No baseball today. The Phillies were scheduled to play the Rays on Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla., and move another day closer to the start of the season. They would be putting the finishing touches on the opening-day roster and maybe even naming a fifth starter. Instead, the Phils are scrambling this week as many players returned home after spring training was canceled and the season was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s going to be a while until baseball is back.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm fielding the baseball against the Toronto Blue Jays in a spring training game March 5.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm fielding the baseball against the Toronto Blue Jays in a spring training game March 5.

Alec Bohm’s defensive investment can pay major-league dividends

Four months after being drafted by the Phillies, Alec Bohm used a piece of his signing bonus to buy a condo on Clearwater Beach. He would make it his offseason residence, trading the cold of Nebraska for a view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Not a bad way to spend the winter. But for Bohm, the purchase was an investment in his major-league future.

Bohm was already a polished hitter when the Phillies drafted him third overall in 2018. But he knew that his play at third base had to improve before he reached the majors. Spending the winter in Clearwater might help his tan, but it also gave Bohm the chance to spend almost every day at the Phillies complex working on his defense under the tutelage of the team’s coaching staff.

Four weeks in spring training provided enough of a glimpse that Bohm’s work was paying off.

“I’ve taken a lot of strides,” Bohm said. “I’m getting a lot better over there and starting to feel really comfortable. I’ve placed a lot of focus on my defense.”

Bohm hit .305 last season with a .896 OPS in 125 games for Class A Lakewood, high-A Clearwater, and double-A Reading. That success continued in spring training, as Bohm hit .409 with a .849 OPS in 25 plate appearances. Most of his at-bats this spring came against lesser opposition in the later innings of Grapefruit League games, but it was still evident that Bohm’s bat should be good enough to carry him to the majors.

And his glove is starting to catch up. He wasn’t perfect this spring, but the 23-year-old showed he can hold his own at third base. Bohm is 6-foot-5, but moves well laterally and has a strong arm. He has quick feet and a smooth glove.

Bohm should reach the majors sometime this season, as there’s a clear path for him to be the team’s third baseman of the future. The Phillies could easily bump Jean Segura off third, just as they did at shortstop, once Bohm is deemed ready. A shortened regular season could have him in Philadelphia sooner.

His defense continues to be a work in progress — he sandwiched two botched plays in one game this spring around a strong pick and throw — but his offense is promising enough that the Phillies can live with even serviceable defense.

One play this spring showed his potential: Bohm went to his right earlier against Toronto, plucked a sharply hit grounder, and threw across his body to first base as his momentum carried him into foul territory. It was a great play, but the ball popped out of the first baseman’s glove. The runner was safe. But for Bohm, it must have been gratifying to see the fruits of his real-estate investment pay off.

“For me, I make that play all the time,” Bohm said. “People seem surprised, like ‘Oh, you made a play.’ I don’t care. It’s my job. Gratifying? No, because I didn’t even get the guy out. Really, I was pissed off. But it is what it is, I guess.”

The rundown

J.T. Realmuto’s contract talks are on hold, Scott Lauber writes, as everything in baseball seems to be on pause because of the coronavirus. The Phillies have spent the last few days focused on making arrangements for their minor-league players to leave Clearwater, and that has taken their attention away from issues such as Realmuto’s extension.

The Phillies joined the 29 other major-league clubs Tuesday by pledging $1 million to provide financial assistance for part-time and seasonal employees who will lose wages during baseball’s shutdown.

The Phillies closed their Citizens Bank Park offices this week, and it is unlikely that the season will start before June. Following CDC guidelines, baseball will not be able to resume until the middle of May. It would then likely need a three-week training camp before starting the season. We could be looking at a Memorial Day without baseball.

Important dates

Today: No baseball.

Tomorrow: Still no baseball.

Friday: Nope, no baseball.

Saturday: Sorry, no baseball.

Sunday: Baseball? Not today.

Tug McGraw
STAFF FILE PHOTO
Tug McGraw

A look back

The Phillies were unable to wear their St. Patrick’s Day uniforms Wednesday as spring training’s cancellation stopped the team’s tradition of going green for a day. But before that was tradition, Tug McGraw tried to celebrate his Irish heritage on his own.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1977, McGraw dyed his white uniform “a bright and garish green” and wore it in the bullpen as he warmed up to enter a blowout win over Toronto. He even dyed his socks. But umpire Nick Colosi spotted McGraw and told the Phillies he wasn’t allowed to wear the uniform. So McGraw put on his regulation pants, but covered his jersey with a satin jacket.

The Phillies called on McGraw to enter and he ripped off the jacket when he reached the mound, revealing his green jersey. Colosi fumed.

“Hey Tug,” Colosi said. “They won’t let me wear the Italian flag on Columbus Day. Put on another shirt.”

McGraw obliged and changed his uniform top but kept on his green socks. The seeds of a tradition were planted.

“Dyeing clothes is not one of my strong points,” McGraw said. “I’m not going to win any Good Housekeeping awards. It won’t be anything I’ll fall back on when I get out of baseball.”

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: What does the current situation do to the guys that have the opt out clause if not on the 40 man. I think a couple happen this week. — JM in FL via email

Answer: Thanks, JM. We should have some clarity on that this week. The Phillies have four players who can opt of their contracts Friday if they’re not added to the major-league roster.

The current situation puts everyone in a bind. It’s hard for the Phillies to know now if Logan Forsythe or Neil Walker will be on their opening-day roster, since that game might not be played until June. It’s also hard for Forsythe and Walker to opt out of a contract without having another camp to join. But as of Tuesday afternoon, the Phillies believed that the opt-out dates would not be changing. We’ll know more in the coming days.