Phillies

Phillies GM Klentak weighs in on Howard, Franco, draft and more

Phillies GM Klentak weighs in on Howard, Franco, draft and more

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spoke with reporters before Friday night’s game and weighed in on a variety of topics.
 
Let’s get right to it:
 
• Klentak reiterated his previous stance that there are no plans to release Ryan Howard. He expects Howard, even in a diminished role, to remain with the club throughout the season. This is the final guaranteed season of Howard’s contract.
 
“It’s certainly something we can live with,” Klentak said. “I’m not viewing it as a distraction at all. I think the biggest reason for that is the way that Ryan has handled it and the way that Pete (Mackanin) has handled it. And really, the way the team around them is handling it. If it’s not distracting to that group of people, it really shouldn’t be a distraction to anybody. Ryan has handled it like a true professional. Pete’s communication with Ryan has been outstanding. I don’t view it as a distraction at all.”

So you foresee Howard being here the remainder of the season?

“I don’t see why not," Klentak said. “I mean, Pete makes out the lineup. Tommy (Joseph) is playing almost every day. As long as this current situation is working for everybody, I don’t see why we’d need to make a move.

“Ryan has 10 home runs; he’s second on our club in home runs. I know that opposing managers absolutely know when Ryan Howard is in the on-deck circle and on the bench with a chance to come up. They have to respect the power and the impact that comes with that. Right now, for us, we think there’s value to that on our 25-man roster.

“I think opposing managers respect the fact that the ball can leave the yard at any time.”

• Klentak said there were no immediate plans to move slugger Dylan Cozens to Triple A. The 22-year-old outfielder entered Friday hitting .294 with 19 homers, 55 RBIs and a .966 OPS at Double A Reading. He ranked first in the Eastern League in homers and second in RBIs and OPS.
 
“Obviously, he's having a heck of a season at Double A,” Klentak said. “He's opened a lot of eyes with that. But for most of these guys we want to give them, if we can, a full year's worth of at-bats at certain levels and I think Dylan could stand to have some more time there.
 
“But as you've heard me say before, sometimes the players put us in a position where we have no choice. They're just performing so well, we have no choice but to promote them. I don't think we're quite there with Cozens, but he's absolutely having a heck of a first half." 
 
• Center field prospect Roman Quinn, also at Double A, went on the disabled list this week with an oblique strain.
 
“I don’t want to put a timetable on [his absence],” Klentak said. “But it’s going to be a while.”
 
Quinn, 23, has missed significant development time throughout his career with leg injuries. More missed time is not a good thing.
  
• As for the draft, Klentak is still playing things close to the vest because there are still final details to iron out – such as physical exams – but he indicated the team could announce the signings of its top picks next week.
 
The team selected outfielder Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick, pitcher Kevin Gowdy with the 42nd pick and infielder Cole Stobbe 78th overall. Moniak and Gowdy will pass on commitments to UCLA. Stobbe will pass on the University of Arkansas.

“I think it’s realistic we get all three done,” Klentak said.
 
With the draft completed, Klentak said the front office is now preparing for the trade season, which culminates with the July 31 trade deadline.
 
“That’s what we’re working on upstairs, preparing for the next six weeks, but nothing is pressing,” he said.
 
• Third baseman Maikel Franco, regarded in many circles as a future star, has had an inconsistent season. He entered Friday night hitting .247 with 11 homers, 33 RBIs and a .722 OPS. In 80 games last season, he hit .280 with a .840 OPS.
 
Franco hit .267 with a .786 OPS in April. Since May 1, he’s hitting .234 with a .682 OPS. His on-base percentage since then is .277.
 
“I think Maikel is a very talented player and he is very young and still developing,” Klentak said. “We’ll see flashes from him defensively where he’ll make All-Star, Gold Glove-caliber plays and other times when he’ll miss a routine one. That’s not uncommon for a 23-year-old who is in the big leagues.
 
“At the plate we’ll see him go through stretches where he’s tearing the cover off the ball and carrying us through a series and a stretch where he starts to over-swing. Again, it’s not uncommon for a 23-year-old in the big leagues.

"I’m very impressed with the way he handles himself at this level and with his work ethic. I’m fairly confident his numbers will be there at the end of the year, but like with everything else, we’re going to have to ride some ups and downs with players and team performance. That’s just what happens in a 162-game schedule. Players don’t reach a certain level and stay there their whole career. It takes time to sustain a certain level of performance in the big leagues.”

There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is in a slump. An ill-timed slump, given the time of year and the Phillies’ position in a crowded but still somehow winnable wild-card race. 

Hoskins made four more outs Sunday. He’s 1 for his last 24. He’s hit .148 over his last 30 games. 

This rut from Hoskins has affected the Phillies’ record, but it’s nothing more than a slump and shouldn’t be viewed as such just because it is happening right now. It is not a sign that the organization needs to go out this offseason and find a better first baseman. It is not some definitive piece of evidence that Hoskins needs to move to the bottom of the order. 

We always overvalue what we’ve just seen. Hoskins hasn’t hit for a month, so his hot streaks become harder to recall and feel less long and less productive than they are. 

But consider this: Hoskins’ on-base percentage dipped below .380 Sunday for the first time since opening day. It took a stretch this cold for his on-base and power numbers to decrease to their current levels, which are still impressive. 

Hoskins’ OBP is 40 points higher than the league average for first basemen. His slugging percentage is 13 points higher than his first base peers and 40 points better than the league overall. He has made an out nearly 75 percent of the time he’s stepped to the plate over the last month, yet is still having an offensive season better than at least half of the league’s first basemen. 

Hoskins’ numbers likely won’t end up where they are now. We’ve seen too much evidence that he is a better hitter than this. A multi-year track record matters more than four weeks. It is a simple concept that always sounds logical until a player is in the midst of a run as poor as Hoskins’. 

Will Hoskins finish the year hitting .237? Will his slump last much longer? If you’re looking for a couple positive signs, take his 400-foot flyout to straightaway center that was a foot shy of tying Sunday’s game in the eighth inning. Hoskins had better swings and tracked pitches better in that game than he has for much of the past month.

He was confident and didn’t seem defeated after the game Sunday. 

“Look, I feel great,” he said after the Padres took two of three. “Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I’m seeing pitches. I’m seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do click something, it’s right at somebody. 

“That’s baseball. Unfortunately, I know that’s really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I’ve sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level.”

“I'm feeling pretty protective of him right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said, “because I know how hard he's working and I know how much effort and time he's putting in. The at-bat quality remains strong even though at the end, the results aren't there. 

“I know how disappointed he is in it and I'm disappointed for him because I know this is going to turn around for him. I know these at-bats are going to end in doubles and homers.” 

Still realistic for Hoskins to finish with an OPS around .900 with 30-plus homers and 90-plus RBI. That would be a very good season. Maybe not a “great” season, but remember again that this is a third-year player making less than $600,000. Should a very good player be blamed for not being a great player?

There are just far more important things to worry about with this team in 2019 and beyond than Rhys Hoskins. 

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A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

As the Delaware Valley held its breath awaiting word of what happened to Bryce Harper, the Phillies again fell short against the Padres, losing 3-2 to close out a homestand that began with fireworks and ended with the excitement of a suburban dad mowing his lawn.

After sweeping the Cubs and winning a fourth straight game in the series opener vs. San Diego, the Phillies managed just five runs and 10 hits total in the final two losses.

This team ...

As for Harper, he is OK. He was suffering from blurred vision after the fourth inning and was forced to exit after five. The Phillies called it dehydration. Harper had an IV and was feeling better after the game. This was something he hadn't experienced before.

"An hour ago, I couldn't see in front of me," Harper said postgame, his eyes still sensitive to light.

He will be fine by Tuesday — good news because the Phillies are not going anywhere without him — when the quick two-game series at Fenway Park begins. 

Manager Gabe Kapler was happy Sunday with the quality of the Phillies' at-bats. He referenced the 110 pitches they made starter Joey Lucchesi throw and the 27 more they forced from closer Kirby Yates.

If a team is winning consistently or hitting consistently, maybe that kind of grind-it-out approach can make up for a loss or a series loss. But not as much when it's said about a team that hasn't been able to sustain momentum at any point this season, especially offensively. 

Sure, the Phillies made Lucchesi and Yates work. They also made an out in 18 of 23 plate appearances against them. 

The best example of the Phils' falling short on Sunday was Rhys Hoskins' 400-foot blast to the 401-foot sign in center field in the eighth inning. Padres centerfielder Manuel Margot raised his glove above his head and caught a ball that was a foot, maybe less, from going out and tying the game. In every game, you will find the sort of baseball randomness that impacts winning and losing. That deep, loud flyout was Sunday's example.

It was an 0-for-4 day for Hoskins atop the lineup, but ...

"Look, I feel great," said Hoskins, who is 1 for his last 24 and has hit .148 over his last 30 games.

"Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I'm seeing pitches. I'm seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason, things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do hit something, it's right at somebody. 

"That's baseball. Unfortunately, I know that's really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I've sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level."

Water has found its level with Harper and J.T. Realmuto, two of baseball's hottest hitters in the month of August. Had Hoskins also been going well at this time, just imagine the run totals or win streaks the Phillies could have run off. 

Instead, on Sunday they wasted a rare strong pitching performance from someone other than Aaron Nola. Jason Vargas limited the Padres to two runs over 5⅔ innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his four starts as a Phillie but the team is just 1-3 because it has scored a total of five runs with Vargas in the game in his four starts.

"If we keep pitching like we do and the bullpen keeps pitching like (it has), we've seen how hot we can get quickly," Hoskins said.

"We swept a good team in the Cubs. Obviously, disappointing to lose a series to the Padres, but we talked about this a couple nights ago — you could feel the difference in here this week. It just feels a little different. There's a little more swagger and a little more confidence. Tough loss today but we'll be all right."

The Phillies have 38 games left to make a run and end a playoff drought of seven years. Harper was surprised when it was relayed to him Sunday that no Phillies team since 1990 has had its longest winning streak last just four games.

"That's crazy," he said. "In the game now, you see (Jacob) deGrom for six and see somebody else out of the bullpen, four other guys, three other guys. The game has definitely changed. It's evolved.

"Hopefully we can break that a little bit and win five in a row. Why not?"

One reason to remain skeptical: The last two times the Phillies have won four in a row, they lost their next series to the Marlins and Padres. You just don't know which Phillies will team show up on a given day.

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