Pat Neshek to throw bullpen session Thursday

Pat Neshek to throw bullpen session Thursday

Pat Neshek, out all season with injuries to his shoulder and forearm, may finally be on the road to returning to the Phillies.

Neshek will throw a bullpen session Thursday and use all of his pitches. If all goes according to plan, he will then head down to Florida to throw live batting practice.

The Phillies will be protective of Neshek, so even though this represents progress, he's still a ways away.

The Phillies have missed him in the bullpen. Neshek was signed to a two-year, $16.25 million contract after an All-Star season in 2017 with the Phillies and Rockies.

The Phils brought him back on a multi-year deal because of his lengthy track record (2.50 ERA since 2012) and the unusual look he presents out of the 'pen.

The Phillies are stocked in the bullpen with right-handed relievers who throw 95-plus. Neshek pitches from a submarine angle and does a great job of disrupting a hitter's timing with his unusual delivery and the difference in velocity. It's an approach that makes him not just an effective reliever but one who can succeed against the top power hitters in the league.

"It's huge," Kapler said. "Pat and I had a long conversation during batting practice yesterday that an unusual physical look throws timing and rhythm of opposing hitters off.

"We have a lot of guys who come in and there's 97 (mph), there's 98 ... a lot of guys who are going to run it up there high and bust it by you. But then you add this dude who's herky-jerky and the ball's sinking and running up."

Other injuries
• After Thoracic Outlet Syndrome was ruled out, Jerad Eickhoff received a cortisone shot in his right wrist Monday. The plan is for him to throw tomorrow as well. If that goes well, Eickhoff will begin a throwing progression of his own. The Phillies won't rush him and don't need to with Zach Eflin pitching well as the fifth starter.

• Dylan Cozens (strained left quad) will head to Florida this weekend when the Phillies travel to Milwaukee and his rehab will begin with some base running.

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Another big day for Phil Gosselin, who continues to catch Gabe Kapler’s eye

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Another big day for Phil Gosselin, who continues to catch Gabe Kapler’s eye

BRADENTON, Fla. – Phil Gosselin was told a few days ago that he would not make the Phillies’ opening day roster.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t keep making an impression on club officials before he heads to Triple A.

Gosselin has remained in big-league camp. He was the Phillies’ starting third baseman in Saturday’s game against the Pirates. The Phillies lost, 5-3, but Gosselin impressed with a pair of hits and several excellent plays in the field.

One of his hits was an opposite-field homer to right on a full-count against Pittsburgh right-hander Jordan Lyles. Gosselin is not known for his power – he has just seven homers in 532 at-bats with five big-league clubs – but this ball jumped out of the park.

Gosselin is hitting .410 (16 for 39) on the spring with five doubles, a triple and two home runs. The 30-year-old utility man, a West Chester native who grew up rooting for the Phillies (see story), has caught manager Gabe Kapler’s eye in camp.

“I talked to Josh Bonifay (the team’s director of player development) today about some of our priorities at Triple A,” Kapler said after the game. “When we got to Gosselin, there was some real excitement there.

“It (his spring performance) looks like something different than he’s produced in his career. You don’t see guys like that often hit the ball that he hit to right-center today. It’s a little unusual. This is a big ballpark and the ball doesn’t always go that well. Real power, some decent bat-to-ball skills, really heady defender, a guy that everybody likes. Those are the guys that if you reach down in the middle of the summer, you’re like, 'I’m really glad that this guy is in our organization,' because you trust him. You trust him to come up and perform.”

It takes a lot more than 25 guys to get through a big-league season. Gosselin has put himself in position to help the Phillies at some point in 2019.

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Victor Arano’s spot in Phillies’ bullpen in jeopardy after poor spring

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Victor Arano’s spot in Phillies’ bullpen in jeopardy after poor spring

BRADENTON, Fla. – Victor Arano was an important member of the Phillies’ bullpen last season. He recorded a 2.73 ERA in 60 games. He struck out 60 batters, walked 17 and gave up just six homers in 59 1/3 innings. 

The previous year, he came up from the minors for a look and gave up just two runs in 10 2/3 innings.

That's a 2.57 ERA in his first 70 big-league games.

In most cases, numbers like these would ensure Arano’s roster spot entering the new season.

But the 24-year-old right-hander has struggled so badly this spring that Phillies officials will be hard-pressed to include him when they set their opening day roster in the coming days.

“We weigh track record heavily and lean on it pretty strongly,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “However, without an indication that he’s feeling confident, it’s something to examine closely. You can discount one, two, three outings. It’s hard to discount five or six outings of struggle, consecutively.”

Arano pitched two-thirds of an inning in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates. He gave up a hit, a walk and a run. In four innings of work this spring, he has given up 20 runs. He has been tagged for 17 hits, including four homers.

“By every account, he was outstanding for us the last two years, one of our higher-leverage relievers, a guy we depended on in the biggest situations,” Kapler said after the game. “You still also have to pay close attention to what is happening right in front of you and we’ve seen several outings in a row that are worth really digging into to find out how we can help him.

“I think it’s cause to really dig on what’s happening for him both mentally and mechanically. I think he’s absolutely fine from a physical perspective. His legs are underneath him. He’s strong. I think his arm speed is fine.

“But you know, today the ball didn’t come out great. It’s worth having a conversation with him and really discussing what he needs to get back on track because at this point it hasn’t been very effective and I think he knows that. If he was standing next to me right now, he would tell you there’s a better performance in there.”

Through a translator, Arano indicated that his struggles are mechanical. He said he is struggling to find the release point on his slider, which was an excellent pitch for him last season.

Arano has pitched on back-to-back days -- he gave up a homer to Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees on Friday night – so he might not get back on the mound Sunday or Monday when the Phils play their final two games in Florida. Without getting on the mound, he won’t be able to build the confidence Kapler needs to see to include him on the roster. It’s quite possible that Arano will have to clean up his mechanical problems and build some confidence in the minors before getting back to Philadelphia.

The Phillies open the season on Thursday.

Right now, these seven relievers look set in the bullpen:

Hector Neris (R)

David Robertson (R)

Seranthony Dominguez (R)

Pat Neshek (R)

Juan Nicasio (R)

Adam Morgan (L)

Jose Alvarez (L)

If Arano fails to make the club, it could open a spot for either Edubray Ramos or Yacksel Rios.

The Phils could also use Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen for the first week of the season. 

Tommy Hunter will open on the injured list.

We’ll know in a few days how the bullpen shakes out. Unfortunately for Arano, he’s making some final decisions easy for club officials.

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