Phillies

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

BRADENTON, Fla. — Less than a week before opening day, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the Phillies.

About the only thing known for sure is that Aaron Nola will start Thursday in Atlanta. The right-hander made his final spring tune-up Friday afternoon against the Pirates.

Some of the questions that need to be answered before the Phillies pack up and leave Florida on Tuesday include:

• When will Jake Arrieta join the rotation? Will it be April 2, 3 or 4 in New York? Will it be during the team’s first homestand, possibly April 7? Arrieta threw 31 pitches in his first spring start Thursday. A bullpen session over the weekend and his next start, likely 50 or so pitches on Tuesday, will offer team officials a better idea on when he’ll be ready.

• Who else will be in the rotation? Nothing has been announced, but Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta appear to be locks with Nola and eventually Arrieta. Zach Eflin could be the fifth starter, if the Phils use one the first time through the rotation. He could also piggyback with Arrieta in New York if the Phils wanted to get Arrieta going that early. Ben Lively and Drew Hutchison remain candidates to make the club as the fifth starter, should the Phils use one during the first 10 days of the season.

• Who's in the bullpen? Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Adam Morgan are locks. That likely leaves three openings. One spot will likely go to a lefty, Hoby Milner or Zac Curtis. Right-handers Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano seem to be vying for one spot and the final one could go to Lively or Hutchison. They are both stretched out and could provide the bullpen length that injured Mark Leiter Jr. would have.

• How about bullpen roles? Manager Gabe Kapler is not one to speak in absolutes. He is loath to define roles in his bullpen or batting order. He’s keeping options open and could assign roles on a nightly basis based on matchups and research that the team’s growing analytics department digs up. Neris went 20 for 20 in save chances while giving up just three runs in 19⅔ innings after June 27 last season. Logic would dictate that he'd be the closer. But will he be every night? Will Kapler use him in a matchup situation in the seventh inning some night? Time will tell. Same for batting order construction.

• Who will be on the bench? Infielder/outfielder Pedro Florimon has played well and looks like a lock. That leaves one or two openings, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. Veterans Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales were both granted their release. That leaves Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn, both 40-man roster guys, as the two lead candidates. There might be room for both, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. It also would not be shocking to see the team send Quinn to Triple A to get more playing time. The Phils appear to be leaning toward carrying Andrew Knapp as their second catcher over Cameron Rupp, who has a minor-league option remaining.

Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

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USA Today Images

Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

The Texas Rangers will interview Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan for their manager opening later this week, according to a baseball source.

Wathan, 45, was a finalist for the Phillies' job that went to Gabe Kapler a year ago.

Wathan is a former catcher who played professionally for 14 seasons and appeared in the majors with Kansas City in 2002. He managed 10 seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system and was Eastern League manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016 before moving up to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017 and joining the big-league staff under Kapler in 2018. He managed many of the players that have recently arrived in the majors with the Phillies.

The Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister in late September. According to reports, they have already interviewed several candidates including former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Cubs bench Brandon Hyde, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rangers assistant GM Jayce Tingler. The Rangers are also expected to interview Don Wakamatsu, who finished 2018 as interim skipper, and Sandy Alomar Jr., a member of the Indians' coaching staff. 

We profiled Wathan here last year.

More on the Phillies

10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

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10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

As the final out settled into Carlos Ruiz's mitt and the Phillies clinched the NLCS with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 5, I looked down at the dugout from the press box. Players streamed out to congratulate each other on the field. Manager Charlie Manuel stayed behind and accepted handshakes and hugs from his staff.

October 2008 was the high point of Manuel’s career, but it came amidst personal grief. Five days before the Phillies won the NLCS in Dodger Stadium, Manuel’s mother, June, died at the age of 87 back in the family’s hometown of Buena Vista, Virginia.

Manuel spoke to his mother daily before her passing and she wanted him to stay with his team. He celebrated the Phillies’ punching their ticket to the World Series and the next day flew to Virginia for his mother’s funeral.

Phillies players adored Manuel because he never complicated things, never got in the way and always had their back. There was a sense of “Let’s win this for Chuck,” throughout that postseason and it shined brightly in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Mr. Bright Lights himself, James Calvin Rollins, fought back from an 0-2 count and led off the contest with a full-count home run against Chad Billingsley. Later in the game, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had big hits.

Cole Hamels continued his coming out party with seven innings of one-run ball, giving him a total of 22 innings of three-run ball to that point of the postseason. He was named NLCS series MVP.

Hamels labored through a 26-pitch seventh inning in Game 5 and his warning light was flashing when Manuel went to the mound to speak with his pitcher with two outs, two men on base and dangerous Jeff Kent coming up in a four-run game. One swing could have made it a much different ballgame. Manuel looked into Hamels' eyes and the 24-year-old lefty convinced the skipper he was OK. With the count 2-2, Hamels reached back for everything he had on his 104th pitch of the night. Kent took a called third strike in what turned out to be the final at-bat of his great career.

The spectacular bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished it off and at age 64, Charlie Manuel was headed to the World Series as manager of Philadelphia Phillies.

After the game, Manuel said he knew his mom was watching from above and he recalled his last conversation with her.

“Charles Jr.,” she told him, “you’re going to win these games and go to the World Series.”

Moms are always right.

Previously in this series