Phillies Starting Eight are in the Lineup for the First Time Since Mother's Day

Sunday, May 9.  That was the last time the Phillies featured a lineup that featured all eight offensive starters.  That day Didi Gregorius left the game early.  Though he did not hit the injured list until May 18, he missed most of the time in between before the Phillies made the move.  On Friday, the Phillies will have their full lineup back.

The Phillies announced Friday afternoon that they have activated Gregorius from the 10-day injured list.  To make room on the active roster, Nick Maton was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The lineup will be in a different order than when they last played together:

That lineup will be paired with the club's most dependable starter, Zack Wheeler.

The Phillies begin a crucial 10-game stretch against the Padres, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox that will take them to the All-Star break.  The Phillies will need to demonstrate they are worthy of upgrades, with the July 31 trade deadline just four weeks away.


Phillies: Plugging 2021's Holes in Progress


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies execs quietly resolve on-field shortcomings, their fans panic at problems, real and perceived; but ineffectiveness due to streaks, injuries, and growing pains affect the numbers. Temporarily! So, a hot April hitter can cool off in May, and a dominate starter can hit a rough patch.  


May, June and July:

Some Phillies faithful expect the club to fail due to weaknesses, but all franchises have warts. Moreover, an injury-plagued season after an abbreviated campaign means at least 20 organizations have a decent playoff shot, and the Fightins are in that group, doubting Thomases. 


“It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.” - Albert Einstein

At April’s end, center field and the eight hole were causing some locals and media types to panic. It was as if the Phils had to acquire a high-caliber glove, arm and bat to save the 162. No, it wasn’t the only issue; it was the highest nail to hammer.    

In the end, Odubel Herrera received the call-up on April 26 even though he hadn't faced major league pitching for two years due to a suspension and the pandemic. Beginning on May 5, though, he hit .314 to month’s end after only 24 at-bats. Overall, he’s dropped from .264 to .247 because he’s streaky: no surprise there.      

Herrera, a .280 hitter, has a .311 average with a .364 OBP leading off: a get-on-base role. Yes, he’s doing that even though his average has dropped. But he’s on base at a 36.4 percent clip to begin a frame.  

Continue reading "Phillies: Plugging 2021's Holes in Progress" »

Phillies Cut Ties With Hale, Call Upon Veteran Feliz

When reliever David Hale entered Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals, Phillies manager Joe Girardi had a choice: Either Hale would enter the game then, or he would enter the game in a late inning.  Girardi chose the former, and the results were disasterous.   Hale, the club's mop up reliever, allowed all three inherited runners to score, as well as three of his own.  The Phillies front office had seen enough.

The Phillies announced several moves today, perhaps most notably that Hale's contract has been designated for assignment.  The Phillies will have 10 days to release, trade, or outright Hale off of the roster.  Hale can reject an outright assignment to the minor leagues.

The Phillies also placed reliever Sam Coonrod on the 10-day Injured List.  The diagnosis is right forearm tendinitis.  Coonrod was the pitcher responsible for the bases loaded on Wednesday ahead of Hale.  He issued three walks and seemed to lack command.

The Phillies will give veteran reliever Neftali Feliz a look in the bullpen.  Feliz was a one-time closer with the Texas Rangers, but has not pitched in the major leagues since 2017.  The Phillies are promoting Feliz after 15 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where Feliz was an impressive 2-1 with a 1.26 earned run average for the IronPigs.  In his major league career, Feliz has a 3.49 earned run average and 107 saves in 357 games.

Nick Maton will also re-join the Phillies, taking Coonrod's spot on the roster.  It has not been 10 days since Maton was optioned to Triple-A, but with an injury a club may make an exception to the rule.   Maton's demotion Wednesday was to make room for Matt Moore, who will start one of today's games in New York.

Finally, Enyel De Los Santos will join the Phillies as the 27th man for the doubleheader.  


Phillies on 2021 Buyer’s Path


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Playing .600 ball is the formula the Philadelphia Phillies execs would prefer to exceed the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by up to $20 million and/or plug their glaring holes by late July. But the players can handle their postseason aspirations with their bats and gloves. Three weeks down, six to go!


A Healthy Opportunity:

While the Phillies faithful annually want to go for even long shots, no organization has infinite resources or desires wasteful spending, as New York Yankees supporters are finding out in ‘21. However, health and changed rules midstream will be X factors along with pressure on the stars as the trading deadline approaches. 


“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” - Nolan Bushnell

Barring long-term injuries, the Fightins’ offense depends on the regulars producing up to their track record. Granted, Alec Bohm is probably not a .338 hitter in 2021, but he’s also not a .233 bat either. Plus Odubel Herrera is a .280 hitter who can flip-flop in the lineup with Andrew McCutchen, when the need arises.                    

In the playoffs, clubs only require four hurlers, and Vince Velasquez would match up against other four-slot arms. But Velasquez is neither the developing pitcher from recent seasons nor the one during a May streak. No, hitters now expect other offerings besides his fastball in crucial spots, but his results will be acceptable.                           

Continue reading "Phillies on 2021 Buyer’s Path" »

Phillies Place Knapp, Joyce on IL; Summon Marchan, Vierling


The Phillies had somewhat of a double blow on Friday night.  They lost their backup catcher and a backup outfielder to injury.  This comes as the Phillies were already extra short on depth due to injuries to infielder Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius.  This time the Phillies lose Andrew Knapp and Matt Joyce.

The Phillies announced that Knapp was placed on the 7-day Concussion Injured list.  This is shorter than a typical injured list stint by design, though the Phillies could transfer him to the 10-day injured list if he is not ready to resume baseball activities in seven days.  Rafael Marchan returns to the club.

The Phillies placed Joyce on the IL with a lower back strain.  Joyce has been used sparingly, despite injuries in the outfield to Bryce Harper and with Andrew McCutchen sometimes struggling against right-handed pitching.  Even though this was an injury to an outfielder, the Phillies declined to summon either Adam Haseley or Mickey Moniak.

The Phillies instead will go with right-handed outfielder Matt Vierling.  Vierling began the season at Double-A Reading and was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley just this past Tuesday.  After 13 at bats, Vierling is getting promoted once again.

The Phillies selected Vierling with their fifth round pick of the 2018 draft out of the University of Notre Dame.  Vierling is not ranked among the Top 30 prospects in the system by MLB Pipeline.  But he has impressed so far in Triple-A.

Vierling was batting a combined .354 with six home runs and 17 runs batted it over both levels.  Vierling played center field more than any other position in 2021, but also played a good amount in right field and one appearance in right field.

Vierling has made some appearances in Spring Training, including one memorable play in Clearwater against the Yankees in which he robbed the Yankees of a grand slam. Over 35 Spring at bats in 2019, 2020 and 2021, he batted .229.

The Phillies did not need a 40-man roster spot, because Chase Anderson is currently on the COVID-related injured list.  No information has been provided to a possible return for Anderson, so the Phillies have the space for now.  Anderson probably would need a rehab assignment before re-joining the Phillies, anyway.

Phillies Head West with Massive Momentum Swing

By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Just one week ago, the Phillies were sludging their way through a spell of mediocrity. One bad stretch and “panic mode” may have been in full effect.

The club was just 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they would prepare to take on the Atlanta Braves next, a series in which they ended up losing game one. This ultimately landed the Phillies at a subpar record of 28-31.

But more importantly, the Mets continued to extend their division lead, and the Phillies had a treacherous June schedule staring directly at them.

Then, the Phillies altered the outlook of their season in dramatic fashion.

Three straight walk-offs and a 7-0 blowout in the remaining 4 games of the homestand against quality baseball teams spurred hope in the team and fanbase.

Arguably the most significant development throughout the win streak was the offense.

The offense may be heating up with the weather after months of inconsistent offense from an oft-injured lineup, one that appeared to sleepwalk through many games. They averaged 5.2 runs per game versus the Braves and Yankees opposed to 4.26 runs per game on the season.

For reference, the difference in average runs per game between the teams with the highest (Astros--5.51 runs) and lowest (Pirates--3.48 runs) in MLB is 2.03, so jumping nearly an entire run per game is significant.

I attribute some of the offensive uptick to Alec Bohm, a key contributor to the elite 2020 Phillies lineup, who has heated up in June. He is batting nearly .400 this month, and the “clutch factor” appears to be back as well.

In addition, Jean Segura is tearing the cover off the ball. The should-be-All-Star has raised his batting average to .339, and he was responsible for 2 of the 3 walk-off hits in crunch time.

Pair that production with Odubel Herrera’s .347 average in the leadoff spot and you have got a LETHAL one-two punch to begin ballgames.

This offensive surge comes at an opportune time. They will need to scratch and claw for runs in the upcoming Dodgers series, although the pitching matchups do seem to be slightly in the Phillies favor.

Spencer Howard, piggy-backed by rookie Bailey Falter, faces off versus Tony Gonsolin in game one. Zach Eflin opposes Julio Urías in game two, and Zack Wheeler is set to duel future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw in game three.

Speaking of starting pitching, the Phillies rotation ranks 11th in the majors in ERA and sixth in WAR.. It has undeniably been a strong suit for the ballclub this season.

It is precisely why it is imperative for the Phillies lineup to continue having success.

If you combine the 2021 rotation and improved bullpen with the elite production of the 2020 lineup, a lineup that is nearly identical to the current one, the Phillies suddenly look like a threatening playoff contender.

Only time will tell if the Phillies can sustain this level of production on both sides of the ball, but two series wins against the NL West's best teams would turn heads around the baseball world.


Phillies: NL East’s X Factor in 2021


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful believe a full season represents normality, an underlying element will determine the divisional victor more than they expect. Like 2020, 2021 is already a unique campaign with its own complexion --unlike average annual differences. It stands alone!


Summer’s Discontent:

Expectation-wise, baseball men were at a loss to completely plan for ‘21 because they’ve never had a 60-game schedule preceding a full 162. For, however, the strike-abbreviated seasons of 1994 and 1995, 113 contests were the lowest mark. So, the doubling or tripling of injuries doesn’t have a precedent as a guide. 


“Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.” - Benjamin Franklin

A normal year has injuries based on being hit by a pitch, crashing into a wall, collisions, and sprains due to forcing one’s body to make a catch or avoid a tag. In ‘20, missing a month was the equivalent of half a campaign. And misfortune affected the Phillies bullpen with no David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez.                   

Currently, the pandemic has changed the last two offseasons because some players returning to an adjusted winter routine probably didn’t compensate to avoid overdoing their workload. And the result could be an unprecedented number of injuries. 

Continue reading "Phillies: NL East’s X Factor in 2021" »

Powder Blue Podcast: Nola Comes Up Small, Kingery Outrighted, and Welcome Luke Williams

Logo Mosher Klose

On the latest Powder Blue Podcast, Frank Klose and Geoff Mosher break down the Phillies' recent stretch, including last night's loss to the Atlanta Braves.  We discuss:

  • What is up with Aaron Nola?
  • Scott Kingery is outrighted off of the roster
  • The Phillies spoil what would have been a really neat Luke Williams debut

And finally, Suzie Hunter calls in from the road to discuss her current fundraiser: She is visiting all 30 MLB Parks to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club.  Check out more here:

Suzie's MLB Road Trip

Phillies Win Two in a Row, But Tough June and July Still on The Horizon

By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Many baseball fans speculated that if the Phillies could survive the gauntlet of 16 straight games vs. the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals to begin the season, then they might be just fine…

As it turned out, the Phillies went 8-7 through those first five series (one game was rained out up in Queens, NY).

Things were looking promising until they lost 2 of 3 at home versus Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants. Then came another series loss versus the Rockies, and a barrage of injuries in the subsequent Cardinals series spiraled the team downward.

Ever since, it has been a battle to achieve, and stay over, a .500 record. As it stands on June 6, 2021, the Phillies are 28-30, good enough for 3rd in the NL East.

The club has struggled to capitalize in very winnable games. Failing to bury opponents when given the chance to tack on runs,  losing momentum late in ballgames, and playing lackluster defense is an all-too-familiar story as of late.

The last time the Phillies won a series not against the Washington Nationals was in the first week of May versus the Brewers. One would think that the schedule must be due to lighten up.

However, it does not get any easier leading up to the All-Star Break.

The Phillies homestand concludes with the division rival Atlanta Braves coming to town in addition to a 2-game set with the 31-28 Yankees.

Then they make their way out west where they will face the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers as well as MLB’s league leading 37-22 San Francisco Giants.

The Nationals, Mets, Reds, Marlins, Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox round things out before the All-Star Break. Four of those seven teams have win percentages over .500. Three of those seven teams are division rivals. And the Reds split a series vs. the Phillies a week ago.

In other words, there are no “gimmes” for at least another month and a half.

This is especially significant because the Phillies are in a position where they can either buy or sell at the July 31st trade deadline, depending on their chances of making the playoffs.

Another bad month and the Phillies could look to trade veterans such as Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrew McCutchen, or possibly even Rhys Hoskins to contending teams. It would likely signal the 11th straight year of playoff-less baseball in Philadelphia.

On the other hand, if the Phillies manage to stay healthy and play winning baseball in June and July, they will undoubtedly be buyers at the trade deadline.

Lighter schedules in August and September certainly bodes well for the Phillies chances of making the playoffs, but first, they must earn the trust of the front office and ownership group who will ultimately decide if the Phillies wave the white flag or push all of the chips in on a playoff run.

It is officially go time!