As the calendar moved one day closer to the season opener, J.T. Realmuto took another step toward his goal of being in the Phillies’ Opening Day lineup.
The catcher -- recovering from a fractured right thumb -- received what manager Joe Girardi called “good news” on Thursday, as Realmuto was cleared to begin taking part in baseball activities. Girardi said Realmuto made about 40 throws, took 10 dry swings and 20 swings off a tee, reporting “no issues” with the thumb.
“Everything was good,” Girardi said, adding that Realmuto will continue to wear a protective splint on his thumb when he’s not on the field.
Girardi is not prepared to declare that Realmuto will be available when the season opens on April 1 against the Braves, but Thursday’s news certainly gives the manager hope that his All-Star catcher will be ready by then.
“It makes me feel better,” Girardi said. “Had they said, ‘You’re not ready to start any baseball activities,’ then I would have gotten concerned. It’s a good sign that he's going in the right direction.”
Aaron Nola took the mound for his second official start of the spring Thursday (he threw a simulated game on Saturday), giving up two runs on four hits and a walk over four innings. The right-hander struck out three during his 61-pitch outing.
“It feels good to get to four today and through all four,” Nola said. “I’m looking forward to the next outing for five; creep up about an inning or so every time, get my pitch count up to get conditioned before the season starts.”
Nola allowed a leadoff home run to Aaron Hicks, a ball that appeared to be helped by the wind in Clearwater.
“I didn't think he hit it too well,” Nola said. “I thought he caught it off the end of the bat.”
Unfazed by the quick strike, Nola retired the next three batters he faced and six of the next seven. The Yankees scored again in the third, but Nola responded with a perfect fourth, striking out Tyler Wade with a nice curveball to finish his outing on a high note.
“On a normal day, I'm not so sure that that's a home run,” Girardi said. “I don't want to take anything away from Aaron [Hicks], but I thought [Nola] had a pretty good day.”
Andrew McCutchen had a good day against the Yankees, going 2-for-2 at the plate with one RBI against Gerrit Cole, also helping the Phillies' defense with an outfield assist in the third inning.
“That's a really good day for Cutch,” Girardi said. “Cutch is moving so much better this year than he was last year, and he's over the mental hurdles of the knee surgery. I like what I see.”
McCutchen caught Clint Frazier’s fly ball to left field and came up firing, throwing out Luke Voit at third base as he tried to advance on the play.
“We know what Clutch does in the outfield,” Nola said. “If he tracks down balls and throws guys out like he did today, we're going to have a good defense.”
• Scott Kingery, who entered Thursday 2-for-14 following a three-strikeout game on Tuesday, went 1-for-2 with a double against Cole. “I think he needed it for his psyche,” Girardi said.
• Tony Watson reported no issues Thursday after being struck by a line drive during Wednesday's outing.
• Zack Wheeler will make his third start of the spring on Friday, as the Phillies travel to Sarasota, Fla., to face the Orioles. John Means takes the ball for Baltimore, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.