Jay Bruce concerned about 'collateral damage' in 2021 if season runs into December

Jay Bruce concerned about 'collateral damage' in 2021 if season runs into December

Leagues are already beginning to discuss changes to their seasons next year because of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic this year. Woj reported just last night that the NBA could push its regular season back to December for 2020-21.

Will MLB also have to delay its 2021 season? With July seeming like the most realistic start date this year and the playoffs potentially bleeding into December, it's a distinct possibility.

The topic of 2021, understandably, hasn't been discussed much yet because there are still so many things to work out for 2020. But leagues can't lose sight of the impact a delayed, shortened, intensified season could have on players and teams next year. 

Phillies vet Jay Bruce discussed this in an interview with our Gregg Murphy.

"My biggest concern is the collateral damage that could be caused for 2021," Bruce said. "I don't think it's realistic to ask guys to play into December or whatever and then be expected to come back to spring training in February ready to go. I think we have to tread lightly when it comes to drawing it out for a long time. Now, if you wanna add doubleheaders and squeeze games in with less days off, that's something I think can definitely happen. 

"I wanna play as many games as possible but I also understand that people's careers are marathons. You can't necessarily go kamikaze for 75 to 90 games just to try to salvage what you can when a lot of these guys have 7, 8, 10 years left. Managing that and being smart about the normalcy of the seasons moving forward are very, very important for the players, the teams, the leagues, everyone."

While fewer games in 2020 could lead to fewer injuries, there could also be instances of pitchers overthrowing and hurting their arms. There could be instances of players trying to cram six weeks of spring training regimens into a couple weeks and suffering an injury because of it. If there are fewer days off, wear and tear can build more easily. If there are weekly doubleheaders, that's 18 innings of baseball a lot of key players will be playing.

There is a ton to think about. MLB is already considering these possibilities, but 2021 isn't as pressing right now as knowing when the 2020 season could begin. With so much unknown, it's not even worth publicizing any plans beyond this year.

"I'm certain that everyone has had those conversations, people that are much, much smarter than me and have the knowledge of what we're capable of as players, as teams and for the league," Bruce said. "I'm not gonna try and figure it all out, I'm just gonna take the information I'm given, trust the people giving it to me and be ready when the time comes."

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Phillies waste Aaron Nola's gem and a chance to sweep Yankees in doubleheader

Phillies waste Aaron Nola's gem and a chance to sweep Yankees in doubleheader

The Phillies split a doubleheader with the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, but it could have been so much better.

The Phils wasted a gem from Aaron Nola and lost the nightcap, 3-1. They didn't hit in that game, and the bullpen imploded once again.

The Yankees (9-2) rallied for two runs against Tommy Hunter in the top of the seventh in Game 2 to break a 1-1 tie.

Hunter faced five batters and retired none.

If you're keeping score at home, the Phillies' bullpen so far has allowed 17 earned runs in 16⅔ innings. That's a 9.18 ERA. Opposing teams are hitting .338 against Phillies relievers. Needless to say, that's awful.

Manager Joe Girardi remains optimistic that the bullpen will improve as this season, shortened to 60 games by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to unfold.

"We had a quick spring then a seven-day layoff where no one pitched," Girardi said. "It's hard to evaluate what we're going to get moving forward. They haven't had consistent work and it's hard to be sharp when that happens and we're playing teams that have been playing every day. I believe we'll get better, (pitching coach) Bryan (Price) believes we'll get better and we'll get it done."

The Phillies, 2-4 after six games, showed off the strength area of their ballclub in the doubleheader.

We're talking about the 1-2 punch of Zack Wheeler and Nola in their starting rotation.

Wheeler pitched six innings of three-run ball and the Phillies got lots of offense in winning the opener, 11-7. It should not have been that close, however. Girardi lifted Wheeler with an eight-run lead after six innings. The Yankees jumped lefty Austin Davis for four runs in the bottom of the seventh before Hector Neris nailed down a one-pitch save in a game in which he should never have been needed. The appearance prevented him from pitching in Game 2 and that was a killer.

Wheeler is 2-0 in as many starts with his new club and he's loving life throwing to J.T. Realmuto.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, both games of the doubleheader were seven-inning affairs.

The offense was not as robust in the nightcap, but Nola was brilliant and that was a really good development for this club. The right-hander had struggled in his previous eight starts dating to last August. He was 0-5 (and the team was 0-8 in those games) with a 5.44 ERA over that span.

Nola rebounded in a big way Wednesday night. He looked much like the guy who finished third in the National League Cy Young voting in 2018. Nola's fastball had life — he hit 95 mph on the gun — and his breaking ball and changeup were sharp. He held the Yankees to three hits and a run over six innings. He walked none and struck out 12. The only run Nola allowed came on a first-pitch homer by Luke Voit in the second inning. Voit was sitting breaking ball, got one and clubbed it 420 feet to left. Otherwise, Nola was brilliant.

Because Nola was pitching for only the second time this season, and he was doing it on 12 days' rest, Girardi lifted the right-hander at 88 pitches and entrusted a tie game to Hunter in the seventh.

"The long layoff had everything to do with it," Girardi said of his decision to lift Nola. "Hopefully, we'll get him to around 100 (pitches) next time. You're facing that (Yankees) team, they're stressful innings. Even if you're not giving up a lot, they're stressful innings. Long layoff, second start, you can't jeopardize his health. I have a responsibility to the organization and the fans to win games, but I also have a responsibility to the health of our players. This is their living. A lot of times you have to protect players from themselves and I take that very seriously."

Hunter struggled from the outset. He gave up three straight hits — two singles and a double — as the Yankees broke the tie and took a 2-1 lead. Hunter then hit a batter and allowed another hit as the Yankees went up, 3-1.

Obviously, the bullpen hurt the Phillies in Game 2. But so, too, did a lack of offense in a game in which the Yankees employed their bullpen for all seven innings. All of this conspired against Nola.

And one had to wonder what might have been hadn't Neris been needed in Game 1. He, instead of Hunter, would have been used in the top of the seventh. It's customary to use your closer in the top of the final inning in a tie game at home and Girardi confirmed he would have done that.

"Unfortunately, we had to use Hector in the first game," Girardi said. "It's not what I wanted to do but they were one baserunner away from having the tying run at the plate. We know the power they have. It's not what I wanted to do, but when you have a chance to win a game, you have to win the game."

The Phils should have won two games. Nola deserved better.

"Yeah," Girardi said, acknowledging the missed opportunity. "We win the first game then get a brilliant game by Aaron Nola. But we know how good they are on the other side.

"I still think we can take a lot of good from that game even though we didn't win it. You feel good where Aaron Nola is at. You feel good about where Zack Wheeler is at. Jake Arrieta pitched well the other night. We need to continue to build on that. If you get really good starting pitching all the time, you're going to win a lot of games."

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Zack Wheeler pitches a gem, Phillies bats come alive for 11 runs in win over Yankees

Zack Wheeler pitches a gem, Phillies bats come alive for 11 runs in win over Yankees

The Phillies got a strong start from Zack Wheeler and plenty of offense as they beat the New York Yankees, 11-7, in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

Wheeler pitched six innings in the seven-inning affair. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two. He has won both of his starts with the Phillies and allowed just four runs (three earned) in 13 innings.

The Phillies, who were the visiting team in Game 1, erased a three-run deficit with four runs in the top of the third inning. They added six runs on six singles and a New York error in the sixth inning.

The leaky bullpen, of course, struggled, but the Phils built a big enough lead to survive.

Bryce Harper clubbed a two-run homer in the third inning. He left the game in the sixth inning after running down the first base line and being checked by an athletic trainer. It was apparently a precautionary move as Harper was in the Game 2 lineup.

J.T. Realmuto also homered for the Phillies, who are now 2-3. Wheeler has both of the team’s wins. 

The Phils will be the home team in Game 2. Aaron Nola will start the game.

It’s never easy

With his team leading, 11-3, manager Joe Girardi removed Wheeler at 87 pitches and entrusted the final three outs to his very shaky bullpen. Lefty Austin Davis was quickly mugged for four runs, three on Aaron Judge’s seventh homer of the season. 

After Trevor Kelley walked a tight rope and put two men on base, Girardi had to bring in closer Hector Neris to get the final out. That might sound insignificant, but it wasn’t, not with a second game to play. Neris threw just one pitch in earning the save. We’ll see if that affects his availability for Game 2.

Unhappy return

Sixteen years after being selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2004 draft, lefty J.A. Happ faced his original team. Happ and Cole Hamels are the only two members of the 2008 World Series championship team still active.

It was not a pleasant return to CBP for the 37-year-old Happ. He allowed four runs in the top of the third inning to lose a 3-0 lead. The big hit in the frame was Harper’s two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch. Happ walked six batters, including four in the third inning. One of them came with the bases loaded.

Speaking of ...

... Homers on 0-2 counts. The Phillies gave up a whopping 16 of them last season. That was the most in the National League and second-most in the majors behind the Angels, who gave up 18.

In five games this season, Phillies pitchers have already allowed two 0-2 homers. Nola gave up one on a breaking ball in his first start and Wheeler gave up one (also on a breaking ball) to Brett Gardner in the second inning of this game. Other than that, Wheeler was very good.

Stay hot

Girardi went with a right-handed heavy batting order against the lefty Happ. Phil Gosselin started at third and Jean Segura moved to shortstop. Lefty-hitting Didi Gregorius did not start. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fifth and stayed on at shortstop with Segura moving to third.

Gosselin had two plate appearances. He doubled and pushed home a run with a bases-loaded walk in the third.

For the season, Gosselin is 5 for 8 with two homers and a double. He has reached base safely eight times in his 11 plate appearances.

A kick start?

Rhys Hoskins fell behind 0-2 against reliever Nick Nelson in the sixth inning. He then drove a single to left field for his first RBI of the season. Maybe the hit will help Hoskins get going. He was 2 for 15 before the hit. 

On defense

Segura made an error at shortstop that cost Wheeler and the Phillies a run in the first inning. Segura atoned with a nice play to start a double play in the fourth.

The Phils turned three double plays behind Wheeler. Wheeler benefited from four double plays in his first start. Not a bad trend.

Spencer for hire?

Before Game 1, Girardi announced his pitching rotation for the week. Nola will pitch the second game of the doubleheader. Zach Eflin will pitch Thursday against the Yankees and Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta will pitch the first two games of the Atlanta series on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Girardi said Sunday’s starter against the Braves was “to be determined.” It seems reasonable that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard could make his major-league debut that day. Girardi had previously said that he and team officials would discuss the possibility of Howard getting that start. Stay tuned.

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