Phillies

White Sox closer Alex Colome is a hot name as Phillies look to improve at MLB trade deadline

White Sox closer Alex Colome is a hot name as Phillies look to improve at MLB trade deadline

Updated: 3:07 p.m.

Phillies scouts have been on the ground for weeks gathering “eyeball” information — as opposed to data gathered through analytical means — on players that might help the club at the trade deadline.

That deadline arrives Wednesday at 4 p.m.

According to sources, the Phillies are working on a number of potential deals that would represent marginal upgrades as opposed to big, headline-grabbing deals. This lines up with views shared publicly by club president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak in recent weeks. Both have indicated that the Phillies are more than one piece away from being considered World Series contenders and for that reason the club will be protective of its top prospects in potential trades.

The Phillies have multiple needs. A bat would be nice. The Phils have kept an eye on the center field market with an eye toward moving Scott Kingery to third base and peddling Maikel Franco. Will that happen? Hard to say.

The Phillies’ biggest need remains pitching, both starting and bullpen.

By all indications, the Phils have their eye on second-tier starters. Controllable, upper-tier starters such as Mike Minor of Texas and Matthew Boyd of Detroit come with huge prospect price tags and the Phillies aren’t in a hurry to pay those prices even if they like both pitchers. Cincinnati’s Tanner Roark has been mentioned. Interestingly, Roark will pitch Tuesday night in Cincinnati and the Phillies have had a scout stationed in that city for a few days.

According to a survey of ballpark spies around the country, the Phillies have had a member of their pro scouting department watching the White Sox, Blue Jays, Reds, Padres and Giants in recent days. All of these teams have available relief pitchers.

The White Sox are likely to deal closer Alex Colome. The Blue Jays are likely to move Ken Giles and/or Daniel Hudson. The Reds could move closer Raisel Iglesias and the Padres are listening on Craig Stammen and closer Kirby Yates. The Giants could move Sam Dyson or Will Smith, but they could also hang on to them after their recent surge in the NL wild-card race.

Of the relievers on this list, the one generating the most recent and credible Phillies buzz is Colome. The 30-year-old right-hander had 47 saves with Tampa Bay to lead the American League in 2017. He has 21 saves this season to go with a 0.78 WHIP for the White Sox — and he is under control for next season, a fact that will make him attractive to the Phillies. Colome pitched a perfect ninth inning — on six pitches — in the White Sox’s win over Minnesota on Saturday and a Phillies scout was in attendance. Something to keep an eye on? Why not.

Though the Phillies are 6½ games back in the NL East, they are just one game back in an NL wild-card race loaded with teams that have as many flaws as they do. A tweak or two to the pitching staff could help the Phils stick around in the wild-card race.

Of course, they need their existing players to get hot, as well. This season has featured underperformance by a number of key Phillies. A two-month rally in performance would help the team more than anything.

“We’re a talented club that has yet to come together all at once,” manager Gabe Kapler said Sunday. “We’ve seen stretches of good play. I believe we have a strong run in us in the second half of the season. I think we’re positioned well.

“I maintain that our job is to develop the players that we have in the room. It’s not to speculate on what’s happening outside (at the trade deadline). I trust 100 percent that our front office is going to do everything they can to improve our club. And the pieces that we have in the room — we all have to get a little bit better, it’s coaching staff, it’s our hitters, it’s our pitchers, our bullpen, everything across the board. We play our baseball, we play to our potential, and we are a strong club.”

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Matt Klentak Q&A: Gabe Kapler's future, passing on Dallas Keuchel, more

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Matt Klentak Q&A: Gabe Kapler's future, passing on Dallas Keuchel, more

ATLANTA — From Gabe Kapler’s future to the deals he did and didn’t make to a potential contract extension for J.T. Realmuto and the chances of seeing pitching prospect Spencer Howard in April, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was asked about a number of topics by reporters before Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

Let’s go:

Question: Will Kapler return as manager next season?

Answer: “I mean this sincerely: We have 13 games left, we're four games out (in the wild-card chase), and one of the teams we're chasing, we play five times. Until we play the last game of 2019, we're not going to start talking about 2020 yet. We still have 13 very important games to play. They'll be plenty of time to talk about 2020 after this season.”

Klentak went on to credit Kapler’s handling of the team in the wake of numerous injuries. He mentioned the team’s improved defense and base running.

“The players are the ones who do those things,” he said. “They're the ones who deserve the credit. But I think a lot of that credit can be shared with a really impactful coaching staff that has spent a lot of time working on little things that over the course of a season turn into much bigger things. 

“I think Kap is doing a remarkable job managing the bullpen right now. We have had seven key members of our bullpen on the injured list.

“I think he's doing a very good job. Is he perfect every day? No. Are we all perfect every day? No. Have we had our share of challenges? Of course we have. But I think the group is playing hard down the stretch. We still have a chance. I think a lot of the subtle improvements we've seen this year have been the product of our manager and coaching staff.”

Question: So, is Kapler being judged on more than wins and losses?

Answer: “Winning is what matters. For his job, for my job, for anybody in this game. That's the cold-hard truth. I know that. We all know that. But not every season is the same as the one that came before it or the one that comes after it. The circumstances change. The player personnel can change. Expectations can change. There are a lot of things that are different year in and year out. 

“I highlighted a few areas where I think our manager and coaching staff have done a terrific job. Whether those contributions are enough to get us in the playoffs or not remains to be seen. We have 13 more games. But I think there have been a lot of positives.”

Question: Do you second-guess yourself for not signing Dallas Keuchel?

(Klentak said baseball’s tampering rules prevented him from discussing a player directly. He did offer an answer, though.)

Answer: “We will always go back and look at our decision-making and try to put ourselves back in the moment where we were making decisions and see in retrospect if there were things that we should have seen that we didn’t. Why did we make decisions that we did? Was there some improvement that we could make to that thought process to reach different conclusions?

“You’ve heard me say this, last year’s starting rotation was both healthy and effective. The effectiveness wasn’t linear. It was more effective in the first half than it was in the second half. But in the aggregate, that group of guys was pretty good last year. There’s no question that we bet on some improvement from some of those players based on what they had shown in 2018, based on their ages, their development curve, that we thought there would be more improvement than what we’ve seen. It’s hard to look back and second-guess that thought process. It’s easy to look back and second-guess the results, just like many Phillies fans have second-guessed. We made a lot of adjustments to our team last offseason in a lot of areas, many of those have worked out, some have not, but I think the best we can do is to look at the reasons we made or didn’t make decisions and try to learn from it.

“We’re evaluating every day whether it’s players or staff members or anything else.”

Question: Any second thoughts about being conservative at the trade deadline?

Answer: "You have to operate with the information that you have at the time that you were asked to make the decision. Given our place in the standings at the end of July, given the injuries that we had sustained and the likelihood that many of them would continue through the end of the season, that obviously impacts what our approach is going to be. Then you go out and you assess what the market is offering, what the cost is to acquire different players to make certain improvements and you make judgments. I will tell you that Corey Dickerson’s production for us was really impressive and, at times, Mike Morin and Blake Parker have pitched meaningful innings for us. I think Jason Vargas has done largely what we’ve asked him to do, which was take the ball every day and keep us in the game.

“The fact that we may not have traded away a lot of talent to acquire those players — I think what we should be evaluating is the contributions that those players made, and hopefully will continue to make, and less what we gave up to get them. I understand that sometimes what you give up can serve as a proxy for aggressiveness or intent but I think there’s also a value in reading a market and trying to make the best deals that you can. I know that some of the players that we brought in may not have been household names, but I think most of them have performed in such a way that they’ve delivered what we hope they’d deliver which is adding depth to our bullpen and keeping us in games in our rotation and in Dickerson’s case adding an impact bat.”

Question: Some starting pitchers regressed or did not live up to potential in 2019. How do you evaluate first-year pitching coach Chris Young?

Answer: “I never think it’s just one thing. On the topic of CY, I think if we’re going to be critical of players taking a step back this year, which I understand, we also have to recognize that many of our players took a step forward last year and a big part of that was the changes that we made to our game-planning and CY had a major impact on the positive strides our players made last year. It’s a big reason that we felt comfortable sliding him into the pitching coach role when we did because of the gains that we made a year ago.

“The season hasn’t gone the way we thought it would in terms of the development of some of our starters, and I understand why the pitching coach will take a lot of the heat for that. I think much like with anybody who’s in their first year in any position, but particularly a prominent major league position, it’s reasonable to expect that that person is going to improve as the season goes along. And we’ve absolutely seen that. I think by the halfway point of the season we were on pace to potentially set National League records for home runs allowed. Part of that is the changing dynamic in the game and the ball itself, but that certainly was not a pace that we were looking to be on and our pitching groups made some key adjustments to address that. We’re not on the leaderboard of home run prevention, but it’s been considerably better in the second half. I think he and our group have made a lot of improvements along the way. But I understand why when a season has gone the way that it does his name is going to be in the paper.”

Question: J.T. Realmuto will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. Chances of an extension before then?

Answer: “I think J.T. has had a phenomenal season. When we acquired him, I declared him the best catcher in baseball. He’s been better than that. He’s been everything we could have asked for. I think it’s reasonable to expect that one of our offseason goals will be to address his contract situation and whether we line up or not remains to be seen. But he has done nothing to change our belief in him or our desire to make him a Phillie for the foreseeable future.”

Question: Will top pitching prospect Spencer Howard crack the opening day rotation next season?

Answer: “I think probably he’s going to need more time in the minor leagues. He had such an abbreviated season this year (because of a minor shoulder injury), as impressive as it was, we’re sending him to the Arizona Fall League to capture some of those innings that he missed when he was on the injured list this year to build up his workload in such a way that he can have a full season or even an extended season workload next year. One of the big challenges in baseball right now is the difference in the ball itself. I think it’s going to be important for him to get comfortable with the major league ball, whether that’s spring training or at the Triple A level, before we have confidence that he’s ready for the next step and that he has the confidence that he’s ready for the next step. None of that should diminish our confidence in him to be a very good pitcher at the major league level and hopefully in short order. We do think he has a very bright future ahead of him, but we also need to make sure we do the right thing for him developmentally and we’re hopeful that his positive progression will continue in the fall.”

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Phillies get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

Phillies get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

ATLANTA — The Phillies survived a ninth-inning high-wire act from Hector Nervous, er, Neris and held on for a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

With 13 games to go, the Phillies are barely alive in the National League wild-card race.

But they are alive.

“We still have odds and we know that,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Sure we know they may be long and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re still in it and I think getting this win tonight is huge.”

It was a good way to open an 11-game road trip that will take the Phillies to Cleveland and Washington after this three-game stop in Atlanta, where the Braves will wrap up a second straight NL East title any day now.

The Phils would rather the Braves not do that while they are here. That happened last year and it was painful.

The entire ending to last season was painful. The Phils went into the final 14 games of last season with a 76-72 record — the same slate they had going into Tuesday night’s game — and went 4-10 down the stretch to finish under .500 at 80-82.

“Everyone that was part of that last year carries that with them,” Hoskins said. “Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year at the end of the year, nobody likes watching people clinch. I think everybody in the whole league is in the same boat there. But we still have a chance and we know it. It started tonight and we just have to continue it tomorrow.”

At 77-72, the Phillies need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

They just need wins to stay in the postseason hunt.

They are four games back in a crowded wild-card race.

Picking up wins against the Braves, Indians and Nationals on this trip will require a lot of clutch work and the Phillies got some of that Tuesday. To wit:

• Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez limited damage and stayed in the game after throwing 30 pitches and allowing two runs in the first inning. He delivered five innings of two-run ball.

• Hoskins and Jose Pirela both clubbed two-run homers against Keuchel to help the Phils build a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. Keuchel came into the game on a big roll. He’d won his previous five starts and had given up just four runs in those games. Beating him would not be easy, but the Phils did it. They had to.

• Overall, the bullpen did some clutch work — four innings, two runs — despite allowing a pair of late homers to make it a one-run game. 

Neris gave up a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves made it a one-run game. He then issued a walk to Ronald Acuna Jr., who stole second and moved to third on a ground out. Neris then walked dangerous Freddie Freeman to put runners on the corners for cleanup man Josh Donaldson, who has 88 RBIs. As the ballpark rocked and the tomahawk chop chopped, Neris remained cool and struck out Donaldson before getting Nick Markakis on a pop up to end the game.

“To be able to collect himself after walking Freddie and to get a huge second out against Donaldson was, I think, what kind of tipped it back in our favor,” Hoskins said. “Huge props to Hector. We’ve seen him do that a lot. It was cool to see him come out on top.”

Manager Gabe Kapler praised the composure that Velasquez and Neris showed in the first and ninth innings, respectively.

“I think today, the reason we won the game, in addition to Hector’s composure and Vinnie’s composure, is that we were able to put a big inning on the board highlighted by a really good swing by Rhys Hoskins,” Kapler said.

The manager knows making the playoffs is a long shot. He’s not giving in.

“We spent a lot of time today talking about the importance of these last 14 games,” Kapler said. “We know where we are in the standings, we know what the numbers say, but that’s not what we’re paying attention to right now. We’re paying attention to fighting for each other all the way through the finish line.”

The fight continues Wednesday night with Zach Eflin on the mound. Thirteen games to go and the Phils have no margin for error.

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