J.T. Realmuto downplays not-so-secret sore shoulder, could play first base Sunday


J.T. Realmuto was not in the Phillies' starting lineup Saturday night. Manager Joe Girardi said it had nothing to do with the catcher's suddenly not-so-secret sore right shoulder.

Realmuto lost his scheduled off day Friday when he had to jump into the starting lineup after Andrew Knapp tested positive for COVID-19. Realmuto had a couple of hits, including an important bases-loaded, two-run single, in the Phillies' 7-6 win over Arizona. He got his day off back on Saturday. Rookie Rafael Marchan got the start behind the plate with Kyle Gibson on the mound.

Realmuto is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday afternoon and might do it at first base. He could get a chunk of playing time at the position now that Rhys Hoskins is out for the season and headed for surgery to repair an abdominal tear. Girardi believes playing Realmuto at first base, with some starts behind the plate sprinkled in, will keep him fresher and in the lineup more often. 

First base is not a foreign position to Realmuto. He's played 11 innings there this season and has started 20 games there in his career, though none this season.

"It's just a way to keep me in the lineup as much as possible," Realmuto said. 

It was learned Friday night that Realmuto has been playing with a sore right shoulder.

After Friday night's game, teammate Jean Segura, when talking about the resiliency that the team will need to show with injuries mounting, spilled the beans and said Realmuto had been struggling with a sore shoulder.

Both Girardi and Realmuto downplayed the issue Saturday.

"I think you could take a poll around the league about how guys feel today compared to April 15 and they're going to be a little beat up," Girardi said. "But it's not prohibiting him from doing anything. It's not prohibiting him from playing. We're in the dog days of August. He would have caught today had he not caught yesterday."

Girardi refused to get into specifics about Realmuto's shoulder. He refused to even acknowledge which shoulder was hurting. Why let opposing teams know your catcher has an issue with his throwing shoulder?

Realmuto confirmed it was his right shoulder. He wore a sleeveless shirt as he spoke to reporters Saturday and it was clear he'd just had treatment.

"It's good," he said. "It's just normal everyday wear and tear. Nothing too bad."

Pressed, Realmuto said the shoulder bothered him "a little bit" throwing and swinging.

"It doesn't feel great every day, but kind of here and there some days it'll be a little more sore than others," he said. "Some days it will feel really good."

Realmuto was asked if playing first base would help him protect the shoulder.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't think necessarily that will protect it. I think the first base thing is more about getting to play and being able to be in the lineup more often."

Realmuto said he doubted the shoulder was behind some of his recent struggles at the plate. He was 8 for 44 (.182) over 13 games before his two-hit night Friday.

"I think it's more, I'm just not getting the job done at the plate," he said. "More timing issues and mechanical issues than my shoulder."

Knapp will be out at least 10 days after testing positive. Marchan and Realmuto are the only other catchers on the 40-man roster. Luke Williams is the team's emergency catcher but he's also out for at least 10 days after testing positive. That leaves Ronald Torreyes as the team's emergency catcher.

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