Phillies

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

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Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

BOX SCORE

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.

How will Phillies handle center field with oft-injured Roman Quinn down again?

How will Phillies handle center field with oft-injured Roman Quinn down again?

The Phillies are going through centerfielders as fast as they’re going through shortstops.

Roman Quinn, who went down with a strained right groin muscle in Wednesday night’s game in New York, was placed on the 10-day injured list Thursday. He was replaced on the roster by outfielder Dylan Cozens.

Quinn is going to be out a lot longer than 10 days. An MRI performed on Thursday afternoon revealed a Grade 2 strain, which is worse than a Grade 1 or mild strain. Quinn is a player who relies on the speed that his legs generate. The Phillies will be very cautious in bringing him back.

“I don’t know what the timetable is but it’s at least several weeks,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Quinn is the second centerfielder to go down in a week. Odubel Herrera went on the IL with a mild hamstring strain last week. He could be ready to return sometime next week, according to Kapler. Also in the last week, the Phils lost shortstops Scott Kingery and Jean Segura to hamstring injuries. Segura is expected back in the lineup Saturday or Sunday.

With Quinn and Herrera out, Aaron Altherr got the start in center field Thursday night. Kapler said it was possible that Andrew McCutchen could get some time in center in the next few days. That would allow seldom-used Nick Williams a chance to get a start in left field. It’s also possible that Cozens could help fill the breach in center. Williams played some center field two years ago, but Kapler does not seem inclined to use him there.

“I don’t want to say it’s off the table but it’s not at the front of my mind right now,” Kapler said. “I’d prefer to ease him back in in left field if we’re going to go that route.”

Quinn, three weeks shy of his 26th birthday, has been plagued by a long list of injuries since being selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 2011 draft.

He has missed significant time with a torn quadriceps, a torn Achilles tendon, a strained elbow ligament, a torn ligament in his middle finger, a concussion and a broken toe. He missed the start of this season while recovering from an oblique strain suffered in spring training.

“Same ol’, same ol’,” Quinn said Thursday. “I’ve never had [a groin] issue before. Put it on my list.”

Quinn, a 5-foot-9 inch package of lean muscle, has done about everything he can to avoid injuries. He spent the winter in Clearwater two years ago in a program dedicated to stretching. He’s had his diet analyzed.

Another injury, suffered running out a bunt, has left him very frustrated and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be able to exhibit the durability needed to be an everyday player.

“Roman is not trying to get hurt,” Kapler said. “To his defense, he has done everything in his power to stay on the field and his body has just not cooperated. I feel terrible for him. He is an uber-talented individual. He’s got special talent. He’s as athletic as anyone on the field. He’s as fast as anyone on the field. He’s got speed, power, athleticism, quickness. We’re doing everything in our power to keep him healthy. I feel personally responsible for digging in and not leaving any stone unturned for helping him stay on the field.”

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More on the Phillies

At The Yard Podcast: Bad blood with Mets; prospect to keep eye on; early look at NL East

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At The Yard Podcast: Bad blood with Mets; prospect to keep eye on; early look at NL East

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury discuss a renewed rivalry between the Phillies and the Mets. Jim provides an injury update on Roman Quinn.

Why you should keep an eye on relief pitching prospect Kyle Dohy.

Also, the NL East promises to be this competitive all season.

0:30 - Hectic week for the Phillies. Jake Arrieta's comments were startling.
5:30 - Injury update on Quinn.
11:00 - Is this a new Vince Velasquez or just a hot streak?
13:30 - Keep an eye on Dohy.
16:30 - NL East looks virtually even so far.
21:00 - Did Aaron Nola turn the corner in his start in Colorado?

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