Thursday, February 28, 2019

Who will play center field for Phillies between McCutchen and Harper?

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On right deal, veteran Adam Jones could help Phillies in center field

With the addition of a pair of major free agents this off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies have significantly upgraded themselves at the corner outfield positions.
Andrew McCutchen will take over in left field and Bryce Harper in right field. Both of those men have been the National League Most Valuable Player in the past, McCutchen in 2013, Harper in 2015.
Another thing that adding two new players to the everyday lineup does is push aside incumbent players. In left field, that issue is resolved with Rhys Hoskins moving back to first base following the trade of Carlos Santana.
But now with two new starting outfielders the pressure this spring will grow on the other incumbents. Nick WilliamsAaron AltherrOdubel Herrera and Roman Quinn will likely at some point find themselves battling for a job with the Phillies. At least one of those players could end up being traded away.
I say “at some point” because right now the conversation is a bit moot. Both Herrera and Quinn are injured and it is unknown how long either will be out. Also pushing for a job on the Phillies bench will be 24-year-old Dylan Cozens.
Were everyone healthy then the odd-man out would most likely be Williams. That is only because he may be the most talented of the group. The 25-year-old stroked 17 home runs a year ago in his second big-league campaign. There are likely a number of teams who would see him as a starting right fielder with upside potential.
Herrera and Quinn were set to battle for the starting job in center field. Should either get back to the Grapefruit League lineup before the other and produce, they would clearly take the lead. Should neither return by the start of the regular season one month from now, Altherr likely steps into the starting role temporarily.
Altherr may be the best fit of the bunch for a regular bench role. The 28-year-old has experience in parts of five big-league seasons with the Phillies. He demonstrated his power potential by blasting 19 homers during his best season back in 2017. He is also athletic enough that he can play all three outfield positions. Last year, Altherr appeared in 68 games in left field, 11 in center field, and another half-dozen in right field.

Phillies fans are going to love fiery new slugger Bryce Harper

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Harper plays the game the way Philly fans like - emotionally

He is a power-hitting version of Pete Rose. A fiery competitor who is a genuine superstar in Major League Baseball. Now, just as Rose did exactly 40 years ago, Bryce Harper will transform from a feared and hated rival to a revered hero in Philadelphia.
After a months-long pursuit of the 26-year-old free agent, the Philadelphia Phillies have come to a 13-year agreement that gives Harper the largest contract in U.S. pro sports history and will add him to what was already a vastly improved ball club.
In conjunction with other moves that the club had previously made this off-season, the Phillies now have to be considered as favorites to win the National League East Division crown. This addition helps to transform the team immediately into a World Series favorite as well.
Harper is a Las Vegas, Nevada native who became one of the most hyped young baseball players in decades. He had been called “Baseball’s Lebron“, referring to basketball superstar Lebron James, when Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old high schooler a decade ago.
Drafted by the Washington Nationals out of a Nevada junior college with the first overall pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Harper was selected two spots ahead of the other big name free agent whom the Phillies also pursued this off-season, Manny Machado.
In his lone full minor league campaign back in 2011, Harper blitzed through two levels with a .297/.392/.501 slash line. He banged out 17 homers and stole 26 bases in 109 games that summer, reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old.
After a brief stint to begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse, Harper received the call to Washington at the end of April. Other than a couple of injury rehab stints early in his career, he has never returned to the minor leagues.

Injuries continue to rise at 2019 Phillies spring training

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Hernandez joins a growing list of Phillies hurt in Clearwater

Barely two weeks into spring training and players are dropping like flies with the Philadelphia Phillies. Already down two position players and a pitcher over this past week, the injury ranks grew by one more today.
It was announced this morning that second baseman Cesar Hernandez suffered what was described by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com as a “Grade 1 right hip flexor strain” while running the bases during Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Clearwater.
Per the Summit Medical Group: “A hip flexor strain is a stretch or tear of a muscle in your hip. You use the hip flexor muscles when you flex or lift your knee, do high kicks, or bend at the waist.
The injury presents with pain in the area where your thigh meets your hip. Treatments requires that an athlete such as Hernandez cease all activities that cause the pain. In his case that would be pretty much every baseball activity.
Per Zolecki there is no timetable for his return. Assuming Hernandez injury actually is a Grade 1, that is the mildest version. However, these types of injuries normally take a few weeks to fully heal. Rushing back could only cause a recurrence and worsening. In the worse case these injuries can take six weeks or more.

For a player whose speed and ability to pivot and otherwise move around the second base position, this is certainly a setback. This could well open an oppportunity for soon-to-be 25-year-old Scott Kingery to get most of the playing time at the Keystone position in the coming weeks, and to wrestle away the starting job.
Hernandez turns 29-years-old in May. He is signed for this coming season at $7.75 million, and would again be eligible for arbitration next winter. He can then become a free agent following the 2020 campaign.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bryce Harper appears to be taking final offers as free agency process nears an end

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Harper met with the Phillies, Dodgers and Giants in recent days

For months, the Philadelphia Phillies were among the leading contenders to land one of the two big free agents available during this Hot Stove season.
With infielder Manny Machado coming off the market last week, the focus of the team was squarely on the other prize. Now it appears that the battle for outfielder Bryce Harper may be finally drawing to a close.
The Phillies may have put their final best offer on the table this past weekend when principal owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas and met on Saturday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Middleton then returned to Florida and has said that he will make no further public comments until the process is complete.
On Sunday it was the Los Angeles Dodgers turn to meet with the Harper group in Sin City. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was part of that Dodgers contingent and had this to say per Bob Nightengale of USA Today: “It was good, just trying to get to know each other. I think in the spirit of us, the Dodgers, vetting a certain process makes sense and for those guys to do their due diligence as well.
Then on Tuesday the San Francisco Giants took their shot, with CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi known to have taken part in meetings with the Harper team. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that their sources indicate “the Giants and Harper’s team have discussed a 10-year contract.
If the most recent reports are to be believed, this would mean that both the Phillies and Giants have made long-term offers in excess of $300 million total dollars. It is believed that the Dodgers are hoping to lure Harper to SoCal with a more lucrative annual average value deal for a shorter term, perhaps three-to-five years for $35-40 million AAV.
There has also been increased speculation that a Harper deal for the long-term would have to include a player opt-out after three years. That would be smart from his perspective for a number of reasons.
First, it would allow him to re-enter free agency while still in his prime at age 29. Second, it would come a year after the free agency of Mike Trout, which will certainly elevate financial and other terms for all players. Third, it would come just as a new Basic Agreement was due between the players and Major League Baseball.

Everything is speculative at this point. Numerous sources are coming out with proclamations and predictions on a daily basis, stating that their individual sources have some new inside information to offer. Frequently these sources have differed wildly or outright contradicted others.
One thing feels certain. With spring training underway, game action already taking place in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and the calendar about to turn to March, this process is drawing to a close. These meetings for the Phillies, Dodgers, and Giants were very likely a chance to put up their last, best offers.
I am predicting that we have an end to this saga before the weekend. Let’s see what happens, Phillies Nation.

The Phillies lose Roman Quinn to injury once again

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Perennially injured outfielder Roman Quinn goes down again

This is not a repeat. Roman Quinn is injured. The Phillies outfielder has suffered what has been called a mild right oblique strain, will have an MRI on Thursday, and will miss an undetermined amount of time.
An oblique injury is potentially debilitating for a baseball player as this core muscle is activated during both hitting and throwing. Should the MRI reveal a mild strain, Quinn could return to action after the weekend. If severe, we could be talking about months.
He’s very disappointed, and I’m disappointed for him,” said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
Kapler and Quinn are not the only two individuals now disappointed with this latest development. All of Phillies Nation is rightfully disappointed. The 25-year-old had a real opportunity with fellow outfielder Odubel Herrera also lost to injury to take a clear lead in the battle for the 2019 Phillies starting center field job.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies out of a Florida high school as the 66th player chosen overall, Quinn was ranked by MLB Pipeline as a Top 10 Phillies prospect every year from 2013-16.

Over parts of seven minor league seasons, Quinn hit .278 with a .353 on-base percentage and 183 stolen bases over 429 games. He has appeared in 65 games with the Phillies split between the 2016 and 2018 seasons, hitting .266 with a .340 OBP, 15 steals and 23 runs scored.
Quinn’s dynamic impact at the top of the Phillies lineup when healthy has been undeniable. It was just last August in an interview with the local Philly SportsRadio 94 WIP morning showthat Kapler said that Quinn was “as talented and physically gifted as anyone on our roster.
But that entire “when healthy” part has become the more relevant when evaluating his potential contributions. The fact is that the team simply cannot rely on Quinn remaining healthy for any length of time. Certainly not enough to depend on him as a starting option.
Quinn said he was actually getting the MRI at 12:30 today. "I’ve lost the words. ... I do pretty much everything that I possibly can to play this game and go out there and play. I keep having setback after setback after setback. It’s frustrating, man. It’s really frustrating."

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Phillies lose reliever Tommy Hunter as first pitching injury of 2019

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Hunter becomes the first arm to go down in spring training

When objectively evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 roster for potential strengths and weaknesses, the bullpen would have to be listed on the “strengths” side of the ledger.
The addition of a few talented veterans this off-season to a solid returning group and some growing young arms has the pen looking stronger and deeper than it has in years.
Now less than two weeks into 2019 spring training that bullpen depth will begin to be tested. It’s first member has gone down due to injury. Tommy Hunter will be shut down for in indeterminate amount of time with a Grade 1 strain of the flexor muscle in his right pitching arm.
The flexor mass is a collection of muscles and tendons which come together in the forearm near the elbow. They function by allowing you to turn and flex your wrist. The injury as it affects a pitcher such as Hunter is described as follows by Robert G. Najarian, MD with Inova:
With flexor mass strains, pitchers usually don’t feel pain until the follow-through phase of the pitch. That’s when you need the flexor mass to snap the wrist to get the ball in the strike zone. When the flexor mass is injured, the ball often ends high and pitchers can have problems locating their pitch.
In general, Najarian states, the injury is treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, and a strength/rehabilitation program. Some players are out for just two weeks. For others the recovery can take as long as six to eight weeks. It all depends upon the severity of the injury and the individual player’s ability to recuperate.
The hope is that the Phillies and Hunter caught the injury early enough that this method of recovery will do the job. If such an injury is allowed to go untreated for too long, it could result in ligament damage and possibly the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a free agent in December 2017 to a two-year, $18 million contract. The 32-year-old, 11-year veteran will not throw for two weeks and then will be re-evaluated.

The Phillies bullpen ranked around the middle of baseball last season. The club’s relievers as a group ranked 18th in ERA and BAA, 10th in K/9, and 11th in saves and K/BB among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball.
Hunter was likely going to be called upon by manager Gabe Kapler in the 5th-7th innings. He is one of a strong group of right-handed relievers that also includes David RobertsonPat NeshekHector NerisSeranthony DominguezJuan NicasioEdubray Ramos, and Victor Arano.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Hamstring injury early in spring training sidelines Odubel Herrera

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Herrera injured early on in 2019 spring training camp

The Philadelphia Phillies have suffered their first loss of the spring due to injury. In a battle with Roman Quinn for the starting job in center field, Odubel Herrera has suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain.
Herrera is believed to have first tweaked the hamstring in his left leg just prior to the official opening of camp. The 27-year-old was in Clearwater, Florida for more than a month, working out early in anticipation of the positional battle ahead.
Then during a practice session with the team last Wednesday, Herrera felt the same hamstring tighten up while he was going from first to third base as part of a baserunning drill.
Scott Lauber reported at the time that manager Gabe Kapler did not seem to be concerned. “We think he will get over this very quickly. We’re getting it checked out.

Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic today reported an update on the situation, which has kept Herrera of action since suffering the injury:
They’re now calling it a Grade 1 hamstring strain for Odubel Herrera, and Kapler is unsure when he will make his Grapefruit League debut. Kapler said it won’t be in the next few days, though.

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Per physioworks.com: “with a grade 1 hamstring strain, you may have tightness in the back of the thigh but will be able to walk normally. You will be aware of some hamstring discomfort and unable to run at full speed. There will be mild swelling and spasm.
However, as we have seen with many similar injuries to athletes over time, hamstrings can be tricky. Those types of injuries have an extremely high re-injury rate. Herrera will be closely guided and monitored by the Phillies training staff and you can look for a conservative approach in easing him into workout and game action.
This is a setback for the fifth-year player. His batting average has fallen each of the last three seasons. His OPS has dropped each of the last two years, and his extra-base total dropped from 59 to 44 a year ago despite 34 more plate appearances. He has also virtually ceased being a stolen base threat. After swiping 41 bags over his first two seasons, Herrera stole just eight bases in 2017 and five last year.

It's time for the Phillies to finish off the Bryce Harper negotiations

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Middleton (L) hasn't had a slugger like Howard in years

"We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
This was the statement made by Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton at the Major League Baseball owner’s meetings back in mid-November. His statement lit a spark that blazed up Hot Stove logs in the fireplace of Phillies fans everywhere.
We believed all along that Middleton was the ultimate answer to the Phillies returning to the consistent glory that so many in that fan base had come to expect. Remember, this was the man who, after the club had dropped the 2009 World Series in six games to the New York Yankees, made the following statement to Ryan Howard“Ryan, I want my fucking trophy back. It’s fucking ours!” 
From 2001 through 2012, a period of a dozen seasons, the Phillies were playoff contenders nearly every year. But then the bottom dropped out, and for five years the team and those fans wandered through the darkness of a bleak losing wilderness.
For the first decade after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 those fans swarmed to the beautiful South Philly ballpark. More than three million tickets were sold in eight of those 10 seasons, including a half-dozen in a row. The ballpark was the place to be, a social happening every single game.
But as the losing began and club management and ownership seemed to give up on putting out a winning product, fan interest waned. The Phillies didn’t even draw two million for three straight years from 2014-17.
Things appeared to be turning around last season. The club was a surprising contender for much of the summer, leading the division for more than a month from July 6 through August 12. Fans responded to the winning and some strong promotional events by filling more than 30,000 seats for 18 games between late-June and mid-August.
But as the team collapsed to a 12-28 record over the final six weeks, fan interest dried up. The Phillies drew that 30,000 figure just five more times. All of those were on weekends, with three specifically for Sunday promotions.
The message from last year when viewed against the previous handful of seasons is clear to Middleton. Do your job and put a winning team on the field and fans will respond. The message from a decade ago is also clear. Put players on that winner who those fans can relate to and who excite them, and they will come out in droves.
General manager Matt Klentak has performed well thus far. In what has been by far his best off-season to date the GM has signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and swung trades to bring in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Middleton does understand. He is one of us in this regard: he is also a fan. He is driven. He wants to win. That is why he fueled up his private jet with the red Phillies “P” branded on the tail and had the pilots fly him out to Las Vegas, hometown of the biggest fish in this off-season’s large free agent lake, Bryce Harper.
But it isn’t enough. Look around at the other National League contenders. The Phillies are improved, but so are any number of other teams that already appeared to be ahead of them. The fans realize that this team has a chance to contend for a Wildcard spot now. But that is not what spending “stupid” money is supposed to get you.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

John Middleton flies to Las Vegas trying to close on Bryce Harper

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Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Vegas to nail down Harper

In what has been a long off-season pursuit of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper by the Philadelphia Phillies, what went on Saturday just might have made for the wildest day yet.
It all began on Friday when principal owner John Middleton’s private plane, the one with the big red Phillies ‘P’ painted on its tail, was spotted on the ground in Las Vegas, Nevada, hometown of the young superstar. Matt Breen of Philly.com stoked the fire in the fan base by reminding them that a year ago, Middleton flew in newly-signed free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

The last time John Middleton sent his private jet to get a free agent, he didn’t come home empty handed.

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Those initial reports set off a wave of attempts to verify that Middleton’s plane was indeed at McCarran International Airport. They were finally verified by the reliable Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia at 8:43pm.
A source in Las Vegas tells me that Phillies owner John Middleton’s plane is on the ground in that city. Vegas is Bryce Harper’s home town. No other details, but talks clearly ongoing.

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