Phillies move Ethan Martin to bullpen, Tyler Cloyd to rotation

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Chris Branch of the News Journal reports that the Phillies have decided to move Ethan Martin to the bullpen and Tyler Cloyd to the rotation. Martin, acquired from the Dodgers last year in the Shane Victorino trade, had made seven starts since making his Major League debut against the Braves on August 2, posting a 6.90 ERA in 30 innings of work.

While Martin flashed an impressive mid-90’s fastball and a decent curve, he quickly lost steam. In his first trip through the opposing lineup, Martin held the opposition to a .618 OPS. The second time through, he allowed a .961 OPS, and his third time through, 1.488. His fastball averaged 95 MPH in the first inning but dropped below 93 MPH by the fifth inning, according to Brooks Baseball. Scouts profiled him as a future reliever and it seems like the Phillies are starting to see that, though pitching coach Rich Dubee says the team wants to “protect him”.

More from Dubee, via CSN Philly’s John Finger:

“I’m not afraid to put him in the eighth inning right now,” Dubee said. “Again, this is all trial and error. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. His stuff has played phenomenally well the first time through a lineup.

“And again, I don’t know if it’s because of fatigue, I don’t know if it’s because he burns up too much energy, but his stuff shortens up the second and third time through. I do think this guy is a gem. He will play some big role on a pitching staff. It will be a nice little change to take a different look at him.”

Cloyd was with Triple-A Lehigh Valley between June 17 and August 14, then made one start with the Phillies on the 20th, and a five-inning extra-inning relief appearance on the 24th against the Diamondbacks. He went back to Lehigh Valley on the 30th for a six-inning start and hasn’t pitched since. Martin was scheduled to start against the Padres on September 10, so that will likely be Cloyd’s next appearance.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.