Zack Wheeler is a lock for the All-Star Game when the rosters are announced Sunday evening.
But will he be the Phillies’ lone representative?
Second baseman Jean Segura merits consideration, although his recent two-week stint on the injured list with a groin strain may have dimmed his chances. Entering Saturday night, Segura was batting .328, tied for second among National League hitters with at least 200 plate appearances, with an .834 OPS.
Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier was voted in as the NL starter at second base. Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies (15 homers, league-leading 58 RBIs) and San Diego’s Jake Cronenworth (12 homers, .814 OPS) also have impressive numbers.
“I don’t really care much,” Segura said. “I’ve been an All-Star a couple times [in 2013 and 2018]. If I get selected, I’m definitely going to go. But if I’m not selected, I’m cool with it. I’ll take the All-Star break and go home and enjoy a couple days with my family.”
On reputation, catcher J.T. Realmuto can’t be counted out, especially in the voting of fellow players. But Realmuto isn’t having an All-Star-caliber season. Among NL starting catchers, he ranks fifth in OPS (.783) and doubles (11) and tied for sixth in homers (7). San Francisco’s Buster Posey was voted in as the starter. Los Angeles’ Will Smith and Milwaukee’s Omar Narváez have better numbers than Realmuto.
Wheeler was leading the majors in strikeouts (139), innings pitched (114), and wins above replacement (5.6, according to Baseball-Reference.com) entering play Saturday. With one start left before the All-Star break, scheduled for Wednesday night in Chicago, he could be the 16th pitcher ever to go into the break with a 2.05 ERA or lower and 140 or more strikeouts.
The Phillies haven’t had more than one All-Star since 2013, when Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee were selected. They were represented by Chase Utley in 2014, Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, Odúbel Herrera in 2016, Pat Neshek in 2017, Aaron Nola in 2018, and Realmuto in 2019.
Didi gets defensive
If it seemed like Didi Gregorius’ defense was improving before he went on the injured list in May, there may have been a good reason. The shortstop told the Phillies that he wanted to revert to his longtime pre-pitch setup rather than adhering to changes they worked on with him in spring training.
“I told them I was done with that, and I went back to my old ways,” Gregorius said Saturday. “Just one step and get ready. That was it. They wanted me to try and jump. I was always out of rhythm, so I was rushing balls I shouldn’t be rushing and staying back on balls that I shouldn’t be staying back on. It was like in between. So I went back to my old ways.”
As a veteran player, Gregorius said he also has leeway to position himself if he disagrees with the information provided on the index cards that Phillies infielders carry with them during games. The cards are prepared by the coaches and analytics department and are based on scouting reports and tendencies of opposing hitters and Phillies pitchers.
“The card just shows you the past. It doesn’t show you against the [way that the] pitcher is pitching today,” Gregorius said. “If the guy’s not hitting his spot, I shouldn’t be in that position. I’ll show them and tell them and I can be me. We’re allowed to move every now and then if we see something different.”
After committing five errors in his first 18 games, Gregorius made only one in his next 14 games until May 12 when he was sidelined with persistent swelling in his right elbow. He returned to the Phillies’ lineup Friday night and homered in a 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park. It marked only the 20th time in 79 games that Gregorius and Segura were together in the middle infield.
Gregorius took medication to relieve pseudogout, a rare condition that was causing the swelling.
“Hopefully it stays under control,” Gregorius said. “I don’t know, they don’t know, nobody knows. But hopefully it stays like that.”
Veteran reliever Neftalí Feliz, designated for assignment on Thursday, cleared waivers, was outrighted to triple A, and has elected free agency. Feliz recorded fewer outs (three) than runs allowed (four) in two appearances and had a 36.00 ERA for the Phillies. ... Sunday’s game marks the midpoint of the Phillies’ schedule. They will have a losing record through 81 games for the first time since 2017. They were 43-38 at this point in 2019 and 44-37 in 2018. But they also haven’t had a winning record in the second half of the schedule since 2012 (45-36). ... After Sunday, the Phillies won’t play at home again until July 16, a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins. They have four games in Chicago and three in Boston before the All-Star break. ... Vince Velasquez (3-2, 4.22 ERA) will start the series finale against the Padres.