Phillies

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

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Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies on Saturday added to their stock of reliever candidates with the signing of veteran left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor-league contract. Abad will report to big-league camp and compete for a job on the 25-man roster.

The Phillies are likely to have an eight-man bullpen. The addition of Abad gives the Phillies four left-handed relief candidates. Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis are all on the 40-man roster. 

Morgan and Milner both shined in the second half of 2017. Morgan recorded a 1.69 ERA in 21 games over the final two months. He pitched 26 2/3 innings over that span, allowed just 16 hits and five runs, struck out 33 and walked six. Milner gave up just two runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last 27 games. He struck out 15 and managed to pitch around 12 walks. He was tough on lefty hitters (.159), but struggled against righties (.377). Curtis was a late-season waiver claim from Seattle. He pitched in just three games with the Phillies. 

Abad, 32, is an eight-year major-league veteran who has made stops in Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota and Boston. He had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season and lefties hit .227 off him.

From the right side, the Phillies have some bullpen depth with closer Hector Neris, veteran setup men Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos. Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominquez are also on the 40-man roster. 

Dominguez hit 100 mph on the radar gun as a starter last season and is being converted to the bullpen. He is likely to open the season at Double A Reading, but “could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The list of bullpen candidates also includes two veterans on minor-league contracts: Pedro Beato and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter is a 16-year veteran who has racked up 437 saves – fourth-most all-time – in his career. Rodriguez was released by the Tigers and Nationals last summer and is trying to make the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to big-league camp.

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Taking a look at some under-the-radar developments for key Phillies position players with the first half in the books.

C Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp

Alfaro has swung at a higher percentage of pitches this season than any player in the majors — 61.5 percent. The only other player who's swung at more than 59 percent of the pitches he's seen is Javier Baez.

Defensively, it's been an up-and-down season for the Phillies' catchers. They've combined to allow 12 passed balls, most in the National League. And the Phils have allowed 58 stolen bases, second most in the NL.

1B Carlos Santana

Santana's plate selection has been as advertised, with him entering the All-Star break with more walks than every player in the majors except Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

But Santana's also been helped out a bit by umpires. No player in the National League has had more pitches in the strike zone called balls than Santana (55). Some of it, obviously, has to do with his reputation. His exaggerated movements on inside pitches help, too.

2B Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez has a .380 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot this season, tops in the National League and second in baseball behind only Mookie Betts (.452).

Hernandez hasn't been driving the ball a whole lot lately — his three-run triple Sunday was his only extra-base hit in July — but you know the singles and walks will always be there for him. Hernandez has spent just one day all season with an OBP lower than .367.

3B Maikel Franco

Do you realize that we're 95 games into the season and Franco has a higher OPS than Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, George Springer, Mike Moustakas, Santana, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Anthony Rizzo and Adam Jones?

SS Scott Kingery

There's a baseball cliche that when a player is in a slump, he's down 0-1 or 0-2 every time he comes to the plate.

If it seems like Kingery has spent much of the first half in a hole, it's because he has. He's gotten a first-pitch strike 66.5 percent of the time, the fifth-highest rate in the NL. 

A major reason for that is Kingery's rate of swings at pitches outside the strike zone — 39.7 percent, also fifth highest in the NL.

LF Rhys Hoskins

You hear a lot about how much a plate appearance changes when you start 1-0 as opposed to 0-1. For Hoskins this season, it's made a world of difference.

When Hoskins starts 1-0, he has a .457 on-base percentage. When he starts 0-1, he has a .292 OBP. That OBP gap after 1-0 vs. 0-1 counts is 48 points higher than the league average gap.

So next time you see Hoskins begin an AB 1-0, flip a coin. Nearly half the time, he's getting on base.

CF Odubel Herrera

If you've watched Herrera over the years, you've likely noticed that he takes forever in between pitches, even in an age when MLB wants to speed up the game by eliminating dead time.

Well, Herrera does indeed have the slowest pace of any MLB hitter, taking 29.3 seconds on average in between pitches.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Hernandez, who rarely steps out of the box. Hernandez takes 21.0 seconds in between pitches, third fastest in the majors.

RF Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

The interesting trend with these two is how much better Williams, a left-handed hitter, has been against left-handed pitching.

Williams has hit .265 with a .321 OBP against lefties and .243 with a .324 OBP vs. righties. For his career, he's hit .271 against each side.

Altherr, contrarily, has hit just .169 against lefties. In a larger sample, it stands to reason that Williams' numbers against same-handed pitching would come down. But to this point, the platoon aspect of the right-field tandem hasn't worked out as expected.

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Phillies enter All-Star break off 'solid' road trip ... but it could have been better

Phillies enter All-Star break off 'solid' road trip ... but it could have been better

BOX SCORE 

MIAMI – There was no music and there were no smiles as Phillies players showered, dressed and headed out of the clubhouse for the All-Star break.

They knew they let one get away.

A road trip that started with the euphoria of two straight wins in Pittsburgh ended with consecutive losses against the lowly Miami Marlins, including an ugly one Sunday afternoon in which the Phillies blew a five-run lead on their way to a 10-5 defeat (see first take).

“This was not the prettiest series by any stretch,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We'll acknowledge that.

“But it was still a solid all-around trip.”

It was. The Phillies played 11 games in 10 days and went 6-5.

But it could have been so much more than just solid considering that none of the teams the Phillies played have a winning record. It could have been so much better than just solid had the offense not been shut out twice, had it not averaged under three runs over the final 10 days, had it not bloomed briefly Sunday only to quickly wilt and not be heard from again.

On the plus side, the Phillies do go into the break leading the National League East.

But watch out in the rearview mirror. The Phils’ lead over the Atlanta Braves is just a half-game and third-place Washington is just 5 ½ back.

While Phillies players enjoy four days of rest and relaxation, the front office will be busy trying to ensure that the team stays in contention. The Phils remain hot and heavy after Manny Machado and Zach Britton. Landing those two talents from Baltimore could be a difference-maker in the division race and return the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Everything was set up Sunday for the Phillies to go into the break on a high note. They led 5-0 after rallying for five runs against Miami starter Jose Urena in fourth inning. The Phils got four hits in the inning, including two for extra bases.

That was their entire offense for the day. There was no more and that was killer.

In the fifth inning, the Marlins rallied for eight runs to take the lead.

It all started with rookie Enyel De Los Santos, starting in place of Zach Eflin, who is out with a blister on his pitching hand, allowing five straight Marlins to reach base with one out. Cameron Maybin, the first batter to reach base, hit a solo homer and Brian Anderson, the fourth batter to reach, hit a three-run homer. Even after that, Kapler stuck with De Los Santos. The pitcher hit the next batter, J.T. Realmuto, and Kapler went to reliever Edubray Ramos with the score 5-4.

Did Kapler stick with De Los Santos too long?

“He's working such a low pitch count and really moving quickly through their lineup,” Kapler said. “For me, he was right where he needed to be. 

"I thought he pitched well up until the time he sort of just fell apart. It happened fast. I thought he did a good job of attacking the zone and working out of some jams early on. Overall, a solid performance by him. But it certainly didn't end the way he wanted it to end.”

Ramos and Adam Morgan both allowed two-out, two-run singles as the Marlins sent 13 men to the plate in the inning. But the Phillies could have gotten out of the inning with the lead had home plate umpire Todd Tichenor not called a ball on a full-count pitch to Martin Prado. The pitch was close, so close that it appeared to be a strike on replays. If the Ramos gets that pitch, the inning is over and the Phils are still up, 5-4.

“I thought it was a strike,” Ramos said. “It changed the inning completely. I thought I’d be out of the inning. But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Catcher Andrew Knapp said, “I had it as a strike. He (the umpire) said it was down.”

There was another play in the inning that might have preserved the Phillies’ lead. First baseman Carlos Santana recorded a putout for the second out and started to run to the dugout as if he thought it was the third out. It was not clear whether Santana would have had a shot at an inning-ending double play had he been thinking that way, but the play did stand out for the wrong reasons.

After the game, Santana acknowledged that he forgot how many outs there were.

“That can’t happen,” he said.

But he also said he would have had no chance at a double play, and Kapler agreed.

“It’s tough,” Kapler said. “The way I saw it, it was probably a one-out play. Obviously, losing track of the outs is something that can't happen. But he's one of our most locked-in and focused players most of the time. I think he's earned a pass on this one.”

There will be no passes for the Phillies in the second half. When they return Friday, they will be in the heat of a pennant race and every phase of their game will be tested.

Rest up, boys. This thing is only just getting started.

“We're still going into the break in first place,” Kapler said. “I think that's going to feel good to our club. Our club needs a break. This is going to be a good, solid break for us.”

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