PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies finally reached the end of the line with Michael Saunders and Jeanmar Gomez.
They announced Tuesday that they had designated the struggling veterans for assignment. If the Phillies cannot trade them within seven days they will be released. Outfielder Cameron Perkins and left-hander Hoby Milner had their contracts selected from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to fill out the 25-man roster.
"It definitely didn't work out the way that we hoped it would, or the way Michael hoped it would," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said before Tuesday's game against the Cardinals.
The Phillies signed Saunders in January on a one-year, $9 million contract. They hoped he would stabilize a lineup that ranked last in baseball in scoring in 2016. But Saunders never hit. He batted .205 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and a .617 OPS and ranked 159th out of 165 qualified batters in OPS. He has hit just .192 with 14 home runs, 35 RBIs and a .628 OPS in 428 plate appearances since the 2016 All-Star break.
Klentak said just last week that Saunders had a place on the team because he could get hot and carry the Phillies for a month or two, and because of his leadership in the clubhouse.
"One of the things as management that we have to do is to always keep an open mind," Klentak said. "You can't lock yourself in and become too rigid in your decision-making. You have to be willing to make adjustments when the time is right."
Perkins got the call over Triple-A outfielders Nick Williams (the Phils' No. 4-rated prospect) and Dylan Cozens (No. 9) because Perkins is a more polished product. One scout recently said that Williams and Cozens could use more seasoning in Triple-A. Roman Quinn (No. 6) wasn't an option since he's on the disabled list with an injured left elbow.
Perkins hit .298 with six home runs, 21 RBIs and an .863 OPS in 241 plate appearances with the IronPigs. He walked 27 times and struck out 35 times. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he will play Perkins as much as possible.
"He's a good fit for where we are right now," Klentak said. "By no means is the fact that he's being promoted today a reflection of our opinion of any of the other guys that are still in Triple-A, specifically the guys on the roster. We still have very high hopes for their futures."
Gomez opened the season as the Phillies' closer, but he made just two appearances in that role before losing the job. He has a 9.64 ERA since Aug. 14, which is the highest ERA for the 191 relievers with 30 or more innings pitched in that stretch.
Klentak downplayed the possibility that these moves send a message to the rest of the Phillies, who have the worst record in baseball.
"Players are pretty smart," Klentak said. "Especially veteran players who have been around the league for a long time. They know the way this works. If you perform well, you typically have a chance to play. And if you struggle, anything can happen. This is not a threat. This is the reality in baseball.
"I do think bringing up young players can have a positive effect on teams sometimes. Not to put all the pressure on the two guys we just called up. But injecting some new life into a team could be helpful. But we'll see."
Saunders and Gomez figure to be the first of a handful of veterans removed from the roster in the coming weeks. It is a good bet that Howie Kendrick and Pat Neshek will be traded before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"We're certainly open-minded to other promotions or other changes as the season goes on," Klentak said. "But they have to be done for the right reasons. If we make trades at the Trade Deadline, that would free up opportunities at the Major League level. Injuries can do the same thing and so can lack of performance. We're open-minded to other callups. These will not be the last two Minor Leaguers called up this season."
The Phillies also placed right-hander Jerad Eickhoff on the 10-day disabled list with a strained upper back. They recalled Brock Stassi to take his place on the roster, but another move will be made prior to Eickhoff's turn in the rotation this weekend in Arizona. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. is a possibility.