CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera is a man of much interest in this Phillies camp.
He is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, one that led to management’s order to get into better physical condition.
Herrera arrived to camp early and in noticeably better shape. But that hasn’t made him immune to the injury bug — or speculation about his future in Philadelphia as the club negotiates with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.
Herrera pulled out of a first-to-third baserunning drill on Wednesday and hobbled off the field. A couple of hours later, he left the ballpark wearing a wrap on his left leg.
Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "mild" hamstring strain. Actually, it was a recurrence of a hamstring injury that Herrera suffered during workouts a few days before camp officially opened. Herrera had an MRI after the initial injury and had recovered to the point where he could participate in on-field workouts.
“It was tightening up on him during baserunning drills so we’re getting it checked out,” Kapler said.
Kapler was unsure whether Herrera would have another MRI.
There is plenty of time for Herrera to get healthy for the Phillies’ season opener. Or any team’s season opener, for that matter. The Phillies whiffed on Manny Machado on Tuesday and while that likely rescued third baseman Maikel Franco from the trading block, it may have put Herrera on it — or, at the very least, made him a consideration to be placed on it because he might fetch some value in a deal.
With Machado off the board, the Phillies are now 100 percent on Harper and there is enormous public pressure for them to land him and put an exclamation point on the Winter of Stupid Money. Harper, of course, is an outfielder. If the Phillies land him, they would likely have to subtract an outfielder.
If the Phillies were to land Harper, they could trade Nick Williams or send him to the minors. Both Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn are out of minor-league options, but one could be a trade candidate. It would seem likely that the Phils would want to hang on to Quinn, who has the speed and arm to be a difference-making centerfielder — if he can finally put together a healthy season. Quinn’s inability to do that makes it difficult to bank on him as the regular centerfielder and that could convince the Phillies to hang onto Herrera, who has started 524 games in centerfield the last four seasons.
And there’s another reason to hang on to Herrera: He is talented and at 27 could still develop the consistency needed to be a star — or the batting champion that former manager Pete Mackanin once predicted he’d be. Herrera also is a left-handed hitter, which the Phils are short on.
Herrera was an All-Star in 2016. He signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. Last season, his overall game — the physical and the mental — slipped badly in the second half and he lost playing time in center to Quinn. Herrera hit just .189 with a .530 OPS over the final two months of the season, prompting management to order him to get into shape and improve his focus.
At the moment, all indications are that Herrera is in the Phils’ plans for this season and beyond.
But something will have to give if Harper dons red pinstripes.
Phillies officials remained in pursuit of Harper on Wednesday. Out on the field, players went through early-camp workouts in preparation of Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.
“My focus is on the camp,” Kapler said in response to a question about Harper-Mania. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of the things going on around us, but the focus is on crisp, efficient workouts.”
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