ATLANTA — The first pitch of the season hadn't even been thrown and already there was an unhappy Phillie.
Odubel Herrera, the Phillies' best offensive player the last three seasons, was not in new manager Gabe Kapler's starting lineup for opening day Thursday.
Did Herrera miss the team bus or something?
It's a whole new ballgame with the Phillies. Kapler intends to get all his guys reps and each player's workload will be carefully monitored. Matchups and data from the team's now robust analytics department will be used in constructing lineups.
That's basically the short version of why Herrera was not in the lineup on baseball's day of pomp and circumstance.
"I don't like the decision," said Herrera, sitting in front of his locker 3½ hours before game time. "But if they think there are better options, I have to respect that."
Kapler told Herrera on Wednesday that he would not start.
"I want our guys to want to be in the lineup every day," Kapler said. "I want them to have that fire in their belly. I thought the coolest thing was when I talked to Odubel, he said, 'I'm upset. I want to play.' And I said, 'Awesome. That's exactly what we want you to feel.'
"Opening day is special. It's really special and I understand why Odubel would be less than happy about it. Had it been Rhys (Hoskins) or Nick (Williams) or Aaron (Altherr), none of them would be happy if they weren't in the lineup.
"We can't make decisions because somebody might be upset because the truth of the matter is when these guys see how this all plays out, and at the end of the season when they're all getting their reps, there's going to be a lot of comfort with it."
Kapler used an outfield of Hoskins in left, Altherr in center and Williams in right. Altherr started despite being 2 for 16 with nine strikeouts against Braves starter Julio Teheran. Herrera was 5 for 27 with four strikeouts against Teheran.
Kapler said he has lineups planned out for roughly a week and Herrera will get "a ton" of playing time. He added that more than offense went into his decision not to start Herrera. He said Aaron Nola was a ground-ball pitcher, "so we thought maybe we really want Odubel running around out there when the fly-ball pitchers come, not that our other guys aren't great, but Odubel is exceptional out there. So thinking ahead that some of our fly-ball pitchers are coming, we know those aren't going to be off days for him. Odubel will play a ton. He's an exceptional outfielder and a proven bat in the lineup and we can't wait to get him out there and that's coming."
Andrew Knapp started at catcher. Kapler hinted that he and Jorge Alfaro would split the first six games. As for who would close if the Phillies have a lead in the ninth, Kapler would not commit.
"If at any point the game hangs in the balance in our minds, we're thinking of going to our dudes, our guys we feel like can get those hitters out," he said. "So that could be the sixth, eighth, seventh, ninth. We're going to go after the moment in the game that we feel like we can win it."