Phillies

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Phillies are a big-market team with plenty of financial might and flexibility.

So, naturally, they will land Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the $295 million that remains on his contract this offseason.

Not so fast.

General manager Matt Klentak acknowledged Monday at baseball's annual GM meetings that the Phillies do have the financial strength and flexibility to consider big-ticket items this winter.

But it doesn’t sound as if a big bat is his priority.

"Our position-player group is young, it's growing and it has shown promise," Klentak said. "I think we have an obligation to the players and to the franchise to let that play out, as a general rule. The most important thing for us in 2018 is that our young players continue to grow and develop and get the reps they need at the major-league level.

"Now, as far as the offseason, the question is, what can we do for those players to put them in the best position to achieve that growth? That could come in the form of veteran players we bring in to surround them. It's going to come in the form of creating the coaching staff and the environment to help support these players. Some combination of that is the answer. It's more likely that we add pitching than hitters."

Stanton's power bat would no doubt look good in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. And the Phils, with just Odubel Herrera signed beyond 2018, could afford him. That's why Stanton has been so frequently linked to the Phillies. That's why any and all big-ticket players will be linked to the Phillies this winter.

"I understand why the narrative exists," Klentak said. "As an organization, the Phillies have been very disciplined over the last few years to get out from some of the contracts that we had and to not invest long term in players while we were going through the rebuild. The result of that now is a lot of financial flexibility moving forward. So I understand where the narrative would come from — because we have this financial flexibility, we should spend money.

"That very well may happen. This offseason is the first time since I've been here that we will explore contracts of more than one year with free agents. Now, is that two years or is that 10 years? Or is it something in between? That will all depend on the market and the individual players. As we get closer to contention and once we're contending, then yeah, that's when we start to use our payroll muscle to augment the club. This year, it could go either way. I have no doubt that we'll make some additions to our club. Whether those come in the form of shorter-term contracts or trades or long-term contracts remains to be seen."

The Phillies could look to do some business on the second tier of the free-agent pitching market. Trading for starting pitching seems to be their preference.

"I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add a starter," Klentak said. "I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add two. But I'm also not going to say we don't need one."

The Phils have middle-infield depth with shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Scott Kingery about to supplant Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. One or both of the incumbents could be moved for pitching this offseason. Hernandez, who drew some trade interest last winter, could have more value than Galvis because he is three seasons away from free agency. Galvis will be eligible for free agency after next season. The Angels had interest in Hernandez last winter and could again this winter.

Klentak said rival clubs are well aware of the Phillies' middle-infield surplus.

"A number of teams have checked in on that," he said. "Now, does that mean we will receive an offer that we think is fair value for one of those players? That I don't know. Do we have an obligation to the franchise to explore that? We do."

Klentak said that the team recently re-signed infielder Pedro Florimon to a minor-league contract. He could end up being important depth if the Phillies trade Galvis or Hernandez, especially because Kingery is not expected to arrive in the majors until May, at the earliest.

In addition to building a roster, Klentak and new manager Gabe Kapler continue to build a coaching staff. Dusty Wathan will be the third base coach and John Mallee the hitting coach. Rick Kranitz will be on the staff, perhaps as pitching coach, but his role has yet to be specified. Klentak said more staff hirings could come later this week.

Odubel Herrera, Carlos Santana lead way as Phillies crush Nationals

Odubel Herrera, Carlos Santana lead way as Phillies crush Nationals

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — If Odubel Herrera keeps this up, he’s going to find himself right back in this city next month.

And not to visit the monuments.

Herrera swung a potent bat again Friday night in helping the Phillies beat up on the Washington Nationals, 12-2 (see first take). The win allowed the Phils to leap over the Nats and into second place in the NL East. The Phils are 40-33. The Nats are 40-34. Atlanta leads the division.

There’s still an entire summer of baseball to play before a division winner is crowned. But the Phils, who went 66-96 last season, were feeling pretty good about themselves after winning this one.

“At this point, in a lot of ways, we've proven ourselves,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We're a pretty good ballclub. We have gone toe to toe with some of the best teams in the league and done a pretty good job. At some point, it stops being that we're trying to prove ourselves and we're just competing with really good teams. I think that's where we are.”

The Philies have won eight of their last 11 and much of that run has coincided with Herrera’s re-awakening at the plate.

Herrera was leading the NL in hitting at .361 on May 17. Over the next 23 games, he hit .161 (15 for 93) to fall to .283. He is back up to .308 thanks to a four-hit game Friday night. He homered, stroked three singles and scored four runs.

Over the last eight games, Herrera is 17 for 36 (.472) with six homers and nine RBIs.

Herrera joined some fine company in the third inning when he homered for the fifth straight game. The only other Phillies to do that are Rhys Hoskins, Chase Utley, Bobby Abreu, Mike Schmidt and Dick Allen.

“All I’m thinking about is helping the team win,” Herrera said. “It’s always satisfying to beat great teams like the Nationals. That’s what you play for. Everyone here is a competitor. You always want to see where you're at. It’s a good challenge for us. Luckily for me, I’m hitting the ball well.”

So well that he could end up back in the All-Star Game. Herrera was the lone Phillie in the game two years ago. This year’s game will be played in Washington.

“I’m playing hard. I’m giving my best,” Herrera said. “If it happens it will be great. That’s what you work for.”

Starter Zach Eflin won his fourth straight start with five innings of two-run ball and relievers Austin Davis, Yacksel Rios and Zac Curtis did the rest.

“Every guy who pitched for us today was not on our opening day roster,” Kapler said. “So here we are, in a very important series in the middle of the summer, and we're playing the Nationals. Kudos to our player development department, an excellent job developing these guys. These guys came in and threw strikes and attacked the strike zone.”

The Phillies had 15 hits. They struck out 13 times, but they drew eight walks and pushed Washington starter Tanner Roark from the game at 4 1/3 innings and 113 pitches.

“Our offense played Phillies-style offense,” Kapler said. “What we've been preaching all year long. Deep counts. We worked walks at the end of the counts. We found ways to put the ball in play. And drive the baseball. I thought we did a really good job. Roark is a tough dude. Really impressive to see us grind him out. I was really impressed with the way we worked counts from the very beginning of the game.”

One of those deep counts came in the first inning when Roark fell behind Carlos Santana, 3-0. With one out and runners on second and third, Kapler gave Santana the green light and Santana lined a pitch that was off the plate into left field for two runs.

“Carlos prides himself on drawing walks,” Kapler said. “He wants to have 100 walks a season. It's an excellent goal. That's why he's so valuable whether he's swinging the bat the way he wants to or not.

"However, every once and a while, he's going to get into a 3-0 count with runners on base and he might be the best guy in the lineup to do damage in that moment. And we like him to sometimes be ultra-aggressive. It doesn't mean you go way out of the strike zone to attack. But maybe you expand just a little bit. You know where the barrel is and you're in an advantageous position against the pitcher. I'm really happy that was his decision.”

Santana also had a two-run homer en route to a four-RBI night. Nick Williams drove in three runs. Cesar Hernandez had three hits and Andrew Knapp homered.

Since May 1, Santana has 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 45 games.

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Phillies make statement in blowout of Nationals for 40th win of season

Phillies make statement in blowout of Nationals for 40th win of season

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — An off day in the schedule didn’t cool off Odubel Herrera’s molten bat. 

Or Carlos Santana’s.

Herrera had four hits and scored four runs to help the quietly heating-up Phillies beat up on the Washington Nationals, 12-2, on Friday night.

Santana drove in four runs.

The Phils had 15 hits, including three homers. They struck out 13 times, but walked eight times.

The win inched the Phillies (40-33) a half game ahead of the Nationals (40-34) in the NL East standings. The Atlanta Braves lead the division.

The Phils have won eight of their last 11 games.

Right-hander Zach Eflin (5-2) earned his fourth straight victory with five innings of two-run ball. He was supported by plenty of offense.

Herrera homered for the fifth straight game and sixth in the last seven. He also singled three times as his batting average climbed back over .300.

Over the last eight games, Herrera is 17 for 36 (.472) with six homers and nine RBIs.

Santana drove in two runs with a first-inning single against Washington starter Tanner Roark. He also blasted a two-run homer in the sixth inning. He also walked twice and scored three runs.

Since May 1, Santana has 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 45 games.

Nick Williams also had a pair of hits and three RBIs.

Andrew Knapp hit the Phillies’ third homer of the game in the ninth inning.

Relievers Austin Davis, Yacksel Rios and Zac Curtis combined on four shutout innings of relief.

Notes
• The Phillies signed veteran infielder Danny Espinosa to a minor-league deal. He will join the Triple A Lehigh Valley team and provide depth. He has been released from three organizations this season — the Yankees in spring training and the Blue Jays and Dodgers during the season.

• Pat Neshek will get some work for Single A Clearwater on Saturday. He has not pitched in the majors this season because of shoulder and forearm injuries. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was possible that Neshek could be back as early as the middle of next week, depending on how he progresses.

• Saturday is an important day for Jerad Eickhoff as he will start throwing his curveball in the bullpen. That pitch had caused discomfort in the fingers on his right hand (see story).

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