Tag Archives: Austin Davis

Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Strained forearm sends Vince Velasquez to the Injured List

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Velasquez suddenly has a strained forearm

The Philadelphia Phillies have been able to build a lead in the National League East Division over the first six weeks of the 2019 MLB season despite suffering numerous important losses due to injuries. Now the club will have to work through one more, and for the first time the starting pitching rotation is involved.

Right-hander Vince Velasquez was placed on the Injured List today with what has been described as a “right forearm strain” by Corey Seidman at NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Velasquez is in his fourth season with the Phillies since coming from the Houston Astros as the lead piece in a big seven-player deal back on December 12, 2015. The 26-year-old (he turns 27 next month) has gone 20-27 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.368 WHIP over 77 appearances, 75 of those starts, since joining the Phillies.
This season, Velasquez was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.352 WHIP. He had struck out 32 while walking 15 opposing batters across 32.1 innings over which he had surrendered 26 hits. Velasquez made six starts after coming out of the bullpen in his initial 2019 appearance.
A forearm strain could be anything from mild and minor to a major injury that would cost more than a year. Tampa Bay Rays sensational rookie pitcher Tyler Glasnow just learned that his own forearm strain was minor, but Glasnow will still be missing the next four-to-six weeks.
Per Seidman, the Phillies have brought back lefty reliever Austin Davis from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to bolster the bullpen for now. Davis had been pitching well with the IronPigs, producing a 1.12 ERA while allowing just 10 hits with 19 strikeouts over 16 innings across 11 appearances.
With the Phillies, Davis made one appearance this season back on April 23 in Colorado. He walked three and allowed three hits over two innings that afternoon at Coors Field but managed to keep the Rockies off the scoreboard during a 4-1 loss.
The 26-year-old Davis made his big-league debut a year ago with the Phillies. Over 32 games and 34.2 innings he allowed 35 hits with a 38/12 K:BB.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s insider Jim Salisbury has reported that prospect Cole Irvin will be promoted to make his big-league debut on Sunday in what would normally have been the next start for Velasquez. However, Tom Housenick of The Morning Call has speculated that Irvin could make his debut on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. If that should happen, then Aaron Nola likely gets the Sunday nod.
A 25-year-old lefty, Irvin was the Phillies fifth round pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon. He is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his first half-dozen starts this season for the IronPigs with a 23/8 K:BB mark over 36 innings, allowing 36 hits.

Nick Pivetta could be recalled early next week to join the rotation. Since being demoted last month following a slow start to the season with the Phillies, Pivetta has gone 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA at Triple-A. The righty has made four starts and dominated the minor league hitters, allowing just 15 hits with a 34/12 K:BB mark.

Phillies add Jean Segura and Scott Kingery to growing Injured List

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Shortstop Jean Segura joined the Phillies growing Injury List

A gut-wrenching walkoff defeat on the scoreboard at the hands of the host Colorado Rockies was not the only loss suffered by the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.

The club also lost three players to the Injured List: shortstop Jean Segura, his backup in red-hot utility player Scott Kingery, and reliever Victor Arano.
Segura actually strained his left hamstring during Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets. His stint on the IL was made retroactive to Wednesday, and so he will be eligible to come off next weekend.
Kingery injured his right hamstring while running to first on a ground out in the fourth inning during Friday night’s defeat. He was starting for the third straight game at short in place of Segura.
Arano was called up from Triple-A just over a week ago. Per Matt Gelb, the right-hander was warming up to enter Friday night’s game in the 12th inning when he began to have trouble in his right pitching elbow.
Phil Gosselin will be the Phillies’ shortstop for the next week. He’s the only shortstop on the roster. Segura didn’t suffer a setback, but with Kingery down, they decided to be ultra cautious.

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Gelb further reported that manager Gabe Kapler has stated that, in the event of an emergency involving Gosselin, any from among Cesar HernandezRoman Quinn or Maikel Franco could play shortstop.
This will have to be the arrangement for at least the final two games of this current series against the Colorado Rockies, next week’s big early-season three-game match-up with the division rival New York Mets at Citi Field, and for the first couple games of next weekend’s four-game set with the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
Phil Gosselin is in his seventh big-league season, but his first with the Phillies organization. He is local product, born and raised in Bryn Mawr. He attended Malvern Prep High School before moving on to play college ball at the University of Virginia.
The 30-year-old Gosselin has a .265/.316/.362 slash line in Major League Baseball and has appeared with the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds and now the Phillies. He went 2-4 and scored the run in the top of the 12th last night that temporarily put the Phillies on top.
Gosselin has appeared in a dozen games at shortstop during his career in Major League Baseball. His last action there prior to last night was over three games with Texas in the 2017 season. He also played 17 games with Triple-A Indianapolis at the position that same season. He has mostly played second base over the last two years.
To take the place of the three injured players in Denver the club promoted right-handed pitcher Drew Anderson, lefty reliever Austin Davis, and infielder Mitch Walding from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Anderson was impressive back in spring training with the Phillies and already has made one appearance with the big club this season. He went two innings, striking out two and walking two while allowing no runs or hits, during this past Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Mets.
Davis had pitched poorly over five Grapefruit League games, clinching his start of the season in the minors. The southpaw has pitched well for the IronPigs, allowing seven hits and no runs over 10 innings across six games with a 12/2 K:BB ratio.
The 26-year-old Walding appeared in 13 games with the Phillies last season, including playing seven games at third base. He has appeared on both infield corners during an eight-season minor league career.
Anderson and Davis will bring fresh arms with some big-league experience to the bullpen. Walding will be an extra bat off the bench.

The Phillies have really been slammed by the injury hammer this week. They put reliever David Robertson on the IL with a barking right elbow early in the week. 
Then they lost center fielder Odubel Herrera to a hamstring during Wednesday’s game. He is eligible to return next Sunday, and is expected back at that time.

First round of a dozen spring cuts leaves Phillies with 49 players in big-league camp

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Enyel De Los Santos was among first dozen Phillies reassignments

The Philadelphia Phillies dropped an 8-2 decision on Monday to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. With that game in the books the club has now officially passed the halfway point of its Grapefruit League schedule.

The Phillies record under the Florida sun sits at 9-7 following the defeat. They now have 14 games remaining on their schedule prior to heading back north for the March 28 regular season opener against the division-rival Atlanta Braves.
Following their game on Saturday, March 9, a first round of seven players were reassigned. After today’s game another round of five reassignments was announced. These dozen roster moves are part of the effort to cut down to the 25 players who will be in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day.
Both 22-year-old pitcher Adonis Medina, who is the Phillies #2 prospect now per MLB Pipeline, and 21-year-old shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa, considered their#13 prospect, were optioned to Double-A Reading on Saturday.

Today the Phillies optioned pitchers Enyel De Los SantosAustin Davis and Edgar Garcia to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. De Los Santos is the team’s #6 prospect and made his Major League Baseball debut last season, appearing in seven games and making two starts on the mound. Davis saw action in 32 games with the Phillies last season as a situational left-hander.
Reassigned to the minor league camp over the two days were pitchers Cole IrvinJoJo Romero and Tyler Gilbert, catcher Deivy Grullon, first baseman Austin Listi, infielder Malquin Canelo and outfielder Mickey Moniak. Romero is the Phillies #7 prospect, Moniak #9 and Irvin #16 per MLB Pipeline.
The 20-year-old Moniak was the top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. While he has struggled for much of his professional career, he finally began to hit the ball with more authority last summer. Listi was the 2018 Paul Owens Award winner as the top performing position player prospect in the Phillies minor league system.
Given the improvements to the overall Phillies roster, none of these players were expected to make the team out of spring training. The team still has a crowd of 49 players at major league camp, and more cuts can be expected at some point during the coming week.

NOTE: the Phillies further announced that pitcher Ranger Suarez was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following Monday’s spring game.