Manager Joe Girardi’s starting pitching plan appears to be taking shape, but it’s not exactly the plan you might have expected when summer camp opened.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, as anticipated, pitched the first two summer-camp exhibition games with Nola defeating the Nationals Saturday in Washington and Wheeler struggling with his breaking ball command Sunday during the Phillies’ 4-1 loss to Baltimore.
That lined Nola up to pitch the season opener Friday night against Miami with Wheeler pitching against the Marlins Saturday afternoon. The thought coming into camp was that veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta would follow those two and pitch the third game of the season Sunday against Miami.
Instead, it appears as if Vince Velasquez will go Sunday and Arrieta will make his seasonal debut the following night at home against the New York Yankees.
Girardi did not make anything definite, but he indicated he was going to do something a little different by revealing that Velasquez will pitch Monday night’s exhibition against the Yankees in New York. Arrieta will pitch next in an intrasquad game Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
“We might do something a little bit different,” Girardi said. “Vinny wouldn’t have pitched for a long time, so we are just going to play with the rotation a little bit. Stay tuned.”
It still sounds as if Zach Eflin will start the fifth game of the season at home against the Yankees before Nola makes his second start of the season July 29 against the Yankees in New York.
It might not have been Philadelphia or bust for reserve infielder Neil Walker, but it definitely was not going to be Philadelphia or Allentown.
After learning Saturday that he had made the Phillies’ opening-day 30-man roster, Walker admitted before Sunday’s exhibition game at Citizens Bank Park that he had no interest in being part of the team’s taxi squad that will conduct summer workouts at triple-A Lehigh Valley’s ballpark in Allentown.
“I had no interest in doing that,” the switch-hitting infielder said. “I’m at the point in my career now where I feel like I don’t have much to prove at the lower levels. I’m not 25 or 26 years old anymore. I’m working on 35 and felt like if for some reason it didn’t work out here I was probably not going to Lehigh Valley and obviously that’s not the case. I’m willing to be the third catcher, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team. Obviously it’s a very, very talented team, but I feel like from an insurance policy standpoint my value is pretty high.”
Walker, who turns 35 in September, can play first base, second base, and third base, and the addition of the designated hitter to the National League also adds to his value.
Even though he had no desire to go to Lehigh Valley, Walker’s reward for making the opening-day roster was rather minuscule when considering his past salaries. Three seasons ago, he made $17.2 million with the New York Mets and he has made $51.8 million in his career. He will make $100,000 if he is with the team for the entire 60-game shortened season.
He does have his eyes on another personal prize, however.
“I needed six days to get my full pension, which is 10 years of service time,” Walker said. “So that was something that’s very prideful for somebody in this game. Not many guys can get to that eight, nine or 10-year mark.”
It’s also a very lucrative accomplishment. The pension for 10-year players who start collecting at age 62 is $220,000 per year.