Phillies

Dreadful May lands Odubel Herrera on the bench for a couple of days

Dreadful May lands Odubel Herrera on the bench for a couple of days

MIAMI -- Odubel Herrera was out of the Phillies' starting lineup Monday night.

He will be absent again on Tuesday night.

Yes, the slumping Herrera has been benched.

It's not punitive. It's just manager Pete Mackanin's latest attempt to get Herrera's eyes and bat going again.

"He's getting two days off to correct his flaws," Mackanin said.

The skipper paused and played the positive card.

"After two days, he's going to be back to right where we want him," Mackanin said.

Herrera has had a dreadful month of May. In 25 games, he has hit .181 (19 for 105) with a .196 on-base percentage and a .257 slugging percentage. He has walked just once while striking out 29 times. A number of his strikeouts have come on wild swings on pitches outside the strike zone. Last year, 34 percent of the pitches that he swung at were out of the strike zone. That number has jumped to 43 percent this season, according to Fangraphs data.

A year ago at this time, Herrera had 33 walks. This year he has just 11. A year ago at this time, he was hitting .328 with a .435 on-base percentage. He was slugging .460. He headed to the bench Monday night hitting .217 with a .264 on-base percentage and a .328 slugging percentage.

"It all boils down to plate discipline," Mackanin said.

Herrera didn't balk at the idea of not starting a couple of games. He thought it would provide an opportunity to clear his mind, "relax a little and see what I'm doing wrong." He added that he would be ready to pinch-hit if needed.

Herrera was asked specifically about his vanished plate discipline.

"I think I need to focus more," he said. "I need to find the approach I had last year, more disciplined and selective. That's what I need to go back to."

Mackanin debated what to do with Herrera before Monday's series opener with the Miami Marlins and decided a break was needed.

"You go back and forth on what's the right thing to do," he said. "Right now I think this is the right thing to do. Sometimes you have a guy fight through it. Sometimes you back off. I don’t have a secret formula. You just try to figure out the best thing and the right time to do it. That's why we don't sleep."

Herrera was the Phillies' best offensive player, hitting .291 with a .773 OPS, the last two seasons. That led management to lock him up with a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason. That transaction, along with Herrera's comment about needing to focus more, raises the question of whether the player has lost some of his hunger.

Does Mackanin sense that?

"I don’t know," Mackanin said. "I'm not in his head. He sure looks good in the outfield. He covers a lot of ground. I don’t know if he's lost hunger."

Despite the worst slump of his life, Herrera has not lost confidence.

"One thing I'm sure of is I'm going to come out of it," he said.

Another big day for Phil Gosselin, who continues to catch Gabe Kapler’s eye

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USA Today Images

Another big day for Phil Gosselin, who continues to catch Gabe Kapler’s eye

BRADENTON, Fla. – Phil Gosselin was told a few days ago that he would not make the Phillies’ opening day roster.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t keep making an impression on club officials before he heads to Triple A.

Gosselin has remained in big-league camp. He was the Phillies’ starting third baseman in Saturday’s game against the Pirates. The Phillies lost, 5-3, but Gosselin impressed with a pair of hits and several excellent plays in the field.

One of his hits was an opposite-field homer to right on a full-count against Pittsburgh right-hander Jordan Lyles. Gosselin is not known for his power – he has just seven homers in 532 at-bats with five big-league clubs – but this ball jumped out of the park.

Gosselin is hitting .410 (16 for 39) on the spring with five doubles, a triple and two home runs. The 30-year-old utility man, a West Chester native who grew up rooting for the Phillies (see story), has caught manager Gabe Kapler’s eye in camp.

“I talked to Josh Bonifay (the team’s director of player development) today about some of our priorities at Triple A,” Kapler said after the game. “When we got to Gosselin, there was some real excitement there.

“It (his spring performance) looks like something different than he’s produced in his career. You don’t see guys like that often hit the ball that he hit to right-center today. It’s a little unusual. This is a big ballpark and the ball doesn’t always go that well. Real power, some decent bat-to-ball skills, really heady defender, a guy that everybody likes. Those are the guys that if you reach down in the middle of the summer, you’re like, 'I’m really glad that this guy is in our organization,' because you trust him. You trust him to come up and perform.”

It takes a lot more than 25 guys to get through a big-league season. Gosselin has put himself in position to help the Phillies at some point in 2019.

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Victor Arano loses spot in Phillies' bullpen, leaving door open for a different arm

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Victor Arano loses spot in Phillies' bullpen, leaving door open for a different arm

Updated: 8:23 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Victor Arano was an important member of the Phillies’ bullpen last season. He recorded a 2.73 ERA in 60 games. He struck out 60 batters, walked 17 and gave up just six homers in 59 1/3 innings. 

The previous year, he came up from the minors for a look and gave up just two runs in 10 2/3 innings.

That's a 2.57 ERA in his first 70 big-league games.

In most cases, numbers like these would ensure Arano’s roster spot entering the new season.

But the 24-year-old right-hander struggled so badly this spring that Phillies officials decided Saturday night to option Arano to Triple A Lehigh Valley along with right-hander Yacksel Rios.

“We weigh track record heavily and lean on it pretty strongly,” manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday before the decision came down. “However, without an indication that he’s feeling confident, it’s something to examine closely. You can discount one, two, three outings. It’s hard to discount five or six outings of struggle, consecutively.”

Arano pitched two-thirds of an inning in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates. He gave up a hit, a walk and a run. In four innings of work this spring, he has given up 20 runs. He has been tagged for 17 hits, including four homers.

“By every account, he was outstanding for us the last two years, one of our higher-leverage relievers, a guy we depended on in the biggest situations,” Kapler said after the game. “You still also have to pay close attention to what is happening right in front of you and we’ve seen several outings in a row that are worth really digging into to find out how we can help him.

“I think it’s cause to really dig on what’s happening for him both mentally and mechanically. I think he’s absolutely fine from a physical perspective. His legs are underneath him. He’s strong. I think his arm speed is fine.

“But you know, today the ball didn’t come out great. It’s worth having a conversation with him and really discussing what he needs to get back on track because at this point it hasn’t been very effective and I think he knows that. If he was standing next to me right now, he would tell you there’s a better performance in there.”

Through a translator, Arano indicated that his struggles are mechanical. He said he is struggling to find the release point on his slider, which was an excellent pitch for him last season.

Arano had pitched on back-to-back days — he gave up a homer to Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees on Friday night. The Phils play their final two games in Florida on Sunday and Monday. The club knew before then that Arano will have to clean up his mechanical problems and build some confidence in the minors before getting back to Philadelphia.

The Phillies open the season on Thursday.

Right now, these seven relievers look set in the bullpen:

Hector Neris (R)

David Robertson (R)

Seranthony Dominguez (R)

Pat Neshek (R)

Juan Nicasio (R)

Adam Morgan (L)

Jose Alvarez (L)

With Arano and Rios failing to make the club, a spot looks open for Edubray Ramos as the eighth reliever.

The Phils could also use Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen for the first week of the season. 

Tommy Hunter will open on the injured list.

We’ll know in a few days how the bullpen fully shakes out. Unfortunately for Arano, he had made some final decisions easy for club officials.

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