Phillies

Phillies GM Matt Klentak would consider acquiring bat, but not at cost of rebuild

Phillies GM Matt Klentak would consider acquiring bat, but not at cost of rebuild

The Phillies reached the quarter point of the season — Game No. 40 — on Tuesday night. Manager Pete Mackanin marked the occasion by using his sixth different cleanup hitter.

Tommy Joseph got the call in just his third big-league game.

Why would Mackanin use a player with just six at-bats (three of which were strikeouts) in the cleanup spot?

“Why not?” Mackanin said with a chuckle before the game.

Less than one turn through the batting order, Joseph made Mackanin look prescient when he smacked his first big-league home run, a bullet off the netting on the left-field foul pole, to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead over the Miami Marlins.

The Phillies eventually won, 3-1, and Joseph contributed three hits (see story).

The decision to use Joseph in the cleanup spot was actually the result of Mackanin’s reaching the try-anything point in his bid to coax more runs from his feeble offense. The Phillies entered Tuesday night averaging just 3.31 runs per game, second-worst in the majors.

Phillies cleanup hitters were hitting just .190 with a .347 slugging percentage and a .589 OPS, all major-league lows. Cleanup isn’t the only problem spot in the Phillies’ lineup, but it came into focus with Joseph becoming just the second Phillie since 1957 to hit cleanup in his third big-league game. The other was Pat Burrell.

Joseph was in the lineup because the Phillies were facing a lefty in Wei-Yin Chen and primary cleanup man Ryan Howard sits in those situations. (Howard will return to the lineup Wednesday.) At the time of his promotion last week, Joseph was leading the International League in hitting (.347) and OPS (.981) and was second in slugging (.611) and fifth in extra-base hits (13).

So he became the cleanup man du jour.

“Yeah, it's frustrating,” said Mackanin, referring before the game to the offense as a whole. “I don't want to hit Tommy Joseph fourth. I don't want to do that. But in this case, against a left-handed pitcher, I kind of just said, 'Why not?'"

Mackanin went on to say before the game that the team needed more offense from a number of guys. He mentioned Howard, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Peter Bourjos — just about everybody not named Odubel Herrera. Mackanin mentioned Cody Asche, who is rehabbing an oblique injury in Clearwater, and said, “Any time along the way if we feel he's ready to help us he'll be up here. It could be a week, two weeks or something like that.”

After 40 games, the Phillies are in an interesting spot. They are clearly a rebuilding team gearing for the future, but in the present are six games over .500. Though it’s too early to call the team a contender, it’s not too early to wonder what will happen if this pitching-fueled club finds itself within striking distance of a postseason spot at the July trade deadline.

Might GM Matt Klentak look to acquire a bat?

“There will be nobody happier than me if we are still in playoff contention in July, and if that happens we’re going to do everything we can to help this team improve and get better and make a run at it,” Klentak told CSNPhilly.com Tuesday.

“The job of a general manager is to balance both the short and the long term and I need be cognizant that right now we’re not even a quarter of the way through the season.”

So, basically, it sounds as if Klentak would consider trading for a bat as long as it doesn’t compromise the team’s rebuilding effort.

There are moves Klentak could make to improve the offense now. He reportedly put a claim in for Jimmy Parades who was waived by Baltimore, but Toronto had priority and ended up with the outfielder. He did swap out Darin Ruf for Joseph, the hero of Tuesday night’s win.

“I’m very conscious of the fact that one of the things we’ve talked a lot about is building a culture and an environment,” Klentak said. “We’ve been careful not to turn the roster over too much early because we believe that allowing the players to settle into roles and feel comfortable is going to allow them to play better. So one of the reasons we haven’t turned the roster over more despite some early-season [offensive] struggles by some players is because we’re trying to allow a culture to build. As the season progresses, we are all aware that this is a performance league and to stay here you have to perform, but for now we’re pleased with the performance of the team and also the style of play that Pete is managing on the field.

“We talk about ways to improve all the time, Pete, myself, our scouts, the front office. We talk about ways we can inject some offense into this lineup. We added Tommy Joseph, who had been on a tear in Triple A and had earned his promotion as a way to hopefully inject some life into this offense. There are other players in our system that continue to develop, and at whatever juncture those players are ready to come up and help us that’ll be another option for us.

“We continue to be open-minded towards any types of additions and ways to improve, but right now the success of our team has been built on pitching and defense and we’re going to continue to respect that.”

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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