Phillies

Rookie relievers Seranthony Dominguez, Austin Davis burned in Phillies' 14-inning loss

Rookie relievers Seranthony Dominguez, Austin Davis burned in Phillies' 14-inning loss

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PHOENIX — The Phillies have lost just two games in the last eight days and, frankly, they should not have lost either of them.

Jake Arrieta pitched eight shutout innings against a rugged Arizona Diamondbacks team on Monday night and the Phillies were looking at a victory to kick off a six-game road trip when everything fell apart in the bottom of the ninth inning. Seranthony Dominguez blew a two-run lead and the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2, in 14 innings (see first take).

David Peralta, who began the onslaught against Dominguez with a one-out homer in the ninth, homered again with one out in the 14th to give Arizona the win. Peralta’s game-winner came against lefty Austin Davis.

Both Dominguez and Davis are rookies, getting baptized by fire in their first pennant race. They felt the uncomfortable burn in this one.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Phillies and it stung simply because a team looking to snap a six-year playoff drought can’t waste pitching efforts like the one Arrieta turned in.

Eight days earlier, in Boston, the Phils squandered an eight-inning gem by Aaron Nola in suffering a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox in 13 innings. That was a game the Phillies absolutely should have won. Centerfielder Odubel Herrera misplayed a ball that cost Nola the only run he allowed. Herrera also made a base-running gaffe in that game and did not play the next day.

Manager Gabe Kapler called that loss in Boston “a punch in the face.” He wasn’t as colorful in describing the latest loss, but it was clear that it was painful.

“Jake pitched tremendously well,” Kapler said. “He was very poised throughout the game. He had all of his pitches working and had a ton of confidence. He pitched great and we definitely strive to win baseball games like that for a starting pitcher that performs like Jake did.”

Arrieta has pitched 15 innings in his last two starts and allowed just one run.

“Losing a game just stinks, really,” Arrieta said. “But two first-place teams going at it and it’s no easy task to score a couple of runs off Seranthony and the guys that came in behind him, so credit them for sticking with it.

“Really nice job by both bullpens to get it to the 14th and we know at some point someone is going to score and they just happened to do it before we did.”

Dominguez began his big-league career with an incredible streak. He did not give up a run in 14 2/3 innings over his first 12 games. Since then, he has given up 11 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings over 24 games — an ERA of 3.86.

The 23-year-old power arm is still a huge weapon for the Phillies. But he is human. He allowed a home run and blew a save against Miami on Sunday. The Phillies came back to win that one. They could not win this one, though they are still 14 games over .500 and a game up on Atlanta in the NL East.

Kapler acknowledged that Dominguez was not at his best Monday night, “But we are not wavering in our confidence in him whatsoever. We cannot wait to get him back out on the mound because we understand how good he is and the talent will prevail.”

As for Dominguez’s confidence …

“I think naturally it’s going to be slightly shaken, but he’s a pretty resilient kid,” Kapler said. “He’s pretty strong mentally. He’s pretty tough across the board and I don’t expect this to keep him down.”

Dominguez hung an 0-1 slider to Peralta in the ninth. That homer made it a one-run game and raised the pressure in the inning. Dominguez then gave up a double and a game-tying base hit.

“The only thing that I can think of that went wrong is that I hung a slider,” Dominguez said. “It should have been lower. It should have been on the plate. But it stayed up. That could have been huge.

“I feel bad for Jake. He pitched a great game. What I really wanted the most was to get him that win and to help the team win.”

Dominguez might have to wait a day to get back on the mound. He has pitched two days in a row, so it’s likely that Kapler will try to stay away from him Tuesday night when the two teams go again. Nick Pivetta will pitch against Zack Greinke. Lost in the disappointment of Monday night's defeat was the Phillies' scoring just two runs. Getting hot against Greinke is never easy and that's another reason this loss was so painful for the Phils. 

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Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

The Phillies are about to sign a player with a resume chock-full of impressive — and important — accomplishments.

According to sources, Matt Szczur, the 30-year-old outfielder from South Jersey, has agreed to sign a minor-league contract with the Phils. The deal will include an invite to major-league spring training camp.

Szczur — pronounced SEE-zur — has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He is a product of Lower Cape May Regional High School and Villanova University. He was a two-sport star at Villanova.

On the football field, Szczur was a dynamic receiver and return specialist for Villanova’s 2009 NCAA FCS national championship team. He racked up 270 all-purpose yards in the title game win over Montana and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

On the baseball field, Szczur was an all-Big East player and a fifth-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2010. He played in 107 games for the Cubs team that won the World Series in 2016.

Szczur’s accomplishments extend beyond the playing field.

Off the field, he did something extraordinary when he took time off from his junior year baseball season at Villanova in 2010 to donate bone marrow that ultimately helped save the life of a young girl from Ukraine who had battled leukemia. Szczur’s life-saving gift started with his involvement in the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Talley was Szczur’s football coach at Villanova. Szczur has subsequently started his own charitable enterprise, the Szcz The Day Foundation.

Szczur hit .259 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 185 at-bats for the World Series champion Cubs in 2016. He was traded to San Diego in 2017. He spent parts of that season and the 2018 season in the majors with that club. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last season and hit .322 with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a .967 OPS in 44 games at Triple A Reno. His season was shortened by a quad injury.

The Phillies are set at the corner outfield spots with Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and Adam Haseley is going to get a chance to hold down the center field spot with Roman Quinn in the picture as well. Szczur will give the Phillies some outfield depth and his ability to play center field is a plus. He is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions and could push for a spot on the big club as active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 men in 2020.

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Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

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