Phillies

Projecting Phillies' opening day pitching staff

Projecting Phillies' opening day pitching staff

A lot could happen between now and opening day — injuries, an unexpected move by the Phillies, an epic hot streak that helps a player make the team — but we can begin identifying who will probably be on the Phils’ 25-man roster come March 28. 

Today, we’ll focus on the pitching staff. Sunday morning, we’ll look at the position players. 

First things first: The Phillies are off three times within the first eight days of the season. Baseball does this every year to build in makeup dates in case of early-season postponements. 

This means that if the Phils use Aaron Nola on regular rest, Nola could start two of the Phillies’ first four games of the season and three of their first eight. 

The Phillies, barring postponements, really don’t even need to use a fifth starter until mid-April. It will be interesting to see whether they use the schedule to carry an extra reliever at the expense of a fifth starter during the first two weeks of the season. That could mean, for example, utilizing Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen early on. There would be positives and negatives to that — the Phils would get a look at Velasquez as a reliever, but it would also mess with his routine. The latter consideration probably outweighs the former. 

Let’s project this thing:

Pitchers (13)

RHP Aaron Nola
RHP Jake Arrieta
RHP Nick Pivetta
RHP Zach Eflin
RHP Vince Velasquez

You’ll notice that Jerad Eickhoff was omitted from this projected group. Eickhoff is working his way back from a stamina perspective. He faced Bryce Harper earlier this week in a simulated game. Harper struck out against him, walked and took him deep once. 

Even if Eickhoff finds himself in position to start a game in spring training, it’s unlikely he will have worked his pitch count up to the range that he could contribute to the Phils’ rotation in early April. Eickhoff has a minor-league option left and could start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he’d be able to start every fifth and develop arm strength. 

Pivetta, Eflin and Velasquez all have an option left as well, for what it’s worth. 

RHP Seranthony Dominguez
RHP David Robertson
RHP Pat Neshek
RHP Hector Neris
LHP Jose Alvarez
LHP Adam Morgan or James Pazos
RHP Victor Arano
RHP Juan Nicasio

Know what the 2019 Phillies should do less frequently? Use Dominguez for more than three outs. The Phils did not have Robertson last year, and Hector Neris didn’t hit his stride until late in the season. Thus, they were forced to use Dominguez more than they probably should have. Of his 53 appearances, 16 lasted more than an inning. His effectiveness declined as the season wore on. 

Alvarez and Morgan are out of options. Pazos has one left. You’d think this gives Alvarez and Morgan the advantage of making the opening day roster as the Phillies would risk losing them if not. 

Nicasio is making $9 million this season so he will probably at least get an early-season look from the Phillies to see if he can recapture his effectiveness from 2017, when he had a 2.61 ERA in a National League-leading 76 appearances. 

If this is the opening day bullpen, one of the notable odd men out would be Edubray Ramos, who had a 2.32 ERA in 52 appearances with the Phils in 2018. Ramos has options left. 

This list also excludes Tommy Hunter, who was shut down for at least two weeks with an elbow strain in the final days of February. His opening day status is up in the air. 

Position players on Sunday.

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Another sign that Joe Girardi will be hired to manage somewhere soon

Another sign that Joe Girardi will be hired to manage somewhere soon

In another sign that he's likely to return to managing in the majors in 2020, Joe Girardi stepped down as the manager of USA Baseball, the organization announced Wednesday.

Girardi, who is believed to have met with Phillies officials Monday, is a strong candidate for multiple open manager jobs. The Phillies are interested, and the Cubs and Mets appear to be hot after him as well.

Girardi is the overwhelming fan choice to manage the Phillies. It's hard not to see the appeal of his combination of experience, blend of new school and old school and track record of winning. Phillies fans seem to prefer Girardi to Buck Showalter, whose teams haven't advanced as far in the postseason.

Girardi has played things differently this year than last. He had two interviews for the Reds job last fall but pulled himself out of the process, saying it wasn't the right time.

Now, he wants to manage. And the openings this time around are more appealing — three major market clubs in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. The Mets do not spend to their market size but the Phillies and Cubs have done so in win-now periods.

It is much more likely that the Phillies would be forced into a bidding war for Girardi than for Showalter because of the number of interested teams.



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Joe Maddon hired by Angels, officially off the board for Phillies manager opening

Joe Maddon hired by Angels, officially off the board for Phillies manager opening

The first of the eight manager jobs open across Major League Baseball to begin this offseason has been filled.

The Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday announced the hiring of Joe Maddon. Maddon's contract is reportedly for three years. A native of West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Maddon has a long history in the Angels organization. Between 1975 and 2006, Maddon played and managed in the team's minor-league system, served as a coach with the Major League club and assumed the role of interim manager.

Maddon has a 1,251-1,068 record as a manager in the major leagues. He led the Tampa Bay Rays to an American League pennant in 2008 and skippered the Chicago Cubs to a World Series in 2016, their first championship since 1908. Maddon will take over an Angels team that finished 72-90 in 2019, led by two-time MVP Mike Trout.

Though Maddon might have appeared to be an attractive name for the Phillies job, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the only candidates known for the position at the moment, according to Jim Salisbury. Baker is meeting with Phillies officials Wednesday, and a hire could come quickly, per Salisbury (see story).

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports Showalter was the runner-up for the Angles job.



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