Matt Klentak's latest walk on the balance beam nets pitcher Clay Buchholz

Associated Press

Matt Klentak's latest walk on the balance beam nets pitcher Clay Buchholz

The Phillies’ acquisition of veteran starting pitcher Clay Buchholz on Tuesday offers the latest example of the balance that the club is trying to strike between the present and the future.

Buchholz is a 32-year-old right-hander who experienced the highs of a no-hitter, two All-Star selections and two World Series championships, as well as the lows of frequent injury and being bounced from the starting rotation, during a 10-year run in Boston. The Phillies got him for Josh Tobias, a 24-year-old infielder with below average defensive ability but good on-base skills who played at the Single A level in 2016 (see story). Deep in star-quality starting pitching and concerned about baseball’s competitive balance tax, the Red Sox were looking for a place to dump Buchholz’s $13.5 million salary and Philadelphia has become the place to do that. A year ago, the Phillies gave up very little because they were willing to take on the salaries of Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton. Ditto for Pat Neshek this offseason.

The deep-pocketed Phillies were willing to add Hellickson, Morton, Neshek and now Buchholz because they all had just one year remaining on their contracts, a reality that fit nicely on Matt Klentak’s balance beam. All could help the Phillies win a few more games in the short term, you know, save the team from embarrassing itself with another 99-loss season, while not clogging the path for young talent that had already arrived from the minors or was getting ready to.

Hellickson, with his 32 starts, 189 innings and 3.71 ERA clearly helped last season. An early-season injury prevented Morton from aiding the cause. Neshek and Buchholz — and others — get their chance to impact the present in 2017.

And they might just get to impact the future, as well.

By acquiring Neshek, Buchholz and outfielder Howie Kendrick — he came earlier this offseason — the Phillies have set themselves up for a potentially busy month of July. Neshek, Buchholz and Kendrick can all be free agents at the end of the season and that makes them possible trade chips for the Phillies — provided they have performed well, and that’s no given considering all three are coming off down seasons that put them on the trading block in the first place — and trade chips are valuable for a rebuilding team.

You can add Joaquin Benoit, a recent free-agent signing, and Hellickson, back on a one-year deal after eschewing free agency, to that list, as well.

Klentak didn’t BS anyone on Tuesday. He acknowledged that Buchholz — and others — could be trade chips in July, thus helping the Phillies of the future. But he also acknowledged the attractiveness of them helping in the present, as well.

“We’re trying to make our team as competitive as we can and the hope is that we will be playing meaningful games when we get to the end of July,” he said. “But it certainly isn’t lost on us that if the standings are looking the other way at the end of July, we have a lot of meaningful players in the last years of their contracts — not just pitchers, but a number of players that could be trade chips.”

The Phillies scored just 610 runs last season, the lowest total in the majors by a whopping margin of 39 runs. Sticking to their plan of a methodical rebuild, they have not done enough to improve their offense this winter to be thought of as a potential playoff contender. Getting young talent that fits into the rebuild in return for their veteran short-timers would be ideal for this team given its current state and mission. But the ideal doesn’t always work out. Hellickson is proof of that. The Phillies didn’t get an attractive trade offer for him last summer and he didn’t reject their free-agent qualifying offer, which would have netted them a valuable first-round draft pick. So he’s back to help again in the short term, and maybe in the future if he pitches well and some team sees him as a potential difference-maker. There are many variables in this strategy of collecting assets in hopes of turning them into other assets. But the logic is there.

Still, it comes at a cost. Klentak has said many times this winter — especially when answering the question: Why aren’t you getting another hitter? — that he does not want to block the opportunities of playing time and growth for a young player by bringing in too many place-holding veterans. But, in some regards, that is just what he’s done with the addition of Buchholz, who will line up with Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez in the top four spots of the rotation with a host of others — Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Adam Morgan — vying for one opening in spring training. It’s difficult to imagine Nola, if healthy, not being the guy. But one has to wonder if the Buchholz move might have some connection to Nola. He was shut down in July with an elbow strain. The Phillies say he’s fine and will be ready to go in spring training. But he’s yet to test his elbow by throwing a pitch in competitive anger (he did throw in the bullpen this fall) and until that happens, he’s a question mark. Eflin, coming off double knee surgery for chronic tendinitis, is also a question mark until he faces hitters in a competitive situation.

“Nothing specific,” Klentak answered when asked if the acquisition of Buchholz reflected a concern about the health of Nola or another pitcher.

“If everyone is healthy and pitching well, then it is possible that it may block somebody’s growth. But, realistically, going into spring training we value the depth.”

In other words, you can never have enough pitching.

And if a pitcher’s growth is blocked, it won’t be fatal and it won’t last long. There will be innings that need to be filled at Triple A and Clay Buchholz is probably just here for a pit stop. 

Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

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Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

The Phillies have made a flurry of moves ahead of Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Marlins.

Vince Velasquez (finger) is heading to the 60-day disabled list, effectively ending his season. Velasquez left his last start after just one inning on August 10 while surrendering three runs.

In 15 starts, Velasquez compiled a 5.13 ERA, while continuing to struggle with his command. The 25-year-old struck out 68 batters while walking 34 and averaged just 4.8 innings per start. 

In a corresponding move, the Phillies have called up RHP Yacksel Rios from Triple A to replace Velasquez on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old has a combined 1.92 ERA in 37 games while splitting time between Reading and Lehigh Valley. 

Nick Pivetta was officially recalled from the minors to start Game 2 of today's doubleheader, while Zach Eflin (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Saturday. 

More coming...

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Let's play two; Nola tries to slow down Stanton


Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Let's play two; Nola tries to slow down Stanton

Phillies (45-77) vs. Marlins (60-62)
Game 1 - 4:05 p.m., Game 2 - TBD on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

Let's play two!

The Phillies come back from the West Coast to play a doubleheader with the Marlins tonight. The Phils send their ace to the mound in Game 1 and he'll try to keep the best slugger in baseball in the yard.

Here are five things to know for the games.

1. Slugging it out
Giancarlo Stanton hits baseballs very hard and very far. 

The major league leader in home runs (45) has been especially hot since July 5. The numbers are just insane. In a 39-game span, he has 24 homers and 47 RBIs with a slash line of .333/.453/.908. His OPS in that span is a ridiculous 1.361. At his current pace, the 27-year-old outfielder — who just cleared waivers ... wink, wink —  is projected to hit 60 homers.

For the Phillies, their own promising young slugger has emerged. After struggling during his first few MLB games at Citizens Bank Park, left fielder (?) Rhys Hoskins had a torrid road trip in his native California. After hitting his first big league homer in San Diego, Hoskins went off. In 25 at-bats, Hoskins went 8 for 25 (.320) with five homers and eight RBIs. 

He also showed off his impressive plate discipline, walking five times with just three strikeouts. It's a small sample size, but Hoskins' minor league skills are manifesting with the big club. 

2. Ace in the deck
Aaron Nola came back down to earth in his last appearance against the Giants, but he'd been stellar his previous 10 starts. His ERA dipped below three in San Francisco before the Giants tagged him for five runs over five innings. It ended a string of 10 straight starts going six innings and allowing two runs or less for Nola. 

Nola struggled with his command last Thursday, walking three batters. It was just the third time this season Nola has walked three or more hitters in 20 starts. Overall he's 9-8 with a 3.26 ERA, but the most promising thing about Nola is the feel he's getting for his changeup and recent ability he's shown to strike people out. He has 128 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings.

The Marlins send righty Dan Straily to the mound. The 28-year-old has been Miami's most consistent starter this season. In 25 starts, he's 7-8 with a solid 3.80 ERA in 139 2/3 innings. 

Straily isn't going to wow you with his stuff. He throws a four-seam fastball in the low 90s which he'll throw more than half the time. He'll mostly throw a slider (27.1 percent) off his fastball but will mix in his changeup (15.4) and the occasional curveball (3.4)

3. Welcome back, Nick
Coming off an impressive 11-strikeout performance against the Padres, rookie Nick Pivetta was sent down to the minors. It wasn't a performance issue. The team just needed to create roster flexibility before deciding to put Odubel Herrera on the DL.

Pivetta clearly has big-league stuff, but he's struggled with consistency and hasn't been able to give the Phils length in his starts. Even in his last outing against the Padres, he lasted just five innings, throwing 96 pitches. Pivetta has flashed plenty but he's struggled with the long ball. He's given up 19 home runs in 18 starts. Stanton and Marcell Ozuna will be licking their chops after having to face Nola in Game 1.

Conversely, the Marlins' Game 2 starter has been excellent over his last four starts. Jose Urena is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting just .211 off the 25-year-old righty in that span. Urena started the season as the Marlins' long man out of the bullpen, but his last 20 appearances have been starts.

Urena will mostly throw a mid-90s four-seam fastball but isn't a strikeout pitcher (76 punch outs in 109 1/3 innings). He'll throw his slider and changeup at about the same rate. He has a curve in his arsenal but rarely throws it.

4. Player to watch
Phillies: Since it's a doubleheader, let's pick two players. Hoskins and Nola are the obvious choices, so let's go with Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro

Both rookies have shined at times. Williams has tapered off a tad since a hot start, collecting just one extra-base hit in his last 42 at-bats. Alfaro had a solid road trip, going 5 for 16 with his first big league homer. The free-swinging catcher has yet to walk since his call up.

Marlins: It's Stanton. How could it be anyone else? He has a legitimate chance to be the first non-PED enhanced player to hit 60 home runs since Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. As mentioned, he's also cleared waivers and could be part of a blockbuster trade by the end of this season or this winter. Could the Phillies be one of the teams bidding for his services? Stay tuned.

5. This and that
• Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford has played the last two games at third base. A shortstop by trade, Crawford has been scorching hot since returning from an injury and could get a look at the hot corner in September.

• The reason for Crawford's possible move to third base? Maikel Franco has been in a horrendous slump. Franco is hitting just .203 in August with just one homer and four RBIs. For the season he's hitting just .224 with a paltry .277 OBP.

• Lost in Stanton's laser show is the phenomenal play of outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has a slash line of .306/.368/.539 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs.

• The Phillies and Marlins have split eight games this season. After four games at CBP this week, they'll meet for a four-game set in Miami and a three-game series back in Philly in September.