Play Ball! Everything You Need to Know for the Phillies 2023 Season
Catch up on last year, off-season moves, new rules, new eats and more.
There’s something so inspiring about Opening Day: No matter what happened last season, every team starts 0-0. And while that sentiment remains true, we are returning National League Champions this year! The new Phillies season is just days away, and if you need a little help catching up on last year, off-season moves, and what to expect for 2023, you’ve come to the right place. So without further ado, play ball!
The Phillies begin the season on the road, playing the Texas Rangers on Thursday, March 30th, at 4:05 p.m. If you don’t feel like heading to Arlington, Texas, for the occasion, you can watch on NBC 10 or listen on 94.1 WIP.
The Phils start 2023 with two away series before finally returning to Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, April 6th, at 3:05 p.m. for their home opener. You can also watch that on NBC or listen on WIP — remember, MLB.TV is blacked out for local games.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s rewind for a quick refresher on where the Fightin’s left off.
The 2022 season began late due to the lockout, but that’s also arguably why the Phillies made it to the World Series. Two major changes that came out of the collective bargaining agreement: 1) The National League got a designated hitter, matching the American League; and 2) There’s an expanded 12-team post-season, with three division winners and three wild-card winners per league. In 2022, the Phillies filled that new third, final wild-card slot. And a big part of getting there was having Bryce Harper hit in the DH spot after his elbow injury in April limited his ability to play the outfield.
Following the Phillies’ dismal 22-29 start to the season, manager Joe Girardi was fired, and Rob Thomson was installed as interim manager. A 10-0 win over the Angels in his debut was the first crack in that “interim” designation — Thomson is now signed as skipper through 2024.
The Phillies were 38-35 in late June when Harper was hit by a 97-mph pitch, breaking his thumb and taking him out of the lineup for two months — that’s right, he had two injuries last season. Far from spelling the team’s demise, the break led to a run that vaulted the team into position for the post-season. They finished at 87-75, good enough for the third NL wild-card spot.
They entered the post-season as underdogs against the St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three series but won that series in two games, advancing to the NLDS, where they beat the NL East-champion Atlanta Braves. Then came the NLCS, where they bested the San Diego Padres thanks in part to an eighth-inning two-run Harper bomb. The Bank shook, the Phils won the pennant, and Philly rejoiced. Red October, baby!
The Phillies lost the World Series to the Houston Astros, four games to two, after being up 2-1 in the series. But it was a glorious season, nonetheless.
The 2022 collective bargaining agreement ushered in expanded playoffs and the National League DH position, and both those changes remain in effect. This year, Major League Baseball has added some in-game rule changes that may seem subtle but will drastically affect certain aspects of the game.
First off, there’s a pitch clock. For years, some fans have complained about how long games have become. Well, those countless pickoff attempts and aggressive head-shaking between pitchers and catchers are about to be reined in, because now, they’re on the clock. Pitchers will have just 15 seconds to throw the ball (20 seconds if there are runners on base), and if time runs out, it’s an automatic called ball. And they’re limited to two base-runner pickoff attempts per plate appearance. (A third try, if unsuccessful, results in a balk.) Batters have to abide by new rules as well; if they’re not back in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the clock, they get an automatic strike.
Next, bigger bases! They’ll be 18-inch squares, up from 15. The extra three inches of width make it easier for a base runner to avoid the tag, and the extra three inches of length make it easier to steal, since bases are closer together now. The anticipated result? More aggressive base-running (and more excitement). Another added bonus to the bigger bases: reduced risk of injury. More space on the bag means fewer collisions between the base-runner and the defense — especially at first base. Testing out the bigger bases in the minors in 2022, MLB reported a 13 percent decrease in “injury events near bases” from 2021.
And finally — and perhaps most controversially — “the shift” is banned. As analytics departments dug into the ever-growing data on hitter tendencies over the past decade-plus, teams started positioning their infielders where hitters tend to actually hit the ball, placing three infielders on one side of second base — one usually in the outfield — to erase would-be hits by left-handed power hitters. The new rules require that two infielders be on each side of second base — and, perhaps more importantly, those infielders need to actually play in the infield. This change, instituted in the minor leagues in 2022 and in spring training in 2023, has predictably led to many more singles and — some fans believe — a more exciting game.
The Phillies made two major roster additions this off-season: superstar shortstop Trea Turner (a $300 million signing!) and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (not as good as Nola or Wheeler, but a solid third starter, for sure). They also fortified their bullpen, adding Craig Kimbrel (who still has flashes of greatness), Matt Strahm, and Gregory Soto (via trade with Detroit).
As for roster losses? The Phillies didn’t lose any major players to free agency, but they did give up second baseman Jean Segura and right-handed pitcher Zach Eflin after declining their options. The bigger losses come from injury. Bryce Harper, still hurt from last year’s injuries, waited till the off-season to get Tommy John surgery, from which he’s now recovering; he’ll likely be out till the All-Star Break. (An interesting note: The Phillies didn’t put him on the 60-day injured list, which demonstrates that they think there’s at least a chance he surprises them and comes back sooner; otherwise, they wouldn’t opt for the 15-day list, which limits their roster flexibility.) Also hurt: Rhys Hoskins, who tore his ACL in a spring training game and is going to be out all season. That could mean we’ve already witnessed Hoskins’s last game in Phillies pinstripes, since he’ll reach free-agency eligibility at the end of 2023.
So, How Will We Do?
The Phillies are a strong team, but the NL East is a ridiculously strong division, so they’re still projected to finish third, behind the Braves and Mets (boo and double-boo). Before you get too upset about those numbers, remember that the Phillies finished third behind those two teams last year, and we all know how that turned out. (Despite making the World Series, the Phillies finished 2022 14 games behind the Braves and Mets, who each won 101 games.)
Fun and Games and Dollar Dogs
It’s always a good time to go to the ballpark, but it’s even better if you get a free hat or some pomp and circumstance out of it — or a belly full of one-dollar hot dogs, you do you. So here are some key dates to put on your calendar for the season.
First off, Dollar Dog Nights — a.k.a. those wonderful nights when somehow, getting a hot dog for the same price you can buy one on the street every day has massive appeal. They’re planned for April 11th, April 25th and May 9th.
And for infinitely better dogs — I’m talking actual dogs I can pet while watching baseball — Bark at the Park is scheduled for May 23rd. That’s a special theme night requiring special advance tickets; the event is limited to the first 350 dogs, and there are no walk-up sales. So buy your tickets here; your doggies get exclusive swag, and some proceeds from ticket sales benefit PAWS. Plus, that night, PAWS will have adoptable dogs and more fun behind sections 210 and 211.
Fans ages 15 and over get a free t-shirt at the April 8th game; kids ages 14 and under get a free pompom hat on April 22nd for Kids’ Opening Day (that game’s at 4:05 p.m.) and a free Phanatic t-shirt on April 23rd for the Phanatic’s birthday. That game usually includes a fun pre-game birthday celebration with a cake, mascot friends and general whimsy.
More kids’ giveaways! A Phanatic children’s book on May 21st for “Phanatic About Reading Day,” an Alec Bohm cooling headband on July 2nd, an MLB Network cap on July 26th, a Kyle Shwarber jersey on August 6th, a Trea Turner shirt on August 26th, a Bryce Harper Funko figure on August 27th. These are all limited to kids ages 14 and under, so plan to bring yours … or befriend a friend’s offspring in time to take them to a game and steal their giveaways. Also, kids can run the bases on June 22nd and July 20th.
And if you’ve been spending all season jealously watching your kids get spoiled by Phillies giveaways, your time has come! For Mother’s Day (or rather, “Herr’s Mother’s Appreciation Day”), women ages 15 and over get a free cross-body bag. Father’s Day (this one’s sponsored/appreciated by Chevy) earns men ages 15 and over a free hat.
There are also a lot of “theme nights” that require special tickets but guarantee you an extra-special giveaway. On Star Wars Night, the first 4,000 people who buy a special ticket get a “Schwarbie Wan Kenobi” bobblehead; everyone else, regardless of special-ticket status, is encouraged to dress as a favorite character and maybe even run into some characters on the concourse! If you have Deadheads in your life, send them to the park on June 7th, where the first 1,000 fans with a special ticket will get a tie-dye “Dead and Company Night” t-shirt; tribute band Jawn of the Dead will perform before the game that day.
You can catch fireworks after the games on June 30th and July 14th. And you can catch a concert by Diesel (a.k.a. Shaquille O’Neal in his DJ side hustle!) on July 1st. There’s also an AJR concert on June 10th.
Then there’s Pride Night on June 23rd — the first 2,000 fans who buy a special ticket get a rainbow bucket hat. Heritage celebrations are scheduled for April 10th (Asian Pacific), June 6th (Greek), June 20th (African American), June 21st (Jewish), July 18th (Irish), July 26th (German), August 7th (Italian), and August 29th (Latino). These special dates all include entertainment during the game; if you check out the Theme Nights page, you can usually find discount tickets, too.
New Ballpark Eats
New ballpark concessions include Uncle Charlie’s Steaks (named for Charlie Manuel) in Section 109. For new eats around CBP, you can now get chicken tenders at Federal Donuts, and at Pass and Stow, you can try South Philly Disco Fries (topped with roast pork, melted sharp provolone cheese, broccoli rabe and roasted red peppers) or snack on some Mexican street popcorn (tossed with tajin spice, lime and cotija cheese).
And while this isn’t ballpark-specific, we’d be remiss not to mention that beloved Phillies-themed Turkey Hill flavor Graham Slam is coming back! The flavor has chocolate marshmallow cups and a graham swirl, and I will forever associate it with former Phils announcer Scott Graham because of the incessant ads. The ice cream is good, though, so go get some at the store — no word yet if it’ll be at the ballpark, too.