Cole Irvin

Phillies open September by adding 3 familiar faces and 2 new ones

Phillies open September by adding 3 familiar faces and 2 new ones

Rosters expanded Sunday and the Phillies began September by adding four players to their active roster: catcher Deivy Grullon, utilityman Phil Gosselin, right-handed reliever Nick Vincent and lefty Cole Irvin. 

The Phils also activated Jay Bruce from the injured list in a pinch-hitting role.

More moves will follow this week. Nick Pivetta and Jose Pirela will likely join the club Tuesday in Cincinnati and Maikel Franco on Sept. 5 when he is eligible to return from the minors. Nick Williams should rejoin the Phillies sometime this week as well.

Grullon is the most interesting name of the four coming up. He’s a 23-year-old catcher who had a strong offensive season at Triple A, hitting .283/.354/.496 with 21 home runs and 77 RBI for the IronPigs. Grullon went unprotected in last winter’s Rule 5 draft but went unclaimed and then had his best minor-league season to date. 

The additions of Grullon and Gosselin give the Phillies two more right-handed pinch-hit options. Gosselin had been productive at Triple A, hitting .314 with a .901 OPS. 

Vincent has eight years of major-league experience with the Padres, Mariners and Giants. He had a 3.17 career ERA in 352 appearances entering this season, which was a struggle for him before he was released by the Giants. At Lehigh Valley, Vincent had a 1.46 ERA in 10 games. 

Irvin will likely pitch in middle relief or be used to face a lefty, ideally in a lower leverage situation. 

Of the four, only Irvin was on the Phillies’ 40-man roster. To make room on the 40 for Grullon, Vincent and Gosselin, the Phillies designated Drew Anderson for assignment and moved Adam Morgan and Jerad Eickhoff to the 60-day IL.

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Jake Arrieta struggles, offense sputters as first-place Braves give Phillies a painful reality check

Jake Arrieta struggles, offense sputters as first-place Braves give Phillies a painful reality check

Jake Arrieta was good for four innings on Friday night. But four innings isn’t going to cut it for a team desperately trying to stay in a playoff race despite holes in its starting rotation and bullpen.

The Phillies came home Friday night on the heels of four wins in five games against of pair of last-place clubs, Pittsburgh and Detroit. The road trip gave the Phils a little momentum and a little optimism entering their three-game series against the Altanta Braves. By the middle innings, the momentum and the optimism were gone. The NL East-leading Braves handed the Phillies a 9-2 loss to increase their lead over Phils to 6 ½ games.

“I think the Braves just got more big hits than us and made more pitches than us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It's that simple. Really not more than that.”

Kapler found himself in the crosshairs of the second-guessers when he went to rookie lefty Cole Irvin with the Phils trailing 5-1 in the top of the sixth. Irvin, a starter pressed into bullpen duty, was torched for four runs as the Braves pulled away. Irvin hit the first batter of the frame, Nick Markakis, on the wrist. (Markakis is headed back to Atlanta for tests and both he and manager Brian Snitker said, “It doesn’t look good.”) Later in the inning, Irvin walked in a pair of runs and some in the crowd booed loudly while others performed an Eagles chant.

Why didn’t Kapler use a more tested reliever to keep the game close in that situation?

Where was lefty Ranger Suarez, who has been such an eye-opener lately?

Kapler said Suarez, who threw 29 pitches Sunday and 17 on Wednesday, “needed another day.”

He went on to add that he liked Irvin in that spot. Irvin had pitched two scoreless innings the previous Friday in Pittsburgh.

“Ranger needed one more day,” Kapler said. “He’s fine. He’s just getting used to bullpen usage. He just needed one more day.

“But, even so, we have a ton of confidence in Cole. He's coming off a great outing. He was the guy who was there to give us length, get us through a couple of innings. It was the right part of the lineup to get a couple of innings out of him. It just didn't work out in our favor.”

Even if Irvin had kept the game close, it would have been difficult to imagine the Phillies having enough offense to overcome a four-run deficit. Despite their good road trip, they have averaged just 2.75 runs in the last four games. They had 12 hits Friday night and just two for extra-bases. One of those, a homer by Jean Segura, came in the seventh when the Phils were down 9-1. In one of the game’s most pivotal moments, with the Phils down by four runs in the bottom of the fifth, J.T. Realmuto grounded out weakly to second base with the bases loaded to end the inning. A big hit there might have been a game-changer.

“We had ground-ball singles,” Kapler said. “We weren't able to effectively solve (Braves starter Mike) Soroka. He was good. We put the ball on the ground. We found some holes. We just weren't able to get the big hit. That was the difference in the game. We weren't able to come up big in the moments where we had a chance to get one big ball in the gap or the seats. We couldn't come up with that one.”

Arrieta was tagged for four runs in the fifth as the Braves took control. He walked two in the inning and gave up a homer, a double and a single. Arrieta is pitching with a bone spur in his elbow and his stuff drops off in the middle innings. When it did, the Braves feasted.

“I was pretty much in control until the fifth and then I was physically just limited and not able to do what I was doing the first four innings,” Arrieta said. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s just what I’m dealing with.

“The movement, the action, the velocity in the first four innings was about as good as it’s been all year. And then it flips. It’s frustrating because that’s what I’ve been dealing with for the majority of the season. It’s not a good feeling.”

Is Arrieta re-thinking his desire to pitch through the ailment?

“I don’t want to stop,” he said. “The way the first four innings went, movement was great, command was really nice. It’s just frustrating that it compounded so quick. There’s nothing that I can really do about it.”

The Phils will send another question-mark pitcher to the mound on Saturday night. Zach Eflin complained of his body feeling heavy after lasting just four innings in his last start.

The trade deadline is Wednesday. This team needs to add pitching. But it also needs the pitching it has to step up.

“We just have to win games,” Arrieta said. “It’s easy to look outside of the clubhouse for solutions. I think we have more than enough talent to make it happen with the guys we have.”

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Phillies need a 5th and 6th starter this weekend; who could it be?

Phillies need a 5th and 6th starter this weekend; who could it be?

Updated: 9:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Consecutive rainouts Monday and Tuesday benefited the Phillies by giving J.T. Realmuto and Jay Bruce two additional days to recover from their injuries. Had the Phils played Tuesday night, both players would have been available to pinch-hit but would have likely needed pinch-runners. Realmuto will start one game of the Phillies’ day-night doubleheader Wednesday. 

Where it negatively affected the Phillies is in the starting rotation. The Phils don’t have a true No. 5 starter right now. Gabe Kapler said Monday that there is a belief within the organization that Vince Velasquez can fill that role, but it’s not a certainty that he’s returned to the rotation. If Velasquez is needed out of the bullpen Thursday or Friday, for example, he may not get the start Saturday. It’s TBD. 

And now, because the Phillies play twice on Wednesday, they’ll also need a starter for Sunday’s game. In effect, a team with no fifth starter needs a fifth and sixth starter this weekend. 

On Wednesday, it will be Zach Eflin in Game 1 and Jake Arrieta in Game 2. 

Nick Pivetta pitches Thursday. 

Aaron Nola pitches Friday. 

Then possibly Velasquez Saturday. 

On Sunday, the Phils will have to figure out something else because it would be short rest for both Arrieta and Eflin. 

Who are the options? Kapler said Tuesday that hot pitching prospect Adonis Medina, despite being on the 40-man roster, is not under consideration for a start this weekend. 

The organization likely does not feel he’s ready yet and doesn’t want to rush a young pitcher with promise just because it needs a spot starter this weekend. Plus, Medina is a trade chip, and you don’t want to do anything to ding his value by bringing him up before the time feels right. 

So there’s Velasquez, there’s Cole Irvin, there’s Enyel De Los Santos. Those are the three most realistic options. Irvin is still on the active roster and was ticketed for the ‘pen before Mother Nature intervened. 

De Los Santos made a six-inning start for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Sunday, so he’d be on turn this weekend. The Phillies don’t seem to love him as a starting pitcher, though. They haven’t turned to him when the need has arisen this season and when he has been promoted it has been as a reliever. More of a two-pitch pitcher, De Los Santos could ultimately find more success as a reliever. 

Drew Anderson, who started Tuesday for the IronPigs, is another swingman on the 40. There’s also Ranger Suarez. 

If the Phillies want to promote someone who’s not on the 40-man roster, 23-year-old Dominican right-hander Ramon Rosso is another option. He has pitched well in 11 starts this season, including a Triple A debut June 13 in which he struck out nine and did not allow an earned run over six innings.

The other options are using an opener or making a trade. It seems unlikely the Phillies will be able to complete a deal for an attractive starting pitcher by the weekend, but one name to keep in the back of your mind is Mike Leake. He’s a No. 4 starter who has alternated quick and efficient quality starts and clunkers throughout his career. He’s on a Mariners team committed to tearing things down and eager to trade high-priced veterans for seemingly whatever they can get, whether it’s salary relief or an interesting young player. Leake is owed $15 million next season and has a $5 million buyout in 2021, way too much for a pitcher his caliber. The Phillies are not going to want to commit $20 million to him just because he’s the most obtainable starting pitcher on the market this minute. But if the Mariners pick up a bulk of his remaining money a la Bruce, he could and should be considered as a rotation stabilizer, not as the missing piece. 

Fortunately for the Phillies, they face the lowly Marlins this weekend. If there is a team to lack starting pitching against, it is them. 

But again, it highlights the lack of quality options the Phillies have after their first four starting pitchers, who collectively have been just OK. The choice to not sign a veteran starter this offseason has predictably backfired. The team enters Wednesday 39-32, which is still an 89-win pace, but the more important point is that the Braves are surging and the Nationals have won 14 of 21 with a roster every bit as talented as the Phils’. 

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