Marsh (knee surgery) optimistic about Opening Day return

February 15th, 2024

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- said he only needed crutches for an hour following his left knee surgery on Friday.

He might have been joking. Maybe not.

But Marsh was serious when he said Thursday morning at BayCare Ballpark that he expects to be playing baseball in a few weeks and absolutely in the Phillies' lineup on Opening Day on March 28. Marsh had arthroscopic debridement surgery after he experienced pain and swelling in his knee early last week.

“We’re on track,” Marsh said. “Everything has been going as it should.”

Marsh started to feel discomfort in the knee in the offseason. (He thinks it might have come from crashing knee-first into the outfield wall in Cincinnati in August 2022.) The discomfort increased over time, finally reaching a point that he contacted the Phillies.

“Just loose bodies hanging around down there, just a little cleanup,” Marsh said. “It was a really simple surgery. It’s been a great recovery process and pretty easy.”

The Phillies share Marsh’s optimism about Opening Day. Their plan is this: Nick Castellanos in right field, Johan Rojas in center field and Marsh in left. Cristian Pache and Jake Cave are projected to be the fourth and fifth outfielders, although there are plenty of free-agent outfielders available and Philadelphia could sign one of them.

The Phillies would like to have Marsh in left and Rojas in center almost every day because of the tremendous defensive boost they provide. But the club will need both players to hit to do it.

Rojas needs to hit big league pitching in general. Marsh needs to hit lefties.

“That’s a pretty ideal outfield for the Phils,” Marsh said. “You have Ro getting nine-tenths of the outfield there, and then Casty and I get the other spots.”

Marsh slashed .277/.372/.458 with 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, an .829 OPS and a 127 OPS+ in 472 plate appearances last season. He had an .864 OPS against right-handers, but a .717 against left-handers. Philadelphia faced three left-handed starters in the postseason, excluding Diamondbacks opener Joe Mantiply in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Pache started each of those games.

“I feel like all of us in this locker room want to play every day, all nine innings,” Marsh said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to win the ballgame. Me, personally, for sure I would love to be out there every pitch, every inning, no matter who’s on the bump for the other team. But the staff has jobs to do, and they’ve got to put the best lineup out there to help get our team a win.”

Marsh said he thought he regressed or plateaued in certain areas last season, so he focused on them this winter.

Offensively, he said, “striking out a little bit. Lefty, righty, same thing. They’ve got to put it over that thing [the plate]. Just put the bat on the ball a little bit more.”

Marsh struck out in 27.9 percent of his plate appearances against righties last year. That number rose to 39.1 percent against lefties.

If he puts the bat on the ball more frequently against lefties, he expects to enjoy more success.

“The more reps you get, I just feel like the preparation and the anxiety of getting in there, it definitely goes way down,” Marsh said. “I’m super excited. The fun is just beginning. … Seeing all the guys' faces, it lifts you up. I know it was a short offseason, but it’s good to see the guys. When my time comes this spring, it’ll come. The only thing I can control is my attitude and effort toward this knee.”