As potential trade fit Andrew Cashner heads to Boston, Phillies need Jake Arrieta to conquer elbow problem

As potential trade fit Andrew Cashner heads to Boston, Phillies need Jake Arrieta to conquer elbow problem

All eyes will be on Jake Arrieta as the Phillies close out a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

Arrieta will be making his first start since revealing that he has been hampered recently by a bone spur in his right elbow. An X-ray on Friday confirmed the presence of the spur.

Arrieta intends on pitching through the issue and having it addressed surgically in the offseason.

Of course, that’s incumbent on his being able to tolerate the discomfort and pitch effectively.

“It’s not something that I can’t get through,” Arrieta said of the discomfort. “There are days that are better than others.

“The biggest thing is the effectiveness. If I’m out there and I’m costing the team a game, we’re going to address that.

“I think it’s something that I can manage, that I can work with and try to get through the rest of the season. The last thing I want to do is shut it down now and have the surgery now and miss the remainder of the season. We’re still trying to do some special things this year. I think I still have a lot to offer the team and can still help us win.”

Arrieta has some history with bone spurs in the elbow. He had one in 2011. It was removed surgically after the season.

It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to pitch with a bone spur. The problem can restrict the extension a pitcher gets upon release of the ball. That last little bit of extension, or “finish,” helps a pitcher locate his pitches with precision. It also helps with late movement. Arrieta has lacked both over the last few weeks; he has recorded a 6.63 ERA in his last seven starts. He had poor location in his last start last Saturday night at Citi Field and hit three New York Mets hitters.

Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto believes Arrieta can pitch through the elbow issue.

“For me, he has been effective,” Realmuto said. “He’s shown spurts of being effective. I can tell when he gets to the 80-90 pitch mark, he really starts to feel it and he loses some control. He’s had multiple starts where he’s gone five, six innings, one run and then kind of imploded the last inning because he loses feel for the baseball a little bit.

“I’ve known his elbow has been hurting a little longer than most so it’s tough to see. He’s been effective but he can’t quite finish the way he should be able to. In his last start you could tell he had no feel for the baseball at all so I’m not sure it’s getting any better.”

The Phillies have serious issues in their starting rotation and they have shown their ugly head throughout the team’s six-week slide from first place to third place in the National League East. It goes without saying that the Phils need Arrieta to pitch better than he has recently. The team is also looking for starting pitching help. The Phils aren’t inclined to dig into a thin group of prospects to make a deal (see story), but would be willing to add a marginal upgrade at the right cost or a more noteworthy starter who might cost less in prospects because he carries a high salary. Arizona's Zack Greinke would fit that description. 

One potential upgrade went off the board Saturday when the Orioles dealt veteran right-hander Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox. The Phillies had expressed an interest in Cashner.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. The players union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season's salary with no fans in stands. From their side, this has less to do with 2020 profits than it does future finances.

Will they reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for some/many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start that soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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