Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto sits out with a sore knee

Philadelphia Phillies

MIAMI — Catcher J.T. Realmuto woke up with a sore right knee on Sunday morning, so manager Rob Thomson took him out of the lineup for the series finale against the Marlins. Thomson said he isn’t concerned, adding that Realmuto could still play in Sunday’s game, but it’s unclear when Realmuto will return.

His absence will be felt. Realmuto has been among the Phillies’ most consistent hitters of late, and a major reason why the team has been able to stay afloat while Trea Turner rehabs a left hamstring strain. Turner hit in the two-hole before he was placed on the injured list on May 4.

Realmuto has since taken his spot and has proved to be a more-than-capable substitute. He says it has little to do with where he’s hitting and more to do with his timing and direction. He’s trying to stride more toward the pitcher and hit the ball toward right-center, rather than the third-base line.

He realized that last year, when he was angled more toward third base, he had a harder time staying on pitches that were moving away from him. He’d open up too quickly and smother balls to the shortstop or third baseman.

That isn’t the case anymore.

“It’s more direction than anything,” Realmuto said. “I feel like I have a good approach right now, and am really trying to stay to right-center. And typically when I do that and just focus on that, good things happen for me.”

Those good things are showing up in his slash line. Realmuto is batting .379/.455/.552 over his last seven games, and .323/.382/.548 over his last 15. He is hitting the ball harder than he was last season, and chasing less.

He feels comfortable with his swing because of that change in direction, but also because he is on time. Since spring training, Realmuto has tried to take a more relaxed tempo, which has helped him move more in sync.

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“If my thought process is early and slow, I tend to see the ball better,” Realmuto said. “When I’m early and slow and thinking right-center, I cover the whole zone, and I chase less and put a better swing on the ball.”

Whether Realmuto bats second or sixth in the lineup, he will keep his direction toward right-center and his timing more relaxed, which should set him up for success this year.

“It’s not necessarily being in the two-hole, I just feel more comfortable with my swing right now,” he said. “I’m on time more. My direction has been better. So I think it’s more to do with that than the two-hole.”

Schwarber out of the lineup again

Kyle Schwarber was out of the starting lineup for the second straight day on Sunday. He is still dealing with some lower back soreness. Thomson said that Schwarber is feeling “a little bit better” but wasn’t able to say when the Phillies’ DH will return.

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