Phillies' Rob Thomson discusses pitch clock, top concern during spring opener win

Rob Thompson of the Philadelphia Phillies
Rob Thompson of the Philadelphia Phillies / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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Phillies manager Rob Thomson says the club played 'solid' in its spring opener win

As the Philadelphia Phillies played their first games since the 2022 World Series on Saturday, the club found itself on both the winning and losing sides to kick off spring training — home against the New York Yankees and away against the Detroit Tigers.

At BayCare Ballpark — their home spring training venue in Clearwater, Florida — the Phillies defeated their 2009 Fall Classic rival, 7-4, in large part thanks to non-roster invitee infielder Weston Wilson's 2-for-2 day with a double, home run, and four RBI.

Meanwhile, at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida, the Phillies fell, 4-2 — with their entire offense coming off the bat of non-roster invitee catcher John Hicks' two-run double, which scored roster hopefuls Scott Kingery and Kody Clemens.

During the eighth inning of the Phillies' home contest, manager Rob Thomson joined the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast to share his thoughts on the game and overall outlook of the club — particularly how it fared with being up against a pitch clock for the first time:

""[The pitch clock is] interesting. It seems quick and I think both teams have adjusted well ... We haven't had any violations, so that's good — and, you know, we will just keep moving forward with it.""

Rob Thomson

And while San Diego Padres infielder Manny Machado infamously became the first player to receive a pitch clock violation, no Phillies player committed a similar blunder on Saturday. Outfielder Brandon Marsh came close, as the New York Post's Greg Joyce noted, but he rushed to the plate to prevent the automatic strike.

As for their pitching staff going up against the pitch clock, Thomson praised pitching coach Caleb Cotham for preparing them with different drills — such as throwing the ball out if they are running out of time, or using a "disengagement" if they feel rushed and cannot execute a pitch.

""We played solid defense [in the opener]. When the ball was put in play, we picked it up. Everyone was back on their bases, had their responsibilities, and followed through with it … I think we played solid.""

Rob Thomson on the Phillies' 7-4 win

Both Phillies games lasted well under the typical three-plus hours — with their home game going approximately 2 hours and 34 minutes, and their away game going approximately 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Rob Thomson shares his top concern during early stage of spring training

After a long postseason and a short offseason, it is understandable for the Phillies to take extra consideration on how they will use their players early on in spring training.

While some teams in similar situations may take it easy on their players, Thomson shared a different perspective on the approach the club will take:

""I think we will approach this like a normal spring training, and just heavily monitor these guys on a daily basis and make sure we are on top of it.""

Rob Thomson

Thomson cited how there are so many metrics in today's game that can indicate a player's health may not be up to par — such as arm angle, extension, velocity, and more.

The skipper went on to share that his current message with the team is really about health, and that the first week of spring training — and even the regular season — is when he is the "most nervous."

""The intensity level goes up, and the guys try to do too much at times, and that's when the injuries happen. We just want to make sure we get through this time healthy. If we do that, we've accomplished something and then we will get the guys really ready to start the season.""

Rob Thomson

Thomson's wish for his players to stay healthy will especially extend to eight Phillies who will soon compete in the World Baseball Classic — J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner (United States); José Alvarado and Ranger Suárez (Venezuela); Gregory Soto (Dominican Republic); Garrett Stubbs (Israel); and Taijuan Walker (Mexico).

As long as these players remain in good health, Thomson thinks the tournament will be good for them to experience intense and important games early and "get their blood flowing."

"But injuries are always on my mind, especially for pitchers," Thomson continued. "If we get these back and healthy, it will be a good thing."

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