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Here are the latest Phillies rumors:
Hall of Fame pitcher and former US Senator Jim Bunning has passed away, the Phillies have announced. He was 85 and had suffered a stroke last fall.
Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati, and attended a Cincinnati high school and Xavier University. He spent several years in the Tigers’ minor-league system before debuting in the big leagues with Detroit in 1955. He received five All-Star berths as a member of the Tigers before heading to Philadelphia in 1964. There, he continued to rate as one of the game’s best starting pitchers, finishing second in NL Cy Young balloting in 1967 while leading the league in both innings pitched (302 1/3) and strikeouts (253).
Bunning made brief stops with the Pirates and Dodgers before finishing his career with two seasons in Philadelphia. He ended up with 224 wins, 2,855 strikeouts (second to Walter Johnson on the all-time list at the time of his retirement), a no-hitter, and a perfect game. As a pitcher, Bunning was known for his sidearm delivery and his reliability (he threw 200 or more innings in 11 straight seasons). He was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
Bunning then embarked on a career in politics, serving in local and state roles in Kentucky before being elected to the US House of Representatives as a Republican in 1986. He won a Senate seat in 1998 and served two terms, leaving the body after announcing he would not run for reelection in 2010. He lived in his native Southgate at the time of his passing.
Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com argues that it’s time for the Phillies to bring Roman Quinn back to the Majors and see if he can produce in a semi-regular role. Other well-regarded prospects in the organization are currently blocked by younger players (e.g. second baseman Scott Kingery and first baseman Rhys Hoskins), but Lawrence opines that reducing the playing time of Michael Saunders and even giving the struggling Odubel Herrera a day off each week would allow the Phils to get Quinn into the lineup a four times per week or so in an effort to invigorate an unproductive lineup. The 24-year-old Quinn hasn’t exactly set Triple-A on fire (.245/.346/.375), but he’s heated up quite nicely after a slow start to his season. And with the Phillies having lost 20 of their past 24 games (including five straight and nine of their last 10), the team is clearly in need of a shakeup. The return of Howie Kendrick will only further muddle the outfield mix, however, and the Phils announced last night that he’s embarking on a rehab assignment.
The Phillies have released southpaw Mario Hollands, per Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (via Twitter). Once a promising young reliever, Hollands seemingly never fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. The 28-year-old has produced middling results in the upper minors over the past two seasons since sitting out all of 2015. This year, he has allowed a dozen walks in his 13 frames at Double-A.
Also hitting the open market is former Phillies righty Dalier Hinojosa, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 31-year-old worked to a 1.51 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 through 35 2/3 MLB frames in 2015-16, but clearly hadn’t convinced teams that was sustainable. Hinojosa hasn’t yet pitched this year due to a shoulder injury.
Phillies prospect Jesmuel Valentin may need shoulder surgery that could end his season, Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice reports on Twitter. The 23-year-old second baseman, who was taken 51st overall in the 2012 draft, came to the Philadelphia organization as part of the 2014 trade that sent veteran righty Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers. Valentin, who occupies a 40-man spot, had struggled to a .229/.282/.292 batting line this year but has shown a quality approach in the past and slashed .269/.341/.395 with nine home runs last year in the upper minors.
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez continued a disappointing season with another rough outing Saturday, and he suggested afterward that he wouldn’t resist a move to the bullpen. Asked if he feared losing his rotation spot, the hard-throwing Velasquez said (via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com): “Is it a fear? No, it’s not a fear. If it’s a way to help the team in the bullpen, then so be it. But do I think about that going out there? No.” There’s no indication that Velasquez will lose his starting role, though his struggles have nonetheless been alarming. After a highly promising 2016, his first in Philly, the 24-year-old has pitched to a bloated ERA (5.98) over 43 2/3 innings and seen his strikeout and walk rates trend in the wrong direction. Velasquez attributes his issues to “a lack of commitment, a lack of concentration, just a lack of everything” and believes he’s putting too much pressure on himself.
The Phillies are willing to listen to trade offers for righty Jeremy Hellickson. That’s hardly a surprise, since Hellickson is a short-term asset pitching for a 13-19 team that’s trying to rebuild, but it was also recently reported that the Phillies could also consider extending Hellickson, who accepted their qualifying offer last winter. Hellickson has posted a 3.49 ERA, 4.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 38 2/3 innings thus far in his second season in Philadelphia.
Speaking of the Phillies, former GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has won praise from current team execs for his series of trades before being dismissed following the 2015 season. Those trades include an impressive haul for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman that included Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams; the trade of Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals, which brought back Nick Pivetta, a starter who made his big-league debut this year; the trade of Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, which brought back Zach Eflin, who’s pitched well for the Phillies this season; and the deal of Marlon Byrd to the Reds, which returned Ben Lively, who’s emerging as a good depth rotation option. Amaro is currently the Red Sox’ first base coach.