Phillies

Players Phillies are most likely to call up on Sept. 1

Players Phillies are most likely to call up on Sept. 1

As depressing as this is to everyone who loves summer, Saturday is Sept. 1.

In the baseball world, that means expanded rosters.

Starting on Sept. 1, teams can activate everyone on their 40-man roster if they so choose. You typically do not see a team make use of all 40 spots because it crams the clubhouse and dugout and some of them aren't needed.

But the 2018 Phillies figure to use more extra men in September than the last few years because of two reasons: They are in contention, and Gabe Kapler loves to match up.

Here's a look at the players most likely to be called up to the majors on Sept. 1. Keep in mind that the Triple A IronPigs will be going after a championship this month, so you could see a few players left at Lehigh Valley until they're actually needed.

SP Jerad Eickhoff
Eickhoff has started five games in August in his attempt to come back from lat and hand injuries. He has a 1.83 ERA in those five starts, including six shutout innings for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Eickhoff figures to work as a long man for the Phillies in September because their rotation is full. He could still make a spot start if there's an injury, if Nick Pivetta struggles or a rainout forces the Phils to play a doubleheader.

C Andrew Knapp
Knapp is currently on the Phillies' 25-man roster, serving as a bench bat and third catcher with Wilson Ramos' lingering wrist and hamstring issues.

Knapp could be the odd man out by Tuesday afternoon if the Phillies are able to acquire Jose Bautista from the Mets (see story). But even if Knapp is sent out to make room for Bautista, he will definitely be back by the weekend. Every team in baseball calls up a third catcher for the month of September.

SS/3B J.P. Crawford
Crawford, who homered Monday night, last appeared in a game with the Phillies on June 19. He is the type of player who might benefit from some more regular playing time at Triple A before a mid-September call-up. 

But the Phillies could also bring him back as a patient bat off the bench. This has mostly been a lost season for Crawford because of a forearm strain and a broken hand that kept him out for nearly six weeks each.

INF/OF Pedro Florimon
Florimon had his rehab assignment transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. He's been out since May 30 because of a broken foot caused by a foul ball.

Florimon has played shortstop, third base, center field and right field for the Phillies this season. He's pitched too, of course.

The Phillies could utilize Florimon's defense on the left side of the infield late in games. He's a better defender at this point than Asdrubal Cabrera and is obviously more seasoned than Scott Kingery.

OFs Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens
Altherr hasn't done a lot of hitting since being demoted to Triple A on July 22. Entering Monday night, he had hit .245/.314/.340 in 30 games with the IronPigs.

But the Phillies could use his speed and defense late in games. He's still a better and more instinctive outfielder than everyone on the Phillies' 25-man roster other than Roman Quinn.

Cozens, theoretically, could provide left-handed power off the bench, but he hasn't hit much lately — .156 with 19 strikeouts in his last 54 plate appearances.

The Phillies could call up both Altherr and Cozens on Sept. 1 but it seems more likely they wait to bring Cozens back until a bit later in the month, when he's seeing the ball better.

LHP Austin Davis and RHP Edubray Ramos
Both are on the 10-day DL — Davis with a back injury and Ramos with a blister.

Davis started a rehab assignment at Triple A on Monday.

Both have spent plenty of time up with the big club this season and had their share of successes. Davis is not a conventional lefty specialist. Lefties have actually hit .293 against him compared to .213 for righties. 

The Phillies value Davis' endurance, though. Of his 22 appearances in the majors this season, seven were scoreless outings longer than an inning.

Ramos has a 2.00 ERA in 42 appearances and was arguably the Phillies' most consistent reliever in the first half.

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With so few options at back of rotation, where do Phillies turn?

With so few options at back of rotation, where do Phillies turn?

ATLANTA — A one-sentence summary of the Phillies' series finale Sunday against the Braves? Sean Rodriguez was by far their best pitcher.

The Phillies were blown out, 15-1, in a game when they used an opener for the second time this season (see observations). Gabe Kapler told Vince Velasquez late Saturday night that he would get the "start," and the plan was to ride Velasquez for 50 to 60 pitches before turning to lefty Cole Irvin.

Velasquez, Irvin, Jerad Eickhoff, none of them came close to getting the job done. All three allowed consistently hard, loud contact. The Braves had nine extra-base hits and three more deep fly balls crushed to the warning track.

"We knew we were gonna bring Cole, we knew we had length out of Jerad and thought we could get 50 to 60 pitches out of Vince," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We did all those things, we just didn't do it effectively."

It was ugly from start to finish, and it again highlighted the Phillies' need to go get a starting pitcher right now. Not on July 10, not on July 20, not on July 31 but now. You can't force another team to trade with you, but let's forget for a minute about the top end of the market, the tier of Matt Boyd, Mike Minor, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke. The Phillies just need another reliable arm that can give them six innings, get through a lineup three times. Maybe that arm comes from the minor-league system.

While it's true that most teams have a shaky fifth starter, most teams also have a few trustworthy arms ahead of them in the rotation. The Phillies do not right now. Aaron Nola has a 4.89 ERA. Jake Arrieta has a 4.31 ERA. Nick Pivetta is trending in the right direction, and Zach Eflin has been very good for much of the season, but this quartet has not collectively performed like a playoff rotation.

One thing looks abundantly clear, though: The Phillies cannot continue with the opener experiment with this personnel. Velasquez doesn't have the command, Irvin and Eickhoff don't have the stuff to keep the Phillies in the game against a lineup as potent as the Braves'.

What happens Friday when this rotation spot comes up again?

"We have a lot of work to do, a lot of discussions to have," Kapler said. "No question about it, we have to be better and we'll discuss it more on the flight to Washington, D.C., and get our ducks in a row.

"We haven't pitched our best recently. I think that we have a better level of play in us in totality and I have trust in our starting pitchers — Nick, Jake, Nola, obviously Eflin has been outstanding. We have a group of guys who have a track record of success and Nick has been sensational since he's back from the minor leagues. There's some confidence there."

The Phils clearly don't have a ton of confidence in Velasquez, Irvin or Eickhoff as starting pitchers or else one of them would have the No. 5 starter's job. Actions always speak louder than words.

Irvin's ERA is 6.84, Eickhoff has allowed 18 home runs in his last 28 innings, and Velasquez hasn't been able to take his team deep into games.

Who is next? Ranger Suarez? Enyel De Los Santos? Ramon Rosso? Adonis Medina? The decision won't be made for several days.

"I think we'll rebound from this with ease," Velasquez said. "I think it's just one of those games where these guys are hot and we've got to tip our caps off to them and keep moving forward. 

"They had a solid month, and we're right on their tails. I don't think it's one of those things where we should necessarily give up as a pitching staff or as an offensive team."

The Braves have been the hottest team in the NL, winning 24 of their last 34 games. And Velasquez does have a point — as well as Atlanta has played of late, as many injuries as the Phillies have, the deficit is only 2½ games. They can make that up in a series. 

But to do so, they need the starting staff to carry them for a bit. It hasn't been able to the way it was the first half of 2018. With so many key relievers injured, with Andrew McCutchen out for the season and Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto banged up, that is the unit that must step up. 

Can they do it? Can they keep the Phillies in the game against Patrick Corbin Monday, Max Scherzer Wednesday and Stephen Strasburg Thursday? If not, the gap between the Phillies and the Braves will only grow wider.

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Braves 15, Phillies 1: Braves demolish Phillies, who badly need another SP

Braves 15, Phillies 1: Braves demolish Phillies, who badly need another SP

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — The Phillies' need for another starting pitcher has not been more glaring than it was Sunday afternoon in a totally embarrassing 15-1 loss to the Braves.

With no fifth starter currently on the Phillies' roster, Gabe Kapler went with Vince Velasquez as an opener in Sunday's series finale and it did not work.

Velasquez hit Ronald Acuña Jr. on an 0-2 pitch to begin the game, before Dansby Swanson singled and Freddie Freeman hit a two-run double. In all, Velasquez allowed four runs in 2⅓ innings before giving way to Cole Irvin.

Irvin didn't fare any better, giving up a long two-run homer to the second batter he faced, Josh Donaldson, then giving up loud contact the next few frames. Irvin gave up six runs in 3⅔ innings as the Braves built an eight-run lead that only grew and grew.

Jerad Eickhoff, formerly the No. 5 starter, entered next and allowed two more home runs. Eickhoff has been taken deep an astonishing 18 times in his last 28 innings.

The Phillies didn't hit, didn't play good defense and definitely didn't pitch well.

They need to quickly figure out the back of this rotation. Granted, the next time the fifth spot in the rotation comes up is against the lowly Marlins Friday at Citizens Bank Park, but the league just isn't being fooled by Velasquez, Irvin or Eickhoff.

Other options would be Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez or a pitching prospect like Adonis Medina, who is on the 40-man roster and is on a nice little roll at Double A Reading, going 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA over his last five starts.

The Phillies are 39-32 and 2½ games behind the Braves in the NL East. The Braves are 24-10 in their last 34 games, six games better than the Phillies over that span.

The Phils have lost 10 of their last 16.

Down two starters

The Phillies were without starting catcher J.T. Realmuto and leftfielder Jay Bruce in this one. Realmuto exited Saturday's game after taking a foul ball to the groin and Bruce left with hamstring tightness. Both are day to day and will avoid the injured list. 

It's possible one or both are back in the lineup Monday, though it could be Tuesday.

This is what a deep lineup looks like

Back when the Phillies had Andrew McCutchen and there was still hope/optimism about Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, they had what looked like one of baseball's deepest lineups. That is no longer the case. On Sunday, the Phils' 5-through-8 hitters were Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams, Franco and Andrew Knapp. Not going to scare anyone.

The Braves just have a much better lineup. In order:

1) Acuña Jr. is a beast. 

2) Swanson has an OPS over .800.

3) Freeman is one of the two best hitters in the National League. 

4) Donaldson is a former MVP and a dangerous right-handed bat that is starting to get hot. 

5) Nick Markakis is a clutch left-handed hitter who rarely strikes out. 

6) Austin Riley will be in the Rookie of the Year conversation and might win it.

7) Ozzie Albies has blazing speed and at .281, has a higher batting average than every Phillies starter except Scott Kingery.

It helps that the Braves have had eight fewer injuries than the Phillies, none to their current starting lineup. But the gap in offenses right now is impossible to overlook.

Up next

The Phillies are in D.C. to play four games against the Nationals, who are 9-5 in June. The Phils will face all three of the Nationals' top starting pitching trio.

All four games are at 7:05 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Monday: Jake Arrieta (6-5, 4.31) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (5-5, 4.11)

Tuesday: Zach Eflin (6-6, 2.81) vs. Erick Fedde (1-1, 3.68)

Wednesday: Nick Pivetta (4-1, 5.00) vs. Max Scherzer (5-5, 2.81)

Thursday: Aaron Nola (6-1, 4.89) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-4, 3.75)

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