Phillies

Odubel Herrera is unhappy and Gabe Kapler likes that

Odubel Herrera is unhappy and Gabe Kapler likes that

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?

No.

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."

Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

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AP Images

Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

Brian Barber is the Phillies new director of amateur scouting.

The team announced the appointment on Tuesday afternoon.

Barber, 46, pitched in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. He comes to the Phillies after spending the last 18 years as a member of the New York Yankees amateur scouting department. He spent the last 10 years in the high-ranking position of national crosschecker.

Barber replaces Johnny Almaraz, who stepped down from the position in early September. Almaraz came to the Phillies from the Atlanta Braves in the fall of 2014 and presided over the last five drafts. 

It had been widely assumed that the Phillies would replace Almaraz with Greg Schilz, their No. 2 man in amateur scouting. Schilz, who joined the Phillies as assistant scouting director in the fall of 2016 after 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a finalist for the position, but the team ultimately decided to go outside the organization for the hire.

Barber, who was influential in identifying Yankees power hitter Aaron Judge as a first-round talent in 2013, is the latest man with Yankees roots to join the Phillies organization. Major League bench coach Rob Thomson joined the Phillies before the 2018 season after 28 seasons in the Yankees organization, including 10 on the big-league coaching staff.

The Phillies, of course, could add another former Yankee to the organization in the coming days. Former Yankees catcher and manager Joe Girardi remains a top candidate for the Phillies’ open managerial job. He had a second interview with team officials in Philadelphia on Monday. Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the other candidates for the post. The Phils could announce a hire as soon as Thursday, which is an off day in the World Series.

Girardi is also a candidate for managerial openings with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. He has interviewed with both teams.

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The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

Joe Girardi was in Philadelphia Monday for his second interview with the Phillies. Will he be the next manager? As this process has played out, it's looked more and more likely.

Beyond our own reporting of how the week is shaping up for the Phillies and that Girardi may very well be the preferred candidate, there were these two items:

If true, it would make sense that of the Phillies' three top decision-makers, John Middleton is the most pro-Girardi. He has to recognize that Girardi has an extremely high approval rating in this city already. Girardi is the overwhelming fan preference. An organization should not base a decision around fan preference, but the Phillies have shown that they do consider it a piece to the puzzle.

A few weeks back, we ranked the eight managerial openings in attractiveness now and over the next three years. The Mets were first but not by a significant margin over the Phillies. They're in slightly better shape with Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso and Noah Syndergaard, but how many more years will anyone other than deGrom be in that rotation? Syndergaard trade rumors have persisted, Zack Wheeler is a free agent after the World Series and Marcus Stroman is a free agent after 2020.

The Phillies have also been more willing to spend over the last decade than the Mets. Their average end-of-season payroll from 2011-14 was more than $171 million. Last year, their opening day payroll was $140 million and all signs point to more spending this winter.

In all four of those years earlier in the decade (2011-14), the Phillies ended the season with a payroll higher than the Mets have ever carried. If you're Girardi and your two best offers are jobs in major markets that involve immense pressure, wouldn't you rather be with the ownership group you trust more to spend?

The Phillies also have the money to pay Girardi himself — another obviously important factor. Manager salaries don't count against the luxury tax. As Jim Salisbury pointed out on our At the Yard podcast Monday, the next manager's salary might cost the same as a middle reliever. At that point, what is an extra couple million if it means firmly landing the most appealing veteran manager on the market who has the qualities the top of the organization and vast majority of the fan base want?

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