A skill each Phillies left field candidate brings to the table in Andrew McCutchen's absence

A skill each Phillies left field candidate brings to the table in Andrew McCutchen's absence

Andrew McCutchen's early-season absence will negatively affect the Phillies' offense. He's the Phils' second-best on-base guy and also one of their top five power threats.

The silver lining is that will give the Phillies a quick look at the skill sets and viability of their extra men. Spring training is the time for that, but spring training games are never an equal substitute for the pressure of games that count.

The most obvious beneficiaries are Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley because there are now two spots for them as opposed to just the center field job. Quinn is a strong candidate to lead off in McCutchen's absence, provided Quinn makes it out of Clearwater healthy and is hitting.

Let's look at some potential arrangements:

Quinn in CF, Haseley in LF

This is one of the most likely pairings. Prior to the news last week that McCutchen won't be ready for the season opener, Quinn and Haseley were viewed as the Phillies' third and fourth outfielders. 

Sure, Jay Bruce has more experience and more of an ability to pop a three-run homer, but Bruce may not be a realistic nightly option in left field in 2020, even if it's just for a few weeks. A strained oblique and a sore elbow cost Bruce almost all of the second half last season. If the arm affects his ability to throw, the Phillies' left field defense would be a liability with him there.

If Quinn and Haseley play together, Quinn would almost certainly get the CF nod because of his range.

And if Quinn can succeed in the leadoff spot, it would elongate the Phillies' lineup when McCutchen does return because then McCutchen could slot anywhere from 2 through 5, with the centerfielder leading off as opposed to batting eighth.

Quinn/Haseley in CF, Garlick in LF

The Phillies acquired Kyle Garlick from the Dodgers on Feb. 15 when the Dodgers had to make room on their roster for some guy named Mookie Betts. Garlick was simply a victim of the Dodgers' numbers game. L.A. has the deepest roster in baseball and Garlick was the odd man out.

He could find a legit role here providing right-handed thump against left-handed pitching. 

Garlick had three homers and three doubles in just 33 plate appearances against lefties last season with the Dodgers. Altogether at Triple A and the majors, he hit .292 with a 1.072 OPS against lefties.

The Phillies open the season in Miami. The Marlins are likely to start Caleb Smith, a tough lefty, in either Game 1 or Game 2. Could be the first start for Garlick.

2 of Quinn/Kingery/Haseley in CF/LF with Bohm at 3B

Bohm has more offensive upside than any other name above and this would be the most exciting one for Phillies fans. But it seems unlikely to occur out of the gate. Unless he tears the cover off the ball in Grapefruit League play, remains with the Phillies throughout spring training and does enough to win a job out of camp, Bohm will find himself beginning 2020 at either Double A or Triple A.

Why? It would have as much to do with major-league readiness as it would service time. Like it or not, the Phillies stand to benefit with an additional year of club control if they delay Bohm's promotion by at least six weeks or so.

Bohm has been impressive so far this spring, going 7 for 13 (.538) with three RBI.

Others in the mix

• Super utilityman Josh Harrison seems likely to make the team because he can help out at so many different positions, pinch run and hit a little bit. So far this spring, Harrison has started games at second base, third base, left field and right field.

• Nick Williams has become a forgotten man in this organization and it would not be surprising if the Phillies trimmed him from the 40-man roster at some point in 2020 when the need arises. The 26-year-old left-handed hitter needed an opportunity like the McCutchen injury to have one final shot at meaningful playing time with the Phillies.

• Like Harrison, Neil Walker is a good bet to make the Phils' opening day 26-man roster because of his versaility. He can hit from both sides and play a handful of positions. Walker has played only first base and third base in spring training games thus far with the Phils, but he can also help out at third base or the outfield corners. He does not have nearly as much outfield experience as these other candidates, starting only 12 games in the outfield in his 11 big-league seasons.

• Logan Forsythe is another veteran in the Harrison-Walker tier who can play first, second, third and the outfield corners. It feels like those three are fighting for at most two jobs because the Phillies will want a few guys on their bench to have minor-league options. These three do not. There is value in being able to shuttle a player back and forth when needs arise.

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Phillies may have to shut down J.T. Realmuto against his will in final week

Phillies may have to shut down J.T. Realmuto against his will in final week

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Would J.T. Realmuto be playing Monday if the Phillies didn't face a one-in-a-million chance to make the playoffs?

Probably not. Realmuto is dealing with right knee soreness and it's paramount for the Phillies to make sure there is no risk of further injury before putting him back on the field.

He was out of the lineup Monday night after experiencing the soreness Sunday in Cleveland.

"It was the double-play ball, the grounder to short," Realmuto said. "I was running to first. I didn't actually feel anything when I was running so I don't know how it happened. When I came back out to catch the next inning, I just felt a little discomfort in my knee, it kept popping every time I moved it. It would pop, just a little discomfort. It wasn't really painful yesterday, but I woke up today and it was a little more tender, a little more pain. Definitely sore. I think Gabe just wanted to be cautious today and not push it."

The Phillies are taking a day-to-day approach for now. Realmuto will undergo an MRI Monday night.

"I'm going to go get one tonight just to make sure," he said. "With it being my knee, we don't want to take any chances. I don't see it being anything too serious. I think I should feel better tomorrow, but we're going to get one just to make sure."

It's easy to point to Realmuto's workload to explain a late-season injury, but it may not be accurate. This has been a remarkably healthy and durable season for the two-time All-Star. He has played 145 games, starting 130 behind the plate and accruing 593 plate appearances. Those 130 starts are 12 more than any catcher. He has logged 87 more innings behind the plate than any catcher.

But until Sunday night and aside from a few missed starts when a ball caught him in the manly parts in mid-June, Realmuto has not been affected by injuries this year. He has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, which is unique among catchers. It's more common to see a catcher follow the track of 2019 Willson Contreras — very good offensively early, but the bat wanes and the nagging injuries mount throughout the six-month grind.

Realmuto has been a different story. His second-half OPS is 125 points higher than his first-half mark. He has four more extra-base hits in the second half in 83 fewer plate appearances.

"I feel like with my body type and my preparation this is the type of workload that I want," Realmuto said. "I feel like it's something I can still sustain for years to come. I don't think missing one game in September is a problem where I don't think I should catch as much. I think it's definitely something for my career that I want to be a guy that's back there every day."

If the MRI shows anything potentially worrisome, Realmuto will likely be shut down for the season's final eight games.

"We're going to be smart about it," he said. "Because we all know where we stand right now in the standings. I don't want to push it and risk hurting myself for next year or anything like that. But if there's nothing structural wise that I can make worse, then I want to be back there with my teammates and I want to play the last few games of the year. I love to play this game so I want to be out there if I can, but we're going to be smart about it."

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Bryce Harper admits HBP was a 'scary' moment, but it sounds like he'll be OK

Bryce Harper admits HBP was a 'scary' moment, but it sounds like he'll be OK

NEW YORK — Friday night wasn't a fun one for the Phillies, but they at least avoided disaster. While Bryce Harper's hand was wrapped and sore after the Phils' 5-4 walk-off loss to the Mets, X-rays were negative.

The Phillies have called it a right-hand contusion.

As of now, no further testing is scheduled. Harper is unsure whether he can play Saturday night. It is a tricky spot. The Phillies are fading out of the wild-card race and every game carries extreme importance. Harper wants to play. But exacerbating a hand injury is not something any slugger wants to do. 

"I don't know yet. See tomorrow how I feel," he said. "Of course, we're in the stretch right now so if I can be in there, I'm gonna be in there. But gotta be careful too."

Harper could not grip a bat after Steven Matz hit him in the hand with a 92 mph sinker in the third inning. He remained in the game to run but was removed for Sean Rodriguez a half-inning later.

"Any time it squares you up a little bit, it's scary," Harper said. "Definitely wanted to get on first and keep the game going. But yeah, it wasn't good."

Nor was Friday's ending. For the second straight game, reliever Nick Vincent was dealt a walk-off loss. The winning run scored when Vincent walked Pete Alonso with the bases loaded in the ninth.

The Phillies are 72-68 and remain four games behind the Cubs, who also lost Friday to the Brewers.

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