CLEARWATER, Fla. - He allowed himself a 2-hour pout. That was it. For 2 hours after hearing that Jimmy Rollins had re-signed with the Phillies last December, Freddy Galvis felt a little sorry for himself, forlorn, maybe even depressed.
"Everybody would be like that, though," he was saying as he sat on a chair on one of the back fields of the Carpenter Complex the other day. "When you have a dream that you want to play in the big leagues and you feel like you've gotten closer and then the guy who is playing in front of you just signed for 3 years, the first thing you say is, 'Wow, I'm going to go to the minors again.' "
We are on the back field at his request, out of view of the Phillies' veteran clubhouse. Later, as he tried to slip through the clubhouse unnoticed, a posse of Spanish-speaking media stopped him smack in the middle, and he stood there uncomfortably, frequently looking downward as if seeking a trapdoor, perhaps afraid of what his established teammates might think.
It is not hard to visualize him someday becoming a willing and amiable interview like his hero Omar Vizquel, but the guess here is that Vizquel also wanted to run under the radar when he arrived into a veteran-filled Seattle clubhouse back in 1989. For him though, it wasn't hard. Like Galvis, he was 22 at the time. But the Seattle media seemed much more interested in a 19-year-old named Ken Griffey Jr.
Here, Freddy has emerged as one of the most intriguing story lines of the spring, and that has him moving swiftly in and out of his locker on most mornings, grabbing a bat, moving to the field before he can be detected.
Rollins has been healthy and happy, but Galvis' opportunity has come anyway, although not as he imagined. With Chase Utley sidelined indefinitely with knee problems, Galvis has, over the last few weeks, played every day at second base, at least until he fouled a pitch off his left foot Tuesday and was kept out of Wednesday's game against the Twins to give the bruise a chance to heal.
But there are similarities between Galvis and his idol. Both were signed at 16, both are switch-hitters, both struggled to hit pitching at any level in their early minor league seasons. Vizquel's average vacillated from .220 to .294 in his five seasons with Seattle. Traded to Cleveland after the 1993 season, he became more consistent under the tutelage of hitting coach Charlie Manuel, recording five straight seasons of .280 or better amid his 11 seasons there.
Galvis has 66 at-bats this spring, more than anyone on the club. His average of .273 over those at-bats is perhaps a mild pleasant surprise, but within it lies a more pleasant one. Of his 18 hits, three have been doubles, two have been triples and two have been home runs. His 12 runs batted in are the most on the team this spring.
"His hitting," Manuel said the other day, "is 100 percent better than it was at this time last year."
This comes on the heels of his promising 2011 season, when he batted .298 with six doubles in 33 Triple A games and .273 in his longer stint with Double A Reading - and played a mean shortstop. It comes on the heels of a good winter-ball season in Venezuela, where he is from.
Over the last few seasons, said Galvis, Manuel has worked to shorten his stroke. But Charlie had little to do with the strength program the kid embarked on here two autumns ago, which included pushing a golf cart once around the Bright House Field warning track - then pulling all the way backward.
"That was for my legs and for my shoulders," he said. "I did it running. It was hard . . . I've been working hard in the cage, but I'm doing the same stuff. But when you put more weight on your body, more muscle on your body, and you hit that ball, that ball is going to be in a gap somewhere.
"Three years ago, I was like 150 pounds [he's now listed at 5-10, 170]. And if I hit it hard, it went straight to an outfielder, you know? But now I have a chance to hit it in the gap."
Now, he looks more like a young Shane Victorino than he does his idol. Which is an interesting thought, given that Rollins is re-signed and Victorino still is not.
But that's not how Galvis is thinking. Really, he's thinking only about how lucky he is, how just a few months ago, when he heard about Rollins' signing, he feared that he would never get his opportunity.
"After that 2 hours," Galvis recalled, "it was, 'All right. I'm 22 years old. So I have to keep working hard. Maybe one day will be my day.'
"That's how I got through that day. And right now?
"I'm living my dream."
Contact Sam Donnellon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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