Whitehall-Coplay Press

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Jose Pirela was recently acquired from San Diego and will likely either be kept on the Phillies 40-man roster or released. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell Jose Pirela was recently acquired from San Diego and will likely either be kept on the Phillies 40-man roster or released. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell
PRESS PHOTOS BY CHERYL PURSELL/LVIRONPIGSJD Hammer has struggled since being sent back to the IronPigs in July. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell PRESS PHOTOS BY CHERYL PURSELL/LVIRONPIGSJD Hammer has struggled since being sent back to the IronPigs in July. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell

Time nearing for Phils to expand roster

Thursday, August 29, 2019 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Major League teams can expand their rosters to as many as 40 players on Sunday when the calendar flips to September. It’s the last season that teams can go that high.

Starting next season, the roster can expand to just 30 players and there will be a 26-man roster for the regular season instead of the current 25-man roster.

So with the minor league season nearing an end and the rosters expanding, who will be continuing their season in Philadelphia and who starts their offseason?

A look at the current Phillies 40-man roster offers some potential glimpses of who will go from ‘Pigs to the Bigs.

It’s thought that the Phillies are going to jam the clubhouse with players for the final month of the season, hoping to find some combination of players who can help as they pursue a wild card. Two areas that teams always looks for help in are the bullpen and catcher.

As for arms to bring to Philly, look for Austin Davis, Enyel De Los Santos, Jerad Eickhoff, Edgar Garcia and Cole Irvin to all join the Phillies.

Two questionable recalls among the pitchers would have to be reliever J.D. Hammer and Nick Pivetta, who was just optioned back to Lehigh Valley.

Hammer has been struggling since being optioned back to Lehigh Valley on July 23. In 14 relief appearances since his return, Hammer has a 16.19 ERA and appears to simply be lost mentally. That’s not the type of pitcher you want to promote in September and he could just be shut down after the minor league season.

The other pitcher on the bubble is Nick Pivetta. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was as harsh as he has ever been on a player when Pivetta was optioned out over the weekend, saying that the right-hander had to “look in the mirror” and suggesting that Pivetta’s heart simply wasn’t in the game.

The Phillies could decide that a second minor league stint this season is good enough to get him straightened out or just let him watch from home for the final month.

Catching will be interesting. It’s assumed that Deivy Grullon will get his first call-up to the majors in September, but the signing of Nick Hundley called that into question.

The Phillies could want a veteran catcher with good defensive skills for their wild card push and go with Hundley or they could decide that they want to see Grullon at the major league level and go with him. One long shot scenario would be to release current backup Andrew Knapp and bring both Hundley and Grullon to the majors.

Neither Maikel Franco nor Nick Williams were given guarantees that they would be recalled in September when they were optioned down to Lehigh Valley. Williams has put on quite an offensive show with the IronPigs and has been a good soldier in the clubhouse, which will likely translate to being recalled for September.

Franco went up when the Phillies put Bryce Harper on paternity leave and it’s probable that he will also be back in Philadelphia next month.

Another question mark is Jose Pirela, who the Phillies have on the 40-man roster after acquiring him from San Diego.

Pirela is a career .258 major league hitter and has hit 2-9-.292/.351/.427 with the IronPigs in 25 games. He’s downright bad defensively, but could help as a bat off the bench. If he’s not brought up, he’ll likely be released to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

And then, there’s the elephant in the room. Do the Phillies recall top pitching prospect Spencer Howard from Double-A Reading? Believe it or not, the biggest reason that they may not add him is the ball.

Double-A uses the “normal” baseball, while Triple-A and the majors use the newer baseball with less pronounced stitching and a slightly slicker surface. A lot of pitchers have struggled when making the change and the Phillies might not want to risk Howard struggling in his first intro to the majors.

PEOPLE IN THE SEATS... Lehigh Valley averaged 8,605 fans per game this season, which currently ranks second in the IL behind Columbus (8,684). Indianapolis has five home games left and would need to average just over 9,400 per game to move up from third in per game attendance.

JONES TO PHILLY?... September usually means that the Phillies bring a couple of their minor league managers to Philadelphia to help as coaches. Last year, IronPigs manager Gary Jones wasn’t brought up for the final month, which was slightly curious since he has major league coaching experience with the Cubs. As of Sunday, Jones had not been told whether or not he would join the Phillies coaching staff in September.