The Phillies this season have challenged many old-school baseball ideas. They’ve made frequent lineup changes and used players in new positions. They’ve employed pinch-hitters in the early innings. They’ve rejected the notion that relievers must have assigned roles and some nights make five or six pitching changes.
Buckle up, folks. It’s going to continue.
“When I was brought in here three years ago, I wasn’t brought in here to do things the way they’d always been done,” general manager Matt Klentak said Sunday. “You guys remember that there was a narrative surrounding the Phillies that they were slow to adjust. So our job is to move the needle, to stay current and win baseball games.”
Manager Gabe Kapler employed some unconventional moves in Saturday night’s 5-4 win over Miami. He pinch-hit for shortstop Scott Kingery and pitcher Vince Velasquez with the bases loaded in the second inning. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out in place of Kingery but Justin Bour stroked a two-run single in place of Velasquez. The Phillies then used seven relievers to close out the win, which helped keep their slim playoff chances alive.
“We don’t win that game if Bour doesn’t deliver that hit,” Klentak said.
Klentak defended the decision to hit for Kingery that early in the game and said it was an example of the team using every marginal advantage it can find to win a game and stay in the race. In this case, the Marlins changed from a left-handed pitcher to a right-hander and Kapler went to Cabrera, who is a switch-hitter. Kingery hits just from the right side.
“We’re not doing things so radically different that this has never been seen in baseball before or that other teams aren’t doing similar things,” Klentak said. “It’s new to Philadelphia. I get that.
“But we are competing with 29 other organizations who are also trying to create competitive advantages for their own clubs and we have to be aggressive in coming up with ways to win baseball games.
“I know it’s not always going to be popular and I know it’s not always going to work but that doesn’t mean the process is flawed. This was an excellent season to try new things with a young roster and with relatively modest expectations and we did. Some of them worked and we’ll continue to use them. Some of them didn’t and we won’t use them anymore. But we’ll continue pressing forward because that is our job.”
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