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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Phils Notebook: Quantity far exceeds quality

Posted by Eric Fisher On May 6

Quantity should not be confused with quality.

The Phillies, both before and after general manager Matt Klentak was hired, have been acquiring pitchers at a rapid rate. Prospects and veterans. Pitchers at the beginning of their careers, pitchers at the end of their careers and pitchers at all points in between.

What they haven’t acquired thus far is anyone who has proven his name definitely deserves to be included as a long-term solution for the future rotation. There are a few you could write in using a pencil, but nobody deserves to have his name written in pen.

Speaking of quantity, barely a month beyond the season opener, the Phillies have used 17 pitchers. Seventeen.

Only three starting pitchers have wins. Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 3.18 ERA) won his first four decisions before suffering his first loss against the Cubs. Vince Velasquez (2-2, 5.47) enters Saturday’s game against the Nationals having won his last two decisions, which comes after not having won a game since last July. Aaron Nola (2-0, 4.50) is on the disabled list with a lower back strain.

Hellickson, re-signed to a one-year, $17.2 million contract, could be part of another team’s future if the Phillies can get enough in return for him at the trade deadline. The jury is still out on Velasquez and Nola. The question with Velasquez is whether he can harness his skills. Can he become a pitcher, lasting beyond the fifth inning, rather than merely being a thrower. The question for Nola, whose 2016 season was cut short by elbow problems, is whether he can remain healthy.

Jerad Eickhoff, the only pitcher I identified as a solid member of the future rotation in my preseason Phillies preview, is winless this season. To be fair to Eickhoff (0-3, 4.00), he has pitched fairly well. His last start was his only poor one. He has been plagued by the same lack of support he received last season as he compiled an 11-14 record.

Zach Eflin (0-0, 2.42) has also pitched fairly well, yet he’s winless after four starts. Nick Pivetta is 0-2 since being called up to fill in for Nola. He has allowed four home runs in 10 innings. Clay Buccholz (0-1, 12.27) is sidelined, perhaps for the rest of the season, after having surgery on his right forearm, and appears to be a one-year, $13.5 million mistake.

Eflin and Pivetta were among those I listed as “waiting in the wings” in my preseason preview. They should have many more opportunities to prove that they are quality rather than merely quantity, but they haven’t provided convincing evidence yet.

The quantity-over-quality situation seems even more pronounced, particularly when considered with regard to the future, in the bullpen. The best reliever has been 36-year-old Pat Neshek, who hasn’t allowed a run in 11 appearances.

The bullpen’s biggest problem is nobody has emerged as a reliable closer. Jeanmar Gomez (2-1, 7.94) flamed out as the incumbent closer. Joaquin Benoit, who will turn 40 in July, is 0-1 with a respectable 2.63 ERA, but he has blown two of his three save opportunities. Hector Neris (0-1, 4.30) has converted three of four save opportunities, but he has been shaky in the closer’s role.

There aren’t any obvious candidates to elevate in a bullpen that has allowed a major league-worst 21 home runs. Joely Rodriguez (1-1, 4.50 in 15 appearances) hasn’t done anything to earn a shot at being the closer. The same is true of Edubray Ramos (0-2, 3.95 ERA in 13 apperances). Luis Garcia (1-0, 0.00 in 5 appearances), the recently recalled Mark Leiter Jr. (0-0, 4.50 in 2 appearances) and Jake Thompson, who made his season debut Friday with a scoreless inning, haven’t been around long enough for consideration.

The Phillies’ plan for their pitching has seemed to be to throw as many arms against the wall as possible and to see which ones stick.

So far, that approach has added up to a lot of quantity, but it’s not clear that it has yielded much quality.

*****

FAILING TEST: It my most recent Phillies Notebook, I wrote that the Phillies would face a difficult test during a 14-game stretch that included road series against the Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals. So far, they’re failing that test.

The Phillies were 1-6 against the Dodgers and Cubs on their recent road trip, and then lost the opening game of a series against the visiting Nationals on Friday, 4-2. The Phillies would need to win six straight games to break even during these 14 games.

*****

WELCOME HOME, CHOOCH: The two games with the Mariners on Tuesday and Wednesday will mark the return of catcher Carlo Ruiz. After spending 10-plus seasons with the Phillies, Ruiz was traded to the Dodgers last season. He is batting .125 with the Mariners (through Friday’s games) and, at age 38, his career appears to be winding down,, so this week might be the final opportunity to see one of the most popular Phillies play at Citizens Bank Park.

*****

JOSEPH STARTS TO HIT: With five hits in his last five games, Tommy Joseph has improved his average .179 to .207. His five hits include a home run and three doubles, as well as five RBI. Getting above the Mendoza line may quell calls for Rhys Hopkins to be brought up from Class AAA Lehigh Valley – at least for a little while.

*****

GALVIS’ STREAK ENDS: Freddy Galvis’ hitting streak ended at 13 games with an 0-for-4 performance Tuesday against the Cubs. With prospect J.P. Crawford struggling, to put it mildly, at Class AAA Lehigh Valley this season, Galvis’ tenure as the Phillies’ starting shortstop could be prolonged.

*****

RUNNING ON EMPTY: It seems wrong to criticize Cesar Hernandez, who is tied for the team lead in hitting with a .333 batting average, but he made baserunning mistakes on consecutive days this past week. He was picked off one day, and then was thrown out while foolishly trying to stretch a single into a double the following day.

*****

ALTHERR STEPPING UP: Aaron Altherr continues to take advantage of the playing time created by the oblique injury to left fielder Howie Kendrick. Altherr had eight hits during the first five days of May, scoring five times and driving in five runs. His .328 batting average is only .005 behind the team-leading average of Cesar Hernandez. Furthermore, Altherr made several terrific plays in left field this week. The Phillies need to find a regular place in their lineup for Altherr.

*****

LOOKAHEAD: After completing a weekend series with the first-place Nationals, the Phillies will have a day off before hosting the Mariners on Tuesday (7 p.m.) and Wednesday (1 p.m.). Another day off will precede the opening of a three-game series with the Nationls, which opens Friday. This will be the Phillies’ fourth series with the Nationals this season.

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