July 7, 2022

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With bat, arm & glove, Muzziotti shines in CF

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MIAMI — The Phillies have been looking for a center-field stopgap with Odúbel Herrera and Mickey Moniak out hurt. Maybe Símon Muzziotti can help. 

Making just his second career start, Muzziotti was a bright spot for the Phillies in their 7-1 loss to the Marlins on Friday night at loanDepot park. The 23-year-old rookie made two highlight-reel defensive plays in center, and he got his first career hit — which was also the first offense by a Phillies center fielder this season.

Maybe a performance like this can earn Muzziotti, ranked Philadelphia’s No. 21 prospect, a little more action while Herrera and Moniak recover. Herrera (sore right oblique) is currently on a Minor League rehab assignment, and Moniak is out four to six weeks with a fractured right hand suffered in the Phils’ final spring exhibition. 

Here’s a breakdown of Muzziotti’s big game:

The first hit by a Phillies center fielder this year
Without Moniak, who belted six home runs in Spring Training, the Phillies’ offense from the center-field spot evaporated. The club’s center fielders were 0-for-16 in 20 plate appearances over the team’s first seven games of 2022, including an 0-for-15 start from Matt Vierling, who did finally get his first hit as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Entering Friday, Philadelphia was the only team in baseball without a single hit from center field.

Muzziotti broke the skid by slashing a 103 mph line-drive single to the opposite field in the top of the third inning, his first hit in the big leagues. The Venezuelan native is going to give the ball to his mom. 

“It was a dream come true,” Muzziotti said through translator Diego Ettedgui. “I really want to take advantage of this moment to say thank you to all the coaches that have worked really hard with me to help me realize this dream.”

That’s the type of offense Muzziotti could provide — he doesn’t have a lot of power but is graded as an above-average contact hitter by MLB Pipeline. 

But Muzziotti’s standout tool is his defense, and that’s where he shone against the Marlins, with a couple of excellent plays.

Philadelphia’s first outfield assist of the season
In the first inning, Muzziotti made a perfectly on-target throw from deep center field to second base to nab Jesús Aguilar trying for a double. 

Moving away from second base into the left-center-field gap, Muzziotti still got 80.2 mph on the throw, which hit Bryson Stott on the fly right at the second-base bag. 

“He was incredible. Incredible,” Phillies starting pitcher Zach Eflin said. “Pitcher’s best friend right there.”

A great catch at the center-field wall
Muzziotti’s best play of the game was his catch in the third — also to rob Aguilar of extra bases. Muzziotti had to cover 76 feet straight back to dead center to track down Aguilar’s 404-foot fly ball, and he made a leaping catch as he collided with the wall. 

“I just kept following the ball, following the ball, following — and I caught it,” Muzziotti said. “Crashed against the wall. But again, this is all thanks to the work that I’ve put in in the Minor Leagues with all the coaches that have helped me get to this moment.”

If he’s making plays like those, Muzzotti can make an impact in center field even in a limited role — he’s been mostly a late-game defensive specialist in the season’s early goings — and his skill set out there is important for a Phillies team that has other defensive weaknesses. 

“Fantastic,” manager Joe Girardi said of Muzziotti’s play in center field. “The kid played great today. Really happy for him.”

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