David Buchanan auditions for job in Phillies' win

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David Buchanan auditions for job in Phillies' win

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Here’s a fun fact. Or maybe it’s a depressing fact. Depends on your perspective. Either way, hey, it’s a fact: At present, Cole Hamels is the only Phillies pitcher who is 1) healthy and 2) under contract for next year. A.J. Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, has an option. So it’s pretty much just Hamels.

Upon reflection, that probably falls closer to the depressing end of the fact spectrum.

The Phillies might as well hang help wanted signs all over Citizen Bank Park. Now hiring starting pitchers for 2015.

As baseball games go, Wednesday’s outing at Citizens Bank Park between the last-place Phillies and the equally awful Astros -- who are somehow not in last place thanks to the unthinkably bad Rangers -- didn’t offer much intrinsic entertainment value. One bad team (the Phillies) beat the other bad team (the Astros), 10-3. Some quick notes about that for the handful of you who can’t get enough baseball: It was the first time the Phillies have won back-to-back series at home all season. And the Phillies scored more runs in the first inning (five) than they did in their previous four games combined (four).

OK. So that’s enough of that.

Aside from adding a meaningless win to the Phillies’ record and one more loss to Houston’s ledger, Wednesday functioned as another audition for next year’s pitching staff. David Buchanan had a tryout earlier this season. When Cliff Lee went down with an elbow injury (again) last week, Buchanan got a call back. If Buchanan hopes to get a leading role in the Phillies' deteriorating drama next year, it would help if he performed well with the big-league lights on him between now and the end of the season.

Against the Astros, Buchanan threw 102 pitches (68 for strikes) over 6 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and three earned runs. He struck out five and didn’t allow a walk.

“Your objective is to be successful at the big-league level,” Buchanan said about getting sent down and called up again. “The stuff I was learning, I tried to take it down to [Triple A] Lehigh [Valley] and continue to work on it and build on what I was doing up here.”

Buchanan’s first stint with the Phillies this season featured mixed results. He went 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA. In 59 2/3 innings, Buchanan gave up nine home runs, but the 25-year-old got better as he went along. He surrendered 10 hits to the Nationals in his worst start in early June, then made seven straight appearances in which he allowed six or fewer hits.

Wednesday’s return to the majors was a good outing for Buchanan. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the Phillies' starting rotation, it's not unthinkable to imagine Buchanan winning a big-league job with the Phillies as this season bleeds into next.

“Yeah, it’s a good opportunity for him,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He made a good showing when he was here with us, and now he’ll have some starts. It’s an opportunity for him to show what he can do, to learn from it, to get better, and gain experience and continue to impress.”

Buchanan got his first major-league hit and RBI in the first inning against the Astros -- then he got thrown out at second base on the same play while trying to stretch a single into a double. Oops. The kid got excited.

“I did that in spring training and I had the same result -- I got thrown out,” Buchanan said. “I think from now on, I’ll stay at first base.”

Did he think he had the extra bag?

“I was safe,” Buchanan said with a smirk. “I was safe.”

Instant Replay: Phillies 9, Braves 5

Instant Replay: Phillies 9, Braves 5

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ATLANTA – If this was Jeremy Hellickson’s swan song with the Phillies he went out a winner.
 
Hellickson pitched into the sixth inning and gave up just three runs in the Phils’ 9-5 win over the sloppy Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.
 
Hellickson is 8-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts with the Phillies. He could be on the move to a contender before Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. A number of clubs in need of starting pitching scouted Hellickson’s start. 
 
Braves pitching walked eight batters.

Starting pitching report 
Hellickson had the type of start he often does. He went 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs, exiting with a 5-3 lead. He allowed nine hits, walked one and struck out two.

Hellickson finished the month of July with a 2.34 ERA in six starts and gave up just four runs in his last three starts.
 
Will he make another start for the Phillies? We’ll know in a couple of days.

Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran gave up three runs over five innings.
 
Bullpen report
Hellickson departed with a run in and two men on base with two outs in the sixth. Edubray Ramos came in and registered a strikeout to end the inning. He stayed on for the seventh and struck out two more.
 
Jeanmar Gomez closed out a four-run lead. His appearance in a non-save situation may have been a showcase for teams interested in trading for him. The Giants and Indians have been watching Gomez.
 
The Phillies scored twice off lefty Eric O’Flaherty to take a 5-2 lead in the sixth.
 
At the plate
Hellickson helped his cause with a two-run double in the fifth. It was the first double of his career.
 
The Phillies built a 5-2 lead when Freddy Galvis singled home two runs in the sixth.
 
Ryan Howard doubled in the second and scored on a hit by Cameron Rupp for the Phillies’ first run. Rupp had three hits and scored two runs.
 
The Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs in the eighth without getting a hit. They benefited from four walks in the inning.
 
Nick Markakis, Adonis Garcia and Anthony Recker (single and double) all had RBI hits for the Braves.
 
Trade update
The Phillies’ asking price for Vince Velasquez is … (see story)
 
Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-12, 3.83) pitches Sunday afternoon for the Phillies. The Braves had not named a starter as Saturday night’s game was ending.

Phillies want 2 bats for Velasquez, deal unlikely at this point; Tigers check on Hellickson

Phillies want 2 bats for Velasquez, deal unlikely at this point; Tigers check on Hellickson

ATLANTA – Two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies have several pitchers who could be on the move.

The market for Jeremy Hellickson, Saturday night’s starter against the Braves, remains alive. The Phillies have received several offers, but nothing yet to their liking. A strong start against Atlanta on Saturday would certainly help the right-hander's value.

The Phillies had talks with Miami about Hellickson, but the Marlins filled their need for starting pitching by acquiring Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh, Texas, Toronto, Baltimore, the Dodgers and others remain in the market for starting pitching. The Detroit Tigers could be a team to watch on Hellickson. They had a scout come in to watch Hellickson pitch in Atlanta on Saturday night.

The headline-grabbing name on the Phillies’ trade front remains Vince Velasquez. Major league sources continue to tell CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies have had meaningful trade discussions with the Texas Rangers involving the power-armed right-hander.

Sources say a deal is unlikely at this time because the Phillies are seeking a high price and the Rangers could use their prospect resources in their quest to add a more established pitcher like Chris Sale or Chris Archer or a catcher like Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy. But it remains noteworthy that the Phillies have made Velasquez available for the right price.

What is that price?

Sources say the Phillies would like to get two hitters from Texas’ bounty. One of those hitters must be ready to play in the majors now and the other must be close. The Rangers have a number of hitters who fit this description. Outfielder Nomar Mazara is almost certainly untouchable. (He was last year in the Cole Hamels talks). Power-hitting outfielder Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielder Lewis Brinson would probably fit the Phils’ wish list.

A source described the Phillies as being “pretty deep” in talks with Texas. The Rangers even dispatched a top scout to watch Velasquez pitch in Atlanta on Friday night. The scout was not in attendance for Saturday night’s game.

Relievers David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez are also in play in the last couple of days before the deadline. The Giants, who need bullpen help, have had scouts tailing the Phillies for a couple of weeks.

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Washington Nationals have acquired All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates for Melancon, who supplants Jonathan Papelbon as Washington's closer.

Melancon, a 31-year-old right-hander, has 30 saves and a 1.51 ERA this season. He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outing. Manager Dusty Baker wouldn't say earlier Saturday whether Papelbon still was his closer. Baker pulled Papelbon from a game Thursday in the ninth inning.

Rivero, a 25-year-old lefty, is 0-3 with a 4.53 ERA this season. Hearn is a 21-year-old lefty who was the Nationals' fifth-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft (see full story).

GIANTS: Pence back after 48-game absence
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was activated Saturday and in the starting lineup against the Nationals after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

San Francisco hopes Pence will bring some much-needed life to a club that had lost 11 of 13 since the All-Star break.

Newly acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez made his first start since joining the team in a trade from Minnesota on Thursday and having his first at-bat Friday. Nunez was playing shortstop Saturday because Brandon Crawford, who lined into a bases-loaded triple play during Friday's 4-1 loss, had a sore left hand from a swing early in the game.

Center fielder Denard Span also was out of the lineup because of a tender quadriceps from a collision at home plate Friday.

The Giants designated for assignment infielder Ramiro Pena to clear roster room for Pence's return.  

MARINERS: Karns to DL, Martin recalled
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Mariners have placed right-hander Nathan Karns on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain a day after he was roughed up in a relief appearance.

Right-hander Cody Martin was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before Saturday's game against the Cubs.

Chicago scored five runs in two innings off Karns in Friday's 12-1 romp. He gave up three hits, walked three and allowed a home run to David Ross.

Karns began the season as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen in June. He has a 5.15 ERA.

Martin has appeared in two games and thrown four innings for Seattle this season, allowing one run and five hits.