Philadelphia Phillies: What to watch for in the Phillies’ opening series?

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies welcome the Atlanta Braves to Citizens Bank Park to open the 2019 season. What should fans watch for in the opening series?

The most anticipated Philadelphia Phillies season in recent history is finally upon us. An offseason full of acquisitions and roster turnover has come to an end, and after over a month of spring training games, it is finally time for real baseball!

Coming into town to open the 2019 season will be the Atlanta Braves. The Braves were the beneficiaries of the Phillies late season collapse last year as they captured the 2018 National League East crown and they will be looking to build off that this season.

With that being said, there are plenty of things to watch for in the opening series of the season. What are they? Well, let’s take a look at what to watch for as the Phillies kick off the 2019 season!

1. Will Harper live up to the hype?

First things first, Phillies fans should not overreact to anything Bryce Harper does this weekend. If he hits four home runs, then great. If he goes 1-12 and strikes out eight times, then oh well. Whatever happens, good or bad, no one should overreact.

Harper is a very good player and will be very good in 2019, and nothing he does over the next three games is going to dictate how his 2019 season plays out. There will be a lot of excitement surrounding Harper, but fans should not be living and dying with each at-bat.

Harper loves the spotlight, and it will certainly be on him on opening day. Bryce has a strong history on opening day and is very good against Julio Teheran, so the odds look promising for a strong start for Harper. But, stay patient if he doesn’t get off to the start fans want.

2. How will the top of the rotation look?

Slated to start this weekend are Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta and Jake Arrieta respectively. The first question is will Nola build off a 2018 Cy Young caliber season. Odds are he will, and it will be fun to watch the Phillies ace get the ball coming out of the gate. Just hope he doesn’t get pulled after 71-pitches on opening day this year.

Pivetta is an interesting case here. Many have circled Pivetta as a potential breakout candidate in 2019. He was consistently hitting upper-90s with his fastball in spring training, and if he can command that pitch with plus offspeed stuff, then he could be a dark-horse Cy Young candidate. It will be interesting to see if Pivetta can get off to a strong start Saturday afternoon against the Braves.

Arrieta struggled during the second half of 2018, and he attributed much of those struggles to a torn meniscus. With that now healed, Arrieta is looking to start 2019 strong. In his last spring training start, Arrieta looked dominant, causing a lot of swings and misses, and he will look to build on that this Sunday night.

3. How will the bullpen be used?

This is one of the more underrated questions heading into the 2019 season. Going into opening day, there still seems to be no clear-cut closer, and it will be interesting to see who Gabe Kapler goes to in the first save situation. Could it be David Robertson, or will he go back to Seranthony Dominguez?

Robertson is the reliable veteran, but the best guess is that Dominguez will be the closer to start the season with Robertson serving in an eighth-inning role. Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez will serve as a lefty specialist, and Pat Neshek will serve as a specialist as well.

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The rest of the bullpen is really up in the air. Where will Hector Neris be used? That remains to be seen. It will really be interesting to see what roles each guy falls into and we will begin to learn some of that starting this weekend.