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Velasquez heading to the disabled list, Lively likely to join rotation

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies continue to spiral downhill and they got more bad news on Tuesday night. Starter Vince Velasquez exited in the second inning and he apparently has a a right elbow flexor strain. He also missed time last season with a right biceps strain.

According to Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. David Geier, a flexor-pronator strain can either result from an acute event or can develop as a result of overuse. A pitcher who has an acute flexor-pronator strain will remember a specific throw where he felt sharp pain on the medial side of the elbow. His pain will usually be located just past the bony prominence on the inside of the elbow. He often will have pain flexing the wrist or pronating the forearm. 

Most of the time, a flexor-pronator strain is treated with rest from pitching for several weeks to give the tendons time to heal. Ice and physical therapy can also be helpful to decrease the athlete’s symptoms. As the pain improves, the pitcher will be started on a long toss program prior to returning to full pitching. The Phillies are likely going to perform more tests to make sure Velasquez won't need surgery to repair anything.

With Velasquez bound for the disabled list, it looks like the Phillies will turn to Ben Lively to fill his spot in the rotation. There's not a timetable for his return, but it may be time for the team to test him out in the back end of the bullpen when he comes back.

Lively, 25, is 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA this season with the Ironpigs and he has an impressive 2.69 ERA in 101 career minor league games. The Phillies acquired Lively back in December 2014 from the Reds in exchange for Marlon Byrd. Lively doesn't have blow you away kind of stuff in his pitching arsenal, but his numbers have been strong ever since joining the Phillies organization. Last season, he went 18-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 28 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. 


Phillies have discussed sending Maikel Franco to Triple-A

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies were once 11-9, showing improvement and progression towards the end of April. Oh, how things have changed. Since being two games over .500 at the end of April, the Phils have posted an abysmal 6-23 record and there aren't too many silver linings either.

Continue reading "Phillies have discussed sending Maikel Franco to Triple-A" »

Franco, Herrera out as Phillies aim to avoid 10th straight series loss behind Velasquez

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

MIAMI — The Philadelphia Phillies (17-32) — having lost 23 of their last 29 games — will look to avoid their 10th consecutive series defeat Tuesday evening against southpaw Justin Nicolino and the Miami Marlins (19-30) at Marlins Park.

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez will receive the starting nod, his sixth start this month and fifth career appearance against Miami overall. Third baseman Maikel Franco — who is batting just .209/.268/.349 in 46 games this season — is out due to illness and will be replaced by switch-hitter Ty Kelly.

In Monday's Memorial Day series opener, RHP Edinson Volquez ended his career-long eight consecutive loss skid as the Marlins defeated RHP Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies, 4-1. With the defeat, the Phillies have matched their worst record through 49 games to start the season since 1961.

Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (17-32) Miami Marlins (19-30)
RHP Vince Velasquez LHP Justin Nicolino
(2-4, 5.55 ERA) (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

Continue reading "Franco, Herrera out as Phillies aim to avoid 10th straight series loss behind Velasquez" »

Nick Williams hits five homers en route to IL Player of the Week honors


By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies may not be doing too hot, but their Triple-A team is firing on all cylinders. Lehigh Valley is 35-15, 5.5 games ahead of the second place team in the International League North Division. They had another impressive week during the stretch of May 22-28, going 6-1, and outfield prospect Nick Williams was part of the reason they stayed hot over that span. On Monday, the International League tabbed Williams as their Player of the Week. He's the second member of the 2017 Ironpigs to be named Player of the Week, joining fellow outfielder Dylan Cozens (May 8-14).

Continue reading "Nick Williams hits five homers en route to IL Player of the Week honors" »

Report: 'Multiple clubs' willing to pay Nerlens Noel max contract in free agency

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks this past season, it was clear that they were not willing to pay him what he was going to demand come free agency, whether it was matching a deal from another team or a qualifying offer. Now with the Mavericks, Noel is approaching restricted free agency and will likely get offers from numerous teams. 

Continue reading "Report: 'Multiple clubs' willing to pay Nerlens Noel max contract in free agency" »

Flyers Sign Oskar Lindblom to Entry-Level Contract

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers first move of the offseason came in the form of a highly-touted prospect.

Oskar Lindblom, the Flyers fifth-round pick in 2014, signed an entry-level deal on Tuesday, according to GM Ron Hextall.

Continue reading "Flyers Sign Oskar Lindblom to Entry-Level Contract" »

Trading the third pick and more for Klay Thompson makes sense for both sides



By Jack Fritz, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Before you clicked on this article and only read the headline, what was your reaction?

Did you have a tweet saved in your drafts with my '@' in it?

And let me preface this by saying that Klay Thompson is a heck of a player and I get that, but this deal is one the Warriors should absolutely make and it's a deal that adds legitimacy to the Sixers immediately.

Continue reading "Trading the third pick and more for Klay Thompson makes sense for both sides" »

Phillies Mailbag: Pitching, Pitching, and Promotions Coming?

Roman Quinn is putting together a well-rounded season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Brandon Apter/Sports Talk Philly)

We are back with another edition of the Phillies mailbag on 97.3 Espn.  We take your questions all week long and then discuss them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m.  Send me your questions on Twitter @FrankKlose.

Who will replace Zach Eflin: Ben Lively or Nick Pivetta?

At first, I thought that Nick Pivetta would have been the pitcher the Phillies picked to pitch.  Pivetta made four starts for the Phillies so far this season, and while his numbers (0-2 with a 5.12 earned run average) do not look particularly impressive, Pivetta had his moments.

Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure noted that Pivetta's struggles often occurred in our around the fifth inning.  McClure noted that the first inning and fifth inning are reason for a young pitcher to press.  The first inning, one wants to enter the game on a high note.  In the fifth, the pitcher is looking to get to the point where he may earn a win.  Maybe Pivetta struggled mentally to push through.

Back down at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Pivetta has won both of the starts he has made since Aaron Nola's return to the Phillies pushed him out of the Phillies rotation.  All in all at Triple-A, Pivetta is 5-0 with a 1.41 earned run average.  Those are numbers that suggest a pitcher has shown he can do little more at the Triple-A level.

However, another pitcher is doing just the same.

Ben Lively is also pitching well at Lehigh Valley. In nine starts for the IronPigs, Lively is 6-1 with a 2.40 earned run average.  Lively was on the Phillies active roster twice as insurance but has yet to throw a pitch.  He is pitching well enough that the Phillies could easily consider Lively for the promotion.

Lively is still listed as the starter for the IronPigs on Thursday.  Come Friday, which would have been Pivetta's turn to pitch, the starter is listed as "TBA".  The Phillies have an off day on Thursday, so Saturday would be the day that the turn in the rotation takes place.  Granted, the IronPigs could easily change their rotation schedule, and there is plenty of time for that.

I tend to think the Phillies will see through what they have begun with Pivetta before starting another project in Lively.  However, I would imagine that the time will come in 2017 that both pitchers are in the Phillies starting rotation.  If the Phillies picked Lively that would not particularly surprise me either.

Who do you think is the Phillies most reliable starter? Are any of these pitchers going to be a long-term part of the Phillies rebuild?

This is a really good question.  Heading into the season, the Phillies really felt like they had a stable starting pitching corps in Jeremy HellicksonJerad Eickhoff, Nola, Vince Velasquez, and Clay Buchholz.  Buchholz barely pitched, which led the Phillies to head to their Triple-A depth almost immediately.  Then Nola got hurt, which made things even more difficult for the Phillies.

It would have been too easy to pick Hellickson just about a month ago.  After going 4-0 with a 1.80 earned run average in April, Hellickson is 1-3 with a 7.04 earned run average in May.  This month of May is Hellickson's worst month since September, 2014, when he went 0-3 with a 7.59 earned run average.  History would tell us that Hellickson should be more reliable.

For now, I must say that Nola is the Phillies most reliable pitcher.  Granted, Nola's last start was one in which he allowed five earned runs. However, Nola did stick it out for six innings.  If a pitcher is going to have a tough day like Nola did, the least he can do is make it through six innings.  Nola appears to be beyond any injury concerns, which is a great plus.

I still think very highly of Eickhoff.  In Eickhoff's five losses, he surrendered two earned runs, five earned runs, four earned runs, three earned runs, and four earned runs, in that order.  At other times, Eickhoff has given up one earned run in seven innings and failed to get a win.

Eickhoff has struggled a bit with his fastball command and perhaps instead has turned to other pitches more often.  If Eickhoff can get that command back, I can see him getting right back on track.  Even if not, he is pitching better in 2017 than someone who is winless.

Will Hoskins, Williams and Quinn be up in the next month or so do you think? This team needs them.

Down on the farm at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the IronPigs have been red hot.  The IronPigs have won 21 out of their last 23 games, leaving the IronPigs in first place by a wide margin. It is a legitimate question to ask whether or not the Phillies should start calling players up.   There is good reason to wonder.

Outfielder Nick Williams was named to the International League team of the week and then shortly thereafter named the International League batter of the week.  Williams is really starting to come into his power stroke.  In his last 10 games, Williams is batting .351 with seven home runs and 18 runs batted in.  Williams is now batting .281 on the season.

However, Williams has yet to show consistency in his play at Triple-A.  Williams began the season showing very little power.  Then, Williams dipped down even in his batting average before getting hot and showing some of each.   I think Williams needs to show some consistency over a longer period of time before the Phillies will give him the call.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins is keeping up his hot start, batting .315 with an OPS of 1.058 through 50 games.  Hoskins has 13 home runs and 38 runs batted in.  Right now, Hoskins is blocked at first base by Tommy Joseph, who is the hottest Phillies offensive player.

In the month of May, Joseph is batting .310 with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in.  Had Joseph continued his rough start in which he batted just .179 in the month of April, we might be having a different conversation.   The right-handed Hoskins may not even be a candidate to serve as a left-handed designated hitter in upcoming interleague games, as the Phillies lineup is mostly right-handed.  With no sense of urgency, Hoskins likely will play more at Triple-A.

In terms of outfielder Roman Quinn, the Phillies might be more likely to give him a call in the near future.  Quinn is putting together a nice season at Triple-A.  Quinn is batting .274, which is not eye-popping, but Quinn is getting on base at a .344 clip.  Quinn has eight doubles, three triples, and two home runs.  Quinn has stolen 10 bases.

The Phillies could certainly use the speed at the top of the order.  Cesar Hernandez currently leads the Phillies with six stolen bases.  Odubel Herrera, who is flailing badly at pitches anywhere and everywhere, could find himself in Triple-A if this present two-day benching does not work out.  Herrera has not hit for average or shown enough discipline to get on base.  Since he is not on base, he cannot use his speed.

Even though Harry did not ask, Dylan Cozens is worth checking in on, too.   Cozens has the same 13 home runs and 38 runs batted in that teammate Hoskins has.  After a slow start, Cozens has worked his batting average up to .234.   After a .136 April, Cozens is hitting .319 in May.  Like Williams, Cozens can earn himself a promotion with some consistency.

Around the NHL: Highlights and Analysis from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was certainly something.

Monday night marked the seven-year anniversary of Game 1 of the Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final. Monday night's game between the Predators and Penguins was the highest-scoring series opener in a Cup Final since that night, when the Flyers lost to Chicago, 6-5.

The Penguins came out on top, 5-3, on Monday to take a 1-0 series lead, but the eye test told a much different story.

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