Phillies

Disappointing season could land Odubel Herrera on Phillies’ trading block

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Disappointing season could land Odubel Herrera on Phillies’ trading block

Odubel Herrera walked out of the Phillies’ clubhouse early Sunday night and headed for an offseason of uncertainty.

Two winters ago, Phillies officials were so high on Herrera that they awarded him a five-year, $30.5 million contract after he’d played just two seasons in the majors.

But Herrera ended a disappointing season Sunday. He lost the coveted center field position to Roman Quinn down the stretch. And he was essentially called out by his manager for not being in good enough physical condition.

“I will consider it a failure on my part if Odubel does not come into camp (in February) in his peak physical condition,” manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday. “If you look back a couple years you see a version of him that is fast, athletic, explosive.”

Herrera, who turns 27 in December, finished the season with career-high totals in homers (22) and RBIs (71). But his batting average (.255) and OPS (.730) were both career lows.

Over the final two months of the season, when the Phillies were in a pennant race and needed Herrera the most, he hit just .189 with a .530 OPS.

So who is the real Herrera? The guy who was inconsistent and often unfocused in 2018, or the guy who hit to a .288 average and a .774 OPS over his first three seasons?

Herrera is confident he can rebound in 2019. He said he will start the process by getting in better shape.

“The manager wants me to do it and I’m going to give it a try,” he said. “It’s for my benefit. I don’t see anything negative to it.”

Kapler wants Herrera and Quinn to both approach the offseason as if they are centerfielders. That won’t be a problem for Herrera. He still believes the position is his.

“My mindset is that I am still the centerfielder,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to put in the work in the offseason. That’s why I’m going to report to spring training ready to go, in better shape mentally and physically. Because that’s where I want to be — in center field. But if they tell me I have to play somewhere else, I have to respect that decision, too.”

Whether he plays center field or one of the corners is not even the biggest question Phillies officials face with Herrera this winter.

With Quinn emerging, Nick Williams improving and Bryce Harper possibly on the horizon, the Phillies could look to trade Herrera.

So Herrera joins Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco on the list of one-time core players who might have played their last game with the Phillies.

“We all know how baseball is,” Herrera said Sunday night. “It’s a business. I can’t really tell you what is going to happen. But I’m going into the offseason still thinking I’m a Phillie and if something happens it’s nothing I can control.”

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

It was expected that when Scott Kingery returned from a month-long stint on the injured list with a hamstring injury, one of the Phillies’ veteran utilitymen would be the roster casualty. 

But it was Nick Williams packing his bags Sunday morning to make room on the active roster for Kingery, not Phil Gosselin or Sean Rodriguez. 

Williams was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he will get regular at-bats. He has not played much for the Phillies, starting just eight of their 45 games. As a pinch-hitter, he is 6 for 33 (.182) with one extra-base hit and 10 strikeouts. 

Williams knew when the Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper that playing time in the outfield would be hard to come by. The Phillies do not consider Williams an option in center field, so when Odubel Herrera was shelved by a hamstring strain, McCutchen shifted to center and Williams played left field. 

Kingery, in his first game back from the IL, made his first career start Sunday in center field against Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland. 

Aside from getting Williams more reps at Triple A, optioning him also prevents another team from claiming Rodriguez or Gosselin on waivers. Both are out of options and would have had to be designated for assignment before being sent to the minors. 

Gosselin is 9 for 37 (.243) on the season but has had good swings lately. Of his last 10 plate appearances, one was a rocket line drive snagged by the opposing pitcher and two were deep flyballs he just missed.

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The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

Aaron Nola had no chance at seeing where the ball landed.

Not many did, unless you were a fan leisurely strolling through the center-field concourse and enjoying the amenities of Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.

"I think it went over the stadium, from where I was sitting," Nola said. "It was a long one."

That's how powerfully Bryce Harper struck his first-inning home run in the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see observations). The ball left his bat at 114.1 miles per hour, traveled 466 feet and cleared the brick walls in center field.

It was loud and it made the sellout crowd of 42,354 fans louder.

"I think just as a fan, you just stop and watch the distance of the ball," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I don't think we saw a ball go that far to center field all year last year and certainly not this year. That's rare territory. Pretty impressive."

Harper pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela. The swing consisted of everything you want to see from Harper, who is 5 for 15 (.333) over his last four games with the homer and three doubles.

He's staying back and driving the ball.

"I think he's beginning to feel it," Kapler said. "I think part of that comes from the work he's been doing with [hitting coach] John Mallee, specifically being a little bit taller on his backside and his hands being a little bit closer to his body."

Harper didn't want to make too much about the distance of his home run. He remembered some advice from a former manager and five-time All-Star.

"Matt Williams always used to tell me, 'It's not how far, it's how many you hit,'" Harper said. "I'm just trying to go about it the right way every single day, doing things out there that help this team win. Just putting the bat to the ball and trying to win games.

Harper has eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 45 games. He has a .371 on-base percentage and is second in baseball to only Mike Trout with 34 walks.

However, he's hitting .230 and was 10 for his last 70 (.143) prior to this 5-for-15 stretch. The Phillies are seeing positive signs, though, from Harper's swing.

"We all believed he was going to break out of what he was in," Nola said. "Guy works hard, works hard at what he does. We've all seen what he's done in his career. Nobody is pressing over him, we know he's the gamer that he is and he does a lot to help the team.

On Saturday, it was a walk, a double and vicious contact on the first pitch he saw.

"I think Harp is best when he's gap to gap," Kapler said. "Every once in a while, he's out in front and pulls the ball down the line. He's at his best when he's hitting high line drives into the gaps, and the ones that he gets just underneath go into the seats or in this case, over everything in center field."

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