He paused.

"I'm sure it will happen," he said with a laugh.

It's unclear what Neshek will bring back, but his value will only rise if he continues to pitch well. His role with the Phillies is evolving. While Mackanin would like to eventually see Neris lock down the closer's job, Neshek was set to fill the role on Wednesday night — the Phils lost 14-1 to the Braves and did not need a closer — and could get the call in the coming days if a need arises.

"People make a big deal about who the closer is," Neshek said. "You kind of pitch into those roles.

"I'm just out there competing. It's me against that hitter. I'll go over the hitters' weaknesses and try to attack."

For now, that'll be with the Phillies.

Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper never stopped working out after baseball shut down. He hit three times a week back home in Las Vegas.

So it really wasn't surprising to see Harper launching balls into the empty seats at Citizens Bank Park on the first official day of the Phillies' restart Friday.

And it wasn't surprising to see him wearing his new favorite T-shirt, the one with teammate J.T. Realmuto's name and number 10 on the back.

The shirt was a giveaway last August and giveaways are always plentiful in the clubhouse. Harper wore one under his uniform a number of times late last season and is rocking it again during preparation for the new season. He has worn it three days in a row during workouts at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper is pretty shrewd when it comes to messaging. Look at the way he instantly connected with Philadelphia by embracing civic icons like the Eagles and the Phanatic last year.

Is there a message in his donning the Realmuto shirt three days in a row — with cameras catching it all? After all, Realmuto could become a free agent after the season and Harper, who's here for another dozen years, has long been on record as saying he'd like to see the Phillies lock up the catcher with a long-term deal.

"No message," Harper said after Friday's workout. "But I think J.T. is a great player. 

"If the Phillies don't end up signing him back, which would be terrible and sad, I think there's a lot of other teams out there that are going to want to sign the guy. He's a Gold Glove-caliber catcher every year, he's a great person, a great player. I mean everybody in this organization from the top down wants to see him in red pinstripes for the rest of his career and hopefully we can make that happen."

The Phillies and Realmuto were in the midst of negotiations when the game shut down in March. The two sides are now permitted to talk again, but general manager Matt Klentak has said the landscape is different because no games and no fans have equaled no revenues for the last three months. Klentak still hopes to get something done with Realmuto, maybe even by the season opener later this month. But the player is now a lot closer to free agency than he would have been in March and free agency can be enticing to a player. To be determined is whether the reduction in revenues throughout the game and the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt the market for free agents this winter.

Message or not, Harper will continue to wear his Realmuto jersey. It's not hard to spot. It's white with maroon lettering. Pretty much everyone else on the field Friday wore red.

"I wore that underneath my jersey last year," Harper said. "It was actually a cut-off version. I wore it pretty much the whole second half of the season. It was T-shirt day at the ballpark and I wanted one. I stole one for this year as well because it was very comfortable underneath my jersey and I think it gave me a little bit of good luck."

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MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

Happy Fourth of July weekend!

Happy Baseball!

We're back at Citizens Bank Park on this picture-perfect Friday morning for the start (or restart) of Phillies training camp — three weeks of workouts and intrasquad games before the 60-game sprint-to-October commences later this month.

I started the morning in the garden, where I whipped up a fresh five-gallon batch of critter repellent. Red pepper flakes, cayenne, chili powder, dish detergent, milk, a few eggs, a whole head of garlic. Fill with water and let that stuff sit in the sun and get all funkalicious. Sprinkle some around the garden every night. Guaranteed to keep the deer away. Picked a zuke and a summer squash on my way out the door and headed for the ballpark — with a quick stop at Wawa for a 16-ounce cup of rocket fuel.

It's good to be back and I hope everyone stays healthy so we can see this thing through.

The goal here is to provide some live or semi-live observations throughout this first workout. Keep checking back for updates.

Here we go:

9:45 a.m. — I checked into CBP. Had my temperature taken through a face imaging device. 98.2. I signed a waiver. Good to go.

9:50 a.m. — Arrived in press box. Same great view of Center City. Field is green and gorgeous. Reporters are restricted from wandering so this is where I'll be observing from. Shoot. I forgot my binocs. 

10 a.m. — Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer arrives in press box. He is wearing shorts. Legs are quite unathletic and he has apparently been taking the quarantine seriously because he hasn't gotten much sun.

10:04 a.m. — The grounds crew has finished prepping the field. Music is playing over the PA system. The ball bags are on the field. The batting cage is out. 

10:05 a.m. — There is some action in the visiting dugout. A coach has popped his head out. For spacing reasons, both clubhouses are being utilized. 

10:15 a.m. — A grounds crew member is nailing the rubber spike scraper to the mound. 

10:16 a.m. — Black Smoke Rising by Greta Van Fleet is playing on the PA system. Hmm.

10:17 a.m. — Catching coach/bullpen catcher Bob Stumpo is heading out to the 'pen with a big equipment bag.

10:26 a.m. — Joe Girardi emerges briefly on the field. He's in shorts and a T-shirt, big cup of Joe in his hand. Yes, he is masked.

10:27 a.m. — The grounds crew is putting down tarps around the batting cage.

10:29 a.m. — Good to see Brookie.

10:30 a.m. — Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love is playing. Ah, the '80s.

10:40 a.m. — Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin pop out of the dugout. Looks like they're heading to the concourse for some conditioning work. The concourse is being used as a work area to ease overcrowding in the weight room.

10:45 a.m. — The view from teammate John Airport...

10:50 a.m. — Grounds crew is watering the infield dirt. So relaxing and mesmerizing. Anybody who's ever done it knows what I'm talking about. 

10:53 a.m. — Just noticed — only one flag flying in center field. The Stars and Stripes. No championship flags, state or city flag.

10:54 a.m.Andrew McCutchen just walked from the stands down into the dugout. He is masked. Looks like he's spent some time in the weight room.

11:04 a.m. — J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp have taken the field and are loosening up their hoses.

11:06 a.m. — Several coaches — Dusty Wathan, Juan Castro, Bobby Meacham, Mike Calitri — are on the field playing catch. Distanced and masked. Not all players are wearing masks, but they are distanced.

11:07 a.m. — Just saw a fist bump. Call the cops.

11:15 p.m. — Batting practice commences. McCutchen, Realmuto and Knapp in the first group. Wathan is pitching. Jukebox Hero is playing over the PA. 

11:20 a.m. — McCutchen hits one into the left field seats.

11:22 a.m. — Realmuto hits one out to right-center.

11:23 a.m. — Jake Arrieta is walking through the outfield. He's doing some stretching. He's wearing a muscle shirt and looks ready to dent some skulls.

11:27 a.m. — Realmuto powers two in a row into the left field seats. Line drives. 

11:35 a.m. — First round of BP is complete. Standard fare.

11:36 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are putting the gear on. Looks like Arrieta is getting ready to throw a 'pen.

11:40 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are doing receiving drills with the aid of a pitching machine. Stealing low strikes. 

11:42 a.m. — McCutchen is long tossing. Interested to see how he moves in outfield drills, if they are on the docket.

11:43 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp headed to the bullpen to catch Arrieta and I'm not sure who the other guy is. Players are not wearing numbers.

11:45 a.m. — Arrieta indeed set to throw a bullpen.

11:46 a.m. — McCutchen headed to left field for drills.

11:54 a.m. — McCutchen is taking fly balls in left. He looks a lot better than he did in March. Still detecting a slight hitch in his giddyup, but he looks to be on the right course with three weeks to prepare.

Noon — Phil Gosselin in the cage taking some hacks.

12:01 p.m. — Really could use a za.

12:03 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are playing catch. There are extra catchers here.

12:12 p.m. — Some new artwork in the press box. Pretty cool. 

12:14 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are throwing in the bullpen. A Josh Harrison sighting. Looks like Zach Eflin might be preparing to throw a 'pen.

12:16 p.m. — Rhys Hoskins appears for BP. Lotta hair.

12:17 p.m. — Phil Gosselin dons first baseman's mitt and takes ground balls at the position. Kinda interesting.

12:20 p.m. — Now playing: Pour Some Sugar on Me. One lump or two?

12:21 p.m. — Coaches/staff are wearing masks. Most players are not, at least on the field while doing drills. They are wearing them when they head to the concourse for conditioning, etc. There's a lot of action going on behind the scenes. 

12:26 p.m. — Bryce Harper is in the batting cage. He's wearing his No. 10 Realmuto T-shirt. Hoskins is hitting in this group, too. Jean Segura, too. I know that short stroke.

12:32 p.m. — Harper hits three bombs in five swings, one the opposite way.

12:35 p.m. — Segura is hitting with a mask on. One of the few players wearing one on the field.

12:54 p.m. — Roman Quinn sighting. He's headed up to the concourse with a bat in his hands. Must be a tee and a net up there. Again, it's out of my view.

12:55 p.m. — Hoskins, Segura and Josh Harrison getting in some infield work. Segura is at third. Hoskins at first. Harrison at second.

1 p.m. — Things seem to be winding down, at least in the early session. Hoping to chat with some of the participants in a little while. So we'll call this a wrap for now. Thanks for following along. Happy baseball, happy gardening, stay safe. And, Breen, get some sun on those legs.

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