Phillies

Phillies bear down on 1st place behind Nick Pivetta's 11 Ks

Phillies bear down on 1st place behind Nick Pivetta's 11 Ks

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BALTIMORE — The Phillies are a quarter of the way into their season and eight games over .500 for the first time since the last time they made the postseason. That would be 2011 when Jimmy, Chase, Ryan and Cole still roamed Citizens Bank Park.

It’s way too early to anoint this team a firm contender, but not to soon to say things are moving in the right direction.

Big time.

“Look at the talent we have,” Nick Williams said after Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards (see first take). “We have young guys that want to make an impact, not just for themselves but for the team. We love winning. Some of the guys in here were part of the team last year and it can be tough. We have this youth movement and we’re all loving it.”

Williams, 24, had an important two-out hit as the Phillies rallied for three runs, two with two outs, in the sixth inning to make a winner out of 25-year-old starter Nick Pivetta.

“That was the best I’ve seen him look,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Pivetta, who survived a first-inning homer en route to 11 strikeouts over seven innings of two-hit, one-walk ball.

Pivetta racked up 23 swinging strikes, 10 on a riding, power fastball up in the zone.

“He attacked the top of the zone with his fastball and the bottom of the zone with his breaking balls,” Kapler said. “The fastball up today was everything we had envisioned and imagined it could be and would be. He just had an amazing amount of confidence on the mound, delivering that pitch up in the zone.”

“He has the ability to go out and do that every time,” catcher Andrew Knapp offered. “He's become very consistent with all four of his pitches. The spin rate on the fastball, you just can't catch up to it at the top of the zone, so when he can do that and throw off-speed off of it, it's a really lethal combination.”

Starting pitching has been a strength most of the season. Lately it has gone to a new level with Pivetta, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta all shining. Of that group, only Arrieta is over 25.

Over the last nine games, the starters have given up just eight earned runs in 56 innings for a 1.29 ERA.

“We kind of feed off each other,” Pivetta said. “It’s fun. It’s fun baseball.”

Pivetta kept the Phillies in the game long enough until Cesar Hernandez could ignite a three-run rally with a leadoff homer against Andrew Cashner in the sixth. A two-out walk by Carlos Santana and a big hit by Williams after being down 0-2 set the table for two-out RBIs by Maikel Franco and Pedro Florimon (see highlights).

Luis Garcia got two huge outs to bail out Tommy Hunter in the eighth and Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris got the final three outs in the ninth (see story).

And so the Phillies head to St. Louis for four games. They are 24-16 and just an Atlanta loss on Wednesday night away from owning a share of first place in the NL East. The starting pitching has been stellar. The bullpen has more often than not been strong. The hitting has been timely. It sure was Wednesday. It’s going to take more of the above to say the Phils are really contenders, but a quarter of the way into the season — and after 96 losses last year — things are most definitely moving in the right direction.

A peek at Phillies' potential roster as two players head to injured list

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USA Today Images

A peek at Phillies' potential roster as two players head to injured list

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies on Tuesday offered a couple of clues as to what their opening day roster will look like when they confirmed that outfielder Roman Quinn and reliever Tommy Hunter would begin the season on the 10-day injured list.

Quinn suffered an oblique strain early in camp and only began swinging a bat in recent days.

Hunter is recovering from a mild flexor strain in his right arm.

The Phillies will open their season a week from Thursday against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Things are always subject to change, of course, but here’s what we know about the roster nine days before the season opener:

Starting pitchers

Aaron Nola will get the ball on opening day. Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez will round out the five-man rotation to start the season. However, it’s possible that someone like Velasquez could initially be used out of the bullpen because off days would allow the Phils to go with four starters for the first week-plus.

Relievers

Manager Gabe Kapler and the front office like to go with eight relievers. They will likely include: Right-handers David Robertson, Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio and lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez. With Hunter going on the IL, Victor Arano or Edubray Ramos could get the eighth spot. And, as mentioned, Velasquez could temporarily be the ninth reliever.

Catchers

J.T. Realmuto is the starter and Andrew Knapp is on his way to becoming the backup. Knapp is having a strong spring and he’s also on the 40-man roster, which gives him the upper hand over non-roster players Drew Butera and Rob Brantly.

Infielders

Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Jean Segura are set. Scott Kingery may end up being the lone backup infielder. If the Phils wanted to add a second reserve infielder, they could peel back on a reliever and carry Mitch Walding, who is on the 40-man roster, or clear room on the 40-man roster for Andrew Romine, Sean Rodriguez or Phil Gosselin.

Outfielders

Did you hear that Bryce Harper is a Phillie? He and Andrew McCutchen, both former NL MVPs, will be in right and left field, respectively, and Odubel Herrera should be ready to open in center field after being slowed by illness early in camp. 

With Quinn going on the IL, the Phils can carry both Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams on the bench. Quinn’s IL stint can be backdated to March 25, making an April 5 return possible. At that point, the Phils would have to make a decision because both Quinn and Altherr are out of minor-league options.



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More on the Phillies

At The Yard Podcast: Mike Trout staying in LA; predicting opening day roster; Carlos Santana story

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At The Yard Podcast: Mike Trout staying in LA; predicting opening day roster; Carlos Santana story

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury react to Mike Trout's record contract which will keep him with the Angels through 2030.

The guys take a look at some of the Phillies' positional battles and how the opening day roster might look.

Also, what to make of the Carlos Santana story.

1:00 — The fantasy of Mike Trout being a Phillie is over.
4:30 — Trout's new contract shows why signing Bryce Harper was so important.
7:00 — Position player battles.
14:30 — What to make of the Carlos Santana story.
18:30 — Santana story reflects poorly on Gabe Kapler's leadership.
23:00 — Important year for Vince Velasquez.
26:00 — What would be your first purchase with $430 million?

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