Results tagged ‘ Aaron Nola ’

Nola Won’t Pitch Saturday, But He’s Coming Soon

nolaThe Phillies need a starting pitcher Saturday at AT&T Park in San Francisco, but it will not be Triple-A right-hander Aaron Nola.

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.”

Phillies Cut Loose Correia, O’Sullivan

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Sean O'Sullivan, right, walks away as Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez rounds the bases after a home run during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, July 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Sean O’Sullivan, right, walks away as Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez rounds the bases after a home run during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, July 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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.”

Rollins Trade Looking Good for Phillies

eflinThe Phillies only truly began their rebuilding process in December, when they traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers for a pair of Minor League pitchers.

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.”

First of Many Changes: Asche Moves to Left Field

Cody AscheThe Phillies are building for the future and they made their first significant in-season change last night when they optioned Cody Asche to Triple-A.

They want Asche to become a left fielder.

The organization believes Maikel Franco is its third baseman of the future. He is coming as early as Friday. He is hitting well in Triple-A. He plays an impressive third base. If he can play like that in the big leagues then he is the right choice. But the Phillies still like Asche and they see their outfield is lacking. (Phillies outfielders have a .623 OPS this season, which is 29th in baseball.) They think Asche’s offense could improve if he moves to a less stressful spot on the field like left.

“That’s a possibility,” Ryne Sandberg said. “I’ve seen that before and I think he has the ability to play a solid left field with the things he’s already done, with his foot speed and knowledge of the game and what I’ve seen in practice. He also has a good arm.”

Asche took the news hard. I’m sure he did not expect to return to the Minor Leagues to learn a new position. (One hopes they told him this was coming a couple weeks ago, but based on his reaction I think they did not.) But his ego also probably took a hit because the Phillies essentially told him, “We don’t think you’re good enough at third base.” That hurt is understandable. But like I wrote in the story above, there are numerous players that have made the transition from infielder to outfielder.

Craig Biggio, Robin Yount, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Alex Gordon are just a few.

Nobody looks at those players as having failed anything. If Asche takes to left field and his offense improves and he establishes himself as a quality left fielder, nobody will look at him as a failed third baseman. They will look at him as a significant piece of the rebuilding process.

So what’s next for the Phillies? Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz remain on the trading block. Aaron Nola? He’ll continue to pitch in Double-A, but he could be in the big leagues before the end of the season. Ben Revere is expected to move to right field, although I don’t think the Phillies look at him as the long-term answer there. Revere could share time in right with Jeff Francoeur and Domonic Brown, once he rejoins the Phillies. Or the Phillies could trade Revere or Brown.

“We’ve been in dialogue about a lot of things,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “That really hasn’t stopped since the offseason. We still continue to kind of assess opportunities that we might have. The focus remains the same: we try to put ourselves in a position to improve the club and give young players an opportunity to come up here and see what they can do.”

Relax: Let Phillies Prospects Move Slowly

Maikel FrancoI wrote Friday that the Phillies are in no rush to promote Maikel Franco to the big leagues, despite a hot start in Triple-A.

I explained the organization’s rationale in the story, but because fans have such little faith in the Phillies’ front office these days I received plenty of negative reaction to it.

Sure, keep playing the same old guys!

Of course they’re not. The Phillies never promote anybody!

I just don’t understand why they don’t bring up every prospect to learn on the job!

Oh, brother. I could not disagree more. Let me be clear: the Phillies’ front office deserves plenty of criticism for the current state of the team. The Phillies have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, but one of the worst teams. There is no excusing that. So criticize their amateur drafts. Question their player development. Criticize their talent evaluation at the amateur and professional levels. Question their unmovable contracts and personnel decisions. Criticize the coaching staff.

Each of those things is fair.

But if the Phillies are going to do something right this season it is going to be remaining patient with their prospects. They should not rush them to the big leagues because fans are frustrated with the product at Citizens Bank Park.

Here is why:

  1. This is a lost season. Do not forget Pat Gillick‘s assessment that the Phillies are not going to compete again until 2017 at the earliest. Despite winning two of three this weekend against the Braves, the Phillies are on pace to lose more than 100 games. 2016 might not be much better. So in what world does it make sense to start rushing prospects through the system so they can join a team headed nowhere? If you’re a Phillies fan you should want the Phillies’ prospects to take their time through the Minor League system and be promoted when they are truly ready. Every week or month they remain in the Minor Leagues is another week, month or year they could be helping the team win when it matters again. Think about it: if the Phillies had rushed Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard or Cole Hamels through the system, maybe they’re not all together during their run from 2007-11.
  2. Service time. In the case of Franco, if he is promoted before May 15 he could become eligible for free agency following the 2020 season. If he is promoted May 15 or later, he does not become eligible until after 2021. Yes, if the Phillies wait just a few weeks they could have Franco for an entire extra season — a season when the results might matter again. Now I am not saying Franco will be promoted later next month or even that he should be promoted later next month. (If the Phillies promote him after the fist week of July they could avoid his Super 2 status in salary arbitration.) I’m only saying I cannot find a single reason to promote Franco right now. To be clear: I’m not advocating the stashing of prospects in the system when they are beyond ready for a big-league promotion. I’m only saying the Phillies must be smart about it. A few extra weeks in Triple-A is not going to kill anybody.
  3. Development. I hear people say the Phillies don’t promote their prospects when they are young. They offer Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton as examples of young players promoted that enjoyed immediate success in the big leagues. Of course, find me a Phillies prospect since Utley or Howard that could come close to the talent of Trout, Harper, Cabrera or Stanton. That player hasn’t existed. But while I have heard of prospects being hurt by being rushed to the big leagues, I have not heard of prospects being irreparably harmed by not being promoted to the big leagues quickly enough. Utley and Howard were not rushed. They turned out fine. If a player is going be successful at the big-league level, an extra month or two (or more) in the Minor Leagues is not going to stop that. So when I asked Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper yesterday if the Phillies considered any of the organization’s Double-A pitching prospects to make Tuesday’s start in St. Louis over Severino Gonzalez and he said no, I had no problem with that. That extra time in the Minor Leagues might allow one of those pitchers to learn a new pitch or fine tune the ones they have. It might allow them to learn how to overcome their struggles, so when they experience them in the future they have confidence they can overcome them again. Kyle Kendrick got rushed to the big leagues in 2007. He could only throw a sinker. He had success early, but eventually hitters caught up and he had to return to the Minor Leagues before he could pitch in the big leagues again. Knowing the team is not going anywhere this season, wouldn’t it make sense for those prospects to continue to develop at a steady pace so they’re really ready when the time comes?

So while I understand the desire to watch the future this season rather than the past, think about what that might mean. If you want the Phillies to return to glory sooner rather than later it might mean sucking it up in 2015. Will we see Franco this season? I’m sure we will. Will we see Nola? It’s possible. Should they get called up ASAP? Absolutely not. They should be promoted when they are ready to experience success in the big leagues and no earlier. Because right now does not matter. 2017 and beyond does.

Phillies Take Nola With No. 7 Pick

nolaThe Phillies hinted last week they preferred a polished baseball player, not just an athlete with the proverbial “high ceiling” with the seventh overall pick in tonight’s First-Year Player Draft.

They followed through and selected LSU right-hander Aaron Nola.

“We would hope that in a couple of years he could be here pitching here in the organization with the Major League team,” Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. “It’s hard to say, but within a couple of years, I think that’s a pretty safe estimate.”

MLB.com considered Nola the sixth-best player available in the Draft, and most scouts project him to be the first starting pitcher to appear in the big leagues. He is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, so he is not imposing on the mound. But Nola has excellent command of his pitches, which includes a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a changeup and a breaking ball. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, although Wolever said he has seen him touch 97 mph.

“A name that was mentioned upstairs (in the Phillies front office) quite frequently was Tim Hudson,” Wolever said, when asked for a comparable big-league pitcher. “I hate to put it on these kids because now all of a sudden they’ve got to live up to that. But that was tossed around quite a bit with our group. Just the command and the life on his fastball. … There’s something to say about having ‘now’ stuff. And that’s what Aaron Nola has. Aaron Nola has ‘now’ stuff. We don’t really have to project a lot because it’s already here.”

Nola, 21, is eager to get started.

“I kind of want to get going,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “I look forward to getting up there.”

It sounds like that should not be a problem. Wolever said he thinks they are “very close” to signing Nola. Once he signs, it would not be a surprise to see him begin his professional career with Class A Clearwater, but because he threw 116 1/3 inning this season the Phillies plan to bring him along slowly.

Read more about Nola here.

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