Phillies activate Adam Morgan from IL, tab Vince Velasquez to start Saturday

Phillies activate Adam Morgan from IL, tab Vince Velasquez to start Saturday

A few notes as the Phillies get set to open a three-game series against the Miami Marlins on Friday night:

• Left-handed reliever Adam Morgan was activated from the injured list and lefty Cole Irvin was returned to Triple A.

Morgan had been out since May 26 with a sore elbow.

• A pair of rainouts and a doubleheader earlier in the week forced the Phils to scramble for starting pitching after Aaron Nola’s assignment Friday night.

Manager Gabe Kapler announced that the team would use Vince Velasquez as the starter for Saturday afternoon’s game (4:05 p.m. first pitch).

Enyel De Los Santos will come up from Triple A and make the start Sunday afternoon.

Velasquez will be making his second straight start after nine appearances out of the bullpen. Velasquez pitched well out of the bullpen at times and team officials seemed eager to see more of him in that role. However, the team’s immediate need is starting pitching — a role where Velasquez has been inconsistent. He has made seven starts this season and recorded a 4.83 ERA in 31 2/3 innings. Though he was willing to try the bullpen and at times seemed excited about it, Velasquez has long preferred starting. He gets another chance.

“It's an opportunity for Vince,” Kapler said. “It's an opportunity to take control of that fifth spot in the rotation for the time being. Very similar to the way I think we viewed Nick Pivetta when we added him back to the rotation. It's up to him. He's got a really cool opportunity in front of him and he has a chance to seize it.

“It’s imperfect that he’s had to go back and forth between a rotation spot and the bullpen. What I told him today, and it’s sort of important that he repeats it in his own mind, is, ‘I prepare my whole life to deliver a pitch on the mound. I have been doing this since I was a kid. I came through the minor leagues. I’ve pitched in the bullpen. I’ve started big games for us. I’m ready for this.’ And he is. He’s physically prepared for it. He’s mentally prepared for it. It’s time for him to share that. ‘I am ready for this moment,’ and go out there and get it done.”

Kapler believes that Velasquez is stretched out enough to get through the Marlins’ batting order “a couple of times.”

De Los Santos was acquired from San Diego for Freddy Galvis in December 2017. He made two starts for the Phils last season and has pitched in relief four times for the club this season. The right-hander has a 3.28 ERA in eight starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley this season.

• A couple of injured Phillies are getting closer to a return.

Reliever Tommy Hunter will pitch an inning for Single A Clearwater on Sunday and be in Philadelphia for an evaluation on Monday.

Outfielder Adam Haseley participated in running and fielding drills Friday afternoon and will likely play in a minor-league rehab game Monday. He has been out since June 6 with a groin strain.

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It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

A 458-foot, three-run home run on a 98 mph fastball.

A walk-off two-run double against one of baseball's most accomplished closers of the last decade.

This was the kind of night that shows you why Bryce Harper is valued the way he is.

The Phillies were two outs away from yet another game that could have been classified as their worst loss of the season. What was once a five-run lead had turned into a two-run deficit when Hector Neris was victimized again by the Dodgers. This time it was rookie Matt Beaty with a three-run, pinch-hit home run off Neris in the ninth.

Another late-game implosion, especially following Monday's 16-2 embarrassment, would have taken the Phillies to a point even below rock bottom. It would have been another harbinger of doom. One walk-off win does not change the events of the last six weeks, but it does at least show these Phillies that they can beat the Dodgers. They can beat a good closer. They can respond even after the most deflating of circumstances.

"You live for those moments," Harper said. "That's what it's all about. Going in there, Jansen, one of the best closers in all of baseball, Dodgers-Phils. When you're facing the best in baseball, it's always a blast."

Don't get it twisted — they haven't done it enough, the Phillies as a group or Harper as an individual offensive player. This team should be better than 49-46. Harper's OPS should be higher than .850.

But this was the kind of win that can give a team some swagger. The Phillies hit Walker Buehler and they hit Kenley Jansen.

And in a game that was also televised nationally, the Phillies' brightest star delivered in his team's highest-pressure moment in weeks.

"It was a huge moment for Bryce and you could see it coming off the field after everybody was celebrating on the field, how important that was to him," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It meant a lot to him. He was clearly emotional and I understand there had been a lot of buildup that led to that moment. It was quite a release for him."

This felt like Harper's second really big moment with the Phillies, the first being his poetic blast at Nationals Park in his first game back in D.C. But this win went beyond him. The much-maligned Andrew Knapp, who entered with a .155 batting average, began the rally with a double. It came one batter after Adam Haseley hit a ball off Jansen's ankle. After the game, Jansen told Dodgers reporters that if he could have done it again, he would have exited the game.

Prior to Harper's game-winning double, Scott Kingery trimmed the deficit to one with an RBI single. Earlier in the night, Kingery homered on a 96 mph fastball up in the zone from Buehler.

The Phillies as a team have struggled with velocity this season but Tuesday was not an example of that.

"To see Scott go up to the top of the zone and hit 96-plus out to left field, that was pretty impressive because that's been the book on him," Kapler said. "Sliders off the plate away and then you run the heater up because he has such a good plane to his swing that he's good at getting underneath it. When you have a good four-seam fastball, you want to get above his barrel. So that was a really good sign.

"It's encouraging to see our guys catch up to velocity. We all have a lot of respect for Walker Buehler, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. To put that kind of number up on him says a lot about our club and the grind in our at-bats today.

"After yesterday's loss, how brutal that was for us, and in some ways embarrassing ... nobody quit. I think that's the calling card for our team. We get knocked down, we get back up."

The Phillies have indeed responded well after awful losses this season. They just haven't yet turned it into a prolonged stretch of good baseball.

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Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see

Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see


The skies opened, the game was delayed for 22 minutes before the ninth inning began, and what followed was a dramatic swing of emotions for the Phillies.

Leading 6-5, the Phillies turned to Hector Neris, who blew another save against the Dodgers. Neris has allowed 10 runs and six homers in his last seven appearances against the Dodgers, including the go-ahead three-run shot to pinch-hitter Matt Beaty Tuesday night.

But the Phillies, who have played poorly and sloppily for the better part of six weeks and were embarrassed, 16-2, on Monday, found a way back against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. They scored three of their own in the ninth to win it, 9-8. The rally was capped off by Bryce Harper's walk-off two-run double.

A wild finish to a game that probably didn't need to be this difficult for the Phils.

The Phillies scored six runs in the first two innings on three home runs off Walker Buehler, including a three-run shot from Harper that traveled 458 feet and nearly broke the sound barrier. It was on a 98 mph fastball.

But the Phillies then went 0 for 18 from the third through eighth innings.

Neris' implosion followed stellar work from three previous relievers — Jose Alvarez, Juan Nicasio and Adam Morgan — who retired all 10 batters they faced.

The Phillies are 49-46 and continue to cling to the NL's second wild-card spot. 

The typical Velasquez experience

Velasquez is what he is. A pitcher who can miss bats and strike hitters out, who can look totally dominant for two or three innings but who too rarely puts it all together for five or six complete innings.

There's no more guessing. Calling him enigmatic is being kind. He is infrequently effective.

On Tuesday, Velasquez looked great for three innings, striking out six Dodgers, including three in a row in emphatic fashion after the Phillies' five-run third inning.

But with a five-run lead, Velasquez could not keep L.A. at bay. The game was broken open for all of two innings before Velasquez was taken deep by Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson. He allowed four home runs in all. The first was a 440-foot shot from Max Muncy on an 0-2 pitch.

Velasquez has made 11 starts this season. In them, he is 1-4 with a 4.97 ERA. He's allowed 17 home runs in 61 innings. That's 2.5 home runs per nine innings for the man who entered 2019 with the highest home run rate of any starting pitcher in Phillies history.

Same story, over and over and over again. The Phillies have known for months that Velasquez is not the answer as the fifth starter. They feel they lack better internal options and have not been able to swing a trade yet. It's almost impossible to imagine Velasquez being in this rotation on Aug. 1.

Neris' nosedive

Neris is 0-3 with a 8.48 ERA in his career against L.A.

Beyond that, Neris has really struggled of late. He's allowed 12 runs in his last 11 innings as his season ERA has risen from 1.88 to 4.08. This team has few places to turn for relief.

Another injury

The Phillies lost Jay Bruce in the third inning to an oblique strain. He exited with an 0-2 count. 

If Bruce misses time, here are the Phillies' two most logical options in replacing him (see story).

Up next

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65).

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