It’s been a wild ride since Rob Thomson was appointed skipper (interim first) of the Philadelphia Phillies back in June 2022. The 59-year-old Canadian manager took Phillies from 22-29 to 64-46 and oh yeah, took them all the way to a little thing called the World Series. He had the interim title taken off when he signed a two-year deal in October 2022. Well deserved and since then, he’s been enjoying accolades such as Team of the Year and some much-needed offseason rest.
Yet in just 22 short days, pitchers and catchers will report to their various camps in Florida and Arizona. The crack of the bats will echo through the air. Fans will cram into minor league-sized parks to see their favorite players. For managers everywhere, they get to do the full job of seeing who is good enough to make the cut.
Rob Thomson has some tricky calls to make
Rob Thomson is now the big cheese (or big cheesesteak) with some decisions coming up that will affect the team. Now, this is NOT his first spring training by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a seasoned veteran of the sport with dozens of spring training programs to his name. But this one, his first full one as a manager, is going to be ten times the work. Already, he’s going to see some guys who may be making their way to a roster near you.
Yet for Mr. Thomson, while it might be all sunshine and beaches in Clearwater, he’s also facing a season with some…call them pitfalls. It’s nothing major but the honeymoon is about to end and married life is about to start.
Homesick for Harper
A key piece that Philly Rob is going to miss when everyone comes to camp on February 16th is Bryce Harper.
Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing: the Phillies likely wouldn’t have made the World Series if it wasn’t for him. Now they have to start the season without him.
The 30-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in November 2022 and isn’t projected to return until at least the All-Star Break. Granted, as fans know, recovery can be shorter or longer. But one thing is clear: the Phillies can’t return to the Fall Classic without him.
Harper hit massive home runs during the postseason and when he broke his hand during the season, they went 32-20 until he returned.
Even if he does return, it’ll likely be in the designated hitter position and not his typical right field. If he does, it’ll be the end of the season and not when it’s crucial to have him back. All the Phillies can do with Harper is wait. For Rob Thomson, he knows what Bryce can do for this team and what 55-65 games without him can do as well.
Sign on the dotted line
Mr. Thompson is going to have a wealth of talent in 20 days. Emphasis on the wealth because President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski spent quite a bit of money in the offseason. Granted, the Phillies are a fairly deep team in certain positions. Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker, Matt Strahm and Craig Kimbrel all came on board in the 2022 offseason. Turner, who signed a HEFTY 11-year, $300 million deal, adds to the ranks of Kyle Schwarber. The bell will certainly be ringing at Citizens Bank Park with that duo.
The shortstop hit .298 with 21 homers and a career-high 100 RBIs during his stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Barely a month ago, former Chicago Cub Craig Kimbel signed a one-year deal to join the bullpen. And he might be familiar with how things are run in the organization because of this fun fact:
Kimbel was the Boston Red Sox closer in their 2018 World Series. Who brought him to Boston? Our very own Davey Dombrowski. Man’s got taste.
The Phillies have some solid late-inning options in the forms of Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado. But you’ll be hard-pressed to ignore that Kimbel is one of the best closers in MLB history. He sits seventh on the all-time saves list with 394 and enters 2023 with a chance to join the 400-save club. The eight-time All-Star will be another choice to put on the mound. Bullpen issues and the calls about them are on Thomson hasn’t ignored. He’ll be wise making sure that he utilizes all the options he has during spring training.
Pack up your bags to Florida
This isn’t his first rodeo and yes, there might be a bit of National League championship glitter in their caps. Rob Thomson knows what he’s doing with all of his new shiny acquisitions. He’s going to bask in the sun of Florida and see who impresses him enough to make the 26-man roster. He’ll have a chance to see Turner in (early) action and see if he’s the right fit for the leadoff spot.
While there are many question marks for him as they load up the trucks in a few short weeks, one thing is certain for the Canadian manager.
One goal in mind: taking another trip to the World Series.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire