Hamels continues hot streak as Phillies beat Mets

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Hamels continues hot streak as Phillies beat Mets

NEW YORK – The only thing hotter than Cole Hamels’ name in trade rumors is his pitching hand.

Hamels turned in another ace-level performance in leading the Phillies to a 6-0 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

The left-hander delivered eight shutout innings. He scattered six hits, walked none and struck out eight.

Often the victim of poor run support, Hamels was backed by three home runs, including a grand slam by Chase Utley.

“It was good to see,” Hamels said of the six-pack of runs.

Over his last three starts, Hamels has pitched 23 innings and allowed just two runs. He has 27 strikeouts and one walk over that span.

Pretty impressive.

Since June 1, he has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) over 12 starts. He has 89 strikeouts and 24 walks in those 12 starts.

Pretty impressive.

“He’s really in a groove,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “You can see it just in the way he attacks hitters and with his aggressiveness and conviction.”

All right, let’s get to the juicy stuff: Is this guy going to be a Phillie after the non-waiver trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. Thursday?

Sandberg said he would be “surprised” if Hamels were traded, but he added, “That’s not really my department.”

The Phillies, headed toward a third straight October of no baseball and in need of a serious retooling, have long made Hamels available -- for a steep price. They are seeking the type of return that could quickly rebuild a franchise -- multiple top, major-league ready prospects. If they get the return they want, great. If they don’t, they still have one of the best pitchers in baseball on their team.

The predominant feeling around the organization is Hamels, 30, will remain with the club as the cornerstone of the retooling effort. But if general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is blown away, you never know.

What does Hamels think?

“All I know is I signed here for a very extended period of time (through 2018), so that’s what I’m going to uphold to be a Phillie as long as I possibly can because I enjoy it,” he said. “This is a great organization to me, and the fans have been outstanding. This is the place that I want to win again. It was such a great experience. All of us, especially these young guys, you can’t tell them enough that this is the place you want to win a World Series because it’s the most exciting time you’ll ever have in your career. For me, I want to be able to have it again here.”

Hamels’ name has been smokin’ hot in recent trade rumblings with teams like the Dodgers reportedly making a play for the pitcher. Hamels, who has a partial no-trade clause, can’t block a trade to the Dodgers.

Trade deadline time can be an anxious time for some players. Look at how reliever Antonio Bastardo flopped when his name got hot last week. Look at the poor performance delivered by A.J. Burnett with scouts watching him on Monday night.

Hamels has shown no anxiety. He realizes a trade is a possibility -- a long shot, but a possibility -- and he just keeps getting better and better.

“It’s not something I can affect,” he said. “I understand the nature of the business. I’ll never have hard feelings because it’s a tough position for an organization to be in, for fans, for other teams. If you start putting the pressure on yourself then you’re taking away the focus of what your job is which is to pitch deep into ballgames and win ballgames for whatever team I’m on. I just enjoy pitching for this team and that’s what I’m doing at this moment.

“I enjoy playing the game of baseball wherever it may be. I just want to go out there and do well for my teammates, for whatever organization wants me, and especially to put on a good show for the fans.”

Despite the Phillies’ offensive shortcomings, Sandberg has made it clear he wants to build this club around pitching a defense. He wants Hamels on his team now and in the future.

“I sure like when he takes the mound for us,” Sandberg said. “Going forward, you need pitching and right now he’s our best. So going forward, we need pitching. He’d be nice to have. Then again, I don’t know all the conversations that are going on right now.”

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.