It’s finally here.
120 days ago, the Phillies and Marlins were supposed to open up a 162-game season in Miami. A pandemic hit and the baseball world found itself in purgatory just days before its season was set to begin.
Now after weeks of players and staff members staying at home while labor negotiations between the league and players association, a 60-game season is scheduled. The Phillies will actually kick off this season against Miami, but this time, it will go down in Philadelphia. It’s only the third time in the last nine years the Phillies have begun their season in their home city.
While the Marlins are expected to finish last in the National League East, that doesn’t mean the first regular-season series will be a cakewalk for the Phillies. They were 9-10 last year against a Miami team that finished with a 57-105 record.
The Marlins could still end up being the thorn in the side for the Phillies as the team has improved a lot during the offseason. Notable acquisitions include 2018 All-Star Jesús Aguilar and former Phillie Corey Dickerson, who turned out to be the best piece Matt Klentak acquired during the 2019 deadline.
Their strength lies in their rotation and it’s headlined by 24-year-old Sandy Alcántara, who will be making his first Opening Day start of the year. The 2019 All-Star went 6-14 with a 3.88 ERA and 4.55 FIP. He was 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts against the Phillies last season.
Neil Walker, who made the Phillies team out of camp as a non-roster invitee, played for the Marlins and knows a thing or two about their rotation, which is very young and full of promise.
“Between Caleb Smith, Sandy Alcántara, José Ureña when he was healthy and Jordan Yamamoto, these are guys that have a lot of upside,” Walker told the media via Zoom. “Sandy was the All-Star and he’s got really good stuff. Having seen him and knowing when he was on, that fastball was on. He was ahead 0-1, 1-2 in a lot of counts up and down the lineup. He was working his fastball all around the zone. Four-seam, sinkers, pretty good slider.
“With Sandy, you know what you’re going to get but he’s one of those guys that if he locates with an upper-90s fastball and upper-80s (to) low-90s slider, he can make life tough on opposing offenses.”
Walker believes the key to getting to Alcántara is being good in the strike zone and getting on base. Luckily for the Phillies, Girardi has opted to place two guys who are well known for their discipline at the plate and their on-base prowess: Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins.
Shibe Vintage Sports Probable Pitchers
- Game 1: RHP Sandy Alcántara vs. RHP Aaron Nola
- Game 2: LHP Caleb Smith vs. RHP Zack Wheeler
- Game 3: RHP José Ureña vs. RHP Vince Velasquez
There was some anxiety involving who would actually start at the beginning of camp as Nola was kept away from the team due to COVID-19 protocols and Wheeler was expected to miss time to attend the birth of his first child. It turns out Nola never had COVID-19 and Wheeler’s son was born on Monday, meaning he won’t miss any time while on paternity leave.
It’s safe to say Vince Velasquez earned the nod as the team’s No. 3 starter. He was excellent in every intrasquad outing and with the help of catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitching coach Bryan Price, Velasquez is coming into this season with a refreshed approach to pitching. Not to mention, he developed a cutter during the quarantine.
Pregame Phillies Nuggets
- Nola will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Phillies. He is the first Phillies pitcher to do so since Roy Halladay from 2010-2012. Justin Verlander (5) is the only active pitcher who has made more consecutive Opening Day starts than Nola.
- Girardi told the media earlier today that Nola is expected to throw 85-90 pitches.
- Public address announcer Dan Baker will miss his first Opening Day in his 49-year career with the team after having an oral procedure. He is expected to return during the Phillies’ first homestand in August.
- Earlier today, the team selected the contract of infielder Phil Gosselin after he put on a show almost every day during camp. To make room for Gosselin, Arquimedes Gamboa has been designated for assignment.
- Roman Quinn gets the start in center field on Opening Day. It remains to be seen whether or not Girardi will utilize both Quinn and Adam Haseley in a platoon role. Both Quinn and Haseley were impressive in camp, but Haseley started camp behind everyone else due to COVID-19 protocols.
Ticket IQ Programming Information
- Game 1: Friday at 7:05 on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Sportsradio 94 WIP.
- Game 2: Saturday at 4:05 on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Sportsradio 94 WIP.
- Game 3: Sunday at 1:05 on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Sportsradio 94 WIP.
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