Phillies Spring Training 2024

‘It's a cool culture to be around,' Merrifield says after Phillies spring debut

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The Phillies won a slugfest in their Grapefruit League opener Saturday, beating the Blue Jays 14-13 with four runs in the second inning and 10 in the fifth.

Several Phillies made their spring debuts, including Whit Merrifield at second base and lefty Kolby Allard on the mound. Merrifield led off and went 1-for-3 with a double. Allard started and pitched two innings, allowing two runs and four baserunners while striking out three.

They used the same word Saturday when describing the Phillies group they're now a part of.

"Everybody cheers for everybody here. It's a cool culture to be around," Merrifield said.

"The culture that has kind of been built here over the last few years, from the outside looking in, it's a great clubhouse to be a part of and I thought it would be a great place to go," Allard added.

Merrifield, who was guaranteed $8 million on a one-year deal with a team option, figures to play a significant role for the Phillies. He'll play some second base, some left field, maybe some third base, and his playing time will increase if Johan Rojas struggles offensively or if an outfielder is injured.

Rojas had a productive offensive afternoon against the Blue Jays with an RBI single and a two-run triple. It was a nice start. The Phillies have 30 more of these before the regular season begins.

"Felt like a first game," Merrifield said. "Try to get your feet under you, get used to wearing cleats, get used to game-speed stuff. I'm 35, I've been through it once or twice."

The top offensive performer of the day was corner outfielder/infielder Weston Wilson, who went 2-for-2 with a homer, double and four RBI.

Nick Nelson and Dylan Covey, who are battling with Allard and Spencer Turnbull for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen as a long man, followed Allard. Nelson was hit around, allowing the first six batters he faced to reach base on five hits and a walk. He gave up four runs over two innings. Toronto scored two unearned runs off Covey.

Whoever doesn't make the team from that group is in play to start regularly at Triple A. Of the four, only Covey is out of minor-league options, meaning the Phillies would have to pass him through waivers first if they want to send him down.

"Just wanting to win," Allard said. "Hopefully I can contribute as best as I can to help the Phillies win as many games as they can."

Aaron Nola starts Sunday in Clearwater against the Yankees and is expected to go two innings. The Phillies then play road games Monday and Tuesday in Fort Myers, about a 2½-hour ride from BayCare Ballpark. David Buchanan will start Monday vs. the Red Sox with Cristopher Sanchez pitching Tuesday against the Twins.

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