BALTIMORE >> As the Phillies went through the latter moments of 2016, all of 2017 and 39 games into 2018 without starting a left-handed pitcher, it was considered something between odd and a cost of rebuilding.

Matt Klentak knows it is about to become something else: An issue.

That is a second wildcard the Phillies likely will be chasing this season, or maybe even something better. And can a team in the division with the Braves and left-handed-hitting threats Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty contend without mixing in the occasional lefty?

“I think we can,” Klentak said. “I think it’s possible. I mean, there’s no recipe that says you have to do it one way or another.”

With former Orioles executives Klentak, Andy MacPhail and Joe Jordan representing the Phillies in Baltimore Tuesday, there was the appearance, at least, that they had come to wink at free-agent-to-be Manny Machado. No one, though, was permitted to discuss the Baltimore infielder without risk of a tampering beef. But before the season is out, the Phillies may need to add a left-handed pitcher. So that means they can’t discuss a certain Texas Ranger who could become available at the trade deadline, either

Remember Cole Hamels?

Either way, with a quarter of the season about over, Klentak is already careening toward the buy-or-sell intersection.

“We’re assessing how good our team is but also where we have a need,” the general manager said. “I just talked about the left-handed pitching, and that might be one area to address. We’re at the quarter pole. I think it’s a little early to start talking about that. There’s been some light dialogue among a few teams so far, but really nothing substantial, just a very-early feeling out. As we get deeper into June and July, I know that activity will pick up and we’ll just have to see how we stack up when we get to that point.”

***

With the Phils scheduled to play in an American League park Tuesday, Rhys Hoskins was in the lineup as the designated hitter, batting second.

“Mainly, we just always look for ways to get guys off their feet,” Gabe Kapler said. “And it’s kind of nice that we’ve had some gifted off-days here recently, so that we don’t have to find off-days for our guys. It’s nice that we can get them off their feet via the DH or via a rainout here or there.”

Hoskins remembers doing some designated hitting in the minors, but not to any extreme.

“Some,” he said, accepting his role. “I’m in the lineup. DH-ing is a skill. You have to stay in the game and stay ready. You just have to focus on hitting.”

With Hoskins having hit one home run since April 21, the down-sized assignment had a chance to be therapeutic.

“Sometimes,” Kapler said, “just relaxing fixes timing. Is there anything that fixes it? Is there any quick fix? Not to my knowledge. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep grinding to try to find the answer.”

***

Jerad Eickhoff, who has not played for the Phillies this season due to a strained lat, threw 53 pitches for the IronPigs in a rehab start Tuesday. Klentak has said the right-hander would return to the starting rotation when healthy.

That could take a while, with Eickhoff expected to make two more minor-league starts.

“Based on his track record, I think that’s what we need to be focused on,” Klentak said. “He’s earned that. So, we’re going to set our sights on him joining the rotation. We still have a few weeks until that day comes, but when it does, we’ll make the best decision we can, based on the information that we have at that moment. A lot can change between now and his activation date.” Klentak’s report from Tuesday: “He came out of it healthy, which is the important thing.”

***

Mark Leiter Jr. rejoined the active roster Tuesday after recovering from a strained right forearm. Kapler envisions him in a bullpen role, where, even as a right-hander, he has been known to be tough on left-handed hitters.

“He doesn’t necessarily profile in one specific relief role,” the manager said. “He’s kind of a jack of all trades, and we’ll use him as such.”

Jake Thompson was sent to Allentown Sunday, opening a roster spot.

***

NOTES >> Adam Morgan (back strain) is eligible to be sprung from the disabled list Thursday. … Victor Arano (strained right rotator cuff) can be activated this week, too. Kapler: “We’ll kind of wait and see, read and react and not make decisions before we need to.” … The Phils are scheduled to play in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon at 12:35. Vince Velasquez (3-4, 5.05 ERA) and right-hander Miguel Castro (1-1, 3.55) were named as starters.

comments powered by Disqus