Practice? We’re talking about practice? Not the game. Not the game. We’re talking about practice? We’re talking about practice, man.
Yes, Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. But just for one more day. The Phillies will hold their final workout of spring training on Friday afternoon before they play the first of their 33 spring-training games on Saturday. Then again, those games are just exhibitions. So we’ll be talking about practice games.
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Hector Neris and the Phillies avoided arbitration late Thursday when the two sides agreed to a one-year, $4.6 million contract.
The right-hander is a key member of a bullpen that seems to be buzzing with pitchers eager to work with a new manager and pitching coach. The bullpen last season was a M*A*S*H unit with eight relievers spending time on the injured list.
The Phillies used 34 pitchers last season, and communication between manager Gabe Kapler and his relievers was at times a challenge. Neris, who stayed healthy all season and led the staff with 68 appearances, caused confusion twice last September when he stayed in the bullpen and continued to warm up despite being called into the game by Kapler. The manager said it was a new ritual for Neris, but the pitcher said he just needed more time to get ready. The two spent an off-day hashing it out over the phone. A few weeks later, Kapler was fired.
Enter manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Bryan Price, whom Neris called “two great guys with great experience.”
“Everybody is different. Everybody has different ways to try and command people,” Neris said. “I think these guys can see what happened last year, and they’ll have a good plan. This is what I can’t wait for. I’m going to believe Girardi because he commanded a great group in New York, and Price, too. I’ll open my mind and eyes to them.”
The Phillies will likely rely heavily again on Neris, who should begin the season as the team’s closer. He has struck out 12.9 batters per nine innings over the last two seasons and is one of four relievers in camp who appear to have jobs locked up. Tommy Hunter, if healthy, would be the fifth member of the eight-man bullpen. And it will be a unit under the control of a new manager.
“He’s a strikeout guy, I believe,” Girardi said of Neris. “He’s obviously got a great split, but he’s also a leader in that bullpen that I think is really important. The attitude that he brings every day and the love of the game, guys love to be around him.”
Bob Brookover checks in on Mickey Moniak, who no longer carries the top-prospect status he had when the Phillies drafted him with the first-overall pick in 2016. Moniak told Brooky that he still believes in himself.
J.T. Realmuto lost his arbitration case Thursday, but he’ll still make $10 million in 2019. Scott Lauber writes about the next step for the Phillies and their all-star catcher: negotiations for a long-term contract. Realmuto is set to be a free agent after the season and Lauber details why finding common ground could be a challenge.
Joe Girardi got caught in a tweet storm this week when a video from October circulated on social media, leading some to think the video was evidence that Giradi’s Yankees teams used an Astros-like system to cheat. Girardi saw the video and addressed what he was talking about in the clip: “It wasn’t our team doing it. We caught the other team doing it.”
Today: The Phillies host their final workout before games begin, 11 a.m.
Tomorrow: Nick Pivetta starts spring opener vs. Tigers in Lakeland, 1:05 p.m.
Sunday: Aaron Nola starts at home in Clearwater against the Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: Vince Velasquez pitches at home against Baltimore, 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday: The Phillies travel to Bradenton to play the Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
Victor Arano threw off a mound Thursday afternoon as he continues to make progress from the elbow surgery he underwent last May.
Arano entered last spring as a sure bet to make the roster, but allowed 20 runs in four Grapefruit League innings. He began the season in triple A, pitched in three games in April for the Phillies, and was shut down for the season.
But if he’s healthy, Arano could be a nice bullpen addition in 2020. In 2018, Arano had a 2.73 ERA in 60 games and struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings. He retired the first 25 batters he faced that season, held right-handed hitters to a .207 batting average, and had a 0.78 ERA in 22 outings from June 26 to Aug. 16.
Keep an eye on Arano this spring. If healthy, he’ll push for one of the final spots in the bullpen.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: What’s the TV schedule look like this spring? — Marty B. via email