Hoby Milner

Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner to Tampa Bay Rays

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Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner to Tampa Bay Rays

While all eyes are on Manny Machado, the Phillies on Saturday night made a minor move.

The Phillies traded left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations. Milner was designated for assignment on Tuesday.

Milner, 27, began the season with the Phillies but was sent to Triple A Lehigh Valley on April 21 after allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings over 10 appearances.

In 25 appearances with the IronPigs, Milner allowed seven runs over 26 1/3 innings. He struck out 28 batters and walked 14.

A 2012 seventh-round pick, Milner came north with the Phillies out of spring training as the team's lefty specialist but couldn't replicate the success he had in 2017.

Last season, the lefty posted a 2.01 ERA in 37 games (31 1/3 innings). That was a far cry from the pitcher the Phillies saw in 2018.

In Game 1 of the Gabe Kapler era, the first-year manager opted to replace Aaron Nola with one out in the sixth inning and the Phillies up 5-0 in Atlanta to face Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. Milner served up a two-run homer to Freeman. The Phillies ended up losing, 8-5, on a walk-off homer from Markakis (see story).

Milner was also the pitcher Kapler called into action on April 1, Game 3 of the Kapler era, without ever throwing any legitimate warm-up pitches (see story).

Since then, however, Kapler has proven to be a capable major-league manager. The Phillies are in first place of the NL East with one game left before the All-Star break.

And now, Milner finds himself a new opportunity to prove himself again.

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Phillies activate Tommy Hunter after sending Hoby Milner to Triple A

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Phillies activate Tommy Hunter after sending Hoby Milner to Triple A

Update 10:23 a.m.

The Phillies sent left-handed reliever Hoby Milner to Triple A after Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Pirates. The team announced Sunday that reliever Tommy Hunter has been activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Hunter, 31, signed a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies in December, but was forced to begin the season on the disabled list after suffering a hamstring strain late in spring training. The right-hander has pitched twice at Double A Reading in recent days in preparation for his return.

Milner’s departure leaves the Phillies with just one lefty — Adam Morgan — in their bullpen. However, as manager Gabe Kapler mentioned several days ago, Hunter’s cutter can be effective against lefty hitters.

Hunter pitched in 61 games for Tampa Bay last season and held lefty hitters to a .170 (15 for 88) batting average and a .501 OPS. Righties hit .224 (28 for 125) with a .649 OPS.

Milner pitched 4 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. He allowed six hits and four runs. He walked three, hit a batter and struck out four.

Despite loss in finale, Phillies finish with successful road trip

Despite loss in finale, Phillies finish with successful road trip

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies won four out of six games on their road trip through the South and manager Gabe Kapler was happy with that. He said so in word after Wednesday night’s trip-ending, 7-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park (see first take). He said so in action in the eighth inning.

“All in all, you go on the road and you go 4-2, you feel good coming home,” Kapler said. “That's the biggest positive from this. We're going to go home stronger than when we left on this road trip. It's not an easy thing to do in baseball. I'm proud of our guys for doing that.”

Kapler’s satisfaction with the trip was evident even before the game ended. Lefty specialist Hoby Milner entered the game with one out in the eighth inning and the Phils down by two runs. His job, ostensibly, was to retire lefty hitters Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. He retired neither. Up came right-handed hitting Kurt Suzuki. The situation screamed for a right-hander but Kapler stuck with Milner and he allowed an RBI single as the Braves pulled away with three runs in the inning to salt the game away.

Entering the game, Milner had allowed a .375 batting average (21 for 56) to right-handed hitters and a .158 (12 for 76) average to lefty hitters for his career. Despite this, Kapler did not even have a right-hander up in the bullpen. In fact, no one was up. Kapler indicated that he had faith that Milner could get the job done.

But there was more to it, as well.

“At that point it was time to look, in part, to save our bullpen,” Kapler said. “That was the right time to save our bullpen and put them in a good position to succeed going forward.”

Kapler’s thinking was not unheard of. Ask any manager and he’ll tell you, some nights you have to give the bullpen a break, take one step back for the chance to take two forward in subsequent days, and that’s just what Kapler did. After all, the ‘pen did pick up five innings the night before. But the flip side to this was the Phils were down only two runs with the middle of the order due up in the ninth. Keep the difference at two runs and maybe you can rally. Five runs — different story.

All this made one wonder if Kapler didn’t believe his offense could pull it out in the ninth.

“We always have full confidence that the guy on the mound can get outs,” Kapler said. “So this, at least, was as much about our belief in Hoby to be able to get outs in that situation, and, also, preserve arms in the bullpen. And, also, we believe in our offense to be able to come back and put a big number up. Always.”

The Phils ended up scoring a run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. Vince Velasquez gave up a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth when he allowed a walk, a single and a three-run homer to new Phillie killer Ryan Flaherty. The Braves were in control the rest of the way. They have beaten the Phillies in four of six meetings this season.