Phillies

Rockies' Pat Neshek encouraged by Phillies' Cameron Rupp, Andrew Knapp to throw slider more

ap-pat-neshek-rockies.jpg
AP Images

Rockies' Pat Neshek encouraged by Phillies' Cameron Rupp, Andrew Knapp to throw slider more

DENVER — Pat Neshek left the Phillies with more than good memories. 

He departed throwing a far more effective slider to left-handed hitters, thanks to the urging of catchers Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp.

“I'm throwing it a little bit harder than I do to righties, but it's got just downward movement,” said Neshek, whom the Phillies traded to the Rockies on July 26 for three minor league prospects. “Before for me, it was just fastballs and changeups. Now I got something I can run in on them, and a lot of them just look outside and try to slap (the ball) to left. It's been a very effective pitch for me.”

The well-traveled Neshek, whose unconventional sidearm delivery is unique, said he toyed with the harder slider to lefties last year in his second season with the Astros but never really had confidence in it. Early this season, however, that changed because of Rupp and Knapp.

“I didn't really know them, they didn't know me, but they were adamant it was a great pitch, so I just trusted them,” Neshek said. “Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp with the Phillies kind of just kept calling it, and I think it gave me confidence.”

Neshek said when he was with the Cardinals in 2014, catcher Yadier Molina called a lot of changeups, and Neshek “felt like that was my pitch to left-handers.” But thanks to Rupp and Knapp, Neshek said he began attacking lefties with an 82-85 mph slider, up from 81-83 mph last year.

“With the right-handers, he starts it off the plate and throws it off that same fastball plane and keeps it riding out of the zone,” Rupp said. “Whereas with a lefty, you can’t do that or you’re going to hit him. It’s got more depth, and it’s shorter. When you see that, his fastball at 91-92 (mph) plays harder. And then when you throw the movement in with that slider, it’s a pitch you got to be ready to hit.

“He kind of places it instead of letting the ball ride out of the zone and be a chase pitch. It’s not a big chase pitch for him to lefties. He gets a lot of swings. The ball’s in the zone. He gets a lot of weak contact.”

Entering this season, left-handed hitters were batting .237 (117 for 494) against Neshek. They are 13 for 62 (.210) against him this year.

The trade to the Rockies means Neshek has left cozy Citizens Bank Park but will make repeated appearances at mile-high altitude in spacious Coors Field.

“Offensively the ball's flying a lot more in Philly, but more runs are probably going to be scored here,” Neshek said. “It's a bigger ballpark here. So you want to control the running game, limit the base hits and the balls that go in the gaps. But as far as balls flying out, Philly wasn't fun. I mean it was in your head all the time. Same with places like Cincinnati and Atlanta; they're tiny ballparks. For me, I'm losing one tiny ballpark and going to an offensive ballpark. Houston was the same way. Down the left field line was a joke.”

In 43 games with the Phillies, Neshek went 3-2 with a 1.12 ERA with five walks and 45 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. While that performance piqued the Rockies’ interest, it also eased any concerns Neshek might have had about pitching regularly at Coors Field.

“Philly, when I got traded there, I was like, 'Oh my God,' ” Neshek said. “And to have a good year there, it kind of just tones that down a little bit.”

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

ap_joe_girardi_phillies.jpg
AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Three weeks before the start of spring training, the Phillies were busy Wednesday finalizing minor-league contracts with three pitchers and a utility infielder.

The team announced the signings of veteran relievers Drew Storen, Bud Norris and Francisco Liriano, as well as veteran infielder Neil Walker.

Of the group, Liriano, 36, might have the best chance to impact the 2020 Phillies. The left-hander, a starter for the bulk of his major-league career, was used exclusively as a reliever with Pittsburgh last season. He pitched in 69 games and recorded an ERA of 3.47 over 70 innings. Liriano was particularly effective against lefty hitters, holding them to a .194 batting average (14 for 72.)

Storen, 32, and Norris, 34, are both right-handers with significant big-league time. Neither pitched in the majors last season because of health reasons. Storen was recovering from Tommy John surgery and Norris had a forearm injury. There are opportunities in the Phillies’ bullpen and both will be given a look in spring training.

Walker, 34, is an 11-year veteran who has spent much of his career as a regular second baseman, mostly with Pittsburgh. He has bounced around the diamond in recent seasons, particularly with the New York Yankees in 2018, where he played first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots. He played first, second and third with the Miami Marlins last season and hit .261 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 337 at-bats.

Walker, a switch-hitter, will vie for a spot as a reserve with the Phillies. Rosters expand from 25 to 26 men this season and that will allow the Phillies to carry an extra player on their bench. There are plenty of candidates for that job. Earlier this winter, the Phillies signed veteran infielders Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin and Ronald Torreyes to minor-league deals. The team is also bringing veteran outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook to big-league camp on minor-league deals. The competition for a spot as a reserve outfielder will also include Nick Williams and Nick Martini, both of whom are on the 40-man roster.

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