Leaner Herrera more mature after tough 2018

Outfielder 'took this offseason just to get better and work hard'

February 15th, 2019
Philadelphia Phillies' Odubel Herrera celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in the second inning of a baseball game, Friday, July 27, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)John Minchillo/AP

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- smiled and patted his stomach.

The paunch that he carried into Spring Training 2018 is no longer there. Herrera has reported to camp leaner and, as he said Friday morning at Spectrum Field, motivated to bounce back from the worst season of his four-year career.

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Herrera knows that if he wants to play every day in 2019, he must perform in a crowded Phillies outfield. Manager Gabe Kapler said there is an open competition in center and right field among Herrera, , and . will play every day in left.

"I think part of the maturity of a player is to know what you've done wrong and what you can do better," Herrera said through the team's interpreter. "So I took this offseason just to get better and work hard and start early."

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Herrera hit .255 with 22 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .730 OPS in 597 plate appearances last season. He set career highs in home runs and RBIs, but he posted career lows in batting average, on-base percentage (.310), OPS, OPS+ (94), wRC+ (97) and WAR (0.9). His 0.9 WAR was two wins lower than 2017 and nearly three wins lower than '15 and '16, according to FanGraphs.

Herrera not only struggled offensively, but his typically impressive defense also slipped. He posted -11 Defensive Runs Saved, 15 fewer than '17 and 21 runs lower than his rookie season. His -1 Outs Above Average last season was 13 lower than '17, according to Statcast™.

Herrera lost playing time at the end of the season to Quinn, even moving out of center field.

"There definitely were times when I knew I could have focused more," Herrera said.

The 27-year-old has no explanation for his lack of focus, although he acknowledged that sometimes it is good to have teammates and coaches push him. The Phillies preached individuality last year. Kapler said he "wanted players to be able to be themselves and to be celebrated for who they are." But Kapler's motto this spring is "shoulder to shoulder," which means he wants players to lean more on each other, hold each other more accountable.

That could help a player like Herrera, who previously had former coach Juan Samuel and teammates and in his ear, whether or not he liked it.

"You want to have that person reminding you how much better you can be and the talent you have," Herrera said.

Still, it is a challenge.

"For a baseball player, it's not easy to stay motivated because obviously it's a long season, but my main focus is to keep that concentration going all season and through nine innings every game and the whole season," Herrera said. "I feel that I've learned from the mistakes that I've made."

The Phillies remain in the hunt to sign , which would have a ripple effect on the outfield. Williams could be traded in that scenario, although Herrera could be moved at the right price, too.

Whether or not Harper signs, Herrera needs to play better.

"It's not necessarily that Roman is on the team or that I lost some playing time last year," Herrera said about his motivation. "Honestly, it's more about me getting better as a baseball player. I understand this year there is more competition, and honestly, I think it makes me better when I have competition around me. It gets the best out of me because I know I have to play better -- that pressure you need to perform to stay active on the team."

Cesar or Cutch in the top spot?

Before broke his right foot last July, he was boasting a .379 on-base percentage in 385 plate appearances. He had a combined .372 OBP the previous two seasons. Kapler said he will give Hernandez a long look in the leadoff spot again, but he could consider McCutchen at some point. McCutchen has a career .378 on-base percentage, and a .356 OBP the past three seasons.

Flyin' Hawaiian coming to camp

Former Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino will come to camp mid-March as a guest instructor. Victorino played with the Phillies from 2005-12, helping them win the '08 World Series. He made the '09 and '11 National League All-Star teams and won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards from '08-10.