Good morning! We’re two weeks away from first pitch in Atlanta. Aaron Nola on the bump. Let that sink in.
Now, the news:
YUMMY: You may have noticed the tweet about cookie dough coming to Citizens Bank Park in 2018. Like, you can eat a giant ball of cookie dough in a cup.
(If we’re going to go the stress-eating route with new food ideas, then I’m excited for when we’re selling people jars of banana peppers to eat in public … because that’s what I do …)
Anyway, the dough is just one of the new food offerings at the ballpark this season. Others include Aramark’s smoked brisket taco trio (which screams Philadelphia so much, right?), a crispy chicken sandwich with Vermont cheddar (again, Philly!), and a vegan cauliflower cheesesteak (now we’re talking, and that can be pretty decent if done well).
Also, and maybe most important, some in-seat vendors will be able to run a cashless transaction. Of course that means potentially passing your credit card down the row. Hmmm … hope they thought about that one.
COMPARING TANKS WHICH AREN’T TANKS: Over at DRays Bay, writer Daniel Russell puts what the 2018 Rays are doing (not committing to a full rebuild while still trying to rebuild) against the 2014 Phillies, showing that – no – they’re not going to be as terribly unwatchable as the 2014 Phillies.
It’s become vogue to prop up half-assed attempts at contention while throwing shade at past Phillies teams. Two months ago Grant Brisbee at McCovey Chronicles wrote that the current Giants are not the 2013 Phillies.
Look, SB Nation scribes, we get it, the Ruben Amaro Jr. Phillies weren’t ideal. But seriously, the Rays aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. The Giants aren’t making the playoffs this year. Sure, tell yourselves that Denard Span and Carlos Gomez are the necessary pieces to boost a team into a race against, hmmm, the Yankees and Red Sox. Yeah, go ahead.
And, look, the Giants had a decent offseason. Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria can be real assets. But once someone gets hurt the depth falls off a cliff, as the farm system is problematic. The Giants will be competing for wild cards with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cardinals, Brewers and Mets, with maybe the Phillies and Pirates sneaking into the conversation. I just can’t see it.
But hey, prove me wrong, guys. Because back in 2013 and ’14 we still thought there was a chance, even when the rest of the world laughed at us.
I won’t laugh, though. I’ll just lean back, kick up my feet and let the season happen.
MEANWHILE: The Phillies lost, 5-3, to the Braves. Ben Lively (5 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 K) was meh. There’s a chance he gets a start or two with the Phils as Jake Arrieta gets comfortable early in the year, but at this point I’d be fine with a four-man rotation and a Mark Leiter Jr. / Arrieta piggyback.
OFF DAY: The Phillies are off today. Let’s look at the spring leaders!
Batting (minimum 20 AB):
- Scott Kingery – .393/.433/.786, 6 K, 2 BB, 3 HR, 2 2B – He’s making it difficult to send to Lehigh Valley. Still more likely he heads there, but maybe the Phils decide not to care about service time and make him a 2B/3B/SS/CF right out of the gate. Either way, I’m cool with it; the kid is good.
- Tommy Joseph – .429/.500/.571, 4 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 3 2B – It’s most likely he starts 2018 in Lehigh Valley (unless the Phils release him, which I suppose could happen but doesn’t make a ton of sense because at least he has experience). Good spring, but he’s gotta hit home runs to be of value.
- Jesmuel Valentin – .292/.346/.625, 5 K, 1 BB, 2 HR, 2 2B – Valentin is really pushing hard for a utility role with the big club. I’d be fine with this.
- Jorge Alfaro – .280/.379/.560, 7 K, 1 BB, 2 HR, 1 2B – Everything looks great except the strikeouts. That’ll be what we say until nuclear war breaks out. My final words will be “except the strikeouts.”
- Rhys Hoskins – .241/.371/.552, 9 K, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3 2B – This is good.
Pitching (minimum 5 IP):
- Mark Leiter Jr. – 1.93 ERA, 13 K, 1 BB, 0.75 WHIP – Leiter isn’t backing down. The dude deserves an opening day roster spot and long-man opportunities, at least.
- Tom Eshelman – 1.13 ERA, 8 K, 2 BB, 0.75 WHIP – It’s hard to see a rotation spot for him now, but he deserves the first call-up. Guy is ready to test his skills in the majors.
- Jake Thompson – 0.96 ERA, 8 K, 3 BB, 1.07 WHIP – A relatively promising spring so far. Not sure if he fits on the roster, but it’s encouraging.
- Zach Eflin – 2.89 ERA, 7 K, 2 BB, 0.86 WHIP – Like Thompson, hard to see the spot opening for him, but Eflin is doing good stuff out there.
- Vince Velasquez – 3.52 ERA, 7 K, 2 BB, 1.17 WHIP – Technically Yacksel Rios and Adam Morgan (0.00 ERA) should be here, but I’d rather mention Velasquez, who has pitched well for the most part.