Phillies have work cut out vs. MLB’s most underrated ace

Phillies have work cut out vs. MLB’s most underrated ace

Last night was a cap-tipping game based on how excellent Kyle Freeland was, using his cutter to jam or freeze Phillies right-handed hitters on the inside corner and to front-door their left-handed hitters. 

Tonight, the Phillies face an even tougher opponent, a pitcher who may be the most underrated ace going right now. 

When: 8:40 p.m. — Pregame Live at 8

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia and streaming live on the MyTeams app and

Pitching matchup: Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.25) vs. German Marquez (2-1, 2.00) 

Soon to be a household name

Marquez has been one of the five best pitchers in baseball since last August. In his last dozen starts of 2018, Marquez had a 2.24 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 80 innings. That included seven shutout innings with 11 K’s against the Phillies last September at Coors Field. 

This season? More of the same. Marquez is coming off of a one-hit shutout of the Giants Sunday. 

Marquez’s fastball averages 96 mph but his slider and curveball are even more dangerous. Since last August, his opponents are 6 for 100 against his curveball (seriously) and 19 for 115 against his slider. That’s a combined .116 batting average. 

Both are swing-and-miss pitches that hitters have trouble lifting. 

This is why Marquez was recently paid. He signed a five-year, $43M extension the first week of April. 

Cold 3-4

The Phillies are 3-3 since Saturday but in those six games, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins are 6 for 45 (.133) with one combined RBI. Neither has had the right timing down at the plate. 

J.T. Realmuto is hot, hitting .351 with 11 RBI in his last nine games, but the Phillies are still yet to have their 3-4-5 hitters clicking at the same time. 

Velasquez’s turn

Velasquez pitched well in his first two starts against the Nationals and Marlins but tonight is a different sort of test. 

In three career starts at Coors Field, Velasquez has a 6.14 ERA with 19 hits allowed and 10 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He’s nibbled when pitching in Colorado because of the harm that can be done when you miss over the plate there. Nibbling is when Velasquez is most frustrating and least effective. He has the arsenal to overpower the Rockies’ lineup once or twice through the order, but the leash probably won’t be long unless he’s dealing. 

Zach Eflin last night did what a pitcher needs to do at Coors Field: keep the ball low. He induced a season-high 11 groundballs and was victimized only on pitches at the belt or above. The four times the Rockies made contact in that location, they had three hits off Eflin, including the Ryan McMahon three-run homer.

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II


Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

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