Less than three weeks before opening day, the Phillies are crossing their fingers that arguably their most valuable utility player will not require a season-opening trip to the injured list.
Brad Miller, who was scheduled to play third base Saturday against the Detroit Tigers, was scratched from the lineup about 10 minutes before first pitch when he felt a "tweak" in his right rib cage while running pre-game sprints.
Manager Joe Girardi did not have a lot of information about Miller's condition moments after the game.
"There's no timetable," Girardi said. "We've got to wait and see. He'll be evaluated."
It's likely that Miller will have an MRI. That is usually how medical staffs grade the severity of an oblique injury. Because there is so much twisting and turning of the torso in baseball, even the most minor oblique injuries require some down time.
Missing any amount of time at this point in camp would affect Miller's preparation for opening day and could make him an IL candidate. More will be known after he undergoes testing.
Miller, 31, spent 66 games with the Phillies in 2019 and hit 12 home runs in 118 at-bats. He played with St. Louis last season and returned to the Phillies on a one-year $3.5 million deal this winter. He brings important left-handed pop and versatility to the bench. He can fill in anywhere in the infield and in the corner outfield spots. He is expected to get time in left field when Girardi wants to rest Andrew McCutchen, who is less than two years removed from major knee surgery.
Losing Miller "would be significant," Girardi said. "He's dangerous with a bat in his hands. Our hope is he won't be out long."
With Miller's health now a question, the Phillies could look to get Scott Kingery some more reps in the infield in the remaining days of camp. He's been focused mostly on playing the outfield. Kingery possesses similar versatility to Miller.
The Phillies have two other infielders on the 40-man roster, Nick Maton and C.J. Chatham. Veteran Ronald Torreyes is also in camp but he's not on the 40-man roster and the Phils could face a roster crunch in the final days of camp.
One of the players the Phils will likely have to clear room for on the 40-man roster is left-handed hitter Matt Joyce, who could become even more important as a bat off the bench if Miller is out.