10 big Phillies questions and answers ahead of opening day

10 big Phillies questions and answers ahead of opening day

Opening day is here, as are Jim Salisbury, Corey Seidman and Marshall Harris to answer 10 random but crucial questions about the 2017 Phillies.

Without further ado:

1. Who will be the first top prospect the Phillies call up?

Jim
Roman Quinn. If a starter breaks down in the outfield, he'll come -- and he might never leave. That's how electric he could be.

Corey
Jorge Alfaro. Catchers get banged up, catchers get hurt all the time. Alfaro is on the 40-man roster and the other catchers in the organization who aren't in the majors are not, so he's an easy, logical call-up if Cameron Rupp or Andrew Knapp require a trip to the DL.

Marshall
Jake Thompson. While I'm not wishing it to be a starting pitcher, stints on the 15-day DL happen that alter a team's rotation. Zach Eflin may not be ready by the time someone hits the disabled list.

2. What advice would you give one Phillies player?

Jim
Brock Stassi should reach out to Greg Gross, Del Unser and Lenny Harris and pick their brains about what it takes to be a successful pinch-hitter in NL -- prep, mindset. If he develops that skill to go with a good glove, he could stick around a while.

Corey
Maikel Franco should be in Howie Kendrick's ear, asking questions about his approach as well as those of his former teammates like Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. Franco could learn a lot from Kendrick, a guy who's racked up almost 1,500 hits by thinking up the middle.

Marshall
Cesar Hernandez needs to carry the confidence of his spring training into the regular season, specifically the baserunning. He was 6 for 6 in stolen bases during spring training. If he's figured out how to weaponize his speed, look out.

3. Who will be the first Phillie traded?

Jim
Jeremy Hellickson doesn't fit long term into the rebuild and the Phils have starting pitching depth. The Phils need him to pitch well, but will probably still have to eat some of $17 million.

Corey
Michael Saunders. The Phillies have Aaron Altherr with Nick Williams and Roman Quinn not far behind. Saunders has a contract will look quite team-friendly if he hits in the first half the way he did last season. He's due $8 million in 2017 and has a $10.5 million club option for 2018, so a team could get 1 1/2 seasons of him or just a half-season. If he has 16 homers at the All-Star break, someone will come calling.

Marshall
Howie Kendrick is as good a candidate as anyone. The Phillies have other guys fighting for run on the major-league team. Don't be surprised if he's moved to make room for more Aaron Altherr at-bats or a Roman Quinn or Nick Williams promotion.

4. Who will be the next Phillie to sign an extension?

Jim
Does Manny Machado count? If not, I like Eick.

Corey
Agree, Jerad Eickhoff. He's been so solid so far, has shown no signs of wearing down and there's no type of health risk that sticks out. He's built like a 200-inning-per-year pitcher in the John Lackey mold. As long as he keeps it up, he'll be rewarded by the Phillies.

Marshall
Clean sweep. It doesn't have to be Jerad Eickhoff. But let's be real ... it should be Eickhoff. 

5. Will Cesar Hernandez reach 30 steals?

Jim
He will go into the final day of the season with 29 and get caught leaning.

Corey
I'm going under. Vegas set it at 25.5 for Hernandez, and I think he finishes with just about 25. He went 17 for 30 last season, a very rare feat of inefficiency. You figure he'll be better this season as he gets more acclimated to pitchers' times to home plate and their pickoff move, but I don't see a 13-steal uptick.

Marshall
I mean, he better. Hard to envision him having a successful season if he can't swipe 30. 

6. Which offseason addition will make the biggest impact?

Jim
Matt Stairs. Born to be a hitting coach. He will help some guys.

Corey
Howie Kendrick. I get the hesitancy from Phillies fans to believe he'll move the needle at all, but prior to last season, he was a mortal lock for a .290-plus batting average. He doesn't walk a ton, he doesn't hit a ton of extra-base hits, but he's a solid, Martin Prado-like bat.

Marshall
Joaquin Benoit. The Phillies desperately need bullpen stability. He's there as a safety net in case Jeanmar Gomez isn't ready to save 37 games again or picks up where he left off at the end of last season.

7. Who is the prospect you're most eager to follow this season?

Jim
I already have Sixto Sanchez alerts on my phone. The Phils have quantity of prospects in minors. He's the one with real star power.

Corey
Mark Appel just because this is really make-or-break time for the 2013 first overall pick. Last year was basically a lost year for Appel, who made only eight starts before needing elbow surgery. There is no longer prospect luster on Appel. Now he needs to work his way up or work his way out.

Marshall
Roman Quinn. If he can stay healthy, he's the guy I can see gaining the most fans quickly because of the way he plays the game. Yes, "the right way."

8. Who will be the Phillies' leader in saves?

Jim
Jeanmar Gomez will have another good run and lead the team in saves even though Hector Neris will take over the role at some point.

Corey
Hector Neris. I see Gomez keeping the job for about six weeks, then losing it Joaquin Benoit, who the Phillies showcase as a setup man-closer combo ahead of the trade deadline. Benoit pitches well, gets moved, Neris moves into the role and finishes with about 20 saves to lead the team.

Marshall
Last season, I said Jeanmar Gomez and was correct. This year, I will say Hector Neris and probably be wrong. But I'm not afraid to be wrong, clearly.

9. What will the Phillies' average game time be?

Jim
2:55, but I hope I'm heavy.

Corey
3:02. I think the league average is around 2:56.

Marshall
3:10 but I'm praying for Ricky Bo's sake they're all under 2:45.

10. How many wins?

Jim
75-87. They will be better, but runs are still a concern and division is better.

Corey
76-86. They won 71 games last year and should unquestionably be better this season -- better lineup, better bullpen, a lot of prospects on the cusp. But I can't give them a 10-win upgrade to get to .500 because they were a bit lucky last season. The 2016 Phillies were 28-23 in one-run games, one of only two teams in the majors to finish under .500 overall but over .500 in one-run contests. (The D-backs were the other.)

Marshall
79-83. I'm being optimistic the starting pitching keeps them in games and a couple of hitters take huge steps forward.

Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

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Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

BOX SCORE

The Phillies fell behind early and never made it back in losing Game 2 of a doubleheader to the Miami Marlins, 7-4, on Tuesday night.

Miami swept the doubleheader. The Marlins won the first game, 12-8 (see Instant Replay). Miami has won nine of its last 11 to pull to .500 at 62-62.

The Phillies, meanwhile, slipped deeper into the abyss at 45-79.

The Phillies hit eight home runs in the doubleheader, but could not win a game. The Marlins hit six homers in the two games.

The Phils were out-hit, 27-16, in the doubleheader.

Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta needed 46 pitches to get through the first inning. He got only one out in the second inning before being lifted. In all, he gave up seven hits and six runs. Two of the hits were homers, a two-run shot in the first and a three-run poke in the second.

Pivetta, 24, has a 6.73 ERA in his first 19 big-league starts. That's the second-highest ERA by a Phillie in his first 19 career starts. Only Hal Elliot, with a 7.45 ERA in his first 19 starts in 1929-30, had a higher mark.

Marlins right-hander Jose Urena gave up five hits and three runs over five innings. Two of the hits were homers.

Bullpen report
Right-hander Yacksel Rios, called up from Triple A earlier in the day, became the 13th player to make his big-league debut for the Phillies this season. He pitched a scoreless inning and two-thirds.

Kyle Barraclough pitched two scoreless innings for the Marlins.

At the plate
Tommy Joseph and Andres Blanco homered in both ends of the doubleheader.

Blanco's homer capped a 14-pitch at-bat against Urena that included seven two-strike foul balls.

Nick Williams hit his seventh homer since coming up from Triple A. It was a 445-foot bomb to dead center.

Marcell Ozuna smacked a two-run homer to highlight the Marlins' three-run first inning. Christian Yelich smacked a 2-0 pitch from Pivetta for a three-run homer as the Marlins went ahead, 6-0, in the second inning.

J.T. Realmuto had three hits for Miami.

In the field
Miami centerfielder Yelich leaped at the center-field wall and stole a two-run homer away from Williams in the fifth inning. It would have been Williams' second homer of the night.

Two innings later, rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton sprinted into the gap and made a diving catch to take extra bases away from Cameron Perkins.

Up next
The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

BOX SCORE

Phillies pitching gave up six runs in the top of the seventh inning — all on home runs — in the team's 12-8 loss to the Miami Marlins in the first game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday.

Aaron Nola gave up two of the home runs en route to his second straight loss.

Rhys Hoskins belted his sixth homer in his 12th big-league game for the Phillies.

The Marlins had 10 extra-base hits, including four homers, en route to out-hitting the Phillies, 14-8. The Phils did hit five homers.

The Phillies are 2-5 against Miami this season and 45-78, worst in the majors, overall.

Starting pitching report
Nola (9-9) had his second consecutive poor outing after racking up 10 straight strong ones and a 1.71 ERA over that span. Nola was tagged for nine hits, including four doubles and two homers, and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up seven hits and five runs in his previous outing in San Francisco.

Miami right-hander Dan Straily gave up just two hits — one was a two-run homer by Hoskins — and three runs over six innings to improve to 8-8. He had his second 10-strikeout game against the Phillies in three starts this season. 

Bullpen report
Ricardo Pinto surrendered a three-run homer to J.T. Realmuto in the ninth.

Miami's Dustin McGowan gave up three late homers as he turned a big lead into a not-so-big lead.

At the plate
The Phillies hit five home runs. 

Hoskins scorched a liner over the center-field wall with a man on base to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the first inning. Cameron Rupp homered for the third time in his last three games to tie the game at 3-3 in bottom of the fifth. Cesar Hernandez and Tommy Joseph each had a solo homer, and Andres Blanco had a pinch-hit, two-run shot in the ninth.

Joseph snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a double in the seventh. His homer in the ninth was his first since July 28.

Nola gave up a walk and a single to open the seventh. He then surrendered a long, three-run, pinch-hit homer to Ichiro Suzuki as the Marlins broke a 3-3 tie. Giancarlo Stanton hit his majors-high 46th homer two batters later, also off Nola. Marcell Ozuna added a two-run homer in the inning against Jesen Therrien. Realmuto clubbed the Marlins' fourth homer, a three-run shot in the ninth.

Transactions
The Phillies transferred pitcher Vince Velasquez to the 60-day disabled list and put pitcher Zach Eflin on the 10-day disabled list. Velasquez will have a surgical procedure this week (see story). Reliever Yacksel Rios was added from Triple A.

Up next
Nick Pivetta (4-8, 6.25) pitches against Marlins right-hander Jose Urena (11-5, 3.61) in the second game of the doubleheader.

The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).