Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler caught a majority of those who follow the team off-guard when he elected to start Aaron Altherr in center field over Odubel Herrera on Opening Day a season ago. The Phillies will again face the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day in 2019, but it doesn’t appear any surprises are coming in the second-year manager’s lineup Thursday.
With the club back in Philadelphia, Kapler told the collective media, which included MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki, that while things can change, the expectation is this will be the Phillies Opening Day lineup:
- Andrew McCutchen, left field
- Jean Segura, shortstop
- Bryce Harper, right field
- Rhys Hoskins, first base
- J.T. Realmuto, catcher
- Odubel Herrera, center field
- Cesar Hernandez, second base
- Maikel Franco, third base
- Aaron Nola, pitcher
Kapler, as noted by Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, specifically said that Maikel Franco will start at third base on Opening Day and bat eighth. If there was going to be a wild card in terms of the Opening Day lineup, it probably would have been Scott Kingery starting at third base over Franco. At least for the first game of the season, that won’t happen.
While Kapler spoke highly of the leadoff potential of both Andrew McCutchen and Cesar Hernandez during Spring Training, it was McCutchen that he ultimately announced late in Spring Training would open the season as the leadoff hitter. Hernandez, the longest-tenured Phillie, will instead likely slide between Odubel Herrera and Franco and hit seventh.
So why did Kapler leave himself a little wiggle room by adding the qualifier that “his lineup is subject to change?” Simply, things can change over the course of a couple days. For example, Rhys Hoskins returned Monday for the final Spring Training game after nursing a sore shoulder. The expectation is that he’ll be the starting first baseman and hit cleanup on Opening Day. But if he woke up on Thursday and couldn’t give it a go, for whatever reason, that obviously would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup.
Amazingly, Hernandez and Franco are the only two players expected to start on Opening Day that will be starting at the same position that they did on Opening Day in 2018. Rhys Hoskins started in left field on Opening Day – and for much of the 2018 season – but with the trade of Carlos Santana, he’ll slide back to his natural position of first base. J.P. Crawford was traded to the Seattle Mariners with Santana in a deal that netted the Phillies Jean Segura and Juan Nicasio, among others. Altherr, Andrew Knapp and Nick Williams, all of whom started on Opening Day in 2018, will be at Kapler’s disposal on the bench on Opening Day in 2019.
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