David Robertson and Pat Neshek impress, Jerad Eickhoff debuts, Phillies make roster moves

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David Robertson and Pat Neshek impress, Jerad Eickhoff debuts, Phillies make roster moves

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Monday afternoon was the first time so far in spring training that all five of the Phillies' prized offseason acquisitions played in the same game. The top of the order was Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, and David Robertson made his spring debut with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. 

McCutchen and Segura hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning. Harper walked and struck out in his two plate appearances (see story).

Robertson followed Pat Neshek, who struck out the side in his inning of work. Combined, they allowed no baserunners and punched out five.

Robertson will be this team's setup man, and at times he'll close. When Seranthony Dominguez pitches the ninth, Neshek and Robertson will serve as the bridge in some form.

Neither veteran reliever has pitched much in spring games so far. They both know the drill, know their arms, know their bodies and how many innings of actual game action are required to begin a season.

Neshek, for example, hasn't made more than four appearances in spring training since 2016. His health and availability for the season are much more important than his work in Grapefruit League games, and both he and Robertson are able to accomplish what they need to accomplish in side sessions.

Eickhoff goes two innings

Jerad Eickhoff's spring debut didn't go as well. His outing began in the fifth inning with a bloop double and a two-run homer. He allowed another homer in the sixth.

It was good for Eickhoff just to get back out there after dealing with a wrist injury early in camp. Injuries limited him to just 5⅓ innings in the majors last season.

It will be tough, perhaps impossible, for Eickhoff to win a spot in the Phillies' starting rotation early on. He has a minor-league option left and will likely begin the year in the Triple A rotation. If he pitches well, he could be the first man up if the Phils suffer a starting pitcher injury.

Remember, Eickhoff was very impressive in 2015 and 2016, his first two big-league seasons. He had a 3.44 ERA in 248 1/3 innings with just 2.0 walks per nine innings. His big curveball missed bats and froze hitters, and he looked like a 200-inning workhorse in the making.

Roster moves

After Monday's game, the Phillies made a series of roster moves with their young pitchers.

Lefties Austin Davis and Ranger Suarez and righties Enyel De Los Santos and Edgar Garcia were optioned to Triple A. Garcia is an exciting 22-year-old reliever who could help the big-league club this season.

Lefties Cole Irvin and Tyler Gilbert were reassigned to minor-league camp.

In big-league camp, 48 players remain.

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What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This, from Joel Sherman of the NY Post, paints a slightly clearer picture of how it could shake out:

One person who had been briefed on the proposal said the expectation is that players due to make $1 million or less in 2020 would be made close to whole on a prorated basis for games played. Thus, if someone were making the MLB 2020 minimum of $563,500 and 82 regular-season games (almost exactly half a season) were played, they would receive roughly half their pay, about $282,000.

But players at the top of the pay chain such as Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout would get less. If that were in the 50 percent range — as an example — then Cole, who was due $36 million, this year would receive half of about the $18 million he would be due for half a season or roughly $9 million.

From a Phillies perspective, if those percentages are close to accurate, it would mean Harper would earn somewhere around $6.9 million of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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