DUNEDIN, Fla. — This abbreviated spring training has been atypical for every player, but few more than Zack Wheeler. The Phillies’ right-handed starter, who finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting last year, felt some soreness in his right shoulder when he began his throwing program this past offseason. Out of caution, he decided to ramp up more slowly than he normally would, and because of that, has yet to face major-league hitters in a live game this spring.
With only four Grapefruit League games remaining, Wheeler likely won’t see live major league-caliber hitters before he makes his first regular-season start on April 12 against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He was scheduled to make a start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, but with rain in the forecast, manager Joe Girardi decided to have Wheeler throw in an intrasquad game in Clearwater instead. He threw 45 pitches, and allowed five runs after a couple plays in the field weren’t made.
“Felt good,” Wheeler said of his brief outing. “Mechanically, I felt good, on time. The ball was coming out good. A few misses here and there but that’s to be expected. Coming out of it healthy is my biggest thing right now.”
Girardi says that Wheeler likely will stay behind at the Phillies’ spring training facility in Clearwater, Fla., and throw in another intrasquad game next Thursday. He’s hoping he can get up to 60 pitches in that outing.
“We haven’t had an ideal spring training in three years,” Girardi said. “And there are a lot of guys that don’t throw a lot of innings in big-league games. They’ll throw to double-A and triple-A. It happens. I can’t predict this.”
“I don’t think it matters,” Wheeler said of the potential of not facing MLB hitters before his regular-season start. “I mean, you probably want to get into a game, but I’ve been communicating with [the team] the whole time and I’m pretty honest with them, so if I’m feeling like I’m ready and I’m not going to hurt the team, I’ll do that. How I’ve been pitching and how the ball is coming out of my hand — if I can feel like the slider is there and the cutter is there, those are tricky pitches to throw, so if I feel it’s coming out of my hand well and I have control of it, I think I’ll transition into the game fairly easily. So, I think I’m game ready even though I haven’t pitched in a game.”
Right-handed reliever Connor Brogdon played catch on Saturday. Girardi said it was the first day that Brogdon had been able to come into camp, because he’d been sick, and said he is “questionable” for being ready for the start of the regular season. … Left-handed reliever José Alvarado, who had stopped throwing because of neck stiffness, will throw in a Grapefruit League game on Sunday.
Girardi said Saturday that they might be leaning toward carrying 15 pitchers on the roster through May 1, but it’s hard to say with the uncertainties around Brogdon and Alvarado. … The Phillies’ Grapefruit League game in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays was called due to rain, ending in a 2-2 tie after five innings. ... Phillies’ starter Andrew Bellatti and the bullpen held their own against a tough Jays lineup, allowing one earned run and only one walk with five strikeouts … Alec Bohm, who made a start at first base on Saturday, made a nice grab in the bottom of the third inning, and recorded another hit, his fourth in the past three games. … Nick Castellanos, who was the designated hitter, went 1-for-2 with two RBIs. He is batting .375 this spring.