It’s a good thing that Jean Segura is hard-headed.
Segura returned to the Phillies lineup Saturday, after a 10-day absence with a left hamstring strain, and promptly got beaned by Marlins starter Trevor Richards. He left the game, passed a concussion test, and picked up three hits Sunday to support Zach Eflin’s complete-game effort in a 5-1 victory. It was all part of an eventful weekend for the veteran shortstop, who said he seems to get hit in the head at least once a year. The worst incident came in 2014, when he got struck in the face by then-Brewers teammate Ryan Braun’s backswing.
But there’s no denying that the Phillies offense is more complete with Segura. His extreme contact rate makes him the ideal No. 2 hitter in a lineup that tends to strike out a lot. And with Segura in his usual spot, J.T. Realmuto moves to the middle of the order and Maikel Franco drops to the No. 8 hole, where he has been so dangerous.
“It’s interesting how one guy can make the lineup so much tougher to get through,” manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday. “It’s a deep strong lineup with Segura in there.”
That’s a reassuring thought for a Phillies team that is enjoying its first day off since April 11.
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Tommy Hunter is supposed to be one of the Phillies’ most trustworthy relievers. Instead, he has spent four solitary weeks at the team’s spring-training complex.
“I’m at the field before the [high-A] Clearwater Threshers get there, so I’m the only one in that huge locker room,” Hunter said over the weekend. “Literally, the only human being in that whole area. I begged to come up here because I needed some sanity in my life.”
Hunter has dealt with a strained flexor tendon in his right arm — “a little gremlin just gnawing away at my bone,” he called it — since the middle of spring training. He had a setback in late March and hasn’t attempted to throw a ball since he received a painful platelet-rich plasma injection on April 3.
Wednesday will be a big day for Hunter, who could be cleared to begin light tossing. He doesn’t have a timetable for his return, but based on the Phillies’ recent move to transfer him to the 60-day injured list, it can’t be until at least May 24.
Hunter has been sidelined eight times in his 12-year career but never before because of an arm problem. In addition to seeing team physicians Steven Cohen and Michael Ciccotti, he had his arm examined by noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews after it didn’t respond to treatment. All three doctors concurred, according to Hunter, about the nature of the strain and the course of action.
“That was kind of reassurance and makes you feel really good about the direction and the approach that’s going to be taken,” said Hunter, who will return to Clearwater this week. “There some nervousness, like why is this not getting better? Of course. I’ve had some trouble sometimes in my own head. It’s getting better. It just [stinks] how long it’s taken.”
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick ... Zach Eflin? That’s the list of Phillies pitchers with at least three complete games since 2010. Good company, writes Matt Breen.
Through 28 games last season, the Phillies were 16-12. Their record through 28 games this year? You guessed it: 16-12. “Last year’s club, at this point, we were a tad over our skis relative to this club,” Kapler said, and Bob Brookover agrees.
Cesar Hernandez has been one of the Phillies’ hotter hitters lately. But given his defensive issues, it’s reasonable to think Scott Kingery will cut into his playing time upon returning from the injured list in another week or so.
Nick Pivetta’s line yesterday at triple A: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R/ER, 3 BB, 14 K. You read that right: 14 strikeouts. Coming to Lehigh Valley tonight: Tim Tebow.
A week ago tonight, Jake Arrieta called out his teammates for being “flat” in a rain-delayed loss in New York. The veteran pitcher was trying to nip a losing streak in the bud. As Breen writes, it’s up to the Phillies to respond to Arrieta’s challenge.
Speaking of Arrieta, he talked Kapler into letting him go out for the sixth inning Saturday night. It didn’t go well.
In the absence of Hunter and injured David Robertson, lefty Adam Morgan has been the Phillies’ best reliever, as Brooky writes.
Tomorrow: Tigers come to town for first time since 2007, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Aaron Nola faces the Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Another day off for the Phillies.
Friday: Phillies open a three-game home series with the rival Nationals, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Jimmy Rollins retirement ceremony before 7:05 p.m. game vs. Nats.
With a solo home run in the fourth inning Saturday night, Andrew McCutchen became the 22nd player on an active roster to reach 800 career RBIs. In the fifth inning, he became the nine active player to reach 800 career walks.
The only other active players with at least 800 RBIs and 800 walks: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Nick Markakis, Curtis Granderson and Joey Votto.
Of those players in the 800/800 club, none made his major-league debut after McCutchen, who also has played in fewer games (1,529) and made fewer plate appearances (6,638) than anyone else on the list.
“It’s quite a career he’s putting together,” Kapler said. “He’s a pretty special individual, both on and off the field.”
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: So, Bryce Harper’s career strikeout percentage is 25 percent. Last year, he struck out at a 30 percent rate. After the Mets series [last week] he was at 39 percent. What’s happening here? And should the Phillies be concerned their $330 million man is whiffing at a higher rate than Jorge Alfaro (37 percent) last year?
— Chic R., via e-mail
Answer: Great question, Chic. Bonus points for bringing stats to the party, although I think yours on Harper are slightly off. I’ve got his strikeout percentage at 24.3 percent last year and 29.3 percent through Friday. Regardless, your point is well taken: He strikes out a lot.
I’ll answer your question like this: Yes, the Phillies probably should be somewhat concerned about Harper’s rising strikeout rate. But no, they aren’t concerned at all.
Let me explain: Strikeouts are on the rise throughout baseball, with most teams willing to trade less contact for more slugging. Last season, in fact, there were more strikeouts than hits for the first time ever. So, Harper isn’t alone among hitters who are punching out more often.