Curt Schilling would love to have been Gabe Kapler's pitching coach

Curt Schilling would love to have been Gabe Kapler's pitching coach

Leave it to Curt Schilling to come up with the line of the day as the Phillies celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1993 National League Championship on Sunday.

The boys on that team played hard, on and off the field. They got into some trouble then … and some of them continue to do so now.

“That team today,” Schilling said, “we’d have to play our home games at Leavenworth and wear ankle bracelets on the road to travel. That was as politically incorrect a group of human beings that’s ever existed in the game. And it was fun.”

Lenny Dykstra was one of the stars of that 1993 team. He was not invited to the celebration because the team believed his post-career scrapes with the law would have been a distraction. Dykstra did not protest the team’s decision. Mitch Williams declined the team’s invite. Darren Daulton, the undisputed leader of the club, died last summer. He was preceded in death by manager Jim Fregosi and beloved coaches John Vukovich and Johnny Podres.

“It’s tough not to have everybody here,” Schilling said. “It’s tough not to have Dutch and the coaches. Life moves at a very unique pace when you look back on it. Unfortunately for Lenny … I’ve actually been in contact with him quite a bit in the past couple months and years. He’s still struggling. He’s battling. He’s had issues and he’s probably the first to take accountability for those things. It’s unfortunate, but it’s more proof that we’re not really different than anybody else other than what our day jobs were.”

Schilling said losing the 1993 World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays on Joe Carter’s famous home run did not leave a void in his career. (Of course, he went on to win three World Series rings with Arizona and Boston.)

“I never looked at it as a void,” he said. “I looked at it as I was part of something. I had the privilege of being involved in three of the most amazing postseasons in baseball history, ‘93 with Joe Carter, ‘01 with the Yankees and (Diamondbacks) and ‘04 with the Red Sox. I don’t use words like ‘void’ because there’s something in everything. It sucked (that the Phillies lost in 1993) but I got to witness one of the greatest moments in the history of the game.

“If you look back at that Blue Jays team, that was a ridiculously good team. I still think we should have won that World Series. I really do. They earned it, but I think the 15-14 game (Game 4) was a backbreaker for us. But what an amazing experience.”

Schilling was a backbone starting pitcher on the Red Sox team that snapped an 86-year World Series drought with a title in 2004.

Gabe Kapler, the first-year Phillies manager, was also on that team.

Schilling and Kapler are still close. They stay in touch via text. They talk ball. They spoke at length on Saturday.

As always, Schilling was frank in discussing Kapler. He brought up the manager’s decision to remove a cruising Aaron Nola from his opening day start at 68 pitches. Kapler has eased up on his pitching moves since then.

“He was a great teammate,” Schilling said of Kapler. “A phenomenal teammate, a consummate teammate, a workaholic. I’ve been texting him all year, just been in his ear a little bit, trying to find out from my side what it’s like, what he’s going through and stuff like that. The thing I told people after opening day — I was laughing because I’m a pitcher. So I was offended when he was taking his pitcher out after five or six innings. But he’s not going to make the same mistakes twice. I think that’s a huge thing. He’s accountable.

“There’s some (Terry) Francona in him from a manager perspective. Terry used to say you’re fired the day you’re hired. They just don’t put that date on your contract. So if you know that going in, you do things your way, which I think Kap is doing. He’s a sponge. He’s always looking for something different and something new. He’s very much on the analytics side of everything and I think he’ll find that middle ground at some point, where every decision won’t be based on exactly what the numbers tell you what you should do in this situation because there’s a gut feel to it and I think it takes time.”

Schilling said he wants to get into coaching.

Would he be interested in donning the red pinstripes again?

“Absolutely,” he said. “This is one of the few jobs in the big leagues I would have taken.”

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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

Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez broke into the majors with the Houston Astros in 2015. His manager was A.J. Hinch. Jeff Luhnow was the general manager.

You know where this is going.

“I never saw anything,” Velasquez said Monday. “A lot of people have asked me, but I wasn’t there when it happened.

“It was shocking to hear about. And a little bit disappointing.”

The Astros were found to have used an illicit sign stealing scheme during their 2017 World Series championship season. Major League Baseball last week suspended Hinch and Luhnow for the 2020 season and Houston ownership followed up by firing both men. The explosive issue also cost Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran their jobs as managers of the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively. Cora was the Astros’ bench coach, and a mastermind of the scheme, in 2017, and Beltran was a player on the team.

Velasquez pitched in just 19 games for the Astros in 2015. He was traded to the Phillies in December of that year.

Pitchers and catchers have always been cognizant of changing their signs and varying their sequences in running through signs, especially when there is a runner on second base, to combat sign stealing. Velasquez predicted that pitchers and catchers will be even more diligent in light of the Astros' scandal.

“Now, we have to be more observant of what we’re doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to be part of the discussion [in spring training.] You have to learn to protect yourself.”

Velasquez is spending the week in Philadelphia helping the team with some promotional work. (He even plans to throw a couple of bullpen sessions in the cages at Citizens Bank Park.) On Monday, Velasquez and teammate Roman Quinn joined former Phillies Milt Thompson and Mickey Morandini at a youth instructional clinic at the Ryan Howard Training Center in South Philadelphia. Forty-five young players affiliated with the Phillies/MLB Urban Youth Academy and RBI program showed up a cold January day to get a head start on the season and some tips from the Phillies players past and present.

Quinn missed significant time last season with a torn groin muscle, the latest in a series of injuries that has robbed the exciting outfielder of playing time in his career. He has made changes to his offseason conditioning program and believes he can stay healthy in 2020 and make a run at the Phillies’ starting centerfield job. As it stands right now, he will battle Adam Haseley for the job in camp.

“I trust my abilities and I know if I’m healthy then it’s hard to keep me out of the lineup,” Quinn said.

Like Quinn, Velasquez will be in a spring-training battle.

The top four spots in the Phillies’ rotation are set with Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta. Velasquez will compete with Nick Pivetta for the fifth spot in the rotation. The loser of the competition will not necessarily be out of a job as the Phillies need bullpen help and one of the two could end up there.

Velasquez knows where he wants to be.

“I can play any role, but I want to start,” the 27-year-old right-hander said. “I want to be in the rotation. I want to be in that playoff run and I want to be that guy for that game.

“I know I have a job to earn. That’s my main focus. Battling.”

Velasquez, as Phillies fans know by now, is blessed with a tremendous arm. However, he has struggled to put his talents together and arrive at that place known as consistency. He runs high pitch counts and fails to get through the middle of games. He averaged just 4 2/3 innings in his 23 starts last season.

Velasquez knows it’s time for him to pitch deeper into games and he says, “I want that bad.” He has already established a telephone/text/video relationship with new pitching coach Bryan Price in hopes of picking up some keys to doing that.

“We’re in communication,” Velasquez said. “I’ve spoken to him a number of times and sent him videos of some of my bullpens.”

Velasquez avoided salary arbitration and will make $3.6 million this season. As his price tag goes up, so do expectations and the impatience of team officials. He might not be around at this time next season if he doesn’t produce in 2020.

“I’m very optimistic this is the year it clicks,” Velasquez said. “I know I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I feel like I’m starting to figure a lot of things out. A lot of people tend to figure things out after two or three years in the major leagues and I think this is that time for me to put all the pieces together.

“My time is due. It’s really come down to that point where I need to plug in all the pieces.”

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