Energy, new look have Herrera 'presenting beautifully' to Kapler

Energy, new look have Herrera 'presenting beautifully' to Kapler

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Odubel Herrera showed up to Phillies camp with a new look Sunday. 
Bronze-tipped dreadlocks. A bronze goatee.
Manager Gabe Kapler, who encourages players to present themselves in a way that makes them feel confident, was impressed with his centerfielder’s style – and more.
“He looks amazing,” Kapler gushed. “He looks incredible. I think he is just physically presenting beautifully right now. He has a lot of energy. Obviously his smile is big and bold. He looks kind of cool. The hair is kind of cool and the beard, but more importantly he is in incredible athletic condition. You can tell he has put a lot of work in and we’re excited about what’s to come for Odubel.”
Herrera, 26, is entering his fourth season in the majors, all with the Phillies. He has been the team’s best player the last three seasons, leading the club in runs (218), hits (462), batting average (.288), doubles (93), extra-base hits (142), times on base (690), OPS (.774) and total bases (690) over that span.
Herrera sputtered at times in the first half of last season, but was outstanding, posting a .887 OPS over his final 88 games in 2017. 
When Herrera is motivated and focused, he is an electric player. But it’s no secret that he can occasionally be undisciplined, making baserunning blunders, forgetting how many outs there are and not running out balls.
So it was kind of interesting to hear Kapler say he planned on using Herrera as an example during Sunday night’s team welcome gathering at a Clearwater restaurant. Kapler encouraged players to dress in whatever attire that made them feel “confident.” He planned to address the group and trumpet his season theme of being “bold.” A video presentation was planned.
“We’re going to show some video tonight of Odubel on the bases and his ability to really change a play with his athleticism and a good turn around second base,” Kapler said.
Clearly, the skipper is taking a positive tack with Herrera, as he has done with every other player. Kapler met with Herrera over the winter in Miami and his message was all about looking forward and being positive.
“Not only is there a clean slate, but the meeting in Miami was much more about supporting,” Kapler said. “Before we have an opportunity to really sharpen, we have to build trust, we have to demonstrate that we really care about somebody, we have to support. And then it’s a whole lot easier when the time comes – and it absolutely will come – for us to raise the bar for our players and to have those more difficult conversations. 
“So I didn’t go to Miami or meet with any of our players to say, ‘Here are some things we need you to do differently from last year.’ I just think that is not an effective human strategy. Rather, it was, ‘Let’s talk about who you can be. Let’s dream together. Let’s see this as the sky’s the limit, not just as a team, but as individuals. So what are your carrots? What do you want to go after and how can we help you in your pursuit of those goals.' ”
Herrera was asked about his goals.
“The only one I can share with you is I want to help the team win,” he said. “But I have some personal ones that I want to keep to myself.”
Kapler believes that Herrera, entering the second season of a five-year, $30.5 million deal, can have a huge year.
“I told him he is an elite level defender in center field, which is absolutely true and fairly easy to quantify,” Kapler said. “I told him with some small adjustments he could be one of the best all-around center fielders in baseball. We believe that strongly.
“I told him the sky’s the limit for him and I believe he thinks that about himself. There is no ceiling. He wants to be an All-Star, he wants to be a Gold Glove defender and he’s not that far off from doing both of those things in the same season. There is no limitation for him, right. The ceiling is not low for Odubel Herrera. It’s incredibly high if there is one at all.”
Focus and the occasional lapse in hustle have been flaws in Herrera’s game. What happens if he slips up in 2018? Kapler suggested that Philadelphia’s discerning fans could play a part in keeping Herrera in line.
“The fans in Philadelphia expect us to give everything we have every night and they expect us to do it all over again the next day,” Kapler said. “Those are high expectations. Our players are going to have the foundation and the tools to meet those expectations.”

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

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Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Good news, bad news on the Phillies’ pitching front.

The good: Jake Arrieta will make his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring when he gets the start Thursday against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater.

Arrieta signed with the Phillies a week ago and threw a simulated game Saturday (see story). He will throw a side bullpen session Tuesday then be ready for Thursday’s start. It's still not clear when he will make his regular-season debut. Arrieta believes he will be ready to pitch during the first week of the season. Phillies management is taking a long-range view and will exercise caution in turning him loose. Either way, Arrieta projects to make 30 or more starts once he’s ready.

Now, the bad news:

Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. headed to Philadelphia for tests on his right forearm. Leiter has been experiencing some tightness and soreness in the forearm, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

This is tough news for Leiter, who early in camp had impressed management with his performance and ability to pitch in a starting or relief role. Ten days before opening day, it’s likely that Leiter will have to open the season on the disabled list.

Starter Jerad Eickhoff will open the season on the DL with a right lat strain. It is not considered serious, but he is projected to be out into May.

Phillies lose Tommy Joseph to Rangers

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Phillies lose Tommy Joseph to Rangers

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tommy Joseph is headed to the American League. The Texas Rangers claimed him off waivers on Monday. The Arizona native will head to his home state to join the Rangers for the remainder of spring training.

The Phillies designated Joseph for assignment last week. The move was made to clear room for pitcher Jake Arrieta on the 40-man roster. 

Joseph, 26, joined the Phillies organization in the summer of 2012 in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. At the time, Joseph was a catcher. A series of concussions nearly ended his career, but he converted to first base and forged his way to the majors in May 2016. He hit 43 home runs the last two seasons, but did not reach base enough to satisfy a front office that wants to build a lineup around players with that skill. The emergence of Rhys Hoskins last season and the signing of free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana this winter made Joseph expendable and efforts to trade him were fruitless.

Joseph’s power makes him a potential fit for a role as a designated hitter. He could also be the right-handed portion of a first base platoon with Joey Gallo, who has hit just .199 against lefties in the majors.

Joseph is now on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.