During Spring Training, on the afternoon of a game, the Phillies clubhouse gets kind of quiet.

Once the veterans are finished playing for the day, and unless it’s the final week, it’s usually by the sixth inning, they’re quick to shower and head home, looking to enjoy some of the southwest Florida weather.

But this past spring, on more than one occasion, there would be a mentoring session. Sitting in his chair by his locker, Nick Castellanos would be doing most of the talking. Sitting there next to him – even one day cross-legged on the floor like a good kindergarten pupil – was a minor league outfielder taking in everything Nick was saying like a sponge.

One afternoon, the conversation went on for more than a half hour. It was certainly an odd couple in a Spring Training clubhouse. A $100 million dollar player about to enter his 11th season in the majors and a 22-year-old prospect hoping to reach Castellanos heights of major league success one day.

Nevertheless, Castellanos was impressed by the kid.

“It speaks to the person he is because he’s asking the right questions,” Castellanos said Saturday, some four months after that conversation in Clearwater. “The work that he puts in backs up the information that he seeks. He asks the question. He takes the information and he applies it. For me, as a veteran, when you see a young, talented kid like that, it’s easy for me to become a fan.”

Two days after that conversation, the prospect was sent back to minor league camp as the Phillies started to hone in on their Opening Day roster. He went into a meeting with manager Rob Thomson and was told how much he impressed the manager and his staff and to keep doing what he was doing and he would have the chance sooner rather than later to crack the big league roster.

That chance came Saturday.

Johan Rojas, who used to create himself as a player in the video game MLB the Show and dream about getting his opportunity in real life, was that player who absorbed Castellanos’ wisdom like a sponge, took it to the minor leagues, where he was one of the Phillies best position players in the system in the first half of the season, and got the call this weekend to replaced the injured Cristian Pache on the roster.

His first day as a participating big leaguer couldn’t have gone any better.

A double header. In the lineup for both games. A leaping grab against the fence on his first defensive chance, followed up with a hose of a throw to double up a runner at first base. Three hits in the second game. Two RBI, including his first on a safety squeeze. A stolen base. Oh… and two wins as the Phillies came from behind to win the opener 6-4 and followed with a 9-4 drubbing of the San Diego Padres in the night cap.

“It was incredible, really,” said Rojas, who joked that he was getting so many text messages throughout the day that it froze his phone. “It (started with) the second batter of the game and the excitement from the fans was amazing. It was a pretty special moment.”

It was a heck of a debut. And it all started with the double play:

There’s not a person in the building who wasn’t impressed. Even Bryce Harper, who wasn’t even in the dugout yet, was wowed by Rojas’ play.

“It was an incredible play,” Harper said. “I was getting treatment and I was like, ‘Holy crap, he made it.” It’s really fun to watch him play… We all had a peek at it in Spring Training, so we know what a dynamic player he can be.”

And it was awesome for Rojas that the first guy who was able to congratulate him was Castellanos, his Spring Training sensei.

“I respect him a lot,” Rojas said through an interpreter. “In Spring Training we talked almost every day. He was really guiding me through (that time).”

As for Castellanos, it was a proud moment as a veteran mentor to an impressionable young player.

“As soon as he made that play, I hit him in the chest and said, ‘Welcome to the big leagues, man,'” Castellanos said.. “It was just incredible. He’s electric. I haven’t really seen him at the plate that much, but just from being around him in the outfield, he makes a very athletic position look easy and you can’t teach that. That’s something that you have or you don’t.”

Nick, and everyone else, go to see the positives of Rojas at the plate in Game 2:

and the bunt…

Of course, Stott and Marsh indoctrinated him into the postgame shenanigans:

“It was great,” manager Rob Thomson said of Rojas’ debut. “Three hits in the second game. Great defense. He gets great jumps on the ball. They were a ball in the ninth inning in shallow centerfield that he caught chest high that I (originally) thought had a chance to drop.”

It was just one day, but man was it a heck of a day for an exciting, and exuberant kid finally making his dream come true.

And going forward, he won’t have to create himself in the video game world any longer.

other stuff from the doubleheader

  • Bryce Harper hit his first home run since May 25th. It ended the longest drought of his career between homers (38 games, 166 plate appearances). I asked Harper if it was a weight of his shoulders. He dismissed it. “No,” he said.  Everybody keeps talking about it, but it is what it is. … I don’t go out there to hit homers. I don’t try to hit homers.” O.K. fine. Then we won’t show it or talk about it.
  • What we will talk about is Harper having a good day. He didn’t start the first game, but came up as pinch hitter in the eighth inning against a lefty and beat out an infield single with his fastest homme-to-first running time of the season to tie the game. Then in the second game he was on base four times, including that hit that we aren’t talking about. Harper just keeps on keeping on in the o base department and if the power starts to return, well… watch out.
  • Another guy who had a big day was Trea Turner. He was 4-for-8 with two walks and two RBI and two steals. One of those steals was the 250th of his career. He’s now 21-for-21 stealing bases this season. He also had a strange fielding play where he seemed to have an out at first and instead tried a behind-the-back flip to an unexpecting Edmundo Sosa at second, who couldn’t handle the ball. The next batter, Trent Grisham, hit a three-run homer to put the Padres up early. Turner also got picked off at 1B with runners at the corners and two outs and Castellanos at the plate. It was an eventful day for Turner, but reaching base six times is a real positive sign.
  • Kyle Schwarber has had a good series so far, and it’s been highlighted by a game-tying home run in Game 1, a go-ahead single on an 0-2 pitch from a lefty two innings later and a three-run homer to put the Phillies ahead for good in the fifth inning of Game 2. He became the first Phillie to homer in both games of a doubleheader since Rhys Hoskins in 2018. This offense can really be special if Harper, Turner and Schwarber are all swinging the bat well. Saturday was evidence of that.
  • Garrett Stubbs had another bunt base hit. He has six this season. That’s the third-most in baseball, which is pretty incredible when you consider he plays maybe once a week.
  • Taijuan Walker didn’t have his best stuff in Game 2, and only threw five innings, but he won his seventh straight start. He is now 11-3 this season.
  •  Castellanos had a rough day at the plate. He went 0-for-10 in the doubleheader. Nick is in a little rut right now. Since July 4 he is hitting just .100 (4-for-40) with 16 strikeouts and just one walk. Considering he had to travel to-and-from the All-Star game on the other side of the country, Castellanos didn’t get a chance to refresh like many of his teammates did during the break. He probably could use a day off here soon.
  • Manny Machado hit his 300th home run in the opening game. It went into the second deck in left field. He probably envisioned doing that a lot at one point when he was considering signing here. I think the Phillies were happy with Harper instead.
  • Sosa got beaned on the hand and then cramped up while running the bases in the seventh inning of the second game and had to be replaced on the bases. Afterwards, Thomson said he’s fine.