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February 11, 2020

Phillies manager Joe Girardi: 'I take it personal when guys get hurt'

The new Phillies skipper also reveals timetables for injured players, including Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson

It's been well documented that injuries had an immense role in derailing the Phillies 2019 season — a year that began with the highest of hopes and ended with a whimper and collapse. 

Injuries and staying healthy understandably comprised the lion's share of the discussion Tuesday morning, when new manager Joe Girardi first addressed the media as pitchers and catchers officially report in Clearwater to begin work outs today. 

The Phillies are good on paper, they just need to stay on the field.

"A big part of that is how healthy we stay throughout the season," the new manager said. "If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen. I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen. It was a lot more work for me."

"I take it personal when a guy gets hurt. I think there is enough talent to win."

In 2019, Philadelphia had more than 20 players get hurt and miss time, costing the team more than 1,300 games lost to injury in total. Players ranging from everyday guys in the lineup to starters to a bevy of bullpen pieces went down left and right, and the Phillies did their best to absorb each blow and continue to compete. But it was the attrition of injuries that ended up making the team at the end of the year resemble the Week 17 Eagles. Both of those organizations know that's a hard way to try and win.

Girardi has a strategy for that.

"It's making sure players aren't worn out in September," he said. "You start to ask more of players when you are competing for a [playoff] spot in September. I am not a guy who uses relievers three days in a row, but in September, I might ask a player to do it. It's handling the workload throughout the season and understanding when someone needs a break. The last thing we want is someone to go on the [injured list]."

Many have criticized the Phillies for not being more aggressive this offseason, but Girardi seems to think the returning players — like Andrew McCutchen, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and others — is more than a small improvement to the team.

"The biggest addition is the players we added," Girardi said. "My pressure comes from within because I want to win so bad, it doesn't come from outside. That burning desire to be a champion is something I will fight and work tirelessly to get to that point, that comes from within. We have added some really good players, and we are going to have additions simply from health. 

"We have a Seranthony Dominguez healthy this year, that's a big addition. Adam Morgan, who was hurt. Hopefully at some point we get [David] Robertson back. If we get a David Robertson back sometime in the second half, that's [like] a deadline trade that can be a difference maker."

Dominguez, who could be the Phillies closer if healthy, has been throwing from the mound, and according to Girardi, he'll come along slowly this spring. The manager feels like relievers need less time to prepare for the season than starters and he seemed optimistic about both Dominguez' and Morgan's chances of being ready for the regular season.

"Seranthony is a guy we are really going to have to manage his workload early on," Girardi said. "Is he a guy not to use in back to back days early on? Yeah, he is. My job is to protect him from himself."

Robertson, who had elbow surgery last year, is also apparently pushing to make it back sometime in 2020 (contrary to reports that he's miss the entire season).

And then there is McCutchen.

"I think this team changed a lot when Andrew McCutchen went down," the skipper said, recalling how dynamic Cutch was as a locker room leader. He led the majors in walks when he got hurt and the team went into a "leadoff hitter identity crisis" in his absence. 

"It's been pretty good. Don't be surprised if we take it slow with him in spring training. I always thought players could play about three weeks of games and be ready."

In addition to the aforementioned injury issues, Girardi also discussed a few other topics of interest to anxious Phillies fans.

• On the Astros cheating scandal:

"I already started addressing how we protect our stuff, our signs and talked to the catchers and pitchers about plans we have in spring training to incorporate some of this stuff... We are going to do things the right way and we are going to look for every advantage there is — if a pitcher is tipping we are going o use that and make sure our guys are not topping. 

• On whether Jean Segura or Scott Kingery will play third base:

"Jean will do work at third base and at second as well as Scott. The one thing I want is the sum of the three parts, not just one person individually and how it is best for us."

• On having enough starting pitching:

"I think we have a really good number of starting pitchers who are going to compete for spots and then some of those guys are going to to go to the bullpen. I believe there is depth there, guys with major league experience, depth, and it's our job to get them to their potential."

• On which prospects could make an impact:

"Spencer [Howard] gets a lot of talk, so does Alec [Bohm], but there were a number of players last year, relievers who got great experience because of all the injuries and there is a whole other crop coming, and we will see relievers competing for spots in the opener. Some of the guys aren't going to make it, but there's depth there. We can handle an injury here and there."

• On the use of prospect Ranger Suarez last year:

"Ranger Suarez maybe wasn't meant to be in the 'pen last year. He was a starter, but he came up and got valuable innings."

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