Phillies

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

BRADENTON, Fla. — Less than a week before opening day, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the Phillies.

About the only thing known for sure is that Aaron Nola will start Thursday in Atlanta. The right-hander made his final spring tune-up Friday afternoon against the Pirates.

Some of the questions that need to be answered before the Phillies pack up and leave Florida on Tuesday include:

• When will Jake Arrieta join the rotation? Will it be April 2, 3 or 4 in New York? Will it be during the team’s first homestand, possibly April 7? Arrieta threw 31 pitches in his first spring start Thursday. A bullpen session over the weekend and his next start, likely 50 or so pitches on Tuesday, will offer team officials a better idea on when he’ll be ready.

• Who else will be in the rotation? Nothing has been announced, but Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta appear to be locks with Nola and eventually Arrieta. Zach Eflin could be the fifth starter, if the Phils use one the first time through the rotation. He could also piggyback with Arrieta in New York if the Phils wanted to get Arrieta going that early. Ben Lively and Drew Hutchison remain candidates to make the club as the fifth starter, should the Phils use one during the first 10 days of the season.

• Who's in the bullpen? Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Adam Morgan are locks. That likely leaves three openings. One spot will likely go to a lefty, Hoby Milner or Zac Curtis. Right-handers Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano seem to be vying for one spot and the final one could go to Lively or Hutchison. They are both stretched out and could provide the bullpen length that injured Mark Leiter Jr. would have.

• How about bullpen roles? Manager Gabe Kapler is not one to speak in absolutes. He is loath to define roles in his bullpen or batting order. He’s keeping options open and could assign roles on a nightly basis based on matchups and research that the team’s growing analytics department digs up. Neris went 20 for 20 in save chances while giving up just three runs in 19⅔ innings after June 27 last season. Logic would dictate that he'd be the closer. But will he be every night? Will Kapler use him in a matchup situation in the seventh inning some night? Time will tell. Same for batting order construction.

• Who will be on the bench? Infielder/outfielder Pedro Florimon has played well and looks like a lock. That leaves one or two openings, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. Veterans Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales were both granted their release. That leaves Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn, both 40-man roster guys, as the two lead candidates. There might be room for both, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. It also would not be shocking to see the team send Quinn to Triple A to get more playing time. The Phils appear to be leaning toward carrying Andrew Knapp as their second catcher over Cameron Rupp, who has a minor-league option remaining.

Former Phillie Lenny Dykstra arrested again

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AP Images

Former Phillie Lenny Dykstra arrested again

Former Phillies and Mets star Lenny Dykstra has reportedly been arrested in Linden, New Jersey, for threatening an Uber driver. 

The report from NJ.com says the Uber driver claims Dykstra pulled a gun and threatened him when Dykstra wanted to change his destination. 

Dykstra, 55, has been charged with making terroristic threats to go along with drug charges. He has reportedly been released and has a court date in Union County next month. 

Police didn’t find a weapon, but police allege Dykstra was in possession of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy when he was taken into custody at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

The report says the driver alerted the police by honking his horn near police headquarters and then ran from his car. 

Dykstra has a different version of events. 

"The guy went nuclear on me," Dykstra said the New York Daily News. "He f------ kidnapped me and almost killed me going 100 mph. He locked me in his f------ car, and he wouldn't let me out."

Since his playing days, Dykstra has found his fair share of legal trouble. Several years ago, he served six and a half months of a three-year sentence for grand theft auto and filing false claims. 

Dykstra began his career with the Mets but was traded to Philadelphia in 1989 and spent seven full seasons with the Phillies, being named an All-Star three times. He was on that magical team that made it to the World Series in 1993. 

Phillies throw away chance to move into 1st place in NL East

Phillies throw away chance to move into 1st place in NL East

BOX SCORE

If this Phillies team proves to be for real, there will be other chances to move into first place in the National League East. For now, the Phils need to improve some things, most notably their defense.

The Phils have made nine errors in the last five games. They made two of them in the fifth inning Tuesday night and they proved lethal in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves that denied the Phils entry into first place in the division (see first take).

“We had some plays that we could have made, there’s no doubt about it,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s something that we’re going to stay focused on and work really hard to improve.”

Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez had good enough stuff to strike out nine Braves — including the side with the bases loaded in the fourth — over 4 1/3 innings, but his pitch count was high and he paid the price for a leadoff walk (one of three he issued in the game) in the fifth inning when the Braves parlayed errors by rightfielder Nick Williams and first baseman Carlos Santana into the tie-breaking run.

Santana had a chance to cut down Ozzie Albies at the plate, but his throw sailed over catcher Jorge Alfaro’s head. Later in the game, Alfaro was charged with a passed ball that set up the Braves’ third run. Two of the Braves’ runs were unearned.

Less than two weeks ago, Kapler praised Santana for playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Lately, however, Santana's defense has slipped badly. He has made errors in four straight games. Three of them have been throwing errors. All have cost the Phillies runs.

“The last four games, I’m throwing bad,” Santana said. “But that happens. I have to keep working hard. I’m not putting pressure on myself. The results are not good but I feel strong mentally. Tomorrow is a new day.”

While Santana has struggled defensively, Rhys Hoskins has struggled offensively. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .237. He is 10 for 67 (.149) with 27 strikeouts in May.

“It’s just one of those stretches,” Hoskins said. He cited some mechanical flaws that have hurt his timing. “It’s baseball. It’s frustrating, but I think it’s one of those things where if I stick with the process and preparation and drills that make me comfortable in the box, I think it eventually flips the other way.”

The Phils entered the game a half game behind the first-place Braves. Before the game, Kapler said moving into first place for the first time since 2011 “would mean a lot” as a confidence and momentum booster. The loss meant the Phils cannot overtake the Braves in Wednesday’s series finale. But the Phils can still win the series and that would be a positive. In fact, that should always be the goal and the Phils have not been able to do that in three previous series against Atlanta this season.

Jake Arrieta gets the ball Wednesday night.

The Phils will try not to throw it away.