CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies resolved their catching situation Sunday morning and unsurprisingly Cameron Rupp was the odd-man out. The 29-year-old veteran was told that he had been designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Drew Hutchison, who earned a job on the pitching staff by posting a 2.75 ERA in six spring-training appearances.
“It’s just the way the team is shaping up and there wasn’t room for me,” Rupp said before hugging several of his teammates inside the home clubhouse at Spectrum Field. “It’s a tough day, but it’s part of it. It’s the business side of it. We’ll see what happens now.”
The Phillies will open the season with rookie Jorge Alfaro and second-year big-leaguer Andrew Knapp as their catchers. Alfaro, 24, batted .318 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 29 games late last season and followed that up with a strong showing this spring. The main concern about him has been his defensive readiness, but it was clear from the start of spring training he was going to make the ballclub because he was out of options.
As a rookie last season, Knapp, 26, hit .257 with a .368 on-base percentage and a .736 OPS in 56 games.
Rupp made his major-league debut in September 2013 shortly after Ryne Sandberg had replaced Charlie Manuel as manager. At the time, the team was still filled with veterans who had led the Phillies to five straight National League East titles, two N.L. pennants, and one World Series title.
But mostly Rupp was here during the long rebuilding phase that finally appears to be nearing its end.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I saw the end of Jimmy (Rollins) and Chase (Utley), Howie (Ryan Howard), Cole (Hamels) and all those guys that won it in 2008. You see them walk out the door and you see a bunch of new faces and you see guys that are really going to be good and help this organization win and it (stinks). But it’s the business side of it and I have to deal with it and keep moving forward.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that the Texas Rangers had interest in Rupp.
Hutchison, 27, solidified his spot on the Phillies’ pitching staff Saturday after pitching four scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. In parts of four big-league seasons with Toronto and Pittsburgh, he compiled a 30-21 record and a 4.93 ERA. He last pitched in the big leagues with the Pirates at the end of the 2016 season and spent all of last season with Pittsburgh’s triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, where he went 9-9 with a 3.56 ERA.
“It was exciting to come into camp and perform well,” Hutchison said. “To earn a spot on the team is very fulfilling in a way, but it’s kind of the first step to make the team and now the real work is ahead.”
Hutchison said the Phillies did not give him any indication how he would be used at the start of the season, but the most likely scenario is that he will handle the long reliever role that likely would have gone to Mark Leiter Jr. had he not suffered an arm injury that will force him to open the season on the disabled list.
The Arrieta plan
After throwing 25 pitches during a bullpen session, Jake Arrieta talked about the plan to get him ready for his regular-season debut April 8 against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. He will pitch the final exhibition game in Clearwater Tuesday, then likely finalize his regular-season preparations with a simulated game during the Phillies’ three-game series against the Mets in New York next week.
“Any way to get 60 to 70 pitches with a guy in the box, I think that would be sufficient,” he said.
Arrieta wants to be with the team on opening day.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than in that moment with the guys. I want to be a part of watching (Aaron) Nola getting prepared and watching the young guys on the opening-day roster. That’s one of the coolest days of the year.”
Nick Pivetta allowed two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five in his final spring outing against Baltimore. He will likely start the second game of the season Friday in Atlanta. … Ben Lively allowed two runs on three hits in four innings and appears to be in line for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. … Jesmuel Valentin was optioned to minor-league camp after the game and reliever Ricardo Pinto was designated for assignment.