Phils bring in Lucroy, Bird as reinforcements

September 16th, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi got asked on Tuesday if he had seen Major League Baseball’s postseason schedule. He had not. He said he had other things on his mind.

Like  and . They each had injury issues before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

Girardi offered updates on each, hours before Jake Arrieta injured his right hamstring in Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the Mets, and the front office announced before midnight ET that it had signed first baseman Greg Bird and catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Minor League contracts. They were added to the 60-man player pool before the Sept. 15 deadline, making them eligible for the postseason.

Bird and Lucroy are insurance for Hoskins and Realmuto, respectively.

Here is what Girardi said about his rash of injuries:

Wheeler will start Wednesday night against the Mets, which is a relief for the organization. The right-hander nearly lost the nail on his right middle finger late last week. The Phillies feared if Wheeler lost it, he would not pitch again this season.

Wheeler still has the nail, even after throwing a 41-pitch bullpen session on Monday.

“It looks good now,” Girardi said. “The trainer said it looks good.”

Realmuto has a strained left hip flexor. The Phils hope he can return to the lineup in the next few days. Can he pinch-hit in the meantime? Perhaps, although no decision has been made.

“Then you could pinch-run for him,” Girardi said. “It’s something I’m definitely looking into.”

The Red Sox released Lucroy on Wednesday after he appeared in one game this season. He is a two-time All-Star who provides experience behind the plate, if Realmuto cannot play. Andrew Knapp is the team’s primary catcher right now, with 21-year-old Rafael Marchan spelling him. Marchan never played above Class A Clearwater before he made his MLB debut on Monday.

The Phillies placed Hoskins on the 10-day IL with a strained right elbow, retroactive to Sunday. He can be activated as early as Sept. 23. Hoskins technically has an injured ulnar collateral ligament. He had another doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and Girardi said he does not know if Hoskins will need Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies hope Hoskins can rejoin the team before the end of the regular season. He could play with the injury, if he has enough grip strength in his left hand. Shohei Ohtani suffered a similar injury with the Angels in 2018. Los Angeles placed him on the IL with a sprained right UCL on June 8, 2018. He returned on July 3, 2018, and won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

The difference is that Ohtani missed 26 days. There are 13 games remaining in the 2020 regular season.

“It is possible, but each guy is different,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we’re going to have to evaluate.”

While Hoskins is out, Alec Bohm, Bruce and Phil Gosselin might play first base. Now that Scott Kingery is back from the IL, the Phillies could play some combination of Bohm/Bruce/Gosselin at first, with Kingery at second, Jean Segura at third and Didi Gregorius at shortstop. Bohm is more comfortable at third, but Girardi said that “in this game, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. … What we’ve seen from Alec, though, is he’s handled everything we’ve put in front of him, which is good. My hope is that if he did have to play over there a couple days, he would handle that well, too.”

Bird played parts of four seasons with the Yankees, and he signed with Texas this offseason. The Rangers designated him for assignment in August.

Howard is on the 10-day IL with stiffness in his right shoulder. Considering Howard is the organization’s top pitching prospect and he missed two months last season because of an injured right shoulder, it might seem more than risky for him to return this season.

He is eligible to be activated as early as Sept. 23.

“Obviously, we’re going to be careful,” Girardi said. “I think you have to be. But it could end up being something or it could end up being really nothing. It was just stiff that day.”

The Phillies also announced that they recalled left-hander Garrett Cleavinger from Triple-A and designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment.

Bruce is on the IL with a strained left quadriceps, but he could be activated Wednesday. If he plays first base it could better protect the quad, which might be a consideration. Bruce has played 52 games (48 starts) in his career at first base. He started 15 games there with Seattle in 2019.

The Phillies activated Quinn from the seven-day concussion IL, and he went 0-for-3 playing center field on Tuesday. He gives Girardi two true center fielders – Adam Haseley is the other -- while Kingery is expected to play mostly second base while Hoskins is out.