Where’s Bryce Harper? How about Roamin’ Roman? A few observations from Phillies camp

Where’s Bryce Harper? How about Roamin’ Roman? A few observations from Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies came out with four runs in the bottom of the first inning and held on for a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in exhibition play Sunday afternoon at Spectrum Field.

Didi Gregorius, Jay Bruce and newcomer Kyle Garlick — picked up in a trade with the Dodgers last week — had the big hits in the first inning.

But when manager Joe Girardi sized up the win, he pointed to the guy in center field.

Roman Quinn led off the bottom of the first with a double and eventually scored, but his biggest contribution of the game came on defense, where he made two standout catches in the fifth inning.

“He was probably the reason we won the game,” Girardi said.

Quinn raced to his left and made a diving catch for the first out in the fifth inning. He ended the frame by going back to the wall and making a tough catch. Both of the catches came with runners on base.

“Quinn’s defense was really good,” Girardi said. “Two different types of catches in the same inning. He has the ability to run down so many balls. I don’t think you can ever outrun a baseball but he can come close. He gets really good jumps.”

Several times early in camp, Girardi has recalled seeing Quinn a few years ago when Girardi was still skippering the Yankees. Like so many others, Girardi was always impressed with Quinn’s speed and electricity. Quinn, of course, has never been able to stay healthy. That’s probably why the general consensus is that Adam Haseley has come into camp tops on the depth chart in center field. But this will end up being a good position battle as camp unfolds if Quinn stays healthy.

“I believe it’s a competition,” Girardi said earlier in camp. “Both good players. Haseley made great strides last year and Roman can be a difference-maker when he’s healthy and on base. He can create a lot of problems. Switch-hitter. He has the ability to take the pitcher’s attention off the hitter at times and score on balls in the gap.”

The third base experiment

Jean Segura made his first start at third base on Sunday and made several plays. He also had a ball bounce off his glove. It was a play he probably should have conceded to shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Segura is moving off of shortstop to make room for Gregorius, who signed as a free agent in the offseason.

Segura has never played third base before. The Phillies are hoping he can handle the position so Scott Kingery can play second. But a final decision on where Segura — and Kingery by extension — plays is probably still several weeks away. Segura can play second and has told the team he’d be comfortable there. His ability to play third base is under evaluation by both him and the team.

“The plays don’t look hard for him,” Girardi said. “It’s the reads he has to get accustomed to. We just have to continue to get him reps there because as he has said all along that he can play second in his sleep. Third is the trickier one for him.

“He has the hands, he has the quickness, he has the range, he has the arm. It’s embracing it and if you make a wrong read, it’s not being embarrassed. It’s saying, ‘OK, I learned from that.’ “

Embracing a position change, Girardi added, “is a lot of the battle.”

Where's Bryce?

Bryce Harper has not played in the first two games. Nothing is wrong. It’s a long camp and Girardi said Harper would start Tuesday in Clearwater.

“That’s just the schedule we planned out a while back,” Girardi said.

Where's Wheeler?

Zack Wheeler has been throwing to hitters at the minor-league complex. His first start is slated for Saturday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.

More on the Phillies' starting pitching plans for the coming days here.

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What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This, from Joel Sherman of the NY Post, paints a slightly clearer picture of how it could shake out:

One person who had been briefed on the proposal said the expectation is that players due to make $1 million or less in 2020 would be made close to whole on a prorated basis for games played. Thus, if someone were making the MLB 2020 minimum of $563,500 and 82 regular-season games (almost exactly half a season) were played, they would receive roughly half their pay, about $282,000.

But players at the top of the pay chain such as Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout would get less. If that were in the 50 percent range — as an example — then Cole, who was due $36 million, this year would receive half of about the $18 million he would be due for half a season or roughly $9 million.

From a Phillies perspective, if those percentages are close to accurate, it would mean Harper would earn somewhere around $6.9 million of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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