Phillies

Phillies set to interview Nationals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon

Phillies set to interview Nationals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon

A candidate for the Phillies’ open hitting coach position has emerged.

According to baseball sources, the Phillies have received permission from the Washington Nationals to interview Joe Dillon for the job.

Dillon has served as the Nationals assistant hitting coach under Kevin Long for the last two seasons. Long had previously been New York Yankees hitting coach under Joe Girardi. Girardi was hired by the Phillies as manager last month and remains close to Long.

The Phillies’ hitting coach position has been in flux for the past few months. John Mallee, who came aboard with manager Gabe Kapler before the 2018 season, was fired in July and replaced by Charlie Manuel on an interim basis. Manuel is returning to his role as a club adviser and Mallee is now assistant hitting coach with the Los Angeles Angels.

A source said that Dillon would interview with the Phillies “soon.” Dillon had been busy throughout the month of October as the Nationals rolled through the postseason and won the World Series.

Dillon, 44, played in the majors with the Marlins, Brewers and Rays. He has gained recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.” Anyone of that distinction, coming off a World Series title, would seem to be in line for advancement in the game. Maybe it will come with the Phillies. Stay tuned.

In other coaching matters, Juan Castro will take over as the team’s infield coach. Castro is a former utility infielder with the Phillies and has worked in player development for the club. He will replace Bobby Dickerson, who moved on to become San Diego’s bench coach.

Dillon is the only publicly confirmed candidate for the hitting coach job. Once a hitting coach is hired, Girardi’s staff will be complete. Bryan Price was previously hired as pitching coach.

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Spencer Howard lines up to start for Phillies after Vince Velasquez used in relief

Spencer Howard lines up to start for Phillies after Vince Velasquez used in relief

The Phillies had been coy about naming a starting pitcher for Friday's series opener against the New York Mets, but one of Joe Girardi's bullpen decisions Thursday made it clear that the nod Friday will go to Spencer Howard.

Girardi turned to Vince Velasquez in relief in the sixth inning Thursday against the Orioles. Previously, Girardi had not said whether Velasquez or Howard would start against the Mets, noting that both would be prepared to pitch Friday and the Phillies could piggyback them.

But with Velasquez appearing in relief Thursday, he won't be starting Friday. Instead, Howard will get his second major-league start ... going up against Mets ace Jacob deGrom.

Howard lasted 4⅔ innings, allowed four runs and struck out four in his debut against the Braves this past Sunday. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. did the lion's share of the damage against Howard, going 5 for 6 with two home runs and a triple.

Howard did not feel that he had his best stuff in that first start. He did not miss a bat among the 41 fastballs he threw, but all three of his offspeed pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) impressed at times.

Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will follow Howard in the Mets series.

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What Alec Bohm's arrival means for struggling Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

What Alec Bohm's arrival means for struggling Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

Alec Bohm is here and he's going to play. 

The Phillies didn't call up Bohm, their top offensive prospect, to get him a few at-bats here and there. He'll be a regular in the lineup, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Thursday shortly after Bohm was added to the roster.

Bohm will mainly play third base, where he was Thursday in his debut against the Orioles. When Bohm is at third, it will shift Jean Segura to second base, where he played last season. Scott Kingery will again be a utility player. Kingery could see some time in center field with Adam Haseley (wrist sprain) placed on the 10-day IL Thursday. That was the corresponding move to make room for Bohm on the active roster.

"The plan is that he's going to play regularly," Klentak said. "That's been the case for a while now. If we're going to call up a player like Alec, we want him to play every day. With Adam Haseley going on the IL today, that opens up some regular reps for us. Obviously, it'll be up to Joe (Girardi) to write out the lineup every day. But I think what you're going to see today is pretty indicative of what the next week or so will be like. Alec will play quite a bit at third. Segura will move over and play some second. 

"Kingery now will help us in a variety of different spots, but notably, he may need to take down some reps in center field. ... We still view Scott as an everyday player. Whether that’s at second base or some other position, but right now given his offensive struggles, given Bohm coming up, and given the need for an extra capable defender in center field, I think this makes sense for the team right now.

"We want Alec to play regularly. We think he's that kind of player. It really highlights the importance of guys like Segura and Kingery being able to play multiple positions. You can have an injury to a left-handed hitting outfielder and call up a right-handed hitting infielder and the pieces can still work."

Bohm can also play first base. With the early-season struggles of Rhys Hoskins, Kingery and Segura, there are multiple lineup combinations which include Bohm that might be able to give the Phillies a boost.

Hoskins, Kingery and Segura have hit a combined .165 this season (20 for 121). Their lack of offense is the major reason Bohm is here now. The extra infield bat certainly puts some pressure on Hoskins and Kingery to perform. Teams don't have time to wait out prolonged slumps in a 60-game season. Friday will be the Phils' quarter-pole of the season.

Hoskins has hit .190 this season with one RBI. He has not homered in his last 109 plate appearances dating back to last season. The walks are nice and the source of his .404 on-base percentage but the Phillies need Hoskins to do more than walk. They need him to hit for power. And they need Kingery to catch up to fastballs. Against fastballs 93 mph or harder this season, Kingery is 0 for 9 and has swung-and-missed more than one-third of the time.

Hoskins and Kingery were both out of Thursday's lineup. Neil Walker started at first base with Segura at second.

"He's a hitter," Klentak said of Bohm. "We think he can help our lineup. Our lineup thus far — and I'm mindful of the fact that we're only 13 games in and even those 13 games have been somewhat disjointed — has had several players really off to fast starts from the very beginning and others that have struggled. Adding another quality bat into that mix can only help us. That's the way we're looking at it."

Bohm ends up debuting before ever playing a game at Triple A. Had there been a minor-league season, it's where he would have opened.

"This guy has done everything he can do in the batter's box at the minor-league level," Klentak said. "It's not his fault that there was no official Triple A season this year. But he's done everything he can. He's really worked very hard on his defense. That's come a long way for him in the last year and a half. On top of that, he's also added the versatility of being able to slide over to first base, which we won't see tonight, but we could see that at some point this year too. 

"As much as anything, we think he's earned it. Now that our roster allows for him to come up and play every day, we think it's a good opportunity for him."

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