Phillies

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

LAS VEGAS — The Phillies lost out on another starting pitching target Wednesday when J.A. Happ turned his focus on returning to the New York Yankees.

Happ, 36, was seeking a three-year contract and the Phillies were reluctant to do that.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies lost out on Patrick Corbin when he spurned their five-year offer for a six-year deal with Washington.

So what are the Phillies going to do to upgrade their starting pitching rotation?

Could they stand pat with the guys they have?

It's possible.

In that case, they would attempt to improve their "run prevention" by upgrading the bullpen.

According to sources, the Phillies remain very much in pursuit of accomplished left-handed relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller. Both pitchers are getting a lot of action from teams and the Phillies, according to sources, are right in the thick of the chase. Britton has been a longstanding target of the Phils, but two sources suggested on Wednesday night that the Phils were hot on Miller's trail, as well.

Stay tuned on that one.

The Phils would love to add a high-end lefty reliever because most of their back-end, high-leverage relievers (Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter) are right-handed.

Both Britton and Miller have closer experience. The Phils did not have a defined closer last season. Landing a Britton or a Miller could lead them to consider defining a closer.

"I think when you have a Mariano Rivera type on your team, you use him as a closer and that helps shape the rest of your bullpen," general manager Matt Klentak said. "I think if we have that guy, whether we develop that player or acquire that player from elsewhere, I think we would use a dedicated closer. We have a very deep and high-floor bullpen with a lot of players who have different strengths, complementary strengths. I think that lends itself to the type of bullpen management we implemented last year. I'm very open to having a closer but I'm not going to force that if the personnel doesn't dictate that."

Though he said it was not imperative that he add a starter, Klentak is going to keep trying to do that. He'd still like to get a lefty. Robbie Ray of Arizona remains a trade possibility.

"Our starting pitching was the strength of our team last year," Klentak said. "I know that it faltered at the end. I'm not trying to hide behind that. I know that they struggled late. But for most of the season, the starting rotation was the strength of the team. For us to make an acquisition, we have to be very confident that it is moving the needle and that it's a sound investment. I'm not certain where we'll wind up on that.

"There's always been some chance that it comes through a trade. But I'm hesitant to say it's likely. There's still a bunch of free-agent starters available. There's still several guys on the trade block. And I'm still pretty comfortable with the group we have."

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Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Three days after MLB’s 2020 schedule came out, the league released the 2021 schedule.

There’s so much uncertainty around baseball right now, with COVID-19 cases around the league, issues with testing, players opting out and many others wary of the virus. There will be no fans in the stands in 2020, but this look at the 2021 schedule provides some early excitement for if/when the coronavirus pandemic slows enough to allow fans back into stadiums.

The Phillies will open the 2021 season at home against the Braves on April 1. The first four series alternate between Braves and Mets, the first two at home and next two on the road.

The Phils’ earliest 2021 non-division road trip is to Colorado and St. Louis from April 23-29.

The month of May includes two long road trips — a nine-gamer through Atlanta, Washington and Toronto, and another nine-game trip to Miami, Tampa and Cincy the week of Memorial Day. The Phillies also have a home weekend series against the Red Sox.

The Phillies face a daunting slate in June, with 11 consecutive games against the Nationals, Braves, Yankees and Dodgers. That Dodgers series is the Phils’ first West Coast swing, with a series in San Francisco to follow.

The Phillies are home for July 4 (a Sunday) against the Padres and then close out the first half of 2021 on the road at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in back-to-back series. That is a bucket list trip for many baseball fans.

From July 22 through Aug. 15, the Phils play 17 of 24 games at home, before their final West Coast trip to Arizona and San Diego.

September/October 2021 is not as heavy a dose of division matchups as usual for the final month. Only 13 of the Phillies’ 30 regular-season games after Sept. 1 are against NL East teams. Their final week is a trip to Atlanta and Miami.

The Phillies’ interleague schedule is entirely against the AL East, so these two divisions will become quite familiar over the next 15 months. The Phillies play the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox on the road. They host the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Orioles.

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Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is taking Major League Baseball’s health protocols very seriously.

Heck, he wore a mask during a zoom video session with reporters after Wednesday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park.

Hoskins did not wear a mask during the game.

But he may opt to wear one when the regular season starts on July 24.

Or even sooner.

Hoskins is a first baseman and that position isn’t exactly the best place to employ social distancing. You have to hold runners on base, take pickoff throws from the pitcher and make sweep tags on runners diving back to the base. Occasionally, a first baseman and base runner get physically tangled. You know, the throw from the pitcher is off-line. The first baseman lunges to stop it from going down the right-field line. Next thing you know, the first baseman is sprawled on top of the base runner.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as good social-distance practice.

So Hoskins may don a mask in the field one of these days.

“I thought that any time I was on the field, I would not be wearing a mask, but maybe it’s something I keep in my back pocket in a Ziploc baggie or something,” Hoskins said. “When somebody gets on first, I throw it on."

“It might make some more sense if I am wearing a mask in the field.”

Sitting outside the Phillies’ clubhouse, Hoskins tugged on the mask he was wearing during his zoom interview. 

“I’m not super bothered by it,” he said. “These are pretty comfortable. Hot for sure but the expense of being hot is worth not catching this thing and potentially ruining a season. It’s definitely something I’ll have to give thought to and ask the trainers and see what they say and go from there. I’m not opposed to it.”

Hoskins knows full well what a beast coronavirus can be. He and teammate Scott Kingery are longtime best buds. Kingery spoke of his battle with coronavirus earlier this week.

First base is baseball’s water cooler and the men who play the position are generally gregarious by nature. Hoskins is no exception. He likes to chat with base runners and share a laugh during breaks in the action.

That practice might be going away. Just like spitting.

Will Hoskins chat with base runners?

“I don't know if I will,” he said. “At least if I am, it's definitely not looking at him. I'll probably just continue to look at the pitcher.  

“But yeah, that's something that happens, I think, on every baseball field. Runner on first, there's usually some sort of exchange and off we go, we're talking about whatever we're talking about. Again, just a little adjustment that we'll have to make."

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