The Phillies were postponed yet again Tuesday night, but this time it was rain that kept the Phillies off the field. After a week of COVID-19 postponements, a rainout almost felt welcoming. Maybe there can be some sense of normalcy in 2020.
The Phillies will get back on the horse Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park as they ride their horses — Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola — into a doubleheader against the Yankees. Oh, the games will be only seven innings. So much for normalcy.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @matt_breen. Thank you for reading.
— Matt Breen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s too early, manager Joe Girardi said Monday night after watching his bullpen get knocked around again, to make a judgment on the Phillies relievers.
He is right. Monday was only the fourth game of the season. But each of the team’s first three losses has been defined by shortcomings in the bullpen, which was a glaring concern when the season began. Just eight weeks remain in the truncated season.
No, it’s not time to panic, but it could soon be time for the Phillies to look to their alternate training site and take a chance on one of the young arms waiting in Allentown. It can’t be much worse than what they’ve seen so far.
“If we were to make changes, you’re calling up kids who have no experience as well in a sense,” Girardi said. “These were the guys we thought threw the ball the best during the camps, and they got to get it done.”
Here are three relievers whom the Phillies could turn to right now:
RHP Connor Brogdon — His fastball sits in the high-90s, which allowed Brogdon to strike out 12.2 batters per nine innings last season after joining the triple-A bullpen in late June. The 25-year-old had a 3.06 ERA last season in 26 appearances with triple-A Lehigh Valley, and his change-up is a reliable secondary pitch. He was impressive during summer camp and should be the first-man up once the Phillies call for help.
LHP Damon Jones — The Phillies are keeping the 25-year-old stretched as a starter in Allentown, but it could be worth seeing what his arm can give them this season as a reliever. He pitched last season at three-levels and posted a 2.91 ERA with 12 strikeouts per nine innings in 23 starts among high-A Clearwater, double-A Reading, and triple-A Lehigh Valley. Jones had a big jump last season when he changed the grip on his slider after seeing a video clip of how Trevor Bauer gripped his pitch. Adding Jones to the bullpen in 2020 does not mean he can’t be a starter in the future.
RHP Addison Russ — In his first two full minor-league seasons, Russ has a 2.08 ERA with 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Not bad for a 19th-round pick. The 25-year-old pairs a splitter with a mid-90s fastball and posted a 2.54 ERA last season in 55 relief appearances with double-A Reading. Russ spent all of last season in double A, but held his own during spring training and seems ready to leap to the majors in 2020.
A doubleheader featuring two seven-inning games should excite the Phillies. Why? They could avoid using their troubled bullpen, Scott Lauber writes. The Phillies will play two today against the Yankees, and Wheeler and Nola should provide the heavy lifting.
It seems possible, Lauber writes, that Spencer Howard could make his major-league debut later this week at Citizens Bank Park. The team’s top pitching prospect could line up to start Sunday’s game vs. Atlanta. “Obviously it’s something we’re going to have to talk about,” Girardi said.
The Phillies have had a pretty rough start to the season. They lost two of three to the Marlins, missed a week while undergoing daily COVID-19 tests, restarted their season against Gerrit Cole, sat through a 67-minute rain delay before finishing another loss, and then had yet another game postponed Tuesday. But the team’s start isn’t as bad as it seems, Bob Brookover writes. How so? He outlines why here.
Today: Zack Wheeler starts Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Yankees, 4:05 p.m.
Tonight: Aaron Nola starts the second game of the day at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m. (approximate)
Tomorrow: Phillies finish four games in four days against the Yankees, 6:05 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open a three-game series against the Braves, 7:05 p.m.
The Phillies lost Monday night, but they did manage to prevent Aaron Judge from hitting a homer after the Yankees right fielder had homered in five straight games. Six Phillies have homered in five straight games, but who was the last one to do it? Odubel Herrera in 2018. That seems like a lifetime ago.
Chase Utley actually homered in five straight games twice in 2008. The other Phillies to homer in five straight games are Rhys Hoskins (2017), Bobby Abreu (2005), Mike Schmidt (1979), and Dick Allen in 1969.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: What’s taking the Phillies so long to promote Spencer Howard? — George K. via email