Phillies Mailbag: Thomson, Harper’s Elbow, Eflin’s Role
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Tune in each Tuesday afternoon to hear your questions answered live on the air.
Would you bring back Rob Thomson as manager? Do you need to see if they make it to post season first or would you rather the team explore other options in the off season?
If I am the Phillies I would go into the offseason managerial search with Rob Thomson being the ideal candidate. They will have to undergo a formal search before deciding on a final candidate, as the league rules apply. But it's hard to argue with the job that Thomson has done in 2022.
It seems clear to me that the players have the respect of their manager. He is someone who has been there for a while now: first as bench coach under Gabe Kapler and then under the very-different Joe Girardi. Even with two very different managers at the helm, Thomson has maintained the respect.
Girardi seemed a little skittish playing young players. It's true, Bryson Stott got off to somewhat of a slower start. But he had time to work out the kinks and has been productive for the Phillies this season. Add in the resurgence of Alec Bohm, along with contributions from the likes of Nick Maton. Winning is contagious.
So I think it would almost be negative at this point if the Phillies went in another direction. Would they add someone outside of the organization that's a seasoned manager? An up-and-comer? I think if/when the Phillies make the playoffs they will really have no choice but to bring Thomson back on a permanent basis.
What is your take on the Bryce Harper elbow situation? If he requires off-season surgery in order to play right field again, how long is he looking at missing in 2023?
I think that as of right now - September 13 - the Phillies are focused on maximizing Bryce Harper's output as they head towards a potential playoff spot. I think that this is a question that they will not entertain until the season is over. But of course, the Phillies are not favored to go deep into the playoffs, but that is the team's primary goal.
Whenever the season ends, I would think they would then immediately get to work on the elbow issue. The prudent thing to do might be Tommy John surgery. We can see that the Phillies are better with Harper in the field and one of their more defensively-challenged fielders serving as designated hitter.
Now, having surgery likely means Harper serves as a designated hitter for much of the 2023 season. It also means he could miss some time at the front end of the season. But like Shohei Ohtani, Harper could get back into the lineup with not too great a delay.
It sounds like this is serious enough that Harper would have to serve as a designated hitter anyway. So why not just bite the bullet and get the surgery? The Phillies schedule in 2023 is tougher down the stretch, so having a healthy Harper would be a good idea as the Phillies look to make a playoff run.
What, if any, is Zach Eflin's playoff role?
I think before the Phillies have plans for Zach Eflin in the playoffs, they will need to have a good look at him these remaining few weeks. Eflin was activated today and will be available to pitch. But he will not be a starter.
The Phillies have said that they plan to use Eflin as a reliever. Or, perhaps he might be an "opener". The idea there would be that he would prepare to pitch on a pre-planned day and go a couple innings before yielding to another starter, perhaps Ranger Suárez (who has looked tired lately) and Noah Syndergaard, who has not thrown this many innings in some time.
That could help extend the front part of the game into the back end of the bullpen. And if there is a game like Sunday's when rain forced the bullpen to enter in the third inning, they could strategically plan to use Eflin the next day. But a lot will be touch and go in the early return.
By the playoffs I am not sure they would go with Eflin as an opener. But hey, even Corey Knebel was an opener for the Dodgers in the playoffs last year. If they feel that beyond Aaron Nola and a hopefully-healthy Zack Wheeler they need to piece together some pitching, they might as well.