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Inbox: Have Phils done enough to win NL East?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from fans
@ToddZolecki
January 24, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced a few transactions earlier this week, when they signed infielder Neil Walker and relief pitchers Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris and Drew Storen to Minor League contracts with invitations to big league camp. Otherwise, the Phils have been mostly quiet since signing Zack Wheeler and Didi

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced a few transactions earlier this week, when they signed infielder Neil Walker and relief pitchers Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris and Drew Storen to Minor League contracts with invitations to big league camp. Otherwise, the Phils have been mostly quiet since signing Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius in December.

Fans have questions about that, among other things. We answer seven of them in the latest Inbox:

On paper at this moment, do you see the Phillies legitimately contending for a top-two spot in the National League East this year?
-- @angrykoalaa

The Nationals and Braves must rank ahead of the Phillies entering Spring Training. After all, the Nats won the World Series and the Braves won the division in 2019. The Mets probably need to be ranked ahead of them, too. Not only did New York play better than the Phils last season, it played better after the All-Star break than every team in the NL aside from the Dodgers.

That said, the idea that the Phillies are doomed for a fourth-place finish before camp even opens is a stretch. The Phils have a lot of talent. Yes, they need things to break their way -- there is no arguing that. They need the bottom of the rotation to step up, unlike last season. They need the bullpen to stay healthy. They need Andrew McCutchen to bounce back from ACL surgery. But if Philadelphia is playing meaningful baseball in September, either running down a division title or a Wild Card berth, it would hardly be a major upset.

Pitching?!
-- @heyitsgennna

It is the question everybody is asking as camp approaches. I’m not alone when I say I am curious to see how much of a difference Phillies manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Bryan Price can make. Girardi is known to run an excellent bullpen. Price is known as an excellent pitching coach. Can Girardi manage his relievers more effectively and keep them healthy? Can Price tap into the potential of pitchers like Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta? If Girardi and Price can push the right buttons, perhaps the pitching can surprise and stand up to the rest of the division.

Who is one pitcher from last year who can rebound and help the team more than expected?
-- @DeJawnJackson

It has to be Seranthony Dominguez, who missed much of last season with a right elbow injury. The good news is that he is throwing in preparation for Spring Training. If he returns to form, it can be considered nothing less than a significant upgrade for the Phillies.

Can Jean Segura play third base?
-- @JoeyC18977

We will find out soon enough. Girardi is going to explore both Scott Kingery and Segura at third base this spring. Girardi wants everybody to be comfortable, but he also needs to do what is best for everybody on the team. It will be a fun spring storyline.

What will it take for Alec Bohm to break camp with the Phils?
-- @PhilliesPhocus

It will take a miracle, but that is nothing against Bohm. It's a matter of experience and service time. Bohm has not played above Double-A, so it makes sense to start him at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He will face better pitching there and continue to work on his defense at third. And, like every top prospect in every organization, service time is a consideration. Call him up too early and a team can lose an entire season of club control. It really shouldn’t be an issue for the Phillies for the first few months of the season anyway, because they want to see Segura or Kingery at third base. But if either of those two struggle and Bohm is playing well, I can see the calls for Bohm starting to pick up in June.

Best days to hit Spring Training?
-- @Halter91

Any weekend in March, plus St. Patrick’s Day.

Can something be done about the long lines for cheeseteaks at Tony Lukes?
-- @SDePace

I wouldn’t know. If I hit the concessions, I get the fried chicken sandwich at Federal Donuts.

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