CLEARWATER, Fla. — Three weeks before opening day, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler used a starting lineup that could look very much like the one he’ll employ March 29 in Atlanta.
OK, so the Phillies won’t use a designated hitter against the Braves on opening day, and some of the batting order positions could change. But Kapler’s lineup Wednesday against the Red Sox on a sunny, 70-degree day (sorry about that, folks) definitely had an opening day vibe to it.
“We had a lot of guys in the lineup who are likely to be on the field opening day,” Kapler said. “I would not argue with that, for sure.”
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who has strong on-base skills, batted leadoff. That’s where he will likely be often this season.
Kapler has stated that he believes the second and fourth spots are the most important in a batting order. Though nothing is certain, he has hinted he will use Carlos Santana in the two-hole and Rhys Hoskins in the four-hole, and that is indeed where both batted Wednesday.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro batted third. He might not be there on opening day, but he’s pretty much a slam dunk to be behind the plate.
Odubel Herrera was down in the six-hole. He has been slowed in camp by a sore shoulder and was 0 for 15 before stroking a fourth-inning single. He could migrate upward in the order as the spring progresses and he plays himself into form.
Nick Williams started in right field and batted eighth. He could move up in the order at some point. Aaron Altherr was the designated hitter. He is projected to get a lot of time in Kapler’s outfield. And, of course, J.P. Crawford was the shortstop. The Phillies committed to him when they traded Freddy Galvis to San Diego in December.
Aaron Nola topped off the (almost) sneak peek of the opening day lineup. Kapler named him opening day starter last week. The right-hander was sharp. He gave up just one hit and no runs over four walk-free innings. He struck out five. Nola was not thrilled with his changeup, but it certainly looked pretty good in fanning dangerous Andrew Benintendi in the third inning.
“Yeah, that was a pretty good one,” Nola conceded.
“Nola was pretty special,” Kapler said. “I don’t think anyone would argue with his breaking ball location. What stood out most impressively is how he adds and subtracts to his fastball. You’ll see some 88s flash up there. You’ll also see him at the right time reach back for some 94s. It's very reminiscent of some of the best pitchers in baseball.”
Despite producing just three hits, the Phillies beat Boston, 2-1. One run scored on a wild pitch. Nick Williams scored the other run from second base when an infield pop up fell in.
“Base running was a pretty big bright point,” Kapler said. “Heads-up, hustle plays like that only happen if we are engaged and bold like we’ve been talking about on the bases.”
Ben Lively starts Thursday against the Yankees in Tampa.