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.”

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday starts the one-week countdown to opening day.

Oh, yeah, and Jake Arrieta will also make his Grapefruit League debut.

It figures to be the highlight of the spring.

Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies last week. He has completed a progression from bullpen work — he actually had gotten well into that on his own before signing — to facing hitters in a controlled situation.

Now, it’s time to face some competition — the Detroit Tigers. The game will be televised on NBCSP+ at 1 p.m.

The Phillies have yet to decide when Arrieta will make his regular-season debut. The pitcher believes he will be ready during the first week of the season. The team will exercise caution. Arrieta’s performance Thursday — and possibly more important, his recovery — will go a long way into determining when the Phils turn him loose.

“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.

"We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”

Kapler said the Phils would be flexible on Arrieta’s pitch count. Fifty or so seems like a good guess.

Arrieta has been around for a week now. His teammates are thrilled to have him.

“Obviously, with the Arrieta signing, we got a lot better not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Rhys Hoskins said (more on him here). “What he’s going to be able to do not only for the pitchers but for some of us young position guys — I mean he’s recently won a World Series, he’s a Cy Young guy, he knows how to compete at the highest level. We have a good group. It’s meshing pretty quickly. I’m excited to see how it goes once we start.”

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight

USA Today Images

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight


DUNEDIN, Fla. — The season opener is eight days away and Rhys Hoskins says his swing “is getting there.” 

Getting there? Really?

It looks like it already arrived with the morning mail.

Hoskins continued his recent run of excellent at-bats in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He belted a two-run homer, a solo homer and also worked a walk. Over his last five games, he is 6 for 16 with five walks. For the spring, he is hitting .279 (12 for 43) with four doubles, four homers, eight RBIs, 11 runs scored and an OPS of 1.066.

“What does he have, 10 strikeouts and 10 walks on the spring?” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked.

Indeed, those are the numbers.

“That is fantastic,” Kapler said. “Obviously, he’s swinging the bat beautifully and really controlling the at-bats.”

It all starts with pitch recognition.

“I’ve been pretty happy with that throughout camp,” Hoskins said. “I don’t feel like I’ve chased too many, which is always good. I’ve seen a bunch of breaking balls and been able to recognize them early.”

The outstanding selectivity that Hoskins has allows him to work pitchers into fastball counts. He did that in the first inning when he got a 3-1 fastball from Marcus Stroman and drove it over the left-field wall. The ball left the bat at 108 miles per hour.

Obviously, Hoskins was pleased that the ball left the yard. He was more pleased with the swing. He believes pitchers will try to bust him in this season and he’s ready for it.

“I was really, really happy with the first at-bat,” he said. “I had been struggling with the ball in. I was able to keep my hands inside of it and the ball went.”

His second homer came on a 1-1 fastball from Luis Santos. The wind was blowing out at Dunedin Stadium. Hoskins saw a pitch up and took a rip.

“On a day like today, if you see the ball up you’re going to have a pretty good chance,” he said.

Hoskins batted second in the lineup, ahead of Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana. Kapler has juggled lineups all spring and has strongly implied that he will do that, based on matchups, during the regular season.

“I don’t care where I hit,” Hoskins said. “With the guys we have and the way they’re going to construct the lineup, if I hit second, fourth, sixth, I think I’m going to be able to hit with men on base.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a run producer, so that’s the main thing for me. If I can create some runs, whether it’s scoring runs or driving in runs, I’ll be happy.”

The Phils and Jays played to a 7-7 tie. The Phillies’ bullpen gave up five runs in the last two innings to let a 7-2 lead get away. The Phils used 10 pitchers, including two day-trippers from minor-league camp. Starter Nick Pivetta pitched two perfect innings. The team purposely scaled him back to keep him in line with a 25-inning spring target. Scott Kingery and Aaron Altherr also hit home runs.