Phillies

Jake Arrieta could face discipline from MLB for threat against Todd Frazier

Jake Arrieta could face discipline from MLB for threat against Todd Frazier

CLEVELAND — Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta could receive a dent in his wallet for threatening to put a dent in Todd Frazier’s skull.

Major League Baseball can discipline Arrieta, probably in the form of a fine, for making such an extreme threat, but no conclusion had been reached as of Tuesday afternoon.

Arrieta made his comments after Saturday night’s 6-5 loss to the New York Mets. The right-hander was tagged for 11 hits and hit three batters over 4 1/3 innings. He hit Frazier in the fifth inning and took exception with some of the things he heard Frazier say to the umpire on his way to first base and after both benches were warned.

“Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me and I’ll put a dent in his skull,” Arrieta said. “He didn’t say (crap) to me. Talking to the umpire. I’m 25 feet away. He wants to come out there, he can come out there. We’ve had pretty good history in the past, but I don’t care about that. If he’s mad, then we can talk about it man to man.”

All three of the batters that Arrieta hit on Saturday night came on changeups. After the game, he said he had no control of the pitch and hinted at a health issue, which was later confirmed to be a possible bone spur in his elbow.

According to a source, Arrieta will have have tests on the elbow this week. He has pitched with discomfort in the elbow for some time and his performance has suffered. His ERA over his last seven starts is 6.63. He has given up 53 hits in 38 innings over that span as opponents have hit .329 with a .960 OPS.

It is unclear if Arrieta will continue to pitch through the problem or address it with surgery sooner rather than later.

Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto knew that Arrieta had been dealing with an elbow issue for some time.

“I know he’s getting an MRI or an X-ray,” Realmuto said at the All-Star Game. “I don’t know what's going to happen, but I know Jake and if there’s a way he can pitch through it he’s going to try.”

Can Arrieta be effective pitching through it? 

“For me, he has been effective,” Realmuto said. “He’s shown spurts of being effective. I can tell when he gets to the 80-90 pitch mark, he really starts to feel it and he loses some control. He’s had multiple starts where he’s gone five, six innings, one run and then kind of imploded the last inning because he loses feel for the baseball a little bit.

“I’ve known his elbow has been hurting a little longer than most so it’s tough to see. He’s been effective but he can’t quite finish the way he should be able to. In his last start you could tell he had no feel for the baseball at all so I’m not sure it’s getting any better.”

For a Phillies team with serious question marks in the starting rotation, that is not good news.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



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