In light of the Phillies’ surprising start to the season, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports kicks off his latest 10 Degrees column by writing that the Phillies can ill afford to continue carrying Ryan Howard and his .161/.233/.381 batting line. The “loyalty-vs.-pragmatism” battle which the Phillies currently face would be easier to ignore if the Phillies were toiling in or near the cellar of the NL East as many anticipated, but the club has other options at first base and is no longer playing Howard regularly. Even against right-handed pitching, Howard is hitting just .163/.246/.385 in 118 plate appearances, making it fair to question his viability even as a platoon option. Passan also revisits the Phillies’ puzzling decision to sign Howard to a five-year, $125MM extension in the first place despite the fact that he was already under control for two more seasons (and his age-31 campaign).
Here’s more from the NL…
- Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to Phillies manager Pete Mackanin about the importance of utility infielder Andres Blanco to the club. “There might be guys that are better, but as far as all-around defense, hitting, clubhouse character, this guy has been a special player for us,” said Mackanin. “It’s a tough role. It’s tough to find.” Blanco keeps four gloves — infield, outfield, first base mitt and catcher’s mitt — in his locker in order to be ready in any role and draws rave reviews from his teammates for his attitude and his production in his role. The 32-year-old has batted .286/.351/.491 in 372 plate appearances as a part-time player with the Phils dating back to 2014 and is earning his first seven-figure salary this season after agreeing to a $1.45MM deal this winter. As Breen notes, it’s a considerable bump up from the $3,000 signing bonus he took as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela when the Royals were the lone Major League club to make him an offer at all.
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi isn’t tipping his hand as to when lefty Julio Urias will be promoted to the Majors, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Zaidi said the 19-year-old top prospect will be in a Dodgers uniform “at some point” but elected to leave it at that for the time being. Manager Dave Roberts tells Plunkett that despite Urias’ dominance of Triple-A hitters at such a young age, he hasn’t lobbied with the front office to have the left-hander added to what has been an inconsistent Major League bullpen. The Dodgers have reportedly been considering Urias as a bullpen option, which could help them continue to gradually increase his workload, Plunkett notes. To this point in his career, Urias has never thrown more than six innings in a start or more than 87 2/3 innings in a season, so his workload is understandably a concern. Urias has already thrown 41 innings this year, including a streak of 27 shutout innings that is still intact.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy tells Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area that he doesn’t have a leash on Jake Peavy despite the right-hander’s considerable struggles in 2016. There was some hope that Peavy may have turned a corner after a solid start in Arizona last weekend, but he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and surrendered five runs on Friday, causing his ERA to balloon to 8.21. “I think he’s close,” said Bochy. “The stuff is fine. He’s healthy and he’s close. He’s just got to be a little more consistent with execution.” The Giants have maintained that stance on Peavy and fellow right-hander Matt Cain throughout the duo’s problems this year. Cain has indeed turned a corner over his past three starts, but it’s hard not to wonder how long the Giants will stick with Peavy if he cannot undergo a similar resurgence in the very near future.