Phillies

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.

Will Phillies be in the mix for Nate Eovaldi?

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Will Phillies be in the mix for Nate Eovaldi?

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in MLB.

Monday was Bryce Harper, Tuesday was Michael Brantley and Wednesday was Manny MachadoThursday is dedicated to right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

Nathan Eovaldi has been a bit of a journeyman in his career.

He won’t be for much longer.
 
Eovaldi built a strong free-agent case in helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series last month. Over 22⅓ postseason innings as both a starter and reliever, he allowed just 15 hits and four earned runs (1.61 ERA) while striking out 16 and walking just three. His work in the World Series was epic as he answered the call out of the bullpen in an 18-inning Game 3 marathon against the Dodgers and picked up six innings. He took the loss when he allowed a solo homer in his seventh inning of work, but his performance inspired the Red Sox and they won the next two games for their fourth World Series title in 15 years.

Eovaldi, who will pitch at 29 next season, is a hard-throwing right-hander and we mean hard. His fastball regularly sits in the high-90s and it can reach triple-digits. Clearly, he is healthy after having Tommy John surgery twice on his right elbow.

The Red Sox acquired Eovaldi in a July trade from Tampa Bay. The Sox became his fifth team in seven years and he went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts, for that club.

Eovaldi appears to be on the threshold of a big breakthrough. He will have a brisk free-agent market as he seeks to put down some roots after bouncing around for a few seasons.

It is not clear whether the Phillies, who are in the market for starting pitching, will be among Eovaldi’s suitors. Oh, they like him, and certainly wouldn’t push him out of their rotation. But the Phillies are right-handed-heavy in their rotation and they would like to add a lefty either through a trade or free-agent signing. Lefties like Robbie Ray and James Paxton are trade possibilities while J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are free-agent possibilities.

“In a perfect world, we would like to have a more balanced rotation,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last week. “We’re not going to swap out a good righty for a less-good lefty. We’re not going to do that to have a lefty. But if we can make the rotation better and also add balance to our pitching staff, I think that’s something worth exploring.”

Eovaldi is a good one and surely the Phillies will perform their due diligence and have conversations with his representatives. But we see him landing with someone else as the Phillies focus on adding a lefty.

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Why Phillies placed Justin Bour on waivers

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Why Phillies placed Justin Bour on waivers

Looking to trim their 40-man roster ahead of next week’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft, the Phillies have placed slugging first baseman Justin Bour on waivers, according to a major-league source.

The move essentially means Bour will soon be moving on. He can be claimed by any other club or elect free agency if he clears waivers.
 
In need of power off the bench, the Phillies acquired Bour from Miami for minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills in August. With the Phils, he had 54 plate appearances and hit .224 with a homer and five RBIs. He was hampered during part of his stay with the club by a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list.
 
Bour has averaged 21 homers and 66 RBIs the last four seasons and could be attractive to clubs looking for a left-handed platoon bat at first base. The Phillies are not in need of that type of player as they are committed to using Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana at first base. If Santana were to be traded, Hoskins would play at first base full-time.
 
Bour would have been eligible for salary arbitration with the Phillies and will remain so if a team claims him on waivers. He projects to have an arbitration salary of over $5 million.
 
The Phillies’ 40-man roster is at 34. Several spots will be filled by young prospects on Tuesday, which is the deadline for shielding eligible players from being selected in December’s Rule 5 draft.

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