I'm not sure how Gabe Kapler is going to keep everybody happy with playing time. Odubel Herrera said he was upset because he did not start on Opening Day. Nick Williams said Thursday he is frustrated because he has started only twice in the team's first six games. That's two
I'm not sure how Gabe Kapler is going to keep everybody happy with playing time. Odubel Herrera said he was upset because he did not start on Opening Day. Nick Williams said Thursday he is frustrated because he has started only twice in the team's first six games. That's two players in one week. Could it become a problem in the clubhouse?
-- Ryan K., Bethlehem, Pa.
Kapler faces many challenges in the coming weeks, but player management is the most important. The worst thing that can happen to a manager is that he loses his players in the clubhouse. If that happens a managerial change is inevitable.
Kapler's vision is going to take time to implement and prove. It is not off to a great start. Besides Herrera and Williams, one player told MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman that, "We'll be OK … We just need the manager to get out of the way." A few more games like Thursday's 5-0 victory over the Marlins should ease those concerns and settle some nerves. But if the Phillies struggle, the players who are not playing are going to become more disenchanted, regardless of how well Kapler iterates his process to them. Players want to play. If they are playing well, they want to play more because they are hot. If they are playing poorly, they want to play more because they cannot get going by sitting on the bench.
:: Submit a question to the Phillies Inbox ::
The fact there are issues being raised so early in the season, both inside and outside the organization, is concerning. The players see what everybody else sees. They are aware that the Phillies have been the talk of baseball the first week of the season. They hear from family, friends, players on other teams, agents and others in the game.
Can Kapler get it turned around and make it work? Of course. It is just six games. But the Phillies need to start winning. It is the best -- and perhaps only -- way to quell any frustrations inside and outside the clubhouse.
Is there any concern about J.P. Crawford?
-- Jeff S., Allentown, Pa.
No, not yet. Crawford has just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts in his first 21 plate appearances. It is not the start the Phillies envisioned when they traded Freddy Galvis to the Padres in December, but it is early.
Simply put, they believe Crawford's numbers will improve with time.
"The one thing that's been consistent about J.P. is he manages an at-bat," Kapler said. "He controls the strike zone. He's good at seeing a lot of pitches. He walks. That's consistent. That you can depend on. You can't depend on balls falling in for base hits. But you can depend on controlling the strike zone. He does that very well."
But what happens if Crawford struggles longer than expected? He hit .194 with a .565 OPS the first two-plus months of last season in Triple-A, before hitting .280 with a .904 OPS the rest of the way. It is difficult to imagine the Phillies playing Crawford at shortstop every day if he is struggling like that in June.
One short-term solution is Scott Kingery. But Crawford, like any hitter struggling one week into the season, deserves a fair shot to get going. It is difficult to remember, particularly after the Phillies signed Carlos Santana and Jacob Arrieta, but 2018 remains a developmental season for many on this team. The Phillies need to learn more about these players, including Crawford. They need to find out which ones can play, especially with this big free-agent class coming up.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.