Thomson talks Harper, closer, 'deep camp'
PHILADELPHIA -- Rob Thomson spent time this offseason at home in Ontario, Canada, enjoying his family and watching hockey. But a baseball man can only sit in the cold so long.
Thomson is ready for sunshine. He said Wednesday that he will be at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla., before the end of the month. Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout at Carpenter Complex on Feb. 16.
Thomson answered a few questions about the team before he gets there.
The Phillies offered a conservative timetable for Harper’s return from Tommy John surgery, saying sometime around the All-Star break in July. Others think he could return earlier.
“He’s still light rehab, light conditioning,” Thomson said. “I think they’ll start ramping it up toward the end of March. No functional work yet.”
The ninth inning
Thomson plans to use his bullpen like last season, with no official closer.
“Unless somebody steps up and is just completely dominant,” he said. “But I think you’re going to have to give guys days off, so having the depth in that bullpen is really big. I think it worked pretty well last year with the way we did it.”
Thomson certainly has options, with Seranthony Domínguez, José Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto at the top of the list.
Unquestionably, the biggest roster battle this spring will be the No. 5 starter. No. 1 prospect Andrew Painter has a legitimate chance to make the team. Left-handers Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sánchez will try to beat him out.
There are other roster battles. The Phillies traded Matt Vierling and Nick Maton this month to help acquire Soto. Presumably, it makes three bench jobs available, assuming catcher Garrett Stubbs and infielder Edmundo Sosa are healthy. Utility players Dalton Guthrie and Kody Clemens, outfielder Jake Cave and first baseman Darick Hall are perhaps the four top contenders for those spots.
“I feel really good about our balance and our utility people,” Thomson said.
The skipper also noted that non-roster invitee Scott Kingery will get another look. He is in the final year of a six-year, $24 million contract.
“Scotty is a highly talented guy,” Thomson said. “He got a little sideways there for a little bit. Maybe we can get him back and get him going.”
Thomson said there is probably one job available in a projected eight-man bullpen that figures to include Soto, Domínguez, Alvarado, Kimbrel, Matt Strahm, Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti.
“It’s going to be a deep camp,” Thomson said.
Thomson was asked about being back in Philly with the Eagles beginning what they hope to be a Super Bowl run.
“What a great sports town,” he said. “I saw the other day on some website that this is the 19th-best sports town in the country. I question that. I really do. With lacrosse and soccer and the four major sports, this is a great sports town filled with great fans.”
Speaking of rankings
Another website (gambling.com) recently named Thomson the second handsomest manager in baseball.
How does he feel about those rankings?
“I told my wife,” Thomson said, smiling. “I came out and I said, ‘Hey, listen, Michele, you know how lucky you are. I’m the second-most handsome [manager]. She was cooking dinner. She didn’t miss a beat. She turned around and she said, ‘Well, everybody else must have been tied for first.’”