ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Less than three weeks after departing spring training, the Phillies are back in Pinellas County for the weekend.
While much of their attention will be focused on Tropicana Field and the team's interleague series with the Rays, Phillies officials will also sneak a peek at what's going on 20 minutes up the road in their spring home of Clearwater.
Reliever Tommy Hunter, who opened the season on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, will test the injury with some work in an extended spring training game at Carpenter Complex on Saturday.
Manager Gabe Kapler said the team would evaluate Hunter after the outing and decide if he needs another test drive. Either way, Hunter, who signed a two-year, $18 million contract with the club in December, should be ready to be activated sometime next week, possibly during the Phils' three-game series in Atlanta, which begins Monday.
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Also in Clearwater this weekend, prized pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez will make his season debut for the Single A Clearwater Threshers. He will start against the Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh) on Sunday afternoon at Spectrum Field.
Sanchez was slowed by the flu early in spring training and the team took a conservative approach in getting him ready for the season. He has been seeing action in extended spring training games and word is his crackling fastball has hit triple digits on the radar gun.
Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with a 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958. He turns 20 in July and could reach Double A later this season if he continues to progress.
Sanchez will be watched closely on Sunday and could be on a pitch limit as he eases into action. The Phillies, as they do with most of their young pitching prospects, will carefully monitor his workload throughout the season.