CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies manager Joe Girardi left Spectrum Field late Monday afternoon uncertain about who his opening day starter would be.
All along, it had looked like Aaron Nola would get the nod for the third year in a row, but he is battling the flu and that might have an impact on his ability to be ready March 26 in Miami.
"Does it get him off his day that he was supposed to start the season?" Girardi posed. "Possibly. I don't know."
Nola was scratched from his scheduled start Monday and is expected to be away from the ballpark for at least a couple of days. Depending on how he recovers the rest of the week, he could return to the mound Friday or Saturday. On that schedule, he'd be able to make two more starts before opening day. That's probably enough to be ready, but it's a long season and the Phils won't rush anything for the sake of opening-day pomp and circumstance. They could push Nola back to ensure that he'd get three more spring-training starts and he'd still be able to pitch the first time through the rotation, just not on opening day.
"So much depends on how he feels," Girardi said. "A lot depends on when we get him back."
Nola's illness creates the very real possibility that Zack Wheeler could get the opening day start. He is scheduled to make his third start of the spring Tuesday afternoon against Minnesota in Clearwater. The game can be seen on NBCSP+.
While the identity of the Phillies' opening day starter remains up in the air pending Nola's recovery, the opening day lineup may be coming into focus.
Girardi admitted that the top six hitters in Monday's lineup against the Yankees could have been a preview of the lineup he will use two weeks from Thursday in Miami.
"I think it has that potential, yeah," Girardi said.
He went on to add that Jay Bruce, who was not in Monday's lineup, could be in the opening day lineup, as well. The Marlins are likely to go with right-hander Sandy Alcantara as their opening day starter. The left-handed-hitting Bruce would get the nod in left field. Bruce did not play the outfield after Aug. 8 last season because of an elbow injury. He has not played there yet this spring, but Girardi said he could play there as soon as Thursday as opening day comes more into focus.
So, based on Monday's lineup and Girardi's comments, the Phillies opening-day lineup card (minus the starting pitcher) could look like this:
J.T. Realmuto C
Bryce Harper RF
Jean Segura 3B
Rhys Hoskins 1B
Didi Gregorius SS
Scott Kingery 2B
Jay Bruce LF
Roman Quinn CF
Of course, nothing is cast in stone. Things can change quickly as evidenced by Nola's situation. On Sunday, he looked like the opening day starter. Now …
The Phillies beat the Yankees, 3-1. Third baseman Alec Bohm made a superb bare-handed play and throw to end the game.
Gregorius went hitless in three at-bats and is now 0 for 22 with two walks on the spring.
Girardi is not concerned.
"He's not wasting any (hits)," Girardi joked. "He hit the ball hard twice today. He hit the ball on the ground hard, too. So his at-bats were better today. I'm going to tell him to wait until the last day now."