For the ninth straight season, the Phillies will have a different starting left fielder on Opening Day.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Breen and Scott Lauber, the Phillies are likely to start Jay Bruce in the corner outfield position on Opening Day as Andrew McCutchen continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last June:
The Phillies acquired Bruce from the Seattle Mariners last June in exchange for infielder Jake Shiener. As part of the trade, Seattle ate most of the contract, bringing the cost for the Phillies down to just $2.75 million over two seasons.
While Bruce was initially acquired as bench depth, his role became increasingly important just days later when McCutchen went down with the season-ending ACL injury. He made a good first impression, hitting .291/.308/.641 over his first 28 games to go along with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.
However, Bruce struggled throughout the rest of the season. During his final 23 games – which came along with two separate trips to the injured list with strains to his right flexor and oblique – Bruce had a putrid OPS of just .238, going 2-42 with two home runs.
Bruce becoming a starter in McCutchen’s absence is an indication that there is a competition between Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley for the starting spot in center field, since neither will take over in left field. So far in Spring Training, Quinn has an .810 OPS, while Haseley has struggled with a meager .472 OPS. Obviously much more goes into this decision than these small sample sizes, and a platoon certainly isn’t out of the question for the young outfielders.
This also solidifies what the Opening Day lineup could look like. Bruce, a pure home run hitter, likely fits into the lineup around the sixth or seventh spot, behind the heart of the order but ahead of the lighter hitting center fielder and possibly Scott Kingery.
One question when it comes to where Bruce directly fits is how Girardi wants to approach staggering righties and lefties with the new three-batter minimum rule. But with Bruce, the Phillies now have three or four lefties in the lineup depending on how center field works out, so staggering in a way to combat the three-batter minimum rule becomes difficult no matter how the lineup is configured.
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