Thumbs up: Phillies get some good news on J.T. Realmuto


Three weeks before opening day, Phillies manager Joe Girardi on Thursday offered a little taste of the lineup he could use April 1 against the Atlanta Braves.

Of course, J.T. Realmuto was absent from the lineup as he continues to recover from a broken right thumb.

But the All-Star catcher has made enough progress that he has a real chance to be ready for the opener.

Girardi reported that Realmuto had been cleared to ramp up baseball activities on Thursday. Realmuto made 40 throws up to 90 feet. He also hit balls off a tee.

"He reported everything was good, no issues," Girardi said. "We'll slowly progress."

Realmuto is on record as saying he believes he'll be ready for opening day.

What does Girardi think after Thursday's developments?

"It makes me feel better," he said. "Had they said, 'No, you're not ready to start any baseball activities,' then I would have gotten concerned. But it's a good sign that he's going in the right direction."

Realmuto spent two weeks in a cast and the last week in a splint. He will still wear the splint for protection when he's not doing baseball activities.

The Phillies still have 17 games remaining in Florida. Even if Realmuto takes a week to ramp up the intensity of his workouts, he'll have plenty of time to get into some games or get at-bats in a controlled setting before camp breaks. The team could also monitor his workload over the first week or so of the season, giving backup Andrew Knapp some time.

One thing the club will not do is rush Realmuto. If he shows any signs of needing a little extra time, he could open the season on the 10-day injured list and the assignment could be backdated three days, which would put him out for the first six games of the season, three against Atlanta and three against the Mets.

If Realmuto is not ready to open the season on time, the Phillies could face a challenge in coming up with a second catcher. Rafael Marchan is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster and he is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Veteran Jeff Mathis would be ideal, but finding a spot for him on the roster could be difficult as the team may also have to find spots for outfielders Odubel Herrera and Matt Joyce and relievers Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Hector Rondon.

Herrera got the start in center field Thursday against the New York Yankees

Girardi played his regular infield of Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius. Bryce Harper was the designated hitter, Knapp the catcher and Andrew McCutchen and Scott Kingery played the corner outfield spots. Aaron Nola started on the mound.

The bones of an opening day lineup?

"I think it could be similar," Girardi said.

The Phillies lost the game, 6-1. They had just four hits and struck out 10 times, five against Yankees' starter Gerrit Cole. Nola allowed two runs, one on a wind-blown fly-ball homer, over four innings and struck out three. He'll look to build to five innings in his next outing. 

Zack Wheeler gets the ball Friday against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota.

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