Can you smell that? It’s the smell of freshly cut outfield grass at the newly named BayCare Ballpark. Phillies baseball is finally back!
The Phillies made their long awaited television return today, tying the Orioles 4-4 in seven innings. Aaron Nola started the game, pitching two innings giving up 4 hits, including a two-run home run to RF DJ Stewart. It wasn’t the start he probably wanted, but I am not going to put too much stock in the second Spring Training game.
Outside of his two innings, here are some of the things I took from the first televised action of 2021:
Matt Joyce wants a bench role
Joyce, who’s in Phillies camp on a minor league deal, had a fantastic start on his road to a bench spot. His day didn’t get off the the best start, hitting into a double play. However, he hit the ball hard and went with it the other way. Just happened to be right at an Orioles infielder. That was just the start of his day.
He made an incredible diving catch in the top of 3rd innings, while doubling up a stealing Austin Hays off first base. In the bottom of the inning, he followed up his brilliance on the field with a two-run blast down the right field line.
I included him on my first roster prediction because he fills a need. There will always be a spot on a Major League bench for that kind of power. He would fit quite nicely in the role that Jay Bruce *should* have played on this team the last few years. Plus, he feels like part of the retool Dave Dombrowski was talking about.
Andrew McCutchen looks healthy
Cutch looked good in all facets of the game today, getting on base two out of the three times to the plate. He hit a single in his first at bat, and showed his signature eye drawing a walk later on. More impressively, in my opinion, was how smooth he looked running first to third a Jean Segura single in the first. A healthy McCutchen this year is would be ideal.
Before tearing his ACL in 2019, he was an above average lead-of hitter for the Phillies. Last year was also productive, but he wasn’t the same patient hitter he was known for. His OBP was a career low .324 last season, and it did seem he was still hampered by the knee.
A return of 2019 McCutchen would make this team stronger at the top of the order. They will need all the help they need if they want to win the NL East.
Rodolfo Duran has effortless power
Duran, a catcher from the Dominican Republic, is part of the batch of catcher’s in the Phillies’ system. While not as highly touted as Rafael Marchan, Duran does have some potential. Starting the game as the team’s DH, Duran laced a double in the left-center gap. He followed that up with a hard hit single his second at-bat.
He has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but the ball explodes off his bat. Behind the plate, he shows good receiving skills. He has an absolute bazooka for an arm. Good defensive catchers with power are the ideal backup catcher in today’s era of baseball.
Not much you can take out of the second Spring Training game, but hey. I am not afraid to admit I am excited for the Phillies’ upcoming season. It was good to just see them get back on the field playing baseball again.
There is a new sense of excitement around this team that feels different than recent years. Hopefully, the excitement carries over to the performance.