Phils target Astros Pence; Oswalt makes progress

502578.jpg

Phils target Astros Pence; Oswalt makes progress

The trade non-waiver trade deadline is approaching and the Phillies are once again casting a longing eye toward Houston.

Astros outfielder Hunter Pence has emerged as the teams top target as it tries to add a productive right-handed bat to its lineup.

Hes the guy they want, a baseball official familiar with the trade landscape said. But the price is very high.

How high?

The Astros would probably want a package that begins with Domonic Brown. The Phils might also have to include another top talent such as Jonathan Singleton, a first baseman and outstanding hitting prospect, or a pitching prospect.

Action on Pence is high and the Astros will be looking for a big score. If the price soars too high, the Phils could take a closer look at San Diegos Ryan Ludwick or the Cubs Reed Johnson. The Phils have interest in Carlos Beltran, especially if the Mets are going to pick up the approximately 6 million remaining on his contract. But the price for Beltran is also high and the Phillies are reluctant to deal top talent for a player who can be a free agent after the season. The Phillies have always looked to deal for players they can control for multiple seasons. Pence, 28, will not be a free agent until after 2013.

The Phillies are on a tight budget. Their payroll, as recognized by Major League Baseball, is over 175 million and they are within 3 million of reaching the luxury-tax threshold. The Phils would pay 22.5 percent on every dollar they go over 178 million. Pence is owed about 3.45 million for the remainder of this season. That probably would not hold up the Phillies, whose mindset is World Series or bust.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continued his silence on all matters relating to trades, so it's unclear if he would part with a player of Brown's potential.

Im not talking about trades, he said Friday afternoon.

Pence entered Friday hitting .316 with 11 homers, 61 RBIs and a combined on-base and slugging percentage of .845. He played in the All-Star Game earlier this month.

The Phillies and Astros have matched up on big trades before. The Phils acquired Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt in deals with the Astros. Oswalt came to Philadelphia just before the trade deadline last year.

Speaking of Oswalt
Oswalt continues to recover nicely from a bulging disc in his lower back. He threw 50 pitches to hitters Friday afternoon. Manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee were both impressed with the life on Oswalts pitches. So, too, was hitter Wilson Valdez.

He had good pop and a good breaking ball, Valdez said.

Oswalt, who had a series of anti-inflammatory injections in his back earlier this month, said he will throw in the bullpen on Sunday and could pitch in the minors by the middle of next week, putting him in line to rejoin the rotation in the first week of August. Oswalt hopes to make just one minor-league rehab start. Dubee said the plan depends on how the righthander feels.

Lidge activated
Lidge was activated from the disabled list. The erstwhile closer, who has not pitched since October, will work his way back into the bullpen by pitching in some low-leverage situations. His performance, Manuel said, will determine whether he is used in more pressurized situations late in the game. The Phillies hope Lidge can contribute to the bullpen and join Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes on Manuels list of most trusted relievers.

Madson has made three appearances since coming off the disabled list, none as closer. Dubee said Friday that Madson would eventually work his way back to that role. Bastardo has been closing lately.

Its just a matter of getting him comfortable again, Dubee said. He had just one minor-league rehab outing. We want to make sure hes comfortable with his stuff and his delivery before he goes back there.

To make room for Lidge on the roster, the Phils designated reliever Danys Baez for assignment.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com
Related: Gutsy moves put Pat Gillick in the Hall of Fame Phils notes: Polanco has shot; Blanton to doctor

MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

ap_841901862648.jpg

MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York's captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

White Sox: Shuck called up with Jackson injured
NEW YORK -- With Austin Jackson bothered by turf toe, the Chicago White Sox recalled outfielder J.B. Shuck from Charlotte and optioned right-hander Tommy Kahnle to the Triple-A farm team.

Jackson left Sunday's game in the eighth inning because of his left foot.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Monday's series opener against the New York Mets that he doesn't think Jackson's injury at this point merits a move to the disabled list. He adds that the team does not "necessarily want to lose him for two weeks right away."

Shuck was batting fifth and playing center field Monday. He was 0 for 9 with the White Sox before he was sent down April 18 when Chicago needed to add a pitcher. He is hitting .299 at Charlotte with two homers and 17 RBIs.

Kahnle is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four games over three stints with Chicago this season.

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: All eyes on Jeremy Hellickson

052916-mackanin-postbestvideo3_1920x1080_695233603798.jpg

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: All eyes on Jeremy Hellickson

Phillies (26-24) vs. Nationals (30-21)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

After a 1-5 road trip that concluded with a sweep at the hands of the MLB-best Chicago Cubs, the Phillies return home to face another strong opponent in the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. Can a return to Citizens Bank Park be an answer to the Phillies' woes?

Here's that and everything else you need to know for the Phils' Memorial Day showdown with the Nationals:

1. Power outage
The Phillies started last week 25-19 but ended it just two games over .500 after getting outslugged by the Tigers and Cubs. In the Cubs' series, the Phils mustered just five runs.

Through 50 games, the Phillies are averaging just 3.2 runs, narrowly ahead of the MLB-worst Atlanta Braves. Manager Pete Mackanin is taking some steps to rectify that, namely reducing Ryan Howard's playing time so the team can get a good look at rookie first baseman Tommy Joseph (see story).

Joseph alone won't be able to get the Phillies on the right track. The Phillies need to start getting more contributions throughout the lineup. Leadoff man Odubel Herrera is batting .320 and Tyler Goedell is hitting .313 in May, but those two have been the only other bright spots in the Phils' lineup recently.

While the Phillies sport a 4-2 record against the Nationals this season, they have just 15 runs in those six games. Luckily for the Phils, the Nationals haven't exactly been playing top notch baseball of late.

2. What have the Nats been up to?
When the Nationals began a three-game set in Washington against the Phillies in late April, they were 14-5 and sat three games up in the NL East. However, since the Phillies swept them, the Nationals have gone just 15-14.

The Nats just finished an up -and-down week by splitting a four-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals and losing two of three to the Mets. Washington tends to rely on Bryce Harper, who is currently mired in a slump.

Harper had just four hits in his 24 at-bats against the Mets and Cardinals. He failed to draw a walk in either series and struck out four times. The 2015 NL MVP is 1 for 3 with two walks this season against Monday's starter, Jeremy Hellickson. 

Former Phillies Jayson Werth and Ben Revere have helped pick up the slack, however. Werth's pinch-hit grand slam Sunday sealed the Nationals' win over the Cards. Revere has five multi-hit games in his last nine starts.  

3. All eyes on Hellickson
Hellickson is the man tasked with taming Nationals' bats that produced 10 runs Sunday. Hellickson's first matchup against the Nats was his worst start of the season, while his second start was his best. 

On April 15 at Citzens Bank Park, Hellickson gave up six runs — five earned — in just three innings, his shortest start of the year. He gave up a home run to the first batter he saw (Michael Taylor) and allowed a three-run double to Werth.

So expectations weren't high on April 27 when the veteran righty faced the Nationals in Washington. However, Hellickson came through for the Phillies on that day. He allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings and struck out eight. 

Which Hellickson will we see this time? It's tough to tell, but he has produced quality starts in his last three outings, a good sign of things to come.

4. Ready for Roark?
The Nationals have some true aces in their rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But Tanner Roark has emerged as another go-to guy in the rotation in the first two months of 2016. 

The 29-year-old pitcher shuffled between the rotation and bullpen last season, finishing with a 4.38 ERA in 40 appearances. However, the righty has returned to form with 10 strong starts, including seven shutout innings against the Phillies on April 28.

After giving up seven runs to the Marlins on May 14, Roark rebounded with quality starts against the Marlins and Mets, giving up just three runs in his last 13⅔ innings in those contests.

Historically, the Phillies have gotten the best of Roark. He has a 2-5 record with a 5.55 ERA in 35⅔ innings, including an 8.27 ERA at Citizens Bank Park.

5. This and that
• Howard is 4 for 12 with one home run and six RBIs in his career against Roark. Herrera has three hits and a walk in seven plate appearances.

• Harper is 3 for 6 with five walks against Hellickson. Werth is 3 for 11 with two doubles and a homer against Hellickson.  

• The Phillies are 2-5 in the first game of a home series this season. The Nationals are 5-3 in the first game of road series. 

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

ap_841901862648.jpg

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).