Since the winter of 2014, David Phelps has been traded four times, thrice at the in-season deadline. Surely, then, joining a new team with one month left in the season is old hat for the Phillies’ new reliever.
Except, of course, for the ongoing pandemic.
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“It was funny because I was saying as the deadline was coming in, ‘If ever there was a year not to get traded ...,’” Phelps said with a chuckle before Wednesday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. “I mean, it’s got to be scary for a clubhouse acquiring a player, too.”
Phelps’ first question for the Phillies, then, after being acquired Monday from the Milwaukee Brewers for three players to be named, was whether they expected him to be in uniform that night. When they told him that wasn’t necessary, he volunteered to drive rather than risking possible exposure to COVID-19 by flying commercial.
The itinerary also enabled Phelps to stay overnight at his home in Pittsburgh – slightly more than halfway between Milwaukee and Philadelphia – and see his wife and children. He arrived at Citizens Bank Park about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday and was available out of the bullpen for manager Joe Girardi.
“You trade for a guy at the deadline, and he shows up, and all of a sudden, if he tests positive, we’ve seen it can be multiple weeks,” Phelps said. “I was fortunate that I was close enough that I could drive.”
It also figures to help ease Phelps’ transition that he pitched for Girardi and worked with catcher J.T. Realmuto for three seasons apiece with the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins, respectively.
The Phillies expect the 33-year-old right-hander to pitch in high-leverage situations in the late innings. Phelps is the fourth reliever they have acquired since Aug. 21, joining David Hale, Brandon Workman, and Heath Hembree.
“Any time you get traded midseason it’s definitely a little bit shocking because everything just kind of gets turned upside-down for a couple days,” Phelps said. “But knowing that I was going to a place with a manager that I’ve played for before, that I respect incredibly, was definitely something that made it a lot easier.
“I could sit here and talk all day about how great J.T. is. I’m excited to get back with J.T. because I know not only what he’s able to do, but he’s incredibly comfortable with what I like to do out there.”
In his last 11 games, first baseman Rhys Hoskins was 16-for-44 (.364) with five home runs and an .818 slugging percentage and has been the Phillies’ hottest hitter.
Strange time, then, to take him out of the lineup Wednesday night, wasn’t it?
But with 30 games in 27 days this month, Girardi intends to sprinkle in an occasional day off for everyday players. He chose to sit Hoskins rather than have him face Nationals ace Max Scherzer, against whom he’s 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts.
“We debated about it in the clubhouse for a while,” Girardi said. “As hot as he is, you go through a lot of different things. Do you wait until he has a day that’s not so great? Do you do it on a day that they feel good about themselves? You just try to pick it.”
Veteran utilityman Neil Walker, Hoskins’ stand-in, had three career homers against Scherzer.