Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

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Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

With Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr both on the disabled list, manager Pete Mackanin continues to stick with Tommy Joseph as the Phillies' everyday first basemen.

Joseph is in the lineup batting fifth for Wednesday night's game against the Marlins, with red-hot Rhys Hoskins batting third and playing left field. Hoskins, who shares the same natural position as Joseph, has made just two starts at first since his promotion to the bigs. 

After getting the day off in the Phils' win over the Giants on Sunday, Joseph began to climb out his dreadful 5 for 56 slump in Tuesday's doubleheader with a pair of home runs and three hits overall. Meanwhile, Hoskins continued his hot streak by blasting his sixth home run and bringing his average up to .244, a far cry from his 1 for 13 start.

In right field, Pedro Florimon will make his second start since being called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The 30-year-old utility man is 4 for 11 with four RBIs in five game appearances with the Phils. 

Behind the plate, Jorge Alfaro gets the start over Cameron Rupp, who hit a home run in his third straight game in the Phillies' first loss on Tuesday. In 33 plate appearances, Alfaro is hitting .333/.333/.424 with one home run and three RBIs.

Here is the Phils' full lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Pedro Florimon, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Mark Leiter Jr., P

And for the Marlins: 
1. Dee Gordon, 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
3. Christian Yelich, CF
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Derek Dietrich, 3B
7. Tomas Telis, 1B
8. Miguel Rojas, SS
9. Justin Nicolino, P

For more on tonight's game, check out Tom Dougherty's game notes.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Putting Tuesday's nightmare behind them

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Putting Tuesday's nightmare behind them

Phillies (45-79) vs. Marlins (62-62)
7:05 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live begins at 6:30.

Double the trouble and it wasn't pretty, but Tuesday's nightmare is over.

The Phillies move on.

Tonight, the Phillies continue their series with Miami at Citizens Bank Park.

Let's take a closer look at tonight's ballgame.

1. Leits out?
With Phillies manager Pete Mackanin using six relievers during Tuesday's doubleheader, the Phillies will need Mark Leiter Jr. to give them innings tonight against the Marlins.

Leiter makes his second straight start after finding success as a long reliever in the Phillies' bullpen. The rookie continues to be yanked between the 'pen to the rotation.

His last time out didn't go so well. Leiter allowed eight runs — four earned — on seven hits, two homers, three walks and just one strikeout in five innings against the Padres last Tuesday. He hasn't pitched past the fifth inning in his last three starts and has thrown more than 100 pitches just once in his first season in the big leagues.

Tonight will be Leiter's fourth appearance against the Marlins. He's 0-1 with a 19.29 ERA against Miami, allowing six runs — five earned — and walking four in 2 1/3 innings.

Leiter is 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 20 games this season. He has four starts and 16 relief appearances, including back-to-back long relief outings where he racked up 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings before being summoned back to the rotation last week in San Diego.

2. A little Rhys of heaven
Phillies fans got their first glimpse at home of a Rhys Hoskins homer during Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader. Hoskins smacked a two-run homer to center field in the first inning of the Phillies' 12-8 loss to the Marlins. It was his sixth homer of the season.

The last time the home fans saw him, Hoskins went 1 for 13 with four strikeouts and three walks in his first four major-league games from Aug. 10-13. Since then, he's become acclimated to the majors and has shown the power stroke he's shown in the minors.

Hoskins is just the seventh player and the first Phillie in the last 100 seasons with at least six homers in his first 12 games, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He became the first Phillie to hit four home runs in his first 10 games.

Since taking a .077 average out west last week, Hoskins has hit his way to a .244. He's carrying a .313 average over his last eight games into tonight's matchup. He has six homers and 10 RBIs during that span, with six walks and nine runs scored.

3. Phillie killer
Giancarlo Stanton is setting Marlins records this season. He broke the team's single-season record of 42 home runs and now has 46.

Is a major-league record (with an asterisk) next?

If he continues to face Phillies pitching, it sure seems possible Stanton reaches 62 homers this season, which would eclipse Roger Maris' 61 homers that he believes is the true MLB home run record. Stanton recently told the Sun Sentinel he doesn't count Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's single-season home run totals as legit.

Regardless, Stanton has a shot at reaching 61. After clubbing another long ball Tuesday, Stanton is on pace to hit exactly 61 homers. In 41 games since July 5, the right-handed slugger is hitting .331 with 25 homers and 49 RBIs. Just three Phillies have more than 49 RBIs this season alone.

Stanton has dominated Phillies pitching, especially, this season. He's hitting .303 with six homers against the Phils in nine games. In his career, he has 25 homers against the Phillies — only the Mets has he tormented more over his career (33 career homers vs. New York).

Why the Phillies continue to pitch him is a question for Mackanin.

4. Players to watch …
Phillies: It's a safe bet Mackanin keeps Tommy Joseph in the lineup tonight despite struggles since the All-Star break. Joseph homered in each game of Tuesday's doubleheader and collected three hits in eight at-bats. Prior to Tuesday, Joseph was hitting .198 with one homer and 26 strikeouts in 121 at-bats since the ASB. He's 0 for 1 in two career plate appearances against Marlins starter Justin Nicolino.

Marlins: You'll be watching Stanton regardless. But also keep an eye out on Christian Yelich, who had five RBIs in Tuesday's doubleheader. He has seven RBIs in his last three games. The centerfielder is hitting .284 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs this season. He has a double in his only at-bat against Leiter.

5. This and that
• Hat tip to CSNPhilly producer Dan Roche: Tuesday's 12-8 loss in Game 1 was the first time the Phillies lost a game in which they hit five homers since June 29, 2010, against the Twins.

• The Marins are .500 for the first time since they were 10-10 on April 27.

• Nicolino will make his third straight start, which will be the first time he's done that in the majors in his career. The 25-year-old has allowed three runs in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

• The Phillies recalled pitcher Drew Anderson from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make room for the right-hander, the Phils optioned outfielder Cameron Perkins to Triple A.