Phillies

Phillies option Zach Eflin to Triple A to make room for Justin Bour

Phillies option Zach Eflin to Triple A to make room for Justin Bour

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies employed a creative bit of personnel management in getting newcomer Justin Bour on the 25-man roster for Saturday night’s game against the San Diego Padres.

The Phillies did not subtract from their middle-infield bench depth and send J.P Crawford or Scott Kingery to the minors.

They optioned a member of their starting pitching rotation to the minor leagues.

And here’s the thing:

Zach Eflin won’t even miss a start. He’ll be out 10 days of big-league service time and big-league pay, but he will be able to pitch for the Phillies on Thursday and come back and make his normal start after that.

Here’s how it works: The Phillies have a doubleheader on Thursday against the Mets. They are allowed to add a 26th man from the minors for that day and it will be Eflin. After that, he will go back to the minors for the completion of his 10-day option and be eligible to return to the rotation on Aug. 22 in Washington.

The Phillies will still need to make a roster move on Thursday, Friday or Saturday because they will need a pitcher on one of those days because of the doubleheader stack-up, but sending Eflin out buys them some time and allows them a five-man bench and eight-man bullpen in the interim. It’s not the greatest solution if your name is Zach Eflin, but it might help the Phillies win a game in a tight pennant race.

“Zach was professional about this through and through,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He understands that we're going to try to get every marginal advantage through the end of the season that we possibly can, and right now, we have to believe that the division is going to come down to one game. If that's true, having an additional player on our roster that we can use right now is that marginal edge.

“By way of example — just a little potential anecdote — if Maikel Franco leads off the sixth inning with a base hit in a 0-0 ballgame, we might be able to use Scott Kingery to run for him in that situation with the understanding that we have a shortstop (Crawford) still available.”

Eflin was not available for comment. In addition to losing 10 days of service time, he stands to lose about $20,000 in big-league salary.

“Sometimes one guy takes it on the chin so that 25 guys as a group and as an organization and as a team can prosper,” Kapler said. “Our responsibility to the Phillies organization is to get every possible marginal advantage, and this gives us a marginal advantage by having an additional player on the roster.” 

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Former Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz leaves on the high road

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USA Today Images

Former Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz leaves on the high road

When the news broke that he had been let go as Phillies pitching coach earlier this week, Rick Kranitz's cell phone started dinging.

And dinging.

And dinging.

From all over the country and Latin America, stunned Phillies pitchers sent well wishes.

"I heard from all of them," Kranitz said Friday from his home in Arizona. "It meant a lot. It was nice to know they were thinking of me.

"That's the thing I'm going to miss the most, the relationships I've built with these guys. The players are the ones who do it but I was always happy to be able to guide them through the good times, the tough times, the emotional times. I've been in the game for 40 years and the relationships have always been what means the most to me."

Kranitz, 60, was pushed aside in favor of Chris Young. Kranitz had been with the Phillies for three seasons, first as bullpen coach, then as assistant pitching coach and finally as head pitching coach in 2018. Teams don't typically let coaches go in mid-November, particularly after saying seven weeks earlier that the entire coaching staff would be returning. In this case, Young, 37, had received interest from other clubs and rather than risk losing him the Phillies promoted him from assistant pitching coach to head pitching coach. Kranitz was told that he was free to seek employment with other organizations, though the Phillies will still pay him through 2019.

The whole thing seems cold, but Kranitz is taking the high road. He's a big boy. He's been around — he'd previously been pitching coach in Miami, Baltimore and Milwaukee — and understands the business of baseball and these days the business of baseball is more new school than old school. That doesn't mean it's better. It's just the way it is for now.

"I was surprised and very disappointed when I first got the news," Kranitz said. "I'd built a lot of good relationships with this group. I believe in every one of these guys and I believe the future is bright for the Phillies. I wanted to see it through."

The news that Kranitz had been let go broke on Wednesday. That night, Aaron Nola finished third in the NL Cy Young voting. For three years, Kranitz had been influential in Nola's development.

"I was so proud of that young man," Kranitz said. "He deserves everything he gets. He's a class individual and the Phillies are lucky to have such a special young pitcher — not just a pitcher but a person. I could not have been prouder. I'm thankful to have gotten the chance to watch him, grateful to be able to see special times."

Kranitz began his pro career as a pitcher in the Brewers' system in 1979. He would like to continue to work and surely some team will benefit from his wisdom. But in the meantime, he intends to spend his unexpected free time focusing on the people who have always been there for him, his wife Kelly and their four children.

"We have four grandkids and one on the way in March," Kranitz said. "So I'll be around for the birth and that makes me happy. 

"This game has been great to me. The Phillies were great to me. It didn't end great but my experience with the city and the people in that organization was great. Now it's time to shift my focus to my family and give back to them."

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What would spending 'stupid' money look like for Phillies this offseason?

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What would spending 'stupid' money look like for Phillies this offseason?

Phillies owner John Middleton recently reiterated what he's been saying for years: The Phillies will spend aggressively this offseason.

This time, he was a bit more colorful about it.

"We're going into this expecting to spend money," Middleton told USA Today at the owners meetings this week. "And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.

"We just prefer not to be completely stupid."

#LetsGetStupid

You know the usual suspects: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But the Phillies' needs go beyond offense and there is a top-tier left-hander on the market who could boost this rotation (see story).

Harper turned down a $300 million offer from the Nationals, so it's safe to assume he's expecting a deal closer to the $350-400 million range, one with an annual value in the neighborhood of $40 million.

It's hard to gauge where Machado's price tag will be and whether his October comments affected his market. Will he get slightly less than Harper because of it? Will he get more than Harper because of the position(s) he plays?

Including guaranteed contracts, projected arbitration figures and the raises due to pre-arbitration players, the Phillies' 2019 payroll is in the vicinity of $110 million right now. But that figure is cut in half in 2020 and next-to-nothing in 2021, when the only two guaranteed deals on the Phillies' books belong to Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery.

Aaron Nola will have to be paid sometime before 2022, and Rhys Hoskins before 2024, but the Phils still have so much wiggle room. 

Team president Andy MacPhail has been sure to remind Middleton and others that there is baseball to be played beyond 2019. But it's not often a free-agent class has headliners like this. 

The Phils could feasibly afford both Harper and Machado, but things would get extremely tricky down the road when Harper, Machado, Nola and Hoskins are combining to make about $120 million per year between the four of them. Those are the kinds of long-term issues this front office has to consider and will consider.

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