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Improved offense, defense to help Phils pitchers

@ToddZolecki
March 24, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is listening. Last year, he often said that his research showed his best hitters should hit second and fourth in his lineup. That's why Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana rotated in those spots throughout the season. It means Hoskins and Bryce Harper should

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is listening.

Last year, he often said that his research showed his best hitters should hit second and fourth in his lineup. That's why Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana rotated in those spots throughout the season. It means Hoskins and Bryce Harper should hit there this year, right?

Nope.

Jean Segura is expected to hit second, Harper is expected to hit third and Hoskins is expected to hit fourth, mostly because Segura seems to be most content in the No. 2 spot and Harper seems to prefer hitting third.

Kapler said that while he loves gaining the marginal edge over his opponent, he also knows it is important for his players to be comfortable and feel their best to perform their best.

It brings us to the Phillies’ pitching staff and how Kapler plans to approach getting 27 outs each game. Some teams are becoming more open to the idea of relief pitchers opening the game, pitching an inning or two and then handing the ball to a traditional starter.

The Phillies are not there yet. They are expected to use Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez as traditional starters. Kapler said in the past it is because it simply might not play well in the Phillies’ clubhouse, but also because the team has a roster of pitchers they believe can still pitch the old-fashioned way.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak agrees.

“With the obvious caveat that nothing is forever, we go into this season very comfortable with our front-five starters and comfortable with the depth we have behind those guys in Triple-A,” Klentak said. “I think that will lend itself to us utilizing a fairly traditional rotation through most of the year. If circumstances dictate that we adjust, then we will adjust. But right now, our intention is to utilize a traditional rotation.”

The Phillies are expected to carry eight relievers, like last season. That plays into this too.

“It’s an eight-man bullpen that is full of quality arms,” Klentak said. “I think that will help our rotation. The combination of an improved defense, an improved offense and a deep bullpen should make our rotation better.”

The eight-man bullpen means Kapler can continue to be liberal with his use of relievers, particularly when his pitchers run into trouble early in the game. In the past, a manager might have tried to squeeze an extra inning out of his starter, but now they feel better knowing that they can move to the bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning without exhausting the 'pen for the next day.

“We don’t need to try to push somebody,” Klentak said. “If somebody has 95 pitches through five and we can go to Pat Neshek in the sixth inning, we’re good. Plus, we’ve got a four-run lead instead of a one-run lead because our offense is better. I think all of those things, in combination, will make those [starters] better.”

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