Rule change might affect Phillies' ability to trade, but other rule could help

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Rule change might affect Phillies' ability to trade, but other rule could help

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies could be buyers at the trade deadline this summer in a more impactful way than they were last year, when they added Wilson Ramos, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista, Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Avilan.

The difference this summer is that, according to The Athletic, teams won't be able to trade in August as they have for decades.

The change to one hard trade deadline of July 31 will go into effect this season, per Ken Rosenthal.

In past seasons, teams could still wheel and deal in the month of August using the waiver process. A team would place a player on trade waivers and if he passed through unclaimed, his team was free to trade him anywhere. If the player was claimed, his team had a window to swing a deal with the claiming team.

No more, it appears.

The Phillies have made trades in August frequently over the last two decades. Jamie Moyer was an August acquisition in 2006. So were Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre in 2008. They acquired Mike Sweeney in August 2010. They traded away Chase Utley in August 2015 and Carlos Ruiz in August 2016.

Last year, the Phillies acquired Bour, Bautista and Avilan in August in an effort to fill a few holes and try to stay in the race.

There have been some high-profile trades around the league in August. Justin Verlander was dealt from the Tigers to the Astros in August 2017 and helped swing that year's World Series. 

Last August, Andrew McCutchen, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Madson, David Freese, Curtis Granderson, Mike Fiers and Josh Donaldson were traded — players ranging from useful to good.

The new rule is designed to keep more teams competitive over the season's final two months rather than dumping the salaries of solid veterans. You can see the logic in it, though it could make things difficult for a team that suffers a bad injury on, say, Aug. 3 and no longer has the recourse to fill that hole externally.

More on the four-man outfield

There is no rule currently on the table to prevent teams from shifting their defenses any way they want, but it would not be surprising if a rule is instituted within the next two years.

We could see an increase or even an explosion of four-man outfields this season. The Blue Jays experimented with it this past weekend against Bryce Harper. It was the first time he ever faced that alignment and he hopes to not see it again.

Interestingly, though, Rhys Hoskins may be an even more logical candidate than Harper for the four-outfielder treatment. 

According to Sports Info Solutions, Hoskins had the sixth-lowest rate in all of baseball last season of hitting a ground ball or short line drive to the non-pull side. Hoskins was also in the top 10 in batted balls of at least 250 feet in the air. 

Both of those metrics make Hoskins one of the prototypical players to use this defensive alignment against. The biggest candidate in the league, according to this data, is St. Louis' Matt Carpenter.

It doesn't feel like baseball, the four-outfielder alignment. But most teams these days seek every competitive advantage they can find and this sure looks like one.

If this experiment becomes more commonplace during the season and hitters cannot adjust, the result would likely be even less offense, even fewer balls in play that turn into hits. Which isn't good for a game that has seen strikeouts skyrocket and hits decline.

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Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

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Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

NEW YORK — All signs point to Jean Segura returning to the Phillies on Saturday, but in the meantime, the Phils have another shortstop: Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was called up from Triple A on Wednesday, two days before his 34th birthday. He will immediately get the start at shortstop for the Phillies, batting seventh on Wednesday night against Mets left-hander Jason Vargas.

Rodriguez's call-up was one of several roster moves the Phillies made ahead of their series finale in New York. Right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos was also recalled from Triple A, while Mitch Walding and Drew Anderson were optioned back to Lehigh Valley. 

Additionally, left-handed reliever James Pazos was designated for assignment. Acquired in the Segura trade with Seattle, Pazos wasn't sharp in spring training and had a rough go with the IronPigs, allowing six runs and seven walks in 7⅓ innings.

The Phillies have had to utilize more of their 40-man roster than they would have liked these last two weeks. Scott Kingery was Segura's replacement, but then Kingery suffered a hamstring injury of his own. The next man up was Phil Gosselin, who had two singles in his Phillies debut last Friday and a three-run double Saturday but is 0 for 12 since. Gosselin also committed a throwing error in the first inning of Tuesday night's loss.

Enter Rodriguez, who last season in the majors played every position except pitcher and catcher. He's spent most of his career as a bench utilityman but had a lot of success in 2016 as a platoon player with the Pirates, hitting .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 342 plate appearances.

Even through his struggles the last two seasons, Rodriguez has more than held his own against left-handed pitching. Since 2016, he has a .384 OBP against lefties, which you'd think factored into the timing of this call-up. The Phillies face the lefty Vargas on Wednesday and another southpaw in Caleb Smith Thursday. 

Rodriguez, who's tight with Andrew McCutchen and thrilled to again share a clubhouse with him, had an opt-out in his contract if he didn't make the team out of spring training but decided to stay in the organization and accept the role at Triple A. 

"I'm in it to win," he said. "That's what I told (Gabe) Kapler and (Matt) Klentak. It was clear this offseason this team was trying to win."

Rodriguez had been hitting for power at Triple A, going 11 for 25 with four homers, a triple, two doubles and 12 RBI in his last six games before Tuesday night. Despite that and the Phillies' growing injured list, he tried his best to not sit by his phone and await the call.

"We can try to play GM but I learned a long time ago not to do that," he said. "You obviously see the injuries and all that but you don't buy into it, you just try to show up every day and do your job on a daily basis."

Rodriguez is perhaps best-known for his fire and competitiveness in the field, on the bases and in the dugout. He's the consummate good teammate, the kind of guy who's usually the first one out when benches begin to clear in a situation like the Phillies experienced Tuesday night when two fastballs were thrown above Rhys Hoskins' head.

He has no intentions of dialing that back as he gets reacclimated to the group of guys he spent spring training with.

"I think if you've identified pretty early on that's who you are as a player and competitor, it's hard not to just continue to be that guy," he said. "If you're not, then you're almost taking yourself and your competitive nature and putting it aside. Basically, you're putting it in the closet. You don't want to do that. 

"If that's who you are, that's who you are. You learn to somewhat not let the rage come out in a bad or negative way. That's what you try to harness and buffer up a bit. But definitely not turning it off."

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Upbeat David Robertson feeling good, eager to be reevaluated

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Upbeat David Robertson feeling good, eager to be reevaluated

NEW YORK — David Robertson, the most important and accomplished reliever in the Phillies' bullpen, is feeling good and might not be too far away from returning from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm.

Robertson was upbeat Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field before the series finale between the Phillies and Mets. He admitted he's been antsy to get back during this process. He hasn't spent much time on the shelf throughout his 12-year big-league career, visiting the IL (then the DL) just twice, in 2012 with an oblique strain and 2014 when he "pulled something in [his] butt."

Robertson will be reevaluated by the Phillies' medical staff when they return home for the four-game series against the Marlins. He is hoping and assuming that evaluation will take place Thursday. If it goes well, he can resume throwing.

Robertson, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies this past offseason, has made seven appearances. The first three were ugly — four runs, 10 baserunners in two innings. The next four were strong — 4⅔ scoreless innings, four baserunners, five strikeouts.

Robertson felt the tenderness most when he would release the ball. He does not want to use the soreness as an excuse for those first three outings, one of them a ninth-inning meltdown in D.C. He's felt soreness and nagging pain at times during his long career like most major-leaguers so it's not always easy to determine when it's affecting his performance.

He's hoping that he doesn't need a rehab stint in the minor leagues but realizes it may be necessary given his recent inactivity. The last game in which Robertson appeared was April 14 in Miami when he pitched two scoreless innings in a Phillies win.

He's eager to get back, especially with the team's recent struggles. The Phillies entered Wednesday's game 1-5 on their two-city road trip.

"You watch some of these close games and think, 'Man, it should be me out there," he said. "But I don't want to be stubborn."

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