David Dahl joins the party as Phillies begin outfield replacements dance

PHILADELPHIA — The Lehigh Valley IronPigs rode a bus for eight hours Sunday night after a game in Ohio. David Dahl and Weston Wilson, roommates at Triple A, did not return to their apartment until 1 a.m. — an unfortunate development for Wilson, who had a dentist appointment in Philadelphia early Monday morning.

Dahl was relaxing Monday with some “S.W.A.T.” on Netflix when, a little after noon, Phillies general manager Sam Fuld called. The Phillies were promoting the 30-year-old outfielder to the majors. Dahl packed his side of the apartment and scurried to Coca-Cola Park to grab his bats. That’s when Wilson called him.

He was coming too. The Phillies needed a wave of replacements with Brandon Marsh and Kody Clemens on the injured list. Dahl and Wilson shared a ride to Citizens Bank Park. They popped into the home clubhouse at 4:03 p.m.

“You’re late,” Bryson Stott said. “Report was 3:30.”

Dahl and Wilson smiled. Stott hugged them. The lineup, with Dahl in left field, had been posted before he arrived. This is life with the current machine that is these Phillies. Dahl, a former All-Star playing in the majors for the first time in 426 days, could sense the energy.

“This feels like my debut all over again,” Dahl said in the dugout an hour before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers. “It’s really fun. This is a great team. They’re winning a lot of games and I’m just excited to be part of it.”

Then, at 7:08 p.m., he crossed home plate with the Phillies’ second run. And 34 minutes later, he swatted a 93 mph fastball into the right-field seats for a solo homer. Dahl returned to his place in left field for the next inning and fans feted him with a standing ovation.

“That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced on a baseball field,” Dahl said afterward.

Welcome to the party.

“That’s kind of the way this club has been for the last couple of years,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Somebody goes down and somebody steps up and does well. I’m expecting the same. I don’t know who it’s going to be. But I’m expecting the same kind of thing to happen.”

The Phillies do not have a set plan for left field. They have lagged in offensive production from their outfield all season; the Phillies entered Monday with a .635 OPS from the outfielders. That ranked 25th in Major League Baseball. (Oddly enough, outfielders across MLB had a .694 OPS, which would be the lowest for that position since 1917.)

Marsh, who hurt his hamstring Sunday night, was in a platoon with Cristian Pache and Whit Merrifield. There was no timetable for Marsh’s return, although Thomson said the strain was “very mild.”

“We’re still trying to just treat it and assess it right now,” Marsh said. “No timetable, but looking for a pretty quick turnaround.”

Clemens suffered a back spasm during pregame work Sunday night and was removed from the lineup. It did not improve overnight and that forced the Phillies to shelve him. The timing is unfortunate for Clemens, who would have absorbed most of Marsh’s at-bats in left field.

Thomson can get creative in how he fills the vacant spot. The manager could play Dahl against most righty pitchers. A combination of Pache, Merrifield and Wilson could see time whenever the Phillies face a lefty. Pache, who is not considered an option for regular playing time against righties, could also slide over to center field when a lefty pitches. Dahl is not regarded as much of a defender in left field, so the Phillies could be aggressive with pinch-hitting and defensive substitutions.

Thomson will mix and match.

Dahl, at the very least, is interesting. He has not done much in the majors for five years. He’s often been injured. Maybe the Phillies will catch a wave for a few weeks. He hit .340/.416/.660 in 166 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley. “We’ll see what he’s got,” Thomson said. It’s borderline impossible to evaluate hitters at Triple A in 2024 because the gap between that level and the majors has never been wider.

Only 12 percent of the pitches Dahl saw at Triple A were thrown at 94 mph or harder. Every regular in the Phillies’ lineup has seen 94 mph on at least 18 percent of pitches.

“I feel like I’m a good player, and what I showed there was the player that I know I am,” Dahl said. “I just had some injuries for a few years that set me back. Now I’ve been healthy and it’s starting to show. But that’s Triple A and now I’m here and it’s a new season starting for me.”

It’s unclear where Merrifield fits in the puzzle. Thomson has continued to assert his faith in Merrifield being a contributor, but the manager’s actions have suggested otherwise. Merrifield played Sunday night only because Clemens was a late scratch. He was not in the lineup Monday. Merrifield has started six of the last 18 games — mostly against lefty starters.

He is hitting .176/.257/.275 and has not made hard contact this season.

“We’re hoping to get Whit going,” Thomson said. “And the only way to get going is by playing and getting reps. It’s maybe an opportunity to get him some more playing time.”


Dahl made a fine impression on his first night. The timing was even sweeter for Dahl and Wilson, so long as they are still on the active roster for this weekend’s games in London. Every player on the roster receives a $70,000 bonus from MLB. Dahl said he had his passport — safe and sound in his backpack.

In a four-day span, he’ll go from an overnight minor-league bus ride to a luxurious charter plane with lie-flat seats to England.

“This is a World Series-type team, and I want to be a part of it,” Dahl said. “I’m just very excited to be here.”

(Photo of David Dahl: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

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