NORTH PORT, Fla. — Kyle Garlick continued to build his case Monday night for a spot on the Phillies’ opening-day roster as he stroked a game-tying single in the ninth inning of a 6-4 win over the Braves.
Garlick, acquired early in camp via a trade with the Dodgers, is a candidate to grab one of the final roster spots as a corner outfielder and righthanded power-bat off the bench. He’s 4 for 11 this spring with two RBIs. He had a 1.057 OPS last season in 81 games with the Dodgers’ triple-A team.
Christian Bethancourt started the rally with his second homer of the night. Luke Williams stroked a go-ahead single and Nick Maton added a single to give the Phillies a two-run lead.
Williams and Maton are both minor-leaguers and Bethancourt is not on the 40-man roster, which complicates his chances of being the backup catcher if Andrew Knapp remains sidelined with a rib cage injury. Bethancourt is likely ticketed for triple A.
Zach Eflin was scheduled for three innings Monday night as he started to stretch his arm for the regular season. But the right-hander failed to even get through two.
The Braves jumped on Eflin for three runs on four hits in 1 ⅔ innings. They loaded the bases in the first inning and had some loud contact, including a two-run double to center by Austin Riley. Eflin struck out one and walked three.
Assuming that Eflin makes the starting rotation, he is still at least four weeks from his first regular-season start. He shrugged at his rough night and was more focused on the amount of pitches — 45 — he was able to throw this early in March.
“It's the balance of trying to work on things and knowing what to throw at the same time,” Eflin said. “My goal going into spring training is working on my slider in the dirt. Making some good two-strike pitches, which I didn't really do today. My slider was more cutter-ish today. It's the thought process of maybe going to something else that is working. Like my curveball was working today. But, at the same time, you're fighting yourself because you want that to get that back-foot slider for the season. You have to find that balance.”
Eflin threw his slider last season for 30.72% of his pitches, but generated a whiff percentage of just 10.39 percent. As Eflin focuses this season on throwing his two-seam fastball low in the zone, a sharp slider could be a nice complementary weapon. That’s what spring training is for.
“It was more of the way I was throwing it,” Eflin said. “I was pushing it today, which makes it come out more fastball-ish, as opposed to getting on top of it and really trying to get it in the dirt. It's one of those things I'll work on in the bullpen. I'll go back out next outing and go from there.”
Vince Velasquez worked Monday night in relief of Eflin, but he is still very much in the mix for the starting rotation. He struck out two, walked one, and allowed four hits in three innings.
Velasquez is working this spring on pitching to contact, instead of trying to blow hitters away with four-seam fastballs. Pitching like that, he said, is simply not sustainable.
“I was already winded after 40-some pitches,” Velasquez said about last season. “Now, I’m pitching contact and I may fall behind, but it’s a quick fix. Rather than three, four, five pitches and trying to get back into the zone, I’m utilizing my secondary pitches to help me get back into the zone. I’m throwing change-ups. That’s the mentality, that’s the actual preparation, the work that an actual starting pitcher, your quality starting pitcher does. It all comes down to self-awareness.”
Adam Haseley returned to the lineup, six days after he left the game with a head injury. He went 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored. He batted leadoff and played five innings in center. The Phillies placed Haseley in concussion protocol last week, but his injuries turned out to be just a stiff neck and a cut on his forehead from his sunglasses.
Tuesday was the first night game at Atlanta’s new spring-training digs and the lighting seemed to be an issue. The ballpark has eight light structures, but the bulbs were pointed down instead of out. The field was not as bright as a normal night game. Well, the new stadium is named CoolToday Park, not CoolTonight Park.
“I’ve seen better lighting in the woods with a flashlight that didn’t have batteries,” outfielder Nick Williams said.
“I think it’s pretty typical for A-ball lights. Right? I don’t know,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m used to seeing high school lights lately. They’re not too good, I can tell you. But, yeah, it looked a little dark. When they turned the message board to green on the sides, it looked really dark. When it went back to light, it was good.”