It may have already been obvious that baseball would have trouble returning before June, but Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro seemed to hammer home that reality on Sunday when speaking on a conference call with Toronto reporters. Major League Baseball, Shapiro said, should require four weeks of workouts and exhibition games before starting the season. Under guidance from the CDC, the league is currently waiting until at least May 10 before any organized activity. Four weeks from May 15 would be June 7. If the CDC recommends a later date than May 15, then a July opening day could be a reality. As we already knew, it’s going to be a while before they play ball.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

The Phillies are excited about 18-year-old outfield prospect Yhoswar Garcia.
The Phillies are excited about 18-year-old outfield prospect Yhoswar Garcia.

The Phillies are dreaming about Yhoswar Garcia

Every major-league team was invited three years ago to a baseball academy on Venezuela’s Margarita Island for an open workout featuring the academy’s teenaged prospects.

“And that’s where he saw him,” said Sal Agostinelli, the Phillies’ director of international scouting.

The Phillies spotted Yhoswar Garcia that day at the Roberto Vahlis Academy and began a three-year pursuit of the speedy 18-year-old outfielder they signed last week to a $2.5 million contract.

Garcia was to sign with the Phillies last summer, but it was revealed that he was actually a year older than he said he was. The Phillies, still infatuated with the player they saw on Margarita Island, had to wait through an MLB investigation before signing him this month.

It is hard to ever be certain how a teenage prospect will develop as they begin to climb the baseball ladder. But if there was ever a time to dream about a ball player’s future, it is now, when everyone seems to be longing for a distraction.

“Just a tremendous athlete,” Agostinelli said. “Plus defender, plus defensive skills. He has advanced bat skills for his age. He’s a tremendous athlete who has contact skills and should at least have average power. A line drive, gap hitter. A plus-plus runner. Plus defensive center fielder. Pluses across the board and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with more power than we think. He’s just a really good player. He’s really, really good.”

Garcia’s father was a point guard in Venezuela’s professional basketball league. “Good loins,” Agostinelli said. Garcia registered the second-highest exit velocity last year at a Major League Baseball prospect camp in Venezuela for 220 players. “That means there’s a lot of bat speed,” Agostinelli said. And he has a nickname -- “The Drone” -- that he was given because of the way he plays the outfield.

“He flies. That’s why,” Agostinelli said. “His feet don’t touch the ground.”

For now, Garcia will remain at the academy on Margarita Island where the Phillies first spotted him. The team’s academy in the Dominican Republic is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps later this summer, Garcia can start his climb through the minor leagues. Until then, the Phillies will dream about “The Drone.”

The rundown

A shortened season may mean that Spencer Howard could have a greater impact in 2020 for the Phillies. Scott Lauber has the details of how the team’s prized pitching prospect could benefit from a delay to the season.

Lauber, Bob Brookover, and myself recorded a podcast last week to talk about the impact coronavirus is having on the baseball season, when the Phillies could actually play, and what it could mean for things like service time and contract length. We’ll record another Extra Innings podcast this week.

Phillies minor leaguers are scrambling to make ends meet during the coronavirus shutdown, Lauber writes after he talks to one minor leaguer who is hoping to find part-time work at a Lululemon store. The minor leaguers received some good news Thursday when Major League Baseball said it will provide financial assistance for the remainder of spring training.

Important dates

March 28: Bryce Harper wears Phillie Phanatic cleats to make his Phillies debut, 2019.

March 29: Aaron Nola throws 68 pitches on opening day, 2018.

April 4: Jim Thome’s first Phillies home game is the final opener at the Vet, 2003.

April 7: Larry Bowa makes his major-league debut at Connie Mack Stadium’s final opening day, 1970.

Phillies great Bobby Abreu was the latest inductee to the Phillies Wall of Fame. He shoots hot dogs into the stands with the Phillie Phanatic on Sat. Aug. 3, 2019 during the game against the White Sox at Citizens Bank Park.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Phillies great Bobby Abreu was the latest inductee to the Phillies Wall of Fame. He shoots hot dogs into the stands with the Phillie Phanatic on Sat. Aug. 3, 2019 during the game against the White Sox at Citizens Bank Park.

Stat of the day

Thursday was scheduled to be opening day, which would have had the Phillies playing indoors in Miami against the Marlins. So who has the most indoor home runs in Phillies history: Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell, who both hit 19 homers under either a dome or a retractable roof. Mike Schmidt has 18. Bryce Harper has 17 career homers indoors, two of which came last season with the Phillies.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: If not a game of the MLB season is played do you think this year’s schedule will just be flipped to 2021? I am from Millville and we only get Mike Trout at CBP every few years. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity especially since Mike is now at the peak of his powers. - Jim B. via email.

Answer: Thanks, Jim. This is a great question and something I did not already think about. Maybe that’s because I’m holding onto hope that the season won’t be cancelled. First, let’s imagine baseball returns on June 1. If so, I would expect that the Phillies pick up where the current schedule has them, which is how baseball reacted in 1995 when they started the season a few weeks late due to labor strife. MLB teams book flights and hotel rooms a year in advance. Ballparks book other events while the team is on the road. It would take a ton of work to rewrite the schedule. If that’s the case, Mike Trout’s return would be safe in July. But if the season is cancelled, I think they would write a whole new schedule for 2021. Next season’s interleague opponents are already set as the National League East will face the American League East and I would assume that baseball wants to keep everything on schedule.