Phillies

Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

WASHINGTON — When J.P. Crawford went down with a broken hand on Tuesday, it ostensibly meant more playing time for Maikel Franco after he’d played himself out of the Phillies' regular third baseman’s job.

But Franco did not start Friday night’s game against the Nationals. Utility man Jesmuel Valentin got the nod at third.

Manager Gabe Kapler talked up Valentin saying, “There’s a lot of people in our organization who believe Val is a prospect and by prospect I mean a guy who can contribute on the major-league level either as a utility guy or a guy who plays a little more regularly, so we want to see that.”

But Kapler made it clear that Franco needs to make some “fixes.” In particular, Kapler wants to see the slow-footed Franco drive the ball in the air more and get on base more. Phillies management has made these observations before. Many times. Franco’s inability to improve in these areas is the reason he lost playing time to Crawford in the first place. It was the reason the Phillies seem to be phasing him out their plans, the reason they are likely to seek a trade-deadline upgrade at third base — if they can stay in contention.

Kapler said he wasn’t sending any messages in holding Franco out of Friday night’s lineup.

“The only message tonight is let’s win the baseball game and give Maikel a chance to work on his craft,” Kapler said.

Indeed, Franco spent significant time before the game working in the cage with hitting coaches John Mallee and Pedro Guerrero.

“The profile on Maikel is who he is — a guy who hits home runs and sometimes in bunches and has a lot of power, hasn’t been able to consistently get on base over a long period of time and that feels like what makes a major-league third baseman is a guy who gets on base and hits homers and plays good D,” Kapler said. “So if you have all three, you’re a regular at third base for a really long time. If you have two of the three, it’s a challenge. And right now, Maikel is dealing with working on his D and making that better and he’s also dealing with adding one more offensive tool to the third-base mix. The home runs are going to be there. If you gave him 500 plate appearances, he’s going to hit you 25 homers. But that doesn’t make a third baseman at the major-league level long term, just that in isolation.”

Entering Friday, Franco had just a .284 on-base percentage and he had hit the ball on the ground 52 percent of the time, the 13th-highest rate among 162 qualifying hitters in the majors, according to FanGraphs data.

Kapler said he remains confident that Franco can make the fixes he’s looking for.

“He’s a young player. He’s 25. He’s still developing,” Kapler said. “I still have a ton of confidence that he can put it all together and we can roll with Maikel Franco, and we’re doing everything in our power to access that player. He’s very talented. That confidence has not let up at all.”

Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field

Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — J.T. Realmuto was a standout offensively and defensively in leading the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Realmuto was the ultimate hero with a tie-breaking homer in the top of the 10th inning.

Earlier in the game, he drove in the Phils’ first run and made a nice play at the plate to help cut down a run.

Seranthony Dominguez blew a two-run lead as the Cubs surged to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

The Phils tied the game on a two-out hit by Jean Segura in the top of the ninth.

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings of one-run ball in his return to Wrigley Field.

The Phils have won four in a row. They are 28-19.

The Cubs are 27-18.

The keys

• Maikel Franco stroked a one-out double in the top of the ninth and Andrew McCutchen came back from being down 0-2 to draw a big two-out walk before Segura tied the game with a bloop single to right.

• Dominguez could not throw strikes in the eighth, his second inning of work. He walked two and they both scored on a game-tying triple by Daniel Descalso. Descalso scored the go-ahead run on an error by Segura. Ultimately, Segura atoned.

• Juan Nicasio got a huge double-play ball to earn the save.

• The Phillies kept the game close in the early innings by playing excellent defense. They cut down runners at the plate in the second and fifth innings. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez made a nice, charging play and throw to get a force at the plate in the second inning. In the fifth, the Cubs loaded the bases against Arrieta with one out on a double, a walk and a single. Arrieta then got Albert Almora Jr. to hit a fly ball to rightfielder Bryce Harper. Anthony Rizzo tagged on the play, but Harper cut him down with a strong throw to catcher Realmuto. The throw was slightly up the line. Realmuto made an athletic play to step up on the ball and sweep back with the tag to get Rizzo for the third out.

• Moments after Harper’s throw (and Realmuto’s tag) ended the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies rallied for three two-out runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. Cubs’ starter Yu Darvish walked two batters, including Harper, in the inning and Realmuto and Hernandez had the big hits, both with two outs. Realmuto got the Phils on the board with an RBI single and Hernandez stroked a two-run triple down the right-field line to put the Phils ahead.

Arrieta's night

The veteran right-hander made his first start against the Cubs, the team with which he won a Cy Young Award and a World Series. He has now faced all 30 teams in his career.

Arrieta was not at his sharpest — he allowed 10 base runners over six innings — but he got important outs when he had to and was the beneficiary of some excellent defense. He allowed just one run over six innings and struck out four.

Sights and sounds

The Wrigley Field crowd saluted Arrieta with a standing ovation as he reached the batter’s box in the top of the third inning. Arrieta tipped his cap in appreciation.


Health check

Victor Arano’s sore elbow is not getting better. What does it mean? (see story)

Up next

Zach Eflin (5-4, 2.89) opposes lefty Jose Quintana (4-3, 3.68) on Tuesday night.

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Vince Velasquez feels great, but Victor Arano needs a second opinion

Vince Velasquez feels great, but Victor Arano needs a second opinion

CHICAGO — Vince Velasquez’s elbow is feeling better.

Victor Arano’s is not.

Let’s start with Arano:

One of the Phillies’ top relievers last season, Arano has had a difficult 2019. He struggled badly in spring training and opened the season with a quick trip to the minors. Most recently, he has been plagued by a sore right elbow.

Even after a month on the injured list, Arano is still feeling discomfort in the elbow. The team will send him to Los Angeles next Monday to be examined by noted orthopedist Neal ElAttrache.

“Victor came out of his last bullpen not feeling great so we’re going to get him a second opinion,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I’m concerned because he’s concerned. Any time that our pitchers have concerns, I’m going to be concerned right along with them.”

Could it be that Arano is on his way to Tommy John surgery?

“That doesn't feel like the concern right now,” Kapler said. “That’s not what we’re thinking. But to have him go get examined because he has a little bit of swelling and discomfort feels like the right play.”

As for Velasquez: He played long toss up to 120 feet on Monday and later said he felt completely healthy. The right-hander went on the injured list nine days ago with soreness in his elbow.

“No pain,” Velasquez said. “I’m 100 percent.”

“He’s good,” Kapler confirmed. “There are no long-term concerns.”

Velasquez is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Wednesday.

At some point in the near future, the Phils are going to have to make a decision on Velasquez. He is out of minor-league options. Once he’s activated, he will have to go back in the starting rotation or be used out of the bullpen. Velasquez wants to remain a starter, but his replacement, lefty Cole Irvin, has authored two quality starts (and victories) since being called up. Irvin pitches Wednesday night against the Cubs and Cole Hamels.

Also of note, outfielder Roman Quinn, on the IL with a strained groin, has progressed to the point where he’s probably just a week away from playing in minor-league games.

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