Jack Morris takes a swipe at the Strasburg shutdown

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Jack Morris was asked about the exploits of aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia. And he used the opportunity to take a swipe at the Nationals:

“I think everybody in the Washington Nationals’ front office should pay attention that guys should go deep into games … when I see CC complete a game two days after Justin did, and I see guys doing it, it reminds me that there’s still hope because — I can say this, Phyllis, and you can’t tell me I can’t say this ‑‑ I believe the pitch count is overrated. I think the whole thing will come to fruition, the cycle, the experiment, and they will see that there is value in starting pitching to go deep in the games, to help save the bullpen.”

At the outset I gotta say that Jack Morris going after the Strasburg shutdown is the very definition of mixed feelings for me. Can’t we just say they’re both wrong and be done with it? Short of that, can we ask Morris what it was like to pitch year-in-year-out with his innings eating peers Dave Rozema and Mark Fydrich?

OK, that’s too simple. How about this: pointing to the accomplishments of perhaps the two most reliable workhorses in baseball and saying “look, everyone should do that” is silly. There have always been amazing pitchers who can do that sort of thing — Morris was one of them, by the way — but that doesn’t mean everyone can or should.

It also doesn’t mean, by the way, that shutting down Strasburg early is somehow justified either. Because even if you advocated keeping him going like I did, I don’t think anyone suggested that he should do things like throw 132 pitches like Justin Verlander or go on three days rest all the damn time like CC Sabathia did back in 2008.  You can extend his season and have him available without him being used like tried-and-true beasts such as Verlander and Sabathia.

How about this: some pitchers can do that kind of thing. Some pitchers can’t. All pitchers should be watched and monitored by their teams so as to maximize their effectiveness. For some that means low pitch or innings counts. For others it doesn’t. All pitchers should be used in such a way so as to balance concerns about their health and concerns about the team winning.

But sure, if you want to reduce it all to “pitching counts are an atrocity” or “no one should throw more than XXX innings or pitches,” go ahead and live in your simple little world.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.