Phillies get thrilling look at new one-two lineup combo

March 5th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Manager Rob Thomson got a glimpse at the revamped one-two combo he plans to use atop the Phillies' lineup to start the season on Sunday -- and the early returns were positive.

Playing in his final game before departing for the World Baseball Classic, led off Sunday's 16-4 loss to the Blue Jays with a single. Then he took second on an error before , also heading to the Classic, hit a towering two-run shot for his first home run of the spring.

"Looked like we were coming out as gangbusters. Swung the bats pretty good in the first inning, so that was nice to see," Thomson said. "Trea gets a leadoff base hit, gets to second base and then Schwarber finally gets a ball up in the air and drives the ball. That was very encouraging."

, making his first-base debut this spring, followed Schwarber's homer with a base knock of his own out of the No. 3 spot.

Though Schwarber performed well in the leadoff spot last season, Thomson plans to use Turner at No. 1 and Schwarber at No. 2 to begin the season. As for Hoskins, Thomson isn't yet set on him at the regular No. 3 spot -- or on how the rest of the lineup will unfold in the absence of , for that matter.

, who went 4-for-8 with a home run before also heading out of camp for the World Baseball Classic, is another option to follow Schwarber. , who is 5-for-14 with a pair of homers, and , looking to bounce back after a disappointing Phillies debut last year, are also possibilities.

"We've got some ways we can play with it," Thomson said of the No. 3 hole. "You've got J.T. sitting there, got to see how Castellanos does the rest of spring. We've got Hoskins, we've got Bohm, who's really swinging the bat. So we've got some options."

Of course, the eventual return of Harper -- who is hoping to be back before the All-Star break -- could lead to another lineup adjustment. Harper primarily hit third last season, and assuming he does so again upon rejoining the club, it's possible that Thomson will want to split up the lefties in Schwarber and Harper.

For now, the Phillies manager is just enjoying the early returns at the top of the lineup, particularly from Schwarber. After a slow start to the spring, Schwarber scorched a 111.7 mph single on Saturday against the Pirates before connecting on Sunday's 108.4 mph, 414-foot homer.

"He stung a ball pretty good yesterday, too, which was good to see," Thomson said. "His timing was off for the first couple games, but it looks like he's got it back."

Wheeler's rocky outing

gave up a lot of hard contact in his second spring start, allowing seven runs on seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays.

Wheeler was tagged for seven hard-hit balls (exit velocity of at least 95 mph, according to Statcast) on the 10 balls put in play, but it's not something he was worried about after the game. Sunday’s start was also the first time Wheeler had pitched to catcher .

"I just felt a little rushed," Wheeler said. "Throwing to Hicksy for the first time, so just trying to get on the same page. But I felt good, came out of it healthy."

Thomson echoed Wheeler’s perception.

"That's natural," Thomson said. "It sort of got his tempo off a little bit. He felt like he was a little rushed at times and the ball was up."

As for the new pitch Wheeler added to his repertoire for 2023 -- the sweeper, if you will -- the right-hander only threw it twice against the Blue Jays.

The outcomes?

"One was decent. One was bad," Wheeler said. "So, just keep working on that and throw it a little bit more."

Wheeler said he plans to work on the pitch more over the coming weeks, while acknowledging that actual results will start to matter a bit more as Opening Day inches closer. For now, he's just focused on staying healthy and building up for the regular season.

"It is what it is," Wheeler said. "Next time out, I'm sure we'll be on a better page."