Phillies

Gabe Kapler makes an important investment in an important pitcher

Gabe Kapler makes an important investment in an important pitcher

Confidence is baseball’s magic potion and teams these days spend big money on sports psychologists who, among other things, try to help players brew that important intangible. But sometimes there’s nothing scientific about the building of a player’s confidence. Sometimes it just takes the boss showing a little faith in the guy.

Gabe Kapler did more than preside over the Phillies’ sixth win in eight games on Sunday. He made an important investment in an important pitcher who seems primed for a big payoff this season.

Taking the mound the day before his 25th birthday, Zach Eflin backboned a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins with seven innings of one-run ball. He got help, lots of it, particularly from Rhys Hoskins, who clubbed a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth, left fielder Andrew McCutchen, who gunned down a run at the plate, and relievers David Robertson, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris, who combined for six outs to protect a one-run lead.

Eflin acknowledged that he did not do it alone.

“McCutchen, Hoskins, the bullpen — they deserve everything in this game,” he said.

The hat tip was not surprising because Eflin is a class guy. But his impact on the win was also huge because he’s the guy who kept the Phillies in the game on a day when they faced a tough arm in Jose Berrios and produced only four hits.

Eflin’s day actually did not start well as Max Kepler hit the fourth pitch of the day into the seats. After that, Eflin pitched shutout ball the rest of the day.

The right-hander was nearly lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He got a reprieve and struck out two batters in the sixth, including Jonathan Schoop, the third out, on a 95-mph fastball on his 95th pitch of the day.

It seemed plausible that Eflin’s day would have been over at that point. But Kapler sent him out for the seventh, with the lead, and Eflin responded with a 1-2-3 inning on 10 pitches.

Kapler came into the game wanting to rest Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez so he was looking for a little extra from Eflin. But Eflin wouldn’t have gotten that extra inning if he hadn’t been effective and earned the manager’s confidence.

“He earned the opportunity to go back out there,” Kapler said. “He was so effective, I thought it was the right time to give him that rope.

“Each time we give somebody an opportunity to do a little bit more than they did the last time out, we see it as an investment. If they come through that with flying colors, like Zach did, it just creates a whole bunch more confidence in the dugout that the next time he can go to that 105, 110, 115 mark and do so successfully.”

Eflin was pumped that the boss believed in him.

“It was huge,” he said. “Because that doesn’t happen a lot with me. Typically when I’m at 90-plus pitches through six innings, they pull me. It was really nice to see that confidence that Gabe had in me and I had in myself.”

The Phillies’ rebuild started with Eflin when he was acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers in December 2014. Eflin has had some very good moments in a Phillies uniform, particularly last June when he went 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts. He’s got the talent to be a very good major-league starter. Now, he just needs the consistency. It might be coming. Through two starts in the young season, he’s been the Phillies’ best pitcher. He has given up just nine hits and one run over 12 innings. He has walked one and struck out 14.

If these Phillies are going to go where they’d like to, Eflin needs to keep delivering.

The manager has faith in him.

“If he’s pitching like he’s pitching right now, which is as good as anybody in either league, then it would mean that we have three potential Cy Young award winners,” said Kapler, referring also to Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

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Sources: Phillies to interview Buck Showalter on Monday

Sources: Phillies to interview Buck Showalter on Monday

The Phillies are quickly getting into their interview process for a new manager.

According to multiple sources, Buck Showalter will interview for the position on Monday. The meeting between Showalter and Phillies officials will take place in the metropolitan New York area, where Showalter is currently working as an analyst for the YES Network.

It is believed that Phillies officials will also speak with Joe Girardi while they are in the New York area on Monday. Girardi lives in that area.

Veteran skipper Dusty Baker is also on the Phillies' list of candidates, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday. A source confirmed that and said Baker would interview with the Phillies later this week.

At a news conference on Friday, Phillies officials would not definitively say what they were looking for in their new manager, but it is believed that they would prefer to hire someone with big-league managerial experience and that has made Girardi and Showalter the presumed frontrunners.

Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008 to 2017. His Yankees team beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, prompting Phillies owner John Middleton to famously say, "I want my bleeping trophy back."

Showalter has managed the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. He is a three-time American League manager of the year and has ties to several people in the Phillies front office, including club president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice. MacPhail led the Orioles baseball operations during part of Showalter's time in Baltimore and Klentak and Rice both worked in the front office. Rice, in fact, worked closely with Showalter during their time in Baltimore.

The Phillies fired Gabe Kapler last week and are one of eight teams with a managerial opening.

At Friday's news conference, MacPhail said Klentak would lead the search for a new Phillies skipper. 

"I don't think there's a relationship more important in a baseball organization than the manager and GM," MacPhail said. "If those two aren't simpatico, you really have issues. I believe it's John's and my goal that Matt go out and start the search. At the end, he's going to have to have the approval of John and I, just like with Gabe. John or I could have vetoed Gabe; we chose not to. But I can't imagine us hiring somebody that Matt is not fully on board with. John and I will have some influence on the guys that fit that criteria who we think might be the best fit, but it's got to emanate from the GM."

Showalter managed the Orioles though 2018 and is eager to manage again. Sources say he is intrigued by the Phillies job and has done homework on the roster.

Girardi interviewed with the Chicago Cubs last week and the New York Mets plan to interview him this week. He will manage somewhere in 2020.

Baker has 22 years of big-league managerial experience and is a three-time NL manager of the year. He last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017 and led that club to 97 wins and the NL East title.



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Source: Phillies set to interview Dusty Baker, one of Bryce Harper's former managers

Source: Phillies set to interview Dusty Baker, one of Bryce Harper's former managers

The Phillies will interview Dusty Baker for their managerial opening later this week, a source confirmed. The news was first reported Sunday by the Chicago Tribune.

Baker, 70, is currently a special advisor to the CEO for the San Francisco Giants.

He has 22 years of managerial experience and is almost universally well-liked. He's a player's manager who is 227 games over .500 in his career. He managed Bryce Harper in 2016 and 2017; the Nationals won 95 and 97 games those years but Baker's contract was not renewed after a pair of NLDS losses. It was a surprising move.

Baker is one of several prominent veteran managers on the market. Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon and Buck Showalter are also prime candidates to claim one of the eight available jobs. Maddon has been linked heavily to the Angels, while Girardi has been linked heavily to the Mets.

The Phillies will interview Showalter Monday in the New York area, according to multiple sources.

At Friday's press conference, Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke of the organization's desire to have its next manager believe in their core baseball principles. It will likely be a manager who utilizes more of a blend of data and gut-feel. Baker has more than two decades of big-league experience and this would be the most analytically-driven organization he's ever been a part of. The fit is still worth exploring.

It makes sense for the Phillies to cast a wide net in their search. Managing partner John Middleton referenced Craig Counsell on Friday as the kind of high-quality manager whose value can be uncovered during this sort of process.

For more on other potential Phillies managerial candidates, look here.

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