February 16, 2023
The Phillies' motivation isn't Rob Thomson's problem this spring, it's reigning them all in so they can make it through a 162-game season – and, hopefully, then some.
Guys are excited. A trip to the World Series last season was far from enough. They want to win.
It's a good problem to have, and not the only one the Phillies have on their hands for the next month and change either, though it is the biggest.
"Just the way everybody's come into camp, I think everybody's – so far, everybody that I've seen – is in great shape and done their work over the course of the winter," Thomson, entering his first full season as manager, said under the sunny Clearwater skies on Thursday. "They've been very diligent.
"One of the things I worried about after – just after the World Series – was possibly the thought of some complacency, you know? We got to the World Series. One, you shouldn't be complacent because you didn't win the World Series, but as I see these guys come into camp and I feel the excitement that they have, now my thought is turning more to reigning them in a little bit and making sure they don't too much and get out and try to step on it a little bit too early."
So what was Thomson's message to the club as pitchers and catchers held their first official workout of 2023?
"Just health," he said. "Make sure that we ramp up appropriately and make sure we don't push, don't try to impress anybody. Just go out there and be yourself.
"There's three parts of the season that make me really nervous: the first week of spring training, the first week of spring training games, and then the first week of the regular season because those are different levels of intensity. Our message right now is just make sure we ease into this and stay under control."
Despite a short offseason, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are sticking to their usual spring training routine and will be ramped up as they normally would to pitch at the top of the starting rotation. "Right now, both those guys, they look really good," Thomson said, but that the club will monitor for any adjustments.
Also, and perhaps surprisingly from the outside looking in, is that the club's younger arms are taking well to that message of health and control.
Usually in camp, it's common for a prospect to try and go above and beyond to impress and earn a spot, especially in this case when the fifth spot in the rotation is clearly up for grabs.
But so far, they've been about their business, Thomson said, including top prospect Andrew Painter.
"He was very controlled on the mound, all of our young guys were," Thomson continued. "It was impressive. I saw him throw a pen the other day and the thing that's impressed about all of our pitchers coming from our player development system is how they control their bullpen, meaning not the control of their pitches, but just that there is intent there and wanting to throw their bullpen the right way.
"They know exactly what they want to do on every pitch, to be able to work on every pitch, so they were all impressive today, really."
Painter, Mick Abel, and Girff McGarry are the top three pitching prospects within the Phillies' farm system. All three are at camp as non-roster invites and have been accelerated through the pipeline over the past year with clear intent from the club to continue doing so.
Painter, the 19-year-old right-hander who is the No. 6-ranked prospect in all of baseball, has been the expected favorite to earn the fifth rotation spot all winter, and his locker in the clubhouse getting assigned next to the team's ace in Wheeler only lends more merit to that.
First thing I noticed today: Andrew Painter (No. 76) locker is next to Zack Wheeler. Bailey Falter (No. 70) next to Painter. Notable because Phillies have placed lockers almost exclusively in numerical order in CLW for 20 years.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) February 16, 2023
Wheeler asked for them to be next to him or Nola.
Still, when asked who exactly is in the running to be the fifth starter, Thomson ran through the list of names, including Bailey Falter (who started already for a chunk of last season), Cristopher Sánchez, Nick Nelson, and Michael Plassmeyer.
"We got a good group to pick from and it's gonna be a battle," Thomson said.
But it's a good problem to have.
• Like with the fifth spot in the rotation, there are decisions that need to be made on the couple of spots available on the bench. Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa, and Josh Harrison are the locks, leaving a competition between Darick Hall, Dalton Guthrie, Kody Clemens, Jake Cave, possibly Simón José Muzziotti and maybe even an outside chance of Scott Kingery.
The determining factors are going to be a good mix of left- and right-handed hitting along with the positional flexibility to move between the infield and outfield. Most of the aforementioned names can shift like that.
Again, "that's a good problem to have as well," Thomson said.
• Designated hitter is going to be by committee until Bryce Harper gets back after the All-Star break.
"I think at this point, I think it's a rotation," Thomson said. "Getting people off their feet, giving them a half day, so to speak, is probably a good plan until Harp gets back."
• Thomson said no Phillies pitchers have had to make any changes, that he knows of, to their delivery to account for MLB's rule changes and the incoming crackdown on balks.
He did say though that they are working with a pitch clock in the bullpen and in batting practice but no one will have a full feel for that until they're in an actual game scenario.
• Trea Turner hit a car with a foul ball, per The Athletic's Matt Gelb:
Trea Turner hit a car with a foul ball during BP. Brandon Marsh is barking at people. And Charlie Manuel is in his happy place. pic.twitter.com/LKrSIKzh96— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) February 16, 2023
Out of fairness to Andrew, here is the full quote: “I actually listen to some old stuff. I’m not into the super new stuff. Well not like *old,* old — but like 2000s, early 2010s. Maybe down in the nineties.”— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) February 16, 2023
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