Massages in, alarm clocks out at Phillies camp

Massages in, alarm clocks out at Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Change has spread dramatically throughout the Phillies organization in recent years. The front office has turned over. There's been a shakeup on the scouting staff. Analytics went from being a non-thing to a really big thing.

And now Gabe Kapler, full of progressive, outside-the-box ideas, has arrived as manager.

With him comes more change.

Remember how Chase Utley and Roy Halladay used to famously duel to see who could arrive in the clubhouse earlier each day in spring training? And, by early, we’re talking pre-dawn, dew-on-the-grass, the owls-are-still-hootin’ early.

Well, under Kapler, showing up before sunrise will not earn a player a badge of honor, and it certainly won't earn him an Egg McMuffin. Oh, a player can still drag his bones out of the rack super early if that’s what makes him tick, what makes him be the best version of himself, as Kapler says. But rest and recovery and waking up naturally can be important too, says the first-year skipper.

So …

Workouts will begin a little later this spring. Figure on pitchers and catchers hitting the field at 11 a.m. Wednesday for their first workout. In previous years, the Phillies stretched about 9:30 a.m. and got into workouts at 10.

“It gives our guys a chance to rest a little bit longer,” Kapler said Tuesday. “We are going to focus on rest, recovery, our guys being the strongest versions of themselves.

“Spring training is pretty long. One of our themes is: how can we be healthy and strong when camp closes? We want to have quick, efficient practices that mimic game conditions so that they can get used to it and when we hit Atlanta (for the March 29 season opener) those guys are strong and not broken down.”

Kapler is also rather fanatical about nutrition.

The Phillies, however, may have beaten him to the punch on that one.

“We have — what came way before me — among the best strength and conditioning staffs in baseball, among the best medical staffs in baseball, a chef already in house who cooks exceptional food, nutritionally dense food,” he said. “This organization was in really good shape. I'm just lucky to be inserted into that and add a little spice.”

New bench coach Rob Thomson, formerly the Yankees’ bench coach, will oversee scheduling for camp. Players will still do extra, early work — small groups with specific instructors before the official workout — but even that will start a little later.

“Thoms will talk about how early work is just better a little bit later,” Kapler said. “Guys come in a little bit more refreshed, they're in a better mood, and the balls stay a little bit drier. So the drills are just a little bit more effective.”

Kapler will encourage players to monitor their own workloads in camp then communicate about those workloads with coaches and the athletic training staff.

“A major focus will be on tracking and logging reps,” he said. “A rep is a swing, it’s a throw, it’s a squat, it’s a sprint, it’s a run down the line, it’s a home to third. Everything should be considered a rep and they should all be tracked and logged and factored in, so that we can keep guys healthy and strong and recovered through not just April and May, but through September and October, as well.

“If we can communicate to make sure that we all have that information, we might be able to back people off, whereas before we just sort of powered through because we didn’t know what was happening on other areas of the field. This is for the players. We want the information because it is our responsibility to put them in the best position to succeed.

“So, by way of example, if a player comes in and we know he had some extra activity the day before, maybe we don’t have anything specific planned for him the following day, then don’t come to the ballpark today. Stay home. Recover. Get a massage. Relax. Sleep. And then come back the next day and we’ll pick things back up.”

The Phillies aren’t the only team to stress recovery, not the only team to push back the start time of the workday.

“I don't think we're setting any precedent here," Kapler said. "There's other clubs who start practice a little bit later. The Rays have done that. The Yankees have done that.

"For me, personally, I love it. Guys are going to get to sleep a little bit longer. We're going to stress to them that doesn't mean they change anything the night before. Go ahead and do exactly what your routine is. Rather than having an alarm clock wake you up in the morning, get up when you get up. Come to the ballpark when it's time to work.

"I don't think there's any value in getting to the ballpark when it's dark, just to get to the ballpark when it's dark. Although, we have a lot of guys who that is their best method of being great. We're not going to strip that out of them either. All of our players are individuals and will be treated as such. Not everybody is the same. And we don't want to make everybody the same. We’re going to stress being great your way.”

Kapler wants Phillies to be bold — like the Super Bowl champs

Kapler wants Phillies to be bold — like the Super Bowl champs

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The manager’s opening speech is one of the grand traditions of spring training. Rules are covered (work hard, be on time, usually covers it), goals are established (Hey, everyone is tied for first place, to hell with the skeptics, let’s go out and win the World Series!) and an overall tone is set for camp and beyond.

Giving that speech for the first time is exciting and even a little nerve-racking. Gabe Kapler began thinking about what he would say to his team months ago. And now, with Phillies pitchers and catchers opening camp on Wednesday and the full squad set to report over the weekend and hit the fields on Monday, Kapler’s time to address the entire group for the first time is almost here.

“I know what that message is with a tremendous amount of clarity,” the new skipper, looking tan, muscular and ready to kick some ass, said Tuesday. “It’s critically important. It’s everything.”

Kapler was asked for a taste of what he will tell his troops.

“I can give you a little bit,” he said. “One of the questions I’ve been asking a lot of our players is what does it mean to play boldly? What does it mean to deliver a pitch boldly? What does it mean to take a swing in the batter’s box boldly? What does it mean to communicate boldly?”

Kapler went on to talk about conviction, courage and fearlessness, attributes he wants to see in his club. He wants to build an environment where there is no fear so his players can be comfortable and bold.

And if they are bold, they can shock some people.

Just like another team in town did recently.

“We would be foolish to not take cues from what the Eagles accomplished,” Kapler said of the Super Bowl champs. “Not just over the last couple weeks, but over the summer when coach (Doug) Pederson addressed his team and said, ‘This is what the world thinks and this is what we think you are. We get some development from our young quarterback, and we get some development on defense, we’re going to be much better than people think.’ 

"I think if everybody on our roster takes a small step forward, we have an opportunity to shock people. That’s the message we’re going to convey in camp. Ultimately, the message is we can win. It’s not like a delusional statement. It’s more like we all take that small step forward, we all get a little bit better, we all develop just enough where we surprise people.

“I think it means being very competitive when September rolls around. So being in the mix, being in the hunt, fighting for the National League East. I don’t think there has to be any major declaration made here. We’re fighting for the National League East in September.”

On paper, the Phillies don’t have the starting pitching to dethrone the Washington Nationals.

But Kapler is nothing if not positive. He runs on positive, can-do energy the way some people run on Wawa coffee.

“Yes,” he said when asked if the Phillies have the personnel to win.

He raved about what he has seen in early workouts from pitchers Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta, two big arms who know how to show it off in the bullpen.

Of course, the Phillies are still looking for more starting pitchers and may end up bringing in an arm in the coming days or weeks (see story).

Kapler has been in Clearwater bonding with early-arriving players, stressing boldness, for two weeks. He watched the Super Bowl at “a tiny wine bar in Tampa.” The fitness buff did not drink, but he had two bacon burgers, and you can bet he passed on the bun.

“It was one of my favorite three-hour stretches that I can remember in a really long time,” Kapler said. “It was quiet. I just locked into the game. It was really remarkable. And, obviously, we talked about the cues that we can take from the Eagles. We talked in this conversation about being bold. Well, those guys were nothing if not bold. The play-calling. The relentlessness on the field. Across the board, they played with boldness. So that was an inspiring day.”

Now, the ball has been handed off to the Phillies.

And Gabe Kapler has a message for the lads:

Be bold.

Longtime Phillies target shipped to Brewers

USA Today Images

Longtime Phillies target shipped to Brewers

MIAMI -- Miami Marlins general manager Michael Hill was traveling Thursday to participate in a series of marathons when he swung the team's latest trade, sending center fielder Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers for four prospects.

And so the Marlins' dismantling marathon continues.

Yelich became the fourth starter traded by the Marlins as they reduce payroll and rebuild their weak farm system under new CEO Derek Jeter. The Marlins earlier dealt away major league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton, stolen base champ Dee Gordon and All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna.

Hill made the trade as he began a trip to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Former Marlins executives David Samson and Jeff Conine are also taking part in the charity event.

"I'm boarding a plane for South Africa," Hill said. "The job goes with you wherever you are. When the opportunity presents itself to make our organization better, you do what you need to do."

Miami acquired highly regarded outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Isan Diaz, outfielder Monte Harrison and right-handed pitcher Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson, Diaz and Harrison were rated among the Brewers' top 10 prospects.

Yelich batted .282 with 18 homers and 81 RBIs last year, and he is a career .290 hitter. In the wake of Miami's earlier deals this offseason, he said he preferred to play elsewhere rather than be part of a rebuilding effort (see full story).

Mets: Reyes reportedly agrees to 1-year, $2M deal
NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes and the Mets have agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract for the infielder to remain in New York, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement was subject to a successful physical. Reyes can earn an additional $500,000 in bonuses, the person said.

Now 34, Reyes was a four-time All-Star shortstop with the Mets from 2003-11 and left after winning the NL batting title to sign a $106 million, six-year contract with Miami. He was traded in November 2012 to Toronto and in July 2015 to Colorado, which released him in 2016 after Reyes served a 59-day domestic violence suspension.

He returned to New York, came up to the major leagues in July and batted .267 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 279 plate appearances.

Reyes remained with the Mets last year and was among their most versatile players, appearing in 80 games at shortstop, 36 at third base, 28 at second base, one in center field and one in left. He hit .246 with 15 homers, 58 RBIs and 24 steals in 561 plate appearances.

New York has been active in the offseason, agreeing to a $39 million, three-year contract with outfielder Jay Bruce, a $14 million, two-year deal with reliever Anthony Swarzak and a deal for a $545,000 with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

General manager Sandy Alderson said this week the team is looking at more infield options in a late-developing free agent market.

Padres: Team says social media accounts hacked
SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres say their social media accounts were hacked early Thursday and posts were made that suggested the team had either agreed to terms with free agent Eric Hosmer or that a deal was imminent.

"Messages that were inaccurate and unauthorized were posted," the team said in a statement. "MLB Cybersecurity is now investigating the matter, and we apologize for any confusion."

A photo of a smiling Hosmer in a Kansas City Royals uniform was posted on the Padres' Instagram account. It was deleted a few minutes later.

On the Padres' Twitter account, someone posted "Stay tuned ..." followed by a bulging eyes emoji, and then posted Hosmer's Twitter handle.

They also were deleted.

The Padres have offered Hosmer a seven-year deal.