MIAMI -- Let there be no doubt, at least in the mind of manager Joe Girardi, where the Phillies see Alec Bohm fitting into their future lineups.
“Third baseman,” Girardi said Friday. “We envision him as a third baseman. I’m not going to ask him to go play center field.”
OK, but how about left field? Or first base?
“No,” Girardi said. “We consider him a third baseman.”
Even after a rough year in which Bohm committed 16 errors and saved the third-fewest runs among all third basemen, the Phillies remain hopeful that the 25-year-old can handle the position. He played primarily third base after getting demoted to triple A last month, and Girardi said the Phillies don’t plan to direct him to work out at a new position in the offseason.
“We’ve seen him do it, right?” Girardi said, alluding to spurts in the shortened 2020 season, when Bohm was passable at third base. “It’s not that there’s not the ability to do it. It’s all part of the maturation process and reps and understanding angles and things that you learn as you play more.”
Girardi wouldn’t declare that Bohm will be the opening-day third baseman, saying only that “people are going to have to earn spots.” Bohm also wasn’t in the lineup against tough Miami Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara even though the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention Thursday night in Atlanta. It would be surprising if Bohm doesn’t start Saturday night against lefty Jesús Luzardo.
But Girardi reiterated that the Phillies sent Bohm to the minors to work on his offense as much as his defense. Although they don’t expect Bohm to win a Gold Glove, they would live with his shortcomings if he hits as he did in his 180 plate appearances as a rookie last year. In 409 plate appearances this season, he slashed only .247/.306/.344 with seven homers.
Bohm wouldn’t be the first young player to regress after having early success in the majors before rebounding. Girardi invoked Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley, who hit nine homers and slugged .732 in his first 79 major-league plate appearances in 2019 before going 39-for-203 (.192) with nine homers the rest of that season. This year, Riley was batting .303 with 33 homers, a .532 slugging percentage, and an .899 on-base-plus-slugging through Thursday.
“He really struggled and now people [in Atlanta] chant ‘M-V-P,’” Girardi said of Riley. “Very seldom does a guy just come up, take the game by storm, and stay there. [Bohm] didn’t spend much time in the minor leagues. He went up really quick. He went through a difficult time. It’s not unusual. It’s actually pretty common.”
Upon further review, the Phillies decided against having Zack Wheeler start the season finale Sunday.
“We think it’s best that his season stops,” Girardi said. “He’s thrown a lot of innings. He did more than anyone could ask, and we just think next year’s really important to us.”
Wheeler leads all pitchers with 213⅓ innings, surpassing his previous career-high workload by 18 innings. He’s one of only four pitchers in baseball to top the 200-inning mark, joining the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright (206⅓), Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers (202⅔), and Alcantara (205⅔).
Girardi said the Phillies haven’t settled on a Game 162 starter. Right-hander Adonis Medina or lefty Cristopher Sánchez may be possibilities.
Héctor chasing history
With 516 career strikeouts, Héctor Neris entered the weekend needing three to tie Ron Reed for the most ever by a Phillies reliever. He got one more Friday night.
“It would be great for the Phillies, for myself,” Neris said. “I grew up with the Phillies. It’s been important for my career.”
Neris, who is eligible for free agency after the season, made his major-league debut in 2014 and is the longest consecutively tenured Phillies player. He also ranks fourth in team history with 403 relief appearances, trailing Ryan Madson (473), Tug McGraw (460), and Reed (449).
“I would love for him to get that [strikeout] record,” Girardi said. “He’s meant a lot to us this year.”
Bryce Harper started his 70th consecutive game despite going 0-for-11 with five strikeouts and looking exhausted in the three games in Atlanta. Girardi said Harper may sit out one of the final two games of the season. ... J.T. Realmuto (shin) and Jean Segura (back) were out of the lineup but could return before the end of the weekend, according to Girardi. Realmuto had a golf ball-sized bruise after fouling a ball off his shin Thursday night. ... Pitching prospect Hans Crouse (0-1, 3.00 ERA) will make his second career start Saturday night in what will amount to a bullpen game for the Phillies.