Phillies

Phillies hire Sam Fuld, Ben Werthan to front office roles

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Phillies hire Sam Fuld, Ben Werthan to front office roles

The Phillies continued to retool the front office Friday with two hirings. 

Former major league outfielder Sam Fuld will join the team as major league player information coordinator, while Ben Werthan will serve in the same role in the minors.

Fuld, 35, played parts of eight seasons with four different teams, last appearing in the majors with the Oakland A's in 2015. In 599 career games, Fuld posted a .227 career batting average with a .307 on-base percentage. 

Werthan, 31, served as the Orioles' advance scouting coordinator for the past six years, leading the team's advance scouting process. He previously held internships with the Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds.

Both new hires will "help integrate the use of information in all areas of on-field performance and make recommendations regarding the most effective areas of future research analysis," the Phillies announced in a press release. 

The moves continue the Phillies' trend towards analytics, something that general manager Matt Klentak has expanded upon since his arrival in 2015. New manager Gabe Kapler is also deeply rooted in analytics as the Phillies move to a new-school thought process. 

"He has a unique ability to connect with people and I think that bodes very well for our young roster," Klentak said of Kapler during his introductory press conference Thursday. He's a progressive thinker. Look at the teams (Indians, Cubs, Dodgers, Astros) that competed in the last two World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. That's where the Phillies need to head and Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future."

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. —  The saga involving Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is now 3 ½ months old.

At Phillies camp, it is becoming a little annoying, a little amusing, a little exhausting.

The players are tired of being asked about it.

Team officials simply shrug.

No one knows when it will end.

General manager Matt Klentak says he is comfortable that the team has put its best foot forward in the pitches it has made to both players.

“It takes two to tango,” he has said.

“We’re just half the equation,” club president Andy MacPhail has said.

The Phillies entertained Machado at Citizens Bank Park several days before Christmas. Team officials visited with Harper in Las Vegas in January.

The club went into the offseason favoring Machado because he would make a difference not only in the batting order, but also at third base, where he is an elite defender. That’s not to say the Phillies don’t like what Harper’s left-handed bat and box-office appeal would bring. After all these months of waiting, and with spring training underway, it’s now a jump ball between Machado and Harper: Whoever wants the Phillies’ money — come get it.

But when will it happen?

When will the Phillies' love be requited?

All sorts of rumors and could-be’s and should-be’s and might-be’s have floated around all weekend. Internet sleuths monitored private jets headed from Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas to the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport.

Meanwhile, amid the ridiculousness, Phillies camp goes on. The first full-squad workout is Monday. 

There are lockers available.

Machado’s No. 13 is available.

Harper’s No. 34 is available.

Rhys Hoskins still thinks one of them is coming. But even he — one of the most good-natured guys around — is sick of being asked about it.

How 'bout you, Gabe Kapler?

“I know that the conversations (between the Phillies and both free agents) are happening, but I don’t ride the waves up and down,” the manager said. “I’d be thrilled if we had either of those guys in our camp. The roster right now is a much improved one and our guys are focused on that right now.”

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Jerad Eickhoff takes a healthy step in front of a supportive crowd

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Jerad Eickhoff takes a healthy step in front of a supportive crowd

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It says something about the way he is regarded that when Jerad Eickhoff threw off a bullpen mound for the first time this spring on Sunday morning, many of his mates from the Phillies pitching staff were there to watch and support him.

Eickhoff, a hard-working and earnest Midwesterner, was the Phillies’ best starting pitcher in 2016. He spent the last two seasons, however, trying to get to the bottom of an issue that caused discomfort in the fingers on his pitching hand.

He had surgery to address carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve compression in the fall and, after a brief setback in January, is back on track.

Sunday’s 20-pitch bullpen session meant a lot to the 28-year-old right-hander.

“I kind of had to collect myself, you know, take a deep breath, before I threw,” he said. “I tried to relax. To have (Zach) Eflin and (Nick) Pivetta and a couple of other guys there with me watching. They’ve been super-supportive. Everyone.”

Eickhoff mentioned pitching coach Chris Young and manager Gabe Kapler. They were both there for every pitch.

“Everyone has been so great to me and supportive through this whole process,” Eickhoff said. “That means the most to me. It was just 20 pitches, but for me it means a lot more than that.”

Eickhoff got through the session smoothly, with no issues. He even snapped off a couple overhand curveballs, one of his best pitches. He used that pitch to strike out eight batters in 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 28 in his only big-league start last season. 

“I’m really trying to focus on each day and each task and today was great,” he said.

On paper, the Phillies’ starting rotation is probably set with Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Pivetta, Eflin and Vince Velasquez.

However, things can change significantly in the six weeks that remain before opening day. Pitching is fragile and injuries can occur. (Look no further than Eickhoff last spring.) Trades can be made. The front office has monitored the market for free agent Dallas Keuchel all winter and might be poised to strike if a short-term deal presents itself.

Kapler said it was too early to consider whether Eickhoff would be in the hunt for a spot in the season-opening rotation.

“Even to address it is getting ahead of ourselves,” he said. “Out of respect for Jerad, just the fact that he got through the bullpen session feeling good with a big smile on his face is enough for now.”

Eickhoff agreed with that sentiment.

“For me, first and foremost, is being healthy and getting to the point where I’m throwing live BPs and I’m able to get in games and I’m completely symptom-free and it’s behind me and the trust is there and all of that,” he said. “Once that gets behind me and gets into play, I think it’ll shift to ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what I need to do,’ and I think the chips will fall where they will.”

Eickhoff does have a minor-league option if the Phillies want him to build up some healthy innings early in the season. But if he pitches like he did in 2016 – he led the staff with 197 1/3 innings and a 3.65 ERA – he will be in a factor in Philadelphia before long.

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