Phillies-Marlins: 5 things you need to know

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Phillies-Marlins: 5 things you need to know

The Phillies’ 10-game homestand continues Friday night as they welcome the Miami Marlins to Citizens Bank Park for their first divisional series of the season.

The Phils (3-6) were swept and completely dominated by the Brewers from Tuesday to Thursday, losing three games by a combined score of 25-10.

It doesn’t get much easier this weekend. Miami (5-5) has gotten off to a hot start offensively and has its ace on the mound for the series opener, which airs at 7:05 p.m. on The Comcast Network.

Hey Jose
Jose Fernandez was an All-Star and the NL Rookie of the Year in 2013, and through two starts this season he looks like the frontrunner for the Cy Young award.

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA. He’s allowed 10 baserunners in 12 2/3 innings while striking out 17.

In exactly 30 big-league starts, Fernandez is 14-6 with a 2.09 ERA. Since opening day 2013, Fernandez ranks second in the NL to Clayton Kershaw in ERA and WHIP (0.97). Fernandez also leads the NL in strikeouts per nine innings (9.91) and opponents’ batting average (.179).

The Phillies couldn’t touch Fernandez last season. They went 8 for 62 (.129) against him with one extra-base hit. Fernandez allowed one run (a solo homer to Delmon Young) to the Phils in 18 innings of work.

The Phils should be prepared to see a 95 mph fastball, one of the majors’ best curveballs, and a changeup. Fernandez’s opponents have hit .115 against the curve and .173 against the changeup in the majors.

Nasty.

Good A.J. or bad A.J.?
The Phillies have already seen both versions of A.J. Burnett in his two starts.

In the second game of the season in Texas, Burnett allowed one run over six solid innings. Then against the Cubs last Sunday, he walked six batters, put 12 men on base and allowed eight runs, four of which were earned.

That’s what the Phils should expect from Burnett -- a bunch of dominant starts in which he looks unhittable and misses bats all night, but a handful of starts in which he can’t locate anything.

This will be Burnett’s first-ever start at Citizens Bank Park as a Phillie, but he’s quite familiar with the stadium. In eight career appearances at CBP (seven starts), Burnett is 3-3 with a 4.71 ERA. He’s made just two starts here in the last five seasons.

It will be just his third-ever start against the Marlins, the team Burnett broke into the majors with and made 131 starts for over seven seasons.

Bumbling bats
The Phillies hit .233/.313/.340 in the Brewers series with eight extra-base hits.

The Brewers hit .322/.357/.568 with 17 extra-base hits.

Since scoring 14 runs in the season opener, the Phils have averaged 3.38 runs per game. They scored 21 runs combined in their series openers in Texas and Chicago, but have scored just 20 runs total in their other seven games.

Red-hot Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton has started almost as well as Fernandez. In 10 games, Stanton is hitting .293 with three doubles, two homers, a league-leading 13 RBIs, four walks and two steals. He’s finally healthy, which is good for the Marlins and frightening for every other National League team.

Stanton has never really hit in this ballpark, but that’s more so because he was facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in his first two seasons. In 110 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park, Stanton has hit .230 with a .300 OBP and five homers.

He’s never faced Burnett.

Catch the ball
The Marlins are last in the National League with 11 errors and the Phillies are third-worst defensively with 10.

Burnett will need his infield defense to be on top of its game, as he’s one of the foremost groundballers in the major leagues. In recent days Cody Asche has committed two errors, and Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have also missed balls that led to important runs.

Miami’s main culprit has been second baseman Derek Dietrich (three errors), who is filling in until veteran Rafael Furcal returns.

But for all of Miami’s defensive issues, the Phillies must be careful when taking an extra base on the Marlins’ outfield. Stanton and Marcell Ozuna have two of the strongest arms in the game. Ozuna had eight outfield assists last season in just 69 games.

MLB Notes: Red Sox acquire ace LHP Chris Sale from White Sox

MLB Notes: Red Sox acquire ace LHP Chris Sale from White Sox

OXON HILL, Md. -- All-Star ace Chris Sale is joining the reloading Boston Red Sox, leaving behind his shredded reputation with the Chicago White Sox.

Boston acquired Sale on Tuesday for a package of four prospects, including high-priced Yoan Moncada.

Sale was a top trade target at the winter meetings and the AL East champion Red Sox were getting him instead of Washington, which also pursued.

A few hours earlier, Boston got prime setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee. After that deal was announced, without tipping his hand, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said: "We're trying to win now, as you can see."

Boston acquired Sale for minor league pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz, outfielder Luis Basabe and Moncada, a third baseman (see full story).

Red Sox get setup man Thornburg from Brewers for INF Shaw
OXON HILL, Md. -- The Boston Red Sox have gotten the setup man they wanted, acquiring right-hander Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers in a package that included infielder Travis Shaw.

The deal was announced Tuesday and was the first trade at baseball's winter meetings.

Milwaukee also got minor league infielder Mauricio Dubon, minor league right-hander Josh Pennington and a player to be named or $100.

The 28-year-old Thornburg will become Boston's eighth-inning guy, setting up closer Craig Kimbrel for the AL East champions. Thornburg was 8-5 with 13 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 67 games for the Brewers, striking out 90 in 67 innings.

The 26-year-old Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs last season. He mostly played third base, and also saw time at first.

The 22-year-old Dubon hit a combined .323 and scored 101 runs between the Single-A and Double-A levels. The 21-year-old Pennington was 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA in Class A (see full story).

Yankees to retire Jeter's No 2 on May 14, last single digit
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's No. 2 is being retired, the last of the New York Yankees' single digits.

The Yankees said Tuesday the number will be retired on May 14 before a Mother's Day game against Houston, and a plaque in his honor will be unveiled in Monument Park during the ceremony.

Jeter's number is the 21st retired by the team. He won five World Series titles and was a 14-time All-Star during a 20-season career that ended in 2014 and he is sixth in career hits with 3,465.

Jeter set Yankees records for hits, games (2,747), at-bats (11,195), doubles (544) and stolen bases (358) (see full story).

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) 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.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.