CLEVELAND — Minutes before the Indians were required to stretch, Michael Bourn pulled on his uniform pants and tapped on his smartphone Wednesday. He engaged a few passerbys with laughter. Stranded on the disabled list, this represented Bourn's action for the day.
Across Progressive Field, Ben Revere prepared for another game. The 24-year-old outfielder entered play Wednesday with the third-worst OPS (.456) in baseball. He dropped from first to ninth in the Phillies' lineup in the span of two weeks.
"We knew that he hit .294" last season, Charlie Manuel said. "We knew that. And we also knew that he hit mostly second. We'll see. He's had a hard time getting going. We just have to keep staying with him and see if we can’t get him playing better."
Revere was not the team's first choice to play center this past winter. They courted numerous free agents and explored other trades. After one month, Revere's offensive production was disappointing. So, too, were the Aprils for three Phillies' targets — Bourn, B.J. Upton and Angel Pagan.
Bourn, the former Phillie who signed a $48 million deal with Cleveland, has not played since April 14. He needed five stitches to repair a cut to his right index finger that has prevented him from even taking batting practice. Before the injury, he hit .333 with a .975 OPS in a mere 10 games.
Upton signed for $75 million in Atlanta and was upstaged by his brother during April. Upton hit .143 with a .500 OPS and nearly a third of his plate appearances resulted in a strikeout.
Pagan, a $45 million man in San Francisco, had a mediocre month. He hit .275 but with little power. His OPS in April was .652.
So while the Phillies expected more of Revere (a $515,000 expenditure in 2013) and surrendered two young pitchers to acquire him via a trade, their rationale for not spending big money on a centerfielder looked prescient. Of course, this is why the baseball season is six months and not one.
Manuel said his staff has worked with Revere on changes to his swing. No player has hit a higher percentage of balls on the ground. Revere is at 76.7 percent; the next closest is Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki at 67.9 percent. That can work, if the balls are hit to the right spots.
"I guarantee you he's been told to hit the ball on the ground," Manuel said. "I haven’t told him that, but I'm sure a lot of people have."
Manuel does not see a player who can drastically change his offensive approach. Because of his skillset, Revere is limited. Revere had 43 infield hits in 2012, or one every 13 plate appearances.
He had five, one in every 19 plate appearances, in 2013.
"For him to be the offensive player that we think, he has to have a high on-base percentage, and he’ll have to get some infield hits and stuff," Manuel said.
"His approach is going to be hard to change. Unless he just bunts a lot."
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