The first public disruption in Gabe Kapler's clubhouse lasted just a few hours, as Nick Williams called the Phillies manager Thursday night to apologize for expressing dismay in a postgame interview about being left out of the lineup for the fourth time in six games.
Williams and Kapler met before Saturday night's game for a "really nice heart to heart," the manager said. Kapler said everyone was "better off for having the experience." Williams was out of Saturday's lineup but was scheduled to start on Sunday.
"I told him that this isn't who I am," Williams said. "I didn't want to draw attention or talk bad. It was just emotional. I'm a competitor. I've been a competitor my whole life. That's how I was raised by my parents. I want to just get after it. I don't make those decisions, but I respect it. I do want to play, but that's not my decision. This is what he gets paid for. I respect him. He makes the lineup. I come to the field prepared to play every day. If my name's not there, then I just get ready."
After the home opener, Williams said he didn't understand why he wasn't playing. "I guess computers are making" the lineups, he said. By starting Wednesday against Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard after an extended absence, he was "set up for failure," he said .
It was hardly a surprise that a young outfielder was upset about playing time. The team will be challenged to find roles for its five outfielders. Kapler has stressed that each will receive "regular playing time," but it could be difficult to have each player agree to what "regular playing time" actually means.
"All of these guys should want to be on the field every single day so they can contribute to wins," Kapler said. "I respect that drive, and there's a really, really professional way to approach and a great teammate-way to approach it and we're going to encourage handling any discomfort we have in the most professional-way possible and with the best teammate behavior possible. We'll keep talking to our guys about that. We'll continue to educate and be responsive to the concerns of our players."
Williams' on-the-record comments came a day after an anonymous Phillies player told national baseball writer Jon Heyman that the team "will be OK. We just need the manager to stay out of the way." Kapler has spent the majority of the offseason and spring training building connections with his players. The first week provided a pair of tests to those bonds.
"I think mainly anytime that I hear [something that] makes me feel uncomfortable, and not taking this comment in isolation, but it's a good way for me to think about how I can be better at being a partner," Kapler said. "I think I've done a strong job connecting with our players, and I'll continue to do a strong job connecting with our players. I'm very confident that I've built a strong and meaningful relationship that will continue to develop over time."