Victor Arano reaches Phillies after elbow scare

PMINORS04-H
Victor Arano signing a glove for a fan last month. The pitcher missed the first few months of the season with an elbow injury, but the Phillies wanted to see him in the majors for the final few weeks of the season.

There is always doubt for a pitcher when he returns from an elbow injury, and Victor Arano felt it in June. The hard-throwing 22-year-old Mexican rejoined the bullpen at double-A Reading after missing a few months with elbow soreness and it did not feel the same.

“At first, I wasn’t too confident about my stuff,” he said Tuesday, through a team interpreter. “But then as I started pitching again and started feeling stronger, I got my confidence back. I felt more comfortable on the mound. That helped me a lot.”

Arano stood on the field at Citizens Bank Park, a dream fulfilled, and it was easier for him to believe. The Phillies added him to their active roster Tuesday.

They were captivated by Arano’s arm last season, when he transitioned to a relief role, and invited him to big-league spring training. His injury prevented them from seeing him. If not protected on the 40-man roster this winter, Arano was eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies decided he was worth a further look.

He pitched 38 2/3 innings for Reading, with a 23 percent strikeout rate and 4.19 ERA, and pitched in triple-A Lehigh Valley’s bullpen for the postseason. His stuff, at times, was not what it was before the injury. But Arano said his fastball reached 96 mph at the end of the season and sat around 94-95 mph.

That was the pitch that piqued the Phillies’ interest in 2016, when he struck out 30 percent of the batters he faced, and posted a 2.26 ERA. The Phillies acquired Arano from Los Angeles in a August 2014 trade.

He’ll have about three weeks in the majors to separate himself from the horde of young relievers the Phillies are auditioning.

“I’m taking this as an opportunity to show them that I belong here, that I have what they’re looking for,” Arano said. “Hopefully I’m going to show them what they want to see.”

Williamsport bound

Major League Baseball will begin its next season earlier than ever, on March 29, 2018, with the Phillies in Atlanta to start. And it will include one fewer Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park than usual.

The Phillies, according to a league source, are expected to play their Aug. 19 game against the New York Mets in Williamsport as a part of MLB’s Little League Classic. The details of the game have not yet been finalized. But Bowman Field is home to the rookie-ball Williamsport Crosscutters, a Phillies affiliate, so it is a logical arrangement.

Next season will begin earlier and on a Thursday because, as part of the new collective-bargaining agreement, there are more off days built into the schedule. The home opener in South Philadelphia is scheduled for April 5, a Thursday, against Miami.

The New York Yankees will visit Citizens Bank Park for the first time since the 2009 World Series, during a midweek series June 25-27. The other home interleague opponents are Toronto (May 25-27), Baltimore (July 3-4) and Boston (Aug. 14-15).

Extra bases

Veteran righthander Henderson Alvarez joined the Phillies and will start sometime this weekend against Oakland as the Phillies move to a six-man rotation to finish the season. Alvarez, 27, has not pitched in the majors since 2015. The Phillies signed him last month from independent ball and he made four starts for triple-A Lehigh Valley. … Rookie catcher Andrew Knapp was activated from the disabled list, but Jorge Alfaro will continue to receive the majority of at-bats at catcher. Knapp has not played since Aug. 3 because of a broken right hand. … Joey Davis, a Phillies amateur scout based in California, was named the winner of the club’s annual Dallas Green Award. The award is given to an “amateur or professional scout who best exemplifies the Phillies’ standard for scouting.” Davis signed four players — Drew Anderson, Rhys Hoskins, Knapp and Brock Stassi — who made their debuts in 2017. … The Phillies said their Clearwater, Fla., complex sustained only minor damage from Hurricane Irma.