Although Hellickson Pulls the String with His Changeup, He Sets It Up Here with a Four-Seam Fastball. Photo by B. Mills – USA TODAY Sports.
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Heading into the second month of the campaign, the team playing as one unit with a never-quit attitude has overcome obstacles that would have stopped the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies.
May’s Time Capsule:
When you successfully negotiate one hurdle, the next one is waiting for you even if it’s tomorrow, not today.
Despite a new month, Double D, a poster from another site, has complained about the disappointments so far. And some of his friends there believe Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp have let them down, and they wrote that replacements are a no-brainer because those players are reserves here or regulars for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Well, Double D, so was the outfielder who whacked 12 May homers in 2013. Remember, fans had previously demanded Brown’s promotion too.
In the rotation, Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez will provide four or five good starts each, while Aaron Nola is a wild card health-wise. On the other hand, Hellickson either had a spectacular April – 4-0, 1.80 ERA – or he’s becoming an ace. Any guesses on his May? Meanwhile, Zach Eflin will be an improvement over the injured veteran he replaced, and he’ll cement the bottom slot of the five-man staff.
Double D also questioned why Hector Neris doesn’t pitch the toughest inning. Well, the seventh frame is too early to employ the bullpen stud because an opponent can bring five men to the plate and change the dynamic in the final innings. But while the skipper sees a more difficult eighth at times, he doesn’t want one reliever getting only hard saves and the other having the easier ones. In other words, Neris and Joaquin Benoit will have some of both and succeed when they have their stuff. Yes, the relief corps will have its ups and downs in May, but the results will be much more positive than negative.
WHAT TO EXPECT: 11/23/16: REVISITED
The second slot in the rotation will be Eickhoff in April.
The fifth starter in April will be Eflin.
Appel will have an excellent April at Triple-A.
(All expectations are barring injury, trade and/or any unforeseen events.)
WHAT TO EXPECT: 3/31/17
Gomez will still be the closer on May 1.
On April 5, Eickhoff slotted second behind Hellickson at the front of the rotation.
Both recovery from knee surgery and the Buchholz trade stopped Eflin from making the club for Opening Day.
However, the veteran is on the 60-day disabled list and Eflin is the fifth starter.
Despite an excellent spring, Gomez’s poor outings in early April led to his current status after being on a short leash.
Without his one disastrous appearance, Appel had a 4.30 ERA for his other three opportunities.
Herrera Dives Across Home Plate To Score a Fifth-Inning Run. Photo by Kelvin Kuo – USA TODAY Sports.
While the posters at the other site made remarks about a Wild Card berth and playoff baseball, they didn’t see the next obstacle: a couple defeats. Remember, consecutive losing streaks last year affected them, and the end of May is when it began. In other words, Double D, their records from last April and this one are somewhat similar, but these victories are now showing more production than last summer.
Regarding the offense, the Philadelphia Phillies are scoring more runs and will continue to provide run support for their hurlers. Currently, Cesar Hernandez is developing into a .300 hitter, and Maikel Franco has 11 knocks in his last 31 at-bats for a .355 average with two home runs and 11 RBIs. On the other hand, the left field controversy will be a front-burner issue if Joseph turns things around, Howie Kendrick returns, and Aaron Altherr holds his .300 mark. How will they rank scoring-wise in May? The same as April.
2016: 30th in the MLB and 15th in the NL.
2017: 15th in the MLB and 8th in the NL.
While the competition to open this season is stronger than last April, other organizations are aware of the Phillies’ youthful intensity and know they’re not an easy win. In other words, those teams realize the red pinstripes are giving it 100 percent, although they are having growing pains. And when they string some victories together, Double D, the swagger we saw during the last homestand will return after this seven-game road trip.
To elaborate, hitters won’t catch up with Eflin in May, and he’ll excel if he can stay consistent. In the pen, apparently, Neris and Benoit will continue competing for save appearances. Rolaids for Mackanin?