Rob Thomson faces decisions in shaping Phillies’ playoff roster
Phillies pitcher Noah Syndergaard could be used as a reliever in the postseason. Read more
HOUSTON — When the Phillies arrived at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after a raucous celebration of the playoff clincher Monday night, the champagne and beer had been expunged from the clubhouse carpet. A few players walked around gingerly. Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh joked about whose hangover was worse.
“I only had one beer,” Stott said. “So I feel great. But I don’t know about this guy.”
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Marsh grinned and threw up an “OK” sign. Both players were penciled into the lineup to face AL Cy Young Award contender Justin Verlander. Verlander is a tough matchup on a normal day, let alone the day after a party that was 11 years in the making. But the grind must go on.
For interim manager Rob Thomson, that means contemplating some tough decisions about which players to include on the postseason roster entering the NL wild-card series. The Phillies have to submit a 26-man roster by Friday. Teams may carry a maximum of 13 pitchers, and Thomson said the Phillies intend to do so.
Many of the decisions will become easier to make once the Phillies know which team they’ll face in the wild-card round. If the Padres beat the Giants on Tuesday night and the Phillies lose, they’ll be headed to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. If the Phillies finish their season with the same record as San Diego, they’ll take the No. 5 seed and face the Mets in New York because the Phillies have the tiebreaker against the Padres.
For now, the biggest debate is which pitchers will make the cut.
“Are we going to take three starters that aren’t starting? Are we going to take two? That type of thing,” Thomson said.
Brad Hand came out of a bullpen session on Monday well and will throw again Wednesday, so he could be a consideration for a postseason roster, health permitting. So would infielder Edmundo Sosa, who underwent a “full-intensity” workout on Monday and will face live pitching Wednesday.
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Thomson was careful to say that neither Sosa (right hamstring strain) nor Hand (left elbow tendinitis) is guaranteed to return in time for the playoffs. The Phillies will continue to monitor their progress.
“That’s just one day,” Thomson said of Sosa’s workout on Monday. “Can he do it over nine innings? Can he do it over back-to-back days? That type of thing. That’s the thing that you have to keep in mind. If he gets through all of this stuff, it still doesn’t mean he’s going to be on the playoff roster necessarily. You’ve got to be careful.”
Noah Syndergaard is another pitcher who is on the periphery. Syndergaard had a couple of bumpy starts but has shown promise as a reliever. On Sept. 21, while piggybacking behind Zack Wheeler, he tossed two scoreless innings, allowing just three hits.
Thomson said Syndergaard has a “good chance” of making the cut.
“He could be a length guy, but the way he threw out of the bullpen, in the piggyback with Wheeler, maybe he’s a one-inning guy or two-inning guy,” Thomson said. “His stuff ticked up. It was pretty good.”
The Phillies have a few days to figure this out. But they will keep a keen eye on their pitchers, since they expect pitching to give them an edge in October.
“Our pitching, our rotation,” Thomson said when asked to mention a key for the Phillies in a three-game series. “Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger [Suárez] can match up against anybody, really.”
Suárez will be on a limited pitch count on Tuesday night — just four innings and 65 pitches — to keep him sharp for the playoffs. … Thomson said that Suárez will start Game 3 if it gets to that. The Phillies relievers will get some “tune-ups” either Tuesday or Wednesday against the Astros, according to Thomson. They’ll each throw about an inning.