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How the Phillies plan to use the DH, which seems headed for the National League

The Phillies will use a cast of players to fill the DH if the rule comes to the National League in 2022.

The Phillies could use the designated hitter to preserve players such as catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies could use the designated hitter to preserve players such as catcher J.T. Realmuto.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Phillies do not yet know if the National League will implement a designated hitter in 2022, but they do already know how they’ll utilize it. The team is planning to use a “DH by committee” if the rule comes to the NL as expected.

“We like the idea of not having a full-time DH and moving people in there,” Phillies president Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday at the general managers meetings. “It doesn’t really affect us maybe as much as others. We have some guys who we can rest. For example, [catcher J.T.] Realmuto can use those days as the DH. [Bryce] Harper can use those days as the DH. For our club, we think it fits best the way we are to do that.”

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The universal designated hitter is expected by many to be included as part of the next collective bargaining agreement, which looms over the offseason and continued to be negotiated at the meetings this week.

But until that is settled, teams must begin building their rosters with some uncertainty.

“It would be nice to know. Ideally, it would be nice, but there’s nothing I can do about that,” Dombrowski said. “We’ll just see what happens. That type of thing. I don’t know what will happen. I think it will happen. But I don’t know that it will happen.”

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The Phillies’ plan to rotate the DH would fall in line with how most American League teams have recently approached the rule. Just five AL players last season started at least 100 games as the DH, and only 10 had 250 or more plate appearances as the DH.

The Phillies could use the spot as a way to not only rest players like Harper and Realmuto, but also as a way to improve their defense by sliding a player like Alec Bohm — whose defense graded poorly last season at third base — off the field yet keeping his bat in the lineup.

Dominguez ready for spring training

Seranthony Dominguez faced just three big-league batters in September as he returned to the majors for the first time since June 2019. Yet it generated enough confidence for the Phillies to count on Dominguez as one of their relievers for 2022.

Dombrowski listed Dominguez along with Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod, and Jose Alvarado as the team’s internal relief options before they plan to target late-inning arms — including a closer — this offseason. The Phillies, Dombrowski said, will tender Dominguez a contract before the non-tender deadline on Dec. 1.

The inning he pitched in the series finale was his first big-league appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2020. It would be a surprise if the 26-year-old is not on an innings limit in 2022 after an extended layoff.

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“They basically said when he comes to spring training that he’ll be ready to go under the normal circumstances,” Dombrowski said. “But we have not yet talked about if we should limit his innings at this point.”

A return for Neris?

The Phillies would like to bring back Hector Neris, but their biggest competition could be a team that eyes the free agent as a closer instead of the setup role he thrived in during the second half of the season.

“We prefer to bring him back as the non-ninth-inning guy,” Dombrowski said. “That’s what our hope would be, but he may go somewhere else.”

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The Phillies are committed this offseason to adding a closer, but Neris, who has the 27th-highest saves total among active pitchers, is not a candidate to fill that role. Dombrowski said Neris is open to returning in a non-closer role.

“Ideally, I think he would love to return, but I also know that when you’re a free agent, anything can happen,” Dombrowski said. “We’d like to have him back. Perhaps someone would offer him that role and pay him appropriately.”

A Stott-Bohm left side of infield?

The Phillies were one of baseball’s worst defensive teams last season and those shortcomings were highlighted by their underwhelming play at third base and shortstop. So it doesn’t quite seem like a remedy to have a left side of the infield next season with Bohm at third and rookie Bryson Stott at shortstop.

Bohm’s defensive runs saved ranked sixth-worst among all players and there are questions about Stott’s defensive ability. But the Phillies are giving Stott a chance in spring training to win the everyday job and they think a Bohm-Stott tandem can work.

“We think it can,” Dombrowski said. “We think Stott can play shortstop legitimately. We think he’s a very solid big-league shortstop from a defensive perspective. He’ll have things to learn, but we have a good infield coach in Bobby Dickerson.

“Bohm, he shows you flashes, but we need it to be consistent. I don’t know if at times he lost his focus because he carried his offense to his defense. I don’t think we think he’s going to be a Gold Glove third baseman. But could it work? Yeah, I think it could work.”