Phillies manager Joe Girardi got a look at most of his position players during Monday’s first full-squad workout in Clearwater, Florida. There were a couple absences. Didi Gregorius has a visa issue and Bryce Harper is still going through COVID intake. But all in all, Girardi liked what he saw.
Especially in terms of his players’ physical condition.
Now, we know this is the time of year when everyone is in the best shape of their lives and all that happy blah, blah, blah, but it really sounded as if a few guys caught Girardi’s eye.
Left fielder Andrew McCutchen “is moving better and we’re really excited,” Girardi said.
McCutchen ran with a bit of a hitch in his first season back from a torn ACL last year. With no designated hitter in the National League – at least not yet – the Phillies will have to use McCutchen as their primary left fielder. Overall team defense was not a strength last year and the first step in improving that is range at all positions. So a better-moving McCutchen is a good thing.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins, who missed the final 17 games last season with an elbow injury that required offseason surgery, impressed Girardi.
“Rhys looks great,” Girardi said. “I’m thrilled. When you go through a long and grueling rehab, sometimes you feel like the rest of the body gets neglected and his did not. He’s been able to do everything he needs to do.”
Hoskins cleared an important medical/recovery hurdle on Monday when he dove for balls in the infield, got to his feet and made the play.
Will he be ready for opening day?
“As of right now, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be,” Hoskins said. “As long as I can get at-bats, which shouldn’t be a problem, I don’t think opening day is out of the question.
“Everything is normal strength-wise. I feel normal. Now it’s just about getting reps.”
Girardi said third baseman Alec Bohm, who tied for runner-up in the NL rookie of the year voting last year, had added strength to his lanky, 6-5 frame.
“He’s a little bigger,” Girardi said of the 24-year-old former first-round draft pick. “He’s starting to fill out and a lot of times what comes with that is you hit balls harder, and when you hit balls harder, sometimes you’re more productive and he was really productive last year. So, I thought he looked great.”
While Bohm looked bigger, Scott Kingery looked leaner. The 26-year-old infielder/outfielder had a difficult bout of COVID before last season and never got untracked physically or production-wise.
Kingery had bulked up to about 200 pounds coming into camp last year. This year, he reported at 185.
“He’s definitely leaner,” Girardi said. “We think it will help him and he does, too.”
Girardi has already anointed Jean Segura as the starting second baseman. Kingery will play all over the infield in a reserve role and he’s a candidate for the starting center field job. Being a few pounds less bulky should help his quickness in the field.
Kingery made his own decision to eliminate some bulk.
“I think he identified early in the offseason that he maybe was a little too big last year and lost some mobility,” said Hoskins, Kingery’s close pal. “To be able to identify that early and have a full offseason to make sure that he feels the way he needs to feel to play the way that we’ve all seen him play -- he feels good, looks really athletic and I’m looking forward to getting to see the things that I’ve seen him do on the field again.”
A little less bulk might have a positive subconscious effect on Kingery, might make the temptation of the longball a little less pronounced. According to those who watched him on the way up, Kingery’s swing since arriving in the majors three seasons ago has gotten longer than it was in the minors. Girardi would like to see Kingery focus on a line-drive hitting approach. Kingery’s line-drive rate was a career-low 25 percent last season, though Girardi said he saw improvement late in the season after Kingery spent time on the disabled list with back and elbow injuries.
“That’s something he worked very hard on when he came back from his injury last year and the quality of his at-bats were good,” Girardi said. “I know that he didn’t have as many hits but he did have a number of lineouts and that is a focus of ours – gap to gap, line drives all over the place. He’s strong enough and has enough power that he’s going to run into some home runs, but we need him on base and causing havoc and being the player he’s capable of being.”