Carlos Santana TV incident highlights importance of having veterans in the room

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Carlos Santana TV incident highlights importance of having veterans in the room

Carlos Santana was a polarizing player during his one season in Philly — criticized by those focusing on the $20 million annual salary, respected by those who valued his plate selection, high on-base percentage and ability to play every day. More went into that debate — Rhys Hoskins’ displacement from first base was a prominent factor — and the Phillies were able to change course in a profitable way this offseason. 

Not before Santana was able to make his presence felt, though. 

An interesting story surfaced Monday at ESPN that should add a whole lot of respect to Santana’s name. Santana told ESPN that a couple Phillies played the video game “Fortnite” in a room in the clubhouse during games and it didn’t sit well with him for obvious reasons. It’s hard to believe any major-league player, young or old, would have believed this was OK. 

Santana smashed the TV with his bat. 

"We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren't worried about it,” Santana told ESPN. “Weren't respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It's not my personality. But I'm angry because I want to make it good."

Santana has since been traded twice — by the Phillies to the Mariners along with J.P. Crawford for Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, and then by the Mariners to the Indians for Edwin Encarnacion. 

The Phillies needed to make the Santana trade for several reasons — improve the defense by moving Hoskins back to first base, improve shortstop by turning a player in Crawford, who might one day pan out into a proven top-of-the-order, into a .300 hitter in Segura. 

It’s an example of leadership that Santana’s veteran teammates and management appreciated. There are several glowing quotes about Santana from manager Gabe Kapler and GM Matt Klentak within the piece. 

Playing video games in a back room during a game is an extreme example of immaturity, but it’s a reason you shouldn’t dismiss the cliche phrases “clubhouse chemistry” or “veteran presence.” It all matters and it all can affect a team, especially when things are going south as they did for the Phillies in the final month last season. 

Aside from Segura, the Phillies have added four other veterans in Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, J.T. Realmuto and, of course, Bryce Harper, to go along with experienced players like Jake Arrieta and Pat Neshek. The Phillies have a good balance of youth and experience in their clubhouse, and despite the additions still have an average age younger than 28 in both the lineup and rotation. 

Kapler also talked early in spring training about having higher expectations for clubhouse behavior this year — he’s not going to turn into a stern taskmaster, but a situation as ridiculous as the one Santana discussed shows that baseball wasn’t always the focus, even during work hours, for a few guys last season.

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Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

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Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

NEW YORK — All signs point to Jean Segura returning to the Phillies on Saturday, but in the meantime, the Phils have another shortstop: Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was called up from Triple A on Wednesday, two days before his 34th birthday. He will immediately get the start at shortstop for the Phillies, batting seventh on Wednesday night against Mets left-hander Jason Vargas.

Rodriguez's call-up was one of several roster moves the Phillies made ahead of their series finale in New York. Right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos was also recalled from Triple A, while Mitch Walding and Drew Anderson were optioned back to Lehigh Valley. 

Additionally, left-handed reliever James Pazos was designated for assignment. Acquired in the Segura trade with Seattle, Pazos wasn't sharp in spring training and had a rough go with the IronPigs, allowing six runs and seven walks in 7⅓ innings.

The Phillies have had to utilize more of their 40-man roster than they would have liked these last two weeks. Scott Kingery was Segura's replacement, but then Kingery suffered a hamstring injury of his own. The next man up was Phil Gosselin, who had two singles in his Phillies debut last Friday and a three-run double Saturday but is 0 for 12 since. Gosselin also committed a throwing error in the first inning of Tuesday night's loss.

Enter Rodriguez, who last season in the majors played every position except pitcher and catcher. He's spent most of his career as a bench utilityman but had a lot of success in 2016 as a platoon player with the Pirates, hitting .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 342 plate appearances.

Even through his struggles the last two seasons, Rodriguez has more than held his own against left-handed pitching. Since 2016, he has a .384 OBP against lefties, which you'd think factored into the timing of this call-up. The Phillies face the lefty Vargas on Wednesday and another southpaw in Caleb Smith Thursday. 

Rodriguez, who's tight with Andrew McCutchen and thrilled to again share a clubhouse with him, had an opt-out in his contract if he didn't make the team out of spring training but decided to stay in the organization and accept the role at Triple A. 

"I'm in it to win," he said. "That's what I told (Gabe) Kapler and (Matt) Klentak. It was clear this offseason this team was trying to win."

Rodriguez had been hitting for power at Triple A, going 11 for 25 with four homers, a triple, two doubles and 12 RBI in his last six games before Tuesday night. Despite that and the Phillies' growing injured list, he tried his best to not sit by his phone and await the call.

"We can try to play GM but I learned a long time ago not to do that," he said. "You obviously see the injuries and all that but you don't buy into it, you just try to show up every day and do your job on a daily basis."

Rodriguez is perhaps best-known for his fire and competitiveness in the field, on the bases and in the dugout. He's the consummate good teammate, the kind of guy who's usually the first one out when benches begin to clear in a situation like the Phillies experienced Tuesday night when two fastballs were thrown above Rhys Hoskins' head.

He has no intentions of dialing that back as he gets reacclimated to the group of guys he spent spring training with.

"I think if you've identified pretty early on that's who you are as a player and competitor, it's hard not to just continue to be that guy," he said. "If you're not, then you're almost taking yourself and your competitive nature and putting it aside. Basically, you're putting it in the closet. You don't want to do that. 

"If that's who you are, that's who you are. You learn to somewhat not let the rage come out in a bad or negative way. That's what you try to harness and buffer up a bit. But definitely not turning it off."

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Upbeat David Robertson feeling good, eager to be reevaluated

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Upbeat David Robertson feeling good, eager to be reevaluated

NEW YORK — David Robertson, the most important and accomplished reliever in the Phillies' bullpen, is feeling good and might not be too far away from returning from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm.

Robertson was upbeat Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field before the series finale between the Phillies and Mets. He admitted he's been antsy to get back during this process. He hasn't spent much time on the shelf throughout his 12-year big-league career, visiting the IL (then the DL) just twice, in 2012 with an oblique strain and 2014 when he "pulled something in [his] butt."

Robertson will be reevaluated by the Phillies' medical staff when they return home for the four-game series against the Marlins. He is hoping and assuming that evaluation will take place Thursday. If it goes well, he can resume throwing.

Robertson, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies this past offseason, has made seven appearances. The first three were ugly — four runs, 10 baserunners in two innings. The next four were strong — 4⅔ scoreless innings, four baserunners, five strikeouts.

Robertson felt the tenderness most when he would release the ball. He does not want to use the soreness as an excuse for those first three outings, one of them a ninth-inning meltdown in D.C. He's felt soreness and nagging pain at times during his long career like most major-leaguers so it's not always easy to determine when it's affecting his performance.

He's hoping that he doesn't need a rehab stint in the minor leagues but realizes it may be necessary given his recent inactivity. The last game in which Robertson appeared was April 14 in Miami when he pitched two scoreless innings in a Phillies win.

He's eager to get back, especially with the team's recent struggles. The Phillies entered Wednesday's game 1-5 on their two-city road trip.

"You watch some of these close games and think, 'Man, it should be me out there," he said. "But I don't want to be stubborn."

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