Phillies

Phillies add several notable names to minor-league coaching staff

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Phillies add several notable names to minor-league coaching staff

The Phillies are making life harder on Joe Maddon.

The Phils on Thursday announced some minor-league coaching hirings, including Gary Jones as the new manager of the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Jones was the Chicago Cubs' third base coach from 2014 to 2017. Prior to that, he had extensive experience as a minor-league coach. He managed minor-league clubs in the Athletics, Red Sox and Padres organizations and also spent seven years as a roving minor-league infield instructor for San Diego.

Jones is the third man the Phillies have plucked away from the Cubs this offseason. New hitting coach John Mallee served that role for Chicago from 2015-17, and new first base coach Jose Flores was the Cubs' minor-league field coordinator for five seasons.

At Lehigh Valley, Jones replaces Dusty Wathan, who was promoted to the Phillies' major-league staff as Gabe Kapler's third base coach.

Other notable hirings in the Phillies' minor-league system include former 1B Rico Brogna and infielder Wes Helms. Brogna will be a coach on Double A Reading's staff, while Helms will be on Jones' staff at Triple A.

Brogna was the Phillies' first baseman from 1997-2000. Helms spent one of his 13 big-league seasons with the Phillies, in 2007 as a platoon third baseman with Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nunez.

The Phillies also announced they're adding a second Gulf Coast League team, which will allow them more flexibility in finding playing time for their young prospects. It's a sign of improved young depth in the system, particularly in the area of international signings. The Yankees and Tigers also have two GCL teams.

"This is reflective of where we are as an organization," director of player development Joe Jordan said. "We need to make sure we have enough at-bats and innings for all the players so they can develop and be evaluated."

Jim Salisbury contributed to this report.

Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

A little less than two weeks into the season, injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic picture in the NL East.

Two teams have played 11 games. One team has played seven. One has played four and another has played three.

The only NL East teams who haven't missed any early-season games are the Braves (7-4) and Mets (4-7). The Braves are 2½ games ahead of the Phillies and one game ahead in the loss column. 

The Phillies are in a better early-season position than the Mets just because the Mets have already accrued seven losses. The only two teams in the majors with more are the Pirates and Royals.

Though, which team would you rather be: The team that already has seven losses or the team that has five additional games to make up? It's an advantage for the Mets and Braves that they have less hectic remaining schedules than the rest of the division. The Phillies have 56 games left to play in just 54 days. The Mets and Braves have 49 games left in those same 54 days. 

The Phillies' first series with the Braves is this weekend at home after they finish with the Yankees. Early as it is, that series carries major significance. The Phillies will play 40% of their games against the Braves in this one weekend wraparound series from Friday through Monday. Going 1-3 or 0-4 against the Braves would put the Phillies in a deep hole from which their jam-packed schedule might not allow them to dig out. 

As the Phillies and Marlins have sat, the other three teams in the division have dealt with injuries. The Braves on Monday night lost Mike Soroka, their No. 1 starter. Just hours before his 23rd birthday, Soroka tore his right Achilles and is done for 2020. He is one of their most important players. Soroka was an All-Star last season who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Pete Alonso and sixth in NL Cy Young voting. In 37 career starts, he's 15-6 with a 2.86 ERA. With Soroka out, the Braves have Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright and a to-be-determined fifth starter. Not exactly a starting staff you look at and expect to ride to a division crown.

The Mets scratched three infielders on Monday — Jeff McNeil with back tightness, Robinson Cano with a groin strain and Amed Rosario with a quad strain. Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the 2020 MLB season over the weekend.

The Nationals are still without Stephen Strasburg, who has yet to make his season debut. Strasburg was scratched from his first start because of a nerve impingement in his right wrist. He's back to throwing off a mound but is still unlikely to pitch for the Nats until at least the weekend. At minimum, Strasburg will end up missing two turns through the rotation, which in a 60-game season represents one-sixth of the starts.

Reliever Will Harris, whom the Nats signed away from the Astros after beating them in the 2019 World Series, is on the IL with a groin strain. Two other Nats, Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames, are dealing with back injuries.

Is it a coincidence to see these sorts of injuries early in the everyday grind of Major League Baseball after so much time off and an unconventional ramp-up period? No, probably not.

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More on the Phillies

Phillies Talk podcast: Any early solutions for Phils' pitching staff?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Any early solutions for Phils' pitching staff?

Are there any early-season solutions to the Phillies' already glaring bullpen issue? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discussed that and more on the Phillies Talk podcast.

• Close deficits turning into insurmountable ones for the Phils.

• Is there anyone at Lehigh Valley Phillies can turn to for bullpen help?

• Spencer Howard time? How will Phils set up their pitching this week with the doubleheader?

• NL East already shaken up drastically by injuries and schedule changes.

• What Rhys Hoskins needs to work his way through.

• Could we soon see lineup changes if Phillies don't hit with RISP?

• Yankees could be a real threat for J.T. Realmuto.

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube