Phillies add pitching depth; outfielder could come soon

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Phillies add pitching depth; outfielder could come soon

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sounds like a man with something up his sleeve.

Maybe something small, he said Wednesday.

Amaro is actively trying to add an outfielder before spring training. He gave off the impression that hes on the trail of something, but would not name names.

It would likely come from outside the organization, Amaro said. It could be a trade, but probably a free agent.

Amaro was asked if the outfielder he was pursuing would come on a minor-league deal or a big-league deal.

Not sure, he said. But were hopeful of adding an outfielder.

Michael Bourn is the top outfielder remaining on the free-agent market, but the Phillies, having traded for centerfielder Ben Revere, dont appear to be in on him. The Phils like Scott Hairston, but not his price tag. If it comes down, he could be a fit. The remainder of the free-agent outfield class is not pretty. Delmon Young is out there, but hes a defensive liability and has had off-field issues. Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, Ben Francisco, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Raburn and Rick Ankiel also remain as free agents.

Amaro was asked to rate his chances of adding an outfielder as high or low.

Medium, he said.

The Phillies have considered trading for Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells. They could revisit those ideas down the road. Arizona's Justin Upton is also available for trade. Sources say the Phillies have investigated the possibility of acquiring Upton, but are wary of Arizona's sky-high asking price.

Were not done building our team, Amaro said. Our job of improving the team is never done.

The Phillies have shown that by adding pitching inventory in recent days. They have signed veteran starters Rodrigo Lopez and Aaron Cook to minor-league deals. Veteran reliever Juan Cruz was also signed to a minor-league deal. All three have been invited to big-league camp and will get a shot to make the roster.

Lopez is 37. Cook turns 34 in February. Cruz is 34.

The Phillies have some health concerns in their starting rotation. Roy Halladay spent time on the DL with shoulder issues last season and Cole Hamels dealt with shoulder soreness late last season and again early this offseason. Amaro was asked if he signed Lopez and Cook because of those concerns.

No, he said. Were just trying to protect ourselves as much as we can. The more depth we have the better. This gives us veteran guys so if someone goes down we dont have to force our young guys. Its also possible they could help in the bullpen. Anytime you can get depth without a huge financial commitment its a plus. And it creates a little competition, which is good.

Lopez will get 1 million if he makes the club. Fox Sports reports that Cooks deal is worth 1.6 million if hes in the majors. Cook, who has battled injuries in his career, hasnt had an ERA below 5.00 since 2009.

Halladay has been throwing in Florida. Amaro said the reports were good. Halladay is expected to begin throwing off a mound the last week of January. Spring training begins Feb. 12.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star last season for Toronto when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineup can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff looking for consistency vs. Rockies' potent offense

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff looking for consistency vs. Rockies' potent offense

Phillies (15-26) vs. Rockies (28-17)
Coverage starts at  6:30 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies return home after a disastrous 2-7 road trip to host the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies in a four-game split.

Jerad Eickhoff gets the start for the Phils and is coming off of his best start in a month, but has a tough matchup vs. the Rockies’ potent offense.

Here are five things to know:

1. Like the old Eick
Eickhoff has been the model of consistency for Phillies pitchers since he joined the club in 2015, with 31 quality starts (six or more innings with no more than three earned runs) in 49 career games. But Eickhoff struggled recently, before regaining his form in his last start at Texas.

In his three prior starts — vs. the Dodgers, Cubs and Mariners — Eickhoff averaged just 4.2 innings per start as his ERA ballooned to 4.76. But the righty seemed to regain his form vs. the Rangers in his last start, a six-inning, two-earned-run outing.

Building off of that step will be a tall task, though against an explosive Rockies lineup.

2. Better hitters than Rocky
The hard-hitting Rockies are coming to town.

Colorado boasts one of the league’s best offenses, ranking fourth in runs scored, 10th in home runs and fifth in extra-base hits. Take the Rockies out of the thin air at Coors Field, and the numbers tell a different story, though. On the road, Colorado drops to 12th in runs, 14th in homers and 10th in extra-base hits. Still solid numbers, but nothing that jumps off the page at you. The Phillies (as bad as they are on the road) have more extra-base hits.

The Rockies are led by Mark Reynolds (yes, that Mark Reynolds), with 12 homers and 39 RBI. Shockingly, Reynolds — who has set the all-time single-season strikeout record in a season — is leading the team with a .323 batting average. 

Just about the only thing you don’t have to worry about with the Rockies’ offense is their speed. The Rockies rank dead last in MLB with just 11 steals on the year. 

3. Not the same old Rockies
Despite the dip in numbers on the road, the Rockies are still 15-7 on the road this season, the second-best mark in MLB, behind only the Astros.

What’s different about this year’s team, unlike years past, is the pitching. This year, they’re a middling staff, which is actually a huge improvement for the club. Last season, Rockies pitchers ranked in the bottom five in MLB in almost all categories: 27th in ERA (4.91), 28th in runs allowed (860) and 28th in opponent batting average (.274), just to name a few.

This year, the Rockies have knocked off nearly half a run per game (4.48 ERA) and rank 13th in the entire league with a .250 opponent batting average. With an offense like theirs, a middling pitching staff could be all the Rockies need to earn a postseason bid.

4. Oh, 'Dubel
What’s happened to Odubel Herrera?

After an All-Star 2016 season, Herrera has been one of the Phillies’ biggest disappointments in 2017. Batting just .236 on the year, Herrera is on pace to easily set a career high in strikeouts (168) and career lows in runs (60) and extra-base hits (39). Not a good look for Herrera after signing a five-year deal to be a building block of the future in the offseason. However, there is hope: In his career, Herrera has increased his batting average, runs scored and OPS each month as the season has gone along. 

5. This and that
•Jeff Hoffman will make a spot start for the Rockies on Monday. He’s the Rockies' third-ranked prospect by Baseball America and has a 4.97 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 19 walks in 10 career MLB games. Batters are hitting .282 off him this season.

•Eickhoff’s numbers have risen with Cameron Rupp behind the plate. With Rupp catching, Eickhoff has a 3.53 ERA as opposed to a 3.13 ERA with Carlos Ruiz catching.

•After a red-hot start to the month, Aaron Altherr has cooled off over the last week, hitting just .231 with more strikeouts (five) than RBI (four).