Phillies

What Roman Quinn, Zach Eflin moves mean for Phillies' roster

What Roman Quinn, Zach Eflin moves mean for Phillies' roster

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A day before the Phillies leave Florida and head to Atlanta, the team's opening day roster continues to come into focus.

On Monday morning, the Phils sent outfielder Roman Quinn, starting pitcher Zach Eflin and lefty reliever Zac Curtis to Triple A.

Later in the day, manager Gabe Kapler said that reliever Tommy Hunter would start the season on the DL with a "mild" hamstring strain.

With Quinn and Jesmuel Valentin, who was optioned out on Sunday, off to Triple A, the position player side of the roster appears set at 12.

With Hunter headed to the DL, the bullpen appears to be set as well.

Here are the 12 position players:

Catchers
Jorge Alfaro
Andrew Knapp

Infielders
Carlos Santana
Cesar Hernandez
Maikel Franco
J.P. Crawford

Outfielders
Odubel Herrera
Aaron Altherr
Nick Williams
Rhys Hoskins

Infielder/outfielders
Scott Kingery
Pedro Florimon

With 12 position players, the Phils are set to open with 13 pitchers. It looks like they will go with a four-man rotation until Jake Arrieta is activated on April 8. Arrieta could open on the disabled list to build arm strength or briefly be optioned to the minors. He will pitch in Clearwater on Tuesday and throw a simulated game in New York next week as he gears for his debut.

As of Monday morning, there were four locks in the rotation:

• Aaron Nola
• Nick Pivetta
• Vince Velasquez
• Ben Lively

The Phils will open with a nine-man bullpen. This appears to be it:

• Hector Neris
• Pat Neshek
• Luis Garcia
• Adam Morgan (LH)
• Hoby Milner (LH)
• Edubray Ramos
• Drew Hutchison
• Jake Thompson
• Victor Arano

• Tommy Hunter (DL)

Rupp released
A day after designating him for assignment, the Phillies released catcher Cameron Rupp. He is free to sign with any team. Rupp was due to make $2.05 million from the Phillies this season but his salary was non-guaranteed.

Is Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard on the way? It sure feels like it

Is Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard on the way? It sure feels like it

It has long been a given that Spencer Howard would make his major league debut this season.

Maybe it will happen during the Phillies' coming homestand.

Big rain from Tropical Storm Isaias forced the postponement of Tuesday night's meeting between the Phillies and Yankees in the Bronx. Makeup dates are scarce in this shortened, 60-game season so the two teams will play the game as a part of a doubleheader in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler would be the starting pitchers in those two games. The first game starts at 4:05 p.m.

After Wednesday, the Phils will play 11 straight days, all at home, against the Yankees, Braves, Orioles and Mets.

Because of the doubleheader and the stack-up of games, the Phillies will need an extra starting pitcher in the coming days, perhaps Sunday against Atlanta. The Phils could reach into their bullpen and plug someone like Cole Irvin or Nick Pivetta into that start. Or they could reach down to their reserve camp in Lehigh Valley and bring up Howard. The 24-year-old right-hander is their top prospect and has impressed everyone from Bryce Harper to pitching coach Bryan Price.

"If this kid is the guy we think he is — and we do — then he's going to have a really nice future in Philadelphia," Price said in July. "I would really hope and expect to see him pitching here at some point in (2020) because he really needs the work and I think he's ready to compete at this level."

Maybe that future begins in the coming days. Girardi was noncommittal when asked about Howard's timetable on Monday, but you can bet he will discuss Howard with Price and front office officials during Tuesday's weather shut down.

Howard commands a four-pitch arsenal. His fastball approaches triple digits and his changeup and breaking ball are both top-notch. He has the potential to one day work at the top of a rotation.

Price has been reluctant to speak in those terms, at least as it relates to Howard's ceiling. He'd prefer to let Howard control the trajectory of his own career. But there's no doubt that the pitching coach is high on the young man.

"I stay away from (commenting on a pitcher's ceiling) and I'll tell you why," Price said. "Because when you start talking about assigning expectations, especially if you rank like No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — we don't know what these guys are until they come up here and perform.

"We know that (Howard) would be a top-end prospect in any organization because he has power, he throws strikes, he's athletic, he has a really, really good changeup and breaking ball. The key component there is stuff with strikes, stuff with command. So the sky is the limit.

"In the same respect, you have to get to the big leagues and perform at this level before you define where you are: starter or reliever, No. 1 or No. 5, or somewhere in between. I'll reserve judgment on that and let him pitch his way wherever he gets to."

If Howard pitches well once he does arrive, he will put heat on the back end of the rotation, particularly Vince Velasquez. An effective Howard could push Velasquez to the bullpen. The Phils could benefit from Velasquez's power arm in the bullpen. The question remains: Would Velasquez embrace the role enough to succeed? That's an issue for another day. As it stands now, Velasquez would get a start on Thursday or Friday.

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After 4 games, Phillies' bullpen is the problem you expected it to be

After 4 games, Phillies' bullpen is the problem you expected it to be

Four games into the shortened, 60-game season, the Phillies' bullpen is exactly what you thought it would be.

A problem.

The Phils are 1-3 and all three defeats can be traced back to pitching. Aaron Nola threw a couple of poor curveballs in the season opener against Miami and paid dearly for them. Vince Velasquez and the bullpen got beaten up by the Marlins two days later.

And on Monday night — after not playing a game for eight full days — the Phillies lost, 6-3, to the New York Yankees.

A lack of clutch hitting has definitely hurt the Phillies in their two most recent losses. They were 4 for 19 with runners in scoring position in those two games and left 21 men on base.

But both of those games — the Game 3 loss to the Marlins and the loss to the Yankees — were manageable until the bullpen got in the way.

After Velasquez coughed up a 4-0 lead and was bounced by the Marlins after three innings, the bullpen was tagged for seven runs in six innings in that 11-6 loss nine days ago.

And on Monday night, the Phils were down just 3-1 to the Yankees in the sixth inning when offseason waiver claim Deolis Guerra came in because manager Joe Girardi decided that starter Jake Arrieta, in his first start in almost a year, had "given us everything he had." Arrieta was at 78 pitches. He thought he could have kept going but he understood Girardi's caution.

Guerra's job was to keep the game close. He didn't. He walked the first batter he faced, hit the second batter he faced and allowed a three-run homer to the fourth batter (Gio Urshela) he faced.

The Phillies scored a couple of late runs, but it didn't matter. They couldn't play over Guerra's sloppiness.

With switch-hitter Aaron Hicks and right-handed power bat Giancarlo Stanton due up in the bottom of the sixth, Girardi went to the right-hander Guerra over lefty Adam Morgan. Guerra had inspired a bit of confidence in Girardi with a scoreless ninth inning and two strikeouts in the Phillies' 7-1 win over Miami more than a week earlier.

"Deolis threw the ball really well last weekend and was not able to repeat it," Girardi said after the game. "I feel like he has the ability to help us. He just didn't have it tonight."

Morgan came on and quieted things down after Guerra left and veterans Tommy Hunter and Jose Alvarez both pitched a scoreless inning. Those three veterans, along with Hector Neris, are expected to be mainstays in the bullpen. The other seven spots are iffy. The Phils have been hit hard by injury and other medical issues (David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez) and were not willing to push the luxury tax to bring in relief help over the winter. So, this is what you've got: A bullpen that after four games is just what you thought it would be — a problem.

Girardi has been around long enough to know what's what. But four games into this most unusual season when his team had to idle for eight days because the Miami Marlins couldn't follow health and safety protocols, he will be patient before reaching down to Lehigh Valley for a remake. At least as patient as he can be in a sprint season that has just 56 games remaining.

"I think it's really hard to judge our bullpen right now just because we haven't played in a week, eight days," Girardi said. "Some of these guys haven't worked in eight or nine days. We try to get them as much work as we can, but it's still not game conditions.

"I think you have to give each guy three to four appearances to be fair to them with consistent work. You ask all relievers, they want consistent work. They don't want to sit for a week and then expect to go out there and have pinpoint control and have a good feel for their breaking ball and whatever other pitches they have. I think they need some consistent work before we really make a judgment.

"If we were to make changes, you're calling up kids who have no experience as well in a sense. These were the guys we thought threw the ball the best during the camps and they've got to get it done."

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