Wait … Gabe Kapler wants his Phillies players to do what?

PHILS17-F
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler talking with the media in his office at Citizens Bank Park recently.

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Sometimes it seems as if an alien landed in Philadelphia this offseason and seized control of the local baseball team. No longer will the pitchers simply stretch and throw on the first day of spring training. Now they must also track and log their reps in an attempt to go where no team has gone before.

That, of course, would be the massage parlor because their workload was so heavy the day before that the manager thought it best if they take a day off to relax and recover. Honest, this was all part of the conversation at Gabe Kapler’s spring-training eve news conference at Spectrum Field on Tuesday afternoon.

“I can tell you I’d like a major focus to be on tracking and logging reps,” the Phillies quirky rookie manager said. “A rep is a swing, a throw, it’s a squat, it’s a sprint, it’s a run down the line, it’s a home to third [run]. Everything should be considered a rep and they should all be tracked and logged and factored in so that we can keep guys healthy and strong and recovered not just in April and May, but through September and October as well. That is a major focus in camp and it’s a competitive advantage for us if we can do it effectively.”

The natural follow-up question: How exactly will the ball club track and log these reps? Word of mouth was the surprisingly unsophisticated answer.

“The most effective way to log and track right now is to have our players share with us what they’re up to,” Kapler said. “Hey, I went out on a line today … and I made 25 throws, 15 at full intensity and 10 leisurely. Cool. Got it. That information is then passed along to myself, [pitching coach Rick Kranitz], the medical department, the strength and conditioning team, so that everybody knows that those reps occurred and how focused and intense they were.”

Then what?

“If we can communicate to make sure that we all have that information, we might be able to back people off, whereas before we just sort of powered through because we didn’t know what was happening on other areas of the field. Look, none of us have the ability to have eyes every where all the time. The players will know, because we’ve already shared it with them that this is for them.

“We want the information because it is our responsibility to put you in the best position to succeed. Part of our responsibility to put you in the best position to succeed is to know everything that is happening for you out on the field. Not because we want you to stop those activities, but because we might have you back off elsewhere.

“So, by way of example, if a player comes in and we know he has some extra activity the day before, maybe we don’t have anything specific planned for him the following day, then don’t come to the ballpark today. Stay home. Recover. Get a massage. Relax. Sleep. And then come back the next day and we’ll pick things back up.”

Just imagine Vuke

Stay home? Recover? Get a massage? Relax? Sleep? Somewhere up in heaven, old-school baseball men like Dallas Green and John Vukovich are spitting out their coffee and spewing obscenities. Spare the rod, spoil the player.

By no means does that make Kapler’s approach wrong.

“It’s really about communication and really more than anything else it’s about being sensible,” the manager said.

That’s what all this should be about. It was sensible more than two decades ago when Jim Fregosi waited until St. Patrick’s Day to have Darren Daulton squat behind home plate because the catcher already had nine knee surgeries during his career and could not possibly benefit from catching any more Grapefruit League games than necessary. And it’s sensible now that Kapler thinks it’s better to push back the start time of morning workouts because sleep studies show the more rest you get the better you perform.

Workouts will begin at 11 a.m. starting Wednesday, an hour later than a year ago.

“It gives our guys a chance to rest a little longer,” Kapler said. “We are going to focus on rest, recovery and our guys being the strongest versions of themselves.  Guys come in a little more refreshed, they’re in a better mood and the balls stay a little bit drier so the [morning] drills are a little bit more effective. I don’t think there’s any value in getting to the ballpark when it’s dark just to get to the ballpark when it’s dark.”

It’s just a fact of life that there is more information available than ever to be digested and Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak would like every possible piece of that information before they make a decision. The game, of course, has not changed. It’s still 27 outs and the most runs wins. The way people get ready to play the game has changed and the Phillies have hired the man they think is best suited to take them into this new age. So rest, relax and get a massage. If nothing else, you’ll feel refreshed when opening day gets here.