Starting Tuesday, the Phillies will play 19 games in 15 days. Tuesday also marks the first of five doubleheaders in that same stretch.
To makes things worse, the Phillies’ streak of luck when it came to injuries this season has ended. Their outfield depth is nearly depleted after both Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn went on the injured list Friday. Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley and Kyle Garlick are the only true outfielders on the active roster.
In his first year as Phillies manager, Girardi has faced a plethora of challenges. Many of these have been extrinsic in nature, whether it be the Marlins outbreak that paused their season or the player’s decision to sit out a game in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. To Girardi’s credit, he’s handled every situation as well as he could.
The challenge he faces now may seem more familiar to him, but it’s nothing like he’s ever faced before. With three doubleheaders in one week, he’ll have to manage his team through a gauntlet. He’ll have a six-man rotation that’ll include Vince Velasquez, but that won’t be enough to carry him through the stretch.
“We don’t have a choice,” Girardi told the media after Sunday’s game when asked if he has enough pitching depth. “You might see some people on a shuttle [from the satellite camp in Lehigh Valley]. We might need some fresh arms here and there, but we’ll find a way.”
The Phillies are going to have at least one bullpen game in the next week. They’ll have the luxury of calling up a 29th man for their doubleheaders and with the way the 40-man roster is constructed, the extra man will be a pitcher. Options in Allentown include Mauricio Llovera, Cole Irvin, Adonis Medina, Garrett Cleavinger and Cristopher Sánchez, but Irvin and Medina are probably more likely to get the call. Medina was scratched from his start in Lehigh Valley on Sunday.
The rotation could look something like this from here on out barring any injuries or COVID-19-related postponements. Girardi has confirmed the starters for Tuesday’s doubleheader against Boston and Thursday’s opener in Miami.
- Tuesday 9/8 vs. BOS: Eflin/Velasquez
- Thursday 9/10 at. MIA: Arrieta
- Friday 9/11 at. MIA: Nola/Howard
- Saturday 9/12 at. MIA: Wheeler
- Sunday 9/13 at. MIA: bullpen/Velasquez
- Monday 9/14 at MIA: Eflin
- Tuesday 9/15 vs. NYM: Arrieta
- Wednesday 9/16 vs. NYM: Nola
- Thursday 9/17 vs. NYM: Wheeler
- Friday 9/18 vs. TOR: Howard/Velasquez
- Saturday 9/19 vs. TOR: Eflin
- Sunday 9/20 vs. TOR: Arrieta
- Monday 9/21 at. WAS: Nola
- Tuesday 9/22 at. WAS: Wheeler/bullpen
- Wednesday 9/23 at. WAS: Howard
- Friday 9/25 at. TB: Eflin
- Saturday 9/26 at. TB: Nola
- Sunday 9/27 at. TB: Wheeler
Perhaps managing the workload of his position players would be the bigger challenge for Girardi. He faces a lengthier list of constraints when constructing a lineup on a daily basis.
For starters, Quinn and Bruce are out. Quinn is eligible to return as early as Sept. 13 since he is on the 7-day concussion injured list. Bruce can come back as early as the 16th, but there’s no guarantee that either Quinn or Bruce will be healthy enough to return when their minimum IL stints end.
Girardi starting Harper in center field Monday over Haseley showed his willingness to get creative with his outfield. The hope is that Haseley will no longer be the team’s only natural center fielder come Thursday as Scott Kingery is eligible to come off the injured list that day. Center field is arguably Kingery’s best position and he could see some time there down the stretch. He was placed on the IL on Aug. 31 with back spasms and began swinging in the cage on Friday.
The situation, however, would only improve gradually when Kingery returns. McCutchen is still not in a position where he can play left field every day and Girardi is cognizant of that.
“I think it’s dangerous with what he’s coming off of,” Girardi said about McCutchen after the game on Sunday. “With so many games in a row, I’m going to have to DH him some [days] and we’re going to have to figure it out.”
Girardi also has the DH at his disposal to rest some players on a given night while keeping a hot bat in the lineup. However, moving a player from a regular position to DH won’t have the same effect as sitting out for a game. It depends on the individual player and how experienced they are as a DH as well as how they approach hitting on the night they’re out of the field.Embed from Getty Images
“Some guys, when you put them in as a DH, they will just go and hit and hit and hit,” Girardi said before Saturday’s game. “I’m not so sure how much of a night off that is. I think it’s more of a night off when they have a good night as opposed to if they don’t have such a good night.
“I think being a DH takes a lot of experience to really know how to do it. If you give [Realmuto] a day as a DH… he’s used to being involved in every play, so I wonder what happens to a mind like that who is so involved defensively. For each guy, it’s a little bit different, but they still go through [batting practice] on their feet. I always considered it somewhere between half and three quarters of a day off.”
To go even farther down the rabbit hole, things get even more concerning if another Phillies position player went down with an injury. Every position player on the 40-man roster is also on the active roster, excluding those who are on the injured list. If, for example, Didi Gregorius went down with an injury on Tuesday that required a 10-day IL stint, the Phillies would have to select the contract of one of their infielders from Lehigh Valley and part ways with a pitcher on their 40-man roster to make room. That could lead to the departure of a young arm such as Irvin or Víctor Arano or one of Matt Klentak’s trade deadline acquisitions in David Hale or Heath Hembree.
While designating players for assignment is a job reserved for Klentak and the front office, Girardi has to find a balance between managing for results and keeping his players healthy. He’s spoken numerous times about his responsibility as a manager to keep players healthy over the long-haul and how seriously he takes it. He’ll never be the kind of manager that makes decisions solely based on returns in the short-run.
Nonetheless, Girardi’s players will be as ramped up as ever for this busy stretch of baseball. Velasquez perfectly summed up the team’s mentality when asked about the seven-game series against the Marlins.
“I don’t fear them at all,” Velasquez said before Friday’s opener in New York. “Even though they’ve always been one of those scrappy teams that kick us in the butt a little bit. I think we’re going to step on them for sure.”
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