Girardi gives Harper night off in NY opener

September 5th, 2020

The Phillies want Bryce Harper to be swinging a hot bat the final few weeks of the season, which is why manager Joe Girardi did not start him on Friday night against the Mets at Citi Field in New York.

Harper entered the night batting .143 with one double, two RBIs and a .512 OPS in his last 10 games. He batted .343 with three doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 19 RBIs and a 1.192 OPS in his first 22. The Phillies are playing 27 games in 24 days to finish the year, so Friday seemed as good a time as any to give him his second game off this season.

“It’s not something that he asked for,” Girardi said on Friday prior to the Phillies' 5-3 win. “He’s probably not even happy with me. But I just felt like he could use a day. He's been grinding. He pushes. He plays so hard.

“I thought about giving him [Thursday] off, and I changed my mind. We talked. And he still helped us win that game. I mean, that's the hardest part. There's other things that he does -- like the defensive play, the walk that he had in the first inning, he scores a run. I just think he's a little off offensively, which I think happens to all hitters. It's a little bit disconnected. And we got to get him back.”

The decision paid off. Phil Gosselin started in right field for the first time in his career, as well as for just the second time this season against a right-hander, compared with 14 starts against lefties. Gosselin ripped a two-out double to left field against Mets right-hander Jared Hughes in the seventh inning and scored the go-ahead run when Roman Quinn singled up the middle.

In the past, Girardi might have pinch-hit for Gosselin in that spot, but he hung with him.

“We thought he was due to hit a bullet,” Girardi said. “‘Barrels’ was due to find the barrel, and he did.”

Girardi has had a deft touch this week. On Wednesday he rested the red-hot Rhys Hoskins against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Neil Walker started at first base, and came up with the game-winning hit in the victory over Washington.

Velasquez to take important innings

Right-hander Vince Velasquez will have the opportunity to pitch in at least a few important games in the coming weeks.

The Phillies play five seven-inning doubleheaders in 15 days, beginning on Tuesday against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez pitched on Thursday at the team’s alternate training site in Allentown, Pa., putting him in line to pitch one of those games.

“He’ll be right for 90 pitches,” Girardi said.

Because two of the remaining four doubleheaders are Sept. 13 against the Marlins in Miami and Sept. 18 against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y., Velasquez can remain on a starter’s schedule and pitch those days, too. In that sense, the grueling schedule works out well for the Phillies, who do not want to burn through their bullpen as they play 19 games in that 15-day stretch.

It gives Velasquez a unique opportunity, too. He is not in the rotation anymore, but he can show something if he pitches well. Every game matters as the Phillies chase their first trip to the postseason since 2011.

“I’m thoroughly excited,” Velasquez said, “knowing that we’re in a race and we’re right behind the Braves and we’re fighting for that spot. It’s crunch time right now, so any opportunity I possibly can encounter, I’m definitely going to take advantage of.”

The other two doubleheaders are Sept. 11 in Miami and Sept. 22 in Washington. The Phillies could make one or maybe both of them bullpen games, or they could promote a starter in Allentown already on the 40-man roster as the 29th man, possibly left-hander Cole Irvin or right-hander Mauricio Llovera.

“There’s a lot of different things we can do,” Girardi said.

Extra bases

• Left-hander Adam Morgan, on the 10-day injured list with a fatigued left shoulder, is eligible to be activated as early as Wednesday. “That’s our hope, that we’ll have him back in 10 days,” Girardi said.

• Scott Kingery is on the IL with lower back spasms, and he also is eligible to be activated as early as Wednesday. “He’s doing well, too,” Girardi said. “He had a really good day yesterday. I think we've talked about him swinging the bat in a day or two. So our hope is that if it's more than 10 days, it's not that much more than 10 days. Backs are a little bit tricky. So we'll have to wait and see, but all the news on him has been good news.”