Phillies

Why Phillies traded for Jose Pirela; why they could soon use a 5-man bench

usa_jose_pirela_padres.jpg
USA Today Images

Why Phillies traded for Jose Pirela; why they could soon use a 5-man bench

It wasn't the big trade Phillies fans have been waiting for, but the Phillies on Saturday acquired utilityman Jose Pirela from the Padres in exchange for cash.

It's a depth move. Pirela is a 29-year-old with 290 games of big-league experience. The bulk of his playing time has come at second base and left field but the Phillies also feel comfortable playing him at both corner infield and corner outfield spots.

Pirela had been mashing at Triple A El Paso in the Padres' system. In 242 plate appearances, he hit .353/.401/.674 with 18 home runs. Those numbers should not be ignored but they also should not be overblown — most Pacific Coast League ballparks are launching pads, and that league is using the same baseballs as the majors that have been flying over fences at a record pace.

Pirela will report to Triple A Lehigh Valley but could find himself up with the Phillies soon.

"We believe we are going to be playing meaningful games in September, and we want those guys who come up and contribute to be experienced with big at-bats," manager Gabe Kapler said. "[Pirela] had them both with the Yankees and with the Padres and has had some success."
 
"We've learned this, that any acquisition we bring in we'd like to have some pretty good teammate behavior. There was some good work done on him. A native Spanish speaker and a guy that will get along with his teammates. Excited across the board on having Pirela with us."

Five-man bench?

The Phillies could be welcoming both Jay Bruce (oblique) and Brad Miller (hip) back soon. When that happens, Nick Williams will likely be optioned back to Triple A and Sean Rodriguez could be designated for assignment. 

Or, the Phillies could finally utilize a five-man bench. They have opted to carry an extra reliever over an extra bench bat for the entirety of Kapler's two-year run as manager, but on Saturday Kapler said they are giving the five-man bench legit consideration as a short-term option.

"I could see it being more of a bridge-the-gap (option)," Kapler said. "I don't personally think a five-man bench is best for us long term because of the way we will aggressively use our bullpen. And the more high-leverage weapons we have in our bullpen, the better. 

"Right now, one of the reasons it makes sense to consider a five-man bench is because it looks like we are carrying some lower-leverage bullpen arms. Generally and globally, it's very rare that we say, 'I wish that we had one more bench player. I wish we had one more guy to take down a big at-bat.' But it comes up more frequently, 'Man, I'd like to have one more bullpen arm to use, even if it is just a body to take down a couple of innings from time to time.' 

"But we have been pretty close to having a five-man bench for a shorter period of time and I can see that happening in the next 10 days to two weeks for a short period."



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Like a poorly located 0-2 fastball, this 2019 Phillies season is almost outta here

Like a poorly located 0-2 fastball, this 2019 Phillies season is almost outta here

CLEVELAND — This Phillies season did not go from highly promising six months ago to grossly disappointing heading into the final week on one 0-2 pitch.

But 16 of them?

That surely contributed to the disappointment.

The Phils began their final week of the season — and possibly the final week of Gabe Kapler’s managerial term — with what you might call a national embarrassment Sunday night. They made three errors, two of which were extremely costly, en route to a self-destructive 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on national television (see observations).

The defeat left the Phillies' tragic number at 2. Their minuscule postseason hopes could be extinguished before Aaron Nola even gets to the bullpen to warm up for the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Washington. If that happens, the right-hander should pitch four innings, which would get him over 200 for the season, and shut it down until Clearwater.

There are eight games remaining.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Kapler said. “Certainly we’re going to have to win every game. We’re going to have to win out. We understand that’s a tall task. We also understand that’s a possibility. There’s not a guy in that room that’s not going to fight to the very end.”

The Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011. They finish with five against a Washington club that is bearing down on an NL wild-card berth and three against a Miami club that has given them fits. The Phils will need to win three of the final eight to have a winning season.

It’s all kind of hard to believe considering the Phils were 11 games above .500 and 3½ games up in the NL East on May 29.

So many things went wrong for this club, from injuries to inconsistency and underperformance both in pitching and offense, and the front office had no cure at the trade deadline. Now, the club is getting ready to go home for an eighth straight October. That’s certainly not what owner John Middleton expected when he celebrated the offseason addition of J.T. Realmuto and doubled down with a $330 million payout to land Bryce Harper.

The Phils faced almost impossible postseason odds even before Sunday night, but that made the loss to the 92-win Indians no less galling.

It was a 1-1 game in the bottom of the fifth inning, but it didn’t stay that way long. Cleveland’s first two batters of the frame reached on errors by shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Vince Velasquez. Ultimately, Velasquez got in position to get out of the inning unscathed. In fact, he was one strike away from doing that when Oscar Mercado unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the left-field wall for a game-changing three-run homer.

The Indians padded the lead with six runs in the seventh, but the fifth inning was the ballgame and the Phils beat themselves.

“In order for us to win big games, we have to take the outs that they give us,” Kapler said. “We didn’t play our best defensive game. I don’t think there’s any way you can spin it other than just not on top of our game defensively.”

Last week in Atlanta, general manager Matt Klentak praised the Phillies’ improved defense. Since then, the team has racked up multiple-error performances in three of five games.

Mercado’s killer home run Sunday night was the 16th allowed by a Phillies pitcher on an 0-2 count this season. If that seems like a lot, it is. No team has allowed more 0-2 homers this season.

Velasquez started Mercado with a curveball for a strike then got another strike on a 96 mph heater. He went back on the gas on the next pitch and Mercado jumped it.

“I was just trying to go with an elevated fastball,” Velasquez said. “I mean, he was late on the [previous] fastball he swung at. I tried to challenge him with another fastball and he got the head out. I didn't get it up in the zone enough.”

Said Kapler: “I think Vinny will say if he went to a breaking ball right there he probably gets a swing and miss. If he elevates that fastball a little more he probably gets a swing and miss. To that point, Vinny was executing his pitches and he missed with that one.”

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

These aren’t the kind of records a team wants to be setting. But this hasn’t been the kind of season the Phillies wanted or expected.

On to Washington as the lights grow dim.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — The Phillies began the final week of their season with an embarrassing 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in a nationally televised game on Sunday night.

A series of self-inflicted wounds hurt the Phillies in the fifth inning and the Indians delivered a knockout blow with six runs in the seventh.

The Indians scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning — all on a home run by Oscar Mercado — to take control of the game.

Mercado’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Vince Velasquez with two outs in the inning. The frame began with two Indians reaching base on a pair of Phillies errors, one by Jean Segura, one by Velasquez.

The Phillies made three errors in the game. They have had multi-error games in three of the six games on this trip.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 79-75. They need three wins in their final eight games to have their first winning season since 2011.

The Phillies’ microscopic postseason hopes could be extinguished as soon as Tuesday. Their elimination number is two (see story).

The 92-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.

A big problem

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

Velasquez was one strike away from getting out of the fifth inning. Catcher J.T. Realmuto called for a fastball up in the zone but Velasquez did not get it up high enough and Mercado crushed it into the left-field seats for three runs and a Cleveland lead.

Phillies pitchers have been careless executing 0-2 pitches this season. They have allowed 16 homers in that count, the most in the majors.

Inspiring performance

Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who missed part of this season undergoing treatment for leukemia, came on in the top of the fifth and rolled a big double-play ball. He then put up a shutdown inning in the sixth and finished with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Carrasco was originally Phillies property. He was dealt to Cleveland in the package for Cliff Lee a decade ago. He led the American League with 18 wins in 2017.

The offense

The Phillies had just five hits. Scott Kingery had a pair of doubles. He entered the game hitting .159 (11 for 70) in September.

And another one

Realmuto threw out another runner trying to steal second base. It was his 38th of the season, most in the majors. He also doubled home the Phillies’ only run to give the club a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Up next

The Phillies move on to Washington for a five-game series against the Nationals beginning Monday night. Zach Eflin (9-12, 4.00) will pitch the opener against Washington lefty Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10).

The teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Neither team has named a starter for the first game. Aaron Nola (12-6, 3.75) is scheduled to face Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.81) in the nightcap.

On Wednesday night, the Phils will send Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) to the mound against right-hander Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91).

Lefty Jason Vargas (7-8, 4.40) will pitch Thursday afternoon against right-hander Stephen Strasburg (17-6, 3.37).

The Nationals are bidding to win the NL wild card.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies