When Joe Girardi last saw his baseball team, the Phillies were in the midst of making some difficult decisions about what their roster would look like at the start of the 2020 season. A week later, none of it matters.
Like almost everything else in our country and around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has changed plans.
“I think it’s going to change a lot of rosters,” Girardi said Wednesday during a phone conversation from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “Teams that were assuming they weren’t going to have guys back at a certain time and that certain guys were going to be on the team — our evaluation that we were making on our last day in camp, it’s all going to change because of the health of players that are going to be able to come back.”
For the Phillies, the list of players who are likely to be ready for the delayed start of the season who would not have been ready for the March 26 opener in Miami includes outfielder Andrew McCutchen (ACL surgery) and relievers Victor Arano (elbow surgery) and Tommy Hunter (flexor tendon surgery).
“I feel pretty good about that,” Girardi said. “I think we kind of expected them all back in April, and seeing that we will not play before May 15th or whatever, I think we all feel pretty good about that.”
Girardi also believes the stiffness that forced starter Jake Arrieta to leave the Phillies’ final Grapefruit League game last Thursday against Tampa Bay is nothing serious.
“I think Jake went home [from Clearwater],” Girardi said. “The fact that I’m not getting emergency updates on Jake, he’s doing OK.”
Girardi, however, could not give an update on reliever Seranthony Dominguez’s condition. Dominguez, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury early last June, endured a setback in his second exhibition outing on March 8.
“I’m not sure what Seranthony’s decision is yet,” Girardi said. “You should probably ask [general manager Matt Klentak] that question.”
The fifth-starter competition that included Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Ranger Suarez was one of the decisions close to being made when the exhibition schedule was canceled, but now Girardi believes all three pitchers will have a prominent role on the pitching staff.
“As of right now, there is no change in that,” Girardi said. “My question is as we run through this, if we’re out a long time and spring training is short, I think we’re going to need multiple-inning guys, so I think we’re going to use all of them in a sense. We have not named anyone yet and we probably won’t because we have to see where we’re at.”
The Phillies have developed a philosophy for how the pitchers should handle their throwing programs, and right now, less is more.
“It’s more long toss and catch and maybe some flat ground and every two weeks we will update as we get closer,” Girardi said. “When we do come back, we don’t know how long we’re going to go into a season. Are we going to play the whole month of October and have the playoffs start in November? Since we don’t have any of those answers, we know we’re not going back in two weeks and we know we’re not going back in four weeks, so it’s more the beginning of throwing programs with long toss.
“The difficult part for players is that the places they are probably used to working out are probably closed, so they’re going to have to be creative. The weight rooms are going to be closed. I know they are in South Florida.”
As for Girardi’s own life, he said he has been watching college football games, cooking and throwing batting practice to his son Dante.
“I watch reruns of college football,” Girardi said. “My wife will ask, ‘Do you know who won?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I do, but it’s still good.’ Some of them I don’t know who won, so that’s always good. I think Pittsburgh was on against Miami of Ohio the other night and Arkansas was playing Colorado State, so I was kind of watching that.
“It’s kind of like the offseason. I’m just not watching current sports. It’s rebounding, it’s cooking, and it’s throwing BP to my son.”
Dante Girardi, like so many high school athletes in our area, might lose his senior season at Calvary Christian Academy to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I still think they’re hoping that they may get to play in high school down here, but as of right now, it’s just on hold,” Girardi said. “It has not been officially canceled. I feel really badly for kids that aren’t going to go on and play college baseball. My son is going to, so it’s not like his career is over, but I know he was really looking forward to his senior year.
“We have kind of taken the approach that we are going to work on things and make little adjustments to his game that will help him later on. That’s kind of how we looked at it. We have a free month to make some changes that will make you a better player.”
$1 million fund
The Phillies announced that they have established a $1 million fund to support ballpark workers impacted by postponed games. Each MLB team has pledged $1 million to support workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Phillies said information regarding the fund will be communicated to impacted workers when details are finalized.
“During this period of uncertainty, the Phillies want to provide reassurance to our staff by making financial assistance available to those who have been impacted by the delay of the start of the 2020 regular season,” said Phillies managing partner John Middleton. “Their contributions are a vital part of our fans’ experience at Citizens Bank Park, and we want them to have peace of mind as we navigate through this unprecedented time.”