It was a false start for J.T. Realmuto.
Scheduled to play in his first exhibition game Sunday after breaking his right thumb five weeks ago, the Phillies star catcher was scratched with what manager Joe Girardi described as “general soreness” stemming from hitting in simulated games Friday and Saturday.
It’s possible that Realmuto could play Monday night against the New York Yankees in Tampa, Fla.
“We’ll wait and see how he feels,” Girardi said. “He just had some general soreness, so we just thought it was in our best interest to get kind of a recovery day because he’s been going so hard.”
Realmuto fractured his thumb while moving to block a pitch in the dirt before camp opened last month. He wore a cast for two weeks, then upgraded to a splint, which was removed last week once he was cleared to resume hitting and throwing.
The Phillies plan to use Realmuto as a designated hitter for a few games before putting him behind the plate. Although Girardi remains optimistic that Realmuto will be ready for opening day April 1 at Citizens Bank Park, he conceded that the catcher will need to reach a few benchmarks before camp breaks on March 29, especially because the Phillies won’t have use of the DH during the season.
“I’d like to make sure that he can catch seven innings,” Girardi said. “Back-to-back [games], we probably would try to do that as well. But we understand that you can’t go too fast or you could hurt him again. Not necessarily his thumb, but you could hurt something else. We’re going to have to go day by day with that.”
Eflin, Howard make progress
Right-handers Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard, both dealing with back issues, threw off a mound in bullpen sessions. It’s not yet clear when either pitcher will get into a game. Eflin’s turn in the starting rotation comes up Wednesday.
Vince Velasquez, who tweaked a muscle in his side last week, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday.
Quinn’s need for speed
Roman Quinn remains in the mix to be the opening-day center fielder. But if he doesn’t win the job, he made a case Sunday for a spot on the bench.
With the Phillies trailing by two runs in the seventh inning, Quinn entered as a pinch-runner for Darick Hall, stole third base, and scored on a groundout, showing the speed that makes him one of the fastest players in the majors.
“That’s a tool and a talent that he has that everybody doesn’t have,” Girardi said after a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater, Fla. “It could be an advantage. That’s something that ‘Q’ can do probably better than all the other guys.”
Quinn, who can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, is 8-for-25 (.320) with two doubles this spring. After striking out eight times in his first 18 plate appearances, he has fanned only once in his last eight.
“The big thing for ‘Q’ is to find a way to put the ball in play and take your chances,” Girardi said. “I think he’s done a much better job of that.”
Quinn continues to compete with Odúbel Herrera and Scott Kingery. Adam Haseley is ahead of schedule in his return from a groin strain and could play in games this week, according to Girardi.
Herrera went 1-for-4 against the Tigers and is 7-for-29 (.241) for the spring.
Chase Anderson, who remains the frontrunner for the fifth-starter job, allowed two-run homers to Akil Badoo and Niko Goodrum. ... The bullpen battle continued, as Sam Coonrod, JoJo Romero, and Héctor Rondón each had a scoreless outing. ... Aaron Nola is scheduled to start Monday night against the Yankees. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. The game will be televised by MLB Network.