Phillies-Mets: What you need to know

550488.jpg

Phillies-Mets: What you need to know

New York Mets (15-13) at Phillies (14-15)7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies finished a six-game divisional road trip through second-place Atlanta and first-place Washington 3-3. They lost a game in the standings to each team in the process.

Now, the Phils return to Citizens Bank Park for an eight-game homestand against beatable teams in the Mets, Padres and Astros. The Phillies play 14 of their next 16 games at home, where to this point they have played just 10 of 29 contests.

Starting Pitchers
Roy Halladay (3-2, 3.40) begins the homestand by opposing Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (2-1, 4.08).

Halladay has made 71 starts as a Phillie and this is the first one hell enter with an ERA over 3.00. That, of course, is because of his eight-run outing last Wednesday at Turner Field. In that game, Halladay blew a six-run lead for the second time in his career and saw his ERA skyrocket from 1.95 to its current 3.40.

Halladay has pitched at a high level in five of six starts in 2012, and he looked sharp through the first four innings last time out. But his strikeout and walk numbers are not what they were through this point in 2010 or 2011.

Through 37 innings this season, he has 10 walks and 24 strikeouts. Last season he had six walks and 39 strikeouts through 37 innings. In 2010 he had three walks and 28 strikeouts.

Niese has three quality starts in five tries this season with his best performance coming against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 14. Niese held the Phils to five hits over 6 23 shutout innings that day and allowed just two runners to reach scoring position.

Niese has handled the Phillies in the past with a 90-92 mile per hour fastball, a mid-70s curveball, a high-80s cutter and, on very rare occasions, a low-80s changeup.

Niese has relatively even lefty-righty splits over the last three seasons but same-handed batters are just 3 for 22 off him in 2012.

Previous games
The Phillies made a bit of news on Sunday night. Cole Hamels pitched a gem, but the start will be remembered for his first inning plunking of 19-year-old Nationals phenom Bryce Harper that resulted in a five-game suspension.

Harper proceeded to showcase his speed and baseball IQ by taking third on a single to left and stealing home when Hamels attempted a pickoff at first base.

After the game Hamels admitted that he hit Harper intentionally, leading to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calling Hamels "gutless" and "fake-tough" (see story).

From an actual baseball, non-daytime drama standpoint, the Phillies lost two of three in Washington.

The Mets come to CBP winners of two straight after a four-game losing streak.

Head-to-head
The Phillies are 52-41 (.559) against the Mets since 2007, though theyve won just two of the last seven meetings.

Halladay is 9-2 in 11 starts vs. the Mets with a 2.88 ERA. Current Mets are 26 for 135 (.208) off Doc with four walks and 35 strikeouts. David Wright is 3 for 21 (.143) with 11 Ks.

Josh Thole, however, has hurt Halladay with seven hits in 16 at-bats. Those are the types of hitters that seem to do the most damage off Halladay slap-hitting bat-speed types like Thole and Jose Reyes.

Niese has frustrated the Phillies seven of the nine times hes faced them. In those seven outings, Niese has a 1.52 ERA in averaging just under seven innings. In two separate, disastrous starts in 2011, Niese allowed 14 runs in 10 innings. So there are at least signs that the Phillies can get to Niese when he doesnt have his best stuff.

Whos hot
Hunter Pence hit two bombs Sunday night to up his season totals to six home runs and 20 RBI.

Juan Pierre had two more hits Sunday, and despite the flaws many like to point out, is still hitting .333 after 78 at-bats.

Placido Polanco used a 3-for-5 night to raise his batting average to a season-high .268.

Storylines
- The Phillies need to make a dent in the standings over the next eight games. The Mets, Padres and Astros all come to Citizens Bank Park as majorly flawed teams, and thus far the Phillies havent taken advantage of weak foes.

- Halladay, too, needs to get on track after one of the strangest starts of his career. Shutting the Mets down for seven or eight innings to start a homestand would be an instant remedy.

- John Mayberry gets a rare start in the two-hole Monday night against Niese, whom Mayberry has homered off twice in 14 at-bats. Batting Mayberry so high in the order is an interesting tactic by Charlie Manuel. It figures to let him see Niese at least three times, and maybe that helps Mayberry run into a multi-hit game. He only has one this season April 23 in Arizona.

- If the Phillies go on a streak over the next week, Hamels beaning of Harper will likely be referred to as a spark. But really, it would have more to do with facing weak pitching and weaker offenses.

Sound off
1) What is your predicted Phillies record for the eight-game homestand against the Mets, Padres and Astros.

2) Was Hamels five-game suspension fair?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

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.