Will Didi Gregorius return Friday? Like Bryce Harper, he loves to hit in Denver


What was expected to be a one-game absence because of inflammation in his right elbow turned into a three-day absence for Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius. He missed all three games against the San Francisco Giants, who took two of three from the Phillies in a series that concluded Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s 6-5, ninth-inning victory, Phillies manager Joe Girardi expressed confidence that Gregorius would play Friday night when the Phils opened a weekend series at Colorado’s Coors Field.

“I do, I really do,” Girardi said. “I think Didi will be out there.”

Players drag themselves off the trainer’s table to hit at Coors Field, where the air is light and the ball flies like an ICBM. Gregorius, like several other Phillies, has had some big games in Denver. He is 19 for 46 (.413) lifetime at Coors Field with a double, a triple and three homers. His OPS is 1.145.

Gregorius fell on the elbow making a catch last week and that caused the swelling. At first, Phillies officials expressed confidence that he’d miss just one game, but he needed more time. The Phillies could afford some patience with Gregorius because rookie Nick Maton came up from the alternate site and played well on both sides of the ball in the Giants series. If Gregorius for some reason can’t go Friday night, Maton will be ready. He may end up in the starting lineup anyway because second baseman Jean Segura is on the injured list with a quad strain.

The Phillies will face three right-handers in Colorado. Bryce Harper goes into the series on a tear. He is 11 for 17 with two doubles and two homers in his last five games. His batting average went from .231 to .357 and his on-base percentage from .388 to a league-best .493 in that span.

Harper also loves hitting in Denver. In 24 games there, he is 35 for 93 (.376) with 11 doubles, four homers, 15 RBIs and 17 walks. His on-base percentage is .473.

The Phillies have been inconsistent in all phases of their game, from starting pitching to the bullpen, from to offense to defense.

But they are 9-9 and woke up Thursday with the most wins in an NL East division that is already tightly packed.

The Rockies woke up Thursday with the worst record in baseball at 6-12, but they won their last two against Houston.

Colorado right fielder Charlie Blackmon is a certified Phillies killer with a .337 batting average, 11 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 24 RBIs in 175 career at-bats against the Phils.

The Phils aren’t exactly trotting out their top pitchers in this series. Vince Velasquez will make his first start of the season Friday night. He has 5.31 ERA in 20 1/3 innings at Coors Field. Sunday’s starter Chase Anderson has a 6.66 ERA in 25 2/3 innings in Denver. Aaron Nola starts Saturday night. He has allowed five runs with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 12 2/3 innings at Coors Field.

The Rockies will use German Marquez (1-1, 3.57), Antonio Senzatela (1-3, 5.40) and Jon Gray (2-1, 2.42) in the series.

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