Phillies: Infielder Neil Walker to make Opening Day roster
By Matt Rappa
Infielder Neil Walker has made the Phillies Opening Day roster
The Philadelphia Phillies have made more moves ahead of their Saturday evening exhibition opener against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park — in addition to optioning right-handed reliever Victor Arano to their alternate training site and releasing infielder Logan Forsythe.
On Saturday, the Phillies also granted veteran southpaw reliever Francisco Liriano his release, removed catcher Henri Lartigue removed from their player pool, and informed infielder Neil Walker that he will make the team’s 30-man Opening Day roster, according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
The moves come ahead of the Phillies’ Sunday deadline whether to either put Walker, Lirano, and Forsythe on their 40-man roster and give them $100,000 retention bonuses, or grant them their release.
With Walker making the Phillies roster, he tells NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury that he will not be able to reach a major league milestone as it relates to service time. Walker needed just six days to get his full pension (10 years of service time).
“That’s something that’s very prideful for somebody in this game of baseball to play for as long as you have,” Walker said. “Not many guys can get to that eight, nine, [or] 10-year mark.”
Last month, the former Pittsburgh Pirate told Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, that he felt confident about his chances to don red pinstripes for his 12th overall season in the majors.
With Scott Kingery expected to receive regular playing time at second base, the Phillies could use Walker, a switch-hitter, in a utility role that Kingery assumed in recent seasons. Walker has logged major league innings at first, second, and third base, as well as the corner outfield positions.
Earlier this year in big-league camp, the Phillies used Walker in four games at first base, three games at second base, two games as the designated hitter, and one game each at third base and left field.
With the designated hitter in play, Walker can spare a Phillies regular time off at any of the aforementioned positions.
“There will be some guys that pop in and out at the DH spot, but that also opens up a spot in the field,” Walker told 93.7 The Fan.
Walker’s best season came in 2010 with the Pirates, in which he slashed .296/.349/.462 across 110 games with 29 doubles, 12 home runs, and 66 RBI. In 2011, he earned a Silver Slugger after One decade later, the one-time Silver Slugger award winner is ready to tackle the unprecedented 60-game season; he said he thinks it will be fun and exciting:
“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 said. “Well, the winning of the series and the sweeps are going to be absolutely huge in a shortened season.”
The release of Liriano, a former teammate of Walker’s in Pittsburgh, comes at a surprise. The 14-year veteran had been among the few southpaw pitchers on the Phillies player pool roster; he threw four scoreless innings earlier this year down in Florida for spring training.
Liriano had been weary as to whether he wanted to report to summer camp amid the pandemic.
The picture of Phillies’ 30-man Opening Day roster is starting to get clearer. There are still some important decisions to make, however. Time will tell how they occur.