It's Time for the Phillies to Give Younger Middle Relief Arms a Shot

It's Time for the Phillies to Give Younger Middle Relief Arms a Shot

You could've pinned one of the losses that made for the Reds series sweep of the Phillies last month on John Lannan's quad, which helped Cincy plate six runs in 1 2/3 innings 12 hours before it put him on the DL. As for the other two, those were on Jeremy Horst and Phillippe Aumont.

In Game 1, Horst let two baserunners reach in three at-bats before intentionally walking the bases loaded in the eighth and handing it over to Mike Adams. The next batter, Brandon Phillips, smeared a two RBI single for the go-ahead runs in a 4-2 loss.

In Game 2, Aumont's command and a Ben Revere fielding error loaded the bases in straight at-bats for Zack Cosart's walk-off single for a 1-0 loss, like, 10 minutes into the pick-up of a rain-suspended game.

Both Horst and Aumont opened their innings with clean slates.

As for the finale, Raul Valdes didn't help much by serving five in 3 1/3.

Add in Chad Durbin, and you've got the four parts of the Phillies bullpen needing remodeling.

And even if it's coincidence that the Phillies are about to play these same Reds again, in a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park, proposing a roster redress isn't about three games. It's about the past 42 and next 120.

They don't hold leads. They don't stop routs. They don't strand runners. They don't throw strikes.

Makes it hard to justify not giving some younger talent a look-see, doesn't it?

Durbin's guaranteed contract, reputation for being a slow starter, and history with the organization make it tough to fathom them cutting him loose now. But if they did, would you blame them?

Valdes has no such short list of reasons to hang onto. He has options. He's also here to eat innings and make spot starts, both of which Mike Stutes can do. Drop one outing from his time at Triple-A this year, and Stutes has a 2.13 ERA. He's been scoreless in his last 10 1/3 spanning seven appearances, four of which he's gone five outs or more in. He was also a starter his first two years in the minors.

That brings up Aumont. Hopes that he'll be able to harness his 97 m.p.h. fastball and rectify what seems to be the biggest mistake in recent organizational history figure to be his sticking points. It also doesn't help that Jake Diekman, the only other guy in the system who can sniff high-90s, is having the same issue controlling it, walking 10.90 batters per nine for a 6.75 ERA at Triple-A this year.

But expanding the rotation to five starters again on May 21 necessitates at least one roster move, and if Valdes is ever to go, you'd have to think it'd be to call up Stutes. If they stick with Horst, it's probably because they have more patience than they can afford, and probably means they'll stick with Aumont, too.

That figures to leave Justin De Fratus the odd man out, which is a shame.

How it should be: Cloyd, Stutes, De Fratus, Aumont.

How it likely will be: Cloyd, and everything it's been.

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

The future of Villanova basketball just got brighter.

Brandon Slater, a 6-foot-6 wing and highly touted 2018 recruit, told Scout.com on Wednesday night that he has verbally committed to the Wildcats.

He later made the announcement on Twitter.

Among the 2018 recruiting class, Slater, a product of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia, is ranked in the top 30 by Scout.com and top 50 by ESPN.com. He's slated as a four-star talent by both media outlets.

Per ESPN, Slater had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse, USC and Virginia Tech. He is Villanova's first commitment for 2018.

"Going up there it just feels like a second home," Slater said, via Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "It gives me a good vibe. It's nothing like all the other schools. I just feel like a Villanova guy. It feels like PVI. It's already home."

Slater and Villanova head coach Jay Wright expressed their excitement on Twitter.

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

BOX SCORE

On the surface, it might appear that the Phillies were done in by one bad inning on Wednesday night. After all, they suffered a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park and the visiting Colorado Rockies scored all of their runs in one hellacious burst in the third inning (see Instant Replay).

But there was more to the loss than just one poor inning by starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The Phillies came to the plate in nine innings against the Rockies pitchers and managed hits in only two of them while finishing the game with just three. It was the third time in the last four games -- all losses -- that the Phillies have mustered just three (expletive deleted) hits. Through the first seven innings in this one, they were out-hit, 11-1.

"Well, once again, three hits," manager Pete Mackanin said afterward. "Not a whole lot of good to talk about."

No, there wasn't. Hasn't been for a while. The Phillies have lost five in a row, 9 of 10 and 20 of their last 24 games. Wednesday night's loss left them with the worst record in the majors at 15-29.

"There's a lot of baseball left, and I know we're better than this," Mackanin said. "We just have to have some kind of spark to get out of it. Win a couple in a row and it could put us on a winning streak."

It’s not going to be easy to start the winning streak in Thursday's series finale against Colorado. The Rockies have the best record in the National League at 31-17 and they have outscored the Phillies, 23-5, in the first three games of the series.

That's a serious beating.

"They have some really good hitters in that lineup and it’s a deep lineup, too," Hellickson said. "There are no easy outs."

Conversely, there have been many easy outs in the Phillies' lineup in this series. The Phils did not get their first hit Wednesday night until Andrew Knapp singled with two outs in the fifth inning. The Rockies’ starting pitchers in this series have held the Phils to two runs in 20 innings. And two of those pitchers were rookies, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez. Tyler Chatwood pitched seven shutout innings Wednesday night.

The Phillies’ starting pitching in the month of May has been brutal. Phillies starters have a 6.39 ERA in the month, second worst in baseball over that span.

The team is 4-17 in the month.

"It's been kind of surprising," Mackanin said of the rotation's problems this month. "I know they're better than that. We're going to put something together. I believe that. "

Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. He's been a different pitcher in May. His ERA in the month is a hefty 7.30 in five starts. The difference in the months: Hellickson located his finesse repertoire down in the strike zone in April. He's been up in the zone in May. On Wednesday night, Rockies hitters fought off his middling fastball and didn’t miss his soft stuff because it was up. Carlos Gonzalez had the big hit against Hellickson in the Rockies' seven-run third. He jumped out of his shoes to hack at a 2-1 changeup and hit it for a three-run home run.

"He had poor command of his changeup," Mackanin said. "He was yanking his changeup, not locating it. That's his out pitch. He didn't have it tonight.

"He’s had a lot of good starts for us. When he doesn’t locate, he gives up a run here or there, but he kind of gets it back. For that one inning, it fell apart on him."

Hellickson allowed eight base runners on six hits and two walks in the Rockies' seven-run third inning. He gave up a double, a triple, a homer and three singles in the frame.

"I beat myself that inning by falling behind and walking too many," the pitcher said. "When I did make a good pitch, they found a way to get hits off those, too."

This is the third straight season that the Phillies have endured a 4-20 stretch.

"It's not easy," Hellickson said. "It’s not fun. It's just something you deal with. It’s not fun."

During this stretch, Mackanin has benched his cleanup hitter, Maikel Franco. Otherwise, he has kept his sanity.

"I remember when I took over in '15, the team was scuffling, really not playing well," Mackanin said. "Then something clicked and we started beating teams. Last year, we had a good first part of the season and then kind of scuffled at the end. Sometimes one little thing clicks and you get better.

"In a long season, these things sometimes happen. I remember Atlanta, the first half last year, was terrible. They had a real good second half. I believe we just need to get something going. We're going to put something together. I believe that."