Phillies

A glimpse at Manny Machado’s day in Philly

A glimpse at Manny Machado’s day in Philly

Manny Machado pulled up to Citizens Bank Park in a silver SUV just before noon on Thursday and immediately received some advice from a man who had been working at a construction site across the street.

"Do the right thing and sign!" the man, identified as Tom Cudeyro, a Phillies fan from South Jersey, shouted. "Get the money!"

Machado was greeted at the front door by Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler.

The Phillies hope Machado does what Pete Rose, Jim Thome and Cliff Lee did before him. They hope he signs with the club as a free agent and they planned to make their desire to have him clear during a face-to-face meeting at the ballpark that was scheduled to last several hours.

Ultimately, money will do the talking. Machado and Bryce Harper, the other mega free agent on the market, are in a stare down to see who can land the winter's biggest deal — and, for that matter, maybe the biggest deal ever, something that could eclipse $300 million.

The Phillies surely have the interest in Machado. They envision him gobbling up balls at third base and hitting for average and power in the middle of their lineup for many years. They also have the money to get him. The question is: Can they beat out the New York Yankees for Machado's affection and his signature? Machado, 26, has long dreamed of playing for the Yankees and they can offer him the chance to play shortstop, his favorite position, at least at the beginning of his contract as incumbent shortstop Didi Gregorius recovers from elbow surgery.

The Phillies might have to outbid the Yankees for Machado, but they seem willing to do that. If they strike out on Machado, they could become more serious about signing Harper. But right now, Machado is clearly the Phillies' focus because, in addition to having huge offensive impact, he would have huge defensive impact at third base, more than Harper would in right field.

Machado visited with White Sox officials in Chicago on Monday and Yankees officials in New York on Wednesday. He arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, posed for a picture with Cudeyro, the construction worker/fan, and made his way through a phalanx of cameras on his way to the ballpark entrance.

Machado was to spend several hours visiting with Phillies officials. He and his wife, Yainee, were to have lunch in a suite overlooking the field and Machado's image on Phanavision. A tour of the clubhouse and other ballpark facilities was planned. The Phillies' welcoming party included Klentak, Kapler, managing partner John Middleton, club president Andy MacPhail, assistant general manager Ned Rice, hitting coach John Mallee and bench coach Rob Thomson. Surely, there would be a give and take, with Machado asking questions about the team's direction and team officials asking about the controversial "Johnny Hustle" comments that he made in October.

Dinner, at an undisclosed location, was planned in the evening and Machado is scheduled to return home to Miami on Friday morning.

With the recruiting visits coming to an end, Machado and agent Dan Lozano will start to dig deeply into teams' actual offers and then it's decision time.

White Sox?

Yankees?

Phillies?

Stay tuned.

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Aaron Nola is ready for opening day — and a lot more than 68 pitches

Aaron Nola is ready for opening day — and a lot more than 68 pitches

CLEARWATER, Fla. — There will be no quick hook for Aaron Nola this opening day. As long as he’s effective and getting the job done, he’s staying in the game longer than 68 pitches. There are no restrictions.

“Absolutely none,” pitching coach Chris Young said.

With Young looking on and Andrew Knapp doing the catching, Nola made his final start of the spring in a minor-league game at Carpenter Complex on Friday. The Phillies chose to have Nola make his final tune-up in a controlled setting to ensure that he get his pitch count up and get into the sixth inning. He threw 91 pitches and left in the middle of the sixth.

Nola’s next outing will come Thursday at Citizens Bank Park against the Atlanta Braves. It will be Nola’s second straight opening day start against the Braves. Last year’s came in Atlanta and still lives in infamy. Nola was cruising along with a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning when rookie manager Gabe Kapler went to his bullpen and started playing the matchup game. The bullpen ended up blowing the lead, the Phillies lost, 8-5, and Kapler was roasted for taking his starter out at 68 pitches. Even the soft-spoken Nola was miffed.

As it turned out, Kapler’s controversial decision to hook Nola on opening day turned out to be a growth moment in the two men’s relationship.

“For sure,” Nola confirmed. “We had a talk after the game and he let me go the rest of the season. That’s what I want to do.”

For the season, Nola ended up pitching 212 1/3 innings, fifth most in the majors. He finished fourth in the majors in ERA (2.37) and quality starts (25) and fifth in WHIP (0.97) on his way to a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. He threw a first-pitch strike 69.4 percent of the time. Only St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas (71 percent) did that more often.

Armed with a new four-year, $45 million contract, Nola, 25, comes into the new season with high expectations. He challenged for the Cy Young Award last season and there’s no reason he can’t do it again this season.

But Nola is more concerned with team expectations. On paper, the Phils are the most improved club in baseball and they’re expected to contend in the NL East. The improved roster and heightened expectations can be seen at the newsstands as Nola joins Rhys Hoskins and newcomers Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

“We have a team to make the playoffs, but we still have to go out there and win and we still have to go out there and compete,” Nola said. “Expectations are better than no expectations and that’s going to raise our game up, I believe.

“You look at the type of guys we’ve got, All Stars, MVPs, Cy Young winners. We got ‘em on our team. But there are no guarantees.  We still have to play and compete.”

As opening day comes into focus, players are always eager to get spring training over and begin the season. There seems to be an extra bit of juice in the Phillies’ clubhouse, a feel that this team knows it could be pretty good and it can’t wait to get started and see how it all plays out.

“That’s accurate, for sure,” Nola said. “We’re all excited and ready to go. It’s not just that we have good ballplayers and good talent in there, I think they’re good guys, too, and I think that makes more icing on the cake because the better guys you have, the better chemistry you have and the easier it is to play with each other.”

Nola said he is right where he needs to be physically. He feels great. He’s excited to see Citizens Bank Park sold out on Thursday and face Atlanta’s Julio Teheran. This season of big expectations is almost here.

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At The Yard Podcast: Bryce Harper rounding into form; why Nick Pivetta in Game 2?

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At The Yard Podcast: Bryce Harper rounding into form; why Nick Pivetta in Game 2?

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury discuss how Bryce Harper is starting to get his timing down at the plate. Is there any connection whatsoever between spring training and regular-season productivity?

This is an important season for Nick Pivetta. Is he ready for it, and what went into naming him the starter in Game 2?

Also, an injury update on Rhys Hoskins.

1:00 — Bryce Harper is starting to get his timing down.
3:00 — Any carryover between spring training and real baseball?
6:00 — Why is Nick Pivetta starting Game 2?
13:00 — Phillies want a consistent batting order.
17:00 — Is Odubel Herrera starting to "get it?"
20:00 — Update on Rhys Hoskins.
22:00 — Next Phillie in line for an extension.

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