There was a meeting before Charlie Manuel benched Shane Victorino. It happened Thursday night after a Phillies loss. Victorino had started 70 of the team's first 71 games and in his last one, he popped out in the eighth to strand the potential tying run on second base.
He was booed as an ordinary season slogged to another day — until Manuel told him he would not be a part of Friday's action.
"There was no apparent reason," Victorino said.
The manager was more revealing.
"I wanted to sit him down and want him to relax," Manuel said. "I just want him to sit there and see if he can clear his head a little bit. We'll give him a break and see what happens. Sometimes an off day is good for you."
Victorino, who is some 100 days away from free agency, says he is not concerned by that impending status. When asked if Victorino's contract has had a negative effect, Manuel rolled his eyes and said, "What do you think?"
That said enough.
For one, Victorino has not driven the ball with the frequency he did a season ago. He was among baseball's best when 10.2 percent of his hits went for extra bases. That rate has dropped to 7.4 percent in 2012, which would be his lowest since 2006.
Nearing the halfway point of this season, Victorino is on pace for career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Victorino predicted he would lead the league in triples as part of a national ad campaign for Major League Baseball before the season started. Through 71 games, he doesn't even lead the Phillies. Juan Pierre has three and Victorino has two.
"The way they're pitching him, he's striding quick and getting out on his front side," Manuel said. "He's an arm and hand hitter right now. He's an upper-body hitter. He's like a two-strike, defensive hitter from the left side right now.
"I want him to stay back and take better cuts at the ball."
Data from MLB's Pitch F/X system shows Victorino is seeing slightly fewer fastballs. He has seen more change-ups in 2012 while putting fewer in play.
"They take the sting out of his bat," Manuel said.
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