Dombrowski dishes on Bryce, Painter, Abel, roster, more

March 19th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Dave Dombrowski got home Saturday night, just seconds after Trea Turner hit a game-winning grand slam for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

It was a cool moment that was made even cooler knowing Turner will be the Phillies’ shortstop this season. Turner, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Taijuan Walker will rejoin the Phillies before the end of the week with Team USA's run at the World Baseball Classic ending on Tuesday, at the latest.

Sunday seemed like a good time for reporters to catch up with Dombrowski, who discussed several key topics prior to the Phillies' 9-5 loss to the Red Sox at BayCare Ballpark:

Bryce Harper's recovery
Harper is recovering well from Tommy John surgery. His timetable to rejoin the team remains unchanged: by the All-Star break.

“He’s doing great, very well,” Dombrowski said. “He feels good. He’s not having any setbacks, whatsoever.”

Dombrowski said the next step in Harper’s progression is playing soft toss on back-to-back days. Harper said Sunday he is not sure when that will happen.

“Maybe sometime in April, if I had to guess, for back-to-back [days],” Harper said. “Back-to-back days of hitting, because I’m on a day, off a day, on a day, off a day.”

The rotation
Left-hander threw another bullpen on Sunday. He has been sidelined recently with tightness in his left forearm. Dombrowski said it went well, and the Phillies expect Suárez to start the first week of the season. He will be limited in his first couple starts because of the layoff.

Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Walker and Suárez will be the first four starters. Left-hander Bailey Falter is the heavy favorite to be the No. 5, although Dombrowski stopped short of anointing him. Behind Falter, the only healthy starter on the 40-man roster is left-hander Michael Plassmeyer. Left-hander Matt Strahm could be stretched out, if needed.

“You’re always concerned about rotation depth,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t care if you sign five guys, it’s always in the back of your mind.”

Andrew Painter update
The No. 6 prospect in baseball could begin a light throwing program next week. Painter has not thrown a baseball since March 1, when he suffered a sprained proximal UCL in the right elbow, but the Phillies are confident he will rebound without surgery.

“If they felt strongly that surgery was needed, they would have done that,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski said he sees Painter pitching for them at some point this season.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “At this point, for sure. … Even if he joins us in a couple months.”

Mick Abel timeline
Abel is the Phillies’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 48 overall prospect in baseball. He pitched well Saturday against the Braves in North Port.

“I try not to put timeframes on individuals,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t think that’s usually a good idea, unless they’re right there and ready to compete. He has blue-chip stuff. He’s got No. 1 starter-type stuff. … Really, it’s more of a matter of when he gets consistent, and throwing strikes, too. … When you have that type of talent, you can come at any time. But we’re also giving him the time that he needs to develop. We hope not to rush him.”

Noah Song situation
Song is expected to open the season on the injured list because of lower back tightness, Dombrowski said. The Rule 5 Draft pick will need to be placed on the 40-man roster by Opening Day, unless he is placed on the 60-day IL.

The bench
The Phillies have two bench jobs available, and five players playing well enough to warrant serious consideration for them: Jake Cave, Kody Clemens, Dalton Guthrie, Darick Hall and Scott Kingery. Cave, Clemens, Guthrie and Hall have options remaining. Kingery is not on the 40-man roster.

“When I talk to people and say we’ve got five guys who are competing, which two would you take? I might get five different names, five different combinations of people,” Dombrowski said. “They’ve all played well. They’ve all done a good job for us. It’s good that you have choices. It’s bad that somebody’s going to be in a spot where they’re going to say, ‘Why not me?’ Because they played well enough.”

Asked if they must have a right-handed-hitting outfielder back up Brandon Marsh in center field, Dombrowski said, “It’s a strong consideration, but when you say, ‘You have to,’ I don’t know. It’s the same question that we’re going to ask ourselves. How much is Marsh going to play out there vs. lefties? He’s hitting lefties much better.”

Guthrie and Kingery both hit right-handed and play center field. Dombrowski said Edmundo Sosa could play there at some point.