With the recent news that Andrew McCutchen will open the season on the IL, Phillies manager Joe Girardi will have to decide on what to do about the leadoff spot, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com observes. Girardi mentioned Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn as options. But Girardi also “did not rule out” J.T. Realmuto, and he went on to note that he is taking the new three-batter minimum into consideration when thinking about lineup construction. “You want to bring in your lefty to face Bryce (Harper),” he says, “but I’m going to have him surrounded with my best two right-handers around him. So pick your poison.” Regardless of the solution, Girardi and Phillies fans will be hoping for McCutchen to return in short order and retake his position at the top of the lineup.
- Per reports from Matt Gelb of The Athletic and Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports, expectations are that right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter will begin the season on the IL. The 33-year-old will be ready “a month or so into the season,” Salisbury adds. Hunter’s 2019 season was ended by elbow surgery in July. But that didn’t stop the Phillies from giving him an incentive-laden deal in February. Hunter was quite effective for the Phillies in 2018, providing 64 innings with an ERA of 3.80. However, he was limited to just 5 1/3 innings in 2019 before the aforementioned elbow issues. It remains to be seen which version the Phillies will get in 2020.
- Like Hunter, righty Victor Arano also seems ticketed for the IL to open the year, according to Gelb. Arano appeared in just three of Philly’s games last season (all in April) before elbow surgery knocked his year off the rails and stopped him from building on a quality 2018. That season, Arano notched a 2.73 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.58 BB/9 over 59 1/3 frames.
- With Hunter and Arano joining David Robertson on the IL, that could create high-leverage opportunities for other relievers, such as Seranthony Dominguez. However, it’s still not clear if he can avoid the IL himself. Salisbury notes that Dominguez himself “believes he will be ready for opening day, but officials will be cautious.” The reliever emerged as a weapon out of the Philly bullpen in 2018, putting together 58 innings of work with a 2.95 ERA, even compiling 16 saves in the process. The following year, however, saw that ERA balloon to 4.01 over 24 2/3 innings before a ligament strain in his right elbow finished his season on June 5th. The 25-year-old pitched in a simulated game on Sunday, with Girardi noting that his fastball got up to 94 mph. That’s still short of his normal average of 98 mph, according to StatCast. But Philly fans will surely take solace in the fact that he is seemingly healthy and still has some time to ramp up to full strength.