Phillies

Would an 82-game season help or hurt Phillies' playoff chances?

Would an 82-game season help or hurt Phillies' playoff chances?

Nothing is definitive at this point, but according to reports, MLB owners have approved a proposal for a very different-looking 2020 baseball season.

The proposal, which will be submitted to the players' union Tuesday by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, could have the start of the season as soon as early July. Teams would play in their own home stadiums, without fans, and the season would last 82 games. This is a bit more than half the length of a traditional 162-game campaign.

Another wrinkle to this proposal is an expanded playoff format for the 2020 season. In the reported proposal, 14 teams would make the postseason, four more than the usual 10.

Several hurdles need to be cleared before one pitch is thrown, and there are a handful of other changes to game play in the proposal, but the season length of the proposal and the playoff format should be of interest to the Phillies and their fans.

In the last two seasons, the Phillies were very much in the playoff race at the 82-game mark and would’ve actually made the postseason had the season ended after their 82nd game, if only barely.

In 2018, the Phils were 45-37 through 82 games. They sat in second place, three games behind the Braves in the NL East, and were the second wild-card team.

Last season, they were 43-39 after 82 games and in second place behind Atlanta. That record had them in a 3-way tie for the top wild-card spot with the Brewers and Rockies.

Granted, the previous two seasons may not have gone the same way had the Phillies and other teams known the season was only 82 games, but if this proposal is accepted, expect a thrill ride of a season.

Factor in the potential of a 14-team playoff format and this could be an electrifying return-to-play scenario. Imagine entering the final 2-3 weeks of the regular season with 20 teams (or more) still in the running for a postseason spot.

We know that the Phillies slumped in the second half of each of the last two seasons, but if an 82-game season is in the offing for 2020, it could lead to a rollercoaster ride, one which might see the Phillies return to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

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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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After COVID-19 battle, Scott Kingery rejoins Phillies teammates

After COVID-19 battle, Scott Kingery rejoins Phillies teammates

Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery, who was hit hard by coronavirus, rejoined his teammates and went through a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

Kingery took batting practice and did some fielding and throwing drills. He did not play in the team’s intrasquad game.

“I feel good physically,” Kingery said. “I’ll keep easing into things for a couple of days. I hope to get some live at-bats soon then get into a (intrasquad) game.”

It remains to be seen if Kingery will be ready to play when the season opens in 12 days. He believes he can be.

“I’m in pretty good baseball shape,” he said. “I’m just going to need to get into a live game and feel it out a little bit.”

Manager Joe Girardi said it was too early to tell whether Kingery would be ready for the opener. He said he would have a better idea where Kingery stood in a few days.

"I don't want him to end up on the injured list if his legs aren't ready," Girardi said.

The Phils have a number of veterans -- Josh Harrison, Logan Forsythe, Phil Gosselin and Neil Walker -- who can all play second base if Kingery isn't ready.

Kingery’s battle with coronavirus started on June 11. He has been healthy for more than two weeks but could not travel from his hometown of Phoenix to Philadelphia until he tested negative for the virus twice. His second negative test came back Wednesday afternoon and he took a red eye to Philadelphia that night. He arrived early Thursday morning.

Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, Kingery was checked out by doctors. His exam included an EKG.

“They wanted to look at my heart and see if anything got messed up from COVID,” Kingery said.

All was good.

“It’s been a month-long process to get back on the field,” Kingery said. “I’m glad to be back.”

Kingery, who experienced shortness of breath when he was ill, experimented wearing a mask during drills in the field. He found it a little difficult to breathe with the mask. He’s not sure if he will continue to wear one in the field, but definitely will in the clubhouse and when around others.

Kingery knows how rugged coronavirus can be. He’s committed to following protocols.

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