Phillies

J.T. Realmuto hasn't thought about contract extension, but he has thought about Bryce Harper

J.T. Realmuto hasn't thought about contract extension, but he has thought about Bryce Harper

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As J.T. Realmuto donned Phillies jersey No. 10 for the first time Tuesday, it was not difficult to imagine a similar scene unfolding in the coming days or weeks.

Manny Machado is still out there and No. 13 — which he wore for six seasons in Baltimore — is conveniently unassigned.

Bryce Harper is also out there and his No. 34 is also available in red pinstripes.

The Phillies, as you well know after more than 3½ months of free-agent drama, would still like to sign one of these guys. It would be a nice topper to a winter in which the team has already added outfielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura, reliever David Robertson and All-Star catcher Realmuto.

Realmuto and Harper have both spent their entire careers in the National League East in Miami and Washington, respectively, and they have mutual admiration for each other. Harper, in fact, openly wished for the Nationals to trade for Realmuto last summer (see story).

How does a rendezvous in Philly sound to Realmuto?

“Anybody would love to have a guy like that on your team,” Realmuto said. “I haven’t quite been involved in those discussions because I haven’t been here very long, but I would definitely love to have a player like that on this team.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak admitted that some members of the team have asked him about his pursuit of Harper and Machado.

“We know there are some pretty good free agents out there and we’re going to continue to have those discussions,” Klentak said.

Klentak keeps negotiations close to the vest. That goes for free agents such as Machado and Harper and players already in Phillies uniforms such as Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins and Realmuto. All three seem to be candidates to be locked up with multi-year contract extensions.

Realmuto’s representative, Jeff Berry, was at Tuesday’s news conference. He said there have been no talks of an extension and that after a winter of trade drama, his client was simply happy to be a Phillie.

Realmuto said much the same.

“I haven’t had a chance to even think about that yet,” Realmuto said of a possible extension. “This whole last week has gone by so fast and been so hectic, I haven’t quite had the opportunity to think about that. But from everything I’ve heard about this organization, I’m sure I’ll see for myself. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things, so we’ll see about that in the future.”

Realmuto will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season, so the Phillies have time. Last week, Klentak said the club was not ready to discuss an extension, but he pointed out that Realmuto was the kind of person and player the Phillies wanted to retain.

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Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Baseball is a game most accurately measured over the long haul, not in short snippets. So we probably won’t know for a couple of weeks or more exactly what impact Charlie Manuel is having on the Phillies’ offense.

But with nothing but a short snippet to work with thus far, we can definitely say this:

So far, so great.

Take it from sizzling J.T. Realmuto.

“Of course, Charlie's had an impact,” Realmuto said after the Phillies slugged their way past the San Diego Padres, 8-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

“Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and have him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He's a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to so we're definitely glad to have him.”

The Phillies have matched a season-high with four straight wins, all on this homestand, and all coinciding with the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee and the insertion of Manuel into that role.

Officially, Manuel has been in the dugout for three games. In those three games, the Phils have pounded out 35 hits, including seven homers and eight doubles, and scored 26 runs.

Not bad for a club that went 2-5 on its most recent road trip, scored one or zero runs in three of the five losses and was the victim of a one-hitter and a three-hitter.

“There’s a lot of confidence and looseness in our at-bats,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not forcing it right now. There’s not a whole lot of pressing going on. I think guys are just in an easy state of mind.”

How much of that has to do with Manuel’s arrival?

“I think Charlie has done a great job of keeping it loose,” Kapler said. “He’s great to talk to. He’s got an incredible demeanor. It’s always nice to look over and see him in the dugout with us. He’s a real calming presence and I think he’s only had a positive impact.”

The Phils had 12 hits, including homers by Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Roman Quinn, in Friday’s night win. The victory put the Phils in a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card spot. Both teams are 64-58. The Phillies took three from the Cubs earlier this week, capped by Thursday night’s wild 7-5 win in which Harper clubbed a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Harper hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach Friday night. He has seven homers and 17 RBIs over his last nine games. Harper is up to 90 RBIs, putting him in the top 10 in the NL.

“It's a lot of fun to watch from this side,” Realmuto said. “I've seen it a lot from the other side (when he was with the Marlins) in recent years. When Bryce gets hot, he's one of the most exciting players to watch, as you guys are seeing right now.

“These last four nights have been a ton of fun, really. Kind of putting our tough stretch behind us and going out there, we have a lot more confidence than we've had in the past couple weeks so it makes for more fun baseball and that's when you win. You go out there and you have fun, let loose a little bit, you enjoy the crowd. Obviously, they're into it. They've been a blast for us the last four games so we're just riding that emotion, just got to keep going.”

Realmuto is as hot as Harper. He had a homer, a double and a single and is hitting .313 (51 for 163) with 16 doubles, 8 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 44 games.

“We’ve talked about our offense and how when guys clicked together it could be the catalyst to win a lot of baseball games,” Kapler said. “And I think we're seeing that Bryce and J.T. can carry us, but we’re also getting contributions up and down the lineup.”

If Rhys Hoskins can get going when he returns to the lineup — he did not start because of a sore hand Friday night, but will be ready to start Saturday — the Phillies could have three hot hitters. And they could use even more than that because if they’re going to make a run over the final 40 games, they will need to out-hit other clubs. The pitching is just too suspect to carry this team.

Nonetheless, the Phillies got a good start from Vince Velasquez on Friday night. He pitched shutout ball through the first five innings before being bitten by the dreaded third-time-through-the-lineup bug.

Velasquez needs to continue to deliver good starts to keep the Phillies in this thing. Ditto for the rest of the rotation. Zach Eflin returns to the rotation on Saturday. He has stretches where he pitched well for a month. The Phillies could certainly use one right now.

“What we need is quality starts,” Kapler said. “We’re not looking for eight innings and zeroes every night. What we’re looking for is to be in games. If we’re in games, we have the kind of offense that can win those games, so we just want very competitive starts from our starters. We feel confident that Zach can help us compete (Saturday night).”

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No turning off the power as Bryce Harper, Phillies slug into playoff position

No turning off the power as Bryce Harper, Phillies slug into playoff position

BOX SCORE

Bryce Harper and the Phillies’ offense kept on humming in an 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

The win was the warming Phillies’ fourth in a row, matching a season high. All have come on this homestand and have coincided with the dismissal of John Mallee as hitting coach. Former skipper Charlie Manuel has stepped in as hitting coach. He has been in the dugout for three games, all wins, and the Phils have combined for 35 hits, including seven homers, and 26 runs in those contests.

Friday night’s win left the Phillies at 64-58. They entered the day a game out of a wild-card playoff spot. There are 40 games remaining (see standings).

Harper does it again

Harper is carrying the Phillies. Twenty-four hours after his game-winning grand slam against the Cubs, he smacked a three-run homer to give the Phils a five-run lead in the sixth inning. He also had a shift-beating single and scored two runs. Harper has four homers in his last three games and seven homers and 17 RBIs in his last nine games.

For the season, he is up to 26 homers and 90 RBIs.

Realmuto does it again

It’s always good to have more than one hot bat in the lineup and J.T. Realmuto is doing the job along with Harper. Actually, he’s been doing it for a while. He had a homer, a double and a single and is hitting .313 (51 for 163) with 16 doubles, eight homers and 29 RBIs over his last 44 games.

Another injury for Quinn?

Roman Quinn has been improving over the last few weeks. He hit a big home run in the third inning. However, the oft-injured outfielder left the game in the ninth after appearing to hurt something in his leg. More on that later.

Vinny Velo's night

Phillies starter Vince Velasquez gave his club five strong innings out of the gate then, in rather typical fashion, struggled the third time through the Padres’ batting order. He gave up three runs in the sixth, got just one out in that frame and left leading, 5-3.

Velasquez used his fastball up in the zone and executed some breaking balls down in the zone in retiring 11 straight at one point. He showed some composure in getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. He threw 25 pitches in that inning, but managed some economy after that.

Velasquez will be an important guy for the pitching-challenged Phillies down the stretch. He’s made strides in the second half of the season and needs to continue his progress if the Phils are to make a run.

Good bullpen work

The Phillies’ bullpen picked up 3 2/3 innings and allowed just one run.

Vinny Velo, indeed

Velasquez threw 108 pitches and 74 of them were four-seam fastballs. The pitch averaged 93.9 mph, topped out at 95.7 and produced 11 swinging strikes.

Team officials want Velasquez to use his four-seamer the way he did in this one, often and up in the zone where hitters can’t catch up to it.

End of a good streak

Velasquez had registered 22 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Padres in his career before giving up three runs in the sixth.

Hoskins gets a recovery day

Rhys Hoskins was an important base runner in the Phillies’ game-winning five-run rally in the ninth on Thursday night. On Friday night, he paid the price. He became that base runner Thursday when he was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Cubs’ reliever Pedro Strop. The hand was a little tender Friday so he was held out of the starting lineup, but was available for pinch-hitting duty or “to bang off the bench,” as manager Gabe Kapler said.

Hoskins was able to participate in pregame workouts and said he would be ready to start on Saturday night.

Another injury for Quinn?

Roman Quinn has been improving over the last few weeks. He hit a big home run in the third inning. However, the oft-injured outfielder left the game in the ninth inning after feeling tightness in his right groin while running out a ground ball. Quinn missed nearly two months with a strain of the same groin earlier this season.

“I just felt a little something running across the bag, same spot as the last time, but not as bad," Quinn said after the game. "Just a little stretch."

Worried?

“Not really," he said.

“We'll see how I feel in the morning and go from there. If I come in not feeling better, maybe we'll get an MRI.”

Dominance

The Phillies are 67-35 against the Padres since the start of the 2004 season, including 32-18 at Citizens Bank Park.

New reliever

Jared Hughes, picked up off waivers from Cincinnati on Thursday, is expected to join the club on Saturday. The Phillies will have to make a roster move.

Up next

Zach Eflin (7-11, 4.49) returns to the rotation on Saturday night. He will pitch against San Diego’s Dinelson Lamet (1-2, 3.86).

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