CLEARWATER, Fla. – Tuesday should be an interesting day in Phillies camp.
Bryce Harper will make his spring debut. He is slated to play five innings against the Toronto Blue Jays at Spectrum Field.
Jake Arrieta, healthy and upbeat after having his elbow surgically cleaned out last season, will make his first start of the spring in the game.
Forty-five miles south, in Bradenton, the Phillies will play a split-squad game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lefty Ranger Suarez, a dark horse candidate for the fifth starting pitcher’s job, will get the start against the Pirates.
Lefty Damon Jones, who emerged as a solid starting pitching prospect last season, is also slated to get some work in that game. Jones struck out 12 batters per nine innings in the minors last season. He is slated to open the season at Triple A but could be in the picture in Philadelphia at some point.
Manager Joe Girardi will preside over the game in Bradenton.
Girardi is making the trip over the Sunshine Skyway because he wants to get a look at Suarez.
He also wants to continue to evaluate Jean Segura’s work at third base. Segura is slated to start at third base in Bradenton and Scott Kingery at second base. The addition of shortstop Didi Gregorius has pushed Segura off shortstop. Segura has experience at second base and is open to playing there. But the team would prefer to use him at third base so Kingery can play second base, his best position. This equation all rides on Segura’s ability to play third.
“It's important I continue to see Segura at third and Kingery at second,” Girardi said.
The Phillies beat Baltimore, 8-7. Mikie Mahtook, Luke Williams, Logan Forsythe and Nick Maton all homered for the Phillies.
Minor-leaguer Carlos De La Cruz, who stands 6-8, got some time in center field for the Phillies.
“I thought that was Ben Simmons out there,” Girardi quipped. “I thought we were getting Ben Simmons an at-bat.”
Girardi loved the work of minor-league catcher Rafael Marchan.
“My favorite part of the game was Marchan,” Girardi raved. “He's the block master. The master. That might have been the best exhibition of blocking I have ever seen in one game.”
That’s high praise from Girardi, who caught for 15 seasons in the majors and was part of three World Series championship teams.
Marchan, who turns 21 on Tuesday, played in Single A last season. He is considered an excellent defender.
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