Dombrowski on Phillies: 'I think we have a good club'
ATLANTA -- It is no surprise, but Dave Dombrowski remains bullish on the Phillies.
The club’s president of baseball operations offered his reasons before Monday’s series opener against the Braves at Truist Park. Dombrowski discussed everything from the high-priced and inconsistent offense to manager Joe Girardi to center fielder Odúbel Herrera and more.
“We’re not happy with our [19-22] record,” Dombrowski said. “That can get better. But I think we have a good club yet. I think there’s a long haul ahead of us. I think we realize that. There’s a lot of good things, but we also need to play better and get more wins.”
This week is the latest test for the Phillies. They open a seven-game road trip with a four-game series against the Braves. The National League East rivals could not be in more different positions, despite identical 19-22 records.
The Braves won the World Series last season. The Phillies have not made the postseason since 2011. There is an urgency in Philadelphia to end the drought. The club has a franchise-record $240 million payroll. The Phils exceeded the luxury tax for the first time in team history, building an offense they expected to score runs in bunches.
So far, it has not delivered as expected. The Phillies were eighth in baseball with a .722 OPS entering Monday. They were 11th, with 4.49 runs per game. But they have been held to one or no runs 11 times.
“I’m surprised we haven’t scored more runs on a consistent basis,” Dombrowski said. “But I do think we’re going to score more runs. As the weather warms up and some of the guys get their swings back, I think we’ll score more runs.”
Fans are frustrated. They have taken aim at Girardi. They have focused on center field, specifically the often-frustrating play of Herrera. The bullpen is a continued source of irritation.
“I don’t ever get into evaluating managers during the season,” Dombrowski said. “Basically, as I’ve always said to people, Joe’s been fine. I talk to Joe. I communicate with him all the time. I’ll just say this: my support of a manager is that they’re managing. Right? If I didn’t support them, they wouldn’t be managing.
"Joe’s our manager and I’m happy to be working with him. Hey, we’re all in a position that we’re not happy with the way the club has played. Joe, myself, the players. We have to be better.”
Herrera entered Monday batting .243 with two home runs, eight RBIs, a .713 OPS and a 104 OPS+. Herrera got thrown out at the plate by eight feet on Saturday. He swung and missed at a pitch a couple feet in front of home plate. He swung at a pitch that traveled between his legs a couple weekends ago in Los Angeles.
“I think you’re tough on Odúbel,” Dombrowski said. “Because if you look at him overall, where he is on some stuff, it’s not bad. It wasn’t bad last year. He was league average last year, defensively and offensively. … He’s had a bad few weeks offensively, but he’s a streaky hitter.
“You’re not going to have nine stars at different positions. You have to have some complementary players. I mean, our star players are [J.T.] Realmuto, [Rhys] Hoskins, [Jean] Segura, Didi [Gregorius] has been out … [Bryce] Harper, [Nick] Castellanos and [Kyle] Schwarber. Those are your stars.
"You have to have some complementary players. [Herrera is] a complementary player. He’s not a star.”
The bullpen has a 4.06 ERA, which ranks 23rd. It is pitching behind in the count too often. Its 12.2 percent walk rate is the highest in baseball.
“Our bullpen gets much maligned at times, but I do think it’s actually done OK for us,” Dombrowski said. “The ERA is high, but a couple of those can be by having a bad couple days. The back end of the bullpen has thrown the ball well. They have to be better, but they’ve thrown the ball OK.
"And I know our defense gets much scrutiny, but really our defense hasn’t cost us. There’s a couple balls that fall in and you maybe say, ‘OK, somebody else would’ve caught that.’ But if you’re hitting, you overcome those things.”
Dombrowski said managing partner John Middleton has been supportive through the rough start. He said he understands it is a long season. But the team needs to start winning. The sooner the better.
“We should not be a below .500 team,” Dombrowski said. “We’re there now. … I don’t think anybody is happy with our record, but I think we can be fine.”