A few Phillies notes on Giles, Joseph, Lee

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A few Phillies notes on Giles, Joseph, Lee

The Phillies have a power-armed reliever lighting up radar guns and recording big strikeout totals at Double A Reading, but it doesn’t appear as if Kenny Giles will be headed to Philadelphia any time soon.

“If we were to move him we’d probably move him to Triple A and give him a chance to make adjustments against more mature hitters,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “When he’s ready, when he’s commanding his fastball and slider, he’ll go.”

Amaro would not say whether the organization was close to moving Giles to Triple A, but the right-hander will give the Phillies no choice if he continues to shine the way he did in his first 10 outings at Double A.

Giles, 23, pitched 12 innings in those 10 games. He allowed just seven hits and one earned run while striking out 24 and walking just three. He had six saves in his first 10 outings.

Giles, who hadn’t pitched above Single A before this season and often had control problems, can reach triple digits with his fastball. He impressed big-league manager Ryne Sandberg in spring training. In fact, Sandberg said Giles did not look far away.

But to hear Amaro tell it, Giles will likely have to meet some challenges in Triple A before he gets to Philadelphia, where the Phillies’ 4.84 bullpen ERA was the the worst in the National League entering Wednesday.

Joseph on the mend
Phillies officials were holding their breath after catching prospect Tommy Joseph took a foul tip off the mask while playing for Reading last week. Joseph, 23, has a history of concussions. In fact, he missed most of last season while recovering from a concussion sustained last May.

Joseph experienced some concussion symptoms after the foul tip last week. He went on the disabled list as a precaution and was evaluated by concussion specialist Michael Collins in Pittsburgh.

“We got some good news,” Amaro said. “He was cleared to play by the doctors in Pittsburgh. He should be behind the plate soon.”

Joseph must pass some MLB concussion protocols in the coming days before he comes off the disabled list.

The rotation
The Phillies have set their starting pitching rotation for their series against Washington, which begins Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Wednesday’s rainout allowed the Phils to shuffle their rotation so Cliff Lee will start the opener Friday night. A.J. Burnett will pitch Saturday night and Cole Hamels on Sunday afternoon.

The Nationals have not made their rotation official, but Stephen Strasburg is expected to pitch on Friday night. Strasburg has 53 strikeouts, second most in the NL, in his first six starts.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Zach Eflin looks for 7th straight quality start

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Zach Eflin looks for 7th straight quality start

Phillies (46-56) at Marlins (54-46)
12:10 p.m. on CSN

A night after shutting out the Marlins, the Phillies were blanked themselves, falling to the Fish, 5-0, on Tuesday. The Phils look to claim a series win this afternoon in the rubber match. Let's take a look:

1. Zach Eflin, quality start machine
Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) allowed nine runs in 2⅔ innings in his MLB debut in Toronto in early June. Things unraveled quickly for him, and the outing made you wonder whether he had the stuff to get major-league hitters out.

He has the stuff to get major-league hitters out.

In seven starts since that debut, Eflin has a 2.08 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and an opponents' batting average of .207. He's struck out only 24 batters in 47⅔ innings, but walked just five. The control he showed in the minors has translated to the majors. With 1.43 walks per nine innings, Eflin has the fourth-best walk rate in the majors among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Josh Tomlin and Mike Leake.

Eflin, who is 6-foot-6, has the look of a future workhorse. He's been one lately for the Phils, pitching two complete games and completing six innings in six straight starts. 

Eflin has not yet faced the Marlins in his young career.

2. Offense needs a spark
Not sure what it is about Tom Koehler that proves so troublesome for the Phillies. He throws in the low-to-mid-90s and has a decent curveball, but the rest of the league has hit him around. Koehler has faced the Phils four times this season and held them to a .149 batting average while posting a 1.64 ERA. Against all other teams, Koehler has a 5.13 ERA and .302 opponents' batting average.

The Phillies' offense has been anemic since the All-Star break, averaging fewer than 3.0 runs per game and hitting right around .200. The players who were so hot before the break — Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos (who was hurt Tuesday) — have cooled significantly. 

The only players who have hit for the Phillies since the break are Carlos Ruiz (7 for 13, two doubles) and the first basemen. Tommy Joseph is 9 for 29 (.310) with a double, two homers and four RBIs, while Ryan Howard has hit .263 with a pair of homers. 

3. Scouting Conley
The Phillies this afternoon face 26-year-old Marlins left-hander Adam Conley, who is 6-5 with a 3.58 ERA in his first full big-league season. 

Conley is a lanky, 6-foot-3 lefty with a whipping arm motion that creates some deception and can't be too comfortable for a hitter to face. He can be truly dominant at times, like he was on April 29 when he no-hit the Brewers over 7⅔ innings. 

Conley has been especially effective over the last month, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven starts and allowing more than two earned runs just once.

The Phillies faced him on May 16 at Citizens Bank Park and scored one run on eight hits in six innings. 

Conley is a three-pitch pitcher: fastball, slider, changeup. He throws his 92 to 94 mph heater 66 percent of the time. The changeup is such an effective pitch for him because of the aforementioned whip-like delivery. It's hard for a hitter to diagnose the change in speeds when he has wiry arms and legs coming at him.

Conley has reverse platoon splits: Lefties have hit .287 against him while righties have hit just .221.

4. The lineups
The Phillies are going with an unconventional lineup Wednesday. Cesar Hernandez gets his first start of the season at shortstop. Taylor Featherston makes his first start at second base after striking out as a pinch-hitter in his Phillies debut Tuesday. And seldom-used outfielders Tyler Goeddel and Jimmy Paredes are in the corners.

1. Cesar Hernandez, SS
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. Taylor Featherston, 2B
8. Jimmy Paredes, RF
9. Zach Eflin, P

And for the Marlins:

1. J.T. Realmuto, C
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Miguel Rojas, 2B
8. Don Kelly, 1B
9. Adam Conley, P

5. This and that
• This is the 13th game between the Phillies and Marlins this season. They've split the first 12. It's been a competitive head-to-head matchup between these teams the last three years, with the Phillies going 26-24 against the Fish since 2014.

• The Phillies are 10 games under .500. They haven't been 11 games under since June 28. They're on pace to finish 73-89, which would be a 10-win upgrade over last year.

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Phillies can be forgiven to some extent for their failure to get consistent production out of their corner outfielders this season. After all, they've been without one of their projected starters since spring training.

The good news is Aaron Altherr is on the verge of returning after missing almost four months with a wrist injury. The 25-year-old reached the final stop of his rehab tour through the Phillies' minor league system Tuesday, going 1 for 3 with a double in a 4-2 victory for the Triple A Ironpigs.

Needless to say, Altherr is feeling better.

"It's going good," Altherr said of his recovery. "It gets a little tight every now and then. Just gotta loosen it up. I'm good to go."

Altherr suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist attempting a diving catch in a Grapefruit League game back in March. The injury was expected to keep the righthander out four-to-six months, possibly even ending his season.

If the current rehab assignment is any indication, it turns out he's about ready to rejoin the Phillies. Through 12 minor league games, which includes stints at Reading, Clearwater and in the Gulf Coast League, Altherr is 13 for 34 (.351) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. He's also walked seven times to six strikeouts and stolen two bases. Yet while clearly enjoying himself, he feels as though he's ready to rejoin the big club.

"It's been fun," Altherr said. "Was just down to (Double A) Reading, good crowd there. It's gonna be another good crowd up here (in Lehigh Valley) I'm sure. I always enjoy going to these places and seeing people again, so it's definitely fun.

"Mentally and physically, I think I'm ready to go. My timing is there. I'm just ready to go and get after it and play some games up there."

As for what he could bring to MLB's 29th-ranked offense, which too often this season has seen little impact from its corner outfielders, Altherr will do what he can to provide a spark for the Phillies.

"I hope so," Altherr said. "I'm not gonna try to do too much though. I'm just gonna go up there and do what I know I can do and hopefully help out the team any way I can."

A ninth-round draft pick in 2009, Altherr got his first serious look with the Phillies last year, batting .241 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 39 games. It wasn't nearly enough to anoint the German-born prospect as part of the franchise's rebuilding effort, but the organization was hoping to use 2016 to evaluate his potential as an everyday player.

"I wouldn't say missed opportunity," Altherr said about the poor timing of his injury. "Things like this happen. I'll get back stronger than ever and show what I can do. It is what it is. I've worked hard every day and tried to get back as fast as I could."

He's right, of course. It's not like all is lost in that sense. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel have had their moments, but none has cemented his role moving forward. Outside of likely September call-up Nick Williams posting quality numbers at Triple A, there isn't exactly a long line of players knocking down the door for one of those two spots.

"There's always going to be competition no matter where you are in life, so I definitely don't really think about it too much," Altherr said. "I just have to go out there and control what I can control and play the way I know I can play."

Altherr's opportunity is coming any day now. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete who also happens to be a plus-defender could bring a lot to the mix for the Phillies right now. It may be too late to find out this year if he has a long and bright future with the club, but he could certainly provide some excitement down the stretch.

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor pushed an RBI single through Washington's drawn-in infield with one out in the ninth inning, and the Cleveland Indians rallied for three runs in their final at-bat to stun the Washington Nationals 7-6 on Tuesday night in a matchup of two first-place teams with sights on October.

Down two runs and three outs from their losing streak reaching a season-high four games, the Indians rallied against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-4), who did not get an out before he was pulled by manager Dusty Baker.

With the bases loaded, Lindor fisted his base hit into right field and danced his way up the first-base line as the Indians celebrated an improbable victory.

Bryan Shaw (2-4) got two outs in the ninth and picked up the win as Cleveland won its first home game since July 10 (see full recap).

Cardinals take first game of doubleheader with Mets, 3-2
NEW YORK -- Jedd Gyorko homered again, hitting a two-run drive off Noah Syndergaard that sent the St. Louis Cardinals over the New York Mets 3-2 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Gyorko connected for the sixth time in eight games, giving him 13 this season. The Cardinals lead the NL in home runs with 137, matching last year's total.

The Mets played at home for the first time since the All-Star break and lost in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. Citi Field was nearly empty at the start, a day after a rainout forced the twinbill.

Carlos Martinez (10-6) gave up a two-run homer to Rene Rivera and left after the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead. Three relievers finished, with Seung Hwan Oh getting his fifth save in six chances.

Syndergaard (9-5) has won only one of his last five starts (see full recap).

Colon, Mets top Cards, 3-1, for doubleheader split
NEW YORK -- Bartolo Colon pitched three-hit ball for seven sharp innings and the New York Mets overcame another home run by Jedd Gyorko to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Tuesday night for a doubleheader split.

Gyorko homered in both ends and has connected seven times in nine games. His two-run shot helped St. Louis win the opener 3-2.

Colon (9-5) struck out eight and walked none. After Gyorko homered in the second and Alberto Rosario doubled in the third, Colon set down 14 of his final 15 batters.

Addison Reed worked the eighth and Jeurys Familia closed for his 36th save this year and 52nd in a row during the regular season.

White Sox avoid Chapman, down Cubs 3-0 behind Shields
CHICAGO -- James Shields allowed four singles in 7 2/3 innings, Adam Eaton homered and the White Sox stayed unbeaten since Chris Sale's suspension by beating the Cubs 3-0 Tuesday night in Chicago's crosstown rivalry.

The Cubs lost their second straight and never got to use new closer Aroldis Chapman hours after he joined the team and struggled answering questions related to an altercation last year with his girlfriend.

Shields (5-12) struck out five and continued an impressive turnaround from a terrible first three starts after being acquired from San Diego last month. Nate Jones finished the eighth and David Robertson worked the ninth for his 24th save in the White Sox's fourth straight win since their ace was sent home for destroying throwback jerseys.

Jose Abreu had two hits, including an RBI single in the first off Kyle Hendricks (9-7) that ended his streak of 22 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run (see full story).