Phillies

Pete Mackanin: 'If I were a playoff team, I’d take notice' of red-hot Ryan Howard

Pete Mackanin: 'If I were a playoff team, I’d take notice' of red-hot Ryan Howard

Trades can still be made in August, and Ryan Howard is, suddenly, a pretty intriguing candidate.

Howard's grand slam in the fifth inning Friday off hard-throwing Rockies right-hander Jon Gray helped Jake Thompson to his first big-league win and put an exclamation point on Howard's recent hot streak (see game story).

Howard went 3 for 5 with the homer and five RBIs in the 10-6 win, and has hit .386 with four doubles, five homers and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break.

He's up to .195 on the season, the highest his batting average has been since April 30. But with Howard at this point, it's not about that. With Howard, all that matters is whether he's hitting right-handed pitching. If an American League team comes calling, that's what it will be for — a left-handed hitting DH. 

Howard is slugging .462 against righties this season. To put that in perspective, Giancarlo Stanton has a .460 slugging percentage against righties. Bryce Harper has slugged .450. Adrian Gonzalez, .451.

"If I were a playoff team, I’d take notice," manager Pete Mackanin said after Friday's game. "What [Howard] did tonight is something he’s capable of doing, either as a DH or a pinch-hitter off the bench. He’s just swinging the bat, coming up with big hits. I’m happy for him. ...

"It was good to see Howard hit that grand slam on the night we’re honoring [Jim] Thome, as they passed the wand to one another." (More on Thome here.)

Regarding the possibility of moving to a contender that seeks his currently hot, late-season power bat, Howard deflected. He's staying in the moment. 

"Really and truthfully I'm just taking it as it comes," he said. "Not trying to put too much thought into anything, just trying to keep it simple."

There would seem to be little downside or risk for a team interested in Howard. The Phillies won't be asking for much in return. They've in the past appeared willing to eat money on Howard's contract, which has about $16 million left when you include the $10M buyout coming this winter. 

Which teams would he fit? The Astros could use Howard in a DH platoon with Evan Gattis and give Howard more ABs when Gattis catches. 

There aren't many other fits, though. The Orioles, Blue Jays and Red Sox don't have a need for left-handed bat like Howard's. Nor do the Indians, Tigers, Royals, Rangers or Mariners. And every other AL team is out of contention.

As for NL contenders with less-than-ideal situations at first base ... the Marlins are reportedly without Justin Bour until September and the Mets are starting James Loney.

There aren't a ton of suitors for Howard. There haven't been for some time, but he also hasn't hit like this in some time. It seems crazy for the topic of his trade value to be relevant, but the guy has 36 homers and a .485 slugging percentage off right-handers the last two seasons. When Howard's hitting, he has value. And he has a long history of getting hot in mid-to-late August and beyond.

It's a situation worth monitoring. Howard is likely to sit Saturday after the big night with the Phillies facing Rockies lefty Tyler Anderson. Tyler Chatwood, a right-hander Howard's doubled off twice in eight at-bats, pitches Sunday.

Flyers fans have message for Bryce Harper at 2019 Stadium Series

Flyers fans have message for Bryce Harper at 2019 Stadium Series

Bryce Harper Mania is getting so out of control, folks in the Delaware Valley are already insinuating that Philadelphia is the slugger's home.

Really, Las Vegas is his home. Some would consider Washington, D.C. as his home, given he has played their all seven seasons of his big-league career.

But we can totally change his home to Philly. Why not?

Come home, Bryce.

A fan at Saturday night's Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field made that message loud and clear.

The 26-year-old is the megastar free agent general Matt Klentak and company are trying to land as Harper remains out there (yes, still) with spring training well underway and exhibition games being played.

The Harper buzz has spread everywhere and even Phillies players down in Clearwater, Florida, are joining the fun.

"I saw a helicopter circling over here the other day and we were joking, saying it would be funny if he just landed here and got out," Andrew McCutchen said Saturday, via NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

Beloved former Phillie Jimmy Rollins, who now works for the club as a special advisor, was at the Flyers-Penguins game and caught up with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark about the Harper drama.

Harper is a hockey a fan.

If he was tuning into Saturday night's game, maybe he saw the message and will "come home."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Gabe Kapler is high on Seranthony Dominguez: 'He has no ceiling'

usa_seranthony_dominguez_phillies.jpg
USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler is high on Seranthony Dominguez: 'He has no ceiling'

BOX SCORE 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Seranthony Dominguez made his major league debut five weeks into the season last year and quickly became manager Gabe Kapler’s favorite bullpen weapon.

“When Seranthony is at his best, there may not be a better reliever in baseball,” Kapler said after Dominguez made his spring debut with three quick outs against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

“He has no ceiling. He can be as good as anyone in the league.”

Keeping the hard-throwing, 24-year-old right-hander healthy was a priority last season and it remains so this year. Dominguez had a 1.59 ERA in his first 29 games last season but it rose to 4.88 over the next 24. That might have been attributable to fatigue and the Phils want to guard against that this season.

“We’ve had a player plan meeting with Dominguez and one of the things we want to do is definitely stay in close contact with him,” Kapler said. “Anything that crops up for him related to fatigue, we definitely want to back off.

“We did see that giving him a little bit more rest made him more effective so we’re going to pay really close attention to that.”

It’s a balancing act for Kapler. The stakes are higher for the Phillies this year. The rebuild is complete. The talent is better. Bryce Harper might be coming. It’s time to win. There might be times, Kapler said, when he uses Dominguez on a night when “maybe he could use a little bit of rest,” and other nights when he stays away from Dominguez to preserve the life on his fastball for the long haul of the season.

Kapler admitted it was tempting to use Dominguez every night — wherever the game dictated — when he was pitching well last season. He believes the Phillies are better positioned to be able to back off Dominguez when needed this season. Hector Neris rediscovered his splitter and confidence and finished with a six-week flurry last season. Pat Neshek is healthy. Tommy Hunter and his hard cutter is back. And the addition of David Robertson, one of the most consistent late-game arms in the majors the last eight seasons, will help.

“We’ve got some pretty good weapons down there,” Kapler said. “That could lead to us being less reliant on Seranthony, even if he’s at his best.”

Nine different relievers saved games for the Phils last season as Kapler mostly used a matchup strategy late in games. He will likely use the same strategy at the outset of this season, but it would not be surprising to see Dominguez, Neris or Robertson eventually get significant save opportunities.

The game 

The Phillies lost, 3-2, to the Pirates. Dylan Cozens had a pair of doubles and Matt McBride homered. Drew Anderson starts for the Phillies against the Tigers in Lakeland on Sunday.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies