Under-The-Radar Phillies Spring Training Storylines to Follow

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By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Another year of Phillies baseball has arrived, and many players are already in Clearwater, Florida, preparing for the impending month of Spring Training games. Popular faces such as superstars Bryce Harper and (recently re-signed) J.T. Realmuto will enter camp with cameras flashing and reporters lined up against the fence. Maybe even more attention-drawing will be stud third baseman Alec Bohm, the Rookie of the Year runner-up who had unprecedented success in 44 games following a miserable half-decade of Phillies draft pick flops. Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn will yet again be battling for one starting spot in center field. All eyes will be on these guys, but there is also a plethora of intriguing low-profile individuals that could be impact players for the Phillies in more ways than one.

One name that most Phillies fans should recognize is Ranger Suarez. The lefty reliever pitched 48.2 innings for the 2019 Phillies to the tune of an impressive 3.14 ERA and a stunning 142 ERA+. Bidding for a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, Suarez appeared to be breaking out. He pitched 5.0 scoreless innings to begin his Spring campaign before giving up his first 2 runs against the Boston Red Sox, but he recorded four strikeouts through three innings in the process.

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On First Day of Camp, Phillies Add Lefty Watson

Phillies pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater, Florida, today for their first workouts.  Even though they are underway, the Phillies were not done adding pieces for the 2021 ball club.  The latest move is veteran left-handed reliever Tony Watson.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported the news:

Watson has 10 years experience in the major leagues.

Best known for his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Watson spent the last three seasons with the San Francisco Giants.  In the shortened 2020 season, Watson went 1-0 with a 2.50 earned run average.  Lefties batted just .174 against Watson last season (and righties only batted .200 as well).

Meanwhile, the Phillies formally announced the signing of utility player Brad Miller.  After placing reliever Seranthony Dominguez on the 60-day injured list, the Phillies had a roster spot for Miller.   Miller will wear number 13.

 

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Phillies Invite Herrera, 30 More to Spring Training, Sign Mathis

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Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday to Phillies Spring Training camp.   The day before, the Phillies announced who would be joining the club in big league Spring Training camp.  The Phillies had 31 names to announce.   They include some Phillies prospects and some minor league regulars.  Almost buried at the bottom of the list among minor leaguers was a familiar name: Odubel Herrera.

The Phillies announced the names via Twitter:

While some might be excited to see the likes of their top infield prospect Bryson Stott, Herrera will be the one who gets attention.

Herrera has been absent from the Phillies organization since Memorial Day weekend, 2019, when Herrera was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.  Herrera was acquitted of any charges related to the incident.  But an investigation by Major League Baseball led to a suspension of Herrera for the remainder of the season.

The Phillies then removed Herrera from their 40-man roster, and he went unclaimed.  After spending Spring Training in 2020 in minor league camp, Herrera did not play a professional game after COVID-19 canceled the minor league season.   Herrera will now have the opportunity to demonstrate that the Phillies should consider him in 2020.

The Phillies will pay Herrera no matter what.   Herrera is set to earn $10 million in 2021, and then the Phillies will be subject to a $2.5 million buyout at the end of the season, if they do not choose to exercise a $11.5 million contract option for 2022.

It is unclear how many opportunities Herrera will have in major league camp.  The Phillies have center fielders Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn, along with prospect Mickey Moniak on the 40-man roster.  Scott Kingery is a candidate for time in center field, and the Phillies recently signed Travis Jankowski to a minor league contract, with an invitation to Spring Training.  Jankowski has played more of his outfield games over seven season in center field than anywhere else.

Most names were expected, though the Phillies added veteran catcher Jeff Mathis on a minor league deal.  Mathis is a major league veteran catcher known for his defensive prowess.  Though, in recent years, Mathis has struggled to hit over the .200 mark.


Phillies Released Revised Spring Schedule; Ballpark Loses Name

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On Friday, the Phillies released an amended Spring Training schedule.  It had been reported by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb that the schedule would be revised in order to keep teams closer to home for travel purposes, given the COVID-19 pandemic.  The schedule is out, and will be be at a ballpark with a different name.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The first game will now be an away game in Lakeland against the Tigers.  It will take place Sunday, February 28.
  • The first Phillies home game is now Monday, March 1.  The Phillies had previously been scheduled to be at home both Saturday and Sunday.
  • St. Patrick's Day will be a home game for the Phillies, as traditionally happens.
  • Off days are now Monday, March 8 and Thursday, March 18.
  • The schedule wraps up on Monday, March 29 before the Phillies depart for Philadelphia.

Missing from the schedule are trips further south than Sarasota.  That means no games against the Atlanta Braves (North Port), Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte), or the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers).

Another interesting change is a name change to the ballpark.   The official Phillies released referred to "Phillies Spring Training Ballpark".  On the Phillies webpage, "Spectrum Field" has been changed also to "Phillies Spring Training Ballpark".  As recently as a couple weeks ago the website carried the "Spectrum" name.

The Phillies first contracted with Charter Communications back in 2004, naming the facility Bright House Networks Field.  But after a merger with Time Warner Cable, Charter rebranded services "Spectrum" and the company became "Charter Spectrum".  Beginning in 2017, the ballpark reflected the "Spectrum" name.

There has been no announcement about fans in attendance from the Phillies.  Some Grapefruit League teams have announced either a 15% or 20% capacity at their ballparks.

 


Report: Phillies Close to Bringing Back "Bamboo" Brad Miller

The Phillies are five days from pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater for Spring Training.  The club is looking to add a final piece or two, and one of them is a popular former Phillies player.  That, according to a report, would be Brad Miller, who played for the Phillies in most of 2019.

Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports the Phillies and Miller are close to a deal:

That is a decent salary for a bench player, so he probably will play plenty.

Miller can get at bats from the left side at most positions on the field, minus pitcher and catcher.   If Rhys Hoskins is not recovered from surgery, he can play first base.  If the Phillies hope to rest Andrew McCutchen, Miller can play left field.  And, with no designated hitter, Miller can pinch hit for the Phillies from the left side.

Miller spent 2020 with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .232, but with an OPS of .802.  Miller hit seven home runs in the short season, driving in 26.  Miller played second base, third base, and shortstop for the Cardinals.

If the Phillies come to terms on a deal, do not expect a formal announcement before Wednesday.  That is the day that players may be placed on the 60-day injured list.  Seranthony Dominguez will be placed on the list Wednesday, opening a roster spot.

 

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Phillies: 2021’s Rotation Strategy

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After a 60-game campaign, the Philadelphia Phillies like all major league organizations will be cautious with their pitching staff.. Franchises will scrutinize the workloads of their entire rotation and most likely even their relief corp as well. So, don’t expect the usual!   

 

A Season of Ifs:

While many Phillies fans consider their team’s chances versus their divisional rivals, the most valuable ingredient is only visible when a club magically exceeds even their loftiest expectations. To illustrate, the Philadelphia Eagles won 2018’s Super Bowl with a backup quarterback over  Tom Brady. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“I just saw over the years that the times that we did remarkable things, it was always because players didn't want to let each other down. Players wanted to lift each other up.” - Theo Epstein

Even though many believe it’s impossible to compare sluggers from eons ago to today, starters are somehow exempt. Yes, those legends could hurl 300 innings and achieved their development in the minors because they spent a summer at each level: 16 teams, not 30.           

With job-losing fear, those moundsmen pitched through pain and injury if they could, and those who couldn’t had a lower status. Translation: A top-tier Phillies prospect named Jim Wright kept throwing until a bone snapped in half and protruded through his skin. Well, that ruins the totally positive myth of studs back then.                   

Owners now pay millions for even a five-slot hurler, and they consider it an investment. Ergo, franchises don’t take risks with talented youngsters they’ll need to win for more than one campaign. And remember, the faithful expect a player to complete his contract regardless of length.   

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Phillies Add Veteran Bat Joyce, Veteran Reliever Kintzler

With pitchers and catchers set to report a week from today and with the equipment truck already on the way to Clearwater, Florida, the last few touches on the roster are coming together for the Phillies.  The Phillies were busy on Wednesday, adding two veteran players to the mix:  one for the bullpen, one for the bench.  Both are minor league deals.

In a conference with reporters, including Matt Gelb of the Athletic, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski announced that the Phillies have come to terms with left-handed hitting outfielder Matt Joyce.   The deal is a minor league deal and Joyce would compete for a bench bat in Spring Training.

Joyce spent 2019 with the Atlanta Braves and 2020 with the Miami Marlins.  A bench player, Joyce played in approximately 2/3 of each team's games.  Joyce batted ..295 in 2019 and .252 in 2020.

The Phillies are down a left-handed bench bat with Jay Bruce becoming a free agent.  Joyce likely will be looking to spell Andrew McCutchen in left field.  As of now there is no designated hitter, so for now, should Joyce make the team, he likely will see some at bats in left field against right-handed pitching when McCutchen is off.

Joyce is not likely to be considered an option in center field.

Yesterday, former Phillies bench bat Phil Gosselin signed with the Los Angeles Angels.  Ronald Torreyes is back on a minor league deal to compete for a backup spot in the Phillies infield, and the Phillies have two of Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn for the bench when they are not playing center field.

Meanwhile, the Phillies added reliever Brandon Kintzler on a minor league deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:

But that may not be the only reason that Kinztler came to the Phillies.

Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper had something to do with it.  Rosenthal notes that Kintzler credits Harper with pushing to make the deal happen.  Kintzler served as a reliever in the Nationals bullpen with Harper in 2018.

Kintzler was the closer for the Miami Marlins last season, saving 12 games while pitching to a 2.22 earned run average.  In 2019, he pitched incredibly well for the Chicago Cubs, with a 2.68 earned run average in 62 games.  Despite Kinztler's success, the Marlins declined a $4 million option for Kintzler for 2021.  The Phillies will pay him if he makes the team.

Kintzler probably has a good shot at it; adding him on a minor league deal helps the Phillies keep a player they might otherwise have to cut. 

 


Selling 2021’s Phillies to Middleton

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

When Didi Gregorius agreed to sign, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful began speculating about the organization’s next move. Well, the team now has roughly $11.2 million AAV (average annual value) before exceeding the first CBT (competitive-balance threshold), and $10 million AAV is a reasonable amount for July’s needs.

 

Done or More to Come:

As the Phillies draw closer to March, the selling will then be a daily event. Yes, the players on the periphery must impress Joe Girardi and his staff to secure a spot in the rotation, relief corps, bench and the everyday eight. Translation: Put me in coach, I can play center field! 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Selling more of what you sell has nothing to do with what you sell. It has everything to do with your prospect's wants, needs, fears, goals, values and priorities.” - Don Cooper

While many wait for the COVID-19 vaccine, the MLB and MLBPA may only change scheduling if the virus causes new problems. Otherwise, play ball!                   

The Fightins are at $198.8 million AAV with the first CBT at $210 million. Therefore, $11.2 million is available without incurring a penalty; though, managing partner John Middleton favored a slightly decreased payroll from 2020’s $208 million AAV before 37 percent prorating.   

Besides re-signing JT Realmuto and Gregorius, the Phils inked late-inning arm Archie Bradley plus starters lefty Matt Moore and right-hander Chase Anderson. Yes, they are valuable signings at $13 million total. But inking Anderson may eliminate the adding of another setup man or Marwin Gonzalez.   

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Report: Phillies Agree to Terms With Pitcher Chase Anderson

The Phillies ended 2020 limping to the end of the season and short on starting pitchers.  As such, the Phillies quickly fell from playoff contention.   Heading into 2021 with new baseball operations leadership, the Phillies have been aggressive in adding starting pitching options.  The Phillies have reportedly added another.

According to Robert Murray of Fan Sided, the Phillies have agreed to terms with pitcher Chase Anderson:

Anderson will give the Phillies a right-handed option.

Anderson has pitched for three organizations: the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent 2020.  Once in his career, Anderson was involved in a trade in which he was traded for Phillies infielder Jean Segura.  

Generally a reliable rotation arm, Anderson is coming off his toughest season.  In 10 games, including seven starts, Anderson went 1-2 with a 7.22 earned run average.  Lifetime, Anderson is 54-42 with a 4.06 earned run average.

Anderson will compete to enter a rotation that includes righty locks Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin.  Matt Moore is in the mix from the left side after signing a major league deal.   Vince Velasquez and prospect Spencer Howard round out rotation options for the Phillies heading into Spring Training.