Phillies Mailbag: Pitching, Pitching, and Promotions Coming?
We are back with another edition of the Phillies mailbag on 97.3 Espn. We take your questions all week long and then discuss them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. Send me your questions on Twitter @FrankKlose.
Who will replace Zach Eflin: Ben Lively or Nick Pivetta?
At first, I thought that Nick Pivetta would have been the pitcher the Phillies picked to pitch. Pivetta made four starts for the Phillies so far this season, and while his numbers (0-2 with a 5.12 earned run average) do not look particularly impressive, Pivetta had his moments.
Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure noted that Pivetta's struggles often occurred in our around the fifth inning. McClure noted that the first inning and fifth inning are reason for a young pitcher to press. The first inning, one wants to enter the game on a high note. In the fifth, the pitcher is looking to get to the point where he may earn a win. Maybe Pivetta struggled mentally to push through.
Back down at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Pivetta has won both of the starts he has made since Aaron Nola's return to the Phillies pushed him out of the Phillies rotation. All in all at Triple-A, Pivetta is 5-0 with a 1.41 earned run average. Those are numbers that suggest a pitcher has shown he can do little more at the Triple-A level.
However, another pitcher is doing just the same.
Ben Lively is also pitching well at Lehigh Valley. In nine starts for the IronPigs, Lively is 6-1 with a 2.40 earned run average. Lively was on the Phillies active roster twice as insurance but has yet to throw a pitch. He is pitching well enough that the Phillies could easily consider Lively for the promotion.
Lively is still listed as the starter for the IronPigs on Thursday. Come Friday, which would have been Pivetta's turn to pitch, the starter is listed as "TBA". The Phillies have an off day on Thursday, so Saturday would be the day that the turn in the rotation takes place. Granted, the IronPigs could easily change their rotation schedule, and there is plenty of time for that.
I tend to think the Phillies will see through what they have begun with Pivetta before starting another project in Lively. However, I would imagine that the time will come in 2017 that both pitchers are in the Phillies starting rotation. If the Phillies picked Lively that would not particularly surprise me either.
Who do you think is the Phillies most reliable starter? Are any of these pitchers going to be a long-term part of the Phillies rebuild?
This is a really good question. Heading into the season, the Phillies really felt like they had a stable starting pitching corps in Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Nola, Vince Velasquez, and Clay Buchholz. Buchholz barely pitched, which led the Phillies to head to their Triple-A depth almost immediately. Then Nola got hurt, which made things even more difficult for the Phillies.
It would have been too easy to pick Hellickson just about a month ago. After going 4-0 with a 1.80 earned run average in April, Hellickson is 1-3 with a 7.04 earned run average in May. This month of May is Hellickson's worst month since September, 2014, when he went 0-3 with a 7.59 earned run average. History would tell us that Hellickson should be more reliable.
For now, I must say that Nola is the Phillies most reliable pitcher. Granted, Nola's last start was one in which he allowed five earned runs. However, Nola did stick it out for six innings. If a pitcher is going to have a tough day like Nola did, the least he can do is make it through six innings. Nola appears to be beyond any injury concerns, which is a great plus.
I still think very highly of Eickhoff. In Eickhoff's five losses, he surrendered two earned runs, five earned runs, four earned runs, three earned runs, and four earned runs, in that order. At other times, Eickhoff has given up one earned run in seven innings and failed to get a win.
Eickhoff has struggled a bit with his fastball command and perhaps instead has turned to other pitches more often. If Eickhoff can get that command back, I can see him getting right back on track. Even if not, he is pitching better in 2017 than someone who is winless.
Will Hoskins, Williams and Quinn be up in the next month or so do you think? This team needs them.
Down on the farm at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the IronPigs have been red hot. The IronPigs have won 21 out of their last 23 games, leaving the IronPigs in first place by a wide margin. It is a legitimate question to ask whether or not the Phillies should start calling players up. There is good reason to wonder.
Outfielder Nick Williams was named to the International League team of the week and then shortly thereafter named the International League batter of the week. Williams is really starting to come into his power stroke. In his last 10 games, Williams is batting .351 with seven home runs and 18 runs batted in. Williams is now batting .281 on the season.
However, Williams has yet to show consistency in his play at Triple-A. Williams began the season showing very little power. Then, Williams dipped down even in his batting average before getting hot and showing some of each. I think Williams needs to show some consistency over a longer period of time before the Phillies will give him the call.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins is keeping up his hot start, batting .315 with an OPS of 1.058 through 50 games. Hoskins has 13 home runs and 38 runs batted in. Right now, Hoskins is blocked at first base by Tommy Joseph, who is the hottest Phillies offensive player.
In the month of May, Joseph is batting .310 with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in. Had Joseph continued his rough start in which he batted just .179 in the month of April, we might be having a different conversation. The right-handed Hoskins may not even be a candidate to serve as a left-handed designated hitter in upcoming interleague games, as the Phillies lineup is mostly right-handed. With no sense of urgency, Hoskins likely will play more at Triple-A.
In terms of outfielder Roman Quinn, the Phillies might be more likely to give him a call in the near future. Quinn is putting together a nice season at Triple-A. Quinn is batting .274, which is not eye-popping, but Quinn is getting on base at a .344 clip. Quinn has eight doubles, three triples, and two home runs. Quinn has stolen 10 bases.
The Phillies could certainly use the speed at the top of the order. Cesar Hernandez currently leads the Phillies with six stolen bases. Odubel Herrera, who is flailing badly at pitches anywhere and everywhere, could find himself in Triple-A if this present two-day benching does not work out. Herrera has not hit for average or shown enough discipline to get on base. Since he is not on base, he cannot use his speed.
Even though Harry did not ask, Dylan Cozens is worth checking in on, too. Cozens has the same 13 home runs and 38 runs batted in that teammate Hoskins has. After a slow start, Cozens has worked his batting average up to .234. After a .136 April, Cozens is hitting .319 in May. Like Williams, Cozens can earn himself a promotion with some consistency.