Herrera is back with the Phillies, but in what role?

March 16th, 2022

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Not too many people thought they would see Odúbel Herrera again in a Phillies uniform.

Maybe not even Herrera.

“I didn’t really know,” he said through an interpreter on Wednesday morning at BayCare Ballpark. “I just wanted to be ready for next season. I didn’t know which team I was going to play for, but I just wanted to play.”

Shortly after news broke on Wednesday that the Phillies and Kyle Schwarber agreed to a four-year, $79 million contract, they announced Herrera signed a one-year deal to rejoin the team with whom he spent the first six years of his career. Herrera will be paid $1.75 million and could make more with bonuses.

The Phillies brought Herrera back because they did not like the potential costs of and options in the center-field trade and free-agent markets. So they went with somebody they knew. Manager Joe Girardi said there will be a competition in center field this spring, although president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski indicated the organization’s feeling about center when he said on Sunday they see rookie Matt Vierling playing a lot in the outfield.

A Vierling-Herrera platoon is a smart bet.

“Those are the guys that are probably the leading candidates,” Girardi said, “but [Adam] Haseley has a chance to re-establish himself as well.”

Last year, the Phillies entered Spring Training with Herrera, Haseley, Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn competing for the job in center. The competition is not nearly as open this time.

Herrera batted .260 with 13 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .726 OPS in 492 plate appearances last season. It was his first big league action since May 2019, when Major League Baseball suspended him 85 games for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. The organization later removed Herrera from the 40-man roster. He did not play in 2020 during the pandemic, but he eventually earned a job on the big league roster last season.

“My mindset is to keep growing,” Herrera said. “It’s a process. I’m just trying to improve and be better. I try to focus on the good stuff, too. I know some people might have had a bad reaction that I was coming back, but my assumption is that some people were also happy that I was coming back.”

Hand’s scouting report on Schwarber

Left-hander Brad Hand threw for the first time in camp since he signed his one-year, $6 million deal. Afterward, he spoke mostly about Schwarber, whom he played with last season in Washington.

“He's just great,” Hand said. “Easy-going, just a fun guy to be around, works hard. I was only with him for half a season last year, but you can tell that he wants to win, and that's all he cares about is winning and winning a championship. The experience that he has in the playoffs is definitely beneficial. He brings that part to a team where he's been there and he's done it before. People that haven't been there before, it's just a guy to lean back on and talk to about those things.”

Extra bases

• Right-hander Zack Wheeler remained out of camp with the flu, Girardi said. He said Wheeler could be out for a few more days.

Wheeler already came into camp behind schedule after feeling right shoulder soreness in December. It seems less and less likely that he will be ready to pitch the first week of the season.

“I think that's fair to say,” Girardi said, when asked if Wheeler is legitimately behind schedule.

• Players are not allowed to play in Toronto or New York at the moment unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19. It could affect the Phillies.

“Players have to do what they feel is right in their hearts,” Girardi said. “I'm going to stand by them no matter what they do and what they choose. We'll deal with it just the way we have to deal with it. That's the only thing we can do.”

• Left-hander Scott Moss cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was assigned to Minor League camp.