For Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price, getting to work with his new pitching staff has not been simple.
There were 134 days between the Phillies last pitch thrown in a Grapefruit league game against the Tampa Bay Rays and the first pitching of the 2020 season against the Miami Marlins. During that four month shutdown, pitchers were forced to stay in pitching shape on their own.
Now, in the midst of a new season, it has been six days since the Phillies last played in a game atmosphere and three days since the Phillies held a practice at Citizens Bank Park before activities were shut down indefinitely following two positive tests within the organization.
“If we’re going to follow the party line as the health of the players is paramount, then I think we really have to take a hard look on how much recovery time and practice time that we need coming out of a hiatus of four off-days,” Price said. “These start and stops are dangerous. It’s not great for the players. I can’t speak for the entire baseball world, but I can certainly speak for myself, and I’ve got concerns about the conditions in which the players are playing under.”
Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arietta were all scheduled to start this weekend against the Blue Jays while Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez were scheduled to start against the Marlins this week. For Nola and Wheeler, it will be nearly a week-and-a-half since they last started. Arietta and Eflin continue to wait to make their start of the season.
Given there was a long shutdown followed by an expedited three-week spring training 2.0, teams, including the Phillies, entered the season already with the mindset of gradually increasing the workload of their pitchers between each outing. Despite these precautions to try to prevent a spike of injuries, nearly five times as many pitchers were placed on the IL in this first week of the season last year compared to last year.
“I think we’ve got to take a hard look at what’s in their best interest, so when we do come back and play, that these guys can be optimistic that they’re not putting their health at risk in the process,” Price said. “I mean, forget wins and losses, this season it’s about playing baseball, getting guys on the field and playing ball, and doing the best we can to provide entertainment without risking the health of the players. But I think there’s real challenges here, and we’ve got to look at them seriously and talk about it amongst the players and our staff and try to make sure that these guys are comfortable when they’re on the field, that they’re not at high risk of injury.”
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported early Saturday morning, following another round of negative tests amongst Phillies’ players from yesterday the team will workout at CBP today. The team later confirmed these workouts will be staggered beginning in the afternoon.
The full details of who and when the Phillies’ next opponent and game remain to be confirmed. On Friday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the Phillies could play as early Monday in the Bronx against the Yankees. Today’s team workout very much could be one of the biggest tests in recent weeks for Phillies pitchers to see where their arm currently is.
Even if the Phillies do get two full practices in today and tomorrow before presumably heading up to Yankee Stadium on Monday, the team’s pitchers could not be ready for an actual game atmosphere.
While the goal of making the playoffs and winning a World Series remains for a team in a shortened season, the current circumstances have changed the priorities for some. Price mentioned due to all the stop and goes this season has had and may continue to have, he does not believe this is a real MLB season.
“Everybody wants to win. Everyone wants to go to the playoffs. Everybody wants to win the World Series. It still matters,” Price said. “But it’s so convoluted right now. … I don’t want to say it puts winning and losing on the back-burner, but Miami can’t even field a team right now. We’ve been sitting around, trying to wait out our COVID tests. … It’s just not like a real season, unfortunately.”
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