Phillies

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler explains decision to rest J.T. Realmuto in crucial game

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Phillies manager Gabe Kapler explains decision to rest J.T. Realmuto in crucial game

CLEVELAND — With their postseason hopes on life support, the Phillies need to be at their very best over the final 11 games to have a shot at the National League wild card.

That’s why it was a little surprising not to see J.T. Realmuto’s name in the starting lineup on Friday night.

After all, the All-Star catcher has probably been the club’s MVP this season.

Manager Gabe Kapler was armed with answers on his decision to rest Realmuto at the start of an important series against the Cleveland Indians.

“He’s totally fine,” Kapler said. “I think the most likely scenario has him catching the next two games and several after that in a row. 

“Just to be completely clear — and this is really the only way to fairly and genuinely portray what I'm sharing — this is what is best for J.T. Realmuto, him going forward this season, and his career. He needs to be protected and shown the respect that most players around the league get. And that involves helping him recover.”

Realmuto has carried a heavy load all season and especially recently.

Entering Friday night, he had started 33 of the previous 36 games behind the plate, including 14 of the last 15 and nine in a row.

For the season, he leads all big-league catchers in games behind the plate (131), starts (128) and innings (1,123 1/3). He has caught 82 2/3 more innings than Yasmani Grandal, who ranks second in the majors.

On top of all this, Realmuto has struggled at the plate recently. He was 1 for 11 in the first three games of this 11-game trip and is 0 for his last 8.

Realmuto appeared particularly down after Thursday’s loss in Atlanta. He declined to speak with reporters after the game. He was not available before Friday night’s game.

“The likelihood is that we'll see him at some point during this game,” Kapler said. “But he has worked incredibly hard, and it is a grind mentally and physically. After doing a lot of homework on it, my decision was to give him the entire day off. And when I say 'entire day off,' I mean from the catching position and from having to prepare to get ready for the start of the game. Doesn't mean we won't use him during the game, but certainly the blow leading up to the game is huge, the mental refresher is enormous, and the physical blow from just grinding like he has for so many days in a row. This felt like the sensible and responsible play for J.T. and for the Phillies moving forward.”

It’s possible that Realmuto will play the rest of schedule — or as long as the Phillies remain in contention.

The Phillies are also cognizant of Realmuto’s long-term future. The club would like to sign him to a contract extension this winter. It will probably take at least a five-year deal worth $100 million or more to sign Realmuto.

Being in an American League city and having an extra bat as designated hitter made resting Realmuto against All-Star right-hander Shane Bieber a little more palatable. Jay Bruce was the DH and Andrew Knapp started behind the plate.



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At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discuss one big rule change, another on the horizon, and make their NL East predictions in the latest At the Yard podcast.

• How does the new 3-batter rule for relievers change their mentality?

• Which Phillies relievers does it affect the most?

• If the DH does come to the National League in the next two years, how would it help the Phillies?

• Both guys are still vehemently anti-DH.

• Fan Q&A.

• NL East win total predictions.

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Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The designated hitter coming to the National League is an inevitability. To some, it's a welcome inevitability. Personally, I hate it, but I acknowledge I'm probably outnumbered.

It's not about watching pitchers hit. That is the over-simplified one-line response from DH proponents. It is about many additional elements of strategy not having a DH adds. If you're a pitcher, it affects how you approach the 6-7-8-9 hitters. There is more thinking ahead. 

That goes for managers, too, who face the difficult of question of, "Do I pull Jacob deGrom with two outs and two on in the bottom of the sixth inning in a scoreless game for the extra offense?"

That doesn't happen in the AL. The Justin Verlanders of the world pitch until they're no longer effective. There is no difficult decision for the manager. 

There is also less need for a bench. AL teams sometimes run three-man benches. And plenty of AL bench players exist only as defensive replacements and/or pinch-runners.

But whatever. It's probably coming. Could be coming as early as 2021, according to Jim Bowden.

It would actually benefit the Phillies, though. The Phils face a potential logjam in the corner infield with Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, Scott Kingery and Jean Segura. Only one of them can play third base. And Hoskins or Bohm would be at first base. If the DH came to the NL in 2021, the Phils could just slot Bohm into that position.

They could also use Hoskins, who isn't exactly an above-average defensive first baseman, as the DH. And toward the end of Bryce Harper's 13-year contract, his days of effective right field defense could be over and that may be the ideal spot for him.

It will be an adjustment when the NL rules change, and there will be some hard feelings, but the baseball world will probaby get over it within a few years. MLB has already adopted the three-batter rule for relievers, altered active rosters to 26 and prevented teams from utilizing their entire 40-man roster in September. These changes, in conjunction, are pretty significant too.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies