Wilson Ramos is a huge difference-maker, but how much can Phillies ride him down the stretch?

Wilson Ramos is a huge difference-maker, but how much can Phillies ride him down the stretch?

TORONTO — Wilson Ramos’ importance to the Phillies was on full display in Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Blue Jays (see story).

The burly catcher had four hits, including a two-run homer, and three RBIs.

And he made a block and throw to third base for an out in the sixth inning that manager Gabe Kapler called a “game-changer.”

Ramos is 12 for 25 with five doubles, a triple, a homer and eight RBIs in six games with his new club.

Clearly, the offense-challenged Phillies need him to play a lot over the final 32 games.

But just how often can he go to his post?

The Phillies acquired Ramos at the end of July while he was still on the disabled list nursing a left hamstring strain. The club is still watching that hammy — and the right one, as well. Ramos said that one has been tight, too.

On top of it all, he missed time last week with a sore wrist that stemmed from his being crossed-up on a pitch from Jake Arrieta.

After Sunday’s win, Ramos said the wrist was fine.

But the 245-pound slab of granite admitted that his hamstrings need watching.

“I don’t feel 100 percent, but I can play sore,” he said. “For some reason, people call me the Buffalo. I’ve got that strength, so I play. I can play. I can support my team. I’m not ready to run 100 percent, but I can jog and play and that’s very important to me. If I can do a really good job on offense, it’s another good step.

“I want to play every day. I want to help my team make the playoffs. We’re in a good spot right now to make the playoffs, but I understand if they want to give me two days per week off that’s good because they want me to rest a little bit and get better. But I’ll talk to (manager Gabe Kapler) and try to tell him I’m ready to play, I’m ready to work.”

Kapler admitted that he was not certain how much he can ride Ramos the rest of the way.

“We're going to just check in with him every single day,” Kapler said. “We’ll ask him, ‘How are you doing? How is your body recovering?' Day games after a night game we're going to have to be careful with him.

“We'd love to ride him. We'd like to play him four times, five times a week if possible. A lot of that depends on how well he's recovering so we don't get overzealous and put him at risk in any way. Kind of like we did at the very beginning of the season, we're balancing winning today's baseball game with the long-term health and well being of our players. In this particular case with Ramos, it's balancing winning tomorrow with having him healthy through September and into October.”

Kapler said he likes the “calming” effect that Ramos has had on the pitchers.

Rhys Hoskins likes the work that Ramos has done with the bat.

“The thing that impresses me the most is that every time he swings he seems to barrel the ball,” Hoskins said. “He seems very selective at the plate. But when he decides to go, it’s loud. You hit in the middle of the lineup like that and you hope for extra-base hits.”

Ramos has given the Phillies a bunch of them in a short amount of time. 

And they need him to stay healthy so he can deliver more.

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Updates on Phillies spring training debuts of Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

Updates on Phillies spring training debuts of Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies ace Aaron Nola made his first start of the spring Sunday while their new No. 2, Zack Wheeler, is slated to debut Saturday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.

Wheeler has been throwing to hitters at the Phils' minor-league complex.

Fifth starter candidates remain in focus as Vince Velasquez makes his first start on Monday against the Orioles in Clearwater.

Nick Pivetta, another candidate, made his first start Saturday and showed a potential new weapon.

Lefty Ranger Suarez is being stretched out as a starter and could be a dark-horse candidate for the fifth job. He will get a start Tuesday at Bradenton while Jake Arrieta starts in Clearwater that day. Suarez pitched well out of the bullpen last year but was groomed as a starter in the minors.

Zach Eflin will make his spring debut Wednesday against the Twins in Fort Myers.

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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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