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February 23, 2023

Phillies' Dave Dombrowski on Andrew Painter's popularity, Bryce Harper's recovery

And the curious case of Noah Song.

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Dave-Dombrowski-Philllies-President-Spring-Training-MLB-2023.jpg Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY Sports

Phillies president Dave Dombrowski at Spring Training down in Clearwater.

Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry – the Phillies' three top pitching prospects – are all in camp together, yet Painter has been the one commanding nearly all the attention. 

And in a way, that's a pretty good problem to have. 

"It's amazing because if Abel and McGarry were in other camps, they'd be getting a lot of attention," said team president Dombrowski when he met with the media on Thursday. "They're really good, which is fine because their time will come too."

But right now, all eyes are on the 19-year-old righthander with a rare shot at actually cracking the starting rotation, and that was clear when a larger-than-usual crowd gathered for Wednesday's live batting practice.

“Is this guy good?” Rhys Hoskins joked with the crowd (via Todd Zolecki of “Is that why you guys are here?”

Said Dombrowski, who watched Painter throw: "You didn't have to be a front office person or a scout to know what type of stuff he has."

Kyle Schwarber: 

Can't win them all.

Harper's road to recovery

Bryce Harper's recovery from Tommy John surgery is going well and the Phillies expect him to report to camp around March 8-9. 

There's still a long way to go – he's not expected back until after the All-Star break, and even then, that's just to DH – but right now, he's taking dry swings and making progress. 

"He's doing great from a recovery perspective," Dombrowski said.

The curious case of Noah Song

Noah Song is a 25-year-old right-hander who hasn't pitched in three years because of active duty with the Navy. 

Still, the Phillies took a waiver on him with a Rule 5 draft selection over the winter and he's in Clearwater to try and make the team. 

It's a longshot, and Dombrowski was honest about that when he spoke to the media on Thursday. But he also drafted Song to the Red Sox back in 2019, even amidst uncertainty of his military future, and knows that there's a very high ceiling there provided Song can actually get back on the mound and reach for it. 

"The reality is it's a gamble," Dombrowski said. "That's really what it is. I do not know when he picks up the ball and starts throwing off the mound and putting something into it once his arm is in good enough shape – and we still have to work with him on that – I don't know if he's gonna throw 85 or 95. But we feel it's worth the gamble, we felt it was worth the risk.

"Will he be able to do it? We'll see."

It isn't much of a make-or-break situation either.

The Phillies paid Boston $100,000 for Song's rights and he doesn't currently count toward the club's 40-man roster. Additionally, if he doesn't earn a big-league spot, it's $50,000 coming back to return him, "So that's not much of a risk, financially," Dombrowski said.

Song, who went 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA in his final collegiate season at Navy then recorded a 1.06 ERA in seven low-A starts in Boston's farm system before going into active duty, had his military status transferred to selected reserves to afford him a chance to pitch again. 

It's been a while, and it'll be an uphill battle, but it doesn't hurt to see what's there either. 

"We just thought it was worth the upside risk to take somebody like him and if it doesn't work, then that's okay," Dombrowski said. Nothing ventured, nothing lost."


• Reliever Gregory Soto, who the Phillies acquired from Detroit over the offseason, is still dealing with visa issues which might pull him out of pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Soto pitched winter ball in preparation for the tournament and lives 15 minutes away from the Phillies' Dominican academy, where he has continued to throw, so Dombrowski isn't too worried about his conditioning, just when he can get into the states. 

"His arm should be in shape," he said.

• Dombrowski had no updates on potential contract extensions for starting pitcher Aaron Nola or first baseman Rhys Hoskins. He was asked if the chance of Painter taking off this season would affect the club's decision to keep Nola long-term, to which he replied: "I don't think you ever have enough good players, so if you're in a position where Painter comes on and pitches tremendously... having Painter and Nola in our organization for years to come would be something good for us."

On Hoskins: "Rhys is a tremendous player, tremendous person. He's done a lot for the organization, and so we'll just analyze and see what takes place, but we love him and think the world of him."

• Edmundo Sosa has been taking reps in center field of late, but Dombrowski said even so, the final two spots up for grabs on the bench could very well be determined by who can fill in for Brandon Marsh on an off day. 

"No matter what, somebody has to be able to play center field," he said. "Whether its Sosa or it's [Dalton Guthrie], or it's [Jake Cave], even though he's left-handed hitting, one of those players have to make the club because we have to have somebody go out there who can play center."

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