NEW YORK — Rob Thomson said Sunday it felt like a month had passed since the Phillies made the playoffs.
It was only five days, but those five days were long as Thompson had been combining to cover innings in the final few games of the regular season. The Phillies’ front office broke out of the Triple-A slump in the final series played at Citi Field, calling up relief pitcher Luis Ortiz for Game 160 and starting Michael Plassmeier for Game 161. In Game 162, Nick Nelson pitched a ton of innings behind opening pitcher Matt Stram.
Coach Thomson is focused on keeping his players healthy while getting enough reps for the wild-card round, which begins Tuesday. The Phillies are just one win away from reaching 90 wins, but they weren’t going to prioritize that over getting the team in top shape for the postseason.
“I’d like to get to 90 wins, which is a nice, round number and I don’t think something like this has happened here in a long time,” he said Sunday. “But as long as the players are healthy, I’m fine with that. The health of the players means more than that.”
Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suarez had shortened starts this week as final conditioning before the playoffs. Taijuan Walker emptied the tank Saturday afternoon as the Phillies needed length in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Mets.
Wheeler will start Game 1 of the Wild Card Series on Tuesday. Aaron Nola will start Game 2 on Wednesday. If there is a Game 3, it seems likely that Ranger Suarez will start in the must-win game, which would likely involve the majority of the bullpen.
Thomson used five relief pitchers in Saturday’s nightcap: Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kirkeling, Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel and Christopher Sanchez, but none will pitch on Sunday. Following Stram and Nelson on Sunday, the Phillies are expected to use Gregory Soto, Seranthony Dominguez and Michael Lorenzen. They wanted everyone to play to avoid a lengthy layoff before the Wild Card Series.
When asked if it felt like forever since the Phillies clinched the National League’s No. 4 seed, Thomson said, “It really has.” “You sit with your head down the whole time, just praying that nothing bad happens to the players. It’s like exactly a month since we won. We had to make a lot of plans for health reasons. I had to make a plan, and then you guys do everything.” You’re making this plan and you’re still sitting there. That’s alarming, it really is. ”
One thing he’s not worried about is the Phillies not being able to flip the switch come Tuesday.
“When they stand in front of 40,000 screaming people who are a little inebriated, their energy level tends to go up,” Thomson said.