Phillies

Phillies could go trade route as they look to improve starting pitching

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Phillies could go trade route as they look to improve starting pitching

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Baseball’s offseason ramps up with the start of the general managers meetings Tuesday.

Phillies GM Matt Klentak is here, looking for two more good months. The 2018 Phillies led the National League East in early August then suffered a monumental collapse en route to a sixth straight losing season.

The Phillies will be a headline-grabbing club all winter because they have shifted from rebuild mode to win mode, they have big money and they are committed to getting better — now. They are in pursuit of both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two megastars on the free-agent market, and would like to land one of them. Signing both is unrealistic because the Phillies have future payrolls and future free-agent markets to consider and club president Andy MacPhail has said as much. Nonetheless, there has and will continue to be speculation that the Phillies will sign both, even if it won’t happen.

It is an oversimplification to say that Klentak is looking for two more good months. Obviously the Phillies need more than that to build a sustained winner. But for four months, starting pitching carried the 2018 Phillies. (Their starters ranked sixth in the majors with a 3.70 ERA through the first week of August and recorded a 5.18 ERA the rest of the way.) Starting pitching, among other things, slipped over the final two months and winning games became more difficult.

This is why improving the starting pitching is an item on Klentak’s offseason to-do list. It has just been overshadowed by Machado/Harper-Mania.

The Phillies were willing to part with young talent to acquire Machado before he went to the Dodgers in July. They are still willing to part with young talent and now it could go toward starting pitching.

Two names to watch as the GM meetings get going:

Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks.

James Paxton of the Mariners.

Both are left-handers. Both have two years of control remaining. Both are said to be available. And both would appeal to the Phillies.

Paxton, 30, has battled injuries in his career, but his stuff is electric when he’s healthy. He pitched a no-hitter in 2018. Klentak previously worked for Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto in Anaheim and the two are very close. Could that facilitate a deal? Stay tuned.

Ray, 27, is a guy the Phillies have long liked. His name was kicked around last winter.

Another name to watch is Michael Fulmer of the Tigers. The Phillies poked around on the right-hander over the summer, but it’s unclear if the Tigers will sell low on him after a disappointing 2018 and minor knee injury that required surgery. Nonetheless, Fulmer has four years of control remaining and might be a fit if the Tigers look to move him. And the Yankees are committed to trading Sonny Gray so he could be a name to watch, too.

The Phillies will also be in on the top free-agent arms, particularly Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and others.

So while Machado and Harper get most of the buzz, don’t forget starting pitching and the Phillies’ need for it.

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Rhys Hoskins is still sore; Phillies remain confident he will be ready for opening day

Rhys Hoskins is still sore; Phillies remain confident he will be ready for opening day

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Even after backing off a tentative plan of playing Rhys Hoskins on Sunday, the Phillies remain optimistic that he will be ready to play in Thursday’s season opener.

“The game plan is for him to play [Monday] and be ready for opening day,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We feel confident in that.”

Hoskins, the team’s first baseman and cleanup hitter, has not played since last Sunday when he hurt his left shoulder taking an awkward swing. An MRI showed no structural damage and Hoskins has continued to do drills. The Phils had hoped to play Hoskins on Sunday, but he was held out of the game against Baltimore. He was able to take batting practice.

“There’s been steady improvement but there’s still a little bit of soreness,” Kapler said. “Rhys is very important to us and our season and we’re always going to lean toward the side of caution, expecially this close to opening day. We wanted to give him some extra time to improve.”

Hoskins said much of the same: There’s still a little soreness, he’s improving and he’ll be ready for opening day. He said he was confident that he would play in the team’s final Grapefruit League game on Monday afternoon against Tampa Bay in Clearwater.

The Phillies’ lineup Sunday reflected some concern for Hoskins. Maikel Franco moved over from third base and started at first for the second time in three games. He is essentially the team’s backup first baseman. Scott Kingery started at third base. If Hoskins were to miss any time, this would be how the Phillies would cover him. At the moment, however, the team is confident that Hoskins will not miss any time.

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Phillies fans are planning a takeover of Nationals Park for Bryce Harper's return

Phillies fans are planning a takeover of Nationals Park for Bryce Harper's return

Washington, this is your warning. On April 2, the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies are planning a takeover.

While Citizens Bank Park is going to be packed with Phillies fans all season, busloads of Phillies fans are taking the trip down I-95 to Nationals Park for the first road game of the season. That is, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Joe DiBiaggio, founder of Phans of Philly, which organizes trips and tailgates for Philadelphia sports fans, took a chance even before Bryce Harper signed and purchased a block of 500 tickets for the April 2 game in Washington, Harper’s return to the city he spent his first seven seasons. The tickets will likely be sold out.

The location of the tickets are in the perfect spot, too.

We had a feeling Nationals Park would be taken over by Phillies fans, but now when Harper trots out to right field for the first time in Washington as a Phillie, he will be greeted by Phillies fans.

That’s just awesome.

This will mark the second time in just four months that Philadelphia sports fans will take over a Washington-area sporting event. Last December, Eagles fans took over FedEx Field for a huge Eagles win in Landover, Maryland.

The seating capacity of Nationals Park is just north of 41,000, and while Phillies fans showed up even when the team wasn’t great, any jeers Harper receives from the hometown crowd could be potentially overshadowed by thousands upon thousands of cheers by the best sports fans in the country.

We can’t wait for the season to get started.

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