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Gabe Kapler finally changes up his starting lineup



Knapp gets his first start behind the dish on Saturday against the visiting Minnesota Twins as Realmuto gets his first break. (Ian D’Andrea)

It’s one of the most commonly used and recognized phrases in the English language, understandable to anyone who hears it uttered: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has lived by that mantra over the first week of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. For the first six games the skipper has run out the exact same starting lineup. The Phillies have responded with a 5-1 record, with an average of 8.2 runs scored per game.

But it was only a matter of time before an injury or the need to give someone a blow would necessitate a change, and that first starting lineup comes today. It’s a fairly subtle change, however, one that should not be unexpected.

Kapler’s lineup for Saturday afternoon’s Interleague game against the visiting Minnesota Twins at Citizens Bank Park will see Andrew Knapp receiving his first start of the year behind the plate. That gives starting catcher J.T. Realmuto a needed break for a day game following a night game.

In order to keep the best all-around catcher in the game today fully healthy over the course of a long six-month season, Kapler is going to need to pick and choose these types of opportunities to give his starting backstop a rest. Fans should expect that Realmuto is going to get a couple of dozen of these breaks over the course of the year, or about once per week.

SATURDAY LINEUPS AND PREVIEW

Kapler is making just a minor change from his first six games. Realmuto gets the break behind the plater with Knapp getting the start and hitting seventh. That bumps both Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez up one slot in the batting order to bat in the 5-6 spots respectively.

Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli is making a number of changes from his Friday night lineup. Exciting center fielder Byron Buxton is back after missing the last two games after bruising his ribs running into a wall this past Tuesday. Buxton has game-changing speed and is a Gold Glove-caliber defender in the middle of the outfield.

Former Phillies prospect Willians Astudillo is behind the plate and batting second. He is off to a hot start for Minnesota with three doubles, three RBI, six hits and five runs scored over his first dozen plate appearances of the 2019 season.

Jorge Polanco, who hit for ‘The Cycle’ last night when he produced a five-hit game, drops to the three-hole in place of Eddie Rosario, who is getting the day off. Ehire Adrianza gets the start at third base with Marwin Gonzalez getting the day off as well.

Joining Gonzalez and Rosario on the bench is slugger Nelson Cruz. The Twins regular DH has still not played the field at all this season. While the moves take some pop out of the Minnesota starting lineup the late-game bench options are very attractive for Baldelli, if his team can keep the game close enough for that to matter.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Jake Arrieta (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs Michael Pineda (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
  • On a bitter cold day during his first start Arrieta walked six Atlanta Braves batters. However, he also surrendered just one earned run and three hits while striking out six. Four of the walks came over the first three innings.
  • Arrieta has made five career appearances against the Twins. The first five of those came during his early career while with the Baltimore Orioles from 2010-13. In a June 21, 2015 outing at Wrigley Field during his Cy Young Award-winning campaign with the Cubs, Arrieta tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits.
  • Pineda suffered a UCL tear in July of 2017 which necessitated Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2018 season as a result. In his first start back last week he went four shutout innings with five strikeouts and just one hit and walk allowed against the Cleveland Indians.
  • Pineda has two career starts against the Phillies, both coming at Citizens Bank Park. One came all the way back on June 17, 2011 during his rookie campaign with the Seattle Mariners. He went six innings that night, allowing just two hits in beating Roy Oswalt by 4-2. Then on June 22, 2015 while pitching for the New York Yankees, Pineda was beaten up for eight runs and 11 hits over just 3.1 innings with Maikel Franco homering off him.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • Prior to the game the Twins designated first baseman Tyler Austin for assignment and called up right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong to help out a bullpen that went through five relievers on Friday night, three of those for more than an inning. Austin had been acquired from the New York Yankees last season in exchange for starting pitcher Lance Lynn.
  • Franco and Andrew McCutchen have each homered off Pineda during their careers.
  • The Twins have double-digit hit totals in each of their last four games including 11 in Friday night’s opener. Their 49 hits during that span ranks fourth in MLB. Minnesota is just 3-10 over their last 13 Interleague games vs NL opposition.

SATURDAY’S PROGRAMMING INFORMATION

  • First pitch scheduled for 2:05 pm. Weather: partly cloudy, 64 degrees, 0% chance rain, conditions steady.
  • Location: Citizens Bank Park, South Philadelphia.
  • Promotion: All fans receive pair of Johnson Controls Phillies socks. Tickets available.
  • TV: NBC Sports+
  • Radio: SportsRadio WIP 94.1 FM, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)

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