PHILADELPHIA – Now, the real planning begins.
Tuesday night, the Phillies clinched a postseason berth for the second straight year. Before they celebrated, head coach Rob Thompson told his players they were ready for another round in October. He explained what he meant before Wednesday night’s game against the Buccaneers at Citizens Bank Park.
“Just because of all the parts in the club,” Thompson said. “We’ve got a good starting pitching. We’ve got a good bullpen. We’ve got a good offense. We’ve got two really standout starters up front. I think we’re built for that. It’s just been a matter of getting in. Now we’ll see what we have.”
Here are some questions you may have about what comes next for the Phillies:
What might an NL Wild Card Series roster look like?
A: GT Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs
1B: Bryce Harper
2B: Bryson Stott
3B: Alec Boom
SS: Trea Turner
Who: Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas, Christian Pasch
IN/OF: Edmundo Sosa, Jake Cave
D: Kyle Schwarber
Rotation: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez
Bullpen: Craig Kimbrell, Jose Alvarado, Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm, Ceranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, Michael Lorenzen, Taijuan Walker, Christopher Sanchez, Orion Kerkering.
Who will the Phillies play in the Wild Card Series?
If the season ended today, the Phillies would play the D-backs in a best-of-three series beginning Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. The second match will be on October 4. If necessary, the third match will be on October 5. But the Cubs and Marlins remain in the mix.
Philadelphia won the regular season series against Arizona (4-3), but lost the season series to both Chicago (5-1) and Miami (7-6).
How is the rotation set up?
Wheeler will start the first game on Tuesday, and Nola is scheduled to play the second game on Wednesday. Game 3 TBD.
Suarez is the favorite to start Game 3, but Thompson could use him in relief in Games 1 or 2. Thompson used Suarez as a reliever in the 2022 season. He made a save in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series and had a number of big hits in Game 1 of the World Series .
Wheeler will start Thursday’s series finale against Pittsburgh as scheduled, because he prefers to play on regular rest. But Nola will not start his scheduled trip on Sunday in New York. Instead, he will be rested before the second match.
“I think this is the best thing for him,” Thompson said. “Throw in a full game of bullpen, touch and feel, and he should be ready to go.”
Will Orion Kerkering really make the postseason?
Based on Kerkering’s dominant performance on Sunday against the Mets and Thompson’s comments on Tuesday, yes.
When asked if Kerkering had enough time to earn a spot on the postseason roster, Thompson said, “From what I saw that night, that’s pretty much enough. And he wasn’t even breaking a sweat. He didn’t even look like he was affected by anything.”
“After seeing what I saw on Sunday, I have no concerns with him, to tell you the truth.”
Kerkering has not organized back-to-back days this season, but Thompson said Kerkering could do so, if necessary.
Why Jake Cave instead of Rodolfo Castro and others for the final job on the bench?
Stubbs, Bache and Sosa are ready for the Phillies’ four-man bench. The cave is likely the fourth. It makes sense because he can play infield and outfield and bat left-handed, which means he can hit Bache or Rojas, both of whom bat right-handed.
Castro has barely played since he was signed from Pirates on August 2. Before Wednesday, he had struck out just four times since Aug. 29. He was the last man on the list because the Phillies want to keep their last remaining 2024 option.
Was anyone hurt?
All are healthy except first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Understandably, there has been huge interest in Hoskins’ recovery from left anterior cruciate ligament surgery in March. Thompson said if Hoskins plays in the postseason, it will happen in the World Series. But if that happens, only the DH or hard hit will be able to do it, which will essentially be a fielder’s move because he can’t field.
“I think there’s an opportunity,” Thompson said. “I really am. He’s progressed well. There haven’t been any setbacks. We’re knocking on wood, but pretty soon here, he might have a chance to see the live show. But there’s still some testing to be done. So it’s not a guarantee. It’s not “A lock for that. But I’m optimistic.”
If Hoskins gets close to returning, Thompson said he will join the team’s stay-ready camp in Clearwater, Florida. The group includes catcher Rafael Marchand; first baseman Darrick Hall; infielders/outfielders Cody Clemens and Weston Wilson; Right-handers Andrew Pilati, Connor Brogdon, Yunior Marte, McKinley Moore, Nick Nelson and Luis Ortiz; And the left is Michael Blasmeier.
What is the lineup?
Thompson has played in a lineup lately that makes sense in a potential Game 1 against someone like Zac Gallen, the D-backs’ right-hander.
1. Kyle Schwarber, DH
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Alec Bohm, 3B
4. Bryce Harper, 1B
5. GT Realmuto, C
6. Bryson Stott, 2b
7. Nick Castellanos, RF
8. Brandon Marsh, LF
9. Johan Rojas, CF
Harper is expected to play first base every day once the postseason begins. It gives the Phillies a big defensive boost, if he does. Having Harper at first base allows Schwarber to be the DH, and this gives them the best defensive outfield with Marsh in left and Rojas in center. Against a left-handed player, Bache can start in left field.
Who is closest?
Thompson said he will use his late-game relievers alternately, meaning the left-hander Alvarado and the right-hander Kimbrel could pitch the eighth or ninth inning, depending on the situation.
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