By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> If a contending team, most likely in the American League, needs a power hitter for a month or so, Pete Mackanin has one who has 10 RBIs in his last seven games, including a grand slam Friday in the Phillies' 10-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Ryan Howard, anybody?
“If I were a playoff team, I would take notice of what he did tonight,” the Phillies' manager said. “It is something he is capable of doing, either as a DH or a pinch-hitter.”
Howard was 3-for-5 Friday with five RBIs, including a fifth-inning grand slam, his franchise-record 14th. Since June 22, he is hitting .320.
Any team interested in Howard would need to make a waiver deal, then have him on the roster before September to have him eligible for the playoffs. He is due the remainder of the $25 million he is owed this season and $10 million as a buyout for 2017.
Does he think about the possibility that he could interest a contender?
“Really and truthfully, I am just trying to take it as it comes,” Howard said. “I haven't put too much thought into anything. Just trying to keep it simple.”
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Last seen leaving a game in Los Angeles and complaining of back pain, Jeremy Hellickson is likely to make his next scheduled Phillies start.
“Hellickson seems to be fine,” Pete Mackanin said. “We are still going to wait, see how he feels in a couple days to see if he is going to make his next start. But at this point right now I feel like he is going to make that start.”
Hellickson grabbed his back after making a fifth-inning pitch in the Phillies' 6-2 victory over the Dodgers Wednesday, then was removed from the game. To that point, the right-hander had allowed three hits and one earned run. Afterward, Mackanin admitted in print to being worried. By Friday, he was relieved.
The Phillies have not named a starter for Sunday. They have Monday off. That would suggest a Tuesday return for Hellickson against the visiting Dodgers.
“As I said, he told me he wanted to go back out,” Mackanin said. “But I didn't want to send him out. I didn't want another starter going down for just one more inning.”
By then, the Phillies' rotation was already challenged, with Aaron Nola (elbow) on the disabled list and Zach Eflin joining him with trouble in both knees. Eflin had an MRI on his knees Friday, according to Mackanin. The Phillies did not reveal the results.
If Eflin has pitched his last game for the Phils this season, he will have gone 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA. Among his 11 starts were two nine-inning efforts in which he did not walk a hitter. For that, Mackanin believes the right-hander had shown the Phillies enough in his rookie season.
“I feel like that,” the manager said. “He's had enough good starts where he's been impressive at times. And he's had chronic knee issues as it is. If they decide to take care of it now, I think that may be a good idea. But I'll leave that up to the medical people. Bring him back 100 percent next year. We'll see what they say.”
A likely candidate to pitch Sunday against Colorado is Adam Morgan, who would need to be recalled form Lehigh Valley. The left-hander is 6-1 with the IronPigs and 1-7 with the Phils in a perplexing season. However, Mackanin denied that decision had been made.
Jerad Eickhoff (7-12, 3.78 ERA) will face Colorado left-hander Tyler Anderson (4-3, 3.04) Saturday night at 7:05. Right-hander Tyler Chatwood (10-7, 3.58) will pitch for the Rockies Sunday at 1:35.
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Simply by signing with the Phillies in 2003 as a free agent, Jim Thome helped inflate the popularity of Citizens Bank Park when it opened in 2004.
Friday, the Phillies made that official when they hammered a Thome plaque onto their centerfield Wall of Fame.
“I don’t think one guy actually comes in and changes things,” Thome said before the Phillies' game against the Colorado Rockies. “I think what happens is, if a guy signs, you see other guys follow. And we were all together as a unit. And even though you don’t see at that moment, say a world championship that season, eventually you’re working towards that.”
Thome played just four seasons with the Phillies, including a 40-game hitch in 2012 at age 41. But he was thrilled to join Phillies legends Mike Schmidt, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton and others on a stage for the pregame Wall of Fame ceremony.
“You are humbled that they would think that highly of you to put you in a great fraternity of Hall of Famers,” Thome said. “They just don’t give people that honor. To be voted by the fans, that’s something special. I know that I didn’t play here long and I know there are so many guys that are going to be in this that are deserving. I just feel so honored that they would think of me to put me in.”
Thome was introduced by Wall of Famer Charlie Manuel.
“Overnight,” Manuel said, “he changed the way people thought about the Philadelphia Phillies.”
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Jake Thompson earned his first major-league win, striking out six in five innings.
“It's awesome,” he said. “It's kind of nice to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully, I will get a little confidence out there on the mound and keep it rolling.”
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When Peter Bourjos rejoined the Phillies Friday after recovering from a shoulder injury, a roster move was necessary. The Phillies chose to return Cody Asche to Lehigh Valley, keeping Jimmy Paredes, who was hitting .200 with three home runs in 49 games.
“Well, we wanted Asche to get at-bats, go down there and figure himself out,” Mackanin said. “He hasn't been the same hitter and we're exhausting every possibility of getting him back on track and we don't want to do it here.”
Asche was hitting .213 with four home runs.
“He wasn't happy, but he was fine with it,” Mackanin said. “He was disappointed. But he handled it well. Professional.”
With that, Mackanin started Bourjos in right, Odubel Herrera in center and Aaron Altherr in left.
“I like the look of the outfield,” Mackanin said. “We’ve got two 'centerfielders' on the corners, Herrera in center. It’s like I have three centerfielders out there. So I like the look of that.”