CLEARWATER, Fla. -- New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is already doing things a bit differently a day before position players officially report to Spring Training camp.Rather than a traditional team meeting held at the club's facilities to welcome this year's roster, Kapler and the organization rented out the banquet room
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is already doing things a bit differently a day before position players officially report to Spring Training camp.
Rather than a traditional team meeting held at the club's facilities to welcome this year's roster, Kapler and the organization rented out the banquet room at a nearby restaurant so that he and the players can get to know each other in a more informal setting.
"We saw it as an opportunity to connect as a group and as a family," Kapler said. "Sometimes, families spend time together off the field. You eat together and you drink together and have a good time together."
Another part of Kapler's new coaching style will be to abolish some standing rules and give players more freedom in keeping themselves happy and healthy through the season. He gave the example of using batting helmets while hitting in the cages or pitchers shagging balls during batting practice.
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"Does there have to be a rule on the wall to demonstrate that?" Kapler said. "Or is it a real effective strategy to have that conversation with the players?
"Maybe somebody wants to hit without a helmet. He's a grownup and maybe that's how he stays healthy, that's how he's strong because mentally he's more prepared for the game now. There's a balance to everything. I don't think there is anything hard and fast black-and-white that's not applicable here."
There will of course still be some unwritten rules that the first-year manager will expect to be followed, such as always hustling on the field.
"The fans in Philadelphia expect us to give everything we have every night," Kapler said. "Our players are going to have the foundation and the tools to meet those expectations."
Center fielder Odubel Herrera has a new style this spring. The 26-year-old Venezuelan's usual dreads now have bleached tips along with his goatee.
Herrera, who batted .281 with a team-high 42 doubles in 2017, said it fits into Kapler's efforts to keep things a little looser in the clubhouse.
"I think it is going to help us a lot. He has a lot of energy, and that is going to help the team," Herrera said through an interpreter. "He has so much expectations for me. He wants me to be a good teammate. He wants me to play hard. He wants me to help my teammates out and he wants me to bring energy to the team."
Kapler was impressed by what he has seen out of Herrera, the new hairstyle included.
"He looks amazing," Kapler said. "I think he just physically is presenting beautifully right now. He's got a lot of energy. Obviously, his smile is big and bold, so that's not new, but the hair is kind of cool with the beard, but more importantly, he is in incredible athletic condition. You can tell he's put a lot of work in."
When asked if the new dye job was going to become permanent: "If it flows, I'll keep it going," Herrera said.
Pick up the pace
With the first game on Thursday, Kapler said he will be consolidating drills to make more efficient use of the team's time.
"I don't think you will see anything that you'll say, 'Whoa, that's new and different,'" Kapler said. "You'll see sort of the same vibe and upbeat energy. The music will be playing. If all goes well -- and we expect it to go well -- people are going to be smiling and enjoying each other's company. It's going to be loose and relaxed, and it is going to be intense.
"It's going to be short and quick. We're not going to spend more time on the field than we need to spend on the field. We're not going to do any eye-watch drills or cookie-cutter stuff. It's all going to be done with a purpose."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in Clearwater, Fla.