Phillies

Bruce Willis meets Phillies players ahead of his first pitch at CBP

Bruce Willis meets Phillies players ahead of his first pitch at CBP

For a few short hours, Bryce Harper wasn't the center of attention at Citizens Bank Park.

Bruce Willis was in town to throw out the first pitch Wednesday before the Phillies-Brewers game. He arrived at the yard around 4:30 p.m. and was introduced to everyone from Gabe Kapler and Rhys Hoskins to Christian Yelich to NFL Network/American Ninja Warrior analyst Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, who was in town for a book signing.

Kapler played second base for the lefty Willis' batting practice session, which ... let's just say it rivaled Tom Cruise's throwing program in this scene in "War of the Worlds." Willis put a few balls in play off BP pitcher Dusty Wathan but fouled most of them off.

The Phillies were excited to see him. One of Willis' reps made a point of introducing him to Jean Segura, who got a picture with him. Apparently, Willis' camp appreciates a hitter who can use the whole field.

For the record, Kapler does not consider "Die Hard" a Christmas movie, saying as much in his pregame conversation with reporters. The rest of the team concurred, with every Phillie during a between-innings video package saying it's definitively not a Christmas movie. That is, except for Tommy Hunter, who had maybe the truest answer of all: "It can be if you want it to be."

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Phillies’ big signing Zack Wheeler to make his spring debut Saturday

Phillies’ big signing Zack Wheeler to make his spring debut Saturday

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Zack Wheeler will make his spring debut for the Phillies on Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Wheeler is expected to go two innings or 35 pitches.

The right-hander signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies in December.

“He’s ready to go and I’m anxious to watch him pitch,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve never sat this close to him before.”

Wheeler is the last of the Phillies’ starters to debut this spring. Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola have already made two starts.

“It’s just the way we just set up his program,” Girardi said of Wheeler’s schedule. “He threw batting practice and stuff, simulated stuff. It’s just where he’s at.”

Girardi has not announced his opening day starter, but Nola, who pitched Friday, is presumed to be the guy. Wheeler appears to slot in second followed by Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, though this is all subject to change.

The fifth starter’s spot is up for grabs between Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Ranger Suarez.

Suarez gets the start in Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against Baltimore in Clearwater. Arrieta and Seranthony Dominguez will get work in an intrasquad game at the minor-league complex.

Eflin is slated to pitch Monday night against Atlanta.

Nola pitched two-plus innings and threw 45 pitches in a 6-5 win over the Braves on Friday. He gave up six hits and two runs. He walked none and struck out six.

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Phillies leadoff man Andrew McCutchen out for opening day

Phillies leadoff man Andrew McCutchen out for opening day

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The knee injury that cost Andrew McCutchen four months last season will cost him more time this season.

McCutchen, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on June 14, will open the season on the injured list, Phillies manager Joe Girardi announced on Friday afternoon.

Girardi's announcement came less than two weeks after McCutchen said it was his "plan" to be ready for opening day.

According to Girardi, McCutchen did not experience a setback and the club hopes to have him back sometime in April.

"The tests continue to improve," Girardi said. "He has made improvements as we've gone along. He continues to get better.

"But as we start to put it together, there's some things, some hurdles that he still has to clear, like cutting. We've seen him out there taking fly balls, we've seen him taking batting practice. But we haven't seen him run full speed.

"Opening day is awful early. It's March 26. I think that had he been ready for opening day it would have been pretty quick. He would have been on the short end of the rehab scale. But we don't expect it to be a real long time. Our thought process is we will get him sometime in April. If it was a normal year, the season used to start April 4th or 5th. But with a high-end athlete like him, he's just not quite ready to go."

McCutchen had already left the ballpark when Girardi made the announcement so he was not available for comment.

The news on McCutchen was not a complete surprise. Less than a month before opening day, he had yet to play in an exhibition game and had shown a limp in supervised outfield drills.

McCutchen's situation creates some camp competition as the Phillies look to fill his spot in left field. It's possible that Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn could both be in the opening day outfield, either in left field or center field. It's also possible that Jay Bruce could play some left field, though he's had elbow issues that impact his throwing. The Phils have two other outfielders, Nick Williams and Kyle Garlick, on the 40-man roster, and there are a host of non-roster players in camp who can play the outfield, including Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Mikie Mahtook, Logan Forsythe, Nick Martini and Neil Walker.

The Phils will also have to fill McCutchen's leadoff spot. Quinn would seem to be a good bet there. Losing McCutchen from the leadoff spot was a huge blow to the Phils last season. He had a .378 on-base percentage, second-best in the majors among leadoff men, when he went down on June 3. Phillies leadoff men had a paltry .295 on-base percentage the rest of the season and that ranked 29th in baseball over that span.

McCutchen, 33, is signed through 2021 as part of a three-year, $50 million contract signed before the 2019 season. 

With McCutchen out, the Phillies will have a different opening day left fielder for the 10th time in as many years.

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