J.T. Realmuto returns with a bang, looks like sure bet for opening day

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J.T. Realmuto is on target to be in the Phillies' starting lineup on opening day.

The All-Star catcher, who has recovered from the broken right thumb that he suffered in mid-February, was in the lineup for his first Grapefruit League action of the spring Tuesday night in Clearwater, Florida.

Realmuto caught six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. He homered to left in his first at-bat. He also drew a walk and scored two runs.

All good, as they say.

"Felt good. Felt good," Realmuto said after coming out of the game. "The thumb feels like it's all healed up. I didn't feel it at all out there. It felt great. Throwing the ball, I didn't feel a thing.

All signs point to Realmuto being behind the plate on opening day, a week from Thursday.

"For me, no (question)," he said. "Obviously, it's not just my decision. I think health-wise I'll be ready. It's up to them if performance-wise I'll be in there. But I'm pretty confident I'll be in there."

Manager Joe Girardi said, "I thought J.T. looked pretty good. He seemed to be moving well, threw the ball well and, obviously, swung the bat well."

Realmuto will get at-bats in a simulated game Wednesday and catch again on Thursday. After that, the Phillies have four more games in Florida before heading north. Girardi would like to see Realmuto catch back-to-back days before leaving Florida and there's ample time to make that happen.

THROW DAY

Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard will both throw in a simulated game Wednesday. Both had been briefly sidelined with back issues. Eflin lines up to pitch the Grapefruit League finale Monday and start the third game of the season.

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