It's time for the weekly Phillies mailbag. We answer your questions and talk about them Tuesday afternoon on The Sports Bash With Mike Gill on 97.3 ESPN Atlantic City. You can listen online at 973espn.com.
Does the Luis Garcia call up mean Brett Oberholtzer is going into the starting rotation over Adam Morgan?
When the Phillies acquired starting pitcher Charlie Morton from the Pittsburgh Pirates in an offseason trade, the Phillies envisioned some veteran leadership and starting pitching depth. After a dismal 2015 season in which the Phillies seemed to always be desperate for starting pitching, the Phillies wanted to have options should a starting pitcher succumb to injury. In 2016, the Phillies have those options as Morton headed to the disabled list on Sunday.
Oberholtzer would have been an option, but since circumstances have changed, I think that the Phillies will call up Morgan prior to the next time the Phillies need a starter. After designating James Russell for assignment and Daniel Stumpf was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, Oberholtzer is now one of the team's two left-handed relievers. Elvis Araujo is likely to get the back-end left-handed work, but Oberholtzer probably is penciled in the sixth or seventh inning lefty.
The bullpen ended up pitching eight innings on Saturday after Morton pulled his hamstring, which is why Garcia got the call. Garcia made his 2016 debut the very next day to try to aid the tired Phillies bullpen. After Dalier Hinojosa has struggled some in the early going, Garcia may even stay in Philly if and when Morgan is recalled.
Could Mark Appel be called up, given his hot start?
The much-touted Appel came to the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade and was frequently called a "change of scenery" candidate. In the early going, Appel seems to prefer the East Coast. With a 3-0 record and a 1.62 earned run average for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, fans are taking notice. But, do not expect Appel in Philadelphia in the immediate future.
The Phillies probably will wait on Appel for a couple reasons. The first is that the team likely wants to let Appel have prolonged success before bringing him to the Major Leagues. Appel had just 12 starts last season at AAA while in the Astros organization. Appel probably is with Lehigh Valley the duration of the season, provided injuries do not force the Phillies' hand.
The second reason is that Appel is not yet on the Phillies' 40-man roster. The Phillies are in a situation where they are trying to control as many players as they possibly can for as long as they can. 2016 is a far cry from 2015 when the Phillies could carry the likes of Adam Loewen and fringe prospects like Nefi Ogando. Most 40-man roster spots really mean something to the Phillies right now and there are no clear candidates to remove. Plus, they will need to find room for Mario Hollands when he returns from Tommy John surgery.
Is there anything the Phillies can do to improve their offense?
Unfortunately, the Phillies do not have a lot of options. I thought the Phillies did take a step forward when they summoned David Lough from AAA Lehigh Valley, a move I would have done from the start. Unfortunately, Will Venable is not producing at AAA Lehigh Valley – batting just .190 thus far – and Darnell Sweeney is batting just .236.
Cam Perkins generally is not regarded as much of a prospect, but is hitting .400 thus far. For the Phillies to add Perkins, it would cost them an infielder. That is problematic, as it would leave Andres Blanco as the only reserve infielder. Tying up two positions for first base in a Darin Ruf platoon made things difficult for the Phillies roster, though the lack of outfield production means Howard starts at first and Ruf in the outfield.
Emmanuel Burriss is off to pretty slow start – batting just .059 thus far – but Taylor Featherston is off to a hot start at AAA. Batting .412 thus far, Featherston could give the Phillies an added benefit of freeing up a 40-man roster spot if Burriss is designated for assignment and Featherston is recalled. In reality, the fifth infielder is the least-used player on the roster, remaining on the bench in case of injury, meaning the Phillies may not feel the need to make a move at this time.