CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler's first camp with the Phillies has been unlike any in recent memory.
Kapler had umpires behind the plate at February bullpen sessions, wing-eating contests, the musical stylings of John Lee Hooker and others filling the hallways at Spectrum Field, talent shows, Jason Kelce and good-luck wishes from Carson Wentz and Justin Timberlake. He hit the pitcher eighth and shifted Rhys Hoskins from left field to right midgame in preparation for a season that should "be bold" to say the least. It seemed everybody played everywhere in the field, as the Phillies have made versatility a priority.
And now the real fun starts.
Opening Day is Thursday against the Braves at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Only three of the eight position players from last season's opening lineup -- Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera -- are expected to start. Perhaps only 11 players from last year's Opening Day roster will be on this one.
Here are some things Phillies fans need to know:
Projected Opening Day lineup
- Cesar Hernandez, 2B
- Carlos Santana, 1B
- Odubel Herrera, CF
- Rhys Hoskins, LF
- Nick Williams, RF
- Maikel Franco, 3B
- Jorge Alfaro, C
- Aaron Nola, P
- J.P. Crawford, SS
• Aaron Altherr and Williams are expected to share time in right field, although Altherr could see action everywhere because he is a good defender. But playing time in right seems likely to be based on matchups. For example, Williams could start Opening Day because Altherr is just 2-for-16 (.125) with one home run, three walks and nine strikeouts in his career against Braves starter Julio Teheran.
• Right-hander Hector Neris opens as the Phillies' closer, but it will be interesting to see how much Kapler sticks to traditional roles. It would not be a surprise to see Neris getting big outs in the eighth and somebody else pitching the ninth.
• Nola, Jacob Arrieta, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are in the rotation, but the No. 5 spot is undetermined. Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and perhaps Andrew Hutchison could take that job.
• Arrieta is not injured, but he is behind schedule after signing on March 12. He is penciled in to pitch Tuesday's Grapefruit League finale and a simulated game next week -- either in New York or Clearwater. He will join the rotation on April 8 against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
• Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is recovering from a strained right lat and is out until at least May.
• Right-hander Mark Leiter has a strained flexor pronator in his right arm and could return in late April/early May.