Phillies

Former first-round pick Adam Haseley makes an impression in his first big-league camp

Former first-round pick Adam Haseley makes an impression in his first big-league camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Outfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies’ first-round pick in the 2017 draft, is in big-league camp for the first time. He knows he is not a candidate to open the season in the majors, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make an impression.

He did just that in a 12-7 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Though he had none of the Phillies’ 13 hits, Haseley still caught manager Gabe Kapler’s attention with his offense. In particular, Kapler loved how Haseley beat out a ground ball to second base (it was scored an error), stole second and came around to score on a pair of fly balls in the eighth inning.

“He generated a run almost entirely on his own,” Kapler said.

Earlier in the game, Haseley rocketed a fly ball to right-center. On a still day, it would have landed on the grassy berm beyond the wall. On a windy afternoon, it was an out.

But Kapler was still impressed.

“Oh, my gosh, that ball was blistered,” Kapler said. “That wind was knocking down balls all game. But he crushed it. We thought it was a home run off the bat. I don’t think anyone could have gotten the ball out right there.”

One of the things that jumps out to folks seeing Haseley play for the first time is the downward plane on his left-handed stroke. It is a throwback swing, starkly different from the uppercut that many hitters are being taught and employing as they look for launch angle to get the ball in the air.

“I’m certainly not trying to go opposite of how baseball is going,” Haseley said. “I just think that there are different ways that different players can get to the same result. I think for me it looks different than other players.

“I’ve always handled the ball into left-center and left field well and I think it’s just more of a handsy kind of swing. It’s what I’ve always been used to. It’s the only way I’ve ever swung.”

Haseley said he has not been pressured to add more loft to his swing, but it is something he is aware of.

“It’s something I work on,” he said. “I want to drive the ball in the air more. But for any swing, if you hit the ball out in front, you’re going to hit the ball in the air.”

Kapler likes Haseley’s swing and believes it has benefits.

“He gets a lot of back spin,” Kapler said. “You’ll see a lot of crisp ground balls. You’ll see a lot of line drives back through the middle, so much so that we’ve joked when he’s going against our pitchers in live BP we need to be careful about it because we don’t want to get one of our guys hurt.

“It’s a good swing. Look, a swing that is a little bit more level (like Haseley’s) sometimes can play well with fastballs at the top of the zone. It’s one of the things that we know pitchers are strategizing to do around the league, especially guys with a lot of life at the top of the zone. So sometimes to combat that, a little less uphill attack angle can be advantageous at those times.”

Haseley, who turns 23 in April, was picked No. 8 overall out of the University of Virginia in 2017. He hit a combined .305 with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and a .795 OPS between Single A Clearwater and Double A Reading last season. It will be interesting to see where he opens the season. He had just 136 at-bats at Double A last season, but hit .316 with an .880 OPS. Maybe the Phils will push him to Triple A at the outset of the season or maybe they’ll start him back in Double A and have him work his way there.

Haseley is ready for whatever comes his way.

“I just want to build on what I did last year and keep trying to climb the ladder,” he said.

Health update

Odubel Herrera’s hamstring injury is now classified as a Grade 1 strain. Kapler had initially hoped that Herrera would play early next week, but that probably won’t happen and there is no timetable for his return.

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Phillies' Odubel Herrera does some between-the-ears work — and it shows

Phillies' Odubel Herrera does some between-the-ears work — and it shows

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Despite having just 12 plate appearances coming into Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against the Baltimore Orioles, Odubel Herrera sure looked locked-in.

He singled, doubled and homered on his way to a four-RBI day in the Phillies’ 11-4 win.

Opening day is Thursday.

“I’m ready,” Herrera said. “I want to start the year hot. I want to get going quickly. It’s important to the team and it’s important to me.”

Herrera missed significant time early in camp, first with a hamstring injury then a flu bug that visited a number of players this spring.

Herrera offered up Sunday’s performance at the plate as proof that he didn’t just sit around the athletic trainer’s room for three weeks before playing in his first Grapefruit League game March 16.

He worked in the batting cage, seeing pitches and fine-tuning his swing.

He worked in the weight room.

He also did some between-the-ears work.

While his mates were on the field, he spent some time in the video room with Geoff Miller, the team’s mental skills coach.

“We did exercises where I could visualize the game and kind of not lose time, as if I was still playing,” Herrera said through Diego Ettedgui, the team’s Spanish-language translator.

According to Herrera, Miller cued up videos of some of Herrera’s stellar performances last season.

“Maybe we’d watch a really good at-bat that I had in a game,” Herrera said. “He’d ask me to go through the at-bat. ‘What were you thinking in the at-bat? What was your approach? Try to visualize yourself in that moment again. How can you repeat what you did there because you were successful?’ Little tactics to build confidence.”

Herrera, 27, is one of the Phillies’ most talented players. He made the NL All-Star team in 2016 and signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. In addition to being talented, however, Herrera is also inconsistent. Last season was a case in point. He hit .361 with a .989 OPS in his first 40 games. Over the final two months of the season, he hit just .189 with a .530 OPS and lost playing time to Roman Quinn.

Herrera’s poor finish last season earned him a mandate from general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler: Get into better physical shape. Herrera reported to camp down 20 pounds in February. The bosses also wanted to see Herrera become more focused mentally. Herrera said he’s embracing the mental side of the game more now.

“I feel like I need to take advantage of everything that can help me or the team,” he said.

Kapler has seen improved focus in Herrera’s behind-the-scenes work this spring — and on the field Sunday.

“It’s really interesting how his performance coincides with his engagement so strongly,” Kapler said. “When he’s locked in from every angle, he just plays great baseball. He looks like one of the best players on the field all the time and I think that’s what is happening right now for him.

“We want to maintain this level of focus. It’s wonderful to do it in spring training. Our expectation is that he continues to maintain that focus and concentration and that high level of play throughout the season.”

If Herrera needs a reason to be motivated to maintain his sharp mental focus, there is one getting at-bats at the minor-league complex. Quinn will open the season on the disabled list, but he won’t be out long. There is no landing spot in left or right field for Herrera. Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper are going to play. If Herrera wants to stay in the lineup, he has to lock down the center field job with more performances like Sunday’s.

We’ll begin finding out if he can do that Thursday.

“I feel like this will be a really good year for me and the Phillies and hopefully we can make something special happen,” Herrera said.

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Rhys Hoskins is still sore; Phillies remain confident he will be ready for opening day

Rhys Hoskins is still sore; Phillies remain confident he will be ready for opening day

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Even after backing off a tentative plan of playing Rhys Hoskins on Sunday, the Phillies remain optimistic that he will be ready to play in Thursday’s season opener.

“The game plan is for him to play [Monday] and be ready for opening day,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We feel confident in that.”

Hoskins, the team’s first baseman and cleanup hitter, has not played since last Sunday when he hurt his left shoulder taking an awkward swing. An MRI showed no structural damage and Hoskins has continued to do drills. The Phils had hoped to play Hoskins on Sunday, but he was held out of the game against Baltimore. He was able to take batting practice.

“There’s been steady improvement but there’s still a little bit of soreness,” Kapler said. “Rhys is very important to us and our season and we’re always going to lean toward the side of caution, expecially this close to opening day. We wanted to give him some extra time to improve.”

Hoskins said much of the same: There’s still a little soreness, he’s improving and he’ll be ready for opening day. He said he was confident that he would play in the team’s final Grapefruit League game on Monday afternoon against Tampa Bay in Clearwater.

The Phillies’ lineup Sunday reflected some concern for Hoskins. Maikel Franco moved over from third base and started at first for the second time in three games. He is essentially the team’s backup first baseman. Scott Kingery started at third base. If Hoskins were to miss any time, this would be how the Phillies would cover him. At the moment, however, the team is confident that Hoskins will not miss any time.

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