CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies skipped using a designated hitter for the first time this spring and batted their pitcher eighth on Saturday, offering a preview of the regular season.
Manager Gabe Kapler said "it's possible" that the Phillies will use a similar lineup once they leave Florida. He batted Vince Velasquez eighth in the 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay, followed by J.P. Crawford. Kapler likes batting Crawford ninth, believing his ability to reach base at a high rate would yield more RBI chances for Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins when the lineup turns over.
"If you think about where we can do a lot of damage, it's right at the top of our lineup," Kapler said. "The possibility, and I do think it's a possibility, that either Santana or Hoskins is hitting in that two-hole, then it makes sense that we want J.P. standing on second or third when those guys come up in the order."
Manager Pete Mackanin batted the pitcher eighth 35 times in 2016, the first time the team did it since Steve Carlton batted eighth in 1979. Mackanin did it to snap a funk and kept it going when the Phillies started winning. Danny Ozark batted Carlton there after the team went 33 innings without a run.
This time, it's more strategic, following the trend set by other other analytically inclined teams.
"Any edge that we can get to score more runs, we're going to go after," Kapler said. "Even if it is just a minor edge, it's sort of that continual value at the margins. We don't want to leave any stone unturned."
The Phillies and Rhys Hoskins were unable to agree on a deal for this season, forcing the team to renew his contract for slightly above the league minimum.
The team signed 31 pre-arbitration players to contracts on Saturday. Hoskins was the only player it had to renew, meaning the agreement was not mutual. Hoskins is three seasons from reaching arbitration and will not be a free agent until after the 2023 season.
"I think it was just an agreement to disagree. There's no hard feelings at all," Hoskins said. "It's the business of baseball. They reiterated that they were completely happy with everything. There's no hard feelings between either party."
Ryan Howard said it was frustrating when his contract was renewed before the 2007 season. Cole Hamels called his renewal a "low blow." Hoskins said he understands the process.
"It's a business," Hoskins said. "I get it."