Realmuto, injured Phillies making progress

March 20th, 2021

Phillies manager Joe Girardi considered Friday a good day, long before his team crossed the Courtney Campbell Causeway from Clearwater, Fla., to Tampa and earned a 4-1 win over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Phillies have a slew of injured players, including three starting pitchers. They got good news on all of them.

“Hopefully, it stays that way,” Girardi said.

Catchers J.T. Realmuto (fractured right thumb) and Rafael Marchan (strained hamstring) and outfielder Adam Haseley (strained left adductor) each had five or six plate appearances in a simulated game on Friday. Girardi said Realmuto’s thumb is stable and continues to heal. Realmuto remains on course to start on Opening Day on April 1.

“This is all good news,” Girardi said.

Realmuto could play in his first Grapefruit League game next week, likely starting at designated hitter before catching. Haseley is moving closer to Grapefruit League action, too, although Girardi said it is too early to say if he could rejoin the center-field competition before a decision is made. Odúbel Herrera remains the favorite for the job.

“Haseley is doing extremely well for the injury he had,” Girardi said. “Right now, he’s a little bit ahead of schedule.”

Right-handers Zach Eflin (lower back) and Spencer Howard (back spasms) threw from 120 feet. Girardi said both could throw bullpen sessions Sunday. Eflin is the Phillies’ No. 3 starter, which has him pitching April 4 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. If Eflin can start following Sunday’s bullpen session, Girardi said he feels pretty good about Eflin’s chances to make his first turn through the rotation.

“That’s a really good sign if he gets off the mound on Sunday,” Girardi said. “If he gets in a game after that, he would have two more starts, and I’d feel pretty good about where he was at.”

Right-hander Vince Velasquez (oblique) threw from 60 feet. He will need to extend his throwing distance before he returns to the mound. The injuries to Eflin, Howard and Velasquez explain why Iván Nova started Friday night against the Yankees.

Who would be the Phillies’ fifth starter if they need one at this point? Nova is a non-roster invitee, and the Phillies can only add so many non-roster players to the 40-man roster.

Herrera, right-hander Brandon Kintzler, outfielder Matt Joyce and left-hander Tony Watson might rank ahead of Nova.

“We might piece it together,” Girardi said.

But Girardi hopes that does not happen.

“I think Vinny is making real progress,” Girardi said. “I think Howard is really making progress. Right now, hopefully they get back on the mound and start throwing and we can continue to build them up.”

Other injury updates
• Shortstop Didi Gregorius (hit in head by pitch) is feeling better. He could play as early as Saturday.

• Infielder Brad Miller (oblique) is improving. The Phillies hope he can play by the end of next week.

• Right-hander Connor Brogdon (rib) threw a short bullpen session Wednesday. He could pitch this weekend.

Watson, Kintzler bounce back
Watson and Kintzler continue to push for bullpen jobs. Each pitched a scoreless inning in Friday’s win over the Yankees.

After Watson walked Brett Gardner with one out in the fifth, he struck out DJ LeMahieu swinging on a sinker and fanned Aaron Judge swinging on a changeup to end the inning. Watson allowed four runs on five hits in one-third of an inning Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Outside of that outing, he has allowed two hits and two walks while striking out seven over four scoreless innings in his other four appearances.

Kintzler allowed three unearned runs Tuesday, but he has not allowed an earned run in seven innings this spring. He struck out three and allowed one hit in the sixth on Friday.

“They both looked really good,” Girardi said.

Watson, Kintzler and right-hander Hector Rondón, who pitched a perfect ninth, are veteran relievers in camp not on the 40-man roster. Each of them can trigger an opt-out clause Wednesday, meaning they should know their fate by next week. Once a player exercises the clause, his team has 48 hours to place him on the roster.

“I learned a long time ago, if you start playing GM, you’re going to be wrong all the time,” Watson said. “I try not to do that. It’s a tricky business. We’ll see what happens.”

There are a few reasons to think Kintzler and Watson could both earn bullpen roles. Both are experienced, both pitched well last season and both are liked by their teammates. But it is unclear if the Phillies will add more than one non-roster reliever to the 40-man roster.

“There are still things we need to discuss,” Girardi said. “We’re going to have some really, really long discussions. They’re making the decisions really hard, and that’s a great thing.”

Extra bases
• The Phillies had one hit entering the ninth inning, when the Yankees walked three and hit a batter. Darick Hall’s two-out, two-run double put Philadelphia up, 4-1.

• Right-hander Iván Nova allowed one run on one hit and three walks with one strikeout in three innings.

• Left-hander JoJo Romero and right-hander Sam Coonrod each pitched a scoreless inning. Each has a 1.80 ERA this spring.