Phillies: Neil Walker expects to make Opening Day roster

Neil Walker #12 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Neil Walker #12 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Gearing up for Spring Training 2.0

A general view of empty seats. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images) /

Walker says that despite the pandemic, he feels “pretty confident” and is ready to go.

Following the recent report that seven players and five staff members within the organization tested positive for the virus, Walker thinks his teammates will be “much more on the edge” and “aware of the seriousness of this whole thing.”

With Walker residing across the state in the Pittsburgh area, he says he will take health precautions by having his family, including his wife and 7-month-old and 4-year-old children, forgo the five-hour commute.

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“A lot of the guys I talk to, especially ones that don’t have homes near Philadelphia, are not going to have their families come over,” he says. “I’m going to ‘shack up’ with another roommate outside of Philadelphia, whose family [also] isn’t coming, and try to just basically get through these next couple of months and see what happens.”

“I think it’s pretty universal around the league that guys are taking this much more seriously than it seems and what people may believe, particularly after these last couple of weeks.”

A new approach

Walker says he thinks the 60-game season will be fun and exciting, but with it, it will have to come with a new mentality.

“A lot of times in a 162-game season, your focus as a group is ‘Let’s win series; let’s win 3 of 4; let’s go in here and try to get a split in a tough environment on the road,'” he says. “Well, the winning of the series and the sweeps are going to be absolutely huge in a shortened season.”

Walker says it will be interesting to see if underdog teams come out of the game hot, “because if you play good baseball for a month, you’re going to have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.”

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He thinks the Phillies are situated “really well” with depth, adding that the organization did a “really good job” bringing in veterans that will contribute — “not just on the initial 30-man roster,” he says, “but some of the extra guys that will be ‘waiting in the wings’ for when the bullpen guys need a break and things like that.”

Walker cautioned that teams will not have the luxury to rebound from a slow start, like last year’s eventual champion Washington Nationals.

“You’re not gonna have the luxury to start this season 5-15 and try to climb back. It’s just the reality of it,” he says. “I think there’s gonna be some surprises in both directions — teams that don’t start off well that you expected to do well, and teams that you don’t expect much from, and all of a sudden they’re the right in the thick of things.”

Walker says the upcoming season will be something he will never forget: “I’m excited. This is going to be one of these things where 40 years down the road, you’re going to remember a year like this.”

“[It’s going to be] so bizarre, and the grandkids will be asking about it.”