Hernandez, 25, entered tonight’s game against the Dodgers hitting .302 (54-for-179) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 19 RBIs and a .771 OPS in 71 games. Meanwhile, Utley is on the disabled list with an injured right ankle. He is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games.
But is the iconic Utley, 36, still the primary second baseman when he returns from the DL?
“Not for me he’s not,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman.”
So whenever Utley returns …
“I would assume that Cesar will be our second baseman,” Amaro said. “Chase’s situation will kind of dictate itself, how he feels. There’ll be time for him to play, I think. He could play some first base. He could play some second. But as far as I’m concerned, just like what our plan has been for a long, long time, that’s to give opportunities to young men who could be part of our future. Cesar Hernandez has been one of our best players on the field right now in a variety of ways.”
Not surprisingly, Utley had little reaction about Amaro’s comments.
“Well, I think Cesar has done a really good job,” Utley said. “There you go.”
Pete Mackanin seems to be on board with Amaro. Asked for a health update on Utley before the game, Mackanin said, “I haven’t heard a word. But with Cesar playing so well, it’s not really a big deal for the simple reason that Utley has not played and seen pitching, so when he does come back … you really can’t count on him. How long has it been? Two weeks. And by the time he starts taking BP and all of that stuff, it’s probably going to be a month before he comes back in and then what do you do? I don’t know.”
Utley’s ankle has improved since a cortisone injection. He could begin baseball activities before the end of the road trip.
He also said recently he could be back on the field before the end of the month.
But it sure sounds like Nola will be in the big leagues before the end of the month.
“He’s getting closer,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon at Dodger Stadium. “At some point after the All-Star break, yeah.”
Of course, that could mean anytime between July 17 and the end of the regular season, but Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said he expects more changes to the rotation following the All-Star break. That could mean injured right-handers Jerome Williams and Aaron Harang rejoin the team, but with Cole Hamels expected to be traded before the July 31 Trade Deadline it almost certainly means Nola, too.
“We have a plan in place, and we’ll execute it,” Amaro said. “We have a good thought about when he’s going to be pitching for us.”
The Phillies outrighted right-hander Sean O’Sullivan following last night’s 10-7 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. They recalled right-hander Hector Neris to take his place on the roster. Neris will help in the bullpen until Saturday, when the Phillies need to add a starter.
Triple-A Lehigh Valley right-hander David Buchanan is the smart bet. He got pulled after three innings and 40 pitches Tuesday, which means he could pitch Saturday. Amaro said they also are considering options outside the organization.
“We haven’t made a final decision on it,” Amaro said. “It’s time for us to turn it over.”
The Phillies also designated right-hander Kevin Correia for assignment. Rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez will pitch in his place Thursday. Of course, Gonzalez has not exactly pitched well. He is 3-2 with an 8.28 ERA in six starts. He has not pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any of those starts. The inability to pitch six or more innings has been a big problem for the rotation.
“I would rather give the young man an opportunity,” Amaro said, explaining the difference between Correia and Gonzalez. “He’s throwing better. His stuff’s better. I’d rather give the young man an opportunity to do it at this stage of the game and see how he fares.”
“It’s time to do something. It’s past (time),” Mackanin said. “We’re happy about getting something changed, I am at least. We got a fresh arm in the bullpen which is huge. I don’t like to keep starters on the field longer than they should, but we’ve bene forced to do that. So we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll get Williams healthy and Harang healthy. Now Seve. There probably will be more changes down the road. So down the road, just get through the All-Star break and regroup, start over.”
Something had to give, which is why the Phillies cut loose two starting pitchers in less than 12 hours.
They outrighted right-hander Sean O’Sullivan immediately following last night’s 10-7 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. O’Sullivan was 1-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts, failing to pitch six innings in eight starts and posting an 11.05 ERA in his last three. Tuesday morning they announced right-hander Kevin Correia had been designated for assignment. He went 0-3 with a 6.56 ERA in five starts, failing to pitch six innings in any start.
Rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez (3-2, 8.28 ERA) will take Correia’s spot in the rotation Thursday night against the Dodgers.
The Phillies have not named Saturday’s starter, although right-hander Hector Neris has been recalled to take O’Sullivan’s spot on the roster. He will pitch out of the bullpen until Saturday.
The Phillies cleared two spots on the 40-man roster with these moves. It could be nothing more than a byproduct of cleaning house, or the Phillies could be looking to add a player or two via promotion or trade. Triple-A right-hander David Buchanan is on the 40-man roster, and he is a good bet to start Saturday.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday that Triple-A right-hander Aaron Nola, who is the organization’s top pitching prospect, is “close” to a big league promotion. Nola is not on the 40-man roster. But Amaro said they would not promote him “just because our rotation is very poor right now. … We’re going to bring him when it’s time for him developmentally.”
Phillies starters have pitched six innings in just 15 of the last 20 games, which have put a tremendous strain on the bullpen.
“Very often what is happening is the pitcher gets into the fifth and I don’t really want to send the guy back out in the sixth because he hasn’t looked sharp, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can so that I don’t abuse the bullpen,” Pete Mackanin said last night. “We just can’t afford to use the bullpen. We’ve got to get more length.”
The Phillies are in town, but they traded him to the Dodgers in December. So those warm and fuzzy feelings about facing his former team?
“I haven’t thought about it, honestly,” Rollins said Monday. “There’s enough going on around here to keep me occupied. It’ll be good to see the guys. Obviously I’ve texted a few of them. A few of them return them right away, some wait a week or two. But, other than that, it’s another baseball game, honestly. Going there will probably be different, but coming here, they’re the team we want to beat.”
Rollins said he is not following his former team too closely, but he certainly knows the Phillies have the worst record in baseball.
“I’m glad to have gotten out when I did,” Rollins said. “But I’m glad to have gotten here. Ruben (Amaro Jr.) and I spoke of where I wanted to go. I said Los Angeles, and they were able to get a deal done. So that helps, it helps a whole bunch, when you go somewhere you want to go if you have to leave as opposed to just wherever you end up.”
Rollins touched on number topics Monday:
Ryne Sandberg quitting midseason. “When you’re not winning things happen like that. It’s unfortunate that had to happen that way, no one wants to see a manager get halfway through the season and walk away for any reason other than health issues, but that wasn’t the case. Pete Mackanin, who is a jokester, he’s probably changed the clubhouse over there a little bit.”
Owner John Middleton, who emerged as a face of the organization last week. “He’s a great man. I enjoyed John. Obviously you guys know his fire and his passion. And all he wants to do is win. I’ve always said if there can be another (George) Steinbrenner, it’ll probably be him. He wants to do whatever it takes to win. Him stepping forward doesn’t surprise (me). I think it’s a place where he’s always wanted to be. But with the group over there, I think they need to vote on those things. So when they’ve given him the nod, or if he’s been given the nod, he’ll be front and center doing what he needs to do to make the team better.”
On Chase Utley’s struggles. “I text Chase. He’s one of the guys that hits you back in a couple of weeks. He’s sounds like he’s in good spirits. Obviously what’s happened on the field, no one has expected that. No one is going to be pleased with that, especially Chase. You know how hard he goes at it and what he expects of himself. I know he’s had to deal with a few injuries. But we also know Chase, unless something is going to fall off, he’s not going to say much, he’s going to try to play through it. Starting with his ankle, it’s hard to hit on one foot. We saw that for a few years with Ryan (Howard), now Chase is going through the same thing. Other than that, Chase seems to be the same old guy when we text. Talking about LA traffic, where I’m living, things like that.”
On being anxious for his return to Philly next month: “No. You guys know me. I’m not really anxious to do anything. It’s one day at a time, and whoever’s in front of us is who we play that night. Whatever’s going to happen, what it’s going to be like, as the time draws near, I’ll probably be more excited about it. I know I have a lot of family members going up there. My mom and dad. My mom. Gigi, said, ‘We’re coming up for that game.’ That’s going to be fun. It’s a place I spent my whole career with the exception of this year. I was there since I was 17 in the organization. It will be fun and exciting.”
On if he’s surprised the Phillies are this bad. “There’s enough here to think about, going every day here, to concern myself with (it), honestly. Pat Gillick said they wouldn’t be a competitive team for a couple of years. I know when we were there he said that and we did our best to prove him wrong and the next year we were right there in the playoffs, finally broke through two years later won a championship. I remember him saying that. I thought he was up to his old tricks again, inspiring the boys. That hasn’t happened so far. Maybe he was right. Maybe he was being honest that with what they have and what they are going to eventually have in the farm system, they might not be competitive for a couple years.”
On Cole Hamels possibly being traded to the Dodgers. “That would be nice. That would be nice. Cole would be close to home. We know what type of pitcher he is, especially in big games. He wants those games. You have two big-game pitchers that are already here, so that would be three, and that’s one heck of a combination.”
On if he plans to play next year and beyond. “Yeah. I’ve just got to hit a little better. That’s it. The other parts are there. The second half I have to go out there and prove that I can still swing the bat.”
If the Phillies handle July the way everybody in baseball expects them to handle it, Jonathan Papelbon will make one of his final appearances in a Phillies uniform next week at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
He is the Phillies’ lone All-Star, based on strong numbers for a closer (1.65 ERA, 14 saves in 31 appearances) despite pitching for a team on pace to lose 108 games.
“I think every one of them is special,” Papelbon said today about his sixth All-Star appearance. “I think the best part about this one is my kids are a little bit older. I’ll be able to let them go … and let them experience it and let them kind of be able to remember it more. That will be pretty cool for me.”
The Phillies are expected to trade Papelbon before the July 31 Trade Deadline. Depending on who is talking either the Phillies are asking way too much for Papelbon or teams are trying to low ball them. Either way, Papelbon hopes to be pitching for a contender by Aug. 1.
“I would be surprised,” Papelbon said, asked about being with the Phillies next month. “Yeah, that would be a pretty valid answer.”
Would he be disappointed?
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I would say so.”
Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause, but he reiterated it will not be an issue.
“Any team that wants me I’m willing to go to,” he said. “I just think for me there are no doors closed right now.”
Except for teams that don’t want him to close. Papelbon still has no interest in being a setup man.
Papelbon has a $13 million club option for next season that automatically vests if he finishes 48 games this season. He already has finished 28, so he should reach that number. But Papelbon could require the option to be picked up to facilitate a trade. He only said his agents will handle that.
Papelbon’s salary has been an issue in trade talks, although the Phillies have said they are willing to eat salary to get the right prospects in return.
“The front office knows where my heart is and where my mind is,” Papelbon said. “And that’s to be with a contending ball club. The ball is in the Phillies’ court, the front office’s court, or I should say Andy MacPhail’s court? I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Andy. I wish I could have. And I would still like to speak with him. But for some reason that hasn’t been made possible for me.”
Of course, MacPhail isn’t officially calling the shots yet.
“Well, then Pat (Gillick) knows where I stand and Ruben (Amaro Jr.) knows exactly where I stand,” he said. “I think everybody knows where I’m at. I’ve always been straight forward that I want to go play for a contender and I’m not going to shy away from it. I feel like that’s my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it’s in their hands. The ball’s in their court. I guess that’s kind of it.”
The move proved symbolic because the organization finally cut ties with one of its iconic players.
“It absolutely was the right thing for us to do,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday at Turner Field. “We’ll continue to try to do those types of deals that’ll help bring some talent into our system and afford opportunities for young players like Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco.”
The early returns for the Phillies are positive. Rollins entered tonight’s series opener against the Phillies at Dodgers Stadium hitting .208 with 10 doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a .585 OPS, which ranked 161st out of 164 qualified hitters in baseball. Meanwhile, Double-A Reading right-hander Zach Eflin, whom they acquired in the deal, is 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts. Reading left-hander Tom Windle, whom they also acquired, just moved to the bullpen after struggling as a starter, but the Phillies think his arm will play big there.
“We’re very pleased. I’m very happy with it,” Amaro said. “Eflin has a chance to be one of, if not the best, one of the best pitching prospects we have in our organization. Right now, (Aaron) Nola is the guy that people are focusing on, but Eflin has a chance to have every bit as high a ceiling.
“Windle has a strong arm. His command wasn’t really good enough to be a starter at this stage of his career, but we think throwing him in the pen gives him a faster track to the big leagues. There’s great value in those guys that can throw in the mid to upper 90s from the left side.”
Nola remains the closest pitching prospect to the big leagues, especially with the rotation consistently struggling to pitch six innings. It would not be a surprise to see him with the Phillies before the end of the month.
“He’s close,” Amaro said. “He’s still working on some things. He struggled through a couple of games. He hasn’t necessarily been knocked around, but it hasn’t been easy for him. He’s still learning some things and dealing with more veteran hitters in Triple-A, which is a good test for him. I don’t think he’s that far away, but when he’s ready he’ll be here. Just because our rotation is very poor right now it doesn’t mean we’re going to bring him to the big leagues for that reason. We’re going to bring him when it’s time for him developmentally.”
It is not Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon or Ben Revere, but the Phillies made a trade today.
They acquired the No. 1 overall signing slot ($3,590,400) for the 2015-16 international signing period from Arizona for Class A Lakewood right-hander Chris Oliver, Class A Lakewood left-hander Josh Taylor and the team’s No. 9 overall signing slot ($1,352,100). The trade allows the Phillies to sign 16-year-old outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz and avoid penalties that would prohibit them from signing international players for more than $300,000 until the 2018-19 signing period.
“We’re trying to do some things internationally for this signing period,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said at Turner Field. “Clearly, that’s important to us for a variety of reasons. One, for today. And also for tomorrow. I think it was important for us not to curtail (our) ability to continue to add prospects.”
The Phillies entered the international signing period Thursday with an allotted $3,041,700 to sign international players, but the trade boosts that figure to $4,562,550 because teams can only acquire 50 percent of their international bonus pool. Sources told MLB.com that the Phillies and Ortiz have agreed to a bonus near $4.2 million.
This trade allows the Phillies to sign Ortiz and others, including Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan, and not incur a penalty.
Teams that exceed their pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. That Phillies would have blown past that percentage without the trade.
The D-backs, Angels, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees exceeded the 2014-15 pool by at least 15 percent, and cannot sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 until the 2017-18 signing period.
“This keeps our hands untied, so to speak,” Amaro said.
Amaro said he hopes the Phillies can finalize something with Ortiz in the next couple weeks.
The Phillies selected Oliver in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He went 4-5 with a 4.04 in 13 starts with Lakewood. The Phillies signed Taylor as an amateur free agent in August. He is 4-5 with a 4.61 ERA in 13 starts.
That should have become clear the second the Phillies issued a press release yesterday morning announcing ownership partner John Middleton would introduce Andy MacPhail as the next team president. It is the first time an ownership partner got in front of the cameras and microphones and discussed the team. In the past, it has been Bill Giles, David Montgomery or Pat Gillick. Never a Middleton. Never a Buck. Never a Betz.
But that has changed now and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds. Middleton promised not to be involved in baseball decisions, but clearly he is exerting more influence on the direction of the organization. MacPhail will be interesting to watch, too. He is going to advise Gillick through the rest of the season, but while Gillick will have final say until then, I’ve got to think MacPhail will have more influence than everybody is letting on. For example, what happens if MacPhail loves a deal on the table for Cole Hamels, but Gillick does not? Who wins there?
“I would be very surprised if it ever got to the point where you had diametrically opposed opinions,” MacPhail said. “I think they’re going to insist and ensure that you’ll be involved. And you’re going to learn how that process took place and you’re going to learn who had influence. You’ll also get an opportunity to see just how much information was collected. how exhaustive the research was. So all of those things are going to be important. And again, I’ll give my opinion. That’s one thing I’ve never been shy about doing. It’s gotten me in trouble occasionally.”
Here are the stories from yesterday:
- MacPhail to become team president after the season. Middleton to become more involved.
- Ruben Amaro Jr. will remain GM through the end of the season. Pete Mackanin might remain interim manager, too. But MacPhail will be evaluating everybody every step of the way.
- MacPhail and Middleton talked a lot about analytics. Expect more of that in the future.
- Paul Hagen writes about how the Phillies are changing with Middleton stepping into the spotlight.
Phillies ownership partner John Middleton and president Pat Gillick will introduce Andy MacPhail at a 2:30 p.m. press conference, where he is expected to succeed Gillick. MacPhail is assuming control of the organization at a significant time, with the Phillies holding the worst record in baseball and trying to rebuild for postseason contention in a few years.
MacPhail will play a vital role in the potential trades of veterans Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang and others before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
He also will decide the fate of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., whose contract expires at the end of the season. Amaro is expected to remain GM for the foreseeable future.
Ryne Sandberg resigned as Phillies manager on Friday, leaving Pete Mackanin as interim manager. The Phillies only have said Mackanin will serve in that role through the homestand, which ends Thursday, probably because they did not want to announce anything official until MacPhail’s introduction.
MacPhail has experience leading three organizations.
He served as Twins general manager when Minnesota won the 1987 and 1991 World Series. He served as Cubs president from 1994-2006, helping the Cubs reach the postseason twice. He then served five seasons as Baltimore’s president of baseball operations, making some of the trades that helped the Orioles return to the postseason.
The team announced late Tuesday night it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle. It is the same ankle that Utley badly sprained in January during offseason workouts, and the same ankle the forced him to miss the beginning of Spring Training.
“It’s hard to tell,” Utley said, asked how much the ankle has affected him at the plate. “Obviously, it’s been bothering me for a little while. Most players have aches and pains through the year. So I’m not shocked with that. It’s really showing no improvement. So I think it’s a good time to get it right. We will have a cortisone shot tomorrow. We’ll take a little time off and hopefully, that will get it squared away.”
Utley is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. His batting average and OPS are last among 163 qualified hitters in baseball.
The Phillies almost certainly do not mind Utley’s trip to the DL because he has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 through the team’s first 73 games. Depending on how much time he misses and how well Cesar Hernandez plays as his replacement, the option could no longer be an issue upon his return.
“Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.”
Utley said his knees, which have been an issue in the past, are healthy.
Ryne Sandberg said he was surprised by the news because he said Utley told him he had been fine.
“My communication with Chase throughout this season about playing is that he’s been up and willing to go and no really reports of anything holding him back,” Sandberg said. “I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards.
“I don’t know if it’s affected him, but to get it taken care of with a stint on the DL is the next step to see if that helps him get that behind him. But the way that he’s moved around and run the bases and run hard and played defense, I don’t think it was holding him back all that much, in my opinion. But to have it bothering now, as he said it has kind of crept up on him to the point of getting it rechecked and re-evalutated. That’s what he feels.”
Sandberg’s comment that he was unaware of any issues with Utley’s ankle is interesting because the Phillies said Utley had a MRI on May 16, which showed some inflammation and swelling.
“It was present on the bone itself,” Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. “Most of the ligaments on the outside are healing pretty well. The ligament on the inside still had some healing to still go. He has some symptoms that we want to take care of. So we’ll place him on the DL and try to get him healthy.”