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Hunter close to joining Phillies' bullpen

Herrera's outfield defense not going unnoticed
Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is not one to rein in his excitement. He's also been more than ready to use his bullpen this season, so any added arms to that faction of his staff is certainly something to look forward to.

With that in mind, his broad smile indicated the rehab appearance by Tommy Hunter with Double-A Reading had gone as expected.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is not one to rein in his excitement. He's also been more than ready to use his bullpen this season, so any added arms to that faction of his staff is certainly something to look forward to.

With that in mind, his broad smile indicated the rehab appearance by Tommy Hunter with Double-A Reading had gone as expected.

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"It was pretty good," Kapler said. "I just got done watching the video this morning. I think what made us the most confident was [Hunter] leaping up over his head on a comebacker. He got completely off the ground and loose."

Hunter, who is coming back from a right hamstring strain, worked a perfect rehab appearance, and looks on target to join the Phillies sometime next week. That will be a huge boost for a heavily used bullpen through the first 19 games of the season, albeit with great effectiveness.

The veteran righthander -- who struck out two of the three hitters he faced on Friday -- signed a two-year deal, $18 million deal after a strong 2017 campaign with Tampa Bay, and is expected to be an anchor to the back end of the bullpen.

"We're going to think that through a little longer," Kapler said about what the next move will be for Hunter. "I know he was perfect yesterday."

The Phillies (12-7) have benefitted from right-handed reliever Victor Arano's nice start to the year. Arano has retired all 25 hitters he's faced this season, and going back to last year has retired 32 straight. Arano, who joined Scott Eyre (2009) as the first Phillies reliever to record seven straight perfect appearances dating back to 1908 according to Elias, threw one perfect inning in Friday night's 2-1 win over Pittsburgh.

Outfield prowess
While it may have gone unnoticed outside the Phillies clubhouse, the play of Odubel Herrera defensively this year has drawn raves from the coaching staff.

"His defense has really stood out to us," Kapler said. "Not just his positioning, but the jumps he's gotten on the ball. The jumps he's had have been jaw-dropping. The toughest play for any outfielder is to come in directly for a ball. To get that read on a low line drive and go all out for it is special."

On Friday night, Herrera made one of those catches on a diving grab of Josh Bell's liner in the eighth inning of a tied game. According to Statcast™, the chance that he could come up with the catch was less than 50 percent, and it took him just 29 seconds to react and cover the 33 feet needed to make the play. Herrera's four 4-Star plays (Statcast™'s second-highest level of difficulty, with catch probabilities of 26-50 percent) lead all MLB outfielders. Even better, he's successfully converted all four of his chances.

Video: PIT@PHI: Herrera makes a four-star catch

"It's all about pre-pitch preparation," Kapler said. "You say to yourself, 'I'm taking away any ball in front of me. I'm probably going to take a risk on any ball in front of me so much so that if I misjudge it, and it spins over me, I'm fine with that, because more often than not I'm going to get it.'

"It is a mindset, and then you have to go all out. If you are naturally scared by that situation, you're not going to get the ball."

During Saturday's 6-2 win against the Pirates, Herrera reached base safely for a personal best 22nd consecutive game. The center fielder also had a defensive miscue, when took a step back and then came in slowly on a popup to short right-center that second baseman Cesar Hernandez was unable to come up with. The play allowed Sean Rodriguez to score the second run of the afternoon for the Pirates, which at the time gave them a 2-0 lead.

Video: PIT@PHI: Herrera reaches base for 22nd straight game

"I think on that play, if Odubel was sitting here right beside me, it's one he would say he had to take charge of," Kapler said. "The cool thing was the next inning, on an almost identical ball he comes flying in, makes a diving catch [and] lays out. So he made a quick adjustment."

Video: PIT@PHI: Herrera lays out to rob Dickerson

Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com and is based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Tommy Hunter