Barring late injuries, the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to launch

Opening Day for the Phillies approaches like that craving for a cheesesteak when you haven’t had one in quite a while. It’s coming on quickly.

And there are definitely things for Philly fans to savor about the Florida performances of some of their guys this March.

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Seven
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Seven / Elsa/GettyImages

First and foremost, Trader Dave Dombrowski’s late signing of Whit Merrifield is starting to look very good – yes, yes, spring training games are matters of practice, we all know, but Merrifield is pounding the ball against the training camp mix of pitchers he’s seen in 11 games. He’s hitting .379 with an OPS of 1.172.

Many wondered about what that late player Dombrowski would surely sign would do even before he signed. So far, so good. If Whit Merrifield is your fourth outfielder, the starting three should be good. They’ll be challenged.

Next, reliever Jeff Hoffman’s performances this late winter suggests that he is properly motivated by his raise to $2.2M over the winter. Against scattered batters over seven games, he has given up five hits, two walks, and no earned runs. His WHIP is 1.055.

The Phillies need both of these guys. Thus far, they are healthy as well.

Zack Wheeler is ready to go, Aaron Nola is healthy, and Bryce Harper’s back stiffness isn’t worrisome to him. Power left-handed relievers Jose Alvarado and Gregory Soto have ERAs of 1.59 and 2.57, respectively, and that’s very encouraging regarding Soto. He’s walked only two in seven innings.

Finally, as Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki notes in his newsletter, Phillies President Dombrowski gushed in an interview about no fewer than seven borderline-MLB pitchers now vying for roster spots.

Let’s check that out. Of the seven, top prospect Mick Abel has the 0.00 ERA, but has only thrown 2.2 innings. New acquisition Kolby Allard, a left-hander, has thrown in three games (5.2 IP) to a 3.18 ERA despite posting a 1.76 WHIP. In the up-and-coming department, Dombrowski said he doesn’t “want to call [right-hander Michael] Mercado a starter yet, but we’re going to stretch him out.” Mercado has pitched in five games.

The sample sizes for all the pitchers Dombrowski mentioned are too small to make too much of them, but Phillies management has been watching and are close to sounding quite satisfied.

They should be. Backup catcher Garrett (Bunter) Stubbs is also outhitting All-Star frontline catcher, J.T. Realmuto, .368 to .286. They have some pitchers in the wings. The window to the World Series Championship is still open.