Suddenly, the Phillies are enduring their share of injuries, which also means some guys are getting to audition. Monday, reliever Victor Arano, who had allowed just one run on five hits in 10 relief appearances, became the third Phillies player in four days to land on the disabled list. Arano has a strained rotator cuff. His trip to the DL opened a roster spot for Zach Eflin to make his first start of the season tonight against the Marlins in Miami. Eflin is replacing Ben Lively in the rotation. The Phillies also called up lefthander Zac Curtis to replace Jake Thompson in the bullpen. Thompson had been optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley immediately after his extended relief outing Sunday.
Lively went to the DL on Friday after experiencing back soreness in his start Thursday against Arizona. Shortstop J.P. Crawford landed on the DL on Sunday with an elbow injury, and that has opened the door for fellow rookie Scott Kingery to get regular time at shortstop. Kingery, of course, was getting regular playing time even when Crawford was healthy.
The real auditions here are for Eflin and Curtis. Lively and Vince Velasquez have opened the door for someone to take their spots in the starting rotation, and Eflin is getting the first chance to be that guy. The 24-year-old righthander is no stranger to the big leagues. He made 11 starts in each of the previous two seasons with the Phillies and went 4-10 with a 5.85 ERA. He has had some shining moments. As a rookie, he had a seven-game stretch during which he went 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA. Last season, he had a 2.81 ERA after five starts. In his other 10 big-league starts, however, Eflin is 1-8 with an 11.63 ERA and has allowed 82 hits and walked 20 in 48 innings. Eflin, 25, was 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA in four starts with Lehigh Valley this season.
Curtis, meanwhile, will get a chance to prove he can be an effective lefty out of the 'pen. Adam Morgan is the only other lefty on the Phillies pitching staff. Lefthanded hitters were 2 for 12 against him this season at Lehigh Valley and 15 for 78 (.192) last season when he pitched in triple A and the majors.
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It might not have made a difference in the outcome Monday, but Cesar Hernandez's seventh-inning base-running blunder sapped the Phillies of momentum. With the bases loaded and one out, Carlos Santana hit a sinking line drive that was caught by Brian Anderson in right field. Anderson, however, had to go to the ground to make the catch and the speedy Hernandez should have scored easily from third base. There is never any reason for a runner on third to do anything but hold the bag on a ball to the outfield because if it drops you still score easily.
"I feel that I had a big lead and then that secondary lead was too big, so by the time I tried to head back, I thought it was too late," Hernandez said through a team interpreter. "But I knew I should have done better."
His manager knew, too. Said Gabe Kapler: "It's a play that Cesar can read better — there's no question about it. Cesar knows it."
The two-hole has become the most prized position in a 21st-century batting order, and for 25 of the first 27 games, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler used Carlos Santana there. But with the first baseman struggling to get untracked, Kapler made a change for Monday's game against Miami. Rhys Hoskins was moved into the two-hole, and Santana was dropped to fifth. At least for the first night, it was an unsuccessful push of the button as the two men went a combined 0 for 8.
Manager Gabe Kapler had a good feeling before Monday's game, and he made no secret that it was inspired by the fact that Jake Arrieta was going to the mound for the Phillies. Our Scott Lauber, who is on the road trip with the Phils, explained why those pregame positive vibes did not pan out for the manager or his team.
Tonight: Zach Eflin makes his season debut vs. Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola goes his fourth win vs. Fish, 7:10 p.m.
Thursday: Off day
Friday: Nick Pivetta vs. his former team, Washington, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Start of a four-game series vs. San Francisco, 7:05 p.m.
The Phillies slipped to 2-2 against the Marlins with Monday night's loss, and prized free-agent addition Jake Arrieta has been the starter in both losses. Arrieta was roughed up for six runs on eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings and has a 9.39 ERA against Miami this season. Before this season, Arrieta was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins.
How about Kingery to second & Hernandez to short?
Answer: It is not a horrible suggestion because I watched Scott Kingery play second base three times last year in the minor leagues and left with the impression that he was a future Gold Glove winner. Hernandez has played 21 career big-league games at shortstop and even made 13 starts. He was primarily a shortstop when his professional career started in 2007, but the Phillies obviously thought he was better suited for second base, and they are correct. Before the end of last season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, Kingery had not played shortstop since his high school days in Arizona, but he did get considerable time there during spring training. Shortstop is not the ideal position for either Hernandez or Kingery. For now, the Phillies are better off seeing how Kingery handles the job in J.P. Crawford's absence.