Phillies

Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

ATLANTA -- Left-hander Hoby Milner will likely get more late-inning relief opportunities over the final seven weeks of the season, manager Pete Mackanin said on Wednesday.

Milner pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Tuesday in the Phillies’ 5-2 win over the Braves. Milner allowed one hit, but retired all three left-handed batters he faced, including Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman.

“I wanted to see how he does against lefties,” Mackanin said. “It was a three-run game in the eighth inning. My job, as I see it, is to find out if he’s going to be a part of it, if he can do that.”

Left-handed batters are hitting .214 against Milner and right-handers are batting .429 against him. In 13 relief appearances, he’s posted a 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He has made three consecutive scoreless appearances.

On Tuesday, Milner allowed a one-out single to right-handed Brandon Phillips, but retired Freeman on a grounder that was nearly turned for a double play. He got cleanup hitter Nick Markakis to ground softly to shortstop to end the inning.

“His command wasn’t exceptional, but he got them out,” Mackanin said. “He got the job done. To me, that’s a good step forward.”

The Phillies are encouraging Milner to start throwing his two-seam fastball against right-handers, an approach he had abandoned.

“He’s got a good two-seam fastball, but he hasn’t been throwing it to right-handers. We can’t figure it out,” Mackanin said. “(Pitching coach Bob) McClure just noticed when he was warming up, that he’s throwing all four-seamers. He threw some [two-seamers Tuesday]. His sinker sinks this much and he wasn’t using it. Maybe that’s going to be a real bonus for him.”

No set plans for Hoskins
The Phillies still haven’t made a decision about if or when to recall slugger Rhys Hoskins, but Mackanin is eager to see what he can do.

“I liked his approach in spring training,” Mackanin said. “I must say that I’m anxious to see him at this level. If the at-bats in the spring were any indication of what he can do, it looks like he can handle it here. But Matt (Klentak, GM) will make that decision and I defer to the people who’ve seen him more than I have.”

Hoskins began playing left field with Triple A Lehigh Valley to help speed his promotion to the major leagues. He’s hitting .280 with 28 homers and 86 RBIs in 114 games.

About that Herrera homer
There was still conversation about Odubel Herrera’s golf-shot homer on Tuesday. According to Statcast, the ball was 0.73 feet off the ground and is the lowest pitch hit for a homer since they began keeping the statistic in 2015.

Mackanin said, “I saw Shawon Dunston hit a ball that bounced for a base hit. He said he was looking for a slider in the dirt. I swear that’s what he said. And he hit it.”

Recent Manny Machado-centric moves made by Yankees and White Sox are meaningless

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Recent Manny Machado-centric moves made by Yankees and White Sox are meaningless

Baseball, basketball, football, no matter the sport, rarely does a star free agent’s decision come down to anything other than money and winning. 

Manny Machado is making visits this week. He was in Chicago with the White Sox on Monday and will also visit Yankee Stadium before coming to Philly for a visit Thursday. 

And while Machado makes the rounds, speculation is rampant that his other suitors are making moves to entice him. 

First, there was the White Sox trading for first baseman Yonder Alonso, whose sister is Machado's wife and who lives in the same complex as him in Florida.

Then, there was the Yankees’ adding outfielder and future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran to their front office. Beltran shares an agent with Machado. 

Let’s be real. Neither development matters. Machado is not going to turn down extra money or extra years under contract because the White Sox now employ his brother-in-law, or because Beltran is now consulting with the Yankees. 

This is Machado’s chance at a historic, life-changing payday. The money, realism of contending and position he’ll play are what matter most. 

If Machado picks the Yankees, it will be because that’s where he’s always wanted to play. If he picks the White Sox, it will be because he’s a crazy person.

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Michael Brantley's contract makes Andrew McCutchen's look like an overpay, but here's why it made sense for Phillies

Michael Brantley's contract makes Andrew McCutchen's look like an overpay, but here's why it made sense for Phillies

Michael Brantley was still on the board last week when the Phillies agreed to a deal with Andrew McCutchen at the winter meetings.

The Phils had interest in Brantley as well, but they valued McCutchen's durability over Brantley's solid left-handed bat.

The Phillies, as you know, signed McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract.

Brantley, on Monday, agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with the Astros.

The first reaction was some surprise that McCutchen's deal not only beat the overall value of Brantley's but that McCutchen also got slightly more per year. These are similar players. McCutchen is seven months older, and Brantley is coming off the better season.

Seeing the deal Brantley received, some will say the Phillies overpaid McCutchen. They may have, but in this case, it's acceptable for a couple of reasons:

1. McCutchen unquestionably improves the Phillies

2. It's a three-year deal that won't prevent the Phils from making any future moves

Don't lose sight of that second point. The Phillies have a ton of money and did not weigh themselves down with this move. They also wouldn't really have weighed themselves down by beating the Nationals' six-year offer for Patrick Corbin, but there is a substantial difference between giving a 29-year-old pitcher with past injuries $150 million and giving a 32-year-old outfielder with no injury history half the years and one-third the price.

Back to McCutchen vs. Brantley.

McCutchen has a few distinct advantages over Brantley. The most obvious one is durability. McCutchen has missed a total of 65 games in the last nine seasons. Brantley has missed 242 the last three years alone.

The defensive metrics peg McCutchen and Brantley as equals when playing the corner outfield. Eye-test, I'm still giving McCutchen the advantage because of his instincts, ability to glide to the ball and his versatility. You must also factor in that the last two places McCutchen played the corner outfield most — AT&T Park and PNC Park — are among the most spacious and challenging outfields in baseball.

Brantley is a solid outfielder, too, but you can't put him in center field in a pinch at this point like you can with McCutchen. Brantley hasn't played center since 2015. 

Brantley gets the slight baserunning advantage, and he's obviously the better bet to hit .290 or .300. Yet the last two years, despite the fact that Brantley has out-hit McCutchen .305 to .267, McCutchen has the higher OBP — .366 to Brantley's .362.

Brantley strikes out less. McCutchen has more power. Brantley's left-handed bat may have balanced the Phils' lineup better. But McCutchen hits righties better than Brantley hits lefties.

Add up all these tiny advantages for McCutchen and you get a player the Phillies just felt more comfortable with. Then comes the "adult in the room" aspect of what McCutchen will bring the Phillies. He gives them an experienced voice in the clubhouse and another source of leadership they badly needed. It had gotten to the point the last year and a half where every game, good or bad, Rhys Hoskins was basically left to speak on behalf of his teammates. He won't have to do it alone in 2019.

If the Phillies were in the position of a mid-market team like the Rockies, Pirates, Reds or Royals, giving McCutchen $50 million over three years would have been a bad move because it swallows up so many of your resources. But on this team, in this city, with this future payroll and in an offseason when the Phillies are clearly shifting to win-now mode, paying a slightly higher price to get the guy they wanted made sense.

Boiled down to its simplest form, that $16.7 million per year the next three years won't stop the Phillies from improving elsewhere.

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