CLEARWATER, Fla. — The mitts are about to start popping in Phillies spring training camp.
Here are 10 storylines to keep up on:
They abound from the manager’s office, to the coaches’ room, to the clubhouse.
Joe Girardi was attractive to ownership for many reasons. One of them was his leadership experience and the discipline he could instill in a clubhouse. It’ll be interesting to see how that presents itself in spring training and what effect it will have long term.
Girardi has been influenced by many mentors.
With Gregorius taking over at short, Jean Segura will move to second base. Scott Kingery will play third.
His salary arbitration hearing will take place next week in Arizona. The Phillies have offered $10 million and he is seeking $12.4 million as he looks to raise the salary tide for all catchers, present and future. After the arbitration matter is settled, the Phillies are expected to quickly turn their attention to negotiating a long-term extension that would prevent Realmuto from becoming a free agent at the end of the season. That extension could come before opening day and won’t be cheap as Realmuto could look to equal or exceed the record annual salary for a catcher — Joe Mauer’s $23 million per season — in a five-year deal.
The Phils also have an arbitration hearing with closer Hector Neris next week.
It’s the hottest issue in baseball, and surely, every manager and general manager will address it with their teams this spring so they don’t end up being the next ones on the unemployment line or wearing a fool’s gold World Series ring.
A year ago at this time, he looked like a legitimate building block for the club, a hard-throwing reliever with a couple of wipeout pitches who could get big outs at the end of games. Dominguez never looked in shape last spring, his top velocity was slow to come and by early June, he was done for the season with a damaged UCL ligament in his right elbow. (That’s the serious one, the Tommy John ligament.) Team officials talked openly the possibility of surgery — and that’s unusual before surgery is actually prescribed — but superstar orthopedist James Andrews suggested a more cautious route of rest and rehab for Big Ser. All these months later, he is up and throwing and feeling good. The Phillies will go easy with him out of the gate in camp, and he’s expected to be a go for opening day. If Dominguez is healthy and firing, he will be like a big offseason addition in the ‘pen. But you never fully know about a player’s health until he’s doing it full-force in game competition so a lot of eyes will be on Dominguez, especially as he ramps up later in camp.
The proof will lie in the 162-game regular season, but spring training will offer some clues as to whether the young slugger can rebound from a difficult second half in which he hit just .180, worst in the majors. Hoskins has a lot of plusses in his offensive game. He has power (29 homers last year) and on-base skills (an NL-best 116 walks) and he’s also blessed with a tremendous work ethic. He spent much time this winter working with Dillon. He’s made an adjustment in his stance, opening it slightly and dropping his hands a little. It’ll be interesting to see if all this helps build some of that magic potion called confidence this spring because the Phillies’ lineup needs a productive Hoskins in the middle to complement Gregorius, Realmuto and Bryce Harper.
Heading into camp, Adam Haseley is atop the depth chart in center field, but that won’t stop Roman Quinn from coming in and trying to win the job. The issue with Quinn is always health, but he’s exciting and he’ll make things interesting if he can stay in one piece. Quinn has fully recovered from a groin injury last season and is ready to go.
Things are set in right field, where Harper will be, and in left field, where Andrew McCutchen is back after missing four months with a knee injury last season.
With rosters expanding from 25 to 26, competition for that extra spot in the bench will be intense. The Phils have brought in a number of veterans on minor-league contracts, including Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Neil Walker, Matt Szczur, Ronald Torreyes and Logan Forsythe.
On paper, the top four spots are spoken for with Aaron Nola, Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta, who is healthy after have a surgical elbow cleanup in September. Who takes the fifth? Well, usual suspects Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are the top candidates for the job. Despite their significant talents, neither has been able to offer consistency or sustained contribution in their careers. Maybe Price can help.
We mentioned Dominguez’s importance. Lefty Adam Morgan is also coming back from an elbow injury. Velasquez or Pivetta could end up in the bullpen. Both have the stuff to succeed there if they can throw enough strikes. If the Phils decide to transition one of these guys to the bullpen, it will happen in camp. After bringing in the likes of Pat Neshek and David Robertson in recent years, the Phillies did not make a significant bullpen addition though non-roster invites Drew Storen, Bud Norris and Francisco Liriano will be worth watching. Liriano, a lefty, made the transition to reliever with Pittsburgh last season and had a 3.47 ERA in 69 games. Left-handed hitters were just 29 for 160 (.181) against Liriano the last two seasons.
Two big prospects
Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, and Alec Bohm’s, the team’s top position-player prospect, will both be in big-league camp for the first time. Both are ticketed to the open the season in Triple A but could impact the big club at some point in the season.
Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, has a power fastball and secondary stuff that is above average. He has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor-league career. Team officials will be mindful of his workload this season because he has pitched more than 100 innings only once in his pro career. That could create a challenging situation if Howard is contributing in the majors late in the season.
Bohm, 23, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft and is ready for Triple A after hitting .305 with 21 homers and 80 RBIs at three levels in 2019. Team officials believe he can play major-league quality defense, but some scouts who’ve seen him believe his future is at first base or even in left field. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies move him around the field a little in spring training.
The bullpen is a land of opportunity and there will be a number of young relievers in camp looking to open eyes. The list includes Mauricio Llovera, Connor Brogdon, Kyle Dohy, Garrett Cleavinger, Addison Russ, Tyler Gilbert and Zach Warren. All have posted big strikeout numbers in the minors. Given the way the Phillies shuttle relievers up and down the Northeast Extension, any one of these pitchers could see time in the majors this season. Ditto for Damon Jones, a lefty starter who will be in big-league camp.