Phillies manager Joe Girardi officially named his opening day starter on Monday and there was no surprise who it'll be.
He named his No. 2 starter and there was no surprise there, either.
No. 3 ... well, maybe there was a little surprise there.
A good one.
Aaron Nola will make his fourth straight opening day start April 1 against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
Zack Wheeler will start the second game of the season on April 3 with Zach Eflin lining up to start Game 3 on April 4.
Eflin had long been projected to make the third start of the season, but his readiness for that outing fell into question when he developed some back soreness after his March 13 start and had to miss his next turn in the rotation.
Since then, Eflin has made good strides in his recovery. He threw in the bullpen on Sunday and is scheduled to return to the mound Wednesday in a simulated game. That would put him on course to pitch next Monday, in the Phillies' last Grapefruit League game, before making his regular-season debut on Easter Sunday.
All of this, of course, is barring any setbacks.
Because of an off day on April 2, the Phillies had the option of pushing Eflin back to the sixth game of the season. Now, it doesn't sound as if that will be necessary.
"He may be 10 or 15 pitches behind where we wanted him to be, but we're OK with that," Girardi said.
Matt Moore and Chase Anderson line up to pitch the fourth and fifth games of the season.
Chances are good that J.T. Realmuto, who has recovered from the broken right thumb he suffered last month, will be behind the plate for several of these games. According to Girardi, Realmuto "had a great day" Monday and could be in the lineup Tuesday night. That would give him a full week to get some action before camp breaks.
It still remains to be seen if utilityman/bench bat Brad Miller will open the season on time. He is still recovering from an oblique strain but is not ready to play in a game. Athletic training staffs are generally conservative and methodical in bringing players back from oblique injuries. There's so much twisting and turning of the core in baseball that a player can risk a lengthy setback if he comes back too soon.
"Rib cages are tricky," Girardi said. "You have to see how he feels at the plate. I'm hopeful but it will come down to his comfort level."
Miller is versatile and can play all over the diamond. If he can't open the season on time, Scott Kingery could play the super-utility role off the bench. Kingery, along with Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn, is a candidate for the starting center field job, but he's probably the third man in that race with Adam Haseley almost recovered from a groin injury and beginning to stir.
Ronald Torreyes, another versatile player, remains in camp, but he's not on the 40-man roster and the Phils could be facing a real pinch in the coming days if they already need to get Herrera, reserve outfielder Matt Joyce and one or two relievers (Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson) on the roster.
This is the time of spring training when players on minor-league deals have outs in their contracts. Others could end up on waivers or be dangled in trades. It's likely that the Phils are looking for bench help through these avenues.
Girardi said he should have a good idea what the makeup of the bullpen will be by the weekend. Several relievers have outs coming up on Wednesday. It's still not clear if Spencer Howard will make the club as a reliever or if Vince Velasquez will make the club at all. Velasquez remains a trade possibility or a potential fit in the bullpen.
Both Howard and Velasquez have been slowed recently by back and oblique issues, respectively. Girardi reported that both have made progress. Velasquez threw 25 pitches in the bullpen Monday and Howard could pitch in a simulated game Wednesday.
Subscribe to the Phillies Talk podcast: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube