J.T. Realmuto suffered a broken right thumb last week, but a cast was not yet fitted on his hand when he expressed his confidence about being ready for opening day. Two days later, Realmuto was wearing a cast but his confidence seemed well placed.
The cast did not stop Realmuto on Saturday from catching a bullpen session and it will not even prevent him from taking swings in Clearwater, Fla. He’ll wear the cast for two weeks before being reevaluated. But he’s not spending those two weeks on the Phillies sidelines.
“I like the color. It’s blue,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He looks good. ... He basically catches it, flips it, and someone throws it back. We’ll keep his legs going. He’ll hit with just the left hand and do some drill work. There’s a lot of things that we can do so when he is ready to go, he’s not like building from scratch.”
Realmuto broke his thumb last week when a curveball from reliever Jose Alvarado skipped in the dirt and hit his hand. He first thought the injury was a bone bruise before he underwent a precautionary MRI on Wednesday. Realmuto said he was “kind of shocked” when he learned it was actually fractured.
The Phillies are not overly concerned with the injury but will be cautious with the catcher after signing him to a record-setting contract. If Realmuto is not ready for the season opener on April 1, his return should not be much later. Saturday, even with a cast on his hand, seemed like good progress.
“It’s definitely going to heal on its own and I’m confident I’ll be back by opening day, but you can’t set that in stone just because you never know what can happen,” Realmuto said. “We’re going to take our time with it because … if I have to miss the first three days of the season, we’d rather do that then absolutely rush back and have something linger a little longer.”
New rules for spring
The Phillies will play their first Grapefruit League game next Sunday, but the games this year could look a little different than springs of the past.
Through March 13, all games can be shortened to seven or five innings if agreed upon by both managers. After March 13, games will be nine innings but can be shortened to seven if both managers agree.
Also through March 13, an inning will be permitted to end before three outs are recorded as long as the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches. In all games this spring, pitchers will be permitted to re-enter the game after substitutes replace them.
Girardi said the Phillies would likely not end an inning early, but would substitute a starting pitcher for a reliever if they threw enough pitches and then use that starting pitcher for the next inning.
“We’ve talked about, if we could, not trying to roll innings in a sense because we think it’s important that we don’t necessarily do it,” Girardi said. “But there might be times that we’re short on pitching and we have to do it. If we have enough pitching and we wanted to shut a pitcher’s inning down there, we would bring in a reliever and let the starter go out the next inning.”