Phillies introduce J.T. Realmuto: 'The goal here is to win a championship'
By Brian Wright
Of The Morning Call|
Feb 12, 2019 at 6:30 PM
J.T. Realmuto is happy he no longer has to worry about hitting balls to Odubel Herrera.
Realmuto spent his first five seasons playing his home games at the cavernous Marlins Park. The Phillies’ new catcher over his career has a .848 OPS on the road and .678 at home. Last season he bashed 13 of his 21 home runs on the road and on Tuesday didn’t mince words when asked about the difficulties of hitting at Marlins Park.
“It’s definitely tough, I can count too many times that I felt like I crushed a ball in Marlins Park only to watch Odubel Herrera dive in center field and catch the ball,” Realmuto told reporters at his introductory press conference in Clearwater, Fla.
“It’ll be nice to get out of there — not to say that Citizens Bank Park is a slouch — you know, you still have to hit the ball well, but it’ll be nice to that if you get a ball, you have a chance to get it out.”
Realmuto — “the best catcher in baseball,” as general manager Matt Klentak called him — was acquired last Thursday in a deal with Miami in which the Phillies parted with flame-throwing prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro, prospect Will Stewart and international slot money.
“I’ve never had anything but positive thoughts about the Phillies organization. It’s an organization that I’m proud to play for and I’m happy to be here,” Realmuto said.
Realmuto, 27, slashed .277/.340/.448 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs last season for the Marlins, who were 63-98. He is also an excellent defensive catcher who calls a good game and quickly builds rapport with his pitching staff.
“I’m just excited to play for a team that has a chance to win a championship,” Realmuto said. “That’s all I’m really focusing on. If that takes me to my next level and I’m the best player I’ve ever been, I’m all for it, but for me the goal here is to win a championship.”
Realmuto will wear No. 10 on Wednesday when the Phillies’ pitchers and catchers conduct their first workout of spring training. The last Phillies catcher to wear that number? The late, great Darren Daulton. Former Phillies shortstop, coach and manager Larry Bowa, now a senior adviser in the front office, also wore No. 10.
“I’m aware of some of them, not all of them,” Realmuto said when asked about the history of No. 10. “I had to choose between three options … 10, 38 and 39, so when I chose the number I did not know all the players that had the number.”
The Phillies led the ultra-competitive National League East into mid-August last season before faltering in September.
Despite that late-season fall, the early success wasn’t lost on Realmuto.
“This was a great ball club last year, he said. “Obviously they fizzled out a little bit at the end, but that comes with a young club. With the additions we made this offseason, I feel like we have a lot of things to prove this season, and I think we’re going to prove them.”
Realmuto also hit 30 doubles and three triples last season, and manager Gabe Kapler envisions Realmuto hitting in the middle of the lineup.
“I think J.T. can hit in a lot of different places in the lineup, and he can hit right in the heart of our lineup,” Kapler said. “One of the things we notice from across the field is that you can’t bring a right-handed slider guy to get him out. Two, three, four five, anywhere in that neighborhood, he’s so athletic he can hit anywhere in the lineup.”
Indeed, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman, Realmuto is hitting an impressive .291 over the last three seasons against right-handed breaking pitches.
Striking a deal for Realmuto is the biggest success so far this offseason for general manager Matt Klentak and the front office, which has also brought in shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and bullpen arm David Robertson.
But there are still two big free-agents out there in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The Phillies have been linked to both superstars all winter, and last week Klentak said he hoped the addition of Realmuto would help make the club more attractive.
Plus, Harper is a Realmuto fan; he said last summer he wished the Nationals could have acquired him.
“Anybody would love to have a guy like that on your team,” Realmuto said. “There’s a time and place for those discussions, but I would definitely love to have a player like that on this team.”