Phillies

Phil Gosselin strives for a spot with Phillies, the team that ignited his love of baseball

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Jim Salisbury/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Phil Gosselin strives for a spot with Phillies, the team that ignited his love of baseball

CLEARWATER, Fla. — John Vukovich, the late, great Phillies coach who spent his entire big-league playing career battling to make teams as a utility man, once described the final days of spring training as a time he’d wake up in the middle of the night and see snakes.

Phil Gosselin knows all too well what it’s like to come to camp having to fight for the last spot on a roster.

But he doesn’t see snakes.

“I’m used to it,” he said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I showed up [in February] and they told me I was on the team.

“There are times [late in camp] when you’re getting changed and you look around to see if you’re being called into the manager’s office. But it’s part of the business. One of my college coaches used to say, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ So you just show up, play well and see what happens.”

Gosselin, a local guy from West Chester who played at Malvern Prep before a stellar career at the University of Virginia, has made four straight opening day rosters with three different clubs, and “each time I didn’t find out if I made it or not until the last day,” he said.

Now, at age 30, and after stints with the Braves, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Rangers and Reds, Gosselin is in camp with the Phillies, once again trying to win the final spot on the roster. He has spent parts of the last six seasons in the majors and getting to do so again this year with the Phillies would be …

“Pretty surreal,” he said. “Whether it’s opening day, September, whenever. I went to Phillies games as a kid, watched them all on TV.”

Gosselin and his brother, Matt, were in the upper deck at Citizens Bank Park the night Alex Rodriguez belted a controversial home run off a television camera in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. A few years later, as a rookie member of the Atlanta Braves, he had to remind himself to focus on the game and not get caught up in the fact he was standing between Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Scott Rolen was his all-time favorite player. As a kid growing up in Chester County, he had a mini locker in his bedroom with Darren Daulton’s nameplate on it.

“In a roundabout way, the Phillies are the reason I’m here,” he said in the team’s clubhouse Tuesday morning. “They’re the reason I fell in love with baseball.”

Gosselin was thrilled when his agent, Barry Meister, called over the winter and said the Phillies were interested in signing him to a minor-league deal and giving him a look in spring training. Sure, there was the attraction of having the opportunity to wear the uniform of his boyhood dreams. But there was more than that.

“I wanted to go to the team with the best opportunity and I felt like this it,” Gosselin said. “The Phillies are trying to win now. I think I’ve been around a little bit and I can help doing some of the stuff off the bench, bouncing around and things like that. So I think they’re more likely to give somebody like me an opportunity than maybe a 20-year-old prospect just because they’re trying to win now, as opposed to a team that is in rebuild mode and is going to choose a guy they drafted and is younger.”

The Phillies typically go with an eight-man bullpen which leaves just four bench jobs. One of them will go to a backup catcher, Andrew Knapp or Drew Butera, and one will go to super-utility man Scott Kingery. Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr are the lead candidates for what looks like two extra outfield jobs, but Quinn is down with an oblique strain and might not be ready for opening day. In addition to Gosselin, the Phils have veteran infielders/outfielders Sean Rodriguez, Gregorio Petit, Andrew Romine and Gift Ngoepe in camp on minor-league deals looking for jobs.

Good thing that Gosselin, who can also play corner outfield spots, has learned to just go out and play and not stress about roster machinations.

Gosselin does not have an out in his contract at the end of camp. If he has to open the season at Lehigh Valley, he will go there and keep reaching for his dream of one day being in the big leagues with the team of his boyhood dreams.

“Obviously, we all want to be in the big leagues, but if you’re going to be in Triple A, that’s as good a spot as any, especially for me because it’s close to home,” Gosselin said.

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Updates on Phillies spring training debuts of Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

Updates on Phillies spring training debuts of Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies ace Aaron Nola made his first start of the spring Sunday while their new No. 2, Zack Wheeler, is slated to debut Saturday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.

Wheeler has been throwing to hitters at the Phils' minor-league complex.

Fifth starter candidates remain in focus as Vince Velasquez makes his first start on Monday against the Orioles in Clearwater.

Nick Pivetta, another candidate, made his first start Saturday and showed a potential new weapon.

Lefty Ranger Suarez is being stretched out as a starter and could be a dark-horse candidate for the fifth job. He will get a start Tuesday at Bradenton while Jake Arrieta starts in Clearwater that day. Suarez pitched well out of the bullpen last year but was groomed as a starter in the minors.

Zach Eflin will make his spring debut Wednesday against the Twins in Fort Myers.

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Where’s Bryce Harper? How about Roamin’ Roman? A few observations from Phillies camp

Where’s Bryce Harper? How about Roamin’ Roman? A few observations from Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies came out with four runs in the bottom of the first inning and held on for a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in exhibition play Sunday afternoon at Spectrum Field.

Didi Gregorius, Jay Bruce and newcomer Kyle Garlick — picked up in a trade with the Dodgers last week — had the big hits in the first inning.

But when manager Joe Girardi sized up the win, he pointed to the guy in center field.

Roman Quinn led off the bottom of the first with a double and eventually scored, but his biggest contribution of the game came on defense, where he made two standout catches in the fifth inning.

“He was probably the reason we won the game,” Girardi said.

Quinn raced to his left and made a diving catch for the first out in the fifth inning. He ended the frame by going back to the wall and making a tough catch. Both of the catches came with runners on base.

“Quinn’s defense was really good,” Girardi said. “Two different types of catches in the same inning. He has the ability to run down so many balls. I don’t think you can ever outrun a baseball but he can come close. He gets really good jumps.”

Several times early in camp, Girardi has recalled seeing Quinn a few years ago when Girardi was still skippering the Yankees. Like so many others, Girardi was always impressed with Quinn’s speed and electricity. Quinn, of course, has never been able to stay healthy. That’s probably why the general consensus is that Adam Haseley has come into camp tops on the depth chart in center field. But this will end up being a good position battle as camp unfolds if Quinn stays healthy.

“I believe it’s a competition,” Girardi said earlier in camp. “Both good players. Haseley made great strides last year and Roman can be a difference-maker when he’s healthy and on base. He can create a lot of problems. Switch-hitter. He has the ability to take the pitcher’s attention off the hitter at times and score on balls in the gap.”

The third base experiment

Jean Segura made his first start at third base on Sunday and made several plays. He also had a ball bounce off his glove. It was a play he probably should have conceded to shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Segura is moving off of shortstop to make room for Gregorius, who signed as a free agent in the offseason.

Segura has never played third base before. The Phillies are hoping he can handle the position so Scott Kingery can play second. But a final decision on where Segura — and Kingery by extension — plays is probably still several weeks away. Segura can play second and has told the team he’d be comfortable there. His ability to play third base is under evaluation by both him and the team.

“The plays don’t look hard for him,” Girardi said. “It’s the reads he has to get accustomed to. We just have to continue to get him reps there because as he has said all along that he can play second in his sleep. Third is the trickier one for him.

“He has the hands, he has the quickness, he has the range, he has the arm. It’s embracing it and if you make a wrong read, it’s not being embarrassed. It’s saying, ‘OK, I learned from that.’ “

Embracing a position change, Girardi added, “is a lot of the battle.”

Where's Bryce?

Bryce Harper has not played in the first two games. Nothing is wrong. It’s a long camp and Girardi said Harper would start Tuesday in Clearwater.

“That’s just the schedule we planned out a while back,” Girardi said.

Where's Wheeler?

Zack Wheeler has been throwing to hitters at the minor-league complex. His first start is slated for Saturday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.

More on the Phillies' starting pitching plans for the coming days here.

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