PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said that he likes what he sees through the first four weeks of the season.The Phillies entered Wednesday night's game against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park with a 14-8 record. They have pitched remarkably well. They have hit just enough to post
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said that he likes what he sees through the first four weeks of the season.
The Phillies entered Wednesday night's game against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park with a 14-8 record. They have pitched remarkably well. They have hit just enough to post one of the best records in the National League. But how much does anybody truly know about a team just 22 games into a 162-game season?
"We can look at the schedule," Klentak said. "We know that the schedule will get tougher as we go, but we can only play who's on the schedule, and our guys have done a great job of winning games and battling. We've had some lopsided wins and we've had some games where we really had to battle and grind and fight and claw to come up with a 'W,' and they've done that."
Klentak discussed numerous topics on Wednesday. Here are a few highlights:
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler stumbled out of the gate. Phillies fans booed him during the home opener. But the Phillies have played better since. Kapler seems to have made some adjustments. The boos are gone.
"I do think Kap has adjusted since the first series," Klentak said. "He's probably adjusted from yesterday to today. He asks a lot of questions. He's incredibly passionate about what he does and he has a unique ability to look in the mirror and to be accountable. I think that's what allows him to successfully navigate a season and manage the roster. I think he's absolutely made adjustments and will continue to. I think that makes him no different than all of us."
Klentak said he felt disappointed for Kapler that he got booed at the home opener.
"I guess given the way the first few days played out, I wasn't surprised that that was the reaction," he said. "You know, I was disappointed for him -- and I know Gabe probably wouldn't show any emotion -- but I was disappointed. It's his first chance to come in and manage a game in the home stadium and he waited a long time for that opportunity, but the way he handled it, the way our players handled it, the way the whole organization handled it, was really healthy. I'm really proud of the way Kap and our staff and our players have pulled together coming out of that first tough road trip, put it behind them, doubled down on the preparation and the effort and the games themselves, and now it's the end of April and we're moving on."
The Phillies struck out a franchise-record 1,417 times last season. It's early, but they are on pace to strike out 1,671 times this season.
They said they are OK with their strikeout rate (26.5 percent of plate appearances) because their walk rate (11.9 percent) is the best in baseball.
"Strikeouts by themselves are not a terrible thing," Klentak said. "If they're balanced with a strong walk rate, I think it's a perfectly good way to build an offense. Our walk rate is tops in the league. As long as those two numbers are moving together, I think it's OK. If we find ourselves in a position where we're striking out a lot and not walking, then that could be problematic. We've seen that in baseball history, too. But right now, strikeouts are part of the game."
Thankfully, the Phillies have Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana and Cesar Hernandez in the lineup. They have walked a combined 55 times and struck out 61 times. The rest of the team has walked 47 times and struck out 166 times.
"If the strikeouts are the results of us working long at-bats, being comfortable hitting with two strikes, taking our walks, grinding the at-bat and getting the opposing starter out of the game, we'll take that," Klentak said.
Playing time for everybody
A subject of interest is how Kapler will continue to find enough playing time for four outfielders -- five, when including Scott Kingery -- and five infielders. It has been an issue at times with players like Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Maikel Franco expressing their frustrations publicly or privately with the manager.
"Early on in the season, it was very heavily scrutinized and I understand why, because at that stage of the season, that's all we have to look at," Klentak said. "Now with roughly a month of performance under our belt, we're starting to understand the rhythms of how this works and as importantly, our players are understanding that and buying into that. It takes a little time. We knew that. Our players have adjusted incredibly well. They're very supportive of each other. Kap works incredibly hard to strike that right balance and incorporate all those different factors. I think right now, it's working out pretty well."
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.