Back with a blast! J.T. homers in first AB

March 24th, 2021

J.T. Realmuto looks ready for Opening Day.

He homered in his first Grapefruit League at-bat of the Phillies' 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla. Realmuto had been sidelined since last month, when he fractured his right thumb. Even without the homer, Realmuto appeared to be on course to start against the Braves on April 1.

“For me, no, not at all,” said Realmuto, asked if he has any doubts that he will play on Opening Day. “Obviously, it’s not only my decision. If the organization feels like I have enough at-bats … health-wise, I’ll definitely be ready. It’s up to them, whether performance-based I’m ready. But I’m pretty confident that I’ll be in there.”

Realmuto went 1-for-2 with one walk and two runs in six innings. He will play in a simulated game Wednesday and catch again Thursday against the Yankees.

Realmuto said he did not feel anything related to the injury while he played Tuesday, including throws he made to second base. He felt like it turned a corner a couple days ago, which was the last time he felt something when he threw.

“I think we took just enough time to come back, let it heal up as much as it needed to and it felt great,” he said.

A new favorite for center field?

Roman Quinn homered in the third inning as the Phillies’ center-field job competition entered its final week.

Quinn might be the new frontrunner, based on his recent play. He is batting .323 (10-for-31) with two doubles, one home run, one RBI, three walks, 12 strikeouts, three stolen bases and an .866 OPS. Odúbel Herrera is batting .222 (8-fot-36) with three home runs, three RBIs, one walk, seven strikeouts, one stolen base and a .716 OPS. Scott Kingery is behind both, batting .121 with a .414 OPS in 33 at-bats.

“I like the way Roman’s been playing,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s been trying to do a lot of things to get on base. The speed component is nagging to the opposition, to the pitcher, the catcher, the infielders. He’s been using it pretty well lately.”

Keep an eye on Adam Haseley. He played on Tuesday and is scheduled to start in center field on Wednesday. He had not played since March 4 because of a strained left adductor. The Phillies originally expected Haseley to miss four weeks, effectively keeping him out through Opening Day.

Haseley entered camp a strong candidate to win the job. He batted .286 (2-for-7) with one home run, two walks and two strikeouts in three games before he got hurt. He went 1-for-2 in his return. There are only seven Grapefruit League games remaining. It might not be enough time to win the job in center field, but it might be enough time to grab a spot on the roster.

“It depends on how he feels, what his at-bats are like,” Girardi said. “Again, we’re not going to rush anybody because we have to make sure guys are ready to go. Obviously, he was playing pretty well before the injury. We’ll just see where he’s at.”

Moniak, Suárez optioned

The Phillies optioned outfielder Mickey Moniak and left-hander Ranger Suárez to Minor League camp.

Moniak played well this spring, but he needs more seasoning in Triple-A. He batted .273 (6-for-22) with two doubles, one triple, two home runs, two RBIs and a 1.112 OPS in 18 games.

“I think he’s an everyday player in the big leagues,” Girardi said. “I do, I do. I told him, ‘The one thing that we want is when you come back, we want you to be ready to play every day. Every day.’ Mickey was really impressive in camp and we’re excited about his future.”

Suárez had been behind schedule after tweaking his quadriceps earlier this month.

Kintzler, Watson decisions looming

Right-hander Brandon Kintzler allowed two hits and one run in one inning. Left-hander Tony Watson allowed two hits and one unearned run in 1/3 inning. Both are competing for bullpen jobs. Both can exercise opt-out clauses on Wednesday. If they do, the Phillies will have 48 hours to place them on the roster.

Kintzler (1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings) has a better chance of making the roster than Watson (7.20 ERA in five innings) at this point, especially if the Phillies think lefty JoJo Romero fills a similar role as Watson. The Phillies would need to clear two spots on the 40-man roster for Kintzler and Watson. If only one makes the team, it likely opens a spot for somebody like right-hander Sam Coonrod. If neither makes the team, it could open a slot for another multi-inning arm like right-handers David Hale, Spencer Howard or Vince Velasquez. Girardi said recently that he would like two multi-inning relievers in his bullpen.

Eflin, Howard, Velasquez updates

Right-handers Zach Eflin and Howard are scheduled to pitch in a simulated game Wednesday. Both have been sidelined recently because of back issues. Velasquez could pitch Thursday. He has been sidelined with an oblique issue.

“We are definitely getting healthier,” Girardi said.

Asked if the Phillies could carry a nine-man bullpen into the season because of any lingering health concerns about the pitches and infielder Brad Miller, who is sidelined with an oblique issue, Girardi said it has not been discussed.