The Philadelphia Phillies will hand the ball to right-hander Zack Wheeler hoping to even the season-opening series with the visiting Miami Marlins on Saturday.
The Marlins defeated the Phillies 5-2 in the opener on Friday.
There had been recent speculation that Wheeler wouldn’t be able to start since his wife delivered a baby boy on Monday. But Wheeler, who signed a five-year, $118 million free agent contract in the offseason, will take the mound as expected.
“His arm strength was good, his breaking ball wasn’t as good,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said of Wheeler after his exhibition outing last Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles. “He lacked some sharpness, but he kept us in the game. He didn’t walk a lot, but he ran up his pitch count.”
Wheeler was 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA for the New York Mets last season, and he holds a career 7-3 mark with a 1.91 ERA against the Marlins.
The Phillies lacked offensive punch on Friday as Didi Gregorius was the lone player with two hits, including a solo home run. Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Jay Bruce combined to go 0-for-19.
“We’ve got to bounce back tomorrow,” Girardi said.
Ramon Rosso struggled in his major league debut in relief of Aaron Nola on Friday. Rosso tossed a pair of wild pitches among his 19 pitches in one-third of an inning. Girardi could be seen on the telecast consoling his young reliever in the dugout.
“There’s some youth down there,” Girardi said of the bullpen. “We have to put them in situations to be successful.”
The Marlins will counter with crafty left-hander Caleb Smith as they look to win their second in a row.
Smith finished 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA last season and posted a 3.60 ERA in three starts against the Phillies. Over his career, Smith owns a 1-2 record with a 4.50 ERA against the Phillies.
Following the long shutdown, Smith has been eagerly awaiting this start.
“We made do with what we had,” Smith said of working out at his home in Texas. “It was tough when everything got shut down and we had to go home. Nobody to throw with, had to throw against a wall or a net. Just had to find a way to stay ready.”
Smith was solid over his last 12 starts last season with a respectable 3.41 ERA.
The Marlins, who finished 57-105 last season, sure looked ready and sharp in Friday’s victory.
Jesus Aguilar homered while Corey Dickerson and Miguel Rojas each added two hits. Brandon Kintzler gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth en route to his 50th career save.
“You just feel like guys are ready and they just want to go,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “Now it’s getting to be that time when we find out what we can do. We’ve prepared and prepared, and at some point the gate opens and it’s time to run.”
The Marlins will be without catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was placed on the injured list Friday. Francisco Cervelli and Chad Wallach will man the position in his absence, with Sean Rodriguez available in an emergency situation.
–Field Level Media