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Phillies looking to 'shock' naysayers in 2018

First-year manager Kapler wants club to play 'boldly'
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler watched the Eagles play boldly to become Super Bowl champions in a tiny wine bar in Tampa.

He found himself riveted to the TV, noshing on bacon cheeseburgers in between plays.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler watched the Eagles play boldly to become Super Bowl champions in a tiny wine bar in Tampa.

He found himself riveted to the TV, noshing on bacon cheeseburgers in between plays.

"We would be foolish to not take cues from what the Eagles accomplished," Kapler said Tuesday afternoon at Spectrum Field, less than 24 hours before Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first workout. "Not just over the last couple weeks, but since the summer, when coach [Doug] Pederson addressed his team and said, 'This is what the world thinks and this is who we think you are, and what we think you are is really special.'

Spring Training information

"I think if everybody on our roster takes a small step forward, we have an opportunity to shock people."

Kapler will share that message with his players in the coming days.

He plans to share much more.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"One of the questions I've been asking a lot of our players is what does it mean to play boldly?" Kapler said. "What does it mean to deliver a pitch boldly? What does it mean to take a swing in the batter's box boldly? What does it mean to communicate boldly?

"The thought process is: create the environment where people feel like they can be bold and comfortable. So that's the crux of the message. It's not the only message, but it's a big part of it. And ultimately, the message is we can win. It's not like a delusional statement. It's more like, we all take that small step forward, we all get a little bit better, we all develop just enough where we surprise people."

Video: Breaking down the Phillies' potential 25-man roster

Kapler's camp is going to be different than previous Phillies camps, and perhaps most camps in the big leagues.

He is not overseeing practices. He is building an environment.

The Phillies already have pushed back the starting times of their workouts by at least an hour or so.

"Rather than having an alarm clock wake you up in the morning, get up when you get up," Kapler said. "Come to the ballpark when it's time to work. I don't think there's any value in getting to the ballpark when it's dark, just to get to the ballpark when it's dark."

He has asked his players to track their reps: swings, throws, squats, laps around the warning track, everything.

Video: Zolecki excited for Kapler's first spring as manager

"They should all be tracked and logged and factored in, so that we can keep guys healthy and strong and recovered through not just April and May, but through September and October," he said. "That is a major focus in camp, and it's a competitive advantage for us if we can do it effectively.

"If a player comes in and we know he has some extra activity the day before, maybe we don't have anything specific planned for him the following day, then don't come to the ballpark today. Stay home. Recover. Get a massage. Relax. Sleep. And then come back the next day and we'll pick things back up."

There is going to be a continued focus on nutrition and fitness, but as Kapler pointed out, "They're going to find out I'm not coming in to take food away. That's not my job. My job is to come in and help them be confident, help them be strong. Not to make decisions for them, but just to ask them questions. Be a good thought partner to them."

Of course, it is one thing to try to build an environment. It is another thing for players to buy in.

Video: Larry Bowa on potential for 2018 Phillies

Baseball players -- like anybody -- can be reluctant to change.

"What we don't do is do it because it's the way it's always been done," Kapler said. "We don't have a cookie-cutter approach. We're establishing the way we would like to do things. It's not because we won't be flexible and open to changing it, but also at some point when we go acquire that piece that's going to put us over the edge that person comes in and is like, 'Oh, this is how they do it to keep their guys healthy and strong.' Or, 'This is how they make their in-game decisions, and it doesn't catch me off guard.' He's going to get on board because that's what everybody does, especially when it's effective."

Kapler believes that new approach will help the Phillies shock a few people this season.

But what does that mean?

"It means being very competitive when September rolls around," he said. "Being in the mix, being in the hunt, fighting for the National League East. I don't think there has to be any major declaration made here. We're fighting for the National League East in September."

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.

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