Bryce Harper, with a day off, tried his best last night to break the bell at the 76ers game. Harper slammed it three times with a hammer but missed his chance to flip the hammer the way he flipped his bat after homering in Washington. The bell survived, and Harper watched the game from a suite with Rhys Hoskins and new best friend Carson Wentz.
Harper also met fellow No. 3 Allen Iverson, who will see Harper again Saturday when The Answer throws out the first pitch at Saturday’s Phillies game. We wonder if Iverson is already practicing for his first pitch. Practice?
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What to do when Roman Quinn returns?
Roman Quinn played all nine innings Thursday night when he began a rehab assignment with high-A Clearwater. The Phillies hoped before the season that Quinn would be ready around the middle of April, a timeline that Quinn is on track to meet as his rehab assignment must end by April 24. He’ll give the team some versatility — he can play all three outfield positions — and some speed off the bench.
So if Quinn is ready this month, what will the Phillies do?
The most likely scenario has them removing Aaron Altherr from the 25-man roster, which will be a tough decision to make because Altherr is out of options and would likely be claimed by another team off waivers before he’s placed in the minor leagues. The team’s only other move is to demote Nick Williams, who has been Gabe Kapler’s first option off the bench. Remember, Kapler called Williams “the closer.” This season is about winning, and sending Williams to triple A would counter that.
If the Phillies lose Altherr, they must protect themselves in the event that Quinn, who has been out with a strained oblique on his right side, goes down with another injury, leaving them without a backup in center field for Odubel Herrera. The Phillies’ 40-man roster is thin in center field. Would they really play Scott Kingery there in the majors?
Bryce Harper said this spring that he hopes to stay out of center, and Andrew McCutchen, a former full-time center fielder, did not play there last season. If Quinn went down and Herrera needed a day off, the most likely choice would be for McCutchen to slide over from left instead of adding a veteran from triple A who would need to first be added to the 40-man roster. The team’s lack of depth makes losing Altherr a bit more complicated.
Pat Neshek has used the same glove for his entire career. The Phillies reliever already had a tough mitt, but he needed to strengthen his mindset this offseason and accept the way Gabe Kapler manages his bullpen. Neshek talked to me about his old glove and his fresh outlook.
Maikel Franco is flourishing at the bottom of the lineup as the No. 8 hitter. Franco said he doesn’t mind and has made adjustments to his new role. That’s good, because Kapler does not seem to have any plans to move Franco up in the order.
Ryan Smith, a Philly native from Mt. Airy, said it was Harry Kalas who inspired him to pursue a career in broadcasting. Smith, Rob Tornoe writes, has been filling in as the host of ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Tonight: Nick Pivetta faces Twins righthander Jake Odorizzi, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta starts against righthander Michael Pineda, 2:05 p.m.
Sunday: Zach Eflin’s on the mound with a new Sunday start time, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: The Nationals come to Philly to visit Bryce Harper, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Through the first five games, Maikel Franco has seven walks, five of which were intentional (he leads the majors in that category). Last season, Franco had seven walks in his first 33 games and finished with just 29 walks. He’s on pace to surpass last season’s walk total by the end of this month.
Franco’s walk rate has given him the second-highest on-base percentage in baseball, trailing only teammate Harper. He seems to be enjoying his spot at No. 8.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: In your opinion, is it more important to have an extra guy off the bench (such as a reserve infielder) or an extra bullpen arm? Greg S. via email.
Answer: Thanks, Greg. I think it’s more important to have an extra arm in the bullpen. The Phillies, like most teams, keep a sharp eye on their starters and are hesitant to let them run through a batting order for the third time. As you saw last year, the game has shifted to a heavy reliance on relief pitchers.
The more the Phillies have, the better. If they use four of them tonight, they’ll have four fresh arms waiting tomorrow. With a slimmer bench, you need versatility, which makes the idea of Kingery playing multiple positions ideal. Plus, the Phillies have eight regular players so their bench is used for pinch hitting or off-day replacements.