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Season of high expectations for Phillies, Bryce Harper ends at the hands of the Nationals

Season of high expectations for Phillies, Bryce Harper ends at the hands of the Nationals

WASHINGTON -- It’s over now, all the hi-jinks, waves and hand-slapping put to rest.

The team of the offseason has been eliminated from postseason consideration. Philadelphia is out following a Tuesday afternoon 4-1 loss in Washington. It has to go 3-3 over the final six games just to be a winning club by season's end.

“We’re going to have plenty of time to reflect on the fact we didn’t get to the postseason, which was the goal and the only thing that we thought about all season long,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’ll get there. We’ll get to that moment of reflection. It felt some sting already, I think we’re going to continue to feel some sting.”

The anchor of Philadelphia’s offseason swell in expectations and season-ticket sales was the signing of Bryce Harper for $330 million. His free agency pursuit careened through the winter until it was finally settled in spring, Harper landing with a division rival which drove the Phillies’ payroll toward the top 10 in the league. Boisterous chatter and marketing and chants of, “We got Harper!” followed.

He went 1-for-4 Tuesday, and was not available postgame during a brief open clubhouse session typical of the time between a split doubleheader (he was expected to speak following the second game). Harper’s OPS is .872 -- trailing last season’s .889 -- and his season will end Sunday because of teamwide under-performance, injuries and dubious roster construction. 

Losing Andrew McCutchen on June 3 crashed the Phillies’ outfield options. Multiple bullpen members were hurt throughout the season. The organization also made the tactical error of investing little in starting pitching. Once Aaron Nola took a step back for most of the season, the entire rotation found trouble. Philadelphia entered the day 13th in the 15-team National League in starting pitcher ERA. 

“I think it’s a lot of things, honestly,” Rhys Hoskins said when asked to pinpoint the Phillies’ failings. “We haven’t been as consistent of a team as we hoped throughout the year. Obviously we pitched well throughout the year and we’ve hit throughout the year, but they never seemed to sync up for a long period of time. I guess that’s what I’d pin it on.”

Philadelphia also flailed in the end of last season. Back-to-back flops have put Kapler’s job status in question.

“We have games to play left, and, like I said, there’s going to be plenty of opportunity to reflect,” Kapler said. “I love this organization, I love this team specifically. I love working for this front office. I love working for this ownership group. And, look, I’m going to manage this club as long as I can because I think I give us a great chance to win, and I think because I care deeply about the success of this franchise.”

So, that’s where the Phillies are Sept. 24. Their season will end without a playoff appearance. Harper received a rare night off because whether the team wins no matter influences this year. Kapler’s job security is waffling.

All the offseason noise quietly ended during a mid-afternoon makeup game.

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Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

The Nationals announced their first move toward rebuilding their bullpen for the 2020 season Sunday, signing right-hander Kyle Finnegan to a major-league deal.

Finnegan, 28, became a free agent for the first time this winter after seven seasons in the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league system. The A’s drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Texas State, originally developing him as a starter until converting him into a reliever in 2016.

Oakland granted Finnegan an invite to Spring Training ahead of last season, but he never made his way onto the team’s 40-man roster. His breakout season was in 2019, when the organization asked him to lower his arm slot to generate more movement on his pitches.

Finnegan posted a 2.66 ERA with 14 saves over 42 appearances for AA-Midland and AAA-Las Vegas last year. His fastball has touched triple digits in the past but sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. His newfound success has also seen him rack up more strikeouts, as evidenced by his K/9 that jumped from 9.7 in 2018 to 12.8 in 2019.

Prior to signing with Washington, Finnegan joined the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. He has a 2.31 ERA in 14 appearances so far this winter.

The Nationals’ 40-man roster now sits at 30 with the addition of Finnegan following non-tenders of Javy Guerra and Koda Glover. It will move up to 32 once the signings of Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick are made official. The move comes less than 12 hours before the MLB Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin in San Diego.

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The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

Only one player in the major leagues threw a pitch while over the age of 40 last season. Fernando Rodney, who in fact is 42 and coming off his first ever World Series title, has appeared in at least 50 games each of the last eight years and 10 of the last 11.

For a player who’s three years older than the second-oldest active pitcher, taking the offseason off wouldn’t just be expected—it’d probably be recommended. But Rodney is taking no such break, reportedly signing up for the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

Leones del Escogido plays in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This will actually be the fifth time Rodney will suit up for the team, most recently doing so last winter.

Rodney is a free agent after being picked up by the Nationals midseason. He’s played 17 years in the majors and ranks 17th all-time in saves with 327.

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