Phillies skipper offers a little preview of his opening day lineup

Phillies skipper offers a little preview of his opening day lineup


CLEARWATER, Fla. — Three weeks before opening day, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler used a starting lineup that could look very much like the one he’ll employ March 29 in Atlanta.

OK, so the Phillies won’t use a designated hitter against the Braves on opening day, and some of the batting order positions could change. But Kapler’s lineup Wednesday against the Red Sox on a sunny, 70-degree day (sorry about that, folks) definitely had an opening day vibe to it.

“We had a lot of guys in the lineup who are likely to be on the field opening day,” Kapler said. “I would not argue with that, for sure.”

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who has strong on-base skills, batted leadoff. That’s where he will likely be often this season.

Kapler has stated that he believes the second and fourth spots are the most important in a batting order. Though nothing is certain, he has hinted he will use Carlos Santana in the two-hole and Rhys Hoskins in the four-hole, and that is indeed where both batted Wednesday.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro batted third. He might not be there on opening day, but he’s pretty much a slam dunk to be behind the plate.

Odubel Herrera was down in the six-hole. He has been slowed in camp by a sore shoulder and was 0 for 15 before stroking a fourth-inning single. He could migrate upward in the order as the spring progresses and he plays himself into form.

Nick Williams started in right field and batted eighth. He could move up in the order at some point. Aaron Altherr was the designated hitter. He is projected to get a lot of time in Kapler’s outfield. And, of course, J.P. Crawford was the shortstop. The Phillies committed to him when they traded Freddy Galvis to San Diego in December.

Aaron Nola topped off the (almost) sneak peek of the opening day lineup. Kapler named him opening day starter last week. The right-hander was sharp. He gave up just one hit and no runs over four walk-free innings. He struck out five. Nola was not thrilled with his changeup, but it certainly looked pretty good in fanning dangerous Andrew Benintendi in the third inning.

“Yeah, that was a pretty good one,” Nola conceded.

“Nola was pretty special,” Kapler said. “I don’t think anyone would argue with his breaking ball location. What stood out most impressively is how he adds and subtracts to his fastball. You’ll see some 88s flash up there. You’ll also see him at the right time reach back for some 94s. It's very reminiscent of some of the best pitchers in baseball.”

Despite producing just three hits, the Phillies beat Boston, 2-1. One run scored on a wild pitch. Nick Williams scored the other run from second base when an infield pop up fell in.

“Base running was a pretty big bright point,” Kapler said. “Heads-up, hustle plays like that only happen if we are engaged and bold like we’ve been talking about on the bases.”

Ben Lively starts Thursday against the Yankees in Tampa.

Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

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Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s not the signing you want to hear about, but for those who like to follow prospects from the ground floor on up, it’s certainly interesting.

The Phillies, according to multiple reports out of Latin America, will land highly regarded Venezuelan outfielder Yhoswar Garcia when Major League Baseball’s international signing period begins on July 2.

Garcia is just 16. Word is he will receive a bonus in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. He is 5-11 and 180 pounds. He is an excellent athlete with speed, a strong throwing arm and a promising bat.

Young players like Garcia have miles to cover in the development process, but there is definitely something to dream on there and the player has obviously impressed Phillies scouts.

Two summers ago, the Phillies signed another Latin teen named Garcia for $2.5 million. Luis Garcia, a switch-hitting shortstop, has quickly risen to the top of the Phillies’ prospect chart. As a 17-year-old last summer, he led the Gulf Coast League in batting average (.369). He finished third in on-base percentage (.433) and RBIs (32) and was sixth in OPS (.921).

Luis Garcia projects to play at Single A Lakewood this season.

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Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera is a man of much interest in this Phillies camp.

He is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, one that led to management’s order to get into better physical condition.

Herrera arrived to camp early and in noticeably better shape. But that hasn’t made him immune to the injury bug — or speculation about his future in Philadelphia as the club negotiates with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Herrera pulled out of a first-to-third baserunning drill on Wednesday and hobbled off the field. A couple of hours later, he left the ballpark wearing a wrap on his left leg.

Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "mild" hamstring strain. Actually, it was a recurrence of a hamstring injury that Herrera suffered during workouts a few days before camp officially opened. Herrera had an MRI after the initial injury and had recovered to the point where he could participate in on-field workouts.

“It was tightening up on him during baserunning drills so we’re getting it checked out,” Kapler said.

Kapler was unsure whether Herrera would have another MRI.

There is plenty of time for Herrera to get healthy for the Phillies’ season opener. Or any team’s season opener, for that matter. The Phillies whiffed on Manny Machado on Tuesday and while that likely rescued third baseman Maikel Franco from the trading block, it may have put Herrera on it — or, at the very least, made him a consideration to be placed on it because he might fetch some value in a deal.

With Machado off the board, the Phillies are now 100 percent on Harper and there is enormous public pressure for them to land him and put an exclamation point on the Winter of Stupid Money. Harper, of course, is an outfielder. If the Phillies land him, they would likely have to subtract an outfielder.

If the Phillies were to land Harper, they could trade Nick Williams or send him to the minors. Both Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn are out of minor-league options, but one could be a trade candidate. It would seem likely that the Phils would want to hang on to Quinn, who has the speed and arm to be a difference-making centerfielder — if he can finally put together a healthy season. Quinn’s inability to do that makes it difficult to bank on him as the regular centerfielder and that could convince the Phillies to hang onto Herrera, who has started 524 games in centerfield the last four seasons.

And there’s another reason to hang on to Herrera: He is talented and at 27 could still develop the consistency needed to be a star — or the batting champion that former manager Pete Mackanin once predicted he’d be. Herrera also is a left-handed hitter, which the Phils are short on.

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016. He signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. Last season, his overall game — the physical and the mental — slipped badly in the second half and he lost playing time in center to Quinn. Herrera hit just .189 with a .530 OPS over the final two months of the season, prompting management to order him to get into shape and improve his focus.

At the moment, all indications are that Herrera is in the Phils’ plans for this season and beyond.

But something will have to give if Harper dons red pinstripes.

Phillies officials remained in pursuit of Harper on Wednesday. Out on the field, players went through early-camp workouts in preparation of Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

“My focus is on the camp,” Kapler said in response to a question about Harper-Mania. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of the things going on around us, but the focus is on crisp, efficient workouts.”

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