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Is Bryce a leadoff option? Girardi weighs in 

@ToddZolecki
March 2, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi needs a leadoff hitter now that Andrew McCutchen will not be ready to play by Opening Day. Girardi has options. Bryce Harper is not one of them. “No, no, I wouldn’t do that,” Girardi said Monday afternoon before a Grapefruit League game

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi needs a leadoff hitter now that Andrew McCutchen will not be ready to play by Opening Day.

Girardi has options. Bryce Harper is not one of them.

“No, no, I wouldn’t do that,” Girardi said Monday afternoon before a Grapefruit League game against the Braves at CoolToday Park. “As of right now, I just wouldn’t. I would like for him to hit with somebody on in the first inning.”

The Phillies experimented with multiple leadoff hitters once McCutchen tore the ACL in his left knee on June 3 in San Diego: César Hernández (36 times), Scott Kingery (26), Jean Segura (12), Corey Dickerson (10), Rhys Hoskins (eight), Harper (eight) and Roman Quinn (two). Girardi mentioned Kingery and one of his center fielders (Quinn or Adam Haseley) as options to bat leadoff. He did not rule out J.T. Realmuto, who hit leadoff Sunday.

“I know it was a huge void last year, so we’ve got to solve it for however many weeks Cutch is out,” Girardi said.

Phillies leadoff hitters ranked second in baseball with a .379 on-base percentage and fifth with a 123 wRC+ through June 3, according to FanGraphs. They ranked 29th with a .295 on-base percentage and tied for 29th with a 79 wRC+ the rest of the season.

Cutch: Return is 'all about how I respond'

Girardi loves thinking about lineups. He said lineup construction is the thing he thinks most about in bed before going to sleep.

“Honestly,” he said. “I think about lineups.”

Girardi, however, said he does not have a sense of how his Opening Day lineup will look.

“We started talking about it as a staff with the three-batter minimum rule, how does it maybe change how you construct a lineup?” he said. “When you could bring in a reliever after one at-bat, a lot of times, you’d go left-right-left or right-left, that sort of thing, if you had four lefties. But maybe, you put more space between your lefties so it’s harder for them to deploy their lefties. Most people aren’t going to have three or four lefties. It also depends how many lefties start in our lineup. You want to bring in your lefty to face Bryce, but I’m going to have him surrounded with my best two right-handers around him. So pick your poison.”

In that scenario, the Phillies could create a little more separation in the lineup between Harper and Didi Gregorius.

Phillies 6, Braves 4
The Phillies played the first night game Monday at CoolToday Park, the Braves' new spring home. The field looked dark from the stands. It was dark to the players, too. They said they had trouble seeing routine popups and even signs from the catcher.

“I think it's pretty typical for A-ball lights. Right?” Girardi said. “I don't know. I'm used to seeing high school lights lately. They're not too good, I can tell you.”

Box score

Right-hander Zach Eflin allowed four hits, three runs and three walks in 1 2/3 innings. He struck out one. Right-hander Vince Velasquez allowed four hits, one run and one walk in three innings. He struck out two.

“My goal coming into Spring Training was working on my slider in the dirt,” said Eflin, who's allowed three earned runs in 3 2/3 innings this spring. “My slider was more cutter-ish [breaking horizontally more than vertically] today.”

“I thought he rebounded pretty well in the second inning,” Girardi said. “I don’t make too much of it. I thought his stuff was pretty good. His curveball was pretty good. He made some mistakes with his slider. It’s Spring Training. I don’t make too much of it.”

Velasquez (one run in five innings) continues to like the fact he is pitching to more contact.

“It’s very surprising to see,” he said.

Said Girardi: “He threw the ball pretty well. He elevated when he needed to. He was down in the zone. His breaking ball was pretty good.”

The Phillies scored four runs in the ninth to win. Kyle Garlick, who is competing for a bench job, singled to score the game-tying run. He also scored the go-ahead run.

No news on Seranthony is good news
Seranthony Domínguez threw 13 pitches in a scrimmage Sunday morning at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater. His fastball touched 94 mph, and his offspeed pitches generated some awkward swings from hitters.

He came out of it OK.

“I did not get any bad reports, so that’s a good report,” Girardi said. “No news is good news a lot of times.”

Up next
After an off-day Tuesday, the Phillies return to action with an unusual split-squad on Wednesday. Right-hander Aaron Nola faces the Pirates in Clearwater at 1:05 p.m. ET, then right-hander Nick Pivetta faces the Yankees in Tampa at 6:35 p.m. (listen to both games live on Gameday Audio). It is Girardi’s return to George M. Steinbrenner Field since leaving the Yankees following the 2017 season.

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