Is there any better time than the beginning of a new baseball season? The sun is shining, the music is bumping, sounds of baseballs smacking gloves, and dingers flying off the bats. Clearwater is the place to be at right now! But with every new season comes questions about what the fans should expect from the team this year. Obviously, the Phillies had an amazing run last year that resulted in a miracle run to the World Series, yet what should we as fans expect this year? Will we still finish in 3rd behind the pesky Atlanta Braves and the annoying New York Mets? Are the Phillies really just an 87 win team like last year? Or are the Phillies more like the team that gelled together after Girardi’s firing, finishing 65-46 under Rob Thomson? All that we know for certain is this…. Dombrowski did a hell of a job retooling this team for a deep post season run and its time to see it in action during Grapefruit play.
Dombrowski held a press conference late last week to address some of the concerns, expectations, and overall activity that has been seen so far in Spring Training. Phillies have gotten off to an impressive 3-0 start which has kept the hype train speeding towards high hopes for this season. With tons of headlines and questions heading into spring training, Dave took to the podium to address the media about what he is seeing with the team, position battles, contract negotiations, and everything in between.
One of the biggest questions the fans and media have had since the Rule 5 Draft is what is going to happen with Noah Song. Noah, drafted in 2019 out of the Naval Academy back when Dave was working in Boston, hasn’t pitched professionally in 3 years and currently occupies a roster spot. Due to MLB Rules, the Phillies will have to keep him on the roster, occupying a roster space, or offer him back to Boston. They are unable to send him down to the minors. The excitement around Noah is the fact that he boasts a huge powerful arm and his pedigree shows a “top of the line starter.” Dombrowski agrees the staff sees the potential with him, but its very hard to know where he stands based on him losing time recently in the military, serving the country. Dave sees Noah being a bullpen piece as they work to rebuild his arm. They have a plan in place to ease him back into things as health is a major concern with someone taking so much time off. Although Philly potentially loses Song if he doesn’t break camp with the team, Dombrowski believes the risk was worth it financially.
As far as the bench goes, Dave believes the team is in a great spot. He believes Stubbs (backup Catcher), Josh Harrison (util infielder) and Edmundo Sosa (utility) are locked in, with 1-3 spots remaining spots on the bench at play. Those spots will be a competition between Hall, Clemons, Guthrie, Kingery, and anyone else who can make a lasting impression in camp. He also touched on the fact that they are working with Sosa in Centerfield as they do feel they need to have an option available to back up Brendon Marsh.
Dave, not one to reveal too much information, did hint at 2 contract negotiations, or lack thereof. Aaron Nola, the Phillies Ace, is a free agent at the end of the year. Not wanting to spoil any internal conversations, Dombrowski eluded to talks with Nola’s representation about a new deal and that they would love to have Aaron Nola in Philly for years to come, forming a great 1-2 punch with top pprospect, Andrew Painter. On the other hand, Dave did not elude to any type of conversation with Scott Boras and Rhys Hoskins. Bringing up Jean Segura last year, Dave touched on Rhys’ contributions throughout the years and that they will continue to have internal conversations between management, analyzing what takes place this season. This will definitely be something that fans will be asking about and monitoring all season as Rhys enters free agency next season.
Speaking of Andrew Painter, Dombrowski is ecstatic about the potential Painter has. He spoke about JT Realmuto’s thoughts mentioning he was very impressed by the youngster. The team expects huge things from Painter this year and in the future and believe he is getting valuable experience with the camp currently. Painter has thrown to hitters and did learn a valuable lesson…don’t have a pitch to Kyle Schwarber. Painter is scheduled for his first start on Wednesday. Dombrowski also took the moment to show how excited he is about 2 other top pitching prospects, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry. Because of the hype that Painter has brought to camp, these two arms seem to be coasting under the spotlight which Dave recognizes. He is excited to see how they develop this camp and hopes they can make an impact later this year or in the future.
With that said, the big league team looks to be in a great spot. Dombrowski touched on Nick Castellanos and how he expects a huge bounce back year from him. Castellanos has spoken at length about the unordinary season he had last year which clearly affected him. Castellanos didn’t sign until mid-way though Spring Training last season, welcomed a new child, while getting acclimated to a new team and city. Dave is very excited to see Nick get back on track and help carry the lineup while Harper is healing from Tommy John surgery. Harper is expected to be in camp around March 8th, where the team is ecstatic to have him back around. Bryce is healing well, working with trainers, and is starting to take Dry Swings. The timeline still seems to be around July for his return.
Lastly, Dave talked about prediction models predicting the Phillies to finish in 3rd again this year. Dave doesn’t believe these models are accurately taking into effect the growth that is expected of the young guys like Marsh, Stott, and Bohm, as well as not understanding the value that Andrew Painter will bring to the table as a 5th starter. Add if the fact that Trea Turner will be hitting leadoff and setting the table for the potent lineup, Dombrowki believes the models are wrong about the Phillies. Phillies fans agree and we cant wait for Opening Day.