The first fastball Phillies catcher Rafael Marchán ever caught from Kyle Gibson was the one the pitcher threw him Saturday night when they were warming up in the bullpen.
A night earlier, Marchán rushed to Philadelphia after backup catcher Andrew Knapp tested positive for COVID-19. There was little time for introductions and no past history — or even a game of catch — to lean on.
But there was Marchán, behind the plate as Gibson tossed six shutout innings.
Gibson said Marchán did a great job as he quickly learned how his pitches played together. Tuesday night in Washington marked Marchán’s fourth straight start behind the plate as he’s calling pitches this week for pitchers with whom he has little or no history.
“He got thrown into the fire right away,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.
Saturday night’s work with Gibson, who is a difficult pitcher to catch because he throws each of his four pitches to both sides of the plate, was a strong first impression for Marchán and could be the start of a defining month.
Marchán, 22, will get a decent amount of playing time while Knapp is on the COVID-19 injured list and J.T. Realmuto is either out of the lineup due to shoulder and ankle injuries or playing first base against left-handed pitching. Tuesday night’s game was Marchán’s 15th of the season, and he’s on pace to play the most games by a Phillies catcher aged 22 or younger since Kensington’s Jimmie Wilson, who played 41 games in 1923 before turning 23 in July.
Marchán, who was batting .286 in 35 at-bats going into Tuesday’s game, was supposed to still be in triple A this week, but the need at the big-league level gives him a great opportunity. The Phillies already know they have Realmuto, 30, for four more seasons, but they could turn next year to Marchán as his backup instead of Knapp. That decision won’t be based solely by what happens in September, but it could provide an indication of Marchán’s major league readiness.
The Phillies are high on Marchán’s work behind the plate, which he can showcase over the season’s final month. Perhaps Marchán’s play this month even makes him a trade chip this winter if a team in the market for an everyday catcher thinks enough about him. The Phillies have Realmuto, so they could see a player like Marchán as a luxury they can afford to part with.
Regardless, it’s an opportunity for a player who was rushed into a playoff chase and is so far holding his own.
“He did a great job back there tonight, and I know what kind of talent he has,” pitcher Zack Wheeler said after Monday’s win in Washington. “It’s one of those things where we haven’t really worked together, but I thought he caught very well, received very well, and got me a couple pitches. Hopefully, we can continue to work together and do well.”
Still no Realmuto
Realmuto was out of Tuesday’s lineup for a second straight game after rolling his ankle on Sunday, but the Phillies still do not think the injury is overly serious. It sounds like Realmuto could be in the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale; president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday on MLB Network that he thought Realmuto might have been able to play on Tuesday night.
Hoskins has surgery
Rhys Hoskins’ season officially ended on Tuesday afternoon. Dombrowski said the first baseman underwent surgery to repair an abdominal tear. The surgery requires a recovery of six to eight weeks, which allows plenty of time for Hoskins to be ready for spring training.
The Phillies placed Travis Jankowski on the paternity list and promoted outfielder Matt Vierling from triple A. Vierling, a 2018 fifth-round pick, started Tuesday at first base, a position he played just six times this season in the minors. ... Aaron Nola will start Wednesday’s series finale against Washington right-hander Paolo Espino. Both teams have a scheduled off day on Thursday, in case the game is rained out.