PHILADEPHIA -- Odúbel Herrera’s presence this spring in Clearwater, Fla., could put him in position to rejoin the Phillies.
Herrera is not there yet, however, and there are people who feel he should not have that second chance.
The Phillies on Tuesday announced 12 non-roster invitees to Spring Training and 19 non-roster invitees to minicamp. Herrera’s inclusion on the minicamp list garnered the most attention, because he has not played for Philadelphia since his May 2019 arrest in Atlantic City, N.J., on a charge of simple assault of his girlfriend. The charge was dismissed, but Major League Baseball suspended Herrera 85 games for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. The Phils removed Herrera from the 40-man roster in January 2020. After he completed counseling sessions in Philadelphia following his suspension and donated to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Phillies had Herrera in Minor League camp last spring.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday afternoon that Herrera’s status with the organization remains unchanged from a year ago.
“That was addressed by him and the organization last year in regards to that situation,” Dombrowski said. “He was in camp last year. That really hasn’t changed from that perspective. He had served his punishment with the commissioner’s office. He had gone through the rehab that he needed to. He did more actually.”
The Collective Bargaining Agreement protects players from additional punishment following a suspension. The Phillies can act on Herrera for baseball reasons, and they have not seen him play in nearly two years.
(The team had an opportunity to add him to the 60-man player pool last summer, but decided against it.)
Dombrowski said minicamp is an alternative to traditional Minor League camp, which will not start this year until April 1 because of the pandemic. He said Herrera and the other players in minicamp will work out at the same time as players in big league camp, but on different fields.
Herrera’s locker will be at Carpenter Complex, not at the big league ballpark.
Of course, the Phillies can bring Herrera and other minicamp players to big league camp as much as they wish.
Does any of this mean Herrera is a candidate to win a spot on the Opening Day roster? The only non-pitching job up for grabs this spring is center field. Herrera made the 2016 National League All-Star team as the Phillies’ center fielder. But after posting a .774 OPS, 108 OPS+ and a 11.3 WAR from 2015-17, he had a .711 OPS, 88 OPS+ and a -0.3 WAR from '18 until his suspension. The top competitors in center field this spring are Scott Kingery (.677 OPS, 77 OPS+, 1.0 WAR in his career), Adam Haseley (.712 OPS, 87 OPS+, 1.7 WAR) and Roman Quinn (.669 OPS, 78 OPS+, 0.5 WAR).
“We don’t have a center fielder who’s a proven player like just about every other position,” Dombrowski said. “So I don’t know what we’re going to do in center field. That’s a battle. But right now I’d say [Herrera] is in a little bit of a different situation than say Kingery and Haseley and Quinn. They’re in our big league camp. He hasn’t played in two years, so we’re not really sure what we would see.
“Technically, I’ve had plenty of players that are in a Minor League camp in a normal time period -- usually it’s pitching -- but I have had been in a position where somebody says, 'This guy is throwing great,' or, 'This guy is playing great, you need to take a look at him at your big league camp,' -- and that person makes your big league roster. Is it possible? It is possible for anybody here to do so. But I’d say all the leading candidates are in our Major League camp.”
Herrera played two games in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, before Dombrowski said he suffered a thigh injury. Herrera has been rehabbing the injury in Clearwater for some time.
The Phillies’ 12 non-roster invitees to big league camp are pitchers Neftalí Feliz, Brandon Kintzler, Bryan Mitchell, Iván Nova, Héctor Rondón and Michael Ynoa; catchers Christian Bethancourt, Rodolfo Durán, and Jeff Mathis; infielder Ronald Torreyes; and outfielders Travis Jankowski and Matt Joyce.
The Phillies signed Mathis to a Minor League contract on Tuesday. Mathis, 37, played 24 games last season with the Rangers. His 911 games at catcher over 16 seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays, Marlins, D-backs and Rangers are the sixth most among active catchers.
The 19 players invited to minicamp include pitchers Tyler Carr, Enyel De Los Santos, Julian Garcia, JD Hammer, Jonathan Hennigan, Jakob Hernandez, Erik Miller, David Parkinson, David Paulino and Zach Warren; catchers Edgar Cabral and Logan O’Hoppe; infielders Darick Hall, Bryson Stott and Luke Williams; and outfielders Herrera, Jhailyn Ortiz, Johan Rojas and Matt Vierling.