Phillies

Sources: Phillies likely to stay in Philly for Spring Training II

Sources: Phillies likely to stay in Philly for Spring Training II

If Major League Baseball and the players association can successfully hammer out plans for a half-season, teams would need to come together for Spring Training II.

The question is: Where?

Will teams return to their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona or simply hold camps in their regular home ballparks?

It is likely that the Phillies will train in Philadelphia, according to multiple sources. Nothing is certain because there are still many big-picture details to work out, but that is the plan being discussed.

MLB, provided it reaches agreement with the union on safety and salary matters, and receives approval from government and health officials, would like to start the season in early July. The general consensus is that players would need three weeks to get ready. That means camps would open in the neighborhood of June 10-15.

Could the Phillies pull off a spring training camp at Citizens Bank Park? 

Absolutely.

The Phils still have 53 players on their spring roster, but there are two spacious clubhouses in the ballpark that would allow players to spread out — provided they are even allowed to use the clubhouse.

There are five outdoor pitcher’s mounds at the ballpark and more across the street at the team’s Urban Youth Academy at FDR Park. The Youth Academy has two full-size diamonds if extra field space is needed.

The Phillies also have ownership stakes in their Triple A club in Allentown and their Double A club in Reading so those ballparks could also be utilized, if necessary.

It appears as if clubs will be allowed to make their own decisions on where to hold their respective camps. By training at their regular home ballparks, players would have to go through initial health protocols at only one facility as opposed to doing it at their spring training site and then again at their regular-season site.

If the Baltimore Orioles or the teams from New York were to hold camps in their home parks, the Phillies would have some logical partners for exhibition games. Otherwise, Phillies players could get live reps in intrasquad games.

Again, details are still being worked out.

Spring Training I was halted on March 12 because of the coronavirus health crisis.

MLB would like to have an 82-game season — just over half the customary 162 — followed by an expanded 14-team postseason tournament. It's likely that teams will spend the regular season playing geographically close to home. In this case, the Phillies would play their NL East rivals and cross over and play teams from the AL East, as well.

Fans will not be permitted into games, at least at the start of the season. MLB hopes to be able to loosen that policy as the season goes on, depending on the advice of health officials.

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Aaron Nola arrives at Phillies training camp

Aaron Nola arrives at Phillies training camp

There’s a great sign at Phillies summer camp on Monday. Aaron Nola has arrived and looks like he is ready to go. 

Nola was working out locally, getting ready to rejoin the Phillies. He appears to be moving well and looks healthy.

Manager Joe Girardi on Saturday did not disclose why Nola had yet to arrive at camp.

"He is not here yet," Girardi said. "We're trying to work our way through that." 

COVID-19 has already had a significant impact on the Phillies. Ranger Suarez, Tommy Hunter, Hector Neris and Scott Kingery are all on the COVID-19 injured list. 

Center fielder Adam Haseley has been away from the team “due to a medical condition,” Girardi told reporters Saturday. “We're trying to work through it and get him here."

If he’s available, Nola would be the Phillies’ presumptive opening day starter for the third consecutive year, this time for a planned 60-game season. He went 12-7 with a 3.87 ERA last season and finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2018.

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Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in.

For now.

The Phillies' big off-season acquisition on Sunday said he was committed to pitching this season, but he left the door open wide enough to back out.

"Yeah, definitely," Wheeler said when asked if he had considered opting out of the season like several other prominent big leaguers have done.

"We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I'm happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby's born. I always think about what's going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I'm going to continue to keep asking myself that every day."

Wheeler's wife, Dominique, is due to give birth to the couple's first child in about three weeks.

That's an anxious time to begin with.

Now, add in a pandemic.

Sheesh.

"It's a very difficult decision," Wheeler said. "It's something that is still playing in my head. I have to be very careful here at the field, outside of the field, wherever I go. The baby's and Dominique's health is most important to me. So whatever I can do to make sure they are safe, that is the No. 1 goal for me. Baseball comes after that."

Wheeler has expressed his concerns to team officials, including manager Joe Girardi.

Frankly, every person affiliated with the club has the same concerns about the health and safety of their families.

"We've chit-chatted here and there," Wheeler said. "I think they know what position I'm in. I think we are going to sit down and talk about that. But we haven't done it yet. I've been happy with what's gone on so far here (with health and safety protocols). 

"But, yeah, I'm definitely going to sit down with Joe and whoever else just to reiterate that. I'll let them know how I am feeling. Joe's a family guy. Family comes first to him. That's the first thing he told me when I talked to him on the phone right after I signed. 'Family is first.' I know he recognizes that. He knows the situation I'm in. He loves his kids. He's a good guy. He is one of the reasons why I signed here."

There are a number of players in MLB whose wives are expecting. Mike Trout is one and he has expressed reservations about playing and compromising his family's safety.

Wheeler was asked if he believed MLB should step in and make a blanket decision for players whose wives are pregnant.

"Maybe they could have put that label on guys with pregnant wives. I do believe that," Wheeler said. "I think they did a nice job with everything else. But there are a lot of guys with pregnant wives right now, whether it's later on in the pregnancy, early on in the pregnancy, they are at risk. It's a very serious thing as we all know. Maybe they should have thought about that a little bit more. I don't know. Like I said, I can only worry about myself and do as much as I can personally to protect my wife."

Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract in December.

Players who opt out of the season do not get paid their prorated salaries unless they have an underlying health condition that makes playing too risky.

Baseball-wise, Wheeler is on a good track. During the shutdown, he maintained his throwing program back home in Georgia. He got up to 80 pitches in his bullpen sessions at home and faced hitters in camp on Saturday. With the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Nola — he's throwing at a nearby facility but has not joined the team for official workouts — Wheeler could end up starting the season opener July 23 or 24.

That is, if the virus allows for a season opener. 

And all is well at home.

Wheeler expects to take the permitted three days paternity leave once the baby arrives. Then he will need to go through testing and health protocols before rejoining the team. He estimated that he would miss at least a start, maybe two.

The Phillies are prepared for sudden changes in their pitching rotations. Girardi said he'll have relievers piggybacked with each starter and a five-man starting staff with the backup club in Lehigh Valley.

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