Phillies

Do Phillies have enough in bullpen besides their top trio?

Do Phillies have enough in bullpen besides their top trio?

The Phillies have three very good relievers in Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Pat Neshek. 

Do they have enough in the bullpen besides that trio? It highlights the importance of the Phillies getting the production Hector Neris gave them in the second half of 2018, when he struck out half the batters he faced. 

If Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos cannot step up and seize roles as they did last season, the bullpen could be a concern. Arano struggled badly again Saturday vs. the Astros, allowing six runs without recording an out. In three innings this spring, Arano has allowed 21 baserunners and has an ERA of 51.00. 

Spring training numbers aren’t super meaningful, but it’s hard to look past them when they’re that bad. 

Arano, with his sinker-slider combo, was very good for most of 2018. Manager Gabe Kapler referred more than once to his “stones” — a euphemism we shouldn’t need to explain. 

Arano does have minor-league options left and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s pitched his way off the opening day roster. 

If the Phillies open with an eight-man bullpen, Dominguez, Robertson, Neshek and Neris are locks. Lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez — both out of options — appear to be as well. 

Those final two spots are up for grabs, especially with Tommy Hunter still sidelined by a flexor strain.

The Phillies have an exciting young right-hander in Edgar Garcia, who could make a Dominguez-like impact in 2019. But he was optioned to Triple A on March 11, making him unlikely to contribute right away. 

Yacksel Rios could make this team out of camp. He’s looked great this spring and can touch the upper-90s. If the focus is what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, he should be in Philly on March 28. 

Juan Nicasio, making $9M in the last year of his contract, could make the club by default. 

But if the Phillies are unsure whether this unit can protect enough leads ... Craig Kimbrel is still out there. Even at this point, you’re not getting him for cheap. Signing Kimbrel might require only a two-year commitment at this point but it would still take the Phillies right up against the luxury tax threshold, which has more meaningful ramifications down the road than just this season (see story).

Former Phillie Ryan Madson, now 38 years old, is also still out there. Like Kimbrel, he’s been unsatisfied with the offers he’s received. Madson was excellent in 2017 (1.83 ERA in 60 appearances) but last season had his highest ERA (5.47) since becoming a full-time reliever in 2007. He wouldn’t cost nearly as much as Kimbrel. 

Opening day is 12 days away. We’ll see whether the Phillies are confident enough in this bunch to protect the leads they’ll have more frequently this season.

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Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

DENVER – If things had worked out differently eight years ago, lefty Kyle Freeland might have pitched six shutout innings for the Phillies instead of against them on Thursday night.

Freeland’s work on the mound and Ryan McMahon’s work at the plate (five RBIs on a pair of homers) backboned the Colorado Rockies’ 6-2 win over the Phillies at Coors Field (see observations).

Zach Eflin pitched well before an error by shortstop Scott Kingery, a base hit and a three-run homer turned the game in the Rockies’ favor in the sixth inning.

Save for a two-run homer by J.T. Realmuto in the seventh, the Phillies’ bats did little in one of the best places to hit in baseball. Four of the Phils’ five hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.

The top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup were 0 for 14.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler tipped his cap to the Rockies’ starting pitcher.

“I think the story was Freeland,” Kapler said. “He was really good. He really commanded the inside part of the plate. He made it very difficult for us to get anything going. We weren’t able to score any runs. It’s tough to score two runs and win in this ballpark.”

Freeland was one of the game’s breakout pitchers last season. He went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting. He’d started against the Phillies once in 2017, but had to come out in the first inning with a groin injury. He entered this start 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA on the new season, but clearly did his homework on the Phillies. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven.

“I noticed when I started watching video two days ago that they have guys with big leg kicks and they’re trying to get the perfect timing with the pitcher,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to start messing with their timing.”

Freeland did that by varying the interval of the hesitation in his delivery.

“I can hold that for a whole inning,” he said of the pause on his leg kick.

Freeland, who turns 26 in May, actually has a significant connection to the Phillies. He was selected by the Phils in the 35th round of the 2011 draft as a high school senior out of the Denver area. Freeland opted not to sign. He attended the University of Evansville and in 2014 was drafted in the first round by the Rockies. He was picked eighth overall, one slot behind Aaron Nola, and received a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Rockies.

Had Freeland signed with the Phillies out of high school, he and Nola might now be teammates.

And the Phillies would have a lefty in their rotation.

“The Phillies picked me as a draft-and-follow so I continued to play summer ball that year then they offered at the end of the summer,” Freeland said. “We couldn’t get to the price point that I wanted. It was a tough decision for me. I wanted to go play pro ball. I also had a great offer on the table to go play for Evansville and I think it’s safe to say I made the right choice.”

Freeland would not say how far apart he and the Phillies were back in 2011. But he did mention how much the Phils had on the table.

“You’re 18 years old and you have someone throwing a quarter of a million dollars at you,” he said. “I really didn’t know anyone who had been through the process so it was hard for me to lean on anybody. So it was a decision I had to make on my own and I’ve never had any regrets.

“But at the time it was tough. One thing that was nice is going to college I had three years where I knew I was going to play where as going into pro ball as a 35th rounder, if you don’t pan out in the first season and a half you might get canned.

“I made the right decision.”

It's difficult to argue with that.

Nonetheless, the Phillies sure would like to have had Kyle Freeland on their side Thursday night. What might have been.

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Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Pair of homers doom Phillies in unfriendly Coors Field

Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Pair of homers doom Phillies in unfriendly Coors Field

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Coors Field continues to be an unfriendly place for the Phillies. They were thumped, 6-2, by the Colorado Rockies in the first game of a four-game series Thursday night.

Zach Eflin and Colorado lefty Kyle Freeland hooked up in a nice pitchers' duel through five innings. The Rockies then pull ahead on a pair of homers by Ryan McMahon in the sixth and seventh innings.

Colorado, which started the season slow, has won four in a row to go to 7-12.

The Phils saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. They are 11-7.

The Phils are 4-11 against the Rockies since the start of 2017. They have lost five in a row in Coors Field, dating to last September, and been outscored 45-9 in those games. 

The keys

• It was a scoreless pitchers' duel heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Rockies got the lead runner on base when shortstop Scott Kingery made a throwing error. Trevor Story then stroked a base hit up the middle. Eflin then gave up a three-run homer to McMahon on a 1-1 changeup as the Rockies broke the deadlock and took a 3-0 lead.

• Freeland was selected by the Phillies in the 35th round of the 2011 draft but chose to attend the University of Evansville. Three years later, he was a first-round pick of the Rockies, going eighth overall, one slot after of Aaron Nola. Freeland was brilliant in this one. He held the Phils to two hits – a single by Eflin and an infield hit by Cesar Hernandez — over six shutout innings. He walked none and struck out seven. He left the game because of a blister problem.

• Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto gunned down two runners trying to steal second. He also clubbed a two-run homer in the seventh to briefly make it a 3-2 game. The Phils left a runner in scoring position in that inning and McMahon clubbed a two-run homer, this one against Victor Arano, in the bottom of the inning to put the game out of reach.

Eflin’s night

It was good until the sixth inning when he elevated a changeup with two men on base. Eflin allowed just four hits over the first five innings. He walked three and struck out just two.

Eflin is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in four starts.

Out-hit

Coors Field is a hitter’s haven, but the Phils were out-hit, 11-5, in this one. Four of the hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.

Bryce Harper went hitless with a walk in four trips to the plate. He has just two hits in his last 14 at-bats. He has, however, reached base in all 18 games.

Rhys Hoskins went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch. He was up 3-0 in the count then struck out against Scott Oberg with two men on base to end the top of the eighth inning. Hoskins is hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

Transaction

Odubel Herrera went on the injured list and Roman Quinn was activated. All the details and what it means here.

Quinn had a tough night with four strikeouts.

Up next 

Vince Velasquez looks to build on Sunday’s strong outing in Miami when he pitches against righty German Marquez on Friday night.

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