The Philadelphia Phillies wrap up the first week of play in the Grapefruit League with a Sunday afternoon game.
When newcomer Charlie Morton took the hill at Bright House Field this afternoon down in Clearwater, Florida, it marked the start of the Phillies’ final game of the first week.
The Phils are 2-2-1 after the first five games, with a pair of losses and a tie against the Toronto Blue Jays of the AL East. They also have a narrow split-squad 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros, and on the same day a big 13-4 blowout of the New York Yankees by the other half of that split-squad. The other victory was over the division rival Braves on Friday.
Today it is again the Yanks as the opposition. Morton, obtained from the Pittsburgh Pirates back in December in exchange for minor leaguer David Whitehead, becomes the third consecutive member of the anticipated rotation to get a start.
Jeremy Hellickson received his first start on Friday in that 12-11 shootout with Atlanta. The righty went two strong innings, allowing one earned run on two hits while striking out five batters.
Yesterday, young righty Aaron Nola was roped around by the Blue Jays. He allowed four earned runs on four hits and a walk. Included among those hits were a pair of home runs. He struck out no one over his two innings of work. That is about the only good takeaway from his performance, he got his work in.
The Phillies began the week by giving starts and early innings to an assortment of pitchers who are either in the race for the 5th starter job, or are battling for places with AAA Lehigh Valley, putting them a step away from the big club.
On Tuesday it was Severino Gonzalez starting and working two innings vs Toronto. He allowed two earned runs on two hits and a walk while striking out one batter.
More from That Balls Outta Here
- How will Rob Thomson manage the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen in 2023?
- How Phillies’ Ranger Suárez is set to build on 2022 postseason dominance
- What can Philadelphia Phillies expect from Bryson Stott in 2023?
- 3 Reasons to get excited for Phillies’ Craig Kimbrel signing
- 11 Free-agent deals the Philadelphia Phillies wish fell through
On Wednesday, David Buchanan got the start and went two, allowing just one hit and no runs while striking out one. He was followed to the mound by Vincent Velasquez, who allowed three runs, two of those earned, and three hits while striking out three and walking none. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer then went two innings, striking out two while walking one, allowing no runs or hits.
In the Thursday loss to Houston, youngsters Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin took the mound. Thompson got the start and went two innings, allowing an unearned run on three hits and a walk, striking out one. Eflin followed with two innings in which he also allowed just an unearned run, and yielded a hit and two walks while striking out one batter.
During the big win over the Yankees that afternoon, leftyAdam Morgan
started and pitched two innings, allowing two earned on two hits. He struck out none and walked none. He was followed byAlec Asher
, who also went two innings, allowing an earned run. Asher yielded three hits and walked two, but also struck out four batters. He was followed by two innings from a wildMark Appel
, who walked four while allowing an earned run.
Though it was just a couple of innings for each in their first outings, the early strong performances from Hellickson and Oberholtzer bode well for them. Hellickson certainly has a rotation spot clinched, and the Oberholtzer outing pushes him to the front of the 5th starter race.
Once Morton starts today, Jerad Eickhoff will be the remaining starting pitcher still to make his debut. After suffering a slight fracture of a finger early in spring training, Eickhoff appears just days away from his first start.
“I’d probably say end of the week,” Eickhoff said, per The Philly Voice’s Ryan Lawrence. “We’re looking at one more bullpen session and see how it feels.”
Offensively, the Phillies attack has been led unsurprisingly by Maikel Franco. The third baseman is hitting for a .364/.417/.909 slash line after his first 11 at-bats, with two homers and a team-high six RBI in the early going.
Cedric Hunter, fighting for a bench role but more likely a spot with the IronPigs at AAA, is second with five RBI, and is hitting .300/.417/.700 over his first 10 at-bats. Aaron Altherr, J.P. Arencibia, Roman Quinn, and Taylor Featherston have also homered in the first week.
Veteran Carlos Ruiz has four RBI, and both Darin Ruf and Tyler Goeddel have three apiece. Ruf, Quinn, and top prospect J.P. Crawford are the only Phillies players to appear in five games to this point.
In the bullpen, lefty Bobby LaFromboise has three strikeouts and a walk over his first three scoreless innings. Dalier Hinojosa has three strikeouts and allowed one hit over his first two innings of work. Lefty Daniel Stumpf has three strikeouts over two perfect innings. Lefty James Russell struck out the side and allowed one hit in his lone inning.
Andrew Bailey struck out one and allowed one hit in his first Phillies inning of work, while Jeanmar Gomez and Edward Mujica also looked strong in their lone outings. On the poor performance side, Greg Infante, Reinier Roibal, Luis Garcia, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Ernesto Frieri have failed to impress.
It’s very early in spring training, way too early for any takeaways that will be relevant to the regular season. But the good news, at least for now, is that the key players, and especially the key young prospects, are all healthy. The Phillies are looking competitive, and the team’s top offensive threat, Franco, is off to a hot start.