Charlie Morton Injury: Updates on Phillies SP’s Hamstring and Recovery

April 27, 2016 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Charlie Morton will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a hamstring injury on April 23.   

Continue for updates.


Morton Out for 6-8 Months

Wednesday, April 27

The Phillies announced that Morton's MRI revealed a torn left hamstring that will keep him out for six to eight months. 

MLB.com provided video of Morton's injury, which occurred after he laid down a sacrifice bunt in the top of the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers:

The loss of Morton is a huge blow to the Phillies, who are rebuilding and have a collection of starting pitchers trying to rebuild their value (Jeremy Hellickson) or establish themselves in the big leagues (Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez).

Morton was in the former category, coming off a bad 2015 in which he posted a 4.81 ERA in 23 starts with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He could have been a potential trade chip for the Phillies this summer as a back-end starter who is only making $8 million with a mutual option for 2017.

Even with lowered expectations in Philadelphia as the team starts to build for its future, Morton's injury will alter plans for the Phillies this year. 

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Phillies’ Dominant Young Rotation Could Be Catalyst for Surprise Year

April 20, 2016 by Jacob Shafer  
Filed under Fan News

Watch your backs, opposing hitters. There's a gang of gunslingers in the National League East, and they've got their sights aimed at you.

We're not talking about the New York Mets, though their starting rotation is indeed sterling despite some early hiccups.

No, we're going to sing the praises of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Perhaps you're wiping coffee off your screen after a cinematic spit take. These are the Phillies, after all, the club that lost 99 games last season. The former juggernaut that collapsed under the weight of its expensive, fading veterans and appeared destined for a painful, protracted rebuild.

It's early. No one is anointing the Phils as NL favorites. But, largely on the strength of its arms, Philadelphia could exceed expectations and give a hope-starved fanbase something besides cheese steaks to chew on. 

It begins with Vincent Velasquez, acquired this winter in the trade that sent closer Ken Giles to the Houston Astros

Even after taking the loss in the Mets' 11-1 drubbing of the Phillies on Tuesday, the 23-year-old right-hander owns a minuscule 0.93 ERA. Overall, he's surrendered 11 hits and two earned runs over 19.1 innings with 29 strikeouts.

He made franchise history in his second start of the season, a complete-game shutout against the San Diego Padres, per ESPN Stats & Info:

"It looks like we made a pretty good trade," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after that game, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki and AJ Cassavell.

Speaking of trade acquisitions, Jerad Eickhoff—acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal—has posted a 1.89 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings. 

Eickhoff doesn't overpower with high-90s heat, but he throws a plus curveball that catcher Cameron Rupp said the 25-year-old right-hander will "live and die on," per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Then there's 22-year-old Aaron Nola, a first-round pick by the Phils in 2014. Nola has given up 12 earned runs in 19 innings and owns a 0-2 record, but he's also compiled an impressive 23 strikeouts. 

Add 29-year-old Jeremy Hellickson, who's struck out 14 in 14.2 innings over three starts, and you've got the makings of a special group.

In 2011, the Phillies featured a vaunted super-rotation that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hamels. That team, not coincidentally, won 102 games.

The 2016 starting five is a long, long way from matching that rotation's track record. We're still squarely in small-sample territory.

Last season, though, everyone assumed the Washington Nationals would run away with the NL East. Then the Mets crashed the party, largely on the strength of their burgeoning arms. 

Plus, 2015 witnessed two other youthful squads—the Astros and Chicago Cubsarrive ahead of schedule. 

There's no guarantee the Phillies will follow suit. They're 6-9 entering play Wednesday, after all.

But marry that promising pitching to an offense led by third baseman and emerging star Maikel Franco, and suddenly it's plausible to picture the Phils as something other than division doormats.

Sure, you can inject a dose of pessimism.

That same offense entered Wednesday second-to-last in baseball with a .211 average. 

It's entirely possible these young pitchers could sliplike so many others have—as the league inevitably adjusts. Eickhoff and Hellickson, in particular, lack the pedigree to stand credibly in the can't-miss category.

Then again, Phils starters have opened 2016 with a head-turning output, as NJ Advance Media's Joe Giglio explained:

Heading into play on April 15, the Phillies rotation owned the following numbers: 10.71 SO/9, 1.71 BB/9 and a 2.14 ERA.

Here's some perspective on just how ridiculous those numbers are. In the entire history of baseball, only 12 individual seasons have ever happened where a starter had at least 10 SO/9, 2-or-less BB/9 and an ERA under 3.00. Martinez (1999, 2000 and 2002) and ex-Phillies great Curt Schilling (2001, 2002, 2003) are the only pitchers to do it three separate times.

Schilling's name has been evoked, which means we're getting serious.

Possibly, we're getting too serious too soon. The list of pitchers who have wowed for a few starts and then fizzled is too extensive to repeat here.

The Phillies, though, have a good thing going. The potential is palpable. Their gunslingers are lined up.

Now, it's time to see how hardand fastthey can squeeze the trigger.

 

All statistics current as of April 19 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Vince Velasquez’s 16-K Shutout Has Phillies Celebrating Ken Giles Trade Steal

April 14, 2016 by Zachary D. Rymer  
Filed under Fan News

Per the early results, the recent trade between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies should be referred to not as "the Ken Giles trade," but as "the Vince Velasquez trade."

At least on a knee-jerk level, that's just sound logic. While Giles sits there with an ERA over 12.00 through four appearances out of Houston's bullpen, Velasquez looks like a man on a mission in the Phillies rotation.

His latest target: the San Diego Padres. They had no answer for Velasquez in a 3-0 loss at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon, as the 23-year-old used blistering fastballs and biting hooks to strike out 16 while allowing three hits and no walks in a complete-game shutout.

This is one of those tidbit starts. Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that Velasquez is the youngest pitcher to strike out 16 batters since Mark Prior in 2003. And as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes, the only other active pitcher with a 16-strikeout, zero-walk game to his name is Max Scherzer. And so on.

Velasquez's shutout is coming on the heels of a 2016 debut that was also eye-opening. He shut out the New York Mets for six innings last Saturday, striking out nine and allowing three hits and three walks.

All told, the right-hander's numbers through his first two starts boggle the mind. He has yet to allow a run in 15 innings, allowing only six hits and three walks. He's struck out 25 of the 54 batters he's faced.

The only nit to pick is with his competition. The Padres definitely aren't a good offensive team, as they've already been shut out five times in 10 games. The Mets should be a lot better, but their slow start put them at last in the National League in runs and OPS at the start of play on Thursday.

Even still, there's no harm in wondering if the Phillies have something special in Velasquez. Because it sure seems like they do.

When the Phillies landed Velasquez from the Astros last December, he arguably wasn't the centerpiece of the trade.

He was coming to Philadelphia alongside four other players, including former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel. Velasquez was also coming off an unspectacular breakthrough with the Astros in 2014, in which he posted a 4.37 ERA in seven starts and 12 relief appearances. Before that, he had a minor league track record that was largely marred by a Tommy John operation in 2010 and a significant groin injury in 2014.

However, there was no denying Velasquez's appeal as a building block for the Phillies' rebuild. At a sturdy 6'3" and armed with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus wrote that Velasquez could either step into Giles' shoes or fit into Philly's rotation in the long run: "At worst Velasquez marks a strong central piece as a potential high-leverage reliever in his own right, and the potential to groom him into a long-term rotation staple remains alive and well if the Phillies choose to do so."

In spring training, Velasquez made no secret about which he preferred.

“I’d like to help the team out in the rotation,” he told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. “That’s where I want to be. I’m not really favoring that relieving half, to be honest with you.”

Velasquez got his wish, as Phillies manager Pete Mackanin named him the club's No. 5 starter in late March. And in two starts since then, he's shown just what he's capable of as a starter.

Notably, he's shown he can maintain his fastball deep into games. Per Brooks Baseball, he was actually throwing harder in the sixth inning than he was in the first inning of his debut. And against the Padres, Velasquez was still touching 98 even after he crossed the 100-pitch threshold.

To boot, Velasquez's fastball is one of those where velocity doesn't tell the whole story.

It also has tremendous life on it, which helps explain how he could pull off the baffling feat of getting 20 swings and misses on the 76 fastballs he threw against the Padres. According to Mike Petriello of MLB.com, the only guy who's done that in recent history is, once again, Scherzer.

If Velasquez's arsenal had a weakness in his prospect days, it was his lack of a consistent breaking ball. As Nick J. Faleris wrote at Baseball Prospectus in 2015, it could "come soft, lacking bite."

It looked pretty good against the Padres, though. Velasquez threw 30 curveballs, collecting five whiffs and giving up one hit. Courtesy of The Pitcher List, at least one was a knee-buckler:

What Velasquez hasn't shown as much in his 2016 workload, such as it is, is a changeup. But he does have one, and a good one at that. Both Faleris and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com considered it to be a second above-average pitch alongside his curveball when Velasquez was still a prospect.

Even if Velasquez doesn't break out his changeup more often, his fastball-curveball combination and his ability to throw strikes (146 out of 212 pitches) could be good enough to keep his breakout going. If such an approach worked for Shelby Miller in 2013, it can work for Velasquez in 2016.

That would continue the narrative that getting Velasquez alone is enough to make the Giles trade (excuse me, the Velasquez trade) lopsided in their favor. Just don't ask Velasquez himself about it, as he'll swear that he's not succeeding because of a chip on his shoulder.

"I'm beyond that. I don't even think of that," he told Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice. "My job is to pitch for the Phillies and the Phillies only. [The Astros] traded me, so my job is here. This is home for me, this is my home."

The Phillies should have no problem with an attitude like that. Especially not when it's coming from a guy who's turning into a steal.

 

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Phillies Rule 5 LHP Daniel Stumpf Suspended 80 Games for Positive Test

April 14, 2016 by Mike Chiari  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Daniel Stumpf was suspended 80 games Thursday for his first violation of Major League Baseball's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

The Phillies released a statement following the suspension and made a corresponding roster move:

According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Stumpf tested positive for the anabolic steroid dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.

The 25-year-old lefty was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Phils from the Kansas City Royals, which means he must remain on Philadelphia's 25-man roster for the entire season or else the Royals will have the opportunity to reclaim his rights.

Stumpf has allowed three earned runs over 0.2 innings in three appearances so far this season for an ERA of 40.50.

The Humble, Texas, native is a former ninth-round pick of the Royals, and he was among the Phillies' only left-handed options in the bullpen.

While the Phillies are off to a surprisingly decent start at 4-5, they are expected to be among the league's worst teams in 2016, which somewhat softens the blow of losing a player of Stumpf's ilk.

Even if Philadelphia manages to exceed expectations and remain in the race, though, Stumpf isn't a significant piece of the puzzle to lose for 80 games.

He is extremely inexperienced at the major league level, and while he has just three appearances to his credit, he has been battered by opposing hitters thus far.

Most importantly, Stumpf's suspension could put his spot on the Phillies' roster in jeopardy, as there is no guarantee the Phils will have a place for him when he returns to action in a few months.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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