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Phillies prospect Johan Rojas could be special, Joe Girardi says | Extra Innings

The youngest player in Phillies camp has made quite an impression.

Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas bats in a spring-training game.
Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas bats in a spring-training game.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

It took nearly 4 hours Thursday night for the Phillies to complete an unforgettable spring-training game. They used eight pitchers, walked 10 batters, and allowed six runs in the top of the ninth before winning it in the bottom of the inning. But one good thing: We’re now one day closer to the start of the season. Opening day is a less than a week away. Thursday night’s Grapefruit League classic is behind us.

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Prospect Johan Rojas has ‘Gold Glove potential’

Johan Rojas made a leaping catch against the wall Monday night. Three days later, he stole two bases, had two hits, and drove in the winning run in a nearly four-hour spring-training game.

For the youngest player in Phillies camp, it was quite the way to make an impression.

“Well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a plus-plus defender. He’s a plus runner. He has the chance to be a special player. I believe so. I believe there’s Gold Glove potential there.”

The Phillies signed Rojas in 2018 for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He has played just 42 games in Class A ball, but the 20-year-old outfielder is a player to watch this summer with the return of minor-league baseball. A couple days of spring training provided a glimpse of what he can be.

“Offense becomes really important. Maturing as an offensive player,” Girardi said. “He has bat speed. He has a ton of tools. He’s very coachable, and he picks up on things quickly.”

Both of Rojas’ singles Thursday were hard-hit: They left the bat at 103.2 mph and 95.9 mph. Rojas, one of 18 players at “minicamp,” stole second and third after leading off the eighth with a single. Rojas has stolen 33 bases in 128 minor-league games, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him taking off.

“I don’t know him well enough,” Girardi said. “But I know him well enough to turn him loose at first and turn him loose at second.”

Rojas finished 2019 in short-season A ball, but missed last season when the minor leagues were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. MLB realigned the minor-league system this offseason, and the Phillies’ low-A affiliate is now in Clearwater.

Girardi said he does not know where Rojas will start the season, but it would make sense if he started either there or at high-A Lakewood. Wherever Rojas starts, he’s a player to watch.

The rundown

Spring training is nearly complete, but the Phillies center-field competition is really just beginning, Bob Brookover writes.

The Phillies have some difficult decisions to make, Scott Lauber writes, as they ponder whether to release Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson or keep them on the roster.

Fans will return to Phillies games this season. Stephanie Farr checked out Citizens Bank Park this week and gave fans five things to expect this season at the ballpark.

Important dates

Tonight: Chase Anderson starts vs. Toronto, 6:37 p.m.

Tomorrow: Phillies travel to Lakeland to play the Tigers, 1:05 p.m.

Sunday: The Yankees come back to Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.

Monday: A spring-training finale against Toronto, 1:05 p.m.

Thursday: Opening day at Citizens Bank Park vs. Atlanta, 3:05 p.m.

Stat of the day

Barring a major surprise, Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper will start for the Phillies on opening day. It would be the first time since 2006 that the Phillies started the season with the same right and left fielders for three straight years.

Left fielder Pat Burrell and right fielder Bobby Abreu started together for six straight years, from 2001-06. Before that, the last corner outfielders to start together three straight years were Greg Luzinski and Bake McBride from 1978-80.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: The center-field race has been a clunker, but who is going to win it? — Danny T. via email.

Answer: Thanks, Danny. The race has been a clunker, but it is nearing the finish line. The Braves announced this week that Max Fried, a left-hander, will start for them on opening day. That leads me to believe that switch-hitting Roman Quinn will start in center on Thursday.

But does that mean he won the race? No. Adam Haseley or Scott Kingery could be in the lineup for Game 2, as a platoon seems to be the likely solution to the center-field situation. Odubel Herrera has not forced the team’s hand to add him to the roster.