Tag Archives: Spring Training

Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

First two home runs from Bryce Harper lead Phillies to spring romp

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Bryce Harper homers twice in Grapefruit League victory

It has happened 184 times over his first seven regular seasons in Major League Baseball and another five times in the postseason. There were even a few launched during spring training. But all of those happened in another uniform.

This afternoon for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper enjoyed the feeling of blasting a home run. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he decided to do it again, crushing a sixth-inning blast as well.
The first came during his first plate appearance of the afternoon at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida with one out and Andrew McCutchen at first base.
As Harper walked to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning, Phillies announcer Ben Davis told his broadcasting partner Gregg Murphy that “he is a tick away” and noted that Harper had “a few really, really good swings yesterday” in one of the more prescient calls of the former catcher’s career as a color analyst.
Harper wasted little time. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Sam Gaviglio tried to groove an 88 mph fastball for strike one, and the Phillies right fielder unloaded, ripping the ball out and over the right field wall.
The home crowd roared and rose to their feet as the ball sailed out. They remained on their feet as Harper rounded the bases for the first time as a member of the ball club that he will call his baseball home for the rest of his career.
After celebrating with a high-five at home plate with McCutchen, Harper trotted back to the home dugout and acknowledged the roaring fans behind home plate with a wave.
Harper’s blast touched off a massive Phillies power display on the day which would result in a 13-6 victory. In addition to Harper’s pair, other Phillies long balls on the day came off the bats of McCutchen, Gift Ngoepe, and one from each of the club’s two catchers, J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp.
In the bottom of the 6th, young left-hander Thomas Pannone backed Harper off the plate with a 1-1 curve ball. Undeterred, Harper stepped right back in and crushed a 91 mph fastball way out over the back fence in right-center field.

It was a week ago tomorrow against these same Toronto Blue Jays that a fastball to the ankle had everyone fearing for Harper’s season. One week from today the Phillies will open that 2019 regular season at Citizens Bank Park against the Atlanta Braves. I think we can say after today’s performance that Harper will be there and will be ready to go.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Bryce Harper rips first home runs in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform

Phillies add Rhys Hoskins to spring injuries list

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Rhys Hoskins and Roman Quinn both battling spring injuries

The Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to begin a highly-anticipated 2019 regular season one week from tomorrow. Including the Wednesday afternoon game in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers there are just six game dates remaining on the Grapefruit League schedule. Two of those will be split-squad affairs.

Opportunities for the players to experience game conditions prior to Opening Day are dwindling quickly. With that in mind there are a number of Phillies players still battling injury issues which will hinder their ability to participate.
Scott Lauber of Philly.com noted this morning that first baseman Rhys Hoskins is suffering from a sore shoulder. He is being held out of game action at least through Friday, but at this point it is believed that he will be in the lineup against the Atlanta Braves on March 28 at Citizens Bank Park. He still hopes to be able to play in a couple of spring training games before then.
Lauber further noted that the Phillies would move starting third baseman Maikel Franco over to first base on Friday, and that Franco would cover the position if a longer term need were to arise. The Phillies would play Scott Kingery at the hot corner in such a scenario.
Jerad Eickhoff has returned to the mound following off-season carpal tunnel surgery. He should start at Triple-A. (D. Benjamin Miller/WikiCommons)
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported on Tuesday that both Roman Quinn and Tommy Hunter would likely open the season on the Injured List. Quinn suffered an oblique strain back in late February and has appeared in just one game down in Florida. Hunter was shut down at around the same time with a strain in the flexor muscle of his right pitching arm.
Also on the mound, Jerad Eickhoff underwent carpal tunnel syndrome surgery back in October. The right-hander had experienced some recurring symptoms in January which slowed his entry to spring games.

Eickhoff has now made two starts and is on track to open the season as part of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley starting rotation. As long as he remains healthy, he would likely be the first pitcher to be re-called should a need arise in the Phillies rotation.

Bryce Harper returned to the lineup as the Designated Hitter during Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees. This was following the ugly incident in which he took a fastball directly off the ankle last Friday. Thankfully, x-rays were negative. He did not make the trip east to begin this week, but is back in right field on Wednesday and will be ready to go for Opening Day.

The Phillies got Odubel Herrera into a Grapefruit League lineup for the first time over this past weekend. He served as the DH on Saturday and then started in center field on both Sunday and Monday. Herrera had strained a hamstring during a mid-February baserunning drill.
Cesar Hernandez returned to the lineup late last week after being out since late February after suffering a right hip flexor strain while running the bases in an early spring game.
Hoskins is the one injury to really watch for over the next four-to-five days. He is a key piece to the Phillies offensive attack and the club would really like to get him back into the lineup for a couple of games before Opening Day.

Phillies have used 11 center fielders in this Graperfuit League season

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Adam Haseley has seen center field action this spring

The announced starting lineup for the Philadelphia Phillies for the Saturday afternoon March 16 game at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida against the visiting Houston Astros included 24-year-old Dylan Cozens in center field.

The start for Cozens is his second of spring training in center field, the last coming back on March 6 in Dunedin against the host Toronto Blue Jays.
For these tune-up games down in Florida the Phillies have utilized 11 different players at the crucial center field position. None of them has been named Odubel Herrera. The starter at the position for the last four years has been sidelined by injury. He will make his first start today, serving as the Designated Hitter.
Herrera had entered the spring in a head-to-head competition for the starting center field job with 25-year-old Roman Quinn. However, the speedy Quinn suffered yet another in a series of injuries which have repeatedly set his career back. He got to make just one start, in the Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
With both Herrera and Quinn out of commission the Phillies have leaned heavily on three players. Aaron Altherr has received nine starts in center and is the only player to start out there on back-to-back days, having done so on both February 27th and 28th.
The other two players who have seen stead action in center field are a pair of prospects. 22-year-old Adam Haseley has made four starts and come on as a substitute in three others. 20-year-old Mickey Moniak made one start and came on as a sub a half-dozen times.
Haseley is one of just two who have played a full game in center field all spring. He did so for the split-squad game on the road against the Detroit Tigers on March 7.
The other player to go a full game in center was Lane Adams. The 29-year-old who has three years of big-league experience is here as a non-roster invitee. He also played a full split-squad road game, that one on March 14 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was Adams lone start. He has also appeared in three more games out in center as a substitute.

McCutchen was a center field fixture and former Gold Glover with Pittsburgh but did not play the position at all in 2018. (TonyTheTiger/WikiCommons)
Andrew McCutchen (2) and Scott Kingery (3) have made the remaining starts out in center field thus far for the Phillies. Veteran non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has come on as a substitute three times while prospects Matt Vierling and Simon Muzziotti have done so twice each.
Quinn began running again this past week as he begins to recover from an oblique strain. The Phillies are likely to be cautious with him. You can probably expect that Quinn will begin the season on the Injured List or at extended spring training.
Assuming that Herrera has no setbacks in his recovery from a hamstring strain, he is likely to begin seeing the bulk of the starts in center field in preparation for the March 28 regular season opener. As long as he can continue to get regular plate appearances from this point, fans should expect to see him on Opening Day.
The injuries to Herrera and Quinn combined with Friday’s loss, at least temporarily, of right fielder Bryce Harper are opening up playing time opportunities others. Altherr, Kingery and Cozens would likely become the primary options if any or all of those injuries linger into or re-surface during the early parts of the regular season.
Fans have wondered about giving Nick Williams, who made 16 appearances back in 2017 out in center field, some of the playing time there. Phillies coaches have evaluated Williams now for more than three years, and the decision has been made that he is not an acceptable option at the position. Perhaps that would change in an absolute emergency where multiple others were injured, but for now he will remain as only a corner outfielder.
Harper has played 184 games during his career in center field, 63 of those just last year. He is certainly athletic enough to slide over in an emergency as well but is already on record as saying that right field is by far his best and most comfortable position. Early last week, Harper was quoted by Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“I know I was terrible last year in center field. I feel like if I can stay out of center field, that’d be great. Wherever they need me to play, I’ll play, whether it’s center or left. But for me, leg-wise, keeping my legs and body fresh, right field is hopefully gonna be the spot.”
McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winning center fielder during his younger NL MVP years in Pittsburgh. However, he did not play in center at all last season. He is another who could do it in a pinch for a short time, but the Phillies signed him to be their everyday left fielder.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com quoted Kapler on his outfield situation following the Harper signing:
Assuming everybody was healthy, the expectation would be that Quinn and Altherr and Nick Williams would start on our roster, but that may not be possible given the current construction and the addition of Harper. It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing at this point.
That “wait-and-see” has been particularly true in center field Herrera returns now and Quinn will eventually rehab and recover. Those two are still likely to see the bulk of time for the Phillies in the coming season with Altherr as a primary backup option.
The thought that either Haseley or Moniak will ultimately reach or exceed their potential and one day develop into the long-term starting center fielder may be the current long-term Plan A. The unspoken ‘Plan B’ could involve a man from Millville, New Jersey who currently plays on the west coast.

Ankle injury to Bryce Harper appears minor; x-rays come back negative

Harper was drilled in ankle during Friday’s game
Fans all across Phillies Nation are breathing a massive sigh of relief this morning. Per numerous reports, all x-rays on Bryce Harper’s right ankle have come back negative.
The 26-year-old superstar is officially being listed as day-to-day. However, Harper will miss Saturday’s game in Clearwater against the Houston Astros. His scheduled participation in Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees also has to be considered questionable at this point.
Harper was injured when he was drilled by a 96 mph fastball from Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton with two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning at Spectrum Field in Clearwater.
Harper would ideally like to get between 40-50 plate appearances during Grapefruit League action in order to be fully ready to open the regular season. However, that is going to now become nearly impossible.
To date, Harper has accumulated just nine plate appearances over parts of four games. Still looking for his first hit in a Phillies uniform, he is 0-5 with three walks and the hit-by-pitch, two runs scored, and a stolen base to this point.
Originally scheduled to play in all three games this weekend, there is now the very real chance that Friday will be the only one in which he participates.
The Phillies are scheduled to cross the state of Florida for a pair of games on Monday and Tuesday against the Cardinals and Astros. That was a trip that Harper was not likely to make prior to this incident. He is still unlikely to travel with the team for those games.
Bottom line, we may not see Harper play again until Wednesday afternoon back in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers. If that proves true it would mean he will see no more than six more games. Even if he is able to play in all of those and averages three plate appearances in each, he would end spring training with roughly 30 plate appearances in game action.

All X rays on Bryce Harper are negative. He will not play today as precaution. He is day to day.

439 people are talking about this

Per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler stated “I don’t have concerns about him not being ready for Opening Day.

If we can assume that Harper is indeed okay and will be able to play by the middle of next week, and that he would then see mostly regular game action over the final week of Grapefruit League play, then he should indeed be in the Phillies lineup for Opening Day on March 28th at Citizens Bank Park against the Atlanta Braves. How “ready” he will be is debatable.