Phillies

Padres (and other teams) in the mix for Bryce Harper — what's it mean for Phillies?

Padres (and other teams) in the mix for Bryce Harper — what's it mean for Phillies?

Those frisky Friars ...

The Padres are set to meet with Bryce Harper Thursday night, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

This comes a week after San Diego's interest in signing Manny Machado became public.

As we wrote then, it's not the end of the world for the Phillies that the Padres are also pursuing the top two free agents. San Diego has never entered a season with a payroll over $110 million. That doesn't mean they never will, but this is not an organization known for handing out enormous contracts.

As of now, the Padres' payroll is at about $94 million.

The richest contract the Padres have ever handed out came last offseason when they signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal. That's a big contract but nowhere near the type of money or annual salary it will take to land Harper or Machado.

Hosmer's contract is extremely front-loaded, paying him $100 million in the first five years and $39 million in the last three (with a $5 million signing bonus). Hosmer can opt out after that fifth year.

So, with Hosmer's big contract on their books and not a whole lot of talent surrounding him, it does make sense for the Padres to seek big upgrades. It's why we pointed out in mid-January that they were a team to monitor, even before the Harper-Machado rumblings surfaced.

The weakness of the NL West will only further embolden the Padres to swing for the fences.

Harper's agent, Scott Boras, told Rosenthal that they've met with other teams "in recent days." The identities of those teams are unclear. 

But this is the risk the Phillies run. Barring an offer from the Phils that just blows all others out of the water, it behooves Harper and Machado to wait. 

It's highly unlikely that two or three weeks from now, the Phils would decrease their offer or take it off the table. However, waiting two or three weeks could bring other teams back into the picture, which increases the bargaining power of Harper and Machado. So, from the Harper-Machado perspective, what's the risk in waiting even longer? Sucks for the fans, but these guys are focused on securing the biggest possible payday.

This also illustrates how tough it can be to close a deal of this magnitude when you are not yet regarded as a "destination." During that Golden Era of Phillies baseball, players wanted to be here. Players gave up more guaranteed money to be here. Roy Halladay, for example, was adamant about being traded to the Phillies.

Right now, the Phillies are a team on the rise but not necessarily a top destination for a superstar. Just keeping it real. If Machado got a huge offer from the Yankees, he'd probably sign there. If Harper got a huge offer from the Dodgers, he'd probably sign there. The absence of those two teams — at least thus far — could wind up helping the Phillies immensely.

That same reason of not yet being a destination also applies to the Padres and White Sox, who are farther behind the Phillies. The appeal of playing and living in San Diego is obvious, though, and it's much closer to Harper's hometown of Las Vegas.

In his 1-on-1 interview with Jim Salisbury on Wednesday, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said that the Phils don't really have a walk-away date in the near future in which they'd break off negotiations with the superstars.

"I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline," Klentak said. "We learned that last year with Jake Arrieta."

Phillies pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12. The first full team workout is Feb. 18. The first spring training game is Feb. 22.

And this ordeal might not be over by then.

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Vince Velasquez stars in relief role, Pat Neshek heads home with an injury

Vince Velasquez stars in relief role, Pat Neshek heads home with an injury

MILWAUKEE — Nothing turns a frown upside down quite like two scoreless innings, four strikeouts, 97 mph on the radar gun, a pitching victory and a team victory.

Vince Velasquez began his day at Miller Park on Friday feeling irked that he was being sent to the bullpen on his first day off the injured list. His day began to get better after he had a little air-clearing meeting with manager Gabe Kapler and it ended with a blast of euphoria when he turned out to be one of the stars of the Phillies’ 6-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Great time,” Velasquez said after his first relief appearance of the season. “Great time.”

Velasquez entered a tie game in the fifth and survived a walk and a hit to the first two batters on his way to two scoreless innings. The enigmatic right-hander wasn’t the only bullpen star. He combined with Edgar Garcia, Adam Morgan, Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris (three Ks) on six shutout innings after Jerad Eickhoff departed after three innings.

There was some bad news out of the bullpen. Veteran right-hander Pat Neshek’s tumultuous week concluded with his feeling a pop in his shoulder while playing catch before the game. He is headed home to Philadelphia to be checked. He will go in the injured list and the Phils will add a pitcher for Saturday’s game.

The Phils’ bullpen has carried a heavy load lately. The six innings pitched Friday night upped its total to 47 1/3 innings over the last 12 games. That’s the third-most in the majors over that span. The relievers have recorded a 3.61 ERA over that span.

After the game, Kapler was asked if he was concerned about the number of innings — both in the short-term and cumulatively — that the bullpen was being forced to pick up because the starters aren’t getting deep into games. He did not directly answer the question.

“I think what inspires me is that we’ve leaned on them and they continue to bounce back and be resilient and today they won the baseball game for us,” he said.

The bullpen had some help in winning the baseball game.

On defense, catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura combined to cut down a run at the plate to help Velasquez get out of the fifth. It was a huge play and the Phils took the lead the next inning. Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins all had big, run-scoring hits to help the Phils tie and take control of the game.

But Kapler was right. The work of the bullpen was huge, especially against a team that outscored the Phils 22-6 over the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.

Velasquez gave the ‘pen a huge lift.

“Wow,” Kapler said. “Especially in the second inning of work. He was just electric and as good as we’ve seen him. The fastball was exploding like we’ve seen in some starts, but I can’t remember the last time it looked that good. The second inning of work was really impressive.”

Could Velasquez continue to be a bullpen weapon?

“I think that remains to be seen because like I said earlier, I’d like to see how he responds tomorrow and how his body bounces back,” Kapler said. “I will say this: there was a little bit of a delivery change in the second inning. He used his backside a little bit more effectively and really drove his momentum towards home plate. The ball was just jumping out of his hand tremendously.”

Realmuto said Velasquez has the stuff to succeed in any role. But as a reliever …

“I think he has the stuff to succeed whether we throw him out there as a starter, throw him out there as a middle relief guy, late-inning guy,” Realmuto said. “He's got the stuff to play anywhere, you know? He's got the stuff to get through the lineup multiple times and then the role like tonight, his stuff just plays up. Coming into the middle of the game like that, it's hard to get on time for stuff like that when they haven't seen it yet, so I feel like he can succeed in any role we put him in.

“He was huge for us today. He came out throwing bullets. It's fun to be back there catching him again. Obviously saw how much life he had on his fastball. I felt like after his first hitter, he really honed in on it and just let it rip. It was huge for us.”

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Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE — The Phillies' hard-working bullpen delivered six shutout innings Friday night to help the team win the opener of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-4, at Miller Park.

The Phils' bullpen has picked up 47 1/3 innings in the last 12 games.

Vince Velasquez made his first appearance of the season out of the bullpen and delivered two scoreless innings. Edgar Garcia, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris (three K's) picked up the rest of the relief innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff failed to make it past the third inning.

Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins had big hits to put the Phils over the top.

The Phils are 3-2 on this seven-game trip. They are 30-21 overall.

• Harper tied the game with a double in the fifth, McCutchen put the Phils up by a run with a double in the sixth and Hoskins' ended a 15-game home run drought with an important one in the seventh.

• Velasquez entered a tie game in the fifth. He allowed a walk and a hit to the first two batters he faced then struck out four of the next five to finish with two scoreless frames. His shutdown work and the Phils' offense earned him the win.

• J.T Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura hooked up for a big defensive play to end the fifth inning. The Brewers tried to execute a double steal and the catcher and shortstop both delivered perfect throws to cut the run and keep the game tied. The Phils took the lead in the next inning.

Eickhoff's night

Eickhoff gave up five hits, a walk and four runs over three innings. Four of the hits were for extra bases and two of them were homers. He has given up seven homers in his last three starts after giving up none in his first four.

Eickhoff had some bad luck in the first inning as Ryan Braun reached on a swinging bunt with two outs. Mike Moustakas then hopped on a curveball and stroked it for an RBI double.

Eickhoff gave up three damaging hits on fastballs, none of which were above 91 mph. Orlando Arcia hit one for a solo homer in the second. Christian Yelich hit a 3-2 fastball for his 20th homer in the third and Yasmani Grandal clubbed a 2-2 fastball for an RBI double after a two-out walk in the third.

Over his last three starts, Eickhoff has been tagged for 17 hits and 13 runs in 12 innings.

What's up with Pat?

Pat Neshek did not appear happy as he left the field after working out with the rest of the relievers late in the afternoon. He clearly was not available to pitch as he did not even report to the bullpen for the game. It's not immediately clear what the issue was.

(Update: Neshek has a sore shoulder and is headed back to Philadelphia, manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. He will go on the 10-day injured list.)

Transaction

Velasquez was activated from the IL and assigned to the bullpen, at least for the next few days. He or Nick Pivetta will start Tuesday. All the details here.

Health check

Roman Quinn has recovered from his groin strain. He is doing all baseball drills and working toward starting a minor-league rehabilitation assignment late next week, according to Kapler.

Up next

Jake Arrieta (4-4, 3.77) opposes Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.65) on Saturday afternoon.