The best day on the baseball calendar has finally arrived. The Phillies open the 2022 season against their former City Series foes the Oakland Athletics.
While Opening Day is essentially just one game out of 162, it marks the time of year where optimism is at its highest. This year, that optimism is a bit more organic. The Phillies made a commitment to hit their way to a deep playoff run and added Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to a lineup that already included Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and the reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper.
There’s plenty to be concerned about with this Phillies team, but today is not the day to delve too deep into that.
Here are a few things to look for on Phillies Opening Day.
How will Joe Girardi line up his sluggers?
Lineup construction has been a hot topic of conversation ever since the Phillies signed Schwarber and Castellanos. We know three things are a given:
- Schwarber will leadoff.
- Harper will bat third.
- Castellanos will hit cleanup.
In the final spring training tuneup against the Rays, Joe Girardi told Matt Gelb of The Athletic that the lineup presented that day is similar to what fans might see on Opening Day. Realmuto batted second, Hoskins hit fifth and Segura was in the seventh spot. With Bryson Stott and Matt Vierling in to replace the injured Mickey Moniak, the Phillies could possibly go left, right, left, right, right, left, right, left, right. Since Girardi prefers to break up same-handed hitters as much as he can with the three-batter minimum rule still in place, a very good hitter will bat seventh in a lineup that features every starter.
It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Phillies.
What does the bridge to Corey Knebel look like?
It’s hard to remember the last time the Phillies went through an entire spring training without the closer being one of the top storylines. Corey Knebel, who posted a 1.50 ERA in six Grapefruit League games, looked fantastic in all of his outings and there’s little doubt on who will be pitching the ninth inning for the Phillies at the start of the season.
The more pressing question is who will get the ball in the high-pressure spots leading up to the ninth inning. It’s reasonable to question whether or not the Phillies bullpen has improved considerably relative to last year, but compared to Opening Day 2021, Girardi does have more set-up options at his disposal and it’s not just because rosters expanded to 28.
2021 Opening Day Bullpen: Héctor Neris (closer), Archie Bradley, José Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Brandon Kintzler, Sam Coonrod, David Hale and Vince Velasquez
2022 Opening Day Bullpen: Corey Knebel (closer), Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Seranthony Domínguez, Connor Brogdon, José Alvarado, Bailey Falter, Nick Nelson, Damon Jones and Cristopher Sánchez
Girardi’s bullpen management will be more worthwhile to examine in the coming weeks and months. Girardi stuck with his rigid bullpen workload rules for much of last season and he’ll likely double down in 2022 for good reasons. Pitching injuries could multiply quickly following the shortened spring.
But all of that doesn’t really matter on Opening Day. Since every arm is “available,” it should be fun to see who the Phillies lean on today.
Which version of Aaron Nola will show up today?
Aaron Nola will be making his fifth-consecutive Opening Day start for the Phillies on Friday. Everybody knows that Zack Wheeler, who finished second in NL Cy Young voting last season, would be in this spot right now if it was strictly merit based. The reality is that Wheeler came to camp behind due to shoulder soreness he experienced during the offseason and Nola was ready to pitch from the get-go.
Nola has spoken in the past about how Opening Day is just one start and while he’s absolutely right, it would be ideal if that start was a good one. While most fan intrigue this spring has been concentrated on the lineup, the Phillies’ starting staff has the potential to be one of the ten best in the sport. In order for the rotation to reach its potential, Nola will have to perform more like a No. 2 as opposed to a No. 4. Another season with an ERA way north of 4 would be unacceptable for the 28-year-old.
A great Nola start on Friday would consist of good fastball command, a decent amount of strikeouts mixed in with ground ball outs and good execution with two strikes.
The Phillies have opened the season at Citizens Bank Park every year since 2019. 2022 marks the first time since 2019 that Phillies fans will get to enjoy a normal Opening Day with a sold-out crowd and all the usual pregame festivities.
All gates open at 1:05 p.m. and the Phillies advise fans in attendance to be in their seats by 2:20 for the pregame ceremonies. Players will walk on to the field from Ashburn Alley as they have done in previous years.
Player introductions begin at 2:35 beginning with the Athletics and then the Phillies at around 2:41. Kane Kalas will perform the national anthem by his father’s statue near the old Harry the K’s on the 100 level and Dan Baker, who is entering his 50th season as Phillies public address announcer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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