Phillies Sign Two Veterans to Minor League Deals

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly Editor

According to multiple sources, the Phillies have signed first baseman Greg Bird, 27, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, 34, to minor league contracts. Both players will be added to the 60-man player pool and assigned the alternative training site in Lehigh Valley.

The signings come just moments before postseason eligibility ended, meaning both players would be available for the playoffs, should the team make it. The Phillies currently occupy the seventh seed, one spot above Gabe Kapler's San Francisco Giants with 13 games to play.

Injuries to incumbents Rhys Hoskins (10-day IL) and J.T. Realmuto (day-to-day) have the Phillies finding themselves needing additional depth for a postseason run. Lucroy, formerly one of the game's best catchers, was released by the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday after just one plate appearance with the club.

Bird is an intriguing, but injury-prone former top prospect from the New York Yankees pipeline. He played for Phillies manager Joe Girardi from 2015-2019 and was most recently designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers in August. While he has not hit over .199 since 2015, Bird does have 32 home runs and 98 RBI for his career.

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How Phillies-Marlins Series Affects Rest of Season

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Phillies (21-18) are about to take part in their first seven game regular season series in the team's storied history... one would think.

It turns out that the Phils have played multiple seven gamers in 1930, going 4-8-2 against the Chicago Cubs & Boston Braves in 1930, most recently.

The team travels to south Florida for a series against the Miami Marlins (19-19) over five days that will feature two seven-inning doubleheaders and could propel one of the two teams to the fast track for a playoff spot.

Much about the starting pitching matchups is unknown beyond Thursday's battle between Jake Arrieta (3-4, 5.67 ERA) and RHP Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.78 ERA).

As of this writing, manager Joe Girardi has not announced any other starting pitchers, but it lines up that every pitcher in the rotation plus Vince Velasquez will take the hill... and that still will not be enough starters.

The teams will play doubleheaders on Friday and Sunday and with Velasquez last pitching in a loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, he will conceivably start one of the two Sunday games. That leaves the Phillies without a starter for the back end of Friday's twin bill and Monday's series finale.

Who are the Phillies best options to fill those spots from the 40-man roster?

Continue reading "How Phillies-Marlins Series Affects Rest of Season" »


Eflin Pitching Much Better Than Results Have Shown

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

Believe it or not, Zach Eflin is a good major league pitcher.

In fact, he is currently having the best season of his major league career, even if the numbers don't immediately show it.

Currently sporting a 4.58 ERA through seven starts after his no-decision Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox, Eflin has given up 41 hits in 37 1/3 innings.

That is far from the whole story.

His 3.75 FIP is almost a full run lower than his ERA and career FIP (4.73), suggesting the defense behind him has been subpar and he's even gotten a little unlucky. That is backed up by the .358 batting average on balls in play against Eflin.

Baseball Savant shows Eflin's expected ERA to be 3.30, which would put him in the top 10 percent in all of baseball.

Against teams at or above .500 this season, Eflin is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA across 16 1/3 innings. He also struck out 19 hitters.

Strikeouts have been a big part of Eflin's game in 2020, much more than his career marks suggest.

He is currently striking out 11.6 hitters per nine innings, by far a career high (7.2 average), while walking batters at an all-time low mark of 2.2 per nine. That is good for a 5.33 strikeout to walk ratio, more than double his normal rate.

The Phillies are 6-1 when Eflin has started a game this season.

So what is the issue?

Continue reading "Eflin Pitching Much Better Than Results Have Shown" »


Spencer Howard Picks Up First Big League Win

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

It is the first of what will be many.

Having last pitched 11 days prior, Spencer Howard picked up his first major-league win Monday night against the Washington Nationals (...and their A+ social media team...) in an 8-6 Phillies victory.

The win got the team back to .500 and was their sixth win in seven games. It was also the halfway point of their season.

Manager Joe Girardi had a longer leash on Howard than in his previous outings, allowing him to finish the fifth inning for the first time in his short career, despite a loss in velocity, a two-run opposite field home run by Nationals slugger Juan Soto and a rapidly growing pitch count.

It spoke volumes that Girardi trusted his young right hander enough allow Howard to get the final two outs of the fifth and be in line for the win. Howard has undoubtedly cemented his spot in the team's rotation.

"I feel better about it now just because of what I saw tonight," Girardi said. "He used his whole repertoire. I hope today is a big step for him, that he realizes he can compete at this level and use all his pitches and have success."

Howard even got a fun surprise after the game.

Continue reading "Spencer Howard Picks Up First Big League Win" »


Phillies Welcome Braves for Weekend Series

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

Would you believe the Phillies currently occupy a playoff spot?

Heading into the final series before the 2020 trade deadline (Monday Aug 31 at 4:00 pm ET), the Phillies host the Atlanta Braves for a weekend set at Citizens Bank Park, with the Phils in the eighth and final playoff spot in the National League.

Game one - Friday Aug 28 at 7:05 pm ET on NBCSP & MLB Network - out of market (tv).

Game two - Saturday Aug 29 at 1:05 pm ET on FOX (tv).

Game three - Sunday Aug 30 at 7:08 pm ET on ESPN (tv).

All three games will be broadcast via WIP/WTTM 1680 on the radio.

The series will be the final time the two teams play each other in 2020. The Phillies are currently in third place in the National League East, four games behind the Braves. 

As of this writing, the pitching match ups beyond Friday night's contest are mostly unknown, as Phillies manager Joe Girardi has not announced a starter for Saturday or Sunday following the postponement of Thursday night's game against the Washington Nationals. That start would have belonged to Spencer Howard, who will most likely slot in Saturday or be skipped until his next turn in the rotation.

Continue reading "Phillies Welcome Braves for Weekend Series" »


Wheeler Showing He Is Worth Every Penny

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

When Zack Wheeler signed a five-year $118 million deal with the Phillies this offseason, the fan base thought he could be solid, but potentially overpriced addition to the rotation.

He has been worth every penny.

The Phillies are 3-2 in Wheeler's five starts, but he has given the team a chance to win every time out. In fact, the club's bullpen blew a lead in the two losses. Neither of those hit Wheeler's line, as he is 3-0 this season with a 2.76 ERA, a sparkling 171 ERA+, 1.10 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and only six walks across 32 2/3 innings.

A WAR of 1.7 ranks Wheeler fourth among National League pitchers, trailing only LHP Max Fried, teammate Aaron Nola and RHP Zac Gallen.

He is inducing the weakest contact of his career while missing barrels at a 98 percent clip, according to Baseball Savant.

These numbers are, in large part, due to his dominant sinker. He is throwing it just over 21.6 percent of the time, averaging 96.8 mph and producing some major results.

Continue reading "Wheeler Showing He Is Worth Every Penny" »


Bohm Showing He Belongs In the Big Leagues

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

Without ever taking a pitch at the Triple-A level, Alec Bohm has burst onto the major league scene and is here to stay.

Bohm, the Phillies first-round draft selection in 2018 (third overall), is off to a torrid start with the big club and shows no signs of slowing down.

Through the first two weeks of his career, Bohm has 12 hits in 37 at-bats and is slashing .324/.432/.486 overall. He hit his first major league home run in Sunday night's wild win against the Atlanta Braves.

He has also knocked in five runs, scored six and walked seven times (compared to only six strikeouts).

It seems like almost every plate appearance is a professional one. He's even selectively aggressive.

On the first pitch of an at-bat, he has four hits.

He's even better with runners in scoring position, hitting .364 with four RBI.

He hunts fastballs, as well, hitting .474 against them.

Major league pitching will adjust to Bohm and it is up to him to adjust right back. He has struggled against offspeed pitches and breaking balls, hitting just .167 on non-fastballs. Opposing teams may use that to their advantage.

Most of his success has actually come against right-handed pitching, so he is showing early on that he can hit MLB pitching, regardless of which arm they throw with.

He's hitting .379 against right handers, compared to just .125 against lefties.

Something about Bohm's batted ball profile that is incredibly polished is his ability to spray the ball around the field and not just get too "pull happy" early in his career. He takes the ball where it is pitched and hits it to the appropriate field.

Continue reading "Bohm Showing He Belongs In the Big Leagues" »


Slowly but Surely, Hoskins Finding His Rhythm

Rhys

(Photo by: Frank Klose/@FrankKlose)

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

Player A: .238/.367/.487, 35 doubles, 110 BB, 35 HR, 100 RBI

Player B: .299/.381/.491, 36 doubles, 80 BB, 25 HR, 88 RBI

Who would you take?

You're getting a high quality player no matter which direction you go.

But who are these players?

Player A, as I am sure you have guessed, is Rhys Hoskins. The statistics are his 162 game average for his career.

So, who which of his Phillies teammates is Player B?

None.

It is MVP candidate and one of baseball's brightest stars, OF Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Not so different, are they? Let's take a look.

After the roughest stretch of his career and one of the worst half seasons in baseball last year, the Phillies fanbase entered 2020 divided on the slugger's future with the club.

His second half of the 2019 season was brutal, no doubt. In 313 plate appearances, Hoskins managed just 46 hits, good for a .180 batting average. The power he showed since his 2017 debut was also sapped. He hit just nine home runs and drove in 26; compare that to the 20 long balls and 59 RBI in the first 89 games of last year with no immediate injury to report and one has to wonder what happened to the first baseman.

Streaky? Sure.

But streaks don't tend to last an entire half season, in either direction. Hoskins is, by Player A's numbers, a "let's meet in the middle" of his 2019 first and second half splits.

Continue reading "Slowly but Surely, Hoskins Finding His Rhythm" »


Phillies, Yankees Swap Relievers with More Trades Coming?

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

We have a trade!

The Phillies sent RHP Addison Russ to the New York Yankees in exchange for fellow righty David Hale.

Hale, who was DFA'd by the Yankees, has pitched 236 career innings. He will provide a boost to a Phillies bullpen that ranks last in ERA this season. He has pitched to a 2.98 ERA in his Yankees tenure and a 4.23 ERA overall.

He is known to generate ground balls and should be able to fill a seventh or eighth inning role for the club.

Russ, a 25-year-old career minor leaguer, was a 17th-round pick in the 2017 draft. He was especially effective in 2019 at Double-A Reading, pitching to the tune of a 2.54 ERA and a 12.9 K/9 in 56 2/3 innings.

The hot stove does not stop there!

According to Matt Gelb and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, GM Matt Klentak has also been in talks with the Boston Red Sox in regards to RHP Brandon Workman.

A free agent at the end of the year, Workman would be a nice rental for any contending team. Just last season, he had a 1.88 ERA with 13.1 K/9 and 16 saves for the Red Sox.

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Phillies Look to Get Back on Track Against Braves - Series Preview

By Greg Hall, Sports Talk Philly editor

If the Phillies (9-12) ever needed a turnaround, this weekend is it.

After blowing a 2-0 lead in game one and 7-0 in game two of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, both losses, the Phils are in Atlanta for a three game series against the Braves (14-11).

As dire as the Phillies week has been so far, a weekend sweep of the Braves would pull them even in the NL East standings with both teams at a .500 record.

Optimistic? Maybe.

Impossible? No.

The Phillies will be sending their three best starters to the mound in Aaron Nola (Friday), Zack Wheeler (Saturday) and Zach Eflin (Sunday). Atlanta will counter with LHP Max Fried, LHP Robbie Erlin and RHP Josh Tomlin, respectively. 

Nola vs. Fried is the marquee matchup of the series.

Fried is 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 2020 and pitched five shutout innings, striking out six in a win against the Phils, which was also Spencer Howard's debut.

Nola got the Phillies on track the next night against Atlanta, pitching eight innings of one-run ball, striking out 10 in a 13-8 victory.

Continue reading "Phillies Look to Get Back on Track Against Braves - Series Preview" »