Phillies

Phillies

Given the CDC's recommendation that crowds of 50-plus should be avoided nationwide for at least another eight weeks, it is unlikely we see regular-season baseball before late May or early June. 

Phillies players have been advised by Joe Girardi to work out like it's the offseason. "If you're a pitcher and throwing some light bullpen (sessions), do that," Girardi said.

It's hard to see many silver linings in the sports world during this unexpected period of inactivity, but one is that the delayed start of the regular season will benefit several key Phillies.

Andrew McCutchen

This is the most obvious one. McCutchen, recovering from ACL surgery, was not going to be ready by the original opening day of March 26. But he should be ready when the 2020 regular season does begin. He'll have had an additional two months or so to ease into more comfortable lateral movements and changes of direction and speed.

McCutchen is a huge key to the Phillies' season because he's their most capable leadoff hitter and can also be a run producer. In a lot of ways, he made the Phillies "go" last season before his injury on June 3 in San Diego. 

David Robertson

Robertson had Tommy John surgery in August 2019 but was already throwing by mid-February and said at the beginning of camp that he felt like he could go throw a bullpen session that day.

Obviously, the Phillies are approaching it more cautiously. The chance existed even with a March 26 opening day that Robertson could contribute late in the regular season. Now, he may be able to pitch a half-season's worth of innings in the Phillies' bullpen.

 

The Phillies are desperate for bullpen help, especially with Seranthony Dominguez looking like he's headed for elbow surgery of his own. Robertson is so much more accomplished than anyone else in the Phillies' bullpen. He had a 2.59 ERA in 65 appearances per year from 2011-18 and has more than a decade's worth of experience in high-pressure spots.

Spencer Howard

The Phillies were set to monitor the workload all season of their top pitching prospect, 23-year-old Spencer Howard. His career-high in innings in any season was 112 in 2018 and the Phils weren't going to let him go too far beyond that number, though no limit was ever explicitly stated.

With the 162-game season almost sure to be shortened, a larger portion of Howard's innings could come at the major-league level. There shouldn't be as much of a need to space out his starts or reduce his big-league role because of the minor-league innings he'd thrown prior to his call-up. 

We could see the majority of Howard's innings come in The Show in 2020.

Aaron Nola

This is kind of a hidden one, but the Phillies' ace has pitched 212⅓ and 202⅓ innings the last two seasons. The abbreviated 2020 schedule should prevent him from hitting the 200-inning mark again, which could better preserve Nola's right arm long-term.

Similar theme for Zack Wheeler, who has averaged 189 innings the last two seasons.

Alec Bohm

Some have speculated the shorter regular season could affect service time considerations and make the Phillies more likely to call up their top offensive prospect, Alec Bohm, earlier than expected. 

But the fact still remains that the Phillies' infield is set with Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura. Barring injury, Bohm isn't taking the everyday spot of any of those guys.

Bohm could still force the Phillies' hand by tearing up minor-league pitching and giving them little choice but to insert him into a run-producing spot in the lineup. But that moment probably will not come early in the modified 2020 regular season.

Tommy Hunter and Victor Arano

Two Phillies relievers coming off season-ending injuries who were probably not going to be ready for opening day but might be sufficiently past them by the time the season begins. Hunter had surgery last July to repair his right flexor tendon. Arano had elbow surgery last May.

Hunter and Arano combined for just 10 innings last season. Arano had been very effective the previous two seasons, posting a 2.57 ERA in 70 appearances.

Other teams

The Phillies aren't the only NL East team that will get players healthier over these next couple of months.

• Freddie Freeman had been battling an elbow injury that affected him late in 2019 and slowed him in camp.

• Cole Hamels was set to miss at least a month with a shoulder issue.

• Yoenis Cespedes (ankle) and Michael Conforto (oblique) of the Mets weren't set to make their regular-season debuts until at least mid-April.

 

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