“‘Cause I’ve got [Call-Up] fever;
It’s driving me crazy.
Driving me crazy.
I’ve got [Call Up] fever;
[Call Up] fever.
I’m going out of my mind.
Going out of my mind.”
-“Pac Man Fever” Buckner and Garcia
News and notes as the IronPigs head into Columbus to face the IL-best Clippers.
The Phillies are doing great–much better than anyone predicted. Anyone. Now it seems like fans from all over are ready to press the ‘playoff’ button in early May. I’ve heard talk of trades–but mostly I’ve heard talk of calling up players that might be able to help the big team. Phillies fans want to gut the IronPigs (and Reading, to a lesser degree) and try to make the Phillies better right now, as visions of wild cards dance in their heads.
There’s another article out there this morning, which addresses this topic quite well, from a Phillies perspective, and from a statistical point of view. And, there are others about the web even as I started this today. I tend to be more about the people and the stories–and certainly from an IronPigs-centric view:
The Phillies have been winning games by pitching, and getting the close wins. Indeed, it seems that the Kentak-era concentration on pitching is starting to pay some early dividends–despite the bull-pen’s adventures and Charlie Morton’s latest injury. Their hitting has been lackluster, to say the least. The obvious weak spots have been corner outfield, first base, and the relievers.
A couple of moves have been made already. Following a strong Spring, OF Cedric Hunter made the club out of camp but was optioned to the IronPigs in exchange for OF David Lough early on. It was a great story for the mostly-career AAA player Hunter, who has benefited from regular at-bats with the IronPigs. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get another shot. If Venable gets hot–now that he’s locked in with us and his opt-out has passed–the Phillies could decide to give him a shot, if for no other reason than experience. If Cam Perkins feels like a candidate–and we really hope he gets his shot at some point–let me point out that he’s not been in the lineup every night, and hasn’t played the field every night. If they’re getting ready to call him, he should be playing every day to make sure he’s ready and to give him reps as he’ll likely platoon at first with the big club, if called. One move that won’t be made yet is Nick Williams. The top-3 prospect needs to play every day (he has, for the most part) and demonstrate consistency both in the outfield as well as at the plate. My observation is that he’s still developing in those areas and unless and until the Phillies are ready to play him every day in Philadelphia and never send him back, he needs to be here playing. The next move that should be made is with Cody Asche. He posted on Instagram yesterday, video of himself taking swings in the cage. I’m expecting news of a rehab assignment soon–I’m guessing Clearwater first, then either Reading or Allentown depending on which team is home at the appropriate time. Once actvated for the Phillies, that would allow for the DFA of INF/OF Emmanuel Burriss, who currently fills that role and hasn’t been impressing anyone in either place.
The Phillies have already made a couple moves in the bull-pen. They took Andrew Bailey and Colton Murray from us, roughly in exchange for Luis Garcia and James Russell–as Daniel Stumpf serves his suspension. I’d expect more churning as we go along, but nobody currently on the IronPigs is forcing things just yet. The Chief, veteran Edward Mujica, has been pretty solid as our closer, but has had some hiccups along the way. Lefty LaFromboise, the veteran Infante (now demoted to Reading), and the aforementioned Russell have been inconsistent at best. The next move might come from the youngsters: Edubray Ramos, who just joined the ‘Pigs, has done well so far. Lefty Hoby Milner now with the Fightins has been lights-out with his new delivery, and speedballer Jimmy Cordero, now on the DL, was predicted to be the Phillies closer by year-end. Some guys will get healthy, too. Michael Mariot (see below), lefty Mario Hollands (rehabbing with Clearwater), Frank Herrmann, and Yoervis Medina all lurk in the wings.
Finally, the first-base platoon. Ryan Howard isn’t going anywhere, for a variety of reasons, for now. The planned platoon with Darin Ruf hasn’t worked out quite as expected. Ruf in left field is a big fielding risk that a pitching-centric team needn’t endure. The call of late is for Tommy Joseph to get the call for the first-base platoon.
Here’s the thing, though. The sample is still fairly small, and he hasn’t played every day just yet. If they really want to platoon him–effectively burning a roster spot for him to play part-time versus leftys–they’re going to need to get him ready to play first-base. He should be in the lineup every day, and first base more than half the time (which costs us Brock Stassi, but I digress) and pinch-hitting when not playing. I know he’s worked his butt off, but I still feel like he’s a little shaky defensively at first.
Those are the things to get him ready, and believe me, nothing from the story/personal side would make me happier than to see our “ToJo” in the bigs. Goodness knows he’s worked for it–and that we’re happy for his current success. But I really think they need to make sure he’s ready for that role, and make sure they’re ready to keep him up there before they make that move. If there’s an injury, that could be an opportunity to try things out, but if not, then you risk losing Ruf to waivers. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but he’s a guy who can play and hit the ball hard from the right. He’s at least RH depth for this season if nothing else.
I know Brundage is going to love giving that message to Tommy when his day comes–but it’s not yet. Same, to a lesser degree for Cam Perkins. But I think they need to be smart about this, too. And there’s nothing wrong with letting the IronPigs win for a while, either. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking the call could come June 1, or thereabouts. Another possibility, which I wrote on Twitter the other day, is 5/23. The ‘Pigs will be finishing their next home stand, and the Phillies will be headed off to Detroit where they’ll have the DH and an opportunity to get Tommy into the lineup. So the day Brundy calls him in could–COULD–be Saturday 5/21 after the game, or Sunday 5/22.
Road swing continues.
The IronPigs left Moosic yesterday en route to Ohio having split with the RailRiders in their two games there–thanks to homers by Tommy and Nina and a big double by Nicky. Buchanan wasn’t tremendous yesterday, but did enough, and didn’t panic when errors threatened to cost him a blow-out loss. The IronRail now stands at 3-4 if my calculations are correct. (8 needed to win)
The Ohio road trip starts with four in Columbus against the IL-leading Clippers. The Indians-affiliate has the best record in the league, but has lost two-straight headed in. Jake Thompson takes the hill tonight coming off his best start of the year, last outing. The rest of the rotation should flow forth with Appel Tuesday, Asher Wednesday, and Eflin Thursday morning. That’s a tough set for the Clippers, before the ‘Pigs head up the pike to Toledo for three, with the last-place Mud Hens.
The ‘Pigs return on Monday, May 16 for Columbus again.
Some roster stuff.
With the team on the road, it’s likely their roster will be static, barring problems. Here in Pennsylvania, relief pitcher Michael Mariot (see above) has joined the Reading squad on rehab. Starter Mark Leiter (Jr) has also joined the team, as Twitter favorite Matt Hockenberry (@HocktimusPrime) returns to Clearwater after spending the weekend in Reading. He did nothing to deserve the return-trip, as I thought he looked decent with two clean innings Saturday night when we were down there for a double-header. He’ll be back. There had been some mention of Leiter working out of the pen this season, so we’ll see if that comes to fruition, or perhaps they move Vasquez? Stay tuned.
Lefty Mario Hollands (see above), on the MLB 60-day DL to start the season, will begin rehab with Clearwater shortly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him join the ‘Pigs in a similar capacity when they return to town. As a pitcher, I believe he can be on “rehab” for up to 30 days. They’ll need a 40-man spot when they do reactivate him.
Tonight, tonight, tonight
Headed back down to Baseballtown to see the home-debut of RHP John Richy, as the B-Mets come to town. Richy came over in the Chase Utley trade, along with Darnell Sweeney.
See you at the park,