The Phillies ended the first half on Sunday just like they started it: with an equal amount of wins and losses. It was an underwhelming first half, but the Phils will take a .500 record as they enter the All-Star break just 3½ games out of first place. When play resumes Friday, the Phillies will be three weeks away from the trade deadline, and it’s hard to imagine them not being buyers on July 30. That was hard to say a week ago. But that’s how much a good week can change things.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

Phils hope Abel and Painter can be a 1-2 punch atop the rotation

The Phillies don’t play their next game until Friday, so forgive them if they allow themselves this week to dream a little.

For the second-straight year, the Phils used their first-round draft pick on a high school pitcher who is years away from the big leagues. But they’re already dreaming about pairing Andrew Painter — the hard throwing 6-foot-7 right-hander they grabbed on Sunday — at the top of a rotation along with Mick Abel, the hard throwing 6-5 right-hander they selected last summer.

“When you start talking about the excitement and upside of getting Mick last year and the opportunity to add Andrew to that,” said Brian Barber, the team’s director of amateur scouting, “and those guys rise up through the minor leagues together and hopefully one day front your rotation in Philadelphia, yeah, that gets us excited.”

The Phillies last used consecutive first-round picks on high school pitchers when they grabbed Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels in 2001 and 2002. The pitchers followed each other through the minors and reached the majors two seasons apart as Hamels’ development was slowed by injuries.

Abel, who is pitching in low A, and Painter could find themselves on a similar track. If all goes well, Abel should reach double A sometime next year and could be in the majors as early as 2023. Painter could be a year behind.

“I definitely think it’s cool because I think we came from similar scenarios,” Painter said. “Maybe he could work like a mentor as he’s been through the same thing that I’m about to go through. I think that will be really helpful.”

Drafting high school pitchers can be risky, but the rewards are large if the pitchers pan out.

“We know what the history of the draft details when you’re talking about high school pitching,” Barber said. “But when you’re talking about the upside that we see in Andrew, it just overweighs some of the historical risk of a high school pitcher. We also get into things that scouting departments did not get into 10, 15, 20 years ago when you start doing slow-motion video analysis, biomechanical research on players, and pitch metric testing and data. I think we’re better scouting departments than we were 10, 15, 20 years ago that led to some of that historical data.”

Painter’s fastball tops out at 97 mph and he throws a change-up, slider, and curveball. The likely plan would have him pitch this summer in the Gulf Coast League before starting next season with low-A Clearwater. The Phillies have been patient with the start of Abel’s career and will likely tread lightly at first with Painter.

“I know all about him,” Painter said of Abel. “I haven’t crossed paths with him, but I’ve seen him all over the place.”

The rundown

Ranger Suárez picked up a seven-out save to lift depleted Phillies back to .500 on Sunday. Scott Lauber has that and other observations from 5-4 victory over Red Sox.

Alec Bohm tested positive for COVID-19 and the Phillies lost several players, including Aaron Nola, because of contact tracing. But Joe Girardi said he doubts Sunday’s COVID-19 episode will prompt more players to get vaccinated.

It’s been five years since the Phillies used the No. 1 overall pick on Mickey Moniak. Lauber traces the Phils’ missteps from the 2016 draft.

York County’s Benny Montgomery was drafted by the Rockies and South Jersey’s Chase Petty was drafted in the first round by the Twins, but two other local stars could be on the board when the Phillies make their second-round selection on Monday. Bob Brookover has the scouting report here on Malvern Prep’s Lonnie White Jr. and Bishop Eustace’s Anthony Solometo.

Important dates

Today: The MLB draft continues with rounds two through 10, 1 p.m.

Tonight: The Home Run Derby in Colorado, 8 p.m.

Tomorrow: The MLB draft concludes with rounds 11-20, noon

Tomorrow night: Zack Wheeler and J.T. Realmuto play in the All-Star Game, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: The Phils open the second half with a doubleheader at home vs. Miami, 4:05 p.m.

Stat of the day

National League manager Dave Roberts will announce Monday if Zack Wheeler is starting Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. If so, it will be the third time in franchise history that the Phillies had the starting pitcher and catcher on the NL squad, as J.T. Realmuto will replace the injured Buster Posey in the lineup. In 1979, Bob Boone caught Steve Carlton, and Darren Daulton caught Terry Mulholland in 1993. Wheeler leads the majors in innings (119⅔), has the third-most strikeouts (145), and his ERA (2.26) is the fourth-best in the National League.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: “Let’s say the Phillies continue this push out of the break. Could you see Dombrowski going after a higher-leverage reliever rather than a sixth inning type?” — Dan L. via Twitter

Answer: Yes. The Phillies have plenty of sixth-inning relievers. If Dave Dombrowski wants to move the needle this month, he needs to bolster the back of his bullpen. The Cubs will be shopping Craig Kimbrel, and the Pirates will be looking to deal Rich Rodriguez. The Phillies will be in on both of them. A shutdown reliever could transform the Phillies from a playoff contender to a playoff team. They just have to hope that this year’s bullpen acquisitions go better than last year’s.