Enyel De Los Santos

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

NEW YORK — All signs point to Jean Segura returning to the Phillies on Saturday, but in the meantime, the Phils have another shortstop: Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was called up from Triple A on Wednesday, two days before his 34th birthday. He will immediately get the start at shortstop for the Phillies, batting seventh on Wednesday night against Mets left-hander Jason Vargas.

Rodriguez's call-up was one of several roster moves the Phillies made ahead of their series finale in New York. Right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos was also recalled from Triple A, while Mitch Walding and Drew Anderson were optioned back to Lehigh Valley. 

Additionally, left-handed reliever James Pazos was designated for assignment. Acquired in the Segura trade with Seattle, Pazos wasn't sharp in spring training and had a rough go with the IronPigs, allowing six runs and seven walks in 7⅓ innings.

The Phillies have had to utilize more of their 40-man roster than they would have liked these last two weeks. Scott Kingery was Segura's replacement, but then Kingery suffered a hamstring injury of his own. The next man up was Phil Gosselin, who had two singles in his Phillies debut last Friday and a three-run double Saturday but is 0 for 12 since. Gosselin also committed a throwing error in the first inning of Tuesday night's loss.

Enter Rodriguez, who last season in the majors played every position except pitcher and catcher. He's spent most of his career as a bench utilityman but had a lot of success in 2016 as a platoon player with the Pirates, hitting .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 342 plate appearances.

Even through his struggles the last two seasons, Rodriguez has more than held his own against left-handed pitching. Since 2016, he has a .384 OBP against lefties, which you'd think factored into the timing of this call-up. The Phillies face the lefty Vargas on Wednesday and another southpaw in Caleb Smith Thursday. 

Rodriguez, who's tight with Andrew McCutchen and thrilled to again share a clubhouse with him, had an opt-out in his contract if he didn't make the team out of spring training but decided to stay in the organization and accept the role at Triple A. 

"I'm in it to win," he said. "That's what I told (Gabe) Kapler and (Matt) Klentak. It was clear this offseason this team was trying to win."

Rodriguez had been hitting for power at Triple A, going 11 for 25 with four homers, a triple, two doubles and 12 RBI in his last six games before Tuesday night. Despite that and the Phillies' growing injured list, he tried his best to not sit by his phone and await the call.

"We can try to play GM but I learned a long time ago not to do that," he said. "You obviously see the injuries and all that but you don't buy into it, you just try to show up every day and do your job on a daily basis."

Rodriguez is perhaps best-known for his fire and competitiveness in the field, on the bases and in the dugout. He's the consummate good teammate, the kind of guy who's usually the first one out when benches begin to clear in a situation like the Phillies experienced Tuesday night when two fastballs were thrown above Rhys Hoskins' head.

He has no intentions of dialing that back as he gets reacclimated to the group of guys he spent spring training with.

"I think if you've identified pretty early on that's who you are as a player and competitor, it's hard not to just continue to be that guy," he said. "If you're not, then you're almost taking yourself and your competitive nature and putting it aside. Basically, you're putting it in the closet. You don't want to do that. 

"If that's who you are, that's who you are. You learn to somewhat not let the rage come out in a bad or negative way. That's what you try to harness and buffer up a bit. But definitely not turning it off."

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Phillies have a chance to see players in future roles over final 17 games

Phillies have a chance to see players in future roles over final 17 games

The final 17 games of the season will allow the Phillies to take a look at some young players, some players who need to recoup lost time and some players worthy of being evaluated at different positions or in new roles.

To wit:

• Jerad Eickhoff was the team’s top starting pitcher two years ago. He has dealt with injuries the past two seasons and has not made a start in the majors this season. Getting him a start or two could be good for his mindset heading into the offseason and give the front office a hint of where he might fit in 2019. Getting Eickhoff a start would also allow the Phils to trim some innings from other starters such as Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. All have reached career-high innings totals.

• It hasn’t been the year anyone expected for J.P. Crawford. The team traded veteran shortstop Freddy Galvis to clear a spot for Crawford but he failed to secure the regular job early in the season. He struggled offensively and defensively, ended up on the disabled list, got some looks at third base then ended up on the disabled list again before being sent to the minors. Crawford is back and got his first start at shortstop since June on Wednesday night and had three of the Phillies’ five hits, including a homer. Look for Crawford to get more time at shortstop and possibly third base as the Phils keep their options open for the offseason. It’s quite possible that Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez will be moved in the offseason and that will create an infield shuffle. It’s possible that next year’s infield could consist of Rhys Hoskins at first base, Scott Kingery at second, Crawford at third and Manny Machado at shortstop. The Phils still plan a big run at Machado.

• According to sources, Phillies officials have at least discussed the idea of improving their outfield defense by trading Carlos Santana and moving Hoskins back to first base, which would create a spot in left field for Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley, who could be knocking on the door by the middle of next summer. Getting Hoskins some time at first base down the stretch might be a harbinger of this.

• Kingery has improved greatly at shortstop and hats off to him for that. He has shown mental toughness surviving a difficult season and that will benefit him in the future. Getting him some looks at second base, his best position, in the final weeks would seem to make some sense because it still feels like his long-term position with the club.

• Last year at this time, Phillies officials started mulling the idea of converting Seranthony Dominguez from starter to reliever. It made sense because Dominguez was basically a two-pitch guy with power stuff. A year later, you have to wonder if the Phils are contemplating a similar transition for Enyel De Los Santos, the pitcher they got from San Diego for Freddy Galvis. De Los Santos had a strong season as a starter at Triple A and is in the majors now. His breaking ball is inconsistent, but he has a plus fastball and a usable changeup. De Los Santos pitched two scoreless innings of relief and struck out two on Wednesday night. His fastball averaged 95.8 mph and topped out at 98. After the game, manager Gabe Kapler said De Los Santos showed a “good fastball-changeup combination. We asked him to rely on those two pitches, not exclusively, but certainly looking at those two pitches as a way to come out of the bullpen.” We’ll probably see more of this as the Phillies pinpoint De Los Santos’ future role.

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It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

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It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis to open the eyes of his new teammates.

"I can think of maybe two balls all year long where he did not make a play," Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the end of June.

"It's the most accurate arm I've ever seen from a shortstop," first baseman Eric Hosmer said in the same piece.

The Phils obviously didn't move on from Galvis because of his defense. They moved on from him because he never reached a higher level with his bat and because they had two young infielders — Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford — they were ready to move forward with.

The Galvis trade was a good one for the Phillies. In exchange for one year of his services, they got a solid young pitcher with upside in Enyel De Los Santos.

It was a move they had to make because Galvis will be a free agent after the season and this gave them the extended look they needed at Kingery and Crawford.

There's no question, though, that the 2018 Phils have missed Galvis' defense. Phillies shortstops have committed 13 errors, seventh most in baseball. Padres shortstops have committed five errors, fewest in the National League and second fewest in the majors.

At the beginning of Galvis' major-league career, his flashy plays stood out but he wasn't as effective with routine plays as Jimmy Rollins was. That changed after Galvis made 17 errors in 2015. In the three seasons since, he's committed just 20 errors combined.

Galvis can make the flashy play, but he also makes almost every single routine play. He knows where to position himself for every hitter, how quickly to release the ball to throw out a speedy runner. 

Over the years, more than a few teammates have commended Galvis' baseball instincts as some of the best they've ever seen. You can't quantify baseball instincts the way you can quantify offensive stats, so there's a portion of fans that will always scoff when Galvis' value is brought up.

"His internal clock, as far when he releases the ball, how much times he has, he just knows all that stuff beforehand," Hosmer told the Union-Tribune. "He's about as fundamentally sound as any infielder I've ever seen."

The Phillies have not gotten the look at Crawford they wanted in 2018. Injuries have limited him to just 34 games, 112 plate appearances and 93 defensive chances at shortstop.

As for Kingery, he should benefit from the everyday playing at shortstop. He's improved defensively as the season has worn on. In a few years, he'll likely be even better with the glove — and, equally important, a more selective hitter.

Galvis has hit .234/.294/.331 this season. Phillies shortstops have hit .238/.286/.352 and played worse defense. 

If this ends up being the worst offensive year of Kingery's career, then his worst numbers would fall in line with Galvis' career averages (.244/.288/.367).

It will be interesting to see where Galvis ends up this offseason. A team with a powerful and deep lineup — the Brewers, the Diamondbacks — can win with Galvis and effectively hide him in the 8-spot. If the Phillies had better offenses all those years, the weak aspects of his game wouldn't have been as pronounced.

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