Phillies

Few teams can stay in a race with as little relief as Phillies have right now

Few teams can stay in a race with as little relief as Phillies have right now

NEW YORK — Nick Vincent wasn't even here a week ago. Now he's taken walk-off losses in consecutive games for a Phillies team falling fast out of the wild-card race.

After the Phillies mounted a late comeback thanks, again, to J.T. Realmuto, Gabe Kapler turned to Mike Morin and Vincent in the bottom of the ninth and the results were ugly. Morin put runners on the corners with two outs before Vincent hit Jeff McNeil and walked Pete Alonso to force in the game-winning run.

We've spent plenty of time this season lamenting the Phillies' weak rotation. Right now, the bullpen is just as shaky. Sure, Phillies relievers had a 3.75 ERA in the 40 games preceding Friday night, but that ERA was not a result of lights-out, swing-and-miss stuff from the back end of the 'pen. "Smoke and mirrors" may be a bit strong but is closer to explaining the success this bullpen had out of the All-Star break.

Consider that Vincent, Morin and Blake Parker — three of the final four relievers used Friday — were all let go by teams during the season and picked up by the Phillies for free. That fact alone does not mean none of them can be productive for a stretch, but high-quality relievers just do not become available for free. The more they're exposed, the more their flaws show.

Realmuto, who hit the two-run homer off Edwin Diaz to force the bottom of the ninth, felt for Vincent.

"Extremely tough," the catcher said. "I talked to him after the game on the bench, told him not to hang his head because everybody here knows how tough that spot is he just got thrown into. He's thrown three out of four games with a sick day in between. I'm sure he's a little tired, a little worn out. Everybody in this clubhouse knows that's a really tough spot he was just put in."

They can know it, and they can support their teammate, but it won't stop this slide. The Phillies did not lose ground on the Cubs Friday but the Cubs are not the only team to worry about. The Phillies are four behind the Cubs, 1½ games behind the Diamondbacks and now tied with the Brewers and Mets. To earn that second wild-card spot, they will need to outplay all four of those teams over the final 22 games.

"We're not doing what it takes to win games," Realmuto said. "We're playing OK, we're staying in the game but we're not quite finishing it when we need to, you know? We're right there in the last couple innings. Something always seems to happen where we don't get it done pitching, we don't get it done hitting. ... Of course it's frustrating."

Kapler's hands are tied. He can't force guys like Morin, Parker or Vincent to be better. He can't nurse David Robertson, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Victor Arano back to health. He can work with only what he has, and right now that is not nearly enough.

How many teams can remain in a playoff race with two legitimate starting pitchers and one or two reliable high-leverage relievers?

"It's definitely a challenge and one that we have to meet," Kapler said.

The clock has almost expired on a season in which the Phillies have been forced to use more players (55) than any in franchise history.



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Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper never stopped working out after baseball shut down. He hit three times a week back home in Las Vegas.

So it really wasn't surprising to see Harper launching balls into the empty seats at Citizens Bank Park on the first official day of the Phillies' restart Friday.

And it wasn't surprising to see him wearing his new favorite T-shirt, the one with teammate J.T. Realmuto's name and number 10 on the back.

The shirt was a giveaway last August and giveaways are always plentiful in the clubhouse. Harper wore one under his uniform a number of times late last season and is rocking it again during preparation for the new season. He has worn it three days in a row during workouts at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper is pretty shrewd when it comes to messaging. Look at the way he instantly connected with Philadelphia by embracing civic icons like the Eagles and the Phanatic last year.

Is there a message in his donning the Realmuto shirt three days in a row — with cameras catching it all? After all, Realmuto could become a free agent after the season and Harper, who's here for another dozen years, has long been on record as saying he'd like to see the Phillies lock up the catcher with a long-term deal.

"No message," Harper said after Friday's workout. "But I think J.T. is a great player. 

"If the Phillies don't end up signing him back, which would be terrible and sad, I think there's a lot of other teams out there that are going to want to sign the guy. He's a Gold Glove-caliber catcher every year, he's a great person, a great player. I mean everybody in this organization from the top down wants to see him in red pinstripes for the rest of his career and hopefully we can make that happen."

The Phillies and Realmuto were in the midst of negotiations when the game shut down in March. The two sides are now permitted to talk again, but general manager Matt Klentak has said the landscape is different because no games and no fans have equaled no revenues for the last three months. Klentak still hopes to get something done with Realmuto, maybe even by the season opener later this month. But the player is now a lot closer to free agency than he would have been in March and free agency can be enticing to a player. To be determined is whether the reduction in revenues throughout the game and the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt the market for free agents this winter.

Message or not, Harper will continue to wear his Realmuto jersey. It's not hard to spot. It's white with maroon lettering. Pretty much everyone else on the field Friday wore red.

"I wore that underneath my jersey last year," Harper said. "It was actually a cut-off version. I wore it pretty much the whole second half of the season. It was T-shirt day at the ballpark and I wanted one. I stole one for this year as well because it was very comfortable underneath my jersey and I think it gave me a little bit of good luck."

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MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

Happy Fourth of July weekend!

Happy Baseball!

We're back at Citizens Bank Park on this picture-perfect Friday morning for the start (or restart) of Phillies training camp — three weeks of workouts and intrasquad games before the 60-game sprint-to-October commences later this month.

I started the morning in the garden, where I whipped up a fresh five-gallon batch of critter repellent. Red pepper flakes, cayenne, chili powder, dish detergent, milk, a few eggs, a whole head of garlic. Fill with water and let that stuff sit in the sun and get all funkalicious. Sprinkle some around the garden every night. Guaranteed to keep the deer away. Picked a zuke and a summer squash on my way out the door and headed for the ballpark — with a quick stop at Wawa for a 16-ounce cup of rocket fuel.

It's good to be back and I hope everyone stays healthy so we can see this thing through.

The goal here is to provide some live or semi-live observations throughout this first workout. Keep checking back for updates.

Here we go:

9:45 a.m. — I checked into CBP. Had my temperature taken through a face imaging device. 98.2. I signed a waiver. Good to go.

9:50 a.m. — Arrived in press box. Same great view of Center City. Field is green and gorgeous. Reporters are restricted from wandering so this is where I'll be observing from. Shoot. I forgot my binocs. 

10 a.m. — Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer arrives in press box. He is wearing shorts. Legs are quite unathletic and he has apparently been taking the quarantine seriously because he hasn't gotten much sun.

10:04 a.m. — The grounds crew has finished prepping the field. Music is playing over the PA system. The ball bags are on the field. The batting cage is out. 

10:05 a.m. — There is some action in the visiting dugout. A coach has popped his head out. For spacing reasons, both clubhouses are being utilized. 

10:15 a.m. — A grounds crew member is nailing the rubber spike scraper to the mound. 

10:16 a.m. — Black Smoke Rising by Greta Van Fleet is playing on the PA system. Hmm.

10:17 a.m. — Catching coach/bullpen catcher Bob Stumpo is heading out to the 'pen with a big equipment bag.

10:26 a.m. — Joe Girardi emerges briefly on the field. He's in shorts and a T-shirt, big cup of Joe in his hand. Yes, he is masked.

10:27 a.m. — The grounds crew is putting down tarps around the batting cage.

10:29 a.m. — Good to see Brookie.

10:30 a.m. — Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love is playing. Ah, the '80s.

10:40 a.m. — Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin pop out of the dugout. Looks like they're heading to the concourse for some conditioning work. The concourse is being used as a work area to ease overcrowding in the weight room.

10:45 a.m. — The view from teammate John Airport...

10:50 a.m. — Grounds crew is watering the infield dirt. So relaxing and mesmerizing. Anybody who's ever done it knows what I'm talking about. 

10:53 a.m. — Just noticed — only one flag flying in center field. The Stars and Stripes. No championship flags, state or city flag.

10:54 a.m.Andrew McCutchen just walked from the stands down into the dugout. He is masked. Looks like he's spent some time in the weight room.

11:04 a.m. — J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp have taken the field and are loosening up their hoses.

11:06 a.m. — Several coaches — Dusty Wathan, Juan Castro, Bobby Meacham, Mike Calitri — are on the field playing catch. Distanced and masked. Not all players are wearing masks, but they are distanced.

11:07 a.m. — Just saw a fist bump. Call the cops.

11:15 p.m. — Batting practice commences. McCutchen, Realmuto and Knapp in the first group. Wathan is pitching. Jukebox Hero is playing over the PA. 

11:20 a.m. — McCutchen hits one into the left field seats.

11:22 a.m. — Realmuto hits one out to right-center.

11:23 a.m. — Jake Arrieta is walking through the outfield. He's doing some stretching. He's wearing a muscle shirt and looks ready to dent some skulls.

11:27 a.m. — Realmuto powers two in a row into the left field seats. Line drives. 

11:35 a.m. — First round of BP is complete. Standard fare.

11:36 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are putting the gear on. Looks like Arrieta is getting ready to throw a 'pen.

11:40 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are doing receiving drills with the aid of a pitching machine. Stealing low strikes. 

11:42 a.m. — McCutchen is long tossing. Interested to see how he moves in outfield drills, if they are on the docket.

11:43 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp headed to the bullpen to catch Arrieta and I'm not sure who the other guy is. Players are not wearing numbers.

11:45 a.m. — Arrieta indeed set to throw a bullpen.

11:46 a.m. — McCutchen headed to left field for drills.

11:54 a.m. — McCutchen is taking fly balls in left. He looks a lot better than he did in March. Still detecting a slight hitch in his giddyup, but he looks to be on the right course with three weeks to prepare.

Noon — Phil Gosselin in the cage taking some hacks.

12:01 p.m. — Really could use a za.

12:03 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are playing catch. There are extra catchers here.

12:12 p.m. — Some new artwork in the press box. Pretty cool. 

12:14 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are throwing in the bullpen. A Josh Harrison sighting. Looks like Zach Eflin might be preparing to throw a 'pen.

12:16 p.m. — Rhys Hoskins appears for BP. Lotta hair.

12:17 p.m. — Phil Gosselin dons first baseman's mitt and takes ground balls at the position. Kinda interesting.

12:20 p.m. — Now playing: Pour Some Sugar on Me. One lump or two?

12:21 p.m. — Coaches/staff are wearing masks. Most players are not, at least on the field while doing drills. They are wearing them when they head to the concourse for conditioning, etc. There's a lot of action going on behind the scenes. 

12:26 p.m. — Bryce Harper is in the batting cage. He's wearing his No. 10 Realmuto T-shirt. Hoskins is hitting in this group, too. Jean Segura, too. I know that short stroke.

12:32 p.m. — Harper hits three bombs in five swings, one the opposite way.

12:35 p.m. — Segura is hitting with a mask on. One of the few players wearing one on the field.

12:54 p.m. — Roman Quinn sighting. He's headed up to the concourse with a bat in his hands. Must be a tee and a net up there. Again, it's out of my view.

12:55 p.m. — Hoskins, Segura and Josh Harrison getting in some infield work. Segura is at third. Hoskins at first. Harrison at second.

1 p.m. — Things seem to be winding down, at least in the early session. Hoping to chat with some of the participants in a little while. So we'll call this a wrap for now. Thanks for following along. Happy baseball, happy gardening, stay safe. And, Breen, get some sun on those legs.

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