Thirteen days before the season opener, Phillies manager Joe Girardi reported some optimism on the team's suddenly busy injury front.
"It was a good day," he said before Friday's game against the New York Yankees in Tampa. "Hopefully it stays that way."
Catcher J.T. Realmuto could get into Grapefruit League games next week. He would first appear as a designated hitter before working his way behind the plate.
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Realmuto suffered a broken right thumb last month. Girardi said the thumb was now "stable and healing." Realmuto got six at-bats in a simulated game on Friday and is throwing up to 150 feet.
Realmuto has continually said he expects to be ready for opening day. His progress next week will offer a better read, but he appears headed strongly in the right direction.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was placed in concussion protocol after being hit in the back of the head by a pitch on Tuesday, was doing all activities. He was one positive evaluation away from getting into a game, possibly as early as Saturday, Girardi said.
On the pitching front, starters Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard, both battling back issues, were able to throw up to 120 feet on Friday. There is a possibility that both could throw in the bullpen as soon as Sunday.
Eflin is the team's No. 3 starting pitcher and was having an excellent spring before his back flared up while throwing extra pitches in the bullpen after his last start Saturday. If he's able to throw a bullpen session Sunday, he could potentially make a Grapefruit League start next week. If he gets through those two tests healthy, there's a solid chance he would be ready to open the season on time. The Phillies actually don't need a fifth starter until the sixth game of the regular season so Eflin could get a little extra time if he needs it.
It's still unclear where Howard fits on the roster. If he continues to progress health-wise, he could be in play if Eflin is not ready by April 7. Otherwise, the Phillies could take their time with him. The club does expect a contribution from Howard this season but will be judicious with his workload.
Girardi revealed yet another health issue on the pitching side. Vince Velasquez tweaked an oblique muscle while warming up for a simulated game on Sunday. That explains why he did not take Eflin's spot in Friday night's game against the Yankees. Ivan Nova, in camp on a minor-league deal, got the call.
Girardi indicated that Velasquez was behind Eflin and Howard in his recovery. With such a short time remaining before opening day, it's fair to wonder if Velasquez could be a candidate to open the season on the injured list.
Before the injury, Velasquez' fit on the team was uncertain and it was possible he could have ended up in a trade. The injury could preclude a trade, at least until Velasquez gets back on the mound and proves his health.
Also on the injury front, reliever Connor Brogdon (rib) could get in a game over the weekend. Utility man Brad Miller (oblique) could play in games by the end of the coming week. Outfielder Adam Haseley (groin) has progressed quicker than expected and could also see game action before the team departs Florida. He's probably still a long shot to win a spot on the opening day roster, however.