Let’s play two!
After a rare day off yesterday, the Phillies will split up. By day, half the roster will host the Pittsburgh Pirates in Clearwater, Fla. By night, the other half will travel across the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Tampa for a game against the New York Yankees in manager Joe Girardi’s return to George M. Steinbrenner Field.
And here you thought your Wednesday was going to be busy.
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At some point this season, the Phillies expect top prospect Alec Bohm to make his major-league debut.
First, though, he might help Team USA qualify for the Olympics.
Bohm is under consideration to play third base for the team that will travel to Arizona later this month to compete for a berth in the six-team baseball tournament at the Olympics this summer, according to U.S. manager Scott Brosius.
“Alec is definitely a guy that we’re talking about,” Brosius said by phone. “We’re interested in bringing him back. As we process what this roster looks like, the balance of right-handed [hitters] and left-handed, all those things that go into it, he’s definitely been a big piece of our discussions.”
The tournament is scheduled for March 22-27, by which time the Phillies almost certainly will have assigned Bohm to minor-league camp. Because the triple-A opener isn’t until April 9, the Olympic qualifier wouldn’t delay Bohm’s season.
Although a decision has not been made, the Phillies are open to letting Bohm play, according to a source.
Brosius said the roster will be set within about 10 days, but Team USA can make changes until almost the last minute based on players’ availability. Any player who isn’t on an active big-league roster is eligible.
“Take a guy like Alec,” Brosius said. “Where would you rather have him: on field 2 at spring training or playing in a national game that gives them that kind of experience?”
Bohm, the Phillies’ first-round pick in 2018, played for the U.S. at the Premier 12 tournament in November. He went 7-for-30 (.233) with three doubles and one home run and committed two errors, and Team USA lost to Mexico, 3-2, in 10 innings in the bronze-medal game. Bohm struck out three times in that game.
“That was probably the coolest experience I’ve had in baseball so far,” Bohm said. “To be able to travel to Mexico and Tokyo, it was an eye-opening experience. It was a lot more than I expected. I didn’t expect to be playing in front of 40,000 people in the Tokyo Dome. That was something that I’ll remember forever.”
Brosius, a former big-league third baseman and teammate of Girardi’s with the Yankees, was impressed with Bohm’s all-fields power from the right side of the plate. Brosius was also more bullish than some evaluators about the 23-year-old’s defense.
“Can he play third base in the big leagues? If he wants to, he can,” Brosius said. “I think that defense is always something that you can improve if you’re willing to put in the time and work to do it. He’s really athletic. There’s no question about that. He’s a good enough athlete to play over there.”
Would Bohm be open to reprising his role with Team USA?
“If they’ll have me,” he said, “I would love to play.”
Said Brosius: “I know he wants to do it again. We love that. We love that he has a little bit of a bitter taste from the tournament ending the way it did. I think he has something to prove. He wants another shot at it again. The last game was a little bit of a punch in the gut. He wants to get back up and fight again, so we see that as a really positive thing.”
Team USA’s first game will be March 22 against Nicaragua.
To some, a day off in Florida means a visit to the beach. To Matt Breen, it means channeling his inner Joe Girardi and projecting the opening-day roster.
Bryson Stott grew up idolizing Bryce Harper. Now, the 2019 first-round pick can dream of someday playing alongside his fellow Las Vegas native.
With Andrew McCutchen set to begin the season on the injured list, it’s unclear who will bat leadoff for the Phillies. We know this, though: It won’t be Harper.
Get to know this name: Kyle Garlick. Acquired only a few weeks ago, the righty-hitting outfielder is pushing for a roster spot.
Tonight: Fifth-starter candidate Nick Pivetta vs. Yankees, 6:35 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler faces Blue Jays in Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Jake Arrieta vs. Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., 1:05 p.m.
March 23: Phillies wrap up spring training vs. Rays, 1:05 p.m.
March 26: Opening day vs. Marlins in Miami, 4:10 p.m.
After his first spring-training start, Aaron Nola discussed one of the differences between his Cy Young Award-worthy 2018 season and his merely solid 2019.
“I didn’t throw my changeup in even counts for strikes as much,” said Nola, who will face the Pirates today. “Like 1-1 counts for changeups were going to 2-1 counts, and 1-0 counts were going to 2-0 counts. I think that was a separator.”
The numbers back up Nola’s statement. In 2018, 125 of the 173 changeups that he threw in 1-0 and 1-1 counts went for strikes (72.3%). Last season, only 77 of his 140 changeups in 1-0 and 1-1 counts went for strikes (55%).
“When I’m throwing everything for strikes, I have three pitches, and that’s my main focus every single year,” Nola said. “Last year, I wasn’t as consistent in the zone. My changeup wasn’t as consistent as it was in previous years. I am just trying to get back to throwing that for strikes down more."
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Why would [Jean] Segura play third [base]? Bohm could be ready by midseason or earlier, and if you have to move someone off third, [Scott] Kingery has already shown he can handle multiple positions. Why make an established veteran move from SS to 3B to 2B? — @AjayVerghese, via Twitter
Answer: Hey, Ajay. Thanks for the question. My read on the infield picture is that it has more to do with Kingery than Segura. Many team officials believe that a Kingery-Didi Gregorius middle infield would be dynamic, and Girardi would love to keep Kingery at one position.
Nobody disputes that Segura is a good player. And with $43.75 million left on his contract through 2022, he’d be a pricey utility infielder. For that to happen, though, Kingery, Gregorius, Segura, Bohm and, for that matter, Rhys Hoskins would all have to stay healthy and productive.