'A good day' as Guthrie, Cave make Phils' OD roster

March 27th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies selected rookie and veteran to their Opening Day roster on Monday morning while sending two notable names -- and promising trade acquisition -- to the Minors.

It wasn’t just about the numbers, because all players competing for a roster spot have proven capable of excellent statistics. The decision came down to the feel and fit the Phils needed as they prepared for the expectations of a prime National League contender.

“No drama, no hiding cameras that I know of, but it was still a huge thrill to actually hear the words from [Phillies manager Rob Thomson] and know that I had made the team,’’ Guthrie said. “I feel like I did what I needed to do. Now I can’t wait for the season to start.’’

The situation, of course, remains fluid. The Phillies understand better than anyone that injuries can change things. First baseman Rhys Hoskins is out for the season after tearing his left ACL on Thursday. Two expected parts of the starting rotation, Ranger Suárez and Andrew Painter, will likely begin the season on the injured list.

So the odds are strong that the Phillies will call on Kingery and Clemens as reliable replacements from Triple-A Lehigh Valley at some point this season.

Following Monday’s 5-2 win against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark, Thomson said he believes the decisions -- as hard as they were to make -- offer his club the most versatility and upside.

“Cave gives you the left-handed bat and a corner outfielder,” Thomson said. “Guthrie gives you the right-handed bat that can play anywhere, really.

“There were a lot of guys who were, in their minds, on the fence. In our minds, maybe not. But in their minds, yes. They are so relieved and happy for sure [to have made the team].’’

Guthrie, 26, started and batted ninth against the Blue Jays, going 1-for-3 to improve his Grapefruit League average to .234. He had 45 big league plate appearances late last season and he batted .333, a nice punctuation mark to his performance at Triple-A (.302 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs in 92 games).

Guthrie said he texted his father, former Major League pitcher Mark Guthrie, and he was looking forward to their conversation.

“He stresses about this stuff more than I do,’’ Guthrie said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great messages and congratulations already. This is a good day.’’ 

Cave, 30, was claimed off waivers from the Orioles in December. This is the third time he has made an Opening Day roster (he made the Twins' in 2019 and '21), and it’s not surprising after the torrid offensive pace he set in the Grapefruit League, batting .440 with three home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.301 OPS.

Kingery and Clemens each had reason to believe they were viable choices to open with the Phillies.

Kingery, 28, who signed a six-year, $24 million contract before the 2018 season, put in extra offensive work during the offseason in Arizona and the dividends seemed obvious this spring. He batted .340 with an 862 OPS in the spring and that added value to his reputation as a versatile standout defensive player. Kingery is a career .229 big-league hitter in 1,127 plate appearances.

“[Kingery] has his stroke back and his confidence back,’’ Thomson said. “We want him to play every day and just maintain that confidence, maintain that swing.’’

Clemens, 26, and left-handed reliever Gregory Soto were acquired in a January trade with the Tigers, with whom he batted .145 in 57 Major League games. This spring, Clemens batted .319 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.002 OPS.

“Clemens had an outstanding Spring Training,’’ Thomson said. “It was just the fit. The last guy really needed to be able to play center field. Clemens did nothing wrong. It wasn’t that he lost the job. It was more of a fit for the club.’’

Walker’s final tune-up

Right-hander had a more encouraging outing on Monday, allowing one hit and three walks over 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out five. He was especially pleased by a new grip he's worked on with his slider.

“Really liked his secondary pitches -- the split, the cutter and the slider -- and that’s what he was focused on today,’’ Thomson said.

Walker is scheduled to start in the Phillies’ fourth game, next Monday at the Yankees. Aaron Nola has Thursday’s Opening Day assignment, followed by right-hander Zack Wheeler on Saturday, then left-hander Bailey Falter on Sunday. Lefty Matt Strahm will be the fifth starter, at least in the season’s short term, while Suárez and Painter continue to rehabilitate from injuries.