Phillies' Papelbon eager to be traded to contender

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Phillies' Papelbon eager to be traded to contender

MILWAUKEE – If a contending team wants Jonathan Papelbon, he’s ready to go.

His limited no-trade clause will not be an issue.

The Phillies’ closer racked up his 22nd save –- and third in as many games -- in the team’s 4-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). Papelbon hopes to get the chance to close out a fourth straight Phillies win on Thursday afternoon.

There’s also something else he clearly wants:

The chance to pitch for a winner again.

After Wednesday night’s game, the subject of this month’s trade deadline came up. Unlike some of his teammates, Papelbon did not shy away from the talk.

Papelbon has allowed just 22 hits and five runs while striking out 32 and walking just nine in 36 1/3 innings this season. He is 22 for 24 in save chances.

He was asked if he hoped his strong performance would make him wanted by a contender.

“Of course, man,” he said. “What kind of question is that?”

Actually, it was a reasonable question. There have been players in the past who have rejected trades from losing teams to contending teams because they were comfortable in their situations. Brian Giles once rejected a trade from San Diego to Boston. The topic actually has some relevance to this Phillies club because veterans Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley both have full no-trade rights. Neither has completely closed the door on a possible trade, but both have expressed a desire to stay with the Phillies.

Papelbon was incredulous that a player would not want to move from a losing team to a contending team.

“What?” he said.

“Some guys want to stay on a losing team?" he said.

“That’s mind-boggling to me,” he said.

So if a contender called, you’re ready to go?

“Yeah,” Papelbon said with an are-you-kidding-me laugh. “I think that’s a no-brainer.”

Papelbon was asked if he believed a contender would come knocking?

“I don’t know,” he said.

Does he hope one will?

“Yes and no,” he said. “You know, I came here for a reason ... and I say that because I'm with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I've been waiting for that, you know what I mean? It's fun to be a part of that, it really is. We are there finally with our bullpen. So that aspect of it would kind of suck to leave. But at the same time, winning is the cure-alls of cure-alls."

The Phillies did not make the playoffs in Papelbon’s first two seasons with the club. They are in last place in the NL East this season and on pace for 90 losses.

The Phillies tried to trade Papelbon last winter but found no takers because he was coming off a poor 2013 season and was owed $26 million for 2014 and 2015. Papelbon is owed the remainder of his $13 million salary for this season and $13 million for next season, so he won’t be cheap. Phillies management has indicated that it would absorb some salary in trades and it’s likely they would to move Papelbon. They were willing to eat salary on his deal last winter, but still no takers.

Papelbon is a much better pitcher this season because he is healthy.

“Last year sucked,” he said. “I felt like I had a broke hip all season. I think this year I’ve been able to get my mechanics back on a healthier hip. I’ve been able to drive off it. I think that has a lot to do with it.”

Like many Phillies, Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause. He can block deals to 17 teams.

Asked if he would block a deal to a contender, Papelbon shook his head no.

The list of teams to which Papelbon would accept a trade can change yearly. Last year, Detroit was one of the teams he could block. He was asked specifically if he would accept a trade to Detroit and he nodded his head yes.

Phillies-Nationals observations: Not enough offense to support Aaron Nola in loss

Phillies-Nationals observations: Not enough offense to support Aaron Nola in loss

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola’s likely final appearance of 2017 was another good one, but also his 11th loss. 

The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits and struck out nine in six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the NL East champion Washington Nationals on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. 

With the Phillies using a six-man rotation and an off day Thursday, manager Pete Mackanin said Nola was “most likely” making his last start. He gave up a two-run home run on a 3-1 fastball to Michael A. Taylor in the second inning before getting into a groove with his curveball. 

Nola (12-11) retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced and left with a 3.54 ERA as the Phillies kicked off a season-ending six-game homestand with their fourth loss in five games. 

Odubel Herrera hit an 0-2 mistake fastball for a solo shot to right in the fourth for the Phillies’ lone run. They struggled against A.J. Cole (3-5), who allowed six hits over 5 2/3 innings and collected his first major-league hit.

• It marked the 18th time in 27 starts that Nola allowed two earned runs or fewer. He gave up only eight earned runs in four starts against Washington. 

• The Phillies have scored seven runs in the past four games. 

• Rhys Hoskins hit a nubber toward first in the fourth inning that Ryan Zimmerman fielded facing the mound and blindly flipped backward to Cole covering first for the out. Hoskins flied deep to center to end the fifth and finished 0 for 4. He’s 2 for 21 in the past four games and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14. 

• Nick Williams went 1 for 4 with a single and three strikeouts. 

• Maikel Franco popped out on the 11th pitch of his at-bat to lead off the ninth against Sean Doolittle (24th save). 

• Hoskins made two fine plays at first base. He made a nice scoop of Freddy Galvis’ low throw in the first and made a leaping grab of Cesar Hernandez’s high and wide throw and tagged Matt Weiters going by for the out in the fourth. 

• Nationals slugger Bryce Harper’s return from a left knee injury was delayed by illness. Manager Dusty Baker said Harper, out since Aug. 12, woke up feeling sick. He was at the park early to get treatment and could play Tuesday. “He probably doesn’t like to hit here,” Mackanin joked. Harper’s 12 home runs at Citizens Bank Park are the most he’s hit in any road stadium. 

• Nola twice came up with runners at first and second and two outs. He grounded to first in the second and fanned in the fourth. 

• Mackanin planned to give his team a pep talk. “If they think they’re tired and ready to go home — it’s been a long season — I’m going to remind them, ‘If you want to go to the World Series, you’re going to play another entire month,’” he said. 

• With Nola likely finished for the season, it’s lining up for Henderson Alvarez to start Saturday and Nick Pivetta to go in the season finale Sunday. 

• All players from both teams on the field before the game stood for the national anthem. Baker, who is black, said he opposes kneeling, but understands the frustrations of those athletes who do it. “We’ve been talking about the same problems I had when I was 18 or 19 years old, so have we made progress or have we regressed?” Baker said. “It’s up to us to try to figure out how to come up with a solution.” 

• The Phillies dropped to 33 1/2 games behind the Nationals. They must win one of their final five games to avoid 100 losses. The Nationals must finish 5-1 to win 100 games. 

• Right-hander Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.14 ERA) will make his fourth start against the Nationals this season when he faces lefty Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68) on Tuesday night. 

Pete Mackanin: 'I still don't know if I'll be here next year'

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Pete Mackanin: 'I still don't know if I'll be here next year'

Pete Mackanin may have received a contract extension in May, but the Phillies' manager has yet to receive assurances from general manager Matt Klentak that he’ll return in 2018. 

“I still don’t know if I’ll be here next year,” Mackanin said before Monday’s game against the Washington Nationals.

Mackanin took over midway through the 2015 season and has presided over the Phillies’ rebuilding project. He went 37-51 to finish 2015, 71-91 last year and was 62-94 heading into the final week of the season. 

Does Mackanin hope Klentak tells him his fate soon? 

“Of course,” Mackanin said. “I’m signed through next year and I assume I’ll be here. But you never know what they’re going to do.”

Mackanin said he’s set to meet with Klentak on Saturday to evaluate players. The season ends the next day, with the Phillies needing one victory over their final six games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. 

“Do you need better coaches? Do you need a better manager? The answer to all these questions is you need better players,” Mackanin said as he quizzed about his future. 

Despite the dismal record, the Phillies have made progress in many areas. They may have found their future star power hitter in Rhys Hoskins. Fellow rookie Nick Williams has shown flashes. Cesar Hernandez is hitting .296. Freddy Galvis is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. Adam Morgan has pitched like a permanent setup man (see story). Mackanin believes Aaron Nola has established himself as a “solid No. 3 starter.” 

But the rest of the rotation is uncertain. They still need more offense. And while the Phillies have played well down the stretch, it’s come with no pressure in a sea of meaningless games.

Mackanin was asked if the team made a step forward this season. 

“I think individual players have made a step forward. As a team, of course not. We’re down at the bottom,” Mackanin said. “On the other hand, there are teams with similar records with much higher payrolls that were expected to do much better and haven’t. And when you look at the makeup of the team with all the pitchers that we’ve used and injuries, we’ve had a lot of unproven players.”

Mackanin revealed the angriest he’s been was back in May, when the Phillies went 6-22. He said while he's trying to keep an “even keel,” he gave his team a tongue-lashing after a home loss during that stretch. 

“I just went down the list of players,” Mackanin said. “Every one of them, I pointed out all the good things they’ve done to get here. And I asked after I got done naming every player how good they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished to get here, I asked, ‘How come we’re so bad?’”

Despite injuries and having to rush players to the majors, the Phillies were 33-36 since the All-Star break before Monday’s game. 

Mackanin acknowledged 2018 will be different, when the record will matter much more. He believes it’s time for the franchise to start winning in order to lure the potential free agents needed to become a contender again. 

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Mackanin said. “We’ve got players who have to prove they’re for real. Next year will tell us an awful lot.”

The 66-year-old Mackanin hopes he’s around to see what happens. 

“Blame the managers and coaches. How about if the players perform better?” Mackanin said. “Now, could we get the players to perform better? Everybody tries hard to do that.”