Phillies

Phillies

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak ended a video news conference with reporters on Thursday by saying, "Happy Opening Day."

And so, 120 days after the scheduled season opener, the Phillies will finally begin the 2020 season Friday night at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins.

What is it Bryce Harper said the other day?

Oh, yeah.

"Ready, set, 60 ..."

Normally, at this time of the year, we're writing about the July 31 trade deadline.

Now we're wondering who'll be new manager Joe Girardi's opening day centerfielder for the 60-game sprint.

A few notes, quotes and observations on the eve of the opener:

OK, will it be Roman Quinn or Adam Haseley in center field?

"I think we're going to play it by matchups and we're going to look who's playing well," Girardi said. "You could possibly see one of them play left field at times when Andrew McCutchen gets a day off. We're going to need everybody. So as far as declaring, 'This is our guy for the season,' we did not do that. We need them both to play well. That's the bottom line because they're both going to play."

Who will pitch high-leverage situations in the bullpen?

Girardi believes in relievers having roles, but those roles won't evolve until the season gets rolling. We know Hector Neris will be the closer out of the gate and lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez, based on past usage, will be asked to get big outs near the end of games.

 

Girardi mentioned Tommy Hunter as a possibility because of his experience. He also mentioned Nick Pivetta, who is headed to the 'pen after failing to win a spot in the rotation.

There's not a lot of big power in the Phillies' bullpen and Pivetta could be a find down there if he can stay poised, command his fastball, execute a breaking ball and most of all accept the role and the possibility that he might be pretty good at it.

"I think for anyone, if you're fighting for a rotation spot and you were moved to the bullpen, I think at the beginning there's going to be disappointment," Girardi said. "But Nick told us, and he reiterated, he's going to do whatever it takes to win and help us, and that's the most important thing."

What's one other thing to know about Girardi's bullpen?

He does not like to use relievers three days in a row. Maybe late in the season, in a must-win, but, in general, it's a practice he stays away from. Back in February and March, Phillies relievers talked about how much they like this idea.

Where's Spencer Howard?

He will stay stretched out and get his innings at the Phillies' satellite training site in Lehigh Valley. He could be on the Phillies' pitching staff, possibly even in the rotation, as soon as next weekend. Everyone knows that Howard is close, including those on the current starting staff. Internal competition is good.

What about Zach Eflin?

Girardi said the right-hander threw "great" in a 60-pitch simulated game Thursday so he is scheduled to start the fifth game of the season Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium.

Is the roster final?

Not yet. Utility man Phil Gosselin will be added before the first pitch Friday night. That will take it to 30 men.

Get ready for a lot of transactions. The roster shrinks to 28 in two weeks then to 26 two weeks after that.

In areas like the bullpen, the Phils could shuffle guys in and out, looking for the hot hand.

Here is the roster that was submitted to MLB on Thursday.

A month after not being able to agree that the pizza tastes good and the sky is blue, MLB and the union agreed Thursday to an expanded playoff field of 16 teams. There will be two teams from each division, 12 clubs, and the teams with the next two best records in each league will also qualify. If the Phillies can't break an eight-year postseason drought this year …

"I think it's great for baseball," Girardi said. "At a time when we've all been starving for live sports, I think you'll keep more communities, more cities and states, involved in the excitement of baseball because your team has a chance to be in the playoffs, and once you get there anything can happen. So, I think it's great for baseball.

 

"But as far as my plans changing as a manager, our goal is to win the division. That's our goal. And if you do that, you're going to be in the top three seeds. That's our goal. So, it really hasn't changed."

Will the Phillies, who are right up against the luxury tax threshold, add salary if they are in the playoff hunt?

"(The tax) is not a hard barrier for us," Klentak said. "It can serve as a guide. But I continue to believe that if our team is in position to go to the postseason that our owners will support that."

The trade deadline is Aug. 31.

Three key relievers ...

Are on the injured list. David Robertson is iffy to pitch this season after Tommy John surgery last summer. Ranger Suarez remains in COVID protocol. It sounds like Seranthony Dominguez has also been in COVID protocol because he still has not had Tommy John surgery. He will soon. His elbow injury and recovery will now span three seasons.

And finally ...

Aaron Nola against Sandy Alcantara on Friday night.

Zack Wheeler against lefty Caleb Smith on Saturday night.

Vince Velasquez against Jose Ureña on Sunday.

Happy Opening Day.

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