Utility player Neil Walker thinks he will make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster
From Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen to three non-roster invitees — Francisco Liriano, Neil Walker, and Josh Harrison — there surely was a former Pittsburgh Pirates team reunion at the first spring training camp in Clearwater earlier this year.
The 34-year-old Walker, who played for his native city’s team from 2009-15, slashed .250/.300/.393 with five singles, one double, one home run, three RBI, one walk and eight strikeouts spanning 11 games and 30 plate appearances before camp broke.
Saturday morning on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Walker says he felt “really good” about his chances of making the Phillies’ original 26-man roster three months ago. But, now that teams may carry a maximum of 30 players come Opening Day in late July, the non-roster invitee feels even more confident about his chances to don red pinstripes for his 12th overall season in the majors.
“The fact that it’s pushing to 30, I really feel like I have a very good chance,” he says.
Walker cautioned, however, that rosters will shrink to 28 after two weeks, and 26 after a month: “So, as a guy that’s going to have to take advantage of his opportunities as a non-everyday guy,” he says, “I’m going to have to be ready here, when things kick up, and be prepared for any opportunities that come my way.”
“I certainly have to do my part to stay on the team after the numbers start to go back down to 26 after a month.”
Harrison fared worse than Walker at the first spring training, slashing just .183/.308/.455, albeit launching two solo home runs across 10 games and 26 plate appearances. But, Walker nor Harrison were the only two non-roster invitee infields trying to land one of the final spots on the Phillies’ roster. There were veterans Logan Forsythe, Phil Gosselin, and Ronald Torreyes, among other younger prospects.