Roster-construction wrinkles occurred during the Phillies offseason and will affect the final three innings of regulation games for the relief corps and the skipper’s heart of the order.
In the last two Philadelphia Phillies campaigns, the lords of baseball have limited trips to the mound, and ’20 will be the first MLB summer with the three-batter minimum. Barring exceptions, thought, a pitcher must face three hitters before the manager can remove him; so, what will lefty specialists become? An extinct species?
"IN OTHER WORDS: “Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” – Tony Robbins"
After some faithful supporters had tuned out baseball following the signings of Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius, they are unaware of how game-changing this new rule is. For instance, a control-challenged reliever in the sixth or seventh frame can spell trouble for his manager by having to face three batters.
Barring injury, illness, ejection or an inning’s end, every hurler will face three hitters. But if one batter has a certain pitcher’s number, an alternative might not be available or on the IL (injured list). Additionally, retiring hitters from both sides of the plate will matter except for side-heavy lineups: the right-handed New York Yankees.
While the skipper and pitching coach decide which reliever can handle three players due up with the game on the line, that manager must also surround his top hitter with his best two opposite-side bats. Therefore, this strategy is the three-dimensional chess of pitching changes with plenty at stake.
Jpe Girardi has recently stated he will surround Bryce Harper with his two best right-side bats. Ergo, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto will be in front of and behind the right fielder. And Harper will probably slot third, while the other two will be in the two and four holes.
For Girardi, he has three possible southpaw bullpen pieces, but one may be a bit more shaky against right-side hitters. And his five right-handers –three are on a slower schedule due to last year’s IL finish– can handle any batters. Yes, the cautious routine is normal for moundsmen who missed significant time in the prior 162.
Some Atlanta Braves’, Washington Nationals’ and New York Mets’ relievers have question marks, plus some may have experienced only temporary success. And combining that with the Fightins balanced middle of the order (two through five holes) could be an advantage.