clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 random Phillies thoughts as we wait for Andrew Painter news

Phillies’ hitting coach Kevin Long proving to be an invaluable member of the organization.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The waiting is the hardest part.

As the Phillies world anxiously counts down the minutes until an update on Andrew Painter’s sore elbow is offered, other players continue preparing for the 2023 season. Some of the team’s bigger stars are heading off to the World Baseball Classic, other veterans are getting their work in (and trying to avoid injury) while younger guys and fringe roster players are fighting for those very last spots on the 26-man.

We’ve seen about two weeks of fake games thus far and the early returns appear good, despite a 5-6 record. Some recent scores have been a bit lopsided (15-3 and 16-4 losses to the Red Sox and Blue Jays last week were tough to watch) but overall, the team has played well.

So as we sit here on the first of the team’s two off-days on the spring schedule, here are five early thoughts on where things stand with three weeks of spring training remaining.

The Andrew Painter Saga Has Been Weird

By the time you read this, hopefully we’ll have confirmation as to what on earth is going on with Painter’s elbow, but for the last few days, the team has kicked the can down the road on providing an update.

Painter initially reported soreness the day after making his first start of the spring, and manager Rob Thomson told reporters he’d have an update the following day. Then, it was the next day. Then another. And another. Finally, Painter’s agent Scott Boras showed up and pinned the intrigue meter to the right.

Judging from the picture, it doesn’t appear as if Painter is close to death or anything, but the delay in reporting the severity of the injury, as well as Boras’ presence, hasn’t exactly quelled anxiety over the team’s No. 1 prospect. However, as’s Todd Zolecki noted Tuesday night, there may be a reasonable explanation for everything.

The Phillies on Tuesday again offered no information on the severity of Painter’s injury. Multiple sources said that nobody has been told that Painter needs surgery. Another said Monday that “time is what is needed” for him to recover. While everybody hopes that is the case, those sources said nothing has been officially ruled out until the team receives final opinions from doctors...

If the longer-than-expected wait for an update on the No. 6 prospect in baseball is raising red flags (or anxiety) for fans, it is understandable. It is also partially explainable. The Phillies and Painter indeed want to be certain about the information they have before they move forward with his recovery. And noted orthopedist Neal ElAttrache, who is giving Painter’s medical results a look, has been unavailable the past few days.

It’s clear, no matter what is revealed to be wrong with Painter’s elbow, that he will not begin the season in the team’s starting rotation. As I’m sure Boras is telling (or yelling at) them, the Phils owe it to themselves, and the soon-to-be 20-year-old, to take their time and make sure nothing is made worse.

Not only that, the injury brings some relief to the problem of usage. Even if he’s shut down for a month or two for rest and can only join the team in mid-season, that would allow the Phillies to utilize him in a more traditional way in the second half of the season. It may not be all bad news.

However, it’s just speculation until this drama ends, which hopefully will be soon.

Kevin Long is the Phillies’ Jeff Stoutland

How many articles have we seen this spring about Phillies hitters feeling confident and putting good swings on the ball? Seems like a lot.

And my personal favorite...

Seems pretty simple. Move closer to the plate. Later that day, Castellanos did this.

For those of you who share a dual alliance with the Eagles, you know the importance offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has had in creating the No. 1 unit in football. He is likely the best non-head coach in the NFL, as vital a part of the Eagles’ success as anyone in the organization.

If Bohm continues to hit like this in the regular season, if Scott Kingery can somehow become a useful hitter once again, if Darrick Hall and Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott can learn to hit left-handers consistently, and if Castellanos can find his power stroke again (all big ifs), we’re going to have to start talking about Kevin Long with the same reverence we do Stoutland.

Remember, Stott’s early season struggles ended once Long told him to take a two-strike approach to hitting from the beginning of his at-bats. Consequently, his numbers turned around dramatically. Before arriving in Philadelphia, Brandon Marsh hit .226/.284/.353 with the Angels, with 117 strikeouts in 323 PAs. With the Phils, he hit .288/.319/.455 with 41 Ks in 138 PAs. That wasn’t an accident.

Long is already considered one of the best hitting coaches in baseball, and the emergence of Kyle Schwarber as one of the game’s dominant power hitters, as well as the continued greatness of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, continue to prove he’s perhaps the most valuable non-manager coach in baseball.

Don’t ever let him leave.

The Phillies are Doing All They Can to Replace Harper’s Production

This week, Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection model, wrote this article about the Phillies’ failure to adequately replace Bryce Harper while he recovers from off-season Tommy John surgery. Dan is a friend of the Hittin’ Season podcast and a good dude, and I partially get where he’s coming from. According to ZiPS, Harper is a four-win player and, if he’s out for half the season, that would be a loss of two wins.

That’s a big deal for a team they project to win 85 or so games. It could be the difference between a playoff spot or not. Of course, you could quibble over whether 85 wins is an accurate projection for the Phillies. I certainly have them doing much better.

That said, the Phils’ options for replacing Harper at DH that were mentioned in the article weren’t real options.

Brandon Drury at DH projects as a superior option to any of the Phillies reserves and would have been a better flex option than Harrison. Wil Myers signed a one-year deal with the Reds for relative peanuts. Trey Mancini’s two-year, $16 million deal was costlier (macadamia nuts?), but he’s both a better hitter and would provide an emergency option if Rhys Hoskins leaves after 2023. Even the most pessimistic projection for J.D. Martinez (Steamer’s in this case) forecasts him for a 111 wRC+, and he signed with the Dodgers for one year and $10 million. Jurickson Profar remains a free agent; he could pick up DH reps against lefties and provide supersub value elsewhere the rest of the time.

First, Drury was not going to take a job where he was going to become a bench player by midseason. Myers isn’t much better than Darick Hall (108 OPS+ last year). Mancini got a two-year deal, and the Phillies weren’t doing that. Maybe J.D. Martinez could have worked, but would he want to be replaced midseason? Jurickson Profar is a free agent and had a 110 OPS+ last season, so yes, he’d be worth considering now, and maybe the team will do that, although some of their bench options are hitting quite well down in Florida (more on them in a second).

There really just wasn’t a good temporary option for the Phillies to consider in free agency. It’s always been Hall DH’ing against right-handers and hope he has the success he did last season against them, with Edmundo Sosa picking up the stray starts against left-handed pitching.

Also, the Phillies replaced Jean Segura with Trea Turner, so , it’s actually not totally right to say they didn’t address Harper’s absence.

Battle For the Bench Heating Up

You always have to take spring performances with a grain of salt, given how well the ball travels in Florida and the fact players are facing pitchers who are either working on stuff or simply shouldn’t be pitching at the big league level yet. That said, there is quite a battle brewing for the last couple bench spots.

Lefty hitters Jake Cave (7-for-17, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs), Kody Clemens (6-for-16, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) and Hall (6-for-15, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) are all scalding the ball through Tuesday’s games, while Kingery (6-for-15, with 3 walks) is making a push for consideration as well. Dalton Guthrie is struggling thus far, just 1-for-16 through six games, and while it’s a small sample size to be sure, it’s important given this is all the information the team will have to make a decision.

Right now, the bench looks like it will be Garrett Stubbs, Josh Harrison, Edmundo Sosa, Cave and Clemens, with Hall the primary designated hitter, giving the team some infield-outfield flexibility. If Kingery continues to play well and Guthrie stumbles, it’s possible he could make the team if they want another right-handed bat, although it would probably do Kingery good to get regular at-bats until he’s truly needed at the big league level.

If that happens.

The Playoffs Changed the Culture

Last year’s run to the World Series has resulted in a sense of confidence that didn’t exist prior to the team breaking their decade-long playoff drought. The team went from oozing Big Loser Energy for much of the last four years to suddenly being a group that came through when it mattered most, slugging huge home runs and hurling monster strikeouts in high leverage situations seemingly at will.

Well, at least until the last three games against Houston.

Still, there’s no doubt the team figured out how to win, and all you’re hearing from Clearwater is players talking about how they learned to play together, as a team, with everyone rooting for each other and rowing in the same direction.

In an article by The Athletic’s Matt Gelb this week, Bohm said, “I’m, like, addicted to the playoffs.”

Yeah, us too, Alec.

The 2004-06 Phillies came close a bunch of times, but didn’t know how to win. It wasn’t until they went into their September overdrive in 2007 and overtook the Mets that the Chase Utley-Ryan Howard-Jimmy Rollins crew became a team of baseball assassins. Perhaps the 2022 Phillies learned a similar lesson, setting them up for a run just like that over the next 4-5 years.

Not only that, owner John Middleton has opened up the checkbook in a way he never has, and don’t think the players don’t notice the commitment to win, from the top-down.

The Clearwater vibes are totally different this year, and it’s awesome.