Halladay returns to Phils in time to see Kendrick's latest win

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Halladay returns to Phils in time to see Kendrick's latest win

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SAN FRANCISCO – Wednesday will be a busy day in the Phillies’ corner of the world.

They will go for their first sweep in San Francisco since 1984.

But before they take the field, they will come to grips with the reality facing Roy Halladay.

How hurt is he?

Does he need surgery?

Will he pitch again this season?

Will he pitch again at all?

Phillies officials and Halladay will issue an update on the pitcher’s condition in the wake of Tuesday’s examination in Los Angeles. Halladay made it from Los Angeles to San Francisco in time to see the end of the Phillies’ 6-2 win over the Giants on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay), but was not available for comment and team officials were closed-mouthed on his condition.

“He stopped in to chat with [GM] Ruben [Amaro] and I,” manager Charlie Manuel said about 15 minutes after the final pitch of the game.

“We’ll give an update [Wednesday] when we get all the information,” Amaro said.

The general tone around the Phillies is that Halladay will be out for a while.

“We’ve got to step up,” Kyle Kendrick said. “To lose a guy like that who has been so good for so long. Everyone has to step up, especially the starters, and give us a chance to win every game.”

The Phillies will recall Tyler Cloyd to fill Halladay’s spot on Friday.

Kendrick backed up his words about stepping up on Tuesday night. The 28-year-old right-hander delivered another strong start in improving to 4-1 on the season. He scattered six hits over seven innings, allowed just two runs, did not walk a batter and struck out six in out-pitching two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.

It was the second straight night the Phils got a zero-walk effort from their starting pitcher. Cliff Lee allowed two runs and did not walk a batter in eight innings in Monday night’s win.

In both wins, the Phils got timely hitting. Michael Young has delivered run-scoring doubles with two outs in both games.

In Tuesday night’s win, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both homered and drove in two runs.

“We’ve played two solid games,” Manuel said. “We’ve been moving runners and scoring the runs we’re supposed to score. Everything has been really good.”

The two wins against the Giants were preceded by two losses to lowly Miami. The Phils had a combined five hits in those games.

“We’re having better at-bats, working more counts, swinging at our pitches in the zone and we’re getting hits to show for it,” Utley said.

Utley’s seventh homer of the season was a bomb to right-center on a first-pitch slider to open the fifth against Lincecum.

“I was looking for something in the zone and I squared it up good,” Utley said. “This is a big yard. I wasn’t sure where it would go.”

It went halfway to Oakland.

“His power is there,” Manuel said. “I always thought if he could get his core strong and get back to playing regular he’d have a good chance to getting it back.”

For the second night in a row, the Phils built a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Pitchers love working with a lead.

“It’s always nice to get early runs,” Kendrick said.

Utley became the latest to mention Kendrick’s poise. It showed in the fourth inning when Young kicked a potential double-play ball at third, putting runners at first and second with no outs in a 3-2 game. Kendrick stayed cool, got two strikeouts and a groundout to end the threat.

“He stayed composed,” Utley said. “He’s getting out of big jams and making big pitches when he needs to.”

Kendrick is 11-4 with a 2.44 ERA in his last 17 starts dating to mid-August.

He has arrived as a dependable big-league starter and with the possibility that Halladay could be out for some time, his timing couldn’t be better.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Phils go for a three-game sweep of the Giants.

They’ll also come to grips with Halladay’s situation.

It’ll be a big day by the bay.

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the 2016 season was winding down, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin surveyed his low-scoring club and made public an offseason wish list that included “two professional hitters.”

So far this winter, he’s gotten one — Howie Kendrick.

Is that going to be enough to satisfy the skipper?

“You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” Mackanin said at the winter meetings Tuesday. “Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grind out at-bats.

“We have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve.

“I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitching, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.”

There’s no doubt that Mackanin would like to add another hitter to an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second to last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385).

“Yeah, it would be nice,” Mackanin conceded. “We have to improve offensively.”

General manager Matt Klentak has spoken often this winter about the quandary he’s facing. He would like to add another bat in a corner outfield spot, but not necessarily at the cost of taking away an opportunity from a young player such as Roman Quinn or blocking the ultimate ascension of Dylan Cozens or Nick Williams. This is the tightrope that the GM of a rebuilding club must walk.

There are several corner outfield bats (J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier) available in potential trades and others (such as Michael Saunders) on the free-agent market.

“It’s about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time,” Klentak said.

Mackanin understands all this. But he’d still love to have another bat.

Does he think he’ll eventually get one?

“That's hard to say,” he said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important, obviously, to improve our offense. … I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.”

Contract talk
Mackanin is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017. He has a club option for 2018.

Will the Phillies pick up Mackanin’s option before spring training to prevent a lame-duck situation?

Klentak was noncommittal on the subject Tuesday.

“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”

In March, the Phillies gave Mackanin a two-year contract with a club option for 2018.

“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” Mackanin said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies on Tuesday announced the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit and with that set the stage for some spring-training drama.

Who will be this team’s closer in 2017?

Benoit figures to be one of three candidates, joining Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez. Heck, you could even throw Edubray Ramos into the mix because he has the stuff to close, though his time might come further down the road when he's gained more experience.

“As we sit here today, I think we’ll probably enter spring training with a competition,” general manager Matt Klentak said of the closer role.

Phillies relievers had a 5.01 ERA last season, which ranked 28th in the majors. Klentak is trying to build a complete bullpen, not just find a closer. However, the closer role is the headline grabber in the bullpen and it’s difficult to settle upon other roles until a closer is anointed. So this will be one of the more interesting storylines in spring training.

Gomez fell into the job after others failed early last season and had a very nice five-month run. He recorded 37 saves before struggling badly down the stretch and giving way to Neris, whose fastball-splitter repertoire allowed him to strike out over 11 batters per nine innings last season. 

Neris could be the favorite coming into camp with Gomez sliding back into a seventh-inning or even multi-innings role. Ramos and lefty specialist Pat Neshek, picked up in a trade with Houston earlier this offseason, will be in the mix to pitch in the late innings and it would not be surprising to see Benoit emerge as the eighth-inning guy. Of course, this is all subject to change. There’s a lot of offseason left and it would not be a shocker to see Klentak trade one of his relievers in the right deal. But for now, Klentak believes he has an improved bullpen.

“We feel better today than we did a few days ago,” he said. “We have several players in our bullpen that can compete for the ninth-[inning job], the eighth, the seventh, the sixth. We’ve made our bullpen better.”

The Phillies are Benoit’s seventh big-league team. The 39-year-old right-hander has been one of the game’s workhorse relievers for more than a decade, recording a 3.79 ERA in 712 games in his career. He saved 25 games for Detroit in 2013 and had a 2.81 ERA in 51 games as a setup man for Seattle and Toronto last season. He struggled with the Mariners but was brilliant after a trade to Toronto in July. With the Mariners, he had a 5.18 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in 26 games. He walked 5.5 batters per nine innings and struck out 10.4 per nine. With Toronto, his control improved — he walked 3.4 per nine — and so did his ERA. He had an 0.38 ERA in 25 games with the Jays, allowing just one run in 23 2/3 innings.

“He really was two different guys,” Klentak acknowledged. “But as we drilled down into the data — strikeout rates, walk rates, batted-ball tendencies — there are some underlying things that he’s always done in his career that we think make him a pretty good candidate to have another good year. This guy has been really consistent for the better part of a decade.”

Over the last seven seasons, Benoit has posted a 0.98 WHIP. That ranks third among major-league relievers during that span behind only Kenley Jansen (0.89) and Craig Kimbrel (0.98).

Benoit will make $7.5 million in 2016. The Phillies are still a rebuilding club and they are not expected to contend in 2017. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see them turn Benoit into a prospect through a trade in July. This is contingent on Benoit pitching well, of course.