Patience. That’s one thing that Cam Perkins definitely has. The 26-year old outfield prospect has done everything the Phillies have asked of him and more. After being signed as a third baseman, they wanted him to move to the outfield. Not only did he make himself a solid defensive player at one outfield position, he can play all three outfield positions well. And when Perkins looked at the lineup earlier this season and saw both IronPigs catchers, Jorge Alfaro and Logan Moore, in the lineup as a catcher and a designated hitter, he went to manager Dusty Wathan with an idea.
“I just figured they might need someone to work as a bullpen catcher and warm some guys up, so I volunteered,” explained Perkins. “I did some catching in high school and I figured, ‘why not?’ I told Dusty that if they needed someone to go behind the plate in a game in an emergency, I’d be up for that, too.”
So in Perkins, you have a guy who can play all three outfield positions, has also played at first base on occasion, could be an emergency catcher, and doesn’t consider himself to be too good to spend some time warming up pitchers in the bullpen. And oh yeah, he hits. In 63 games with Lehigh Valley, Perkins is hitting .298 and he hit his sixth home run of the season last night in the ‘Pigs 5-0 win in Pawtucket. In six minor league seasons, covering 583 games, Perkins is a career .283 hitter with a .336 on-base percentage. At the Triple-A level, Perkins has played 254 games with a slash line of 16-85-.271/.324/.397 with Lehigh Valley.
The Phillies drafted Perkins in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft, but he was originally drafted three years earlier by the Mariners in the 43rd round of the 2009 Draft. Perkins didn’t sign with Seattle and wound up with the Phillies.
“Cam is a baseball player,” said Wathan earlier this season. “He wants to help the club, whether it’s defensively, or dropping a bunt, or warming up relievers. He loves the game and is the consummate teammate.”
Hoby Milner on the other hand, thought he might be in the majors this season, but it looked like it would likely be with the Cleveland Indians. The Phillies didn’t protect Milner in the Rule 5 Draft last December and Cleveland swept him up for their roster. Fortunately for the Phillies, the Indians didn’t see themselves being able to keep Milner on the 25-man roster all season, as the rules stipulate they would have to, so he was offered back to the Phillies late in spring training. The Phillies welcomed him back, but without getting a good look at him, decided it was in everybody’s best interest for him to open the season with Lehigh Valley.
Milner was taken a round after Perkins in 2012, and like Perkins had previously been drafted. Ironically, he was also drafted a round after Perkins in the 2009 Draft by the Washington Nationals, but also didn’t sign, figuring that he could do better.
In 22 games with Lehigh Valley this season, Milner recorded a 2.60 ERA, with 27 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings of work. Milner was never a guy that threw very hard, so to compensate for that, he worked with a new arm angle following the 2015 season, and developed near full sidearm mechanics that gave him some deception. The result was a 2.20 ERA in 38 games at Double-A Reading in 2016 and a 4.50 ERA in an 11-game stint with Lehigh Valley. Milner admitted that pitching in spring games for Cleveland, knowing that he was fighting for a roster spot, wound up giving him confidence.
“I think Hoby could pitch in the majors, whenever they want him up there,” Wathan admitted last month. “He’s taken some big steps from being the guy that he was a couple years ago and he has the pitches and the mechanics he needs, and now has the confidence and poise that it takes.”
With a full 40-man roster, the Phillies had to give some bad news to two veteran players. Outfielder Michael Saunders and former closer Jeanmar Gomez were designated for assignment and removed from the 40-man roster.
Saunders signed a one-year, $9-million deal during the offseason and was figured on to be a leader and role model for the young players on the Phillies roster. The 30-year old was on the American League All-Star Team for the first time in his career last season thanks to a strong first half that saw him hit 16 home runs, drive in 42 runs and post a .298 average with a .372 OBP prior to the all-star break last season. After that, he hit just 8-15-.178/.282/.357 for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 61 games with the Phillies, Saunders hit just .205 with six home runs.
Gomez took over the Phillies closer role early last season and saved 37 games for them. Like Saunders, Gomez had a late season swoon that saw him post a 19.13 ERA in 12 September games last season, raising his ERA from 2.97 at the end of August to 4.85 by the end of the season. He came into this season with a tentative hold on the closer’s job, but was removed from that spot early this season. Through 18 relief appearances this season, Gomez had a 7.25 ERA with just two saves.
The Phillies now have 10 days to trade, release or assign both Saunders and Gomez.