Phillies likely to add a hitter before spring training

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Phillies likely to add a hitter before spring training

The calendar has flipped to 2017 and if you cup your ear you can hear the distant sound of mitts a-popping as spring training inches near.
 
Over the last three months, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has taken a stab at improving his bullpen with the addition of veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit. He rolled the dice and traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz in hopes that the veteran right-hander can get outs and provide innings in the present on his way to becoming a July trade chip that might ultimately aid the team’s future.
 
The Phillies’ offense in 2016 was one of the worst in baseball, scoring a majors-low 610 runs and finishing next-to-last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385). These numbers contributed to this sad statistic: 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.
 
At the moment, the Phillies are looking to the experience gained by a young group of hitters in 2016 and the addition of veteran Howie Kendrick as reasons their offense can improve in 2017.
 
More help will probably come before the Phillies arrive in Clearwater next month.
 
For months, Klentak has been weighing the merit of adding another veteran outfield bat against giving an opportunity to youngster Roman Quinn. When the dust settles on this offseason, Klentak likely will have opted to add another bat to help in the outfield. He almost has to because while the 23-year-old year old Quinn is an exciting talent and while the rebuild gives the Phillies the chance to turn him loose and see what they have, there’s no hiding the fact that Quinn’s professional career has been defined as much by injury as it has by his electricity on the field. Klentak probably has to add some insurance behind Quinn and Aaron Altherr, another unproven outfielder who has had injury issues.
 
Every move that Klentak has made this winter has been done against the backdrop of the team’s rebuild. To wit: All of the players that have been brought in are on short-term contracts that won’t be roadblocks to young prospects as they get ready to rise to majors.
 
There are still plenty of available bats that would fit this model as Klentak looks for offense in his outfield. Jose Bautista remains on the free-agent market and could take a one-year deal. But a union between the Phillies and the 36-year-old slugger is extremely unlikely. The Phillies are committed to building through the draft and it’s difficult to see them giving up a second-round draft pick to sign Bautista. They’d also be reluctant to give up top young talent for someone like Jay Bruce, though he could still be a name to watch if the Mets look to dump his salary (like Boston did with Buchholz) for little return.
 
Hanging on to young players is a major goal for this front office. That’s why the Phillies’ late-winter infusion of offense will likely come from the remainder of the secondary free-agent market.
 
Primary names to watch:
 
Brandon Moss.
 
Michael Saunders.
 
Rajai Davis. (Update: Davis reportedly agreed to a deal with the A's Tuesday night.)
 
There are others out there, including Colby Rasmus, but at the moment, Moss, Saunders and Davis are the names that seem to fit best.
 
Moss would add some left-handed pop and could help at first base as well as at a corner outfield spot.
 
Saunders would also add left-handed pop as he tries to regain the stroke that made him an all-star with Toronto in 2016 then vanished in the second half of the season. Saunders is a Canadian and is close with new Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs. Gambling on that chemistry might make some sense.
 
Though the Phils would prefer to add a left-handed bat, right-handed-hitting Davis would make some sense because of his versatility and speed. He might be a nice complement to the outfield mix that would allow Quinn a break-in period.
 
It’s not clear when the Phils will add another outfield bat. The market remains crowded and that could allow the team time to sit back and sign a player on its terms.
 
But as the New Year begins and the new season inches toward us one this seems clear: The Phillies aren’t done adding yet.

Scott Kingery pops 2 homers in second game with Triple A Lehigh Valley

Scott Kingery pops 2 homers in second game with Triple A Lehigh Valley

Scott Kingery's power didn't take long to transition to Triple A.

In his second game since being promoted from Double A to the IronPigs, the Phillies' second base prospect belted two homers in Lehigh Valley's 14-5 loss to Pawtucket on Tuesday night.

Arguably the most exciting player on the Phillies' farm this season, Kingery caught everyone's attention by blasting 18 home runs in 69 games at Reading. That, along with a .313/.379/.608 batting line and 19 stolen bases, earned him a highly anticipated jump to Triple A and Coca-Cola Park, home of the IronPigs.

"It looks like you can get one out to left," Kingery said ahead of his Triple A debut on Monday. "But it looks real deep to center."

Kingery was right — both of his shots Tuesday went to left field. He finished 2 for 5 with three RBIs in the leadoff spot for Lehigh Valley, hitting in front of a loaded lineup of J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams and Andrew Pullin.

The IronPigs are an International League-best 49-29 and that should only improve with Kingery now in the fold.

"I know what I'm capable of and I know what I need to improve on," Kingery said Monady. "Wherever I'm at, I'm going to come out here and try to work on whatever I think I need to improve on and to give myself the best shot to get moved up."

In his debut, Kingery made a dazzling, over-the-head diving catch that was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter (see story).

On Tuesday, he was back to the long ball.

Best of MLB: Nationals run all over Jake Arrieta, Cubs in win

Best of MLB: Nationals run all over Jake Arrieta, Cubs in win

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer allowed one run and two hits as the Washington Nationals knocked Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta out in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night in a showdown of the past two NL Cy Young Award winners.

Scherzer (9-5) was dominant in his six innings of work, striking out six with no walks and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced. The right-hander allowed an earned run in the first inning for the first time since April and his streak of 10-plus strikeout games ended at six, but he was in control almost all night.

Arrieta (7-6), on the other hand, struggled with his control as he issued a season-high six walks and allowed five earned runs, getting the hook two batters into the fifth inning. The 2015 Cy Young winner hadn't walked more than three batters in a game this season.

He and catcher Miguel Montero allowed seven stolen bases, matching the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise record. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner had four of those (see full recap).

Beltre’s 9th-inning HR lifts Rangers to win
CLEVELAND -- Adrian Beltre hit his 450th career home run, a solo drive in the ninth inning off Cody Allen that sent the Texas Rangers over the Cleveland Indians 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Beltre drove the first pitch from Allen (0-4) into the left field bleachers, and moved into sole possession of 39th place on the all-time homer list.

Keone Kela (4-1) stranded a runner in the eighth. Matt Bush allowed Michael Brantley's one-out single in the ninth while getting his 10th save.

Both teams managed to get only three hits. The pitcher's duel came one night after the Indians rallied from a 9-2 deficit for a 15-9 win Monday. The Rangers hit four home runs while the Indians scored a season high in runs. A night after striking out 17 times, Texas hitters fanned 16 times in the win.

Indians manager Terry Francona missed the game after his second trip to the hospital this month. He left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well and spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic undergoing tests. Bench coach Brad Mills filled in for Francona, who is expected to return Wednesday (see full recap).

Healy grand slam gives Athletics victory
HOUSTON -- Ryon Healy's first career grand slam broke a tie in the sixth inning and the Oakland Athletics held on for a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

The score was 1-1 when Matt Joyce singled to start the sixth. Jed Lowrie singled with one out before Yonder Alonso drew a walk with two outs to load the bases and chase Mike Fiers (5-3). He was replaced by James Hoyt, who was greeted with Healy's 18th homer -- a full-count shot which landed in the second row of the seats in right field to put the Athletics up 5-1.

Sean Manaea (7-4) allowed a season-high nine hits, but just one run in 5 2/3 innings for his first win over the Astros in seven starts.

The victory is the fourth straight for the Athletics and just their second against Houston in the last 17 games (see full recap).