Jerad Eickhoff

Phillies make roster moves, reinstate Odubel Herrera, but for how long?

Phillies make roster moves, reinstate Odubel Herrera, but for how long?

The Phillies had a busy day tidying up their roster on Monday.

Let’s get right to it:

The club declined 2020 contract options on pitchers Jared Hughes, Pat Neshek and Jason Vargas. They are all free agents, though there is nothing preventing them from re-signing with the Phillies later in the offseason.

The team outrighted the following five players from the 40-man roster and all elected free agency. They include pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Edubray Ramos and infielder Phil Gosselin. These players are also eligible to re-sign with the Phillies later in the offseason.

Eickhoff is the most notable departure on the list. The 29-year-old right-hander came to the Phillies from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal in July 2015. He was the Phils’ top starter in 2016, recording a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts, but was hampered by injuries in subsequent years.

In a huge no-brainer, pitcher Jake Arrieta exercised his $20 million player option for 2020. Arrieta had long ago conceded that he would not opt-out of his deal, as was his right. His market would not have been good after going 18-19 in his first two seasons with the Phillies and having elbow surgery in September. Arrieta is expected to be fully healthy by spring training.

Arrieta was reinstated to the 40-man roster from the 60-day injured list. Pitchers Víctor Arano, Seranthony Domínguez, David Robertson, Robert Stock and Adam Morgan and outfielder Andrew McCutchen were also reinstated from the 60-day injured list. Players on the 60-day IL don't count against the 40-man roster, but they must be reinstated a week after the World Series.

In another long required procedural move, the Phillies removed outfielder Odubel Herrera from the restricted list. He now counts toward the 40-man roster.

Herrera had been suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic abuse after an incident in May. Though legal charges were dropped, Herrera was still disciplined by MLB.

Herrera still has two years and more than $20 million remaining on his contract. The Phillies cannot void his contract and they can only release him for baseball reasons. He could be traded, with the Phils eating a big chunk of his salary, but his value is low and takers could be few. A decision on his future would likely come closer to spring training, after the Phillies have completed their offseason work. Herrera last played for the Phillies on May 26. There’s a chance that will be his last game with the club.

Monday’s roster moves left the Phillies with five open spots on their 40-man roster as the free-agent market gets set to open.

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Injury updates on 7 Phillies, including J.T. Realmuto and Jay Bruce

Injury updates on 7 Phillies, including J.T. Realmuto and Jay Bruce

WASHINGTON — Some updates on the wounded Phillies, who not only have eight players on the injured list but also have a shorter bench than usual with two everyday starters banged up.

CF Roman Quinn

Quinn was activated off the IL Monday and will bat sixth in Monday's lineup against tough Nationals lefty Patrick Corbin. Formerly a switch-hitter, Quinn will now bat exclusively from the right side.

Because he has been hurt so frequently, the Phillies will be cautious with Quinn. The tentative plan is to use him off the bench Tuesday as the Phillies pay attention to how he bounces back from the start Monday.

Quinn can still provide value for this team, especially with the collection of injuries to centerfielders.

OF Jay Bruce

Bruce (hamstring) was out of Monday's lineup as a precaution — and also because Corbin was the opponent — but will likely be available to pinch-hit.

C J.T. Realmuto

Realmuto got a second straight day off Monday as he recovers from taking a foul ball to the groin midway through Saturday's game.

Realmuto caught the first 105 innings in the month of June and was due for a day off but didn't want it to come like this.

"We want him to be feeling himself," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Doesn't mean that he's going to feel perfect by the time we put him back in the lineup but we definitely want to be sensitive to the fact that he's still a little bit sore. I don't think it's so much about him re-injuring the area as it is not doing anything else that might cause a problem."

RHP Tommy Hunter

As expected, Hunter (flexor strain) will begin a rehab assignment Monday night with Class A Clearwater. He isn't too far away from making his season debut.

LHP Adam Morgan

Morgan (flexor strain) threw a bullpen session Sunday for the second time in four days. Last week, Kapler indicated Morgan may be able to return this upcoming weekend. There should be more clarity tonight or Tuesday on his status.

RHP Jerad Eickhoff

Eickhoff was placed on the injured list Monday with biceps tendinitis, a day after allowing five runs and two more homers in one inning of relief.

Eickhoff first felt the nagging injury in Milwaukee on May 24 but tried to play through it, as most guys do, for better or for worse.

"Just been something that's been bugging him a little bit and not allowing him to get loose the way he wants to get loose," Kapler said. "Out of respect for one of our hardest workers and most prepared individuals, it makes sense to really pay attention to that and protect him and get him back in his best physical baseball condition."

It's the second Phillies injury this week in which a player tried to play through pain and had to miss some time because of it. Bruce first felt his hamstring tightness "three or four days" before exiting Saturday's game, according to the player.

Would Kapler rather his guys tell him when they first start feeling pain?

"I understand what it's like to be a player and want to play through things that feel nagging," he said. "These guys are professionals, they all want as many opportunities as they can possibly get. We talk a lot about the more communication, the better. I also understand the position our players are in."

OF Adam Haseley

Haseley remains out with a groin injury but is making some progress. He took batting practice and shagged fly balls Monday in D.C.

The next step would be practicing baseball-like movements such as bursting out of the batter's box and simulating a stolen base attempt.

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With so few options at back of rotation, where do Phillies turn?

With so few options at back of rotation, where do Phillies turn?

ATLANTA — A one-sentence summary of the Phillies' series finale Sunday against the Braves? Sean Rodriguez was by far their best pitcher.

The Phillies were blown out, 15-1, in a game when they used an opener for the second time this season (see observations). Gabe Kapler told Vince Velasquez late Saturday night that he would get the "start," and the plan was to ride Velasquez for 50 to 60 pitches before turning to lefty Cole Irvin.

Velasquez, Irvin, Jerad Eickhoff, none of them came close to getting the job done. All three allowed consistently hard, loud contact. The Braves had nine extra-base hits and three more deep fly balls crushed to the warning track.

"We knew we were gonna bring Cole, we knew we had length out of Jerad and thought we could get 50 to 60 pitches out of Vince," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We did all those things, we just didn't do it effectively."

It was ugly from start to finish, and it again highlighted the Phillies' need to go get a starting pitcher right now. Not on July 10, not on July 20, not on July 31 but now. You can't force another team to trade with you, but let's forget for a minute about the top end of the market, the tier of Matt Boyd, Mike Minor, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke. The Phillies just need another reliable arm that can give them six innings, get through a lineup three times. Maybe that arm comes from the minor-league system.

While it's true that most teams have a shaky fifth starter, most teams also have a few trustworthy arms ahead of them in the rotation. The Phillies do not right now. Aaron Nola has a 4.89 ERA. Jake Arrieta has a 4.31 ERA. Nick Pivetta is trending in the right direction, and Zach Eflin has been very good for much of the season, but this quartet has not collectively performed like a playoff rotation.

One thing looks abundantly clear, though: The Phillies cannot continue with the opener experiment with this personnel. Velasquez doesn't have the command, Irvin and Eickhoff don't have the stuff to keep the Phillies in the game against a lineup as potent as the Braves'.

What happens Friday when this rotation spot comes up again?

"We have a lot of work to do, a lot of discussions to have," Kapler said. "No question about it, we have to be better and we'll discuss it more on the flight to Washington, D.C., and get our ducks in a row.

"We haven't pitched our best recently. I think that we have a better level of play in us in totality and I have trust in our starting pitchers — Nick, Jake, Nola, obviously Eflin has been outstanding. We have a group of guys who have a track record of success and Nick has been sensational since he's back from the minor leagues. There's some confidence there."

The Phils clearly don't have a ton of confidence in Velasquez, Irvin or Eickhoff as starting pitchers or else one of them would have the No. 5 starter's job. Actions always speak louder than words.

Irvin's ERA is 6.84, Eickhoff has allowed 18 home runs in his last 28 innings, and Velasquez hasn't been able to take his team deep into games.

Who is next? Ranger Suarez? Enyel De Los Santos? Ramon Rosso? Adonis Medina? The decision won't be made for several days.

"I think we'll rebound from this with ease," Velasquez said. "I think it's just one of those games where these guys are hot and we've got to tip our caps off to them and keep moving forward. 

"They had a solid month, and we're right on their tails. I don't think it's one of those things where we should necessarily give up as a pitching staff or as an offensive team."

The Braves have been the hottest team in the NL, winning 24 of their last 34 games. And Velasquez does have a point — as well as Atlanta has played of late, as many injuries as the Phillies have, the deficit is only 2½ games. They can make that up in a series. 

But to do so, they need the starting staff to carry them for a bit. It hasn't been able to the way it was the first half of 2018. With so many key relievers injured, with Andrew McCutchen out for the season and Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto banged up, that is the unit that must step up. 

Can they do it? Can they keep the Phillies in the game against Patrick Corbin Monday, Max Scherzer Wednesday and Stephen Strasburg Thursday? If not, the gap between the Phillies and the Braves will only grow wider.

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