Phillies Mailbag: Thompson and Williams, Morgan the Reliever, and Nola to Triple-A?
It is time once again for a Phillies 97.3 ESPN Monday Mailbag. We take your questions every Monday and then we talk about them during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. If you are not in South Jersey, you can listen online at 973espn.com.
Do the Phillies send Aaron Nola to the minors?
There is one thing that Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola has yet to ever experience on the pitching mound: failure. Nola was surely the best player in Little League, then a standout in high school, up through college, where he excelled at Louisiana State. Once Nola was drafted by the Phillies, he quickly went through the minor league system, with success every inch along the way.
Now, things are different.
Watching Nola uncharacteristically hitting batters and being wild, the conclusion is probably that his struggles are mental, not an injury as some people worry. Nola is seeing his team struggle, seeing himself struggle, and may be overthrowing and trying too hard. The Phillies paired catcher Carlos Ruiz with Nola this past time, in case the veteran catcher could help settle Nola down. Nola seemed to exhibit more pressure as he went along, to the point that Nola could not complete four innings for the fourth straight game.
However, with these four starts, I do not think the Phillies will send Nola to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. I think what is best for Nola is that he gets used to overcoming some down starts while in the Major Leagues. Looking at what is good for the Phillies long-term, having an Aaron Nola in 2017 who has matured to the point he can work past a bad start would be progress from a rebuilding team.
Nola looked really good early on this season, to the point that some analysts even though Nola was better than they expected. I think if Nola realizes this and can just relax, he will do much better. Nola is probably not going anywhere, so he will get a chance to work on it.
Will Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams get called up this season?
Two Phillies prospects knocking on the door of the Major Leagues right now are outfielder Nick Williams and pitcher Jake Thompson. If things continue, I think that both players will get an opportunity to play for the Phillies this season. However, I think we will not see them just yet.
Thompson is currently 6-5 with a 2.88 earned run average in 15 starts. But looking from the start of the season to the present, Thompson has gotten progressively better as time went on. Thompson peaked with a 4.23 earned run average to close out May. But, in five June starts, Thompson has allowed just three runs total, pitching through the eighth inning in two of them.
Thompson probably would be the next pitcher called up if the Phillies suffer another injury. The Phillies recently said that they hope to limit the innings of pitcher Vince Velasquez, so there may be opportunity later in the season for Thompson, perhaps if Jeremy Hellickson is traded or come September when rosters expand. The Phillies could even pitch a six-man rotation in September with the expanded rosters.
Williams is doing a fine job at the plate, batting .290 with seven home runs and 35 runs batted in. While not blocked at the Major League level by anyone, Williams could be called up at any time he shows that he is ready. The one concern for Williams might be his hustle.
On Tuesday, June 14, Williams was pulled from a game against Braves affiliate Gwinnett. IronPigs manager Dave Brundage had Williams sit next to him for the next two nights, hoping he would learn:
“I’ll make sure he gets something out of it. That’s why I’m having him stand next to me. We get to talk the game a little bit and some different situations, where we’re moving on certain counts and pitches, everything like that. It’s not like I don’t get to have that conversation, and I don’t want to have that conversation anymore, but at the same time, he gets the gist of it.”
Williams has played every game since, and has added playing center field to his repertoire.
Williams might stick with the IronPigs until their playoffs conclude. The IronPigs are tied for the lead in the International League North division, and if they hang on and make the playoffs, Williams might be with them until the ride is over. But, after that, I would not be surprised to see Williams on the big league club.
Will Adam Morgan stick around on the Phillies in the bullpen?
I have long felt that putting Adam Morgan in the Phillies bullpen makes lots of sense, even dating back to Spring Training. Right now the Phillies are pretty devoid of left-handed relievers. With Elvis Araujo showing he might not belong in the Major Leagues, Brett Oberholtzer serving as a long man and not a true left-handed reliever, the Phillies needed help. Morgan may be able to fill that role.
Looking long-term, Morgan is not likely to be a part of the Phillies starting rotation. There are more pitchers that are ahead of him on the depth charts and will be due for an opportunity soon. So, in a rebuilding year the Phillies might as well see if Morgan can help the club in the bullpen.
Morgan's bad innings seem to come either early in the game when he cannot get going early, or around the sixth inning when he gives up a few runs. Perhaps a bullpen outing in which Morgan is not expected to pitch long, he'll come into the game confident and throwing his fastball, getting outs early. In a short outing, Morgan might not succumb to fatigue later in the game. It is worth a shot to see if it will work.
Remember, the Phillies bullpen also features Severino Gonzalez, who may be the next to go when Dalier Hinojosa is ready to come off of the disabled list. Hinojosa's rehab assignment moves to AAA Lehigh Valley tonight, so he is is not likely too far removed from the Major Leagues. Mario Hollands is pitching well at AAA Lehigh Valley, but after Tommy John survey the Phillies are taking things relatively easy and not pitching Hollands with much frequency. Expect to see Hollands by season's end, perhaps in September when rosters expand and there is less pressure to pitch him on back-to-back days.