DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The top of the Phillies' lineup Wednesday could have been a peek into the future.
Opening Day 2018, maybe? Who knows? Maybe even earlier. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco hit in the top three spots in a 4-4 tie with the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Quinn and Crawford are two of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, and Franco's rookie season in 2015 has the Phillies thinking they have a middle-of-the-lineup hitter on their hands.
It remains to be seen if and when that will happen. Both Quinn and Crawford are expected to open the season in the Minor Leagues, either in Double-A Reading or Triple-A Lehigh Valley. From there, their play will dictate their big league arrival.
But on Wednesday, they at least got to get on the field together. It was the first time Quinn said he had faced a knuckleballer, much less a former Cy Young Award winner like Dickey. Crawford said he faced a couple last season.
Mackanin said he did not consider it particularly cruel to start a couple prospects against a knuckleballer.
"I want to see them," Mackanin said. "I don't care who's pitching. I'd rather have those two guys facing them than our guys -- that could set you back a little bit. But I wanted to get them at-bats as early as possible in the camp because they're probably not going to go with us, and we need to get them at-bats if and when they go down."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.