Phillies

Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Phil Gosselin instrumental in Phillies' first win of 2020

Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Phil Gosselin instrumental in Phillies' first win of 2020

The Phillies rode the power arm of Zack Wheeler and the power bats of Didi Gregorius, Phil Gosselin and J.T. Realmuto to their first victory of the new season Saturday night.

Wheeler pitched seven innings of one-run ball and Gregorius (solo homer), Gosselin (two-run shot, solo shot) and Realmuto (three-run shot) all homered in the 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Gosselin, a utility man who made the team with a late barrage of hits in summer camp, got the start at designated hitter. He walked his first time up, singled his second time up and homered his third time up to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth. He homered again in the eighth to give the Phils a six-run lead.

All seven of the Phils' runs came on homers. 

Gosselin, 31, hails from West Chester and played at Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia. He played in 44 games with the Phillies, his fifth big-league club, last season. The multi-homer game was the first of his career. He entered the day with just seven career homers in 597 big-league at-bats.

Two games into the 60-game sprint, the Phils are 1-1.

Helluva debut

Wheeler brings some big power to the Phillies' rotation. His 87th and final pitch of the day was a 97-mph fastball for a strikeout in the seventh inning. Someone in the Phillies' dugout yelled, "Way to go, Wheels!" as he walked off the mound after the strikeout.

Wheeler allowed five hits, a run, walked two and struck out four.

Wheeler was able to make the start because his newborn son, Wesley, arrived Monday, five days early.

Off the hook

The Phillies' offense was slow starting. It let Miami starter Caleb Smith off the hook in the early innings. Smith walked six batters in the first three innings and the Phillies could only muster a single run on a leadoff homer by Gregorius in the bottom of the second. Smith went on to walk three batters in that inning but the Phils did nothing with that generosity. Smith got out of the inning by striking out Bryce Harper looking at a 2-2 breaking ball with the bases loaded.

Harper got his first hit of the season in the seventh and was on base for Realmuto's first hit of the season, which was a long-three run homer off the batter's eye in center. Harper's hit was a bunt single up the third-base line against a shift.

Nice play

Moments after the Phillies took a 3-1 lead on Gosselin's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, the Marlins tested Andrew McCutchen's defense in left field. Left-handed hitter Corey Dickerson hit a slicing line drive toward the left-field line. McCutchen got a nice jump and made an important sliding catch to keep the lead man off base in the seventh and help Wheeler put up a shutdown inning.

McCutchen missed four months last season with an ACL tear. He might not be moving as fluidly as he once did, but he closes the gap with excellent reads and jumps.

Shortstop Gregorius made a nice play to the end the top of the eighth and get Tommy Hunter out of trouble.

The Phils' defense was very good. Wheeler kept the ball on the ground and benefited from four inning-ending double plays.

Is Vinny for real?

Vince Velasquez earned a spot in the starting rotation by pitching very well during summer camp. He showed off a new cut fastball and an improved changeup to go with his four-seam, power fastball and his curveball. Now, it's time to see if Velasquez can put it all together when things count. He will start the series finale Sunday afternoon against Marlins right-hander Jose Urena.

Velasquez has been in and out of the Phillies' rotation for four seasons. It's time for him to show he can keep his pitch count under control, get through the middle innings and show some consistency. In a 60-game season where every game is magnified, the Phillies can't afford to have a long leash with Velasquez and he must lock down his role quickly because top prospect Spencer Howard is waiting in the wings.

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Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Eight days shy of a year after his last big-league start, Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Phillies in Yankee Stadium on Monday night.

Arrieta will oppose Yankees ace Gerrit Cole as the Phillies restart their season eight days after their last game.

Since his last start, August 11, 2019 in San Francisco, Arrieta has had elbow surgery, gone through a complete rehab, pitched in spring training, endured a shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped up during July summer camp and watched his team play three games then shut down again after the Miami Marlins suffered an outbreak of the virus last weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

With the ballpark closed much of the week, Arrieta and teammate Tommy Hunter found a field in South Jersey and kept their arms loose. Arrieta revved his engines in a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday and believes he can throw 85-plus pitches in his long-awaited season debut Monday night.

"It feels great to finally have a start lined up," he said. "It's been frustrating, but at the same time, I haven't been dwelling on that too much because we are all in a really tough situation having to deal with so many different factors that have kind of derailed the beginning of our season. We knew these were going to be tough times and we're doing the best we can to stay ready.

"I've thrown in a few (simulated) games, I've thrown a bunch of bullpens, extended bullpens to keep the pitch count pretty high. But it's really tough to do unless you're in real-game situations. But I'm in a good spot. I'm going to be able to give my team what we need. I'm really looking forward to getting into a real game finally.

"Physically, I feel pretty close to midseason form as far as the body. There's really no aches and pains, which is something you're accustomed to near midseason. So the body feels pretty fresh, and the feel of all my stuff is there."

The Phillies have yet to announce who will follow Arrieta in the rotation. As if the Phils haven't been through enough with seven postponements, bad weather is steaming up the coast from the south and that could cause more problems with scheduling. Even if Mother Nature cooperates, the Phillies would have to play 57 games in 56 days to play their full 60-game season.

"These are weird times as you know," Arrieta said. "Other teams have been able to play more games than us and haven't been affected schedule-wise as much as we have, but we're not going to complain about it. We can't make any excuses. 

"It would seem that we are at a disadvantage, not being able to play pretty much every day like we're accustomed to. But if you lean too much on that, it could creep into your mind too heavily and could most certainly affect your performance."

The season is just 11 days old and already 33 games around Major League Baseball have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. Nonetheless, MLB and the players union remain committed to pushing on with the 60-game season. But given all these starts, stops and postponements, one has to wonder if the season can be pulled off. One has to wonder if there will be a breaking point for the players or the league if the postponements continue to mount.

"I think that we're a ways away from that, based on all the knowledge and the information that I've gathered through the union and through MLB," Arrieta said. "MLB wants to do everything in their power to get this season completed and we do as well. We're committed to doing that.

"I want to see the postseason happen and not have to shut this thing down for good. That would be bad for a lot of reasons. The fans want to see baseball. We want to play. We're going to follow protocols and do everything we can to make sure that happens."

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Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Phillies manager Joe Girardi will set a starting pitching rotation for his team's restart after Sunday's workout.

The Phillies held just their second workout since last weekend Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. Girardi did not name his rotation after that workout because he and pitching coach Bryan Price were still gauging the readiness of arms amid all the starts and stops of this COVID-marred 2020 season. The Phillies still have two starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, who have yet to throw a pitch in official game action and the top two of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will be looking at nine and eight days between starts, respectively, by the time the Phillies resume play against the New York Yankees on Monday night.

On top of this, Phillies hitters haven't seen live pitching with any regularity for the last week.

Good luck in the Bronx. Gerrit Cole could pitch Monday if the Yankees stay on rotation.

"I give our pitchers credit," said Girardi, who, at least publicly, has stayed amazingly upbeat during a trying time. "They've kept up trying to do as much as they could by themselves. I've heard guys throwing baseballs against mattresses and brick walls on the outside of their homes and wherever they are. It's challenging, but we knew that it would be coming into the season. We knew that we had to be somewhat prepared for anything and I think our guys have done a pretty good job of handling that.

"We have to be a little bit cautious because for some of these guys, we were building them up and they were kind of put on hold. Now you have concerns about going back-to-back with relievers for the first time after they were put on hold for a while. I think we'll be cautious a little bit in the beginning. Our starters won't be up to where other teams' starters are that have made two starts and some will be coming up on their third start pretty soon. Our starters won't be there and we just have to deal with it."

Without saying it explicitly, Girardi articulated a flaw in the competitive integrity of this 60-game season. The Phillies played their first three games then, through no fault of their own, were shut down for more than a week because they came into contact with a team that suffered an outbreak of COVID-19. Now, the Phillies will have to somehow shoehorn 57 games into 56 days. There have been multiple reports that some Marlins players ignored MLB protocols for social distancing before playing in Philadelphia last weekend. No Phillies players have tested positive, but the Phils are still paying a price.

Are Phillies players angry at the Marlins?

"I haven't really heard any complaints from our guys, but understand that we don't sit around and talk like we used to. That's just not what we do," Girardi said. "So when we do get a chance, we're pretty much talking about baseball only. I have not heard it, so I can't really tell you exactly how the players feel. I do know that they want to play and they're frustrated that we're not playing right now. They're not blaming anyone, but they want to play. That's what we do. I think our players are handling this great."

How about Girardi? He said he was aware of the reports that the Marlins did not take COVID protocols seriously. He spends significant time every day stressing the importance of protocols to his players. He must be ticked off at the Marlins, right?

"No," Girardi said. "They had one player who had it and then they traveled and they were on buses and planes and no one knew. For me to judge — I could walk in one day and have COVID here and not know it and spread it around."

Girardi said he communicated with some members of the Marlins organization and those people felt "a real sense of guilt and remorse."

Focusing on his own club, Girardi said, "The fortunate thing is it did not spread around our clubhouse. So we just have to make sure our guys are prepared to play Monday and physically they're ready to go. That's my biggest concern."

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