Phillies

Jake Arrieta confident in 'strict' protocols, sees unique opportunity for 'something special'

Jake Arrieta confident in 'strict' protocols, sees unique opportunity for 'something special'

A number of high-profile major-league players have opted out of the shortened 2020 season because of concerns about coronavirus. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was the latest.

The opt outs, coupled with spikes in the virus in several states that have big-league teams, have fueled doubts that the season, due to start in 12 days, will even get off the ground.

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta is not one of those doubters. 

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t execute a full season,” Arrieta said Saturday. “The protocols and safety guidelines we’re following here in Philadelphia are strict and for good reason. We have to take it upon ourselves to be safe. Limit interactions away from the field. We need to wear masks outside or in the clubhouse. That’s just what we need to do, be respectful and courteous to those around us.

“I don’t mean to be pessimistic. I feel like it will happen. It was scary to see Scotty (Kingery) get it and (Atlanta’s) Freddie Freeman get hit really hard the way he did. If it can happen to them, it can happen to any of us.

“There’s a lot on the line and we have an opportunity to do something special in a very strange year if we follow the protocols and I think everyone here is willing to do that.”

Arrieta was the Phillies’ pitcher the day the game was shut down by the pandemic back on March 12. He spent nearly four months at home in Austin, Texas with his wife and young son and daughter. His son, Cooper, teared up when dad left for the airport last week, but it was time to go back to work. Arrieta, 34, threw consistently during the shutdown. He got back on the mound with his teammates in Saturday’s intrasquad game.

Arrieta got 10 outs on 48 pitches. Half of the outs came on ground balls. He struck out one and walked one.

“Today was nice, very efficient,” Arrieta said. “The sinker was good. I threw some great cutters. Got a strikeout on a changeup.”

If Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler stay healthy and on track — Wheeler has the extra variable of a baby being due to arrive in a couple of weeks — Arrieta is likely to slot in third in the Phillies’ rotation. He is 18-19 with a 4.26 ERA in 55 starts over two seasons with the Phillies. He is healthy after having elbow surgery late last season. If you’re looking for X factors, or players who need to stand and deliver for this team to have success, Arrieta is right up there with Rhys Hoskins and others.
 
A good two-month run by Arrieta would help the Phillies’ chances greatly and springboard him into free agency this winter. 

The shutdown has hurt the sport’s revenues and that could soften the market for players like Arrieta next winter. 

For now, Arrieta is not concerned about that.

“If you look at (Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick) Mahomes’ deal, it shows that sports, and baseball is no different, will generate a tremendous amount of revenue regardless of what’s going on right now. We’ve seen certain TV deals be signed. Every free-agent class has obstacles. We can’t predict the future.

“We just have to play it out and see. There will be a lot of guys in the same boat as I am. I’ll handle that when time approaches.

“First and foremost, I’m concerned about the health and safety of our players and coaches and the people who provide everything they do for us, and trying to win some games.”

Arrieta will look to jump to 65 or so pitches in his next outing. He believes he will be ready to push 85 pitches in his first outing of the regular season. That could be as soon as two weeks from Sunday.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Could we see front-office shakeup if Phils miss playoffs?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Could we see front-office shakeup if Phils miss playoffs?

If the Phillies miss the playoffs again, even in a shortened season, could we see a front-office shakeup? What would it mean for GM Matt Klentak? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discussed on Friday's Phillies Talk podcast.

• Are Phils even capable of going on a hot streak with this bullpen?

• Starting pitching has also stumbled some, blowing four multi-run leads.

• How much more money has J.T. Realmuto made himself with his ridiculous start?

• The excellence of Harper and Realmuto has been wasted so far.

• The impact of Alec Bohm on Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery and Phillies' infield.

• Factors that will play into Realmuto's free-agent decision.

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Who is the best player in the NL East?

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Calling the NL East loaded would be an understatement.

The division has the top two starting pitchers in the National League in Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, whom the Phillies face tonight. Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler ... so many upper echelon arms in the division.

Among position players, the Braves have two perennial MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. 

The Nationals have one in Juan Soto. (The division thanked the Angels for signing away Anthony Rendon.) 

The Phillies have a former MVP in Bryce Harper and one of the best all-around players in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. 

The Mets have two exciting newcomers in Pete Alonso, who hit 53 homers as a rookie last season, and Jeff McNeil, who has hit .319 in 882 plate appearances since debuting in 2018.

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Jim Salisbury (Phillies insider)

There's no right or wrong answer to this question. You could go with Freeman, Acuña Jr., Soto, Realmuto, Harper, Scherzer or deGrom and not be wrong. If I were building a team long term, I'd go with Acuña or Soto. If I needed to win a game right now, I'd go with deGrom. That kind of stinks for the Phillies because they have to face him Friday night. In an era of small parks, tiny strike zones, rock hard bats and baseballs that fly like Titleists, he has won the National League Cy Young Award the last two seasons. He regularly racks up 200 innings and 240-plus strikeouts. I'm figuring that most of my colleagues will go with offense; I'll go with something that stops offense — starting pitching — and someone who does it well.

Ricky Bottalico (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

No-brainer: Soto. A perfect home run swing. Doesn't strike out a lot. He missed the beginning of the season but doesn't look even a little impacted by the time off. He's hitting .414 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in only eight games. He's 21 years old with a long career ahead. 

Corey Seidman (Phillies writer, Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

Even though Freeman is still probably the more feared hitter, I'm going with Acuña, who I'd have slightly ahead of Soto and Freeman for his five-tool skill set. Acuña can do it all — hit close to .300, hit for power, run, field, throw. Last season he hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs and led the NL with 37 stolen bases and 127 runs scored. He hits righties and lefties alike. 

He's also not even 23 years old yet, and he's on one of the best contracts in all of baseball — an eight-year, $100 million contract that pays him just $1 million in 2020.

I do think Freeman and Soto are slightly better overall hitters — Freeman because the guy just exudes clutch and Soto because his plate selection is at the very highest level. But the gap is not large enough to ignore the other ways Acuña offers more overall value.

Michael Barkann (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live host)

Not going with deGrom, Freeman, Acuña Jr. or even Soto. Call me a homer ("you're a freakin' homer!") but Harper is the man. He entered Thursday night with numbers that would translate to 50 homers and 125 RBIs over a full season. He's put up MVP-type numbers so far this season, then there's his defense and leadership. Number 3 is the answer.

Casey Feeney (Phillies producer)

In my mind, there are seven players worthy of consideration: Harper, Soto, Scherzer, deGrom, Alonso, Freeman and Acuña Jr.

Because of their everyday impact, I’m inclined to go with a position player over a pitcher. Perhaps there is bias from watching him everyday, but I would take Harper ahead of the other position players mentioned.

Freeman and Soto are better pure hitters than Harper. Acuña Jr is a more electric athlete and might have the highest ceiling of any player in baseball. But Harper strikes me as the most complete package of the group. He’s also being asked to carry an otherwise incomplete roster to a greater degree than the other hitters mentioned.

Sean Kane (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live producer)

There are so many great players in the NL East — several Cy Young caliber pitchers and MVP-worthy position players. But Freeman is the best player in the division. He’s certainly the guy I would pick first for my team. His skills speak for themselves. He’s one of the best all-around hitters in baseball, he plays a tremendous first base and he’s a better baserunner than he gets credit for. Most importantly, he sets the standard for the team that sets the standard in the NL East. He is the unquestioned leader of the Braves, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He always plays hard and he always makes the right play. If you’re interested in winning baseball games, Freddie Freeman is your guy.

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