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Phillies will stick with status quo, GM Klentak says

The Phillies will not yet summon a prospect from the minors, the general manager said. This team, for now, is what it is.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.Read more(Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

The entire Phillies baseball operations department packed into a second-floor Citizens Bank Park conference room Wednesday evening. As the dozens of men pored over reports on the longest of long shots — the late rounds of a 40-round Major League Baseball draft — Matt Klentak exited the room and went downstairs. His team, the one with the worst record in baseball, took batting practice.

Klentak sat in the dugout and, for 15 minutes, the Phillies general manager explained his restraint. The Phillies will not yet summon a prospect from the minors. They will not enact radical change to a team that was expected to flounder but has failed to reach even that low bar.

This team, for now, is what it is.

"In times of struggle," Klentak said, "one of the best things you can do is be honest."

His honest assessment is this: Right now, the Phillies do not stand to gain much from pushing a young player from triple A. None of them, with the possible exception of Rhys Hoskins, is prepared at this moment to play every day in the majors. Hoskins is a first baseman, and that is Tommy Joseph's current job.

"We like everything [Hoskins] does, but the major-league-readiness of a player's performance has to align with a major-league opportunity," Klentak said. "That's certainly a factor for Rhys."

Michael Saunders, the maligned $9 million outfielder, will remain on the roster. But he may not play much. Klentak said 34-year-old outfielder Daniel Nava's opportunity for at-bats will increase.

Klentak met with Phillies manager Pete Mackanin before batting practice and the two discussed some scenarios. None of them appear imminent. The Phillies will delay their roster decisions until July, probably closer to the July 31 trade deadline.

"I think the challenge, as I've said 100 times, is to strike the proper balance between the present and the future," Klentak said. "And that continues to be the case."

The larger concern returns to the players at triple-A Lehigh Valley. Their futures are unwritten. But troubling trends have persisted there, despite the IronPigs' exceptional win-loss record. Roman Quinn is injured again. Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams have accumulated high strikeout totals with very few walks. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is still hitting below .200 and has not displayed a hint of power. Dylan Cozens enjoyed a fine May but is susceptible to slumps and breaking balls.

They are unfinished products. The Phillies do not expect every one of those players to be a difference-maker in the majors. If one or two are, then it could keep their rebuilding process on track. Below that, at double-A Reading, Scott Kingery has shined. But he will not replace Cesar Hernandez, who will miss six weeks with a strained abdominal muscle.

"He's doing great," Klentak said of Kingery. "He really is. He's having a terrific year at double A. He's doing all of the things we want him to do. I'd suspect in the pretty near future he'd move to triple A. But it's not time to bring him to the major leagues right now. And it's not really related to Cesar's injury; it's not the right thing for Scott Kingery's development."

Why is that?

"He doesn't even have a year of double A under his belt yet," Klentak said. "He's barely now two years removed from his draft class. We're going to do the right thing for Scott Kingery, which in this case is also the right thing for the organization."

Those are difficult truths that confront a powerless Phillies team. The failures at the major-league level will not influence how the Phillies make decisions. That is just a reflection of how far this rebuilding process is from yielding a contender.

Klentak and his assistants are in no rush. Baseball does not often reward rash decisions. That does not lessen the sting of the nightly failures. But it will not compel Klentak — at least not yet.

"It has been a challenging first couple of months of the year," Klentak said. "I don't think any of us — whether it is Pete, or me, or any of the players — is hiding behind that. It's a challenging year."