Phillies call up Herrera, option Moniak
Odúbel Herrera is getting his second shot with the Phillies.
The team announced Monday afternoon that it had selected Herrera’s contract from the team’s alternate site in Allentown, Pa. It is a move that comes with controversy, but it is a move the Phillies felt they needed to make because their center fielders through 21 games have been the worst in baseball.
“We just felt it was time,” Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said.
Herrera has not played with the Phillies since his May 2019 arrest for simple assault of his girlfriend in Atlantic City, N.J. Major League Baseball suspended Herrera 85 games for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. The charges were dropped, but the Phillies removed Herrera from the 40-man roster in January 2020.
Herrera remained with the organization, however, and he had an opportunity this spring to earn a job on Philadelphia's Opening Day roster. The team said then that it could not punish Herrera twice for his actions, citing the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that any future decisions on his status with the team would be based on his on-field performance.
“I think he’s probably under more scrutiny than the other players because of what happened, and I think it’s very important that he understands that and lives up to that,” Girardi said. “I think his behavior on and off the field, not the production on and off the field, will be under more scrutiny because of his past.”
Herrera tied Bryce Harper with a team-high four home runs this spring. Internally, many people felt Herrera outperformed a group of center-field candidates that included Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak and Scott Kingery, but because Herrera struggled a bit toward the end of camp, Philadelphia said he needed more at-bats in Triple-A.
It chose Quinn and Haseley instead to play center field.
Both struggled. Haseley then left the team a couple of weeks ago for personal reasons. The Phillies chose Moniak to take his place. Moniak struggled, too. Philadelphia's center fielders entered Monday with a .365 OPS. Three National League teams are getting more production from their pitchers than the Phillies are from their center fielders.
Moniak was optioned on Monday among a flurry of roster moves. Philadelphia also optioned right-hander Spencer Howard and left-hander Bailey Falter, and activated left-handers José Alvarado and Matt Moore from the injured list.
Herrera started in center field and hit seventh in Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He went 0-for-3 with one strikeout. He hit a hard lineout to left in the seventh. Herrera also ran 95 feet to catch Nolan Arenado’s fly ball to left-center field to end the game. He will now have the opportunity to be the Phillies’ everyday center fielder.
“I said, you know, 'You’re hitting seventh, you’re playing center field, go get ‘em,'” Girardi said. “He had a big smile on his face. I think he’s really excited to have this opportunity to prove himself to his teammates, to the organization and to the fan base. I think he’s really looking forward to that. I think he’s worked really hard to get this opportunity, and he’s got to make the most of it.”
Herrera is almost certain to hear some boos when the team returns home Friday night to play the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are prepared for this.
“Some people aren’t going to necessarily like this decision, and those are feelings that people have, and I respect that,” Girardi said. “Some people probably really don’t care so much either way. And there are going to be other people that are probably like, 'Yeah, let’s see what he can do with a second chance.' There will probably be a myriad of emotions of our fans, and I get that, and we’ll just deal with them as they come.”
The majority of Herrera’s teammates seem willing to give him a second chance. He addressed the Phillies twice this spring. Sources said at the time that most teammates responded favorably. Herrera received applause and hugs after he spoke.
Many teammates believe he is remorseful.
“No one, I think, will condone what happened; even him, obviously,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “But I think, you know, after Spring Training and taking that head-on, and kind of putting himself out there to the rest of the clubhouse, we have a pretty strong clubhouse that I think is going to be able to take care of what is going to come his way. Because there's no telling what's going to come, and I think he knows that. He’s prepared for it. But at the end of the day, he just wants to play baseball, man. And he thinks that he's got an opportunity to help us win. And that's what we're going to try to do.”
Hoskins said he heard no objections to Herrera’s return on Monday. Girardi said the same.
“Our guys always knew that it was a possibility when he was in Spring Training with us,” Girardi said. “There have been discussions that have been happening for months in a sense, right? I don’t go and individually ask players, like, 'Oh, what do you think?' But I will say that I think if there was a big issue, it would be brought to my attention, and that has not been the case.”
• Brad Miller hit leadoff Monday and started in left field in place of Andrew McCutchen, who is struggling. Girardi said he is not ready to turn left field into a platoon.
“I think it’s probably a little too early to talk about that,” he said. “But we’re always evaluating everything that goes on. You try not to make too much of a short period of time. You’ve got to give guys a chance to get going. But we’re always looking at ways to make our team better.”
• Right-hander Vince Velasquez is expected to start Wednesday night. He started in Moore’s place on Friday while Moore was sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols.
• Howard will be built up more in Triple-A, affording him the opportunity to start at some point this season.