Ned Yost took his time announcing that Jonathan Broxton and not Greg Holland would replace the injured Joakim Soria as closer, but the Royals manager wasted no time making it clear that he’s sticking with Broxton in the ninth-inning role despite an ugly blown save Wednesday.
Broxton walked two batters, hit two more, and allowed two runs to turn a 4-3 lead into a 5-4 loss against the A’s, but Yost was quick to point out that the big right-hander’s raw stuff was still plenty impressive.
“He just lost command of his fastball,” Yost told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “But he’s a two-time All-Star and he has really rebounded nicely from this arm surgery. He’s got his velocity back up to 97, 98, with an 86-, 87-mph slider, which is a killer, hard slider.”
Sure enough, Pitch-F/X data shows that Broxton has averaged 95.2 miles per hour with fastball and 87.8 mph with his slider, up from 94.0 mph and 86.4 mph last season before undergoing elbow surgery. It remains to be seen if Broxton can reestablish himself as a dominant reliever, but velocity wise he’s back.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.