CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Andrew Painter turned and watched the baseball fly high toward Hwy. 19. He arched his back and smiled.
Kyle Schwarber removed his helmet and galloped up the first-base line. He hollered.
"Suck it, Painter," Schwarber said with a slight chuckle.
Painter laughed. It was a fun Wednesday at Carpenter Complex, where Painter faced Schwarber, Brandon Marsh and John Hicks in a well-attended and closely watched live batting practice session on Robin Roberts Field. Painter, 19, is baseball’s No. 6 prospect, and he has a legitimate chance to be the Phillies’ No. 5 starter come Opening Day. He could be the first teenager to make a start in the big leagues since 2016, and the first teenager to start for the Phils since 1980.
“It’s the Painter Show!” Marsh said beforehand.
“Is this guy good?” Rhys Hoskins asked a larger-than-normal crowd. “Is that why you guys are here?”
Painter, who might make his Grapefruit League debut March 2 against Boston in Fort Myers, struck out Schwarber in their first matchup on a high fastball that touched 99 mph. He hung a curveball in the second.
Schwarber mashed it.
“I’d say he’s winning the war right now,” Painter said, smiling.
But Schwarber returned to the Phillies' clubhouse at BayCare Ballpark thoroughly impressed with what he saw.
He heard the Painter hype. He wondered about him, too.
“I was wowed by the stuff,” Schwarber said.
“It looked every bit of 110 [mph],” Marsh said. “Painter’s going to be a dawg for sure.”
“All of his stuff is big league stuff,” said Garrett Stubbs, who caught Painter. “Obviously, this is one day in a live [BP] on a back field, so to say anything other than that is a stretch. But I think that’s about as good as it gets for a live, especially this early on in camp. Just the stuff and the command. I’m sure he was probably feeling he could have commanded it a little better, but stuff-wise, it was electric.”
Teammates not only raved about Painter’s stuff, they raved about how he has handled himself in camp.
He doesn’t sound like a teenager.
He doesn’t act like one.
“He’s smiling when I step in, then I step in and he’s locked in, it’s gone,” Schwarber said. “That’s impressive. I was in college when I was 19. I don’t think I was that poised when I was in college. He’s out and making sure he gets to know everyone. He’s wanting to get better. He’s asking good questions about pitch shapes and what did I see in that at-bat? Really impressed by the pitcher, but also the way he’s handling himself in the camp, too. It’s been A-plus.”
“I honestly didn’t even know he was 19 until you just said it,” Stubbs said. “If that’s worth anything, that’s the opinion I have on how mature he is, what he knows about himself. I think getting into a big league game, the situation changes, but you have to stay the same. And as far as I can tell -- and once again, this a back field, live, first time in camp -- I’ve got to imagine that the way his demeanor is, he’d be pretty calm and collected and stay within himself when he does get out there.”
Players have been making sure Painter is comfortable in camp. It started with Phillies ace Zack Wheeler requesting to have his locker placed next to his in the clubhouse.
It has continued with friendly conversations and good-natured ribbing.
“I was joking with him yesterday,” Schwarber said. “Come on, man. What are we doing here? We’ve got Wheeler out here throwing a live BP. We’ve got [Aaron] Nola throwing a live BP. What are you doing? I was giving him a hard time. He took it like a champ. He was all excited that I got put in his group. I was talking a little bit of crap with him today.”
“He was asking me how I slept, making sure I was ready to go,” Painter said.
“Then he goes out and punches my ticket the first at-bat,” Schwarber said.
Painter’s curveball popped out of his hand in the next at-bat.
“It came out of my hand and I was like, ‘Oh boy,’” Painter said.