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Phillies' new GM continues to add to pitching depth

General manager Matt Klentak swings a trade with Arizona for starting righthander Jeremy Hellickson.

FROM THE TIME he stepped into Citizens Bank Park for the first time with his new job title - and a perfectly placed Phillies "P" pin on his suit jacket - general manager Matt Klentak said adding pitching to his new team would be a priority.

It would be the focus this winter and beyond, he said.

"If you can pitch, you have a chance," Klentak said on Oct. 26, the day he was hired, referencing the World Series-bound New York Mets. "That will absolutely become an organizational focus for us. To add pitching at every turn. In trades, through waiver claims, in the draft, internationally, free agency. However we need to do it, we will add pitching, pitching, pitching. Because if you can pitch, you have a chance to win every night."

Klentak has added three pitchers during his first three weeks on the job, including one who should strengthen an otherwise inexperienced rotation in 2016.

The Phillies traded for former Tampa Bay Rays rookie of the year Jeremy Hellickson on Saturday. Hellickson, a 6-1 righthander who spent 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 49-48 with a 3.94 ERA in 142 career games (135 starts). In exchange, the Phillies sent pitching prospect Sam McWilliams, an eighth-round pick in 2014, to Arizona.

"He's been a steady performer the last five years and he has some hardware on his mantel, a rookie of the year (2011) and Gold Glove (2012)," Klentak said on Saturday. "I think one of the things on top of the obvious is that he's a veteran guy but still just 28 years old. He'll pitch at 29 this season, so we're excited that he's still in his prime. And more than anything, he's a competitor. He wants the ball. We've talked about building an environment and we think he'll be a very positive influence on our staff."

Beyond Hellickson, the current projected starting rotation includes just three other pitchers, who all made their major league debuts this summer: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan. The Phillies are likely to add at least one more veteran starter through free agency or trade.

Klentak also has added some experience to the bullpen since arriving last month, claiming righthander Dan Otero from Oakland and signing lefthander James Russell to a minor league deal last week.

"I think pitching depth can be built a lot of ways . . . that will continue to be a goal," he said.

Hellickson was 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 starts with Arizona in 2015. But he finished strong: He had a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts after June. His fastball broke Maikel Franco's wrist on Aug. 11.

Hellickson became expendable for Arizona because it was trying to shed salary in order to pursue a longer-term solution for its rotation in free agency. Hellickson, a free agent after 2016, likely will make around $7 million through arbitration this winter.

"We like what he has done in his career," Klentak said. "He's a good fit for us."