Phillies

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.

Nationals 2, Phillies 0: Max Scherzer outduels Jake Arrieta as Phillies lose nightcap of doubleheader

Nationals 2, Phillies 0: Max Scherzer outduels Jake Arrieta as Phillies lose nightcap of doubleheader

Updated: 11:19 p.m.

BOX SCORE 

Two runs in 18 innings didn’t cut it for the Phillies Wednesday in Washington, D.C. 

The Phils fell to the Nationals in the second game of their doubleheader, 2-0. They lost in the afternoon, 6-2 (see observations)

Brian Dozier crushed a 3-2 sinker from Jake Arrieta that split the plate over the left-field wall in the second inning to give the Nationals the lead. The only other hit Arrieta allowed in his six innings was a fourth-inning single by Adam Eaton.

Victor Robles added an insurance run in the eighth inning with a homer off Pat Neshek.

Max Scherzer outdueled Arrieta in a contest between former Cy Young Award winners, throwing seven scoreless innings and recording 10 strikeouts.

The Phillies are 39-34, four games behind the Braves in the NL East. 

Quite a sight 

Scherzer started despite breaking his nose in batting practice Tuesday, when he bunted a foul ball against his face.

He took the mound looking like he’d already been through a fight or two, with a dark bruise encircling his right eye. 

Sluggish start

Jean Segura led off with a single that could have been a double had he run hard out of the box. Juan Soto dove and failed to catch Segura’s bloop to shallow left field, but Segura settled for a single despite the ball ending up behind Soto. Segura was stranded on third base when Scherzer struck out Rhys Hoskins looking on a 3-2 breaking ball to end the inning.

It was a missed opportunity for the Phillies’ offense against Scherzer, who’s allowed 10 first-inning runs in 16 starts this season and pitched like the three-time Cy Young Award winner he is once he escaped the early trouble. 

Arrieta’s night 

Outside of his lapse to Dozier, Arrieta was excellent. 

He induced just one swinging strike on 48 sinkers but spotted the pitch well down in the zone. Ten of Arrieta’s 18 outs came via the ground ball. 

Manager Gabe Kapler elected to pinch-hit for Arrieta in the top of the seventh, sending J.T. Realmuto to the plate with two outs and Cesar Hernandez on second base. Realmuto struck out swinging.

Tip of the cap 

Like Arrieta, Scherzer pitched very, very well. His electric stuff helped him power through the Phillies’ best threat of the night.

He worked around Hernandez’s leadoff double in the seventh by getting Brad Miller to swing through a 97.5 mph, 3-2 fastball, striking out Andrew Knapp on a 96.7 fastball and baffling Realmuto with a wipeout slider on his 117th and final pitch of the night. 

A nightmare return

Neshek's first game back from the injured list couldn't have gone much worse. After serving up a one-out home run to Robles, Neshek got Kurt Suzuki to fly out to left field. He then grimaced following a 1-0 sinker to Trea Turner that missed outside. Neshek left the game with a limp.

Kapler told reporters after the game that Neshek has a left hamstring strain and will "likely" go on the IL again.

Seeing the ball well … just not hitting it 

Bryce Harper was hitless in the doubleheader, though he did walk four times. He saw 16 pitches in three plate appearances against Scherzer. 

Harper’s struggles against the fastball continued as he swung through or fouled off four heaters in the heart of the zone. 

Still no sign of Franco 

Maikel Franco started neither game of the doubleheader. Scott Kingery played third base in the afternoon, Miller in the nightcap. In June, Franco is hitting .143 (4 for 28). His last multi-hit game was on May 13, and it appears he’s no longer a regular option for Kapler.

Up next

The Phillies wrap up their series against the Nationals Thursday night (7:05 p.m./NBCSP).

They begin a seven-game homestand Friday with the first matchup of a three-game set vs. the last-place Marlins. 

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Nationals 6, Phillies 2: Bats go silent in first game of doubleheader

Nationals 6, Phillies 2: Bats go silent in first game of doubleheader

BOX SCORE

After two straight nights of rainouts, the Phillies were well-rested heading into the first game of a doubleheader against the Nationals. 

Didn’t help. They got stuck in the mud. 

The Phillies lost 6-2 this afternoon and will now try to even the series at a game apiece in a few hours when they send Jake Arrieta to the mound. 

Zach Eflin gave the Phillies six innings and gave up just two earned runs, but the bats didn’t back him up again. Eflin now has a 6-7 record on the season and the Phillies have scored a total of 11 runs (an average of just 1.57 runs per game) in his seven losses. 

Any chance of a Phillies’ comeback was ruined in the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Nationals added another three insurance runs against Cole Irvin. First, Brian Dozier hit a two-run shot and then Gerardo Parra added a solo homer. The Phils added a run in the top of the ninth, but too little, too late. 

Oh well. Time to get ready for tonight’s game in just a few hours. 

At least he hustles

In the top of the sixth inning, Bryce Harper tried to generate a little offense after a walk to lead off the inning. He tried to make it to third on a Scott Kingery single but was gunned out by Parra at third base for the first out of the inning. 

After Harper was thrown out, Rhys Hoskins singled. At worst, the Phillies would have had bases loaded, no outs for J.T. Realmuto. Instead, Realmuto grounded into a fielder’s choice and Sean Rodriguez grounded out to end the top of the frame. 

The Phillies lost their chance to tie the ballgame or take a lead and Washington added a run in the bottom of the inning. 

Fit for a King(ery)

Scott Kingery stayed hot from the plate on Wednesday. He homered on a 1-2 count in the top of the first inning for his ninth bomb of the season. He came into the day batting .344 and had another multi-hit game, his third in four games. 

Kingery did have a throwing error in the first inning that led to the unearned run the Nats scored in the bottom of the first inning. 

Eflin’s day  

Eflin pitched well again today, but the Phillies just didn’t give him enough support, which has been all too common this season. He went 6 innings, gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits, with 3 walks and 7 Ks. He’s gotten losses in each of his last two starts after giving up just two earned runs in each. 

Up next 

After rainouts for a couple straight days, the Phillies have another game tonight with first pitch in Washington at 7:05 p.m. Jake Arrieta (6-5, 4.31 ERA) will take the mound for the Phillies in the second game. He’ll be opposed by Max Scherzer (5-5, 2.81), who actually broke his nose during a freak batting incident yesterday.

After today, the Phillies are scheduled to have one more game in Washington (a 7:05 start time) on Thursday, before getting out of town and hopefully away from soggy weather. They’ll start a three-game home series against the Marlins on Friday and then welcome the Mets to town for four starting Monday. 

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