We are one week into the spring-training schedule, and the Phillies are in contention to be Grapefruit League champions. It’s difficult, of course, to get excited about such a thing, especially when you notice that the only team in front of the Phillies is the unbeaten Miami Marlins (6-0), who have improved from last season, but not enough to be NL East contenders.
The Phillies are officially 5-1 after putting up 20 hits in a 12-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday at Fenway South down in Fort Myers, Fla. The Phillies are actually 5-1-1, with the tie coming in the exhibition opener against Detroit. The Grapefruit League discards ties and is also not fond of the NHL’s overtime losses.
For what it’s worth, new manager Joe Girardi’s New York Yankees won the Grapefruit League with a 24-10 record in 2009 before going on to win their 27th World Series that season. In Girardi’s 11 years as manager, his teams had a winning record seven times.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have not had a winning exhibition record since 2016, when they went 15-11 under Pete Mackanin, then improved by eight games in the regular season. The Phillies also have had just one winning exhibition record during their eight-year playoff drought.
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Nick Pivetta struck out five, but walked two and allowed a hit and a run in his second Grapefruit League start Thursday against Boston. In two spring starts, he has allowed four runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. For now, Girardi is still seeing more good than bad because that’s what he wants to see at least until the competition for the fifth-starter job begins, and it has not begun yet.
“I’ll let them have one more start, but there are things you register upstairs,” Girardi said. “It’s still early. They’re probably not as sharp as they’re going to be with their arm strength, but there are things you look at. I think you take into account more good than bad right now. The bad, you chalk up to rustiness. The good, you’re like, ‘OK, that might work.’ ”
“I like the way he wiggled his way out of that first inning facing some legit big-league hitters,” Girardi said. “I thought he used his slider really effectively again and he threw a bunch of changeups again, so it was pretty good. I think the more pitches you can throw for strikes, it is more pitches for the hitter to worry about and then they don’t see all the pitches at the beginning of the count that you put them away with.
"I think he has embraced the challenge. I think he came in really prepared. I think he worked hard all winter, and he wants that spot just like everybody else who wants it.”
The other leading candidate for the fifth spot is Vince Velasquez, who kept his pitch count to 26 in two scoreless innings against Baltimore on Monday.
You want to know the top prospects in the Phillies’ farm system? Bryce Harper does because he knows the farmhands of today are going to be his teammates of tomorrow. That’s what happens when you have a dozen years left on your contract.
Scott Kingery played shortstop, hit a home run and knocked in three runs in Thursday’s win over the Red Sox. Girardi believes Kingery will be even better if he plays primarily at second base this season.
Jay Bruce has been one of the game’s premier sluggers since 2008, but he will probably have to serve primarily as a bat off the bench this season provided there are no injuries to others.
While Pivetta and Velasquez battle for the final spot in the rotation, Zach Eflin is settling into a comfort zone as the fourth starter now that he no longer is being advised to heavily rely on a four-seam fastball up in the zone.
Scott Lauber and I talk about a J.T. Realmuto extension, Jean Segura at third base, the fifth-starter job and, of course, the Phillie Phanatic in this week’s Extra Innings podcast.
Photographer Yong Kim made the trip to Fort Myers on Thursday and, as usual, he provided some brilliant work.
Today: Aaron Nola faces Atlanta at Spectrum Field, 1:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler makes spring-training debut vs. Toronto in Dunedin, 1:05 p.m.
March 23: Spring-training finale vs. Tampa Bay in Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.
March 26: Opening day vs. Miami at Marlins Park, 4:10 p.m.
April 2: Home opener at Citizens Bank Park vs. Brewers, 3:05 p.m.
The Phillies believe new pitching coach Bryan Price will be a valuable addition this season, and so far, the reports from players have been positive.
Price’s track record is also attractive. In his 14 years as a pitching coach with Seattle (2000-05), Arizona (2006-09) and Cincinnati, he helped 10 pitchers make 15 All-Star appearances and also mentored Brandon Webb to a Cy Young Award with the Diamondbacks in 2006. Webb finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2007 and 2008, and Price was Baseball America’s coach of the year in 2007 when the D-backs finished fourth in the NL in ERA and won the NL West.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Who are the other Phillies named Phil? — Mike C., via email
Answer: Mike, thanks for the email and for reading Extra Innings. Sorry I left you hanging on the Phillies named Phil during the last newsletter. As I mentioned, Phil Gosselin became the 10th Phillies player in history named Phil, but I did not reveal the other nine players.
Well, here they are:
P Phil Saylor (1891)
P Phil Knell (1892)
P Phil Geier (1896-97)
P Phil “Lefty” Weinert (1919-24)
P Phil Collins (1929-35)
1B Phil Weintraub (1938)
3B Phil Linz (1966-67)
OF Phil Bradley (1988)
P Phil Klein (2016)
If you want, you could also include pitcher Phillippe Aumont (2012-15), who is attempting a comeback this spring as a non-roster invitee with the Toronto Blue Jays after posting a 2.65 ERA as a member of the Ottawa Champions in the now-defunct Cam-Am League last summer.