Phillies rookie Yacksel Rios worried about family in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

Marlins Phillies Baseball
Phillies rookie pitcher Yacksel Rios said his family is safe despite being stuck in the carnage of Hurricane Maria.

ATLANTA — Yacksel Rios stepped onto the field at SunTrust Park with two of his Phillies teammates for some afternoon laps Friday around the warning track. The 24-year-old rookie achieved a dream last month when the Phillies promoted him to the majors. He is trying to establish himself as a reliever in the team’s future bullpen.

But these days it’s hard for him to think about anything except Puerto Rico, his home.

The island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. There is no power. There could be a shortage of food and other essential supplies. The extent of the damage is not known because communication is compromised.

Rios, at least, knows his family is safe. He received a message Thursday from his older brother. They were fine, he said. But there was damage and a curfew. The roads are blocked.

“I’ve been thinking all the time,” Rios said Friday. “At least I had contact with my older brother. Just, I’m worried if they’re eating or not. I know they have some supplies there. But I don’t know for how long it will last them. They say power will be gone for months. I feel desperate. I can’t talk with them. I want to send things. If they need something, I want to send something. But they don’t respond.”

Rios said he donated to an online fund-raiser started by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Kike Hernandez. He intends to contribute more. Rios has spent his last few off-seasons in the Delaware Valley, but all of his family is in Puerto Rico. He said he planned to fly there immediately after the season to see his grandmother.

“She is very sick,” Rios said. “Now I don’t know what I can do.”

The Puerto Rican baseball community is a robust one, and players have started outreach efforts. Carlos Beltran and his wife pledged $1 million to recovery efforts. Other players, including Yadier Molina and retired catcher Jorge Posada, had initiated online campaigns.

Rios has attempted to contact Jesmuel Valentin, another Puerto Rican on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, but he has not heard from him. He says he believes Valentin is somewhere on the island.

“I donated some money,” Rios said Friday. “But I want to know, how’s my family? I tried to keep talking with my older brother. But he told me the phone service is working in certain hours, like one or two hours per day. And, obviously, they don’t have power to charge the phones.”

Rios was born in Caguas, about an hour inland from the capital, San Juan. Caguas, according to the National Weather Service, received 37.9 inches of rainfall. That was the highest recorded total.

“It’s flooded,” Rios said. “Completely flooded.”

Wade let go

The Phillies have begun to shuffle their scouting staff, and former general manager Ed Wade was one of the casualties. He will not return in 2018.

Wade, 61, had spent the last six seasons in the front office. His title was changed before this season to pro scout from special assistant, baseball operations, and he was no longer listed among the team’s baseball executives. His responsibilities had not changed much; Wade essentially served as a scout in his second stint with the team.

Wade was the Phillies’ GM from 1998 through 2005. His staff drafted Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers.

The Phillies are expected to make additional changes to their baseball operations department.

Extra bases

Veteran righthander Henderson Alvarez will make his second start for the Phillies on Saturday. He’ll face Julio Teheran, Atlanta’s erstwhile ace, who has stumbled to a 4.52 ERA this season.