CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday starts the one-week countdown to opening day.
Oh, yeah, and Jake Arrieta will also make his Grapefruit League debut.
It figures to be the highlight of the spring.
Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies last week. He has completed a progression from bullpen work — he actually had gotten well into that on his own before signing — to facing hitters in a controlled situation.
Now, it’s time to face some competition — the Detroit Tigers. The game will be televised on NBCSP+ at 1 p.m.
The Phillies have yet to decide when Arrieta will make his regular-season debut. The pitcher believes he will be ready during the first week of the season. The team will exercise caution. Arrieta’s performance Thursday — and possibly more important, his recovery — will go a long way into determining when the Phils turn him loose.
“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.
"We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”
Kapler said the Phils would be flexible on Arrieta’s pitch count. Fifty or so seems like a good guess.
Arrieta has been around for a week now. His teammates are thrilled to have him.
“Obviously, with the Arrieta signing, we got a lot better not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Rhys Hoskins said (more on him here). “What he’s going to be able to do not only for the pitchers but for some of us young position guys — I mean he’s recently won a World Series, he’s a Cy Young guy, he knows how to compete at the highest level. We have a good group. It’s meshing pretty quickly. I’m excited to see how it goes once we start.”