Sean Rodriguez

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

NEW YORK — All signs point to Jean Segura returning to the Phillies on Saturday, but in the meantime, the Phils have another shortstop: Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was called up from Triple A on Wednesday, two days before his 34th birthday. He will immediately get the start at shortstop for the Phillies, batting seventh on Wednesday night against Mets left-hander Jason Vargas.

Rodriguez's call-up was one of several roster moves the Phillies made ahead of their series finale in New York. Right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos was also recalled from Triple A, while Mitch Walding and Drew Anderson were optioned back to Lehigh Valley. 

Additionally, left-handed reliever James Pazos was designated for assignment. Acquired in the Segura trade with Seattle, Pazos wasn't sharp in spring training and had a rough go with the IronPigs, allowing six runs and seven walks in 7⅓ innings.

The Phillies have had to utilize more of their 40-man roster than they would have liked these last two weeks. Scott Kingery was Segura's replacement, but then Kingery suffered a hamstring injury of his own. The next man up was Phil Gosselin, who had two singles in his Phillies debut last Friday and a three-run double Saturday but is 0 for 12 since. Gosselin also committed a throwing error in the first inning of Tuesday night's loss.

Enter Rodriguez, who last season in the majors played every position except pitcher and catcher. He's spent most of his career as a bench utilityman but had a lot of success in 2016 as a platoon player with the Pirates, hitting .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 342 plate appearances.

Even through his struggles the last two seasons, Rodriguez has more than held his own against left-handed pitching. Since 2016, he has a .384 OBP against lefties, which you'd think factored into the timing of this call-up. The Phillies face the lefty Vargas on Wednesday and another southpaw in Caleb Smith Thursday. 

Rodriguez, who's tight with Andrew McCutchen and thrilled to again share a clubhouse with him, had an opt-out in his contract if he didn't make the team out of spring training but decided to stay in the organization and accept the role at Triple A. 

"I'm in it to win," he said. "That's what I told (Gabe) Kapler and (Matt) Klentak. It was clear this offseason this team was trying to win."

Rodriguez had been hitting for power at Triple A, going 11 for 25 with four homers, a triple, two doubles and 12 RBI in his last six games before Tuesday night. Despite that and the Phillies' growing injured list, he tried his best to not sit by his phone and await the call.

"We can try to play GM but I learned a long time ago not to do that," he said. "You obviously see the injuries and all that but you don't buy into it, you just try to show up every day and do your job on a daily basis."

Rodriguez is perhaps best-known for his fire and competitiveness in the field, on the bases and in the dugout. He's the consummate good teammate, the kind of guy who's usually the first one out when benches begin to clear in a situation like the Phillies experienced Tuesday night when two fastballs were thrown above Rhys Hoskins' head.

He has no intentions of dialing that back as he gets reacclimated to the group of guys he spent spring training with.

"I think if you've identified pretty early on that's who you are as a player and competitor, it's hard not to just continue to be that guy," he said. "If you're not, then you're almost taking yourself and your competitive nature and putting it aside. Basically, you're putting it in the closet. You don't want to do that. 

"If that's who you are, that's who you are. You learn to somewhat not let the rage come out in a bad or negative way. That's what you try to harness and buffer up a bit. But definitely not turning it off."

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Projecting Phillies' opening day roster on position side

Projecting Phillies' opening day roster on position side

On Friday, we took a look at the Phillies' projected opening day pitching staff, assuming they open with 13 arms and 12 bats as they did a year ago.

There were a few tough calls on the pitching side — Victor Arano vs. Edubray Ramos vs. Juan Nicasio, James Pazos vs. Adam Morgan — and there figure to be a few tough calls on the position side of things as well.

Quinn's injury

Injuries could play a role in the Phillies' crowded outfield. Roman Quinn has been sidelined since Feb. 27 with a mild oblique strain. He has just six plate appearances in Grapefruit League play. 

It tends to take a player a month to come back from an oblique strain. The Phillies will proceed with caution with Quinn, who has a lengthy track record of injuries. Even if he's able to return ahead of schedule, will he compile enough spring training plate appearances to be ready for the season?

The Phillies could open the season with Quinn on the injured list. This would seem to be the smart and likely way to go because it would allow the Phils to put Quinn on a rehab clock and get him minor-league plate appearances to prepare himself for his eventual call-up. Quinn is out of minor-league options, so IL'ing him at the end of March is the one way to let him get healthy and prepared in the minors.

Altherr vs. Cozens

Aaron Altherr is out of options. Dylan Cozens has options remaining.

Altherr can play center field, and aside from Quinn might still be the Phillies' best defensive outfielder.

Is that enough for Altherr to crack the opening day roster?

Cozens will almost certainly begin the season at Triple A. It makes more sense to get him everyday plate appearances than to sit him on a major-league bench.

Backup catcher

Andrew Knapp, who singled in each of his first three plate appearances Sunday in Sarasota, does have options left. He's battling with spring training invite Drew Butera for the backup catcher's job.

Knapp spent almost all season with the Phillies in 2018. He had his moments, but it wasn't a highly productive year. He hit .198/.294/.316 in 215 plate appearances and had some struggles defensively. 

Butera, who has homered twice already this spring, doesn't have much of an offensive track record either. He's a career .201 hitter with a .258 OBP. Butera has lasted nine seasons in the majors because of his defense, not his bat. If the Phillies prioritize defense out of J.T. Realmuto's backup, Butera may get the nod.

However, Knapp is on the 40-man roster and Butera is not. In order to add Butera to the 40, the Phillies would have to drop someone like Mitch Walding. They're going to add a catcher to the 40-man roster by September anyway, so it might not be too prohibitive of a factor.

• • •

The way-too-early guess on how it shakes out for the Phils on opening day — if they carry 12 position players.

A lot can change between now and March 28 but this should provide an idea of who's on the bubble.

Catcher (2)

J.T. Realmuto
Andrew Knapp

Infield (5)

1B Rhys Hoskins
2B Cesar Hernandez
SS Jean Segura
3B Maikel Franco
UTIL Scott Kingery

Teams typically carry more than five infielders. Kingery's ability to play each infield position helps but it would leave the Phils thin if someone were to get hurt. That's the value of having guys like Sean Rodriguez and Phil Gosselin if the Phils are able to hold onto them. Gosselin has looked good so far in camp and homered in his first plate appearance Sunday against the Orioles.

Outfield (5)

RF Bryce Harper
CF Odubel Herrera
LF Andrew McCutchen
OF Nick Williams
OF Aaron Altherr

Injured list?

CF Roman Quinn

Potential odd men out

OF Dylan Cozens
IF Sean Rodriguez
IF Phil Gosselin
IF Andrew Romine

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Phillies hitters rack up 15 Ks, Gomez blows save in loss to Pirates

Phillies hitters rack up 15 Ks, Gomez blows save in loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

As the final month of this Phillies season winds down, there have been some glimmers of hope for the future.
 
But there have also been those reminders that this team still has a long way to go in its rebuild.
 
Alec Asher pitched well again in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). His 6⅓ innings of two-run ball marked the 11th straight start in which a Phillies starting pitcher has allowed three or fewer earned runs. Over those 11 games, Phillies starters have a 1.99 ERA, the best in the majors during that span. Considering that five — Asher, Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan — of the six pitchers who have contributed to the nice run of success are under control for next season, that’s a pretty good sign.
 
“I’m excited about the starting pitching,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s something to take forward.”
 
But even with the starters pitching so well recently, the Phillies are still just 4-8 in the month of September. Much of that lack of success can be attributed to the team’s poor offense. The Phils have been shut out three times this month, and as time runs out on the season, they are racking up strikeouts at an alarming rate.
 
On Tuesday night, Phillies hitters struck out 15 times.
 
In 12 games this month, Phillies hitters have struck out 130 times, more than 10 per game. That, by far, is the most in the majors over that span. Minnesota is next with 118 whiffs.
 
Lately, the strikeouts have swelled. Here’s the rundown the last seven games: 13, 11, 12, 10, 9, 11, 15.
 
“We struck out 15 more times,” Mackanin said after Tuesday night’s loss. “We’re striking out too much.”
 
And not getting on base enough.
 
Or scoring enough.
 
The Phils are last in the majors in both of those categories. They have an on-base percentage of just .296 and have scored just 529 runs, 3.65 per game.
 
Despite scoring just three runs Tuesday night, the Phils had a chance to win the ballgame because Asher kept them in it and Freddy Galvis broke a 2-2 tie with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth.
 
The Pirates won it when Jeanmar Gomez blew a one-run lead in the ninth. He gave up a walk, a double and a three-run homer to Sean Rodriguez without retiring a batter.
 
“It was a tough night,” Gomez said. “Tomorrow will be better.”
 
“It’s a shame to lose that game,” Mackanin said. “We battled back. But we also shot ourselves in the foot.”
 
True enough. Pittsburgh scored the tying run in seventh after Asher walked two batters with one out. Reliever Michael Mariot then walked the first batter he faced before uncorking a wild pitch, allowing the Pirates to tie the game at 2-2. A baserunning mistake by Aaron Altherr in the bottom of the inning also did not help.
 
“There were quite a few positives, but a few more negatives,” Mackanin said. “Asher was really good, then he walked a couple of guys. Three walks and a wild pitch to get them back in the game. That didn’t help. They scored without getting a hit. That’s tough to take.
 
“Then we went ahead but didn’t get the job done.”
 
Even with his struggles in the seventh, Asher pitched well and showed promise. He’s made two starts with the big club this season and given up just two runs in 12⅓ innings.
 
“I thought it went well, but I didn’t like giving up those free bases,” Asher said of the two walks in the seventh.
 
Another recent addition also shined. Roman Quinn started at his third different outfield position — left — in as many nights and reached base three times and scored a run. He had two hits, including a bunt single.
 
Quinn has serious wheels and he’s fun to watch.
 
The rest of the offense hasn’t been fun to watch. Too many strikeouts. Not enough base runners. Not enough runs.