No longer dabbing, Phillies bench hopeful has Ozzie Guillen's backing

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Brock Stassi’s time this winter in Venezuela ended with the manager -  fiery former major-league skipper Ozzie Guillen - calling a team meeting. Guillen wanted to address Stassi, who was leaving the Tiburones early to get home for his wedding.

The speech began in Spanish, but Stassi was able to decipher that the message was positive.

“He wasn’t screaming,” Stassi said.

Guillen told Stassi that it was the first time he held a meeting “to fire a player.” Stassi batted .297 in 111 at-bats with six homers and a .988 OPS. The first baseman had an impressive 32-game stretch. Guillen told the rest of the players to look themselves in the mirror. Stassi, Guillen said, earned his money.

And three months later, Stassi is hoping to leave the same impression with the Phillies. Stassi, a first baseman who spent last season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, is firmly in the mix for one of the two remaining bench spots. Outfielder Aaron Altherr, infielder Andres Blanco, and a backup catcher will claim the other three spots. Stassi, who will spend time in the outfield to add to his candidacy, is competing with outfielders Chris Coghlan, Cameron Perkins and Daniel Nava and infielders Pedro Florimon and Hector Gomez.

This camp is Stassi’s second big-league stint with the Phillies. Manager Pete Mackanin said Stassi is a “Gold Glove-caliber first baseman” who “is a darn good player.” Stassi impressed last year, but there was little chance he would end camp in the majors. He had yet to play above double A.

“I was working hard trying to impress people, but the door didn’t feel like it was wide open like it does this year,” Stassi said. “Just being here for a second time, knowing what to expect, and getting my first big-league camp out of the way last year and learning from it. I’m excited for it.”

Stassi batted .267 last season with the IronPigs with an .806 OPS and 12 homers in 116 games. Stassi turned his season around by making an adjustment with his swing during the summer. He batted .286 with an .907 OPS in a 64-game span that covered the final two months of the minor-league season and Stassi’s time in Venezuela.

Stassi’s major-league job will likely hinge on his ability to play in the outfield. Mackanin said he needs to be more than just a first baseman. Stassi said he’s comfortable in left field, where he spent some time in 2015 in Venezuela. Stassi made a highlight-reel catch that winter, chasing down a line drive in left-center and grabbing the ball with a full-extension dive.

He stood up and dabbed. But that was in the past, Stassi said. There will be no dabbing this spring.

“That was when the dab was cool,” Stassi said. “It’s not cool anymore.”

EXTRA BASES

Jeanmar Gomez said he will not pitch for Venezuela in the coming World Baseball Classic. The 29-year-old reliever is expected to be the Phillies' closer. ... The first full-squad workout will be Friday, and Mackanin said the pitchers will throw to the hitters for live batting practice. None of the pitchers threw bullpen sessions on Thursday; the team is looking to conserve arms when possible, given that it is a longer spring than usual.