CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies manager Gabe Kapler continued to experiment with different lineup looks Saturday. He used the bulk of his regulars in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez batted eighth and shortstop J.P. Crawford ninth.
Several National League managers, starting with Tony La Russa when he was leading the Cardinals, and more recently Joe Maddon of the Cubs, have used this strategy. Pete Mackanin did it 35 times with the Phils in 2016.
Kapler could employ the strategy this season.
“We want more runners on base at the top of the lineup,” Kapler said. “Utilizing J.P.’s superior on-base skills — that’s the intent there. It’s possible that we will use a lineup like that during the season, and, like I’ve said numerous times, we don’t want to do anything for the first time in the season that we didn’t do in practice here.”
The strength of the Phillies’ batting order will be at the top where Kapler could go with Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana, Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins in the top four spots.
“If you think about where we can do a lot of damage, it’s right at the top of our lineup,” Kapler said. “And it’s a possibility that either Santana or Hoskins is hitting in that two-hole, then it makes sense that we’d like to have J.P. standing on second or third base when those guys come up in the order. It’s not just J.P. It will be a personnel decision.
“But any edge that we can use to score more runs, we’re going to go after, even if it is just a minor edge, sort of that continual (quest for) value at the margins. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned. We’re going to continually look to optimize our lineup to score runs.”
Hector Neris gave up a three-run homer to David Olmedo-Barrera in the top of the ninth to take the loss.
Crawford was involved in a scary play when a piece of his broken bat hit him in the face. Kapler said Crawford was fine.
Velasquez was sharp with four scoreless innings. He gave up three singles, one of which was a routine ground ball through a shift hole. He struck out two and walked none.
The Phillies sent pitchers Ricardo Pinto, Enyel De Los Santos and Cole Irvin to the minors. Infielder Heiker Meneses and catcher Nick Rickles were also reassigned.
The Phils play a night game against the Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday night. Nick Pivetta will be the starting pitcher.