Phillies

Phillies Phodder: The schedule toughens, Hoskins' anniversary, Hector's rebound, a prospect to watch

Phillies Phodder: The schedule toughens, Hoskins' anniversary, Hector's rebound, a prospect to watch

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies open a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday night and they really need to make some hay against the team with the worst record in the National League.

The Phillies enter Friday leading the Atlanta Braves by a game in the NL East and the Washington Nationals by 5½ games.

This race has been so close that it would not be a surprise to see it go down to the wire. The Phillies and Braves play each other seven times over the final two weeks of the season.

But the Nationals remain dangerous, talented and experienced and they have the potential to wreak havoc on the division race as they square off with the Phillies six times in the final two weeks of this month and three more times in September.

The Nationals are only one of the teams that will make the Phillies’ upcoming schedule so difficult.

The Phils play Boston, the best team in the majors, on Tuesday and Wednesday at home. The Phils split a two-game series in Boston last week, but it took exceptional pitching for that to happen because the Red Sox's pitching held the Phils to four runs in two games. The Phils will miss Chris Sale for the second time and that’s a good thing. The way things line up, the Phillies will be looking for Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez to stop the majors’ most high-powered offense.

On paper, the schedule looks to briefly soften up after the Sox leave town and the New York Mets come in for a five-game series that includes a Thursday doubleheader. But make no mistake, that won’t be an easy series for the Phillies. They are scheduled to see both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and those two can handcuff any opponent.

After the Mets, nine of the Phillies’ next 12 games will be against Washington and the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

So the Phillies are in for a big test as the schedule is about to get really tough.

Better get some wins in San Diego.

***

The Phillies began their current six-game road trip by losing two of three in Arizona.

Offense was a big problem for the Phils in Phoenix as they scored just seven runs in three games and were shut out on four hits on Wednesday. The Phils faced three formidable arms — Zack Godley, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin — in Arizona. They will not face that caliber of pitching in San Diego. In fact, the pitching matchups dramatically favor the Phillies, who need to come out of Petco Park with a series win.

The Padres will use three rookie starters in the series. They will send Jacob Nix to the mound Friday night for his big-league debut against Zach Eflin. Walker Lockett will make his third big-league start on Saturday night. He will face Aaron Nola. In his first 10 2/3 innings in the majors, Lockett has allowed 17 hits, eight walks and 11 runs. Rookie Joey Lucchesi goes against Jake Arrieta in the series finale Sunday. Lucchesi pitched well — 5 2/3 innings, two earned runs, zero walks, nine Ks — in beating the Cubs his last time out. Arrieta has been on a roll. He has allowed just 14 hits and three earned runs over 21 innings in his last three starts.

***

Eflin is really looking forward to Friday night’s start. He is coming off eight innings of three-run ball in a win over the Marlins. And he will be facing for the first time the team that drafted him in 2012 and traded him away in December 2014. In that trade, Eflin was funneled through the Dodgers and ended up with the Phillies in a Ruben Amaro Jr. deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to Los Angeles. Eflin was actually the first trade of a Phillies’ rebuild that is just now bearing fruit.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Eflin said of facing the Padres. “I’ve been wanting to throw against them for three years. It’s a competitive thing. You want to face the team that traded you away. I’m looking forward to it.”

***

A word on Hector Neris: He is gradually rebuilding his shattered confidence at Triple A. Since being sent to Triple A on July 3, he has pitched in 16 games and allowed just nine hits and three runs in 15 2/3 innings over that span. All the runs came in one outing. He has 26 strikeouts and nine walks.

Neris struggled mightily with the big club in late May and June and needed to go down to work on command of his splitter and get his confidence back.

Turns out he needed to work on something else: The club believes Neris was tipping his pitches through the positioning of his hands and that can spell disaster when a hitter can eliminate 50 percent of a two-pitch pitcher’s repertoire. Neris has addressed the flaw. In September, both he and Edubray Ramos will deepen a bullpen that has been stellar since July 1. 

***

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Rhys Hoskins’ major-league debut. In 155 games, he has hit .257 with a .371 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage. He has 35 doubles, 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

That’ll play, right?

***

The Phillies will have a decision to make on prospect Jose Pujols this fall. It is a much different one than they contemplated last fall.

Pujols hit just .194 with a .552 OPS and 150 strikeouts in 325 at-bats at High A Clearwater season. Pujols was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last winter, but the team didn’t even think about protecting him on the 40-man roster. Releasing him was more of a consideration.

The Phillies gave Pujols a $540,000 signing bonus in the summer of 2012. That kind of money buys a player a little more time and Pujols has capitalized. The 22-year-old rightfielder from the Dominican Republic has shown signs of maturing as a person and a hitter and put himself back on track with one of the best offensive seasons in the organization. He was leading the Florida State League in hitting (.301) and OPS (.887) and was third in homers (18) and RBIs (58) when he was promoted to Double A Reading last week. He took right to the new level with eight hits, including two homers (one was a grand slam), in his first 18 at-bats.

Pujols is 6-5, 205 pounds. He has a plus arm in right field and power to all fields. At his age, with his tools and the numbers he is putting up this season, it is difficult to imagine the Phillies not protecting him on the 40-man roster this winter and buying some more time to see just what they have. Right now, it looks pretty good.

More on the Phillies

Will Phillies be in the mix for Nate Eovaldi?

usa_nate_eovaldi_red_sox.jpg
USA Today Images

Will Phillies be in the mix for Nate Eovaldi?

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in MLB.

Monday was Bryce Harper, Tuesday was Michael Brantley and Wednesday was Manny MachadoThursday is dedicated to right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

Nathan Eovaldi has been a bit of a journeyman in his career.

He won’t be for much longer.
 
Eovaldi built a strong free-agent case in helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series last month. Over 22⅓ postseason innings as both a starter and reliever, he allowed just 15 hits and four earned runs (1.61 ERA) while striking out 16 and walking just three. His work in the World Series was epic as he answered the call out of the bullpen in an 18-inning Game 3 marathon against the Dodgers and picked up six innings. He took the loss when he allowed a solo homer in his seventh inning of work, but his performance inspired the Red Sox and they won the next two games for their fourth World Series title in 15 years.

Eovaldi, who will pitch at 29 next season, is a hard-throwing right-hander and we mean hard. His fastball regularly sits in the high-90s and it can reach triple-digits. Clearly, he is healthy after having Tommy John surgery twice on his right elbow.

The Red Sox acquired Eovaldi in a July trade from Tampa Bay. The Sox became his fifth team in seven years and he went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts, for that club.

Eovaldi appears to be on the threshold of a big breakthrough. He will have a brisk free-agent market as he seeks to put down some roots after bouncing around for a few seasons.

It is not clear whether the Phillies, who are in the market for starting pitching, will be among Eovaldi’s suitors. Oh, they like him, and certainly wouldn’t push him out of their rotation. But the Phillies are right-handed-heavy in their rotation and they would like to add a lefty either through a trade or free-agent signing. Lefties like Robbie Ray and James Paxton are trade possibilities while J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are free-agent possibilities.

“In a perfect world, we would like to have a more balanced rotation,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last week. “We’re not going to swap out a good righty for a less-good lefty. We’re not going to do that to have a lefty. But if we can make the rotation better and also add balance to our pitching staff, I think that’s something worth exploring.”

Eovaldi is a good one and surely the Phillies will perform their due diligence and have conversations with his representatives. But we see him landing with someone else as the Phillies focus on adding a lefty.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Nathan Eovaldi news

Why Phillies placed Justin Bour on waivers

ap_justin_bour_phillies.jpg
AP Images

Why Phillies placed Justin Bour on waivers

Looking to trim their 40-man roster ahead of next week’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft, the Phillies have placed slugging first baseman Justin Bour on waivers, according to a major-league source.

The move essentially means Bour will soon be moving on. He can be claimed by any other club or elect free agency if he clears waivers.
 
In need of power off the bench, the Phillies acquired Bour from Miami for minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills in August. With the Phils, he had 54 plate appearances and hit .224 with a homer and five RBIs. He was hampered during part of his stay with the club by a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list.
 
Bour has averaged 21 homers and 66 RBIs the last four seasons and could be attractive to clubs looking for a left-handed platoon bat at first base. The Phillies are not in need of that type of player as they are committed to using Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana at first base. If Santana were to be traded, Hoskins would play at first base full-time.
 
Bour would have been eligible for salary arbitration with the Phillies and will remain so if a team claims him on waivers. He projects to have an arbitration salary of over $5 million.
 
The Phillies’ 40-man roster is at 34. Several spots will be filled by young prospects on Tuesday, which is the deadline for shielding eligible players from being selected in December’s Rule 5 draft.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies