Any time a team goes 2-11 in a 13-game stretch, Care Bears and rainbows are not going to be emanating from a team’s clubhouse.
Right now, the Phillies are having a tough time, and it’s notable that Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure have both called out two starters for their performances as of late.
Prior to the start of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports Mackanin had a one-on-one talk with All-Star outfielder Odubel Herrera.
Mackanin did not describe the nature of the conversation, but Salisbury reported that Herrera did not run out a double play ground ball in the first inning that he probably could have beaten out and that it “didn’t go over well in the clubhouse.”
Herrera was not in the lineup for the first of the Phils’ two games against the Nats on Sunday. He’s also not performing up to his usual standards, as evidenced by an 0-for-5 performance on Saturday in which he struck out three times. His final at-bat was especially egregious.
Forgot to include this last night but Herrera (out of afternoon lineup) killed 9th inning rally with bad AB. Look at pitches he swung at. pic.twitter.com/DZBpjab0t2— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) May 14, 2017
On the season, Herrera was hitting .252/.315/.397 coming into Sunday, with a wRC+ of 85. Last year he batted .286/.361/.420 with a wRC+ of 110. And his walk rate has dropped from 9.6% to 7.7% while his strikeout rate has jumped from 20.4% to 23.8%.
This isn’t the first time Herrera has been benched. Mackanin sat him down in August of last year, noting the center fielder was struggling with a “focus issue.”
But the Herrera benching wasn’t the only bit of drama following Saturday night’s walk-off loss to the Nats.
Prior to Sunday’s day game, McClure indicated that he was unhappy with the pitch selection of catcher Cameron Rupp, particularly the fastball Edubray Ramos threw to Bryce Harper that Harper blasted out to center field.
Bob McClure on Phils pregame show "I might have to start calling pitches." Couldn't believe the "catcher" called for fastball on Harper— Leslie Gudel (@lesliegudel) May 14, 2017
That is a surprisingly direct shot at Rupp, but it isn’t the first time a Phils coach has commented on his pitch selection. Last August, Mackanin noted he didn’t like the idea of pairing Rupp up with a younger back-up catcher because of Rupp’s learning curve with calling games.
Rupp is fortunate the man presumed to be the team’s future at the position, Jorge Alfaro, is also in need of much fine-tuning of his defensive craft.
As for the pitch itself, some of the blame must go to Ramos, who threw the ill-advised fastball right down the middle.
Don't throw a fastball to Bryce Harper here. Ever. Don't do it. pic.twitter.com/7XhIyZz8UE— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) May 14, 2017
It’s clear the Phillies clubhouse is working through some things right now. It’s inevitable in the middle of a long losing streak.
And yes, these are mostly young players and pitchers who are still learning on the job. But it appears as if the time for coddling is over. At some point, these “young” players have garnered enough experience under their belts to have certain expectations placed upon them.
That appears to be the message Mackanin and McClure are delivering to Herrera and Rupp.
And it’s nothing a little winning streak wouldn’t cure, too.