Saturday, July 30, 2016

Phillies Continue Talks As Trade Deadline Approaches

GAME RECAP: Braves Edge Phillies 2-1

While Vince Velasquez auditioned for the crowd of scouts that came to see him at Turner Field on Friday night, Tyrell Jenkins provided a more encouraging glimpse of his potential as a starting pitcher and helped the Braves claim a 2-1 win over the Phillies. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis recorded RBI singles during a two-run second inning that doomed Velasquez and proved sufficient for Jenkins, who allowed just one unearned run over six innings en route to claiming his first career win. The Phillies had won each of the past five games played against the Braves. "[Velasquez] was tough, and our guys hung in there pretty good against him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You're not going to get a whole lot, and thank God we didn't give up a whole lot. It was a good ballgame." Velasquez escaped multiple threats as he surrendered two earned runs and seven hits over six innings. The Dodgers and Rangers were among the teams that had scouts in the stands to watch the Phillies right-hander, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 18 starts. Philadelphia's only run was tallied in the third inning, when Cesar Hernandez scored from first base after Jace Peterson bobbled Odubel Herrera's single in left field. "Their guy was effectively wild, let's put it that way," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We had him on the ropes early."

  • The Phillies acquired Velasquez from Houston in December as part of the Ken Giles trade, so would they really trade him less than eight months later? It is unlikely, but the presence of scouts, particularly three from the Rangers, is noteworthy and the rebuilding Phillies certainly will listen to what teams have to say. After all, what if they get an offer they can't refuse? "Am I aware of it? Yeah," Velasquez said about the trade speculation. "I can't control anything. If they trade me, they trade me. I can't do anything about it. What am I going to do? The only thing I can do is pitch. That's my job." 
  • Ryan Howard hit a pinch-hit double to center field with two outs in the ninth inning to put the tying runner on base, and Hernandez worked a walk to put the go-ahead run at first. But Herrera grounded out to shortstop Aybar, who threw to third to end the game. "The play to end the game was a good play," Mackanin said. "It just worked out perfect, going to his backhand. There's nothing [pinch-runner Tyler] Goeddel could have done. Just a [heck] of a play."
  • "Our whole goal was to get young pitchers, because they're the most expensive commodity. If you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you're ahead of the game, but at the same time I'll listen to any offers if you get three guys for him that are really good looking prospects. You've got to consider it." -- Mackanin, on trade talks between the Rangers and Phillies for Velasquez.
  • The Phillies challenged a call in the seventh inning that Chase d'Arnaud successfully stole second base. The replay official in New York ruled that d'Arnaud failed to maintain contact with the base as Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis applied the tag. He overturned the call and d'Arnaud was out.
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to start the third of a four-game series on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET against the Braves at Turner Field. Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) is the mostly likely Phillies player to be traded before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline and talks could pick up with Andrew Cashner traded Friday to the Marlins, which removed one more starter from the board.


Calm Among The Rumors – Matt Klentak made Vince Velasquez the centerpiece to his first major trade as Phillies general manager in December. Could Velasquez really be traded again, fewer than eight months later? The Phillies and Rangers are having serious talks about the possibility, although sources told on Friday they do not believe anything is close. But three Rangers' scouts, including one of their top talent evaluators, watched Velasquez pitch in Friday night's 2-1 loss to the Braves at Turner Field. Texas would not be wasting the manpower if talks were not legitimate, although they are expected to watch Jeremy Hellickson pitch Saturday night, too. MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi first reported earlier this week that Texas wants Velasquez. "Am I aware of it? Yeah," Velasquez said about the trade speculation. "I can't control anything. If they trade me, they trade me. I can't do anything about it. What am I going to do? The only thing I can do is pitch. That's my job." It is safe to say the Phillies would have to be very impressed with a trade package to deal a young and talented pitcher under team control through 2021. Klentak and Phillies president Andy MacPhail have repeatedly stressed they believe they key to returning to the postseason is building a talented and deep rotation. That said, it would be foolish for the rebuilding Phillies to cover their ears and not listen to what teams had to say. Even Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that. "Our whole goal was to get young pitchers, because they're the most expensive commodity," he said. "If you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you're ahead of the game, but at the same time I'll listen to any offers if you get three guys for him that are really good looking prospects. You've got to consider it." And the Phillies are listening. The trade with Houston almost fell apart in December when the Phillies had concerns about Velasquez's physical. The Phillies and Astros eventually reconfigured the trade, including right-hander Mark Appel as insurance. Velasquez missed some time in June because of a strained right biceps, but it was not serious. He has pitched six or more innings in each of his past five starts, including on Friday against the Braves. He allowed seven hits, two runs, two walks and struck out five in six innings. "He did a good job," Mackanin said. "But Vince is a power pitcher, and he didn't look like a power pitcher today. I bet he used more two-seam fastballs, changeups and breaking balls than he did his four-seam fastball. He pitched well, obviously, but he's pitching differently than you would expect him to pitch." Of course, the next time Velasquez pitches, it could be for somebody else. Asked after the game if it would disappoint him to be traded again, Velasquez said, "No, no. At first, when I got traded from the Astros, it was kind of tough for me. But you have to move on, you have to make the best of what you've got. If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. "There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today."

Pitching Near The Deadline – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects Jeremy Hellickson to pitch Saturday night against the Braves. If not, he will figure out something else. Hellickson remains the Phillies' most likely candidate to be traded before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Contending teams need starting pitching, and Hellickson is 7-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts. He has allowed one earned run in 14 innings in his last two starts, and he has a 2.20 ERA in his last seven starts. His past few starts have been heavily scouted. "Everybody is anxious to find out," Mackanin said Friday. "There's a little bit of drama there." Hellickson is a free agent after the season, so if the Phillies can acquire a legitimate prospect for him, it makes sense to move him. But reported earlier this week that the Phillies' asking price is very high -- they're reportedly looking for an organization's top-five prospect -- because the Phillies feel they could make a qualifying offer to Hellickson if he is not traded. The Phillies believe Hellickson would reject the one-year contract, which could be worth more than $16 million. If he does and signs elsewhere, the Phillies would receive a compensatory Draft pick. In other words, the Phillies want a player comparable in talent to the player they potentially could select in next year's Draft. And if Hellickson accepts the qualifying offer? Well, the Phillies could afford it. They have almost no financial commitments beyond this season. And while the Phillies theoretically have five young starting pitchers that could fill out the 2017 rotation --Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson -- the attrition rate for starting pitching is high, so the Phillies probably would pursue a veteran starter in the offseason, anyway. Of course, most of this could be posturing on the Phillies' part. It is worth mentioning that one option for contenders fell off the board Thursday when the Padres traded Andrew Cashner to the Marlins. The Cashner deal could heat up talks for the Phillies. "To be very honest, I don't know anything," Mackanin said. "I think it's better off that way. I might say the wrong thing without meaning to. I'd rather not know. I'm not in the decision-making process, as far as who they're going to trade for. The scouts are scouting. The people in the front office make their decision based on what information they have on these other players. "I would like to think, if we were playing for a pennant down the stretch, I would get a little bit of input on what we need. It's not what I need right now to help win. It's, 'What is the best deal?' So I don't want to know about it."  But whether or not a trade is made before Monday's Trade Deadline, Mackanin thinks something will happen afterward. "After the smoke clears, then we'll evaluate and maybe bring up a young guy and maybe make a change in-house, I'm guessing," he said.

Today In Phils History – Pinky Whitney led the Phillies to victory in 1929 when he hit for the cycle against the Pirates. In 1937, 1B Dolph Camilli played 9 innings without recording a putout. 20 years later, Ron Northey, who was signed earlier in the day, hit a pinch hit 2 run homerun (an MLB record tying 8th of his career). 2 years later, Willie McCovey went 4 for 4 (2 triples) in his MLB debut for the Giants as they beat the Phillies 7-2. In 1995, Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn were inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. Ryan Howard drew a MLB record tying 5 walks on this day in 2006. As we near the trade deadline it is not surprising that there are a lot of transactions that occurred on this day including the departures of Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle (2006) and Ryan Franklin (2006). However, the acquisitions are more interesting as there are a number of players that we forget were once Phillies including Todd Jones (2004), Felix Rodriguez (2004), Kyle Lohse (2007), Hunter Pence (2011). During trade season there are a lot of debuts as well including the Phillies debuts of Larry Anderson (1983), Roy Oswalt (2010), and Hunter Pence (2011) as well as the MLB debuts of Chuck Klein (1928), Art Mahaffey (1960), Michael Bourn (2006), and Cody Asche (2013). Finally, happy birthday to Casey Stengel who was born on this day in 1890.

The Phillies are currently 47-58 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 67-47-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record.

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