Sources: Phils reach deal with Papelbon

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Sources: Phils reach deal with Papelbon

Ruben Amaro Jr. said he wanted a top closer.

He got one.

The Phillies have reached agreement on a four-year contract with free-agent Jonathan Papelbon, multiple sources told CSNPhilly.com on Friday.

The deal, which wont become official until Papelbon passes a physical in the coming days, is worth 50 million. That is the most ever guaranteed a reliever, topping the 47 million that Toronto gave B.J. Ryan in a five-year deal in Dec. 2005. The average annual value of Papelbons deal is 12.5 million. Thats the same average value of the three-year extension that Brad Lidge signed with the club in 2008.

Papelbon, who turns 31 on Nov. 23, averaged 36 saves for the Boston Red Sox over the last six seasons. He will replace Ryan Madson, a 1998 Phillies draft pick whose emergence helped the Phils win the 2008 World Series.

Madson, 31, became the Phillies closer in April and had 32 saves. He could end up replacing Papelbon in Boston. The Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals could also have interest in Madson.

According to sources, Papelbons deal includes a fifth-year option.

Not long ago, the Phillies were reluctant to give pitchers deals of more than three years. In successive off-seasons, they have made it clear they will relax that policy for the right pitcher. Last year, they gave Cliff Lee a five-year, 120 million deal. The willingness to go four years with Papelbon shows just how much Amaro, the teams general manager, values having a top closer behind his star-studded starting pitching rotation.

If we dont stop games that were supposed to win with our staff, then its going to be troublesome and that is something that we need to shore up, Amaro said of the closer position earlier this week.

Why didnt the Phillies shore it up by re-signing Madson? Phillies officials arent commenting, but it appears as if they simply thought Papelbon was a better option. The Phils were negotiating with both pitchers earlier in the week. Sources close to Madson said the two sides were making good progress on a four-year deal when the Phillies suddenly expressed reservations about the proposed deal. Phillies officials say no deal was ever struck between them and Madson. During the week, the focus shifted to Papelbon, and that was verified with Fridays agreement.

Madson, who has a 2.89 ERA over the last five seasons, is one of baseballs best relievers. Ditto for Papelbon who has a 2.30 ERA over the last six seasons. A difference in the two is that all of Papelbons success has come in the closers role. Before this year, Madson worked in a setup role.

Both pitchers have extensive postseason experience. Madson has allowed nine runs in 35 postseason innings. Papelbon has allowed just three runs in 27 postseason innings.

Papelbon was 4-1 with 31 saves and a 2.94 ERA in 2011. He struck out 87 and allowed just 50 hits and 10 walks (one intentional) in 64 13 innings.

Madson was 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 2011. He struck out 62 and allowed 54 hits and 16 walks (eight intentional) in 60 23 innings.

With closer out of the way, the Phillies remaining off-season issues include securing a shortstop and signing a hitter. The Phils would like to re-sign free agent Jimmy Rollins, but wont give him the five-year deal he is seeking. The team is also seriously pursuing free-agent infielderoutfielder Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer visited with team officials in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Amaro likes to work quickly in the off-season, so Cuddyer could be his next signing.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

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Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

Pete Mackanin dropped second baseman Cesar Hernandez to eighth in the batting order for Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

“If you want to call it a message you can call it a message,” Mackanin said.

Hernandez entered the game hitting .255 with a .616 OPS. Last year, he hit .272 with and .687 OPS.

“I expect more out of him,” Mackanin said. “I think he's a better hitter than he's shown. I think he's a .280 hitter and I think he's at .250. I want to see improvement. We need him to get back up to .280, where I think he belongs. He’s got to make adjustments. We need offense.”

Mackanin pointed to Hernandez’s double-play partner, shortstop Freddy Galvis, as an example of a player who has made improvements.

Galvis entered Tuesday night hitting .257 with a .696 OPS. But in the month of May, he was hitting .277 with a .708 OPS.

“Freddy is starting to come on,” Mackanin said. “He’s starting to make adjustments.”

Galvis has also played excellent defense.

The Phillies are a rebuilding club with a number of potential big-league contributors rounding out their development in the minors. The team’s top prospect is a shortstop – J.P. Crawford – and he’s in Triple A now. It’s not out of the question that he will be the team’s opening day shortstop next season.

Crawford’s eventual ascension impacts both Galvis and Hernandez. Galvis can also play second base. Whether Hernandez or Galvis becomes the second baseman when Crawford arrives could be determined by who hits. This is the time to make impressions.

“That's basically what it boils down to,” Mackanin said. “I've even talked to them about that — 'It's an important year for both of you because there are people who want to be in the big leagues that are in the minor leagues and want to take your job.' You have to approach it that way. You can't let down. You have to stay focused and work hard.”

While all signs point to Crawford taking over at shortstop in the future, Mackanin said Galvis’ defense should not be taken for granted.

“As well as Freddy is playing shortstop, you'd hate to move a guy like that out of that position,” Mackanin said. “It's a defensive position and he's been so good at it.”

Galvis entered Tuesday night with just two errors in 50 games. His .990 fielding percentage trailed only San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, both .995.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

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Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals' lineup Tuesday night after being hit in the knee by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch on Memorial Day.

Big break for the Phils considering Harper has hit .346 against them with three doubles, 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 walks in his last 104 plate appearances against them.

It's an equally big break for Aaron Nola, against whom Harper is 6 for 10 with two homers (see game notes).

For the Phillies, Ryan Howard gets the start at first base against another right-hander, Washington's Joe Ross. Phillies fans are clamoring for more playing time for Tommy Joseph, but starting Howard against Ross does make some sense given how much better lefties have been against him (.295 BA) than righties (.209). Ross throws a ton of sinkers and sliders, which make it tough on same-handed hitters.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Cameron Rupp, C
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. David Lough, RF
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

And for the Nationals:

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Clint Robinson, LF
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Espinosa, SS
9. Joe Ross, P