Phillies Mailbag: Nola’s Sub, Utley and Howard, Crawford
The Phillies are now at the .500 mark, 18 games into the season. But much has happened on the injury front in recent days. Here is the latest on the team in this week's Phillies mailbag. Tune into the Sports Bash with Mike Gill at 2:30 to listen to the responses to your questions. Tweet your questions to @Frank Klose or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who will replace the injured Aaron Nola?
This is a question we already have an answer to. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reported that Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta will get the call to replace Nola in the starting rotation. As we noted earlier, Pivetta certainly has earned the opportunity.
In the early going for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Pivetta is 3-0 with a 0.95 earned run average. It's a small sample size, but it shows just how dominant Pivetta has been for the IronPigs. Also helpful is that Pivetta pitched the same night Nola last pitched and he could stay right on schedule.
Ben Lively spent a few days with the big league club, but Pivetta has outperformed him to this point. Hopefully the few days with the Phillies will inspire Lively to get back quickly. Lively is probably the next arm the Phillies go to should they need another starting pitcher.
Serious question: Whose career lasts longer - Chase Utley or Ryan Howard?
This question probably would have elicited an overwhelming "Chase Utley" response not too long ago. However, Utley has struggled mightily this season. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard joined Braves extended Spring Training in shape and jumped to Triple-A Gwinnett and made an instant impact.
Utley is struggling the worst of any point in his career. It is also coming at a bad time. Utley signed a one-year, $2 million deal to be a bench player. Dodgers starter at second base Logan Forsythe is out with a broken toe, so the Dodgers need Utley to pick up some of the slack.
As of the moment I am writing this, Utley is batting just .034 in 29 at bats. Utley went 1 for 5 on April 6 for his only hit on the season. Since then Utley is hitless in 22 at bats that have followed. This is a real concern for Utley.
Interestingly, Utley is seeing more pitches than any other time in his career. Perhaps Utley is having trouble seeing pitches like he used to and does not feel comfortable swinging. Maybe his confidence is shaken. But it will be a tough situation for the Dodgers if they are forced to consider cutting Utley.
Howard made just one appearance thus far for Triple-A Gwinnett, thanks to a rain out and a scheduled day off. Howard went 2 for 2 and walked, driving in one run in his one start for the Gwinnett Braves. Howard is seeking to earn a promotion to be a bench bat/occasional designated hitter in Atlanta.
Keep an eye on May 9. May 9 is the first road interleague game that the Braves will play, as the Braves head to Houston for two games. The following week the Braves head north to Toronto and they will need a designated hitter once again. If Howard is hitting really well, the Braves might consider bringing him up to serve as a designated hitter.
By then, maybe Utley turns things around. But to answer your question: I think now this is a bit of a toss-up. Let's see how Utley does in his playing time in Forsythe's absence and how Howard continues to do at Triple-A. Maybe we will know more in a couple weeks.
Is it too early to call J.P. Crawford a bust?
Absolutely. While it feels like J.P. Crawford has been a Phillie for a long, long time, there is still plenty of time left for Crawford to develop. The Phillies drafted Crawford way back in 2013 in the first round of the amateur draft. Aaron Nola, who has been with the Phillies for a couple years now, was drafted the year later. That helps mask the reality that Crawford is still young.
Crawford entered Monday's off day batting just .096 in 15 games and 52 at bats. Clearly those numbers are a regression from last season, when Crawford batted .244 at Triple-A. Crawford only turned 22 years old in January. I did not necessarily think that Crawford earned last season's promotion to Triple-A, and maybe things are catching up to him.
Or, perhaps Crawford is feeling the pressure of performing. Last season Nick Williams admitted he was pressing to try to earn a promotion to the big club. Either way, Crawford is not even yet on the Phillies 40-man roster. There is plenty of time for him to grow and develop.
Hopefully, Crawford will be the star that people once thought he would be. For now, we wait.