Phillies

Empty stadiums a necessity to play sports this summer, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

Empty stadiums a necessity to play sports this summer, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

Remember when LeBron scoffed at the notion of games in empty arenas and said "I ain't playing" in front of no fans?

That was only 40 days ago. Our world has changed so, so much since.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, said Wednesday morning that the only way we'll see sports return this summer is if they are played in empty stadiums or arenas and the players are quarantined in hotels.

"Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled," Fauci said around the 2:45 mark of this Snapchat Original video. "Have them tested every week and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out."

No solution will be simple. One of MLB's ideas is to play the entire season with all 30 teams in Arizona. Another proposal would split the season between Florida and Arizona as in spring training.

There would be issues with any solution. Playing outdoors in Arizona in the summer is a good way to wear players out. The average temperature in Phoenix last July, for example, was 97 degrees with an average high of 108. You might say, these are professional athletes and they should be ready for any setting. But Chase Field in Arizona has a retractable roof for a reason and the surrounding spring training sites that would be hosting these games do not.

There's also the issue of separating players from their families. Unusual times lead to tough circumstances. First-year Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and his wife Dominique are expecting their first child in three months. Wheeler explained Friday that he's not willing to miss that birth if players are isolated and would be willing to miss a few weeks of baseball if he has to be quarantined after traveling and seeing his family. Could players be quarantined in hotels along with their families?

It's going to be complicated. The players are guaranteed only 4% of their 2020 salaries and many will want to not only play but play as long a regular season as possible since their salaries will be prorated.

"Only way the season might be played is with empty seats, which is no fun for anybody, but if we can get some baseball going, that's a good thing," Scott Kingery said Tuesday via Instagram.

If baseball can return this summer, it has a chance to not only serve its loyal fans but also attract many new eyeballs because of the craving for live sports.

"People say you can't play without spectators, but, well, I think you'd get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me," Fauci said. "I'm living in Washington and we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again."

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Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

The Phillies on Tuesday made some changes to the worst bullpen in the majors.

Promising right-hander Connor Brogdon and veteran Blake Parker were both promoted from the team’s reserve camp in Lehigh Valley. 

In corresponding moves, the Phillies optioned pitcher Nick Pivetta to the camp in Lehigh Valley. That move came the day after he was torched for six hits and six runs in the ninth inning of Monday’s 13-8 win over Atlanta.

To make room for Brogdon and Parker on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Trevor Kelley and outfielder Nick Williams for assignment.

The removal of Williams from the roster was hardly surprising, but it was certainly noteworthy. Williams, 26, came to the Phillies in one of the biggest trades that the club has made in recent years, the deal that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers on July 31, 2015.

In addition to Williams, the Phillies picked up catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson and Alec Asher in the deal. Five years later, all of those players have moved on. J.T. Realmuto, acquired from Miami in February 2019 for a package that included Alfaro, represents the last vestige of that deal. He will be eligible for free agency after this season.

Williams played parts of three seasons in the majors with the Phils. He hit .269 with 29 homers, 105 RBIs and a .776 OPS in 720 at-bats in 2017 and 2018 but could not solidify a spot in the team’s future plans. When the Phils signed corner outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper to long-term deals before the 2019 season, Williams’ days with the club became numbered because he’s only capable of playing corner outfield spots. Williams struggled mightily in limited time in the majors last season. He fell out of favor with management and openly longed for the change of scenery he will get if he is traded or picked up on waivers by another club.

Pivetta was also acquired in a trade in the summer of 2015. He also could be in need of a change of scenery after a poor season in 2019 and a poor start to this season. He allowed 10 hits and 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings before being sent out Tuesday. According to a source with another big-league club, the Phillies are open to trading Pivetta, but that’s hardly a surprise.

The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against Baltimore with the worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 9.87. The starters, meanwhile, had an ERA of 3.20, fifth best in the majors.

Parker spent some time with the Phillies last season.

Brogdon, 25, pitched at three levels of the Phillies’ system last season and had a 2.61 ERA in 51 games. The lanky righty has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and an excellent changeup. He struck out 106 and walked just 24 in 76 innings last season. The Phillies actually considered bringing up Brogdon late last season. Now, he’s here.

“There’s a lot of upside with Connor,” manager Joe Girardi said.

In other bullpen news, David Robertson and Ranger Suarez are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions at Citizens Bank Park in the coming days before joining the 60-man player pool in Lehigh Valley. Robertson had Tommy John surgery a year ago. The Phillies hope he can make it back to help during the final month of the season. Suarez could also help. He is building strength after being in COVID protocol.

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Phillies Spencer Howard picks his favorite MLB uniform, hints at a number change

Phillies Spencer Howard picks his favorite MLB uniform, hints at a number change

Spencer Howard's first career start with the Phillies over the weekend wasn't a storybook debut - but in such an unusual season, and considering the high expectations, it also could've been way worse. 

He flashed some good stuff, struck out his last batter, and came away with some building blocks for his next appearance.

Howard appeared on former Phillie Kevin Frandsen's podcast to chat about his MLB debut, including what went well, what he wants to improve, and - most importantly - baseball uniforms.

Because the youngster managed to make his major league debut in the Phillies' throwback blues, lending a little extra stylish pizazz to what was already a big day, both for Howard and the organization:

Frandsen asked Howard during the podcast what his first thought was when he saw his own uniform hanging in the Phillies' clubhouse, and Howard had a fantastic answer:

HOWARD: That those are probably the best unis in baseball, man, the baby blues.

FRANDSEN: And you got to make your debut in that!

[...]

HOWARD: It's so pretty, they're so comfortable. It was incredible.

While Phillies fans will likely see Howard in the greys or the red pinstripes more often than not, it's probably so cool to make your first start in a universally-beloved throwback uniform.

A little later on during the appearance, Frandsen asked Howard about a sneaky big part of a player's identity: the number!

FRANDSEN: Are you a big number guy? Did you want a certain number? Were you hoping for a certain number? Did you want to keep 83?

HOWARD: No, I - definitely not 83 [laughs] - I'm not too big on it, but I think 48 is nice. I was more curious, than anything, to see what they'd give me.

FRANDSEN: What did you want? 

HOWARD: Out of all the available ones, I was shooting for 28, maybe? Hoping?

Frandsen, of course, pointed out that he wore No. 28 with the Phillies. A true legend. The most notable recent Phillie to wear No. 28? Jayson Werth, from 2007 to 2010. Since then, Frandsen, Kevin Correia, Erik Kratz, Vince Velasquez, and Mike Morin have donned the number. 

A decade between important players feels like enough time for Howard to claim the No. 28, if he feels like making the switch.

Or he could stick with No. 48, a number without much significant Phillies history, and make it his own. Up to him.

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