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Phils bringing front office, field staff together

Kapler wants research, analytics to understand game decisions
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Tuesday was not the first time a quantitative analyst put on a baseball uniform and watched a big league game from the dugout, it certainly was a first for the Phillies.

Phillies senior quantitative analyst of the club's baseball research and development department Alex Nakahara got into uniform for the 11-6 loss to the Tigers at Spectrum Field. Nakahara, a Penn graduate, spent five years as a systems engineer at aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman before joining the Phils last year.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Tuesday was not the first time a quantitative analyst put on a baseball uniform and watched a big league game from the dugout, it certainly was a first for the Phillies.

Phillies senior quantitative analyst of the club's baseball research and development department Alex Nakahara got into uniform for the 11-6 loss to the Tigers at Spectrum Field. Nakahara, a Penn graduate, spent five years as a systems engineer at aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman before joining the Phils last year.

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Phillies' Spring Training information

"It's being inclusive," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It's something we've talked about a lot -- bringing the front office and the field staff together. Bringing our R&D department, our analytics department together so that they can experience what we're going through. They understand how we're making decisions. Or listening to conversations on the bench. Maybe getting more inspired by those conversations.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I think he learned a lot from listening to [bench coach Rob Thomson] and CY [assistant pitching coach Chris Young], and [player information coordinator] Sam Fuld talk about the game situations. Understanding what goes into our decision-making process. What factors we layer on top of the analytics to make good decisions is really important, right?"

Kapler said others could find themselves in uniform this spring.

"It sends a message to a player," he said. "Alex is our teammate. Our R&D department are our teammates. Every person in the organization is a shareholder in our organization. We want to treat them like they're part of our group. Not they're up there and we're down here, which historically has been sort of the divide in baseball."

Roster battle
Tommy Joseph learned on Sunday that he would play left field for the first time at some point this week. He found out on Monday that he would play on Tuesday against the Tigers. He worked out in left field for about 30 minutes on Monday to prepare.

Joseph not only played left field on Tuesday, he moved to right field for one batter in the second inning as the Phillies prove they will be aggressive with their defensive positioning. But for Joseph, who hit 43 home runs the past two seasons, his ability to play positions other than first base might be his best ticket to make the team. Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins are ahead of him on the depth chart and the club is expected to employ a four-man bench, which means it needs those bench players to be versatile.

"It's going to give you a better opportunity [to play] no matter what team you're on," Joseph said.

Video: DET@PHI: Joseph's RBI double to left

Joseph, who went 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI, is smart enough to know he could be playing for another organization in the future. He knows that he is not only trying to show the Phillies he can play multiple positions, he is showing other teams, too.

"I've already been traded once," Joseph said about the deal in July 2012 that sent Hunter Pence to the Giants.

So how did the outfield go?

"There were definitely some nerves," Joseph said. "It was fun. I had a lot of fun out there."

Shift, Shift, Shift
Joseph and right fielder Collin Cowgill switched positions in the second inning when Ricardo Pinto entered the game to face Tigers switch-hitter Victor Reyes. The Phillies could deploy such tactics this season.

Video: DET@PHI: Joseph makes a sliding catch in left

"We don't want to do anything in the regular season that we're not working on and practicing, especially conceptually, during the spring," Kapler said. "We're explaining the concepts to our players, they understand why we're doing it, everybody is informed and it doesn't catch anybody by surprise. Any time we can get an edge for one out to give us a better chance to limit runs, we're going to take advantage of those opportunities."

Video: DET@PHI: Cowgill, Joseph swap positions on the fly

Extra bases
• Right-hander Edubray Ramos entered in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out. He struck out one batter and retired the other to end the inning. Ramos allowed one hit and struck out two in the eighth before leaving the game. Enyel De Los Santos allowed the inherited runner to score. "Probably one of the really big thumbs-up moments of the day," Kapler said.

Video: BAL@PHI: Middlebrooks is carted off with injury

• Infielder Will Middlebrooks fractured his left fibula on Sunday in a collision in the outfield. Despite being on crutches and his leg in a cast, he got a chair and watched batting practice.

Up next
Listen to an exclusive webcast as Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez makes his spring debut against the Blue Jays on Wednesday at 1:07 p.m. ET in Dunedin, Fla.

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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