In a trade born of both desperation and convenience, the Phillies and New York Yankees swapped relief pitchers Friday.
Guess which team was the desperate one.
The Phillies acquired David Hale – a 32-year-old right-hander with 95 games of big-league experience – for minor-league righty Addison Russ. Hale, designated for assignment earlier in the week, figures to get high-leverage opportunities in a Phillies bullpen that has an 8.07 ERA through 21 games. Russ was assigned to the Yankees’ satellite camp in Scranton.
"He had success in the Yankees' bullpen," said manager Joe Girardi, for whom Hale pitched briefly in 2018. "He probably just fell victim to having a really deep bullpen. He was made available, and we snatched him up."
Hale parlayed a minor-league contract into 20 appearances and a 3.11 ERA for the Yankees last season. He appeared in five games for them this season, including 2⅓ scoreless innings against the Phillies on Aug. 6 at Citizens Bank Park, and had a 3.00 ERA with seven strikeouts and three walks in six innings.
Girardi characterized Hale as “a three-pitch guy that has a really good changeup.” He intends to use Hale as a middle-inning bridge but said he would also get late-inning opportunities, which might be likelier now that reliable left-hander Jose Alvarez went on the injured list Friday.
The Phillies’ bullpen blew 2-0 and 7-0 leads in 3-2 and 9-8 losses Thursday in a doubleheader sweep against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y. Alvarez, the Phillies’ best reliever thus far, took a 105-mph line drive off his groin in the first game. The Phillies replaced him by calling up lefty JoJo Romero from their satellite camp in Lehigh Valley.
Russ had been pitching in Lehigh Valley, too. A 19th-round draft pick in 2017, he posted a 2.48 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 152⅔ innings over three seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system.
Bryce Harper wasn't in the lineup for Friday night's series opener in Atlanta, the first time this season that he didn't start a game.
“He’s dog-tired, and he’s beat up,” Girardi said. “He’s played every game, almost every inning, doubleheader [Thursday]. He’s on base all the time. I just saw him after the [second] game, and he looked exhausted to me. He didn’t ask for a day off, and you don’t ever want to give him a day off. He’s so good. But I just felt like at some point you start to risk injury, and we can’t afford for him to go down.”
Harper has played all but three of the Phillies’ 175 innings so far this season. He’s slashing .338/.471/.676 with six homers, 16 RBI, 15 walks, and 13 strikeouts.