Good morning, Phillies fans, and welcome to another edition of Extra Innings. The Phillies return to action tonight after a rare Sunday off as the Gabe Kapler Experience hits New York. The team’s first off day could not have come at a better time, after a challenging first series marred by Kapler’s decision to insert relief pitcher Hoby Milner into Saturday night’s 15-2 loss to the Braves without Milner’s first warming up. The Phillies will try to turn the page in a three-game series against the Mets. The Phillies changed pitchers 18 times in their first three games, and the day off should allow each reliever — even Pedro Florimon — to be available tonight against the Mets.
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Get used to position players pitching
Kapler often said during spring training that the Phillies were trying to simulate real-game scenarios so they would never do anything for the first time once the regular season began. Nothing would catch them by surprise, Kapler said. Not even a blowout loss in which they emptied their bullpen in the third game of the season and had to use a utility player to pitch the final inning. Even that, Kapler said, the Phillies had prepared for.
Florimon, surprisingly, had actually thrown a few bullpen sessions during spring training as the Phillies prepared the infielder/outfielder to be their emergency pitcher. Florimon said he’s willing to do anything. Teams often train an emergency catcher or have infielders shag fly balls just in case they need them in the outfield. But this felt new. Kapler, after the loss, made using a position player as a pitcher seem more like bullpen strategy than just an off-the-cuff, desperation move.
“It’s not the last time we’re going to use position players to pitch,” Kapler said. “Mostly because we want to preserve the health and the well being and the strength of our bullpen.”
Let’s hope Florimon, who threw 18 pitches, iced his arm. The Phillies might need him again soon.
Fellow Extra Innings scribe Bob Brookover writes that if Gabe Kapler’s “bumbling start” continues, the manager could be booed Thursday at the home opener. Imagine that. Brookie also recalls a conversation he had this spring with Larry Bowa, who called the manager’s tendency to often rotate players “a whole new world.”
David Murphy writes about the challenge that now faces Kapler. The manager needs to restore faith in the clubhouse and “must find a way to make his players believe that what they witnessed was not the evidence of managerial ineptitude that a reasonable mind could construe it to be.”
Pat Neshek hit the disabled list Friday and is afraid his shoulder injury “could be something serious.” The Phillies will likely have an update during the three-game series against the Mets.
Neshek’s roster spot was filled by Yacksel Rios, who pitched Friday night after starting his day in minor-league spring training in Clearwater, Fla. It was a “crazy day,” Rios said. He impressed in his debut, and Neshek’s injury gives the righthander an opportunity.
Tonight: Ben Lively vs. Matt Harvey, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola vs. Seth Lugo, 7:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta vs Noah Syndergaard, 1:10 p.m.
Thursday: Home opener, 3:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Expect Maikel Franco to be in the lineup tonight, as he homered twice last season off Mets starter Matt Harvey. Franco is 3 for 8 in his career against Harvey, who is making his season debut. Cesar Hernandez has good career numbers against Harvey (4 for 11) but struggled last season as he went 1 for 5 with four strikeouts against the righthander. Hernandez had a strong opening series, but this could be a chance to give Scott Kingery his first start at second base.
From the mailbag
Question: You said Vince Velasquez is starting the home opener. Did something happen to Aaron Nola? From Rob S., email
Answer: Nola’s fine. The Phillies are using a four-man rotation until Jake Arrieta debuts Sunday. The Phillies were able to do this because of the two off-days built into the first week of the season. Once Arrieta pitches, the rotation will be: Arrieta, Nola, Pivetta, Velasquez, Lively.