Phillies’ Realmuto says a slow start in spring training is the key to his success

The All-Star backstop recently appeared on MLB Hot Stove to discuss how he prepares for the season now that he's a veteran.

Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies are well into their Grapefruit League schedule as spring training enters the one-month mark. Players and fans alike are counting down the days until the Phillies' Opening Day matchup against the Atlanta Braves on March 28. A few roster battles are still being fought, some notable players just recently made their spring debuts, and some of the top prospects are getting ready to compete in the inaugural Spring Breakout game this weekend.

All veteran MLB players have routines when they come into camp. Certain hitters like to get in a targeted number of at-bats, some pitchers prefer to test out new pitches in exhibition play, and certain players ramp up at their own pace as the weeks spent in Florida seem to drag on.

For veterans like Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, maintaining healthy routines is key to keeping his body sharp through the 162-game major league season. As a position player tasked with fielding one of the toughest spots on the diamond, Realmuto takes his physical conditioning seriously. The results of that approach show, as he has averaged 130-plus games behind the plate over the last three seasons.

Realmuto was a recent guest on MLB Network's Hot Stove program, and hosts Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian asked the three-time All-Star catcher about his preparation during spring training.

"I'll come into camp, still try to be as physically ready as I can," said Realmuto. "But I don't hit as much in the offseason as I used to. I'm not as ready to hop into the first game of spring training and go full bore day one as you are maybe when you're trying to make the team." 

The 10-year MLB veteran doesn't think it takes too long for him to get into game shape, with the certainty of a roster spot not a pressing concern. As an older player, knowing his own body has become more of a focus for Realmuto as he participates in his eleventh spring training as a major league ballplayer.

"So I'm just kind of trying to learn myself," added Realmuto. "And as the years have gone, I just take it a little slower getting in because, for me, I don't need the full six weeks of spring training games to be ready for the season. It just takes me a few weeks and, and I'm ready to go."

Reynolds made an amusing quip about Realmuto "having the guns out" as the catcher did the interview wearing a sleeveless hoodie. Reynolds followed that up with a question about how Realmuto's weightlifting program changes from the offseason and going into the regular season schedule.

"During the offseason, it's a full schedule [lifting weights], six days a week," explained Realmuto. "And then once spring hits, I back it off. I do six exercises a day and pretty much every single day. And then once the season starts it drops down to only three exercises, but it's three exercises every single day. And I've kind of learned with time that that keeps my body fresh for the long haul, and I feel better later in the season doing it that way."

J.T. Realmuto is off to a hot start in spring training

So far, the offseason work seems to be paying off as Realmuto has had an excellent spring at the plate. In nine games and 22 at-bats, Realmuto is batting .273 with six hits, one home run, and two RBI in addition to a stolen base. The early production is a welcome sight as Realmuto tries to regain his All-Star form for the 2024 season.

Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported earlier this spring that Realmuto spent a lot of time at a baseball lab this offseason fixing a hole in his swing (subscription required). The early returns have been positive so far, and perhaps Realmuto will put together a more consistent season than he did a year ago.