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Notes: Realmuto leads off; Harper rakes again

@ToddZolecki
March 5, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- J.T. Realmuto does not think of himself as a leadoff hitter, which is understandable. He is a catcher. Catchers do not lead off. But Phillies manager Joe Girardi is toying with the idea of Realmuto hitting first, at least while Andrew McCutchen recovers from ACL surgery on

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- J.T. Realmuto does not think of himself as a leadoff hitter, which is understandable. He is a catcher. Catchers do not lead off.

But Phillies manager Joe Girardi is toying with the idea of Realmuto hitting first, at least while Andrew McCutchen recovers from ACL surgery on his left knee. It is not a crazy idea. Realmuto slashed .339/.380/.471 with an .851 OPS in 41 games (40 starts) as a leadoff hitter with the Marlins, which is his best line in any spot in the lineup. He can run, too. Realmuto’s Sprint Speed last season (28.7 feet per second) tied for 35th out of 292 players (minimum 100 competitive runs), according to Statcast. That makes him faster than players like José Altuve (28.6), Javier Báez (28.6) and Ozzie Albies (28.6).

“Maybe that’s why Joe had the idea,” Realmuto said during the Phillies’ 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays at Spectrum Field on Thursday afternoon. “I don’t know how much there is to that. To be honest, a lot of times, [in] my first at-bat I feel so rushed. You’re coming off the field, especially if you had a long first half of the inning, and I was catching the first half of the inning. ... But the numbers don’t show that [I’m feeling rushed] because I’ve had some success there. Maybe sometimes, you’re [the first one up], pitchers will be more inclined to give you good pitches to hit, and [will] throw more fastballs because they don’t want to walk the first guy. So, that might be why I’ve had success there, because guys are just trying to pound the zone and no one wants to walk the leadoff guy.”

The only catcher in baseball history to lead off the game more than 100 times in his career is Jason Kendall, who did it 463 times, according to Baseball Reference. The only two catchers in Phillies history to start a game at catcher in the leadoff spot are Andrew Knapp (twice in 2018) and Frank Roth (once in 1904).

“Whatever Joe thinks the best lineup is, I’m pretty comfortable with hitting anywhere he asks me to,” Realmuto said. “[Girardi] came and talked to me. He said the same thing that he said to you guys. Nothing [is] set in stone.”

Of course, everybody is wondering if the Phillies and Realmuto will agree on a contract extension before Opening Day. Sources indicated that negotiations are moving slowly.

“There’s no update,” Realmuto said. “We’re talking, but we’ll leave it at that.”

Seranthony is ready to roll
Right-hander Seranthony Domínguez pitched a scoreless seventh inning in his first Grapefruit League appearance. His fastball touched 95 mph.

“I feel ready right now,” he said through the team’s interpreter.

Domínguez seems like a smart bet to make Philadelphia's Opening Day roster, barring a setback. He missed much of last season because of an injury to his right elbow.

“Really pleased with it,” Girardi said. “The ball’s coming out really well.”

Hustle double
Rhys Hoskins homered in the fourth and hustled to second for a double in the fifth when a popup fell in the infield.

“It was great,” Girardi said. “It's what you try to tell your baserunners. When you force action and [the fielders] have to speed up, a lot of times they make a mistake. It doesn't happen if you don't run hard out of the box. They still [could have] had him. But [the fielder] knew he had to rush. He went down to grab it and he dropped it. And that's all it took. Putting pressure on forces them to make mistakes.”

Extra bases
Jean Segura fell ill on Thursday, so Alec Bohm, the Phillies' No. 1 prospect and MLB's No. 30 prospect overall, started at third base. Bohm had trouble making a couple of plays to his right in the early innings. He could not catch a ball in the first, which was ruled a hit. He threw wide to first base on a play in the second, pulling Austin Listi off the bag. But Bohm has made some impressive plays this spring, too. “He has the ability to do it,” Girardi said. “It's consistency, right? It's probably getting [in] more plays like that. It's getting the reps that is important for him. It's one thing to do it in practice. But [in] the game, everything speeds up a little bit. It's being able to control everything. Being able to control your body. He's learning how to do that.”

Bryce Harper homered for the third time in his last two games, sending it over the fence to the opposite field in the fifth inning on Thursday.

Didi Gregorius is 0-for-18 with one walk and three strikeouts this spring. “He's saving all his hits for the season,” Girardi said. “I told him, 'Don't waste any.'”

• Right-hander Spencer Howard (the Phillies' No. 2 prospect and No. 34 overall) faced live hitters on Thursday. The Phillies are bringing Howard along slowly with the hope that he might help them later this season. “I know it's something we won't share with everyone -- our plan,” Girardi said. “But I think when you start talking about Spencer Howard, we're all excited. He is a big-time talent. The thing is, we want him around 10 years from now, too. You have to be really smart with how you handle it.”

Up next
Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta faces the Tigers at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday in Lakeland. It is his third start this spring, including a scrimmage. Arrieta is coming back from season-ending elbow surgery in 2019.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .